THE ARCTIC HOME IN THE VEDAS
Being Also a New Key to the Interpretation of
Many Vedic Texts and Legends
Lokamanya Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak
The present volume is a sequel to my Orion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, published in 1893. The estimate of Vedic antiquity then generally current amongst Vedic scholars was based on the assignment of arbitrary period of time to the different strata into which the Vedic literature is divided; and it was believed that the oldest of these strata could not, at the best, be older than 2400 B.C. In my Orion, however, I tried to show that all such estimates, besides being too modest, were vague and uncertain, and that the astronomical statements found in the Vedic literature supplied us with far more reliable data for correctly ascertaining the ages of the different periods of Vedic literature. These astronomical statements, it was further shown, unmistakably pointed out that the Vernal equinox was in the constellation of Mṛiga or Orion (about 4500 B.C.) during the period of the Vedic hymns, and that it had receded to the constellation ofthe Kṛittikâs, or the Pleiades (about 2500 B.C.) in the days of the Brâhmaṇas. Naturally enough these results were, at first, received by scholars in a skeptical spirit. But my position was strengthened when it was found that Dr. Jacobi, of Bonn, had independently arrived at the same conclusion, and, soon after, scholars like Prof. Bloomfield, M. Barth, the late Dr. Bulher and others, more or less freely, acknowledged the force of my arguments. Dr. Thibaut, the late Dr. Whitney and a few others were, however, of opinion that the evidence adduced by me was not conclusive. But the subsequent discovery, by my friend the late Mr. S. B. Dixit, of a passage in the Shatapatha Brâhmaṇa, plainly stating that the Kṛittikâs never swerved, in those days, from the due east i.e., the Vernal equinox, has served to dispel all lingering doubts regarding the age of the Brâhmaṇas; while another Indian astronomer, Mr. V. B. Ketkar, in a recent number of the Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, has mathematically worked out the statement in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa (III, 1, 1, 5), that Bṛihaspati, or the planet Jupiter, was first discovered when confronting or nearly occulting the star Tiṣhya, and shown that the observation was possible only at about 4650 B.C., thereby remarkably confirming my estimate of the oldest period of Vedic literature. After this, the high antiquity of the oldest Vedic period may, I think, be now taken as fairly established.
But if the age of the oldest Vedic period was thus carried back to 4500 B.C., one was still tempted to ask whether we had, in that limit, reached the Ultima Thule of the Aryan antiquity. For, as stated by Prof. Bloomfield, while noticing my Orion in his address on the occasion of the eighteenth anniversary of John Hopkin’s University, “the language and literature of the Vedas is, by no means, so primitive as to place with it the real beginnings of Aryan life.” “These in all probability and in all due moderation,” he rightly observed, “reach back several thousands of years more,” and it was, he said, therefore “needless to point out that this curtain, which seems to shut off our vision at 4500 B.C., may prove in the end a veil of thin gauze.” I myself held the same view, and much of my spare time during the last ten years has been devoted to the search of evidence which would lift up this curtain and reveal to us the long vista of primitive Aryan antiquity. How I first worked on the lines followed up in Orion, how in the light of latest researches in geology and. archeology bearing on the primitive history of man, I was gradually led to a different line of search, and finally how the conclusion, that the ancestors of the Vedic Ṛiṣhis lived in an Arctic home in inter-Glacial times, was forced on me by the slowly accumulating mass of Vedic and Avestic evidence, is fully narrated in the book, and need not, therefore, be repeated in this place. I desire, however, to take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the generous sympathy shown to me at a critical time by that venerable scholar Prof. F. Max Müller, whose recent death was mourned as a personal loss by his numerous admirers throughout India. This is not the place where we may, with propriety, discuss the merits of the policy adopted by the Bombay Government in 1897 Suffice it to say that in order to put down certain public excitement, caused by its own famine and plague policy, the Government of the day deemed it prudent to prosecute some Vernacular papers in the province, and prominently amongst them the Kesari, edited by me, for writings which were held to be seditious, and I was awarded eighteen months’ rigorous imprisonment. But political offenders in India are not treated better than ordinary convicts, and had it not been for the sympathy and interest taken by Prof. Max Müller, who knew me only as the author of Orion, and other friends, I should have been deprived of the pleasure,— then the only pleasure, — of following up my studies in these days. Prof. Max Müller was kind enough to send me a copy of his second edition of the Ṛig-Veda, and the Government was pleased to allow me the use of these and other books, and also of light to read for a few hours at night. Some of the passages from the Ṛig-Veda, quoted in support, of the Arctic theory in the following pages, were collected during such leisure as I could get in these times. It was mainly through the efforts of Prof. Max Müller, backed by the whole. Indian press, that I was released after twelve months; and in the very first letter I wrote to Prof. Max Müller after my release, I thanked him sincerely for his disinterested kindness, and also gave him a brief summary of my new theory regarding the primitive Aryan home as disclosed by Vedic evidence. It was, of course, not to be expected that a scholar, who had worked all his life on a different line, would accept the new view at once, and that too on reading a bare outline off the evidence in its support. Still it was encouraging to hear from him that though the interpretations of Vedic passages proposed by me were probable, yet my theory appeared to be in conflict with the established geological facts. I wrote in reply that I had already examined the question from that stand-point, and expected soon to place before him the whole evidence in support of my view. But, unfortunately I have been deprived of this pleasure by his deeply mourned death which occurred soon after.
The first manuscript of the book was written at the end of 1898, and since then I have had the advantage of discussing the question with many scholars in Madras, Calcutta, Lahore, Benares and other places during my travels in the different parts of India. But I hesitated to publish the book for a long time, — a part of the delay is due to other causes, — because the lines of investigation had ramified into many allied sciences such as geology, archeology, comparative mythology and so on; and, as I was a mere layman in these, I felt some diffidence as to whether I had correctly grasped the bearing of the latest researches in these sciences. The difficulty is well described by Prof. Max Müller in his review of the Prehistoric Antiquities of Indo-Europeans, published in the volume of his Last Essays. “The ever-increasing division and sub-division,” observes the learned Professor, “of almost every branch of human knowledge into more special branches of study make the specialist, whether he likes it or not, more and more dependent on the judgment and the help of his fellow-workers. A geologist in our day has often to deal with questions that concern the mineralogist, the chemist, the archeologist, the philologist, nay, the astronomer, rather than the geologist pur et simple, and, as life is too short for all this, nothing is left to him but to appeal to his colleagues for counsel and help. It is one of the great advantages of University life that any one, who is in trouble about some question outside his own domain, can at once get the very best information from his colleagues, and many of the happiest views and brightest solutions of complicated problems are due, as is well-known, to this free intercourse, this scientific give and take in our academic centers.” And again, “Unless a student can appeal for help to recognized authorities on all these subjects, he is apt to make brilliant discoveries, which explode at the slightest touch of the specialist, and, on the other hand, to pass by facts which have only to be pointed out in order to disclose their significance and far-reaching importance.
People are hardly aware of the benefit which every branch of science derives from the free and generous exchange of ideas, particularly in our Universities, where every body may avail himself of the advise and help of his colleagues, whether they warn him against yet impossible theories, or call his attention to a book or an article, where the very point, that interests him, has been fully worked out and settled once for all.” But alas! It is not given to us to move in an atmosphere like this, and small wonder if Indian students are not found to go beyond the stage of passing the examinations. There is not a single institution in India, nor, despite the University Commission, can we hope to have any before long, where one can get all up-to-date information on any desired subject, so easily obtainable at a seat of learning in the West; and in its absence the only course open to a person, investigating a particular subject, is, in the words of the same learned scholar, “to step boldly out of his own domain, and take an independent survey of the preserves of his neighbors, even at the risk of being called “an interloper, an ignoramus, a mere dilettante,” for, “whatever accidents he may meet with himself, the subject itself is sure to be benefited.” Working under such disadvantages, I was, therefore, glad, when, on turning the pages of the first volume of the tenth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, recently received, I found that Prof. Geikie, in his article on geology, took the same view of Dr. Croll’s calculations, as summarized at the end of the second chapter of this book. After stating that Croll’s doctrine did not make way amongst physicists and astronomers, the eminent geologist says that more recently (1895) it has been critically examined by Mr. E. P. Culverwell, who regards it as “a vague speculation, clothed indeed with delusive semblance of severe numerical accuracy, but having no foundation in physical fact, and built up of parts which do not dovetail one into the other.” If Dr. Croll’s calculations are disposed of in this way, there remains nothing to prevent us from accepting the view of the American geologists that the commencement of the post-Glacial period cannot be placed at a date earlier than 8000 B.C.
It has been already stated that the beginnings of Aryan civilization must be supposed to date back several thousand years before the oldest Vedic period; and when the commencement of the post-Glacial epoch is brought down to 8000 B.C., it is not at all surprising if the date of primitive Aryan life is found to go back to it from 4500 B.C., the age of the oldest Vedic period. In fact, it is the main point sought to be established in the present volume. There are many passages in the Ṛig-Veda, which, though hitherto looked upon as obscure and unintelligible, do, when interpreted in the light of recent scientific researches, plainly disclose the Polar attributes of the Vedic deities, or the traces of an ancient Arctic calendar; while the Avesta expressly tells us that the happy land of Airyana Vaêjo, or the Aryan Paradise, was located in a region where the sun shone but once a year, and that it was destroyed by the invasion of snow and ice, which rendered its climate inclement and necessitated a migration southward. These are plain and simple statements, and when we put them side by side with what we know of the Glacial and the post-Glacial epoch from the latest geological researches, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the primitive Aryan home was both Arctic and inter-Glacial. I have often asked myself, why the real bearing of these plain and simple statements should have so long remained undiscovered; and let me assure the reader that it was not until I was convinced that the discovery was due solely to the recent progress in our knowledge regarding the primitive history of the human race and the planet it inhabits that I ventured to publish the present volume. Some Zend scholars have narrowly missed the truth, simply because 40 or 50 years ago they were unable to understand how a happy home could be located in the ice-bound regions near the North Pole. The progress of geological science in the latter half of the last century has, however, now solved the difficulty by proving that the climate at the Pole during the inter-Glacial times was mild, and consequently not unsuited for human habitation. There is, therefore, nothing extraordinary, if it be left to us to find out the real import of these passages in the Veda and Avesta. It is true that if the theory of an Arctic and inter-Glacial primitive Aryan home is proved, many a chapter in Vedic exegetics, comparative mythology, or primitive Aryan history, will have to be revised or rewritten, and in the last chapter of this book I have myself discussed a few important points which will be affected by the new theory. But as remarked by me at the end of the book, considerations like these, howsoever useful they may be in inducing caution in our investigations, ought not to deter us from accepting the results of an inquiry conducted on strictly scientific lines. It is very hard, I know, to give up theories upon which one has worked all his life. But, as Mr. Andrew Lang has put it, it should always be borne in mind that “Our little systems have their day, or their hour: as knowledge advances they pass into the history of the efforts of pioneers.” Nor is the theory of the Arctic home so new and startling as it appears to be at the first sight. Several scientific men have already declared their belief that the original home of man must be sought for in the Arctic regions; and Dr. Warren, the President of the Boston University, has apticipated me, to a certain extent, in his learned and suggestive work, the Paradise Found or the Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole, the tenth edition of which was published in America in 1893. Even on strict philological grounds the theory of a primitive Aryan home in Central Asia has been now almost abandoned in favor of North Germany or Scandinavia; while Prof. Rhys, in his Hibbert Lectures on Celtic Heathendom, is led to suggest “some spot within the Arctic circle” on purely mythological considerations. I go only a step further, and show that the theory, so far as the primitive Aryan home is concerned, is fully borne out by Vedic and Avestic traditions, and, what is still more important, the latest geological researches not only corroborate the Avestic description of the destruction of the Aryan Paradise, but enable us to place its existence in times before the last Glacial epoch. The evidence on which I rely is fully set forth in the following pages; and, though the question is thus brought for the first time within the arena of Vedic and Avestic scholarship,. I trust that my critics will not prejudge me in any way, but give their judgment, not on a passage here or an argument there, — for, taken singly, it may not sometimes be found to be conclusive, — but on the whole mass of evidence collected in the book, irrespective of how far-reaching the ultimate effects of such a theory may be.
In conclusion, I desire to express my obligations to my friend and old teacher Prof. S. G. Jinsivâle, M.A., who carefully went through the whole manuscript, except the last chapter which was subsequently written, verified all references, pointed out a few inaccuracies, and made some valuable suggestions. I have also to acknowledge with thanks the ready assistance rendered to me by Dr. Râmkṛishṇa Gopal Bhâṇḍârkar, C.I.E., and Khân Bahâdur Dr. Dastur Hoshang Jamâspji the High Priest of the Parsis in the Deccan, whenever I had an occasion to consult them. Indeed, it would have been impossible to criticize the Avestic passage so fully without the willing co-operation of the learned High Priest and his obliging Deputy Dastur Kaikobâd. I am also indebted to Prof. M. Raṅgâchârya M.A., of Madras, with whom I had an opportunity of discussing the subject, for some critical suggestions, to Mr. Shrinivâs Iyengar, B.A., B.L., of the Madras High Court Bar, for a translation of Lignana’s Essay, to Mr. G. R. Gogte, B.A., L.L.B., for preparing the manuscript for the press, and to my friend Mr. K. G. Oka, who helped me in reading the proof-sheets, and but for whose care many errors would have escaped my attention. My thanks are similarly due to the Managers of the Ânandâsharma and the Fergusson College for free access to their libraries and to the Manager of the Ârya-Bhûṣhaṇa Press for the care bestowed on the printing of this volume. It is needless to add that I am alone responsible for the views embodied in the book. When I published my Orion I little thought that I could bring to this stage my investigation into the antiquity of the Vedas; but it has pleased Providence to grant me strength amidst troubles and difficulties to do the work, and, with
humble remembrance of the same, I conclude in the words of the well-known consecratory formula, —
POONA:March, 1903 B. G. TILAK
THE ARCTIC HOME IN THE VEDAS
The Historic Period — Preceded by myths and traditions — The Science of Mythology — Fresh impulse given to it by Comparative Philology — Unity of Aryan races and languages — The system of interpreting myths, and the theory of Asiatic Home — Recent discoveries in Geology and Archaeology — Requiring revision of old theories — The Vedas still partially unintelligible — New key to their interpretation supplied by recent discoveries — The Ages of Iron, Bronze and Stone — Represent different stages of civilization in Prehistoric times — The Ages not necessarily synchronous in different countries — Distinction between Neolithic and Paleolithic or new and old Stone Age — The Geological eras and periods — Their correlation with the three Ages of Iron, Bronze and Stone — Paleolithic Age probably inter-glacial — Man in Quaternary and Tertiary eras — Date of the Neolithic Age — 5000 B.C. from lake dwellings — Peat-mosses of Denmark — Ages of Beech, Oak and Fir — Date of the Paleolithic or the commencement of the Post-Glacial period — Different estimates of European and American geologists — Freshness of fossil deposits in Siberia — Favors American estimate of 8000 years — Neolithic races — Dolicho-cephalic and Brachy-cephalic — Modern European races descended from them — Controversy as to which of these represent the Primitive Aryans in Europe — Different views of German and French writers — Social condition of the Neolithic races and the primitive Aryans — Dr. Schrader’s view — Neolithic Aryan race in Europe cannot be regarded as autochthonous — Nor descended from the Paleolithic man — The question of the original Aryan home still unsettled.
If we trace the history of any nation backwards into the past, we come at last to a period of myths and traditions which eventually fade away into impenetrable darkness. In some cases, as in that of Greece, the historic period goes back to 1000 B.C., while in the case of Egypt the contemporaneous records, recently unearthed from ancient tombs and monuments, carry back its history up to about 5000 B.C. But in either case the historic period, the oldest limit of which may be taken to be 5000 or 6000 B.C., is preceded by a period of myths and traditions; and as these were the only materials available for the study of prehistoric man up to the middle of the nineteenth century, various attempts were made to systematize these myths, to explain them rationally and see if they shed any light on the early history of man. But as observed by Prof. Max Müller, “it was felt by all unprejudiced scholars that none of these systems of interpretation was in the least satisfactory.” “The first impulse to a new consideration of the mythological problem” observes the same learned author “came from the study of comparative philology.” Through the discovery of the ancient language and sacred books of India — a discovery, which the Professor compares with the discovery of the new world, and through the discovery of the intimate relationship between Sanskrit and Zend on the one hand and the, languages of the principal races of Europe on the other, a complete revolution took place in the views commonly entertained of the ancient history of the world.* (* See Lectures on the Science of Language, Vol. II, pp. 445-6.)
It was perceived that the languages of the principal European nations — ancient and modern — bore a close resemblance to the languages spoken by the Brahmans of India and the followers of Zoroaster; and from this affinity of the Indo-Germanic languages it followed inevitably that all these languages must be the off-shoots or dialects of a single primitive tongue, and the assumption of such a primitive language further implied the existence of a primitive Aryan people. The study of Vedic literature and classical Sanskrit by Western scholars thus gradually effected a revolution in their ideas regarding the history and culture of man in ancient times. Dr. Schrader in his work on the Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples gives an exhaustive summary of the conclusions arrived at by the methods of comparative philology regarding the primitive culture of the Aryan people, and those that desire to have further information on the subject must refer to that interesting book. For our present purpose it is sufficient to state that comparative mythologists and philologists were in the sole possession of this field, until the researches of the latter half of the nineteenth century placed within our reach new materials for study of man not only in prehistoric times but in such remote ages that compared with them the prehistoric period appeared to be quite recent.
The mythologists carried on their researches at a time when man was believed to be post-glacial and when the physical and geographical surroundings of the ancient man were assumed not to have been materially different from those of the present day. All ancient myths were, therefore, interpreted on the assumption that they were formed and developed in countries, the climatic or other conditions of which varied very little, if at all from those by which we are now surrounded. Thus every Vedic myth or legend was explained either on the Storm or the Dawn theory, though in some cases it was felt that the explanation was not at all satisfactory. India was only a Storm-God and Vṛitra the demon of drought or darkness brought on by the daily setting of the sun. This system of interpretation was first put forward by the Indian Etymologists and though it has been improved upon by Western Vedic scholars, yet up to now it has remained practically unchanged in character. It was again believed that we must look for the original home of the Aryan race somewhere in Central Asia and that the Vedic hymns, which were supposed to be composed after the separation of the Indian Aryans from the common stock, contained the ideas only of that branch of the Aryan race which lived in the Temperate zone. The scientific researches of the latter half of the nineteenth century have, however, given a rude shock to these theories. From hundreds of stone and bronze implements found buried in the various places in Europe the archaeologists have now established the chronological sequence of the Iron, the Bronze and the Stone age in times preceding the historic period. But the most important event of the latter half of the last century, so far as it concerns our subject, was the discovery of the evidence proving the existence of the Glacial period at the close of Quaternary era and the high antiquity of man, who was shown to have lived not only throughout the Quaternary but also in the Tertiary era, when the climatic conditions of the globe were quite different from those in the present or the Post-Glacial period. The remains of animals and men found in the Neolithic or Paleolithic strata also threw new light on the ancient races inhabiting the countries where these remains were found; and it soon became evident that the time-telescope set up by the mythologists must be adjusted to a wider range and the results previously arrived at by the study of myths and legends must be checked in the light of the facts disclosed by these scientific discoveries. The philologists had now to be more cautious in formulating their views and some of them soon realized the force of the arguments advanced on the strength of these scientific discoveries. The works of German scholars, like Posche and Penka, freely challenged the Asiatic theory regarding the original home of the Aryan race and it is now generally recognized that we must give up that theory and seek for the original home of the Aryans somewhere else in the further north. Canon Taylor in his Origin of the Aryans has summed up the work done during the last few years in this direction. “It was” he says, “mainly a destructive work,” and concludes his book with the observation that “the whilom tyranny of the Sanskritists is happily overpast, and it is seen that hasty philological deductions require to be systematically checked by the conclusions of prehistoric archeology, crania logy, anthropology, geology and common sense.” Had the remark not been used as a peroration at the end of the book, it would certainly be open to the objection that it unnecessarily deprecates the labors of the comparative mythologists and philologists. In every department of human knowledge old conclusions have always to be revised in the light of new discoveries, but for that reason it would never be just to find fault with those whose lot it was to work earlier in the same field with scanty and insufficient materials.
But whilst the conclusions of the philologists and mythologists are thus being revised in the light of new scientific discoveries, an equally important work yet remains to be done. It has been stated above that the discovery of the Vedic literature imparted a fresh impulse to the study of myths and legends. But the Vedas themselves, which admittedly form the oldest records of the Aryan race, are as yet imperfectly understood. They had already grown unintelligible to a certain extent even in the days of the Brâhmaṇas several centuries before Christ, and had it not been for the labors of Indian Etymologists and Grammarians, they would have remained a sealed book up to the present time. The Western Scholars have indeed developed, to a certain extent, these Native methods of interpretation with the aid of facts brought to light by comparative philology and mythology. But no etymological or philological analysis can help us in thoroughly understanding a passage which contains ideas and sentiments foreign or unfamiliar to us. This is one of the principal difficulties of Vedic interpretation. The Storm or the Dawn theory may help us in understanding some of the legends in this ancient book. But there axe passages, which, in spite of their simple diction, are quite unintelligible on any of these theories, and in such cases Native scholars, like Sâyaṇa, are either content with simply paraphrasing the words, or have recourse to distortion of words and phrases in order to make the passages yield a sense intelligible to them; while some of the Western scholars are apt to regard such texts as corrupt or imperfect. In either case, however, it is an undoubted fact that some Vedic texts are yet unintelligible, and, therefore, untranslatable. Prof. Max Müller was fully alive to these difficulties. “A translation of the Ṛig-Veda,” he observes in his introduction to the translation of the Vedic hymns in the Sacred Books of the East series, “is a task for the next century,”* (* See S. B. E. Series, Vol. XXXII, p. xi. )
and the only duty of the present scholars is to” reduce the untranslatable portion to a narrower and narrower limit,” as has been done by Yâska and other Native scholars. But if the scientific discoveries of the last century have thrown a new light on the history and culture of man in primitive times, we may as well expect to find in them a new key to the interpretation of the Vedic myths and passages, which admittedly preserve for us the oldest belief of the Aryan race. If man existed before the last Glacial period and witnessed the gigantic changes which brought on the Ice Age, it is not unnatural to expect that a reference, howsoever concealed and distant, to these events would be found in the oldest traditionary beliefs and memories of mankind; Dr. Warren in his interesting and highly suggestive work the Paradise Found or the Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole has attempted to interpret ancient myths and legends in the light of modern scientific discoveries, and has come to the conclusion that the original home of the whole human race must be sought for in regions near the North Pole. My object is not so comprehensive. I intend to confine myself only to the Vedic literature and show that if we read some of the passages in the Vedas, which have hitherto been considered incomprehensible, in the light of the new scientific discoveries we are forced to the conclusion that the home of the ancestors of the Vedic people was somewhere near the North Pole before the last Glacial epoch. The task is not an easy one, considering the fact that the Vedic passages, on which I rely, had to be and have been, hitherto either ignored or explained away somehow, or misinterpreted one way or another by Native and European scholars alike. But I hope to show that these interpretations, though they have been provisionally accepted, are not satisfactory and that new discoveries in archaeology, and geology provide us with a better key for the interpretation of these passages. Thus if some of the conclusions of the mythologist and the philologist are overthrown by these discoveries, they have rendered a still greater service by furnishing us with a better key for the interpretation of the most ancient Aryan legends and the results obtained by using the new key cannot, in their turn, fail to throw further light on the primitive history of the Aryan race and thus supplement, or modify the conclusion now arrived at by the archaeologist and the geologist.
But before proceeding to discuss the Vedic texts which point out to a Polar home, it is necessary to briefly state the results of recent discoveries in archaeology, geology and paleontology. My summary must necessarily be very short, for I propose to note down only such facts as will establish the probability of my theory from the geological and paleontological point of view and for this purpose I have freely drawn upon the works of such well-known writers as Lyell, Geikie, Evans, Lubbock, Croll, Taylor and others. I have also utilized the excellent popular summary of the latest results of these researches in Samuel Laing’s Human Origins and other works. The belief, that man is post-glacial and that the Polar regions were never suited for human habitation, still lingers in some quarters and to those who still hold this view any theory regarding the Polar home of the Aryan race may naturally seem to be a priori impossible. It is better, therefore, to begin with a short statement of the latest scientific conclusions on these points.
Human races of earlier times have left ample evidence of their existence on the surface of this globe; but like the records of the historic period this evidence does not consist of stately tombs and pyramids, or inscriptions and documents. It is of a humbler kind and consists of hundreds and thousands of rude or polished instruments of stone and metal recently dug out from old camps, fortifications, burial grounds (tumuli), temples, lake-dwellings &c. of early times spread over the whole of Europe; and in the hands of the archaeologist these have been found to give the same results as the hieroglyphics in the hands of the Egyptologist. These early implements of stone and metals were not previously unknown, but they had not attracted the notice of scientific experts till recently and the peasants in Asia and Europe, when they found them in their fields, could hardly make any better use of them than that of worshipping the implements so found as thunderbolts or fairy arrows shot down from the sky. But now after a careful study of these remains, archaeologists have come to the conclusion that these implements, whose human origin is now undoubtedly established can be classified into those of Stone (including horn, wood or bone), those of Bronze and those of Iron, representing three different stages of civilization in the progress of man in prehistoric times. Thus the implements of stone, wood or bone, such as chisels, scrapers, arrow-heads, hatches, daggers, etc. were used when the use of metal was yet unknown and they were gradually supplanted first by the implements of bronze and then of iron, when the ancient man discovered the use of these metals. It is not to be supposed, however, that these three different periods of early human civilization were divided by any hard and fast line of division. They represent only a tough classification, the passage from one period into another being slow and gradual. Thus the implements of stone must have continued to be used for a long time after the use of bronze became known to the ancient man, and the same thing must have occurred as he passed from the Bronze to the Iron age. The age of bronze, which is a compound of copper and tin in a definite proportion, requires an antecedent age of copper; but sufficient evidence is not yet found to prove the separate existence of copper and tin ages, and hence it is considered probable that the art of making bronze was not invented in Europe, but was introduced there from other countries either by commerce or by the Indo-European race going there from outside.* (* Lubbock’s Prehistoric Times, 1890 Ed., pp. 4 and 64).
Another fact which requires to be noted in connection with these ages is that the Stone or the Bronze age in one country was not necessarily synchronous with the same age in another country. Thus we find a high state of civilization inEgypt at about 6000 B.C., when the inhabitants of Europe were in the early stages of the Stone age. Similarly Greece had advanced to the Iron age, while Italy was still in the Bronze period and the West of Europe in the age of Stone. This shows that the progress of civilization was slow in some and rapid in other places, the rate of progress varying according to the local circumstances of each place. Broadly speaking, however, the three periods of Stone, Bronze and Iron may be taken to represent the three stages of civilization anterior to the historic period.
Of these three different ages the oldest or the Stone age is further divided into the Paleolithic and the Neolithic period, or the old and the new Stone age. The distinction is based upon the fact that the stone implements of the Paleolithic age are found to be very rudely fashioned, being merely chipped into shape and never ground or polished as is the case with the implements of the new Stone age. Another characteristic of the Paleolithic period is that the implements of the period are found in places which plainly show a much greater antiquity than can be assigned to the remains of the Neolithic age, the relics of the two ages being hardly, if ever, found together. The third distinction between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic age is that the remains of the Paleolithic man are found associated with those of many great mammals, such as the cave bear, the mammoth and wooly-haired rhinoceros that became either locally or wholly extinct before the appearance of the Neolithic man on the stage. In short, there is a kind of hiatus or break between the Paleolithic and Neolithic man requiring a separate classification and treatment for each. It may also be noted that the climatic conditions and the distribution of land and water in the Paleolithic period were different from those in the Neolithic period; while from beginning of the Neolithic period the modern conditions, both geographical and climatic, have prevailed almost unaltered up to the present time.
To understand the relation of these three ages within the geological periods into which the history of the earth is divided we must briefly consider the geological classification. The geologist takes up the history of the earth at the point where the archaeologist leaves it, and carries it further back into remote antiquity. His classification is based upon an examination of the whole system of stratified rocks and not on mere relics found in the surface strata. These stratified rocks have been divided into five principal classes according to the character of the fossils found in them, and they represent five different periods in the history of our planet. These geological eras like the three ages of Stone, Bronze and Iron, cannot be separated very sharply from each other. But taken as a whole we can clearly distinguish one era from another by its characteristic fossil remains. Each of these geological ages or eras is again subdivided into a number of different periods. The order of these Eras and Periods, beginning with the newest, is as follows:
Post-Tertiary or Quaternary
Tertiary or Cainozoic
Secondary or Mesozoic
Primary or Paleozoic
Devonian, and Old
Archæan or Eozoic
Thus the oldest of the stratified rocks at present known is the Archæan or Eozoic. Next in chronological order come the Primary or the Paleozoic, the Secondary or the Mesozoic the Tertiary or Cainozoic, and last the Quaternary.
The Quaternary era, with which alone we are here concerned, is sub-divided into the Pleistocene or the Glacial, and the Recent or the Post-Glacial period, the close of the first and the beginning of the second being marked by the last Glacial epoch, or the Ice Age, during which the greater portion of northern Europe and America was covered with an ice-cap several thousand feet in thickness. The Iron age, the Bronze age, and the Neolithic age come under the Recent or the Post-Glacial period, while the Paleolithic age is supposed to fall in the Pleistocene period, though some of the Paleolithic remains are post-glacial, showing that the Paleolithic man must have survived the Ice Age for some time. Latest discoveries and researches enable us to carry the antiquity of man still further by establishing the fact that men existed even in the Tertiary era. But apart from it, there is, now, at any rate, overwhelming evidence to conclusively prove the wide-spread existence of man throughout the Quaternary era, even before the last Glacial period.
Various estimates have been made regarding the time of the commencement of the Neolithic age, but the oldest date assigned does not exceed 3000 B.C., a time when flourishing empires existed in Egypt and Chaldea. These estimates are based on the amount of silt which has been found accumulated in some of the smaller lakes in Switzerland since the lake-dwellers of the Neolithic period built their piled villages therein. The peat-mosses of Den mark afford means for another estimate of the early Neolithic period in that country. These mosses are formed in the hollows of the glacial drift into which trees have fallen, and become gradually converted into peat in course of time. There are three successive periods of vegetation in these peat beds, the upper one of beach, the middle one of oak and the lowest of all, one of fir. These changes in the vegetation are attributed to slow changes in the climate and it is ascertained, from implements and remains found in these beds, that the Stone age corresponds mainly with that of Fir and partly with that of Oak, while the Bronze ague agrees mainly with the period of Oak and the Iron with that of Beech. It has been calculated that about 16,000 years will be required for the formation of these peat-mosses and according to this estimate we shall have to place the commencement of the Neolithic age in Denmark, at the lowest, not later than 10,000 years ago. But these estimates are not better than mere approximations, and generally speaking we may take the Neolithic age in Europe as commencing not later than 5000 B.C.
But when we pass from the Neolithic too the Paleolithic period the difficulty of ascertaining the commencement of the latter becomes still greater. In fact we have here to ascertain the time when the Post-Glacial period commenced. The Paleolithic man must have occupied parts of Western Europe shortly after the disappearance of the Ice age and Prof. Geikie considers that there are reasons for supposing that he was inter-glacial. The Glacial period was characterized by geographical and climatic changes on an extensive scale. These changes and the theories regarding the cause or the causes of the Ice Age will be briefly stated in the next chapter. We are here concerned with the date of the commencement of the Post-Glacial period, and there are two different views entertained by geologists on the subject. European geologists think that as the beginning of the Post-Glacial period was marked with great movements of elevation and depression of land, and as these movements take place very slowly, the commencement of the Post-Glacial period cannot be placed later than 50 or 60 thousand years ago. Many American geologists, on the other hand, are of opinion that the close of the last Glacial period must have taken place at a much more recent date. They draw this inference from the various estimates of time required for the erosion of valleys and accumulation of alluvial deposits since the last Glacial period. Thus according to Gilbert, the post-glacial gore of Niagara at the present rate of erosion must have been excavated within 7000 years.* (* See Geikie’s Fragments of Earth Lore, p. 296; also Dr. Bonney’s Story of our Planet, p. 560. )
Other American geologists from similar observations at various other places have arrived at the conclusion that not more than about 8000 years have elapsed since the close of the Glacial period. This estimate agrees very well with the approximate date of the Neolithic period ascertained from the amount of silt in some of the lakes in Switzerland. But it differs materially from the estimate of the European geologists. It is difficult to decide, in the present state of our knowledge, which of these estimates is correct. Probably the Glacial and the Post-Glacial period may not, owing to local causes have commenced or ended at one and the same time in different places, just as the ages of Stone and Bronze were not synchronous in different countries. Prof. Geikie does not accept the American estimate on the ground that it is inconsistent with the high antiquity of the Egyptian civilization, as ascertained by recent researches. But if no traces of glaciation are yet found in Africa this objection loses its force, while the arguments by which the American view is supported remain uncontradicted.
There are other reasons which go to support the same view. All the evidence regarding the existence of the Glacial period comes from the North of Europe and America; but no traces of glaciation have been yet discovered in theNorthern Asia or North Alaska. It is not to be supposed, however, that the northern part of Asia did not enjoy a genial climate in. early time. As observed by Prof. Geikie “everywhere throughout this vast region alluvial deposits are found packed up with the remains of mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, bison, and horse;” and “the fossils are usually so well preserved that on one occasion the actual carcass of a mammoth was exposed in so fresh a state that dogs ate the flesh thereof.”* (* See Geikie’s Great Ice Age, 1st Ed., p. 495; Dr. Croll’s Climate and Cosmology, p. 179. )
These and other equally indisputable facts clearly indicate the existence in Siberia of a mild and genial climate at a time, which, from the freshness of the fossil remains, cannot be
supposed to be removed from the present by several thousands of years. Again in North Africa and Syria we find in dry regions wide-spread fluviatile accumulations which are believed to be indications of rainy seasons, contemporaneous with the Glacial period of Europe.* (* See Geikie’s Fragments of Earth Lore, p. 252.)
If this contemporaneity can be established, the high estimate of time for the commencement of the Post-Glacial period in Europe will have to be given up, or at any rate much curtailed.
As regards the races which inhabited Europe in these early ages, the evidence furnished by human remains or skulls shows that they were the direct ancestors of the races now living in the different parts of Europe. The current classification of the human races into Aryan, Semitic, Mongolian, &c. is based upon the linguistic principle; but it is evident that in dealing with ancient races the archaeologist and the geologist cannot adopt this principle of division, inasmuch as their evidence consists of relics from which no inference can be drawn as to the language used by the ancient man. The shape and the size of the skull have, therefore, been taken as the chief distinguishing marks to classify the different races of prehistoric times. Thus if the extreme breadth of a skull is three-fourths, or 75 per cent, of its length or lower, it is classed as long-headed; or dolicho-cephalic, while if the breadth is higher than 83 per cent of the length the skull is said to be brachy-cephalic or broad-headed; the intermediate class being styled ortho-cephalic, or sub-dolicho-cephalic, or sub-brachy-cephalic according as it approaches one or the other of these types. Now from the examination of the different skulls found in the Neolithic beds it has been ascertained that Europe i n those early days was inhabited by four different races, and that the existing European types are directly descended from them. Of these four races two were dolicho-cephalic, one tall and one short; and two brachy-cephalic similarly divided. But the Aryan languages are, at present, spoken in Europe by races exhibiting the characteristics of all these types. It is, however, evident that one alone of these four ancient races can be the real representative of the Aryan race, though there is a strong difference of opinion as to which of them represented the primitive Aryans. German writers, like Posche and Penka, claim that the tall dolicho-cephalic race, the ancestors of the present Germans, were the true representative Aryans; while French writers, like Chavee and M. de Mortillet, maintain that the primitive Aryans were brachy-cephalic and the true Aryan type is represented by the Gauls. Canon Taylor in his Origin of the Aryans sums up the controversy by observing that when two races come in contact, the probability is that the speech of the most cultured will prevail, and therefore “it is” he says “an easier hypothesis to suppose that the dolicho-cephalic savages of the Baltic coast acquired Aryan speech from their brachy-cephalic neighbors, the Lithuanians, than to suppose, with Penka, that they succeeded in some remote age in Aryanising the Hindus, the Romans and the Greeks.”* (* See Taylor’s Origin of the Aryans, p. 243.)
Another method of determining which of these four races represented the primitive Aryans in Europe is to compare the grades of civilization attained by the undivided Aryans, as ascertained from linguistic paleontology, with those attained by the Neolithic races as disclosed by the remains found in their dwellings. As for the Paleolithic man his social condition appears to have been far below that of the undivided Aryans; and Dr. Schrader considers it as indubitably either non-Indo-European or pre-Indo-European in character. The Paleolithic man used stone hatchets and bone needles, and had attained some proficiency in the art of sculpture and drawing, as exhibited by outlines of various animals carved bones &c.; but he was clearly unacquainted with the potter’s art and the use of metals. It is only in the Neolithic period that we meet with pottery in the piled villages of lake-dwellers in Switzerland. But even the oldest lake-dwellers seem to have been unacquainted with the use of metals and wagons, both of which were familiar to the undivided Aryans. No trace of woolen cloth is again found in these lake-dwellings, even when sheep had become numerous in the Bronze age. But with these exceptions the culture of the Swiss lake-dwellings is considered by Dr. Schrader to be practically of the same character as the culture common to the European members of the Indo-Germanic family, and he, therefore, ventures to suggest, though cautiously, that “from the point of view there is nothing to prevent our assuming that the most ancient inhabitants of Switzerland were a branch of the European division” of the Aryan race.*(* Dr. Schrader’s Pre-historic Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples translated by Jevons, Part IV, Ch. xi, p. 368.)
But though recent discoveries have brought to light these facts about the human races inhabiting Europe in pre-historic times, and though we may, in accordance with them, assume that one of the four early Neolithic races represented the primitive Aryans in Europe, the question whether the latter were autochthonous, or went there from some other place and then succeeded in Aryanising the European races by their superior culture and civilization, cannot be regarded as settled by these discoveries. The date assigned to the Neolithic period as represented by Swiss lake-dwellers is not later than 5000 B.C., a time when Asiatic Aryans were probably settled on the Jaxartes, and it is admitted that the primitive Aryans in Europe could not have been the descendants of the Paleolithic man. It follows, therefore, that if we discover them in Europe in the early Neolithic times they must have gone there from some other part of the globe. The only other alternative is to assume that one of the four Neolithic races in Europe developed a civilization quite independently of their neighbors, an assumption, which is improbable on its face. Although, therefore, we may, in the light of recent scientific discoveries, give up the theory of successive migrations into Europe from a common home of the Aryan race in Central Asia in early times, yet the question of the primeval home of the Aryan race, a question with which we are mainly concerned in this book, still remains unsolved. When and where the primitive Aryan tongue was developed is again another difficult question which is not satisfactorily answered. Canon Taylor, after comparing the Aryan and Ural-Altaic languages, hazards a conjecture that at the close of the reindeer, or the last period of the Paleolithic age, a Finnic people appeared in Western Europe, whose speech remaining stationary is represented by the agglutinative Basque, and that much later, at the beginning of the pastoral age, when the ox had been tamed, a taller and more powerful Finno-Ugric people developed in Central Europe the inflexive Aryan speech.* (* The Origin of the Aryans, p. 296.)
But this is merely a conjecture, and it does not answer the question how the Indo-Iranians with their civilization are found settled in Asia at a time when Europe was in the Neolithic age. The Finnic language again discloses a number of culture words borrowed from the Aryans, and it is unlikely that the language of the latter could have got its inflection from the Finnic language. A mere similarity of inflectional structure is no evidence whatsoever for deciding who borrowed from whom, and it is surprising that the above suggestion should come from scholars, who have assailed the theory of successive Aryan migrations from a common Asiatic home, a theory which, amongst others, was based on linguistic grounds. Why did the Finns twice migrate from their home is also left unexplained. For reasons like these it seems to me more probable that the Finns might have borrowed the culture words from the Aryans when they came in contact with them, and that the Aryans were autochthonous neither in Europe nor in Central Asia, but had their original home somewhere near the North Pole in the Paleolithic times, and that, they migrated from this place southwards in Asia and Europe, not by any “irresistible impulse,” but by unwelcome changes in the climatic conditions of their original home. The Avesta preserves traditions which fully support this view. But these have been treated as valueless by scholars, who worked up their theories at a time when man was regarded as post-glacial, and the Avestic traditions were, it was believed, not supported by any Vedic authority. But with the time-telescope of a wider range supplied to us by recent scientific discoveries it has become possible to demonstrate that the Avestic traditions represent a real historical fact and that they are fully supported by the testimony of the Vedas. The North Pole is already considered by several eminent scientific men as the most likely place where plant and animal life first originated; and I believe it can be satisfactorily shown that there is enough positive evidence in the most ancient books of the Aryan race, the Vedas and the Avesta, to prove that the oldest home of the Aryan people was somewhere in regions round about the North Pole. I shall take up this evidence after examining the climatic conditions of the Pleistocene or the Glacial period and the astronomical characteristics of the Arctic region in the next two chapters.
THE GLACIAL PERIOD
Geological climate — Uniform and gentle in early ages — Due to different distribution of land and water — Climatic changes in the Quaternary era — The Glacial epoch — Its existence undoubtedly proved — Extent of glaciation — At least two Glacial periods — Accompanied by the elevation and depression of land — Mild and genial Interglacial climate even in the Arctic regions — Various theories regarding the cause of the Ice Age stated — Lyell’s theory of geographical changes — Showing long duration of the Glacial period — Croll’s theory — Effect of the procession of the equinoxes on the duration and intensity of seasons — The cycle of 21,000 years — The effect enhanced by the eccentricity of earth’s orbit — Maximum difference of 33 days between the duration of summer and winter — Sir Robert Ball’s calculations regarding the average heat received by each hemisphere in summer and winter — Short and warm summers and long and cold winters, giving rise to a Glacial epoch — Dr. Croll’s extraordinary estimate regarding the duration of the Glacial epoch — Based on the maximum value of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit — Questioned by astronomers and geologists — Sir Robert Ball’s and Newcomb’s view — Croll’s estimates inconsistent with geological evidence — Opinions of Prof. Geikie and Mr. Hudleston — Long duration of the Glacial period — Summary of results.
The climate of our globe at the present day is characterized by a succession of seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter, caused by the inclination of the earth’s axis to the plane of the ecliptic. When the North Pole of the earth is turned away from the sun in its annual course round that luminary, we have winter in the northern and summer in the southern hemisphere, and vice versa when the North Pole is turned towards the sun. The cause of the rotation of seasons in the different hemispheres is thus very simple, and from the permanence of this cause one-may be led to think that in the distant geological ages the climate of our planet must have been characterized by similar rotations of hot and cold seasons. But such a supposition is directly contradicted by geological evidence. The inclination of the earth’s axis to the plane of ecliptic, or what is technically called the obliquity of the ecliptic, is not the sole cause of climatic variations on the surface of the globe. High altitude and the existence of oceanic and aerial currents, carrying and diffusing the heat of the equatorial region to the other parts of the globe, have been found to produce different climates in countries having the same latitude. The Gulf Stream is a notable instance of such oceanic currents and had it not been for this stream the climate in the North-West of Europe would have been quite different from what it is at present. Again if the masses of land and water be differently distributed from what they are at present, there is every reason to suppose that different climatic conditions will prevail on the surface of the globe from those which we now experience, as such a distribution would materially alter the course of oceanic and aerial currents going from the equator to the Poles. Therefore, in the early geological ages, when the Alps were low and the Himalayas not yet upheaved and when Asia and Africa were represented only by a group of islands we need not be surprised if, from geological evidence of fossil fauna and flora, we find that an equable and uniform climate prevailed over the whole surface of the globe as the result of these geographical conditions. In Mesozoic and Cainozoic times this state of things appears to have gradually changed. But though the climate in the Secondary and the Tertiary era was not probably as remarkably uniform as in the Primary, yet there is clear geological evidence to show that until the close of the Pliocene period in the Tertiary era the climate was not yet differentiated into zones and there were then no hot and cold extremes as at present. The close of the Pliocene and the whole of the Pleistocene period was marked by violent changes of climate bringing on what is called the Glacial and Inter-Glacial epochs. But it is now conclusively established that before the advent of this period a luxuriant forest vegetation, which can only grow and exist at present in the tropical or temperate climate, flourished in the high latitude of Spitzbergen, where the sun goes below the horizon from November till March, thus showing that a warm climate prevailed in the Arctic regions in those days.
It was in the Quaternary or the Pleistocene period that the mild climate of these regions underwent sudden alterations producing what is called the Glacial period. The limits of this Glacial period may not so exactly coincide with those of the Pleistocene as to enable us to say that they were mathematically co-extensive, but, still, in a rough sense we may take these two periods as coinciding with each other. It is impossible within the limits of a short chapter to give even a summary of the evidence proving the existence of one or more Glacial epochs in the Pleistocene period. We may, however, briefly indicate its nature and see what the geologists and the physicists have to say as regards the causes that brought about such extensive changes of climate in the Quaternary era. The existence of the Glacial period is no longer a matter of doubt though scientific men are not agreed as to the causes which produced it. Ice-sheets have not totally disappeared from the surface of the earth and we can still watch the action of ice as glaciers in the valleys of the Alps or in the lands near the Pole, like Greenland which is still covered with a sheet of ice so thick as to make it unfit for the growth of plants or the habitation of animals. Studying the effects of glacial action in these places geologists have discovered abundant traces of similar action of ice in former times over the whole of Northern Europe andAmerica. Rounded and scratched stones, till or boulder-clay, and the rounded appearance of rocks and mountains clearly point out that at one period in the history of our globe northern parts of Europe and America must have been covered for a long time with a sheet of ice several hundreds of feet in thickness. The ice which thus invaded the northern portion of America and Europe did not all radiate from the Pole. The evidence of the direction of the striae, or scratches engraved on rocks by ice, undoubtedly proves that the ice-caps spread out from all elevated places or mountains in different directions. These ice-sheets of enormous thickness covered the whole of Scandinavia, filled up the North Sea; invaded Britain down to the Thames valley, greater portion of Germany and Russia as far south as Moscow and almost as far east as the Urals. It is calculated that at least a million of square miles in Europe and more in North America were covered by the debris of rocks ground down by these glaciers and ice-caps, and it is from this debris that geologists now infer the existence of an Ice Age in early times. The examination of this debris shows that there are at least two series of boulder clay indicating two periods of glaciation. The debris of the second period has disturbed the first layer in many places, but enough remains to show that there were two distinct beds of boulder clay and drifts, belonging to two different periods. Prof. Geikie mentions four such Glacial periods, with corresponding Inter-Glacial periods, as having occurred in succession in Europe during the Pleistocene period. But though this opinion is not accepted by other geologists, yet the existence of two Glacial epochs, with an intervening Inter-Glacial period, is now considered as conclusively established.
A succession of cold and warm climates must have characterized these Glacial and Inter-Glacial periods which were also accompanied by extensive movements of depression and elevation of land, the depression taking place after the land was weighed down with the enormous mass of ice. Thus a period of glaciation was marked by elevation, extreme cold and the invasion of the ice-caps over regions of the present Temperate zone; while an inter-glacial period was accompanied by depression of land and milder and congenial climate which made even the Arctic regions habitable. The remains of the Paleolithic man have been found often imbedded between the two boulder-clays of two different Glacial periods, a fact which conclusively establishes the existence of man in the Inter-Glacial period in the Quaternary era. Prof. Geikie speaking of the changes of climate in the Glacial and Inter-Glacial period remarks that “during the Inter-Glacial period the climate was characterized by clement winters and cool summers so that the tropical plants and animals, like elephants, rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses, ranged over the whole of the Arctic region, and in spite of numerous fierce carnivora, the Paleolithic man had no unpleasant habitation there.” ( Fragments of Earth Lore, p. 266. )
It will thus be seen that in point of climate the Pleistocene period, or the early Quaternary era, was intermediate between the early geological ages when uniform genial climate prevailed over the globe, and the modern period when it is differentiated into zones. It was, so to speak, a transitional period marked by violent changes in the climate, that was mild and genial in the Inter-Glacial, and severe and inclement during the Glacial period. It was at the beginning of the Post-Glacial or the Recent period that modern climatic conditions were established. Prof. Geikie is, however, of opinion that even the beginning of the Post-Glacial period was marked, at least in North-Western Europe, by two alternations of genial and rainy-cold climate before the present climatic conditions became established. (Prehistoric Europe, p. 530)
But though the fact of the Ice Age and the existence of a milder climate within the Arctic regions in the Inter-Glacial time is indubitably proved yet scientific men have not been as yet able to trace satisfactorily the causes of this great catastrophe. Such immense mass of ice as covered the whole of Northern Europe and America during this period could not, like anything else, come out of nothing., There must be heat enough in certain parts of the globe to create by evaporation sufficient vapor and aerial currents are required to transfer it to the colder regions of the globe, there to be precipitated in the form of ice. Any theory regarding the cause of the Ice Age which fails to take this fact into account is not only inadequate but worthless. A succession of Glacial periods, or at any rate, the occurrence of two Glacial periods, must again be accounted for by the theory that may be proposed to explain these changes; and if we test the different theories advanced in this way, many of them will be at once found to be untenable. It was, for instance, once urged that the Gulf Stream, which, at present, imparts warmth to the countries in the North-West of Europe, might have been turned away from its course in the Pleistocene period by the submergence of the Isthmus of Panama, thus converting the countries on the North-Western coast of Europe into lands covered by ice. There is, however, no geological evidence to show that the Isthmus of Panama was submerged in the Pleistocene period and we must, therefore, give up this hypothesis. Another theory started to account for the catastrophe was that the earth must have passed through cold and hot regions of space, thus giving rise to Glacial and Inter-Glacial periods respectively. But this too is unsupported by any evidence. A third suggestion advanced was that the supply of solar heat on earth must have varied in such a way as to give rise to warm and cold climates but this was shown to be a mere conjecture. A change in the position of the earth’s axis might indeed cause such sudden changes in the climate; but a change in the axis means a change in the equator and as the earth owing to its diurnal rotation causes the equatorial regions to bulge out, a change in the axis would give rise to a second equatorial protuberance, which, however, is not observable and that the theory cannot therefore, be accepted. A gradual cooling of the earth would make the Polar regions habitable before the other parts of the globe; but a succession of Glacial epochs cannot be accounted for on this theory.
Thus out of the various theories advanced to account for the vicissitudes of climate in the Pleistocene period only two have now remained in the field, the first that of Lyell which explains the changes by assuming different distribution of land and water combined with sudden elevation and submergence of large landed areas and the second that of Croll which traces the glaciation to the precession of the equinoxes combined with the high value of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit. Lyell’s theory has been worked out by Wallace who shows that such geographical changes are by themselves sufficient to produce heat and cold required to bring on the Glacial and Inter-Glacial periods. We have seen that in earlier geological ages a pleasant and equable climate prevailed over the whole surface of the globe owing mainly to different distribution of land and water and the theory advanced by Lyell to account for the Glacial epoch is practically the same. Great elevation and depression of extensive areas can be effected only in thousands of years, and those who support Lyell’s theory are of opinion that the duration of the Glacial epoch must be taken to be about 200,000 years in order to account for all the geographical and geological changes, which according to them, were the principal causes of the Glacial period. But there are other geologists, of the same school, who hold that the Glacial period may not have lasted longer than about 20 to 25 thousand years. The difference between the two estimates is enormous; but in the present state of geological evidence it is difficult to decide in favor of any one of these views. All that we can safely say is that the duration of the Pleistocene period, which included at least two Glacial and one Inter-Glacial epoch, must have been very much longer than the period of time which has elapsed since the commencement of the Post-Glacial period.
According to Sir Robert Ball the whole difficulty of finding out the causes of the Glacial period vanishes when the solution of the problem is sought for in astronomy rather than in geography. Changes which seem to be so gigantic on the globe are, it is said, but daily wrought by cosmical forces with which we are familiar in astronomy, and one of the chief merits of Croll’s theory is supposed to consist in the fact that it satisfactorily accounts for a succession of Glacial and Inter-Glacial epochs during the Pleistocene period. Dr. Croll in his Climate and Time and Climate and Cosmology has tried to explain and establish his theory by elaborate calculations, showing that the changes in the values of the variable elements in the motion of the earth round the sun can adequately account for the climatic changes in the Pleistocene period. We shall first briefly state Dr. Croll’s theory and then give the opinions of experts as regards its probability.
Let PQ'AQ represent the orbit of the earth round the sun. This orbit is an ellipse, and the sun, instead of being in the centre C, is in one of the focii S or s. Let the sun be at S.
Then the distance of the sun from the earth when the latter is at P would be the shortest, while, when the earth is at A it will be the longest. These points P and A are respectively called perihelion and aphelion. The seasons are caused, as stated above, by the axis of the earth being inclined to the plane of its orbit. Thus when the earth is at P and the axis turned away from the sun, it will produce winter in the northern hemisphere; while when the earth is at A, the axis, retaining its direction, will be now turned towards the sun, and there will be summer in the northern hemisphere. If the axis of the earth had no motion of its own, the seasons will always occur at the same points in the orbit of the earth, as, for instance, the winter in the
northern hemisphere at P and the summer at A. But this axis describes a small circle round the pole of the ecliptic in a cycle of 25,868 years, giving rise to what is called the precession of the equinoxes, and consequently the indication of the earth’s axis to the plane of its orbit is not always the same at any given point in its orbit during this period. This causes the seasons to occur at different points in the earth’s orbit during this great cycle. Thus if the winter in the northern hemisphere occurred when the earth was at P at one time, some time after it will occur at and the succeeding points in the orbit until the end of the cycle, when it will again occur at P. The same will be the case in regard to summer at the point A and equinoxes at Q and Q'. In the diagram the dotted line qq' and pa represent the new positions which the line QQ' and PA will assume if they revolve in the way stated above. It must also be noted that though the winter in the northern hemisphere may occur when the earth is at p instead of at P, owing to the aforesaid motion of its axis, yet the orbit of the earth and the points of perihelion and aphelion are relatively fixed and unchangeable. Therefore, if the winter is the northern hemisphere occurs at p, the earth’s distance from the sun at the point will be greater than when the earth was at P. Similarly, in the course of the cycle above mentioned, the winter in the northern hemisphere will once occur at A, and the distance of the earth from the sun will then be the longest. Now there is a vast difference between a winter occurring when the earth is at P and a winter occurring when it is at A. In the first case, the point P being nearest to the sun, the severity of the winter will be greatly, modified by the nearness of the sun. But at A the sun is farthest removed from the earth, and the winter, when the earth is at A, will be naturally very severe; and during the cycle the winter must once occur at A. The length of the cycle is 25,868 years, and ordinarily speaking half of this period must elapse before the occurrence of winter is transferred from the earth’s position at P to its position at A. But it is found that the points P and A have a small motion of their own in the direction opposite to that in which the line of equinoxes QQ' or the winter point p moves along the orbit. The above cycle of 25,868 years is, therefore, reduced to 20,984, or, in round number 21,000 years. Thus if the winter in one hemisphere occurs when the earth is at P, the point nearest to the sun in the orbit, it will occur in the same hemisphere at A after a lapse of 10,500 years. It may be here mentioned that in about 1250 A.D., the winter in the northern hemisphere occurred when the earth in its orbit was at P, and that in about 11,750 A.D. the earth will be again at A, that is, at its longest distance from the sun at the winter time, giving rise to a severe winter. Calculating backwards it may be seen that the last severe winter at A must have occurred in the year 9,250 B.C. ( See Herschel’s Outlines of Astronomy, Ed. 1883, Arts. 368, 369.)
It need not be mentioned that the winter in one hemisphere corresponds with the summer in the other, and that what is said about winter in the northern hemisphere applies mutatis mutandis to seasonal changes in the southern hemisphere.
There is another consideration which we must take into account in estimating the severity of winter or the mildness of summer in any hemisphere. If the summer be defined to be the period of time required by the earth to travel from one equinoctial point Q' to another equinoctial point Q, this interval cannot always be constant for we have seen that the winter and summer points (P and A), and with them the equinoctial points (Q and Q') are not stationary, but revolve along the orbit once in 21,000 years. Had the orbit been a circle, the lines qq' and pa will have always divided it in equal parts. But the orbit being an ellipse these two sections are unequal. For instance, suppose that the winter occurs when the earth is at P, then the duration of the summer will be represented by Q'AQ, but when the winter occurs at A the summer time will be represented by QPQ', a segment of the ellipse necessarily smaller than Q'AQ. This inequality is due to the ellipticity of the orbit, and the more elongated or elliptic the orbit is the greater will be the difference between the durations of summer and winter in a hemisphere. Now the ellipticity of the orbit is measured by the difference between the mean and the greatest distance of the earth from the sun, and is called in astronomy the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit. This eccentricity of the earth’s orbit is not a constant quantity but varies, though slowly, in course of time, making the orbit more and more elliptical until it reaches a maximum value, when it again begins to reduce until the original value is reached. The duration of summer and winter in a hemisphere, therefore, varies as the value of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit at that time; and it has been stated above that the difference between the duration of summer and winter also depends on the position of the equinoctial line or of the points in the earth’s orbit at which the winter and the summer in a hemisphere occur. As the joint result of these two variations, the difference between the durations of summer and winter would be the longest, when the eccentricity of the earth is at its maximum and according as the winter and summer occur at the points of perihelion or aphelion. It has been found that this difference is equal to 33 days at the highest, and that at the present day it is about 7½ days. Thus if the winter in the northern hemisphere occurs when the earth is at P in its orbit and the eccentricity is at its maximum, the winter will be shorter by 33 days than the summer of the time. But this position will be altered after 10,500 years when the winter, occurring at A, will, in its turn, be longer than the corresponding summer by the same length of time, viz. 33 days.
Now, since the earth describes equal areas in equal times in its orbit, Herschel supposed that in spite of the difference between the duration of summer and winter noticed above, the whole earth received equal amount of heat while passing from one equinox to another, the “inequality in the intensities of solar radiation in the two intervals being precisely compensated by the opposite inequality in the duration of the intervals themselves.” Accepting this statement Dr. Croll understated his ease to a certain extent. But Sir Robert Ball, formerly the Astronomer Royal of Ireland, in his recent work On the Cause of an Ice Age has demonstrated, by mathematical calculation, that the above supposition is erroneous, and that the total amount of heat received from the sun by each hemisphere in summer and winter varies as the obliquity of the earth or the inclination of its axis to the ecliptic, but is practically independent of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit. Taking the total sun-heat received in a year by each hemisphere to be 365 units, or on an average one unit a day, and taking the obliquity to be 23° 27', Sir Robert Ball has calculated that each hemisphere would receive 229 of these heat-units during summer and only 136 during winter, whatever the eccentricity of the earth may be. But though these figures are not affected by the eccentricity of the orbit, yet we have seen that the duration of the summer or winter does vary as the eccentricity.
Supposing, therefore, that we have the longest winter in the northern hemisphere, we shall have to distribute 229 heat-units over 166 days of a short summer, and 136 heat-units over 199 days of a long winter of the same period. In other words, the difference between the daily average heat in summer and winter will, in such a case, be the greatest, producing shorter but warmer summers and longer and colder winters, and ice and snow accumulated in the long winter will not be melted or removed by the heat of the sun in the short summer, giving rise, thereby, to what is known as the Glacial period in the northern hemisphere. From what has been stated above, it may be seen that the southern hemisphere during this period will have long and cool summers and short and warm winters, a condition precisely reverse to that in the northern hemisphere. In short the Glacial and Inter-Glacial periods in the two hemispheres will alternate with each other every 10,500 years, if the eccentricity of the earth be sufficiently great to make a perceptibly large difference between the winters and the summers in each hemisphere.
If Dr. Croll had gone only so far, his position would have been unassailable, for the cause enumerated above, is sufficiently potent to produce the climatic changes attributed to it. At any rate, if this was not the sole cause of a succession of Glacial and Inter-Glacial periods, their could be no doubt that it must have been an important contributory cause in bringing about these changes. But taking the value of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit from the tables of Leverrier, Dr. Croll calculated that during the last three million years there were three periods of maximum eccentricity, the first of 170,000, the second of 260,000, and the third of 160,000 years; and that 80,000 years have elapsed since the close of the third or the last period. According to Dr. Croll the Glacial epoch in the Pleistocene period must, therefore, have begun 240,000 years ago, and ended, followed by the Post-Glacial period, about 80,000 years ago. During this long period of 160,000 years, there must have been several alternations of mild and severe climates, according as the winter in a hemisphere occurred when the earth was at perihelion or aphelion in its orbit, which happened every 10,500 years during the period. But as the cold epoch can be at its maximum only during the early part of each period, according to Dr. Croll’s theory, the last epoch of maximum glaciation must be placed 200,000 years ago, or about 40,000 years after the commencement of the last period of maximum eccentricity.
The reliability of these elaborate calculations has, however, been questioned by astronomers and geologists alike. Sir Robert Ball, who supports Croll in every other respect, has himself refrained from making any astronomical calculations regarding the maximum value of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit, or the time when the last Glacial epoch should have occurred, or when the next would take place. “I cannot say,” he observes, “when the last (Glacial epoch) took place, nor when the next may be expected. No one who is competent to deal with mathematical formulae would venture on such predictions in the present state of our knowledge.” Prof. Newcomb of New York, another astronomer of repute, in his review of Dr. Croll’s Climate and Time, has also pointed out how in the present state of astronomical knowledge it is impossible to place any reliance on the values of eccentricity computed for epoches, distant by millions of years, as the value of this eccentricity depends upon elements, many of which are uncertain, and this is especially the case when one has to deal with long geological eras. The only reply made by Dr. Croll to this criticism is that his figures were correctly worked up from the values of the eccentricity according to the latest correction of Mr. Stockwell. (* On the Cause of an Ice Age, p. 152. † Climate and Cosmology, p. 39.)
This, however, is hardly a satisfactory reply, inasmuch as Prof. Newcomb’s objection refers not to the correctness of the mathematical work, but to the impossibility of correctly ascertaining the very data from which the values of the eccentricity were obtained.
It was once supposed that the duration of each of Dr. Croll’s different periods admirably fitted in with the geological evidence, and fully corroborated the estimates of time supposed to be required for the extensive geographical changes which accompanied the Glacial and Inter-Glacial periods. But geologists have now begun to take a more sober view of this extravagant figures and calculations. According to Croll’s calculation there were three periods of maximum eccentricity during the last three million years, and there should, therefore, be three periods of glaciation corresponding to these, each including several Glacial and Inter-Glacial epochs. But there is no geological evidence of the existence of such Glacial epochs in early geological eras, except, perhaps, in the Permian and Carboniferous periods of the Paleozoic or the Primary age. An attempt is made to meet this objection by replying that though the eccentricity was greatest at one period in the early geological eras, yet, as the geographical distribution of land and water was then essentially different from what it was in the Quaternary era the high value of the eccentricity did not then produce the climatic changes it did in the Pleistocene period. This reply practically concedes that the high eccentricity of the earth’s orbit, combined with the occurrence of winter when the earth is at aphelion, is not by itself sufficient to bring about a Glacial period; and it may, therefore, be well urged that a Glacial epoch may occur even when the eccentricity is not at its maximum. Another point in which Dr. Croll’s theory conflicts with the geological evidence is the date of the close of the last Glacial epoch, as ascertained, by the American geologists, from estimates based on the erosion of valleys since the close of the last Glacial period. It is pointed out in the last chapter that these estimates do not carry the beginning of the Post-Glacial period much further than about 10,000 years ago at the best; while Dr. Croll’s calculation would carry it back to 80 or 100 thousand years. This is a serious difference and even Prof. Geikie, who does not entirely accept the American view, is obliged to admit that though Dr. Croll’s theory is the only theory that accounts for the succession of Glacial epochs and therefore, the only correct theory, yet the formula employed by him to calculate the values of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit may be incorrect and that we may thus account for the wide discrepancy between his inference and the conclusions based upon hard geological facts, which cannot be lightly set aside.( Fragments of Earth Lore, p. 287.)
The judgment recently pronounced by Mr. Hudleston is still more severe. In his opening address, as President of the geological section of the meeting of the British Association in 1898, he is reported to have remarked, “There is probably nothing more extraordinary in the history of modern investigation than the extent to which geologists of an earlier date permitted themselves to be led away by the fascinating theories of Croll. The astronomical explanation of the “Will-o’-the-wisp,” the cause of the great Ice Age, is at present greatly discredited and we begin to estimate at their true value those elaborate calculations which were made to account for events, which, in all probability, never occurred. Extravagance begets extravagance and the unreasonable speculations of men like Belt and Croll have caused some of our recent students to suffer from the nightmare.” (See The Nature, Sept. 15, 1898.)
This criticism appears to be rather severe; fox though Dr. Croll’s elaborate calculations may be extravagant, yet we must give him the credit for not merely suggesting but working out, the effect of a cosmical cause which under certain circumstances is powerful enough to produce extensive changes in the climate of the globe.
But in spite of these remarks, it cannot be doubted that the duration of the Glacial period, comprising at least two Glacial and one Inter-Glacial epoch, must have been very much longer thin that of the Post-Glacial period. For, independently of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit, the occurrence of winter at aphelion is by itself sure to contribute to the production of the Ice Age, if other causes and circumstances, either those suggested by Lyell; or others, are favorable and 21,000 years must elapse between two successive occurrences of winter at aphelion. For two Glacial epochs with an intervening Inter-Glacial period, we must, therefore, allow a period longer than 21,000 years, even if the question of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit be kept aside while, if, with Prof. Geikie, we suppose that there were five Glacial (four in the Pleistocene and one at the close of the Pliocene period) and four Inter-Glacial epochs the duration must be extended to something like 80,000 years.
It is unnecessary to go further into these scientific and geological discussions. I have already stated before that my object is to trace from positive evidence contained in the Vedic literature the home of the Vedic and, therefore, also of the other Aryan races, long before they settled in Europe or on the banks of the Oxus, the Jaxartes, or the Indus; and so far as this purpose is concerned, the results of the latest scientific researches, discussed in this and the previous chapter, may now be summed up as follows: —
(1) In the very beginning of the Neolithic age Europe is found to be inhabited by races,, from whom the present races of Europe speaking Aryan languages are descended.
(2) But though the existence of an Aryan race in Europe in early Neolithic times is thus established, and, therefore, the theory of migrations from an Asiatic home in Post-Glacial times is untenable, it does not prove that the Aryan race was autochthonous in Europe, and the question of its original home cannot, therefore, be regarded as finally settled.
(3) There are good reasons for supposing that the metal age was introduced into Europe by Foreign people.
(4) The different ages of Stone, Bronze and Iron were not synchronous in different countries, and the high state of civilization in Egypt is not, therefore, inconsistent with the Neolithic stage of European civilization at the time.
(5) According to the latest geological evidence, which cannot be lightly set aside, the last Glacial period must have closed and the Post-Glacial commenced at about 10,000 years ago, or 8,000 B.C. at the best, and the freshness of the Siberian fossil-deposits favors this view.
(6) Man is not merely Post-Glacial as he was believed to be some years ago, and there is conclusive geological evidence to prove his wide-spread existence in the Quaternary, if not also in Tertiary, era.
(7) There were at least two Glacial and one Inter-Glacial period, and the geographical distribution of land and water on the earth during the Inter-Glacial period was quite different from what it is at present.
(8) There were great vicissitudes of climate in the Pleistocene period, it being cold and inclement during the Glacial, and mild and temperate in the Inter-Glacial period, even as far as the Polar regions.
(9) There is enough evidence to show that the Arctic regions, both in Asia and Europe, were characterized in the Inter-Glacial period by cool summers and warm winters — a sort of, what Herschel calls, a perpetual spring; and that places like Spitzbergen, where the sun goes below the horizon from November till March, were once the seat of luxuriant vegetation, that grows, at present, only in the temperate or the tropical climate.
(10) It was the coming on of the Glacial age that destroyed this genial climate, and rendered the regions unsuited for the habitation of tropical plants and animals.
(11) There are various estimates regarding the duration of the Glacial period, but in the present state of our knowledge it is safer to rely on geology than on astronomy in this respect, though as regards the causes of the Ice Age the astronomical explanation appears to be more probable.
(12) According to Prof. Geikie there is evidence to hold that there were, in all, five Glacial and four Inter-Glacial epochs, and that even the beginning of the Post-Glacial
period was marked by two successions of cold and genial climate, at least in the North-West of Europe.
(13) Several eminent scientific men have already advanced the theory that the cradle of the human race must be sought for in the Arctic regions and that the plant and animal life also originated in the same place.
It will thus be seen that if the Vedic evidence points to an Arctic home, where the ancestors of the Vedic Ṛiṣhis lived in ancient times, there is at any rate nothing in the latest scientific discoveries which would warrant us in considering this result as a priori improbable. On the contrary there is much in these researches that suggests such a hypothesis, and as a matter of fact, several scientific men have now been led to think that we must look for the cradle of the human race in the Arctic regions.
THE ARCTIC REGIONS
Existence of a Circumpolar continent in early times — Probable also in the Inter-Glacial period — Milder climate at the time — Necessity of examining Vedic Myths — Difference between Polar and Circumpolar characteristics — The precession of the equinoxes used as chronometer in Vedic chronology — Characteristics of the North Pole — The horizontal motion of the celestial hemisphere — Spinning round of the stars without rising or setting — The Sun rising in the South — A day and a night of six months each — Aurora Borealis — Continuous fortnightly moonlight, and long morning and evening twilights — Dawn lasting from 45 to 60 days — The Polar year — The darkness of the Polar night reduced only to two, or two and a half, months — Dr. Warren’s description of the Polar Dawn with its revolving splendors — Characteristics of regions to the South of the North Pole — Stars moving obliquely and a few rising and setting as in the tropical zone — The Southernly direction of the Sun — A long day and a long night, but of less than six months’ duration — Supplemented by the alternations of ordinary days and nights for some time during the year — Long dawn but of shorter duration than at the Pole — Comparison with the features of the year in the tropics — Summary of Polar and Circumpolar characteristics.
We have seen that in the Pleistocene period there was great elevation and submergence of land accompanied by violent changes in the climate, over the whole surface of the globe. Naturally enough the severity of the Glacial period must have been very intense within the Arctic circle, and we shall be perfectly justified in supposing that geographical changes like the elevation and depression of land occurred on a far more extensive scale in regions round about the Pole than anywhere else. This leads us to infer that the distribution of land and water about the Pole during the Inter-Glacial period must have been different from what it is at present. Dr. Warren, in his Paradise Found, quotes a number of authorities to show that within a comparatively recent geological period a wide stretch of Arctic land, of which Novaia Zemlia and Spitzbergen formed a part, had been submerged; and one of the conclusions he draws from these authorities is that the present islands of the Arctic Ocean, such as the two mentioned above are simply mountain-tops still remaining above the surface of the sea which has come in and covered up the primeval continent to which they belonged. That an extensive circum-polar continent existed in Miocene times seems to have been conceded by all geologists, and though we cannot predicate its existence in its entirety during the Pleistocene period, yet there are good reasons to hold that a different configuration of land and water prevailed about the North Pole during the Inter-Glacial period, and that as observed by Prof. Geikie, the Paleolithic man, along with other Quaternary animals, freely ranged over the whole of the Arctic regions in those times. Even now there is a considerable tract of land to the north of the Arctic circle, in the old world, especially in Siberia and there is evidence to show that it once enjoyed a mild and temperate climate. The depth of the Arctic Ocean to the north of Siberia is at present, less than a hundred fathoms, and if great geographical changes took place in the Pleistocene period, it is not unlikely that this tract of land, which is now submerged, may have been once above the level of the sea. In other words there are sufficient indications of the existence of a continent round about the North-Pole before the last Glacial period.
As regards climate, we have seen that during the Inter-Glacial period there were cool summers and warm winters even within the Arctic Circle. Sir Robert Ball gives us a good idea of the genial character of this climate by reducing to figures the distribution of heat-units over summers and winters. A longer summer, with 229 heat-units spread over it, and a shorter winter of 136 heat-units, would naturally produce a climate, which according to Herschel, would be “an approach to perpetual spring.” If the Paleolithic man, therefore, lived in these regions during the Inter-Glacial period, he must have found it very pleasant, in spite of the fact that the sun went below his horizon for a number of days in a year according to the latitude of the place. The present
inclement climate of the Arctic regions dates from the Post-Glacial period, and we must leave it out of consideration in dealing with earlier ages.
But supposing that an Arctic continent, with an equable and pleasant climate, existed during the Inter-Glacial period, and that the Paleolithic man ranged freely over it, it does not follow that the ancestors of the Aryan race lived in the Arctic regions during those days, though it may render such a hypothesis highly probable. For that purpose, we must either wait until the existence of the Aryan race, within the Arctic region in Inter-Glacial times, is proved by new archaeological discoveries, or failing them, try to examine the ancient traditions and beliefs of the race, incorporated in such admittedly oldest Aryan books, as the Vedas and the Avesta, and see if they justify us in predicating the inter-glacial existence of the Aryan people. It is admitted that many of the present explanations of these traditions and legends are unsatisfactory, and as our knowledge of the ancient man is increased, or becomes more definite, by new discoveries in archaeology, geology or anthropology, these explanations will have to be revised from time to time and any defects in them, due to our imperfect understanding of the sentiments, the habits and even the surroundings of the ancient man, corrected. That human races have preserved their ancient traditions is undoubted, though some or many of them may have become distorted in course of time, and it is for us to see if they do or do not accord with what we know of the ancient man from latest scientific researches. In the case of the Vedic traditions, myths and beliefs, we have the further advantage that they were collected thousands of years ago, and handed down unchanged from that remote time. It is, therefore, not unlikely that we may find traces of the primeval Polar home in these oldest books. If the Aryan man did live within the Arctic circle in early times, especially as a portion of the Ṛig-Veda is still admittedly unintelligible on any of the existing methods of interpretation, although the words and expressions are plain and simple in many places. Dr. Warren has quoted some Vedic traditions along with those of other nations, in support of his theory that the Arctic regions were the birth-place of the human race. But the attempt, so far as the Vedic texts are concerned, is desultory, as it was bound to be inasmuch as these Vedic legends and texts have, as yet, never been examined by any Vedic scholar from the new stand point furnished by the latest scientific researches and as Dr. Warren had to depend entirely on the existing translations. It is proposed, therefore, to examine the Vedas from this new point of view; but before doing so it is necessary to ascertain such peculiar characteristics, or what in logic are called differentiae, of the Polar or the Arctic regions, as are not found elsewhere on the surface of the globe, so that if we meet with them in the Vedic traditions, the Polar origin of the latter would be indubitably established: We have seen that the inclemency of climate which now characterizes the Polar regions, was not a feature of the Polar climate in early times; and we must, therefore, turn to astronomy to find out the characteristics required for our purpose.
It has been a fashion to speak of the Polar regions as characterized by light and darkness of 6 months each, for it is well-known that the sun shines at the North Pole continuously for 6 months, and then sinks down below the horizon, producing a night of 6 months’ duration. But a closer examination of the subject will show that the statement is only roughly true, and requires to be modified in several particulars before it can be accepted as scientifically accurate. In the first place we must distinguish between the Pole and the Polar regions. The Pole is merely a point, and all the inhabitants of the original ancient home if there was one near the North Pole, could not have lived precisely at this single point, The Polar or the Arctic regions, on the other hand, mean the tracts of land included between the North Pole and the Arctic circle. But the duration of day and night, as well as the seasons, at different places within the Arctic regions cannot be, and are not, the same as at the point called the North Pole. The characteristics of the circum-polar region may indeed be derived from the strictly Polar characteristics; but still they are so unlike each other that it is absolutely necessary to bear this distinction in mind in collecting evidence of a circum-polar Aryan home in ancient times. Men living round about the Pole, or more accurately speaking, in regions between the North Pole and the Arctic circle when these regions were habitable were sure to know of a day and night of 6 months, but living a little southward from the Pole their own calendar must have been different from the strictly Polar calendar; and it is, therefore, necessary to examine the Polar and the circum-polar characteristics separately, in order that the distinction may be clearly understood.
The terrestrial Poles are the termini of the axis of the earth, and we have seen that there is no evidence to show that this axis ever changed its position, relatively to the earth, even in the earliest geological eras. The terrestrial poles and the circum-polar regions were, therefore, the same in early cases as they are at present, though the past and present climatic condition of these places may be totally different. But the axis of the earth has a small motion round the pole of the ecliptic, giving rise to what is known as the precession of the equinoxes, and causing a change only in the celestial, and not in the terrestrial, poles. Thus the polar star 7,000 years ago was different from what it is at present but the terristrial pole has always remained the same. This motion of the earth’s axis, producing the precession of the equinoxes, is important from an antiquarian point of view, inasmuch as it causes a change in the times when different seasons of the year begin; and it was mainly by utilizing this chronometer that I showed in my Orion or Researches in the Antiquity of the Vedas that the vernal equinox was in Orion when some of the Rig-Vedic traditions were formed, and that the Vedic literature contained enough clear evidence of the successive changes of the position of the vernal equinox up to the present time. Thus the vernal equinox was in Kṛittikâs in the time of the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ and Brâhmaṇa and the express text stating that “The Kṛittikâs never swerve from the due east; all other Nakṣhatras do” (Shat. Brâ. II. 1, 2, 3), recently published by the late Mr. S. B. Dixit, serves to remove whatever doubts there might be regarding the interpretation of other passages. (See The Indian Antiquary, Vol. XXIV, (August, 1895), p. 245. )
This record of the early position of the Kṛittikâs, or the Pleiades, is as important for the determination of the Vedic chronology as the orientation of pyramids and temples has been shown to be in the case of the Egyptian, by Sir Norman Lockyer in his Dawn of Ancient Astronomy. But the chronometer, which I now mean to employ, is a different one. The North Pole and the Arctic regions possess certain astronomical characteristics which are peculiar to them, and if a reference to these can be discovered in the Vedas, it follows, in the light of modern researches, that the ancestors of the Vedic Ṛiṣhis must have become acquainted with these characteristics, when they lived in those regions, which was possible only in the inter-glacial times. We shall, therefore, now examine these characteristics, dividing them in the two-fold way stated above.
If an observer is stationed at the North Pole, the first thing that will strike him is the motion of the celestial sphere above his head. Living in the temperate and tropical zones we see all heavenly objects rise in the east and set in the west, some passing over our head, other traveling obliquely. But to the man at the Pole, the heavenly dome above will seem to revolve round him, from left to right, somewhat like the motion of a hat or umbrella turned over one’s head. The stars will not rise and set, but will move round and round, in horizontal planes, turning like a potter’s wheel, and starting on a second round when the first is finished, and so on, during the long night of six months. The sun, when he is above the horizon for 6 months, would also appear to revolve in the
same way. The centre of the celestial dome over the head of the observer will be the celestial North Pole, and naturally enough his north will be over-head, while the invisible regions below the horizon would be in the south. As regards the eastern and western points of the compass, the daily rotation of the earth round its axis will make them revolve round the observer from right to left, thereby causing the celestial objects in the east to daily revolve round and. round along the horizon from left to right, and not rise in the east, pass over-head, and set every day in the west, as with us, in the temperate or the tropical zone. In fact, to an observer stationed at the North Pole, the northern celestial hemisphere will alone be visible spinning round and round over his head, and the southern half, with all the stars in it, will always remain invisible, while the celestial equator, dividing the two, will be his celestial horizon. To such a man the sun going into the northern hemisphere in his annual course will appear as coming up from the south, and he will express the idea by saying that “the sun has risen in the south,” howsoever strange the expression may seem to us. After the sun has risen in this way in the south, — and the sun will rise there only once a year, — he will be constantly visible for 6 months, during which time he will attain a height of about 23½° above the horizon, and then begin to lower down until he drops into the south below the horizon. It will be a long and continuous sunshine of 6 months, but, as the celestial dome over the head of the observer will complete one revolution in 24 hours, the sun also will make one horizontal circuit round the observer in every 24 hours and to the observer at the North Pole the completion of one such circuit, whether of the sun or of the stars, will serve as a measure of ordinary days, or periods of 24 hours, during the long sunshine or night of six months. When about 180 such rounds, (the exact number will depend upon the difference in the durations of summer and winter noticed in the last chapter), are completed, the sun will again go down below the horizon, and the stars in the northern hemisphere, which had disappeared inhis light, will become visible all at once, and not rise one after the other as with us. The light of the sun had, so to say, eclipsed them, though they were over the head of the observer; but as soon as this obstruction is removed the whole northern starry hemisphere will again appear to spin round the observer for the remaining period of six months. The horizontal motion of the celestial hemisphere, only one long continuous morning and evening in the year, and one day and one night of six months each, are thus the chief special features of the calendar at the North Pole.
We have stated that to an observer at the North Pole, there will be a night of 6 months, and one is likely to infer therefrom that there will be total darkness at the Pole for one half the portion of the year. Indeed one is likely to contemplate with horror, the perils and difficulties of a long night o. six months, during which not only the light but the warmth of the sun has to be artificially supplied. As a matter of fact, such a supposition is found to be erroneous. First of all, there will be the electric discharges, known as Aurora Borealis, filling the polar night with their charming glories, and relieving its darkness to a great extent. Then we have the moon, which, in her monthly revolution, will be above the polar horizon for a continuous fortnight, displaying her changing phases, without intermission, to the polar observer. But the chief cause, which alleviates the darkness of the polar night, is the twilight before the rising and after the setting of the sun. With us in the tropical or the temperate zone, this twilight, whether of morning or evening, lasts only for an hour or two; but at the Pole this state of things is completely altered, and the twilight of the annual morning and evening is each visible for several days. The exact duration of this morning or evening twilight is, however, still a matter of uncertainty. Some authorities fix the period at 45 days, while others make it last for full two months. In the tropical zone, we see the first beams of the dawn, when the sun is about 16° below the horizon. But it is said that in higher latitudes the light of the sun is discernible when he is from 18° to 20° below the horizon. probably this latter limit may prove to be the correct one for the North Pole, and in that case the dawn there will last continuously for two months. Captain Pim, quoted by Dr. Warren, thus describes the Polar year: —
“On the 16th of March the sun rises, preceded by a long dawn of forty-seven days, namely, from the 29th January, when the first glimmer of light appears. On the 25th of September the sun sets, and after a twilight of forty-eight days, namely, on the 13th November, darkness reigns supreme, so far as the sun is concerned, for seventy-six days followed by one long period of light, the sun remaining above the horizon one hundred and ninety-four days. The year, therefore, is thus divided at the Pole: — 194 days sun; 76 darkness; 47 days dawn; 48 twilight.” (See Paradise Found, 10th Ed., p. 64.)
But other authorities assign a longer duration to the morning and evening twilight, and reduce the period of total darkness from 76 to 60 days, or only to two months. Which, of these calculations is correct can be settled only by actual observation at the North Pole. It has been ascertained that this duration depends upon the powers of refraction and reflection of the atmosphere, and these are found to vary according to the temperature and other circumstances of the place. The Polar climate is at present extremely cold; but in the Inter-glacial epoch it was different, and this, by itself, would alter the duration of the Polar dawn in inter-glacial times. But whatever the cause may be, so much is beyond doubt that at the Pole the twilight of the yearly morning and evening lingers on for several days. For even taking the lowest limit of 16°, the sun, in his course through the ecliptic, would take more than a month to reach the horizon from this point; and during all this time a perpetual twilight will prevail at the Pole. Long dawn and long evening twilight are, therefore, the principal factors in shortening the darkness of the Polar night and if we deduct these days from the duration of the night, the period of darkness is reduced from six to two,or at the most, to two-and-half-months. It is, therefore, erroneous to suppose that the half yearly Polar night is such a continuous period of darkness as will make the Polar regionsuncomfortable. On the contrary, it will be the peculiar privilege of the Polar man to witness the splendid spectacle of a long continuous dawn with its charming lights, revolving, like the stars at the place, every day in horizontal planes, round and round him, as long as the dawn may last.
The dawn in the tropical or the temperate zone is but brief and evanescent, and it recurs after every 24 hours. But still it has formed the subject of poetical descriptions in different countries. If so, how much more the spectacle of a splendid long dawn, after a darkness of two months, would delight the heart of a Polar observer, and how he will yearn for the first appearance of the light on the horizon, can be better imagined than described. I quote the following description of this long Polar dawn from Dr. Warren’s Paradise Found, and invite special attention to it, inasmuch as it forms one of the principal characteristics of the North Pole. Premising that the splendors of the Polar dawn are indescribable, Dr. Warren proceeds: —
“First of all appears low in the horizon of the night-sky a scarcely visible flush of light. At first it only makes a few stars’ light seem a trifle fainter, but after a little it is seen to be increasing, and to be moving laterally along the yet dark horizon. Twenty-four hours later it has made a complete circuit around the observer, and is causing a larger number of stars to pale. Soon the widening light glows with the luster of ‘Orient pearl.’ Onward it moves in its stately rounds, until the pearly whiteness burns into ruddy rose-light, fringed with purple and gold. Day after day, as we measure days, this splendid panorama circles on, and, according as atmospheric conditions and, clouds present more or less favorable conditions of reflection, kindles and fades, kindles and fades, — fades only to kindle next time yet more brightly as the still hidden sun comes nearer and nearer his point of emergence. At length, when for two long months such prophetic displays have been filling the whole heavens with these increscent and revolving splendors, the sun begins to emerge from his long retirement, and to display himself once more to human vision. After one or two circuits, during which his dazzling upper limb grows to a full-orbed disk, he clears all hill-tops of the distant horizon, and for six full months circles around and around the world’s great axis in full view, suffering no night to fall upon his favored home-land at the Pole. Even when at last he sinks again from view he covers his retreat with a repetition of the deepening and fading splendors which filled his long dawning, as if in these pulses of more and more distant light he were signaling back to the forsaken world the promises and prophecies of an early return.”(See Paradise Found, 10th Ed., p. 69. )
A phenomenon like this cannot fail to be permanently impressed on the memory of a Polar observer, and it will be found later on that the oldest traditions of the Aryan race have preserved the recollection of a period, when its ancestors witnessed such wonderful phenomenon, — a long and continuous dawn of several days, with its lights laterally revolving on the horizon, in their original home.
Such are the distinguishing characteristics of the North Pole, that is, the point where the axis of the earth terminates in the north. But as a Polar home means practically a home in the regions round about the North Pole, and not merely the Polar point, we must now see what modifications are necessary to be made in the above characteristics owing to the observer being stationed a little to the south of the North Pole. We have seen that at the Pole the northern hemisphere is seen spinning round the observer and all the stars move with it in horizontal planes without rising or setting; while the other celestial hemisphere is always invisible. But when the observer is shifted downwards, his zenith will no longer correspond with the Pole Star, nor his horizon with the celestial equator. For instance let Z, in the annexed figure, be the zenith of the observer and P the celestial North Pole. When the observer was stationed at the terrestrial North Pole, his zenith coincided with P, and his horizon with the celestial equator, with the result that all the stars in the dome Q'PQ revolved round him in horizontal planes. But when the zenith is shifted to Z, this state of things is at once altered, as the heavens will revolve, as before, round the line POP', and not round the zenith line ZOZ'. When the observer was stationed at the North Pole these two lines coincided and hence the circles of revolution described by the stars round the celestial Pole were also described round the zenith-line. But when the zenith Z is different from P, as in the figure, the celestial horizon of the observer will be H'H, and the stars will now appear to move in circles inclined to his horizon, as shown in the figure by the black lines AA', BR' and CC'. Some of the stars, viz., those that are situated in the part of the celestial dome represented by H'PB, will be visible throughout the night, as their circles of revolution will be above the horizon B'C'D'H. But all the stars, whose Polar distance is greater than PB or PH, will in their daily revolution, be partly above and partly below the horizon. For instance, the stars at C and D will describe circles, some portions of which will be below the horizon H'H. In other words, the appearance of the visible celestial hemisphere to a person, whose zenith is at Z, will be different from the appearance presented by the heavens to an observer at the North Pole. The stars will not now revolve in horizontal planes, but obliquely. A great number of them would be circumpolar and visible during the whole night, but the remaining will rise and set as with us in the tropics, moving in oblique circles. When Z is very near P, only a few stars will rise and set in this way and the difference will not be a marked one; but as Z is removed further south, the change will become more and more apparent.
Similar modifications will be introduced in the duration of day and night, when the observer’s position is shifted to the south of the terrestrial North Pole. This will be clear by a reference to the figure on the next page. Let P be the celestial North Pole and Q'Q the celestial equator. Then since the sun moves in the ecliptic E'E, which is inclined at an angle of about 23½° (23° 28') to the equator, the circles T'E and E'T will correspond with the terrestrial circles of latitude called the Tropics and the circle AC with the Arctic Circle on the terrestrial globe. Now as the sun moves in the ecliptic E'E, in his annual course he will always be twice over-head for an observer stationed at a place within the terrestrial tropical zone, once in his course from E' to E, and again in his return, from E to E'. The sun will also appear for some time to the north of the observer’s zenith, and for the rest of the year to the south. But as the altitude of the sun above the equator is never greater than 23½° or EQ, an observer whose zenith lies to the north of the circle T'E, will always see the sun to the south of his zenith, and the zenith distance of the sun will be greater and greater as the observer advances towards the North Pole. But still the sun will be above the horizon every day, for some hours at least, to an observer whose zenith lies between T'E and AC. To take a concrete instance, let the observer be so stationed that his zenith will be at C, that is, on the extreme northern latitude of the temperate zone. Then his celestial horizon will extend 90° on each side, and will be represented by T'CT, and the sun moving
along the ecliptic E'E will be above his horizon, at least for some portion of day, during the whole year. But as the observer passes into the Frigid zone, the sun during his annual course will be altogether below the horizon for some days, and the maximum limit is reached at the North Pole, where the sun is below the horizon for six months. We may, therefore, state that the duration of the night, which is six months at the Pole is gradually diminished as we come down from the Pole, until, in the temperate zone, the sun is above the horizon, at least, for some time out of twenty-four hours every day. In the foregoing figure let Z represent the zenith of an observer within the Arctic regions, then H'H will represent his horizon, and the sun in his annual course will, for some time, be altogether below this horizon. For instance, suppose the sun to be at n. Then his diurnal circle of rotation will be represented by nH, the whole of which is below the horizon H'H of the observer whose zenith isZ. Therefore, the sun, during his annual course along the ecliptic from E' to n, and back from n to E', will be invisible to an observer whose zenith is Z. Corresponding to this total disappearance of the sun for some time, the luminary will be perpetually above the horizon for the same period during his northern course. For instance, let the sun be at d, then his diurnal circle of rotation, dH', will be entirely above the horizon H'H, and so it will continue to be for all the time that the sun moves from d to E, and back again from E to d, in his annual course. During this time the sun will neither rise nor set, but will move, like the circumpolar stars, in oblique circles, round and round the observer like a wheel. For all positions between n and d, and the corresponding portion of the ecliptic on the other side, the sun, in this diurnal course of twenty-four hours, would be partially above and partially below the horizon, producing ordinary days and nights, as with us, the day being longer than the night when the sun is in the northern, and the night longer than the day when the stun is in the southern hemisphere. Instead of a single day and a single night of six months, the year, to a person living in the Arctic regions, but not exactly at the North Pole, will, therefore, be divided into three parts, one of which will be a long night, one a long day, and one made up of a succession of days and nights, a single day and night of which will together never exceed twenty-four hours. The long night will always be shorter than six months and longer than 24 hours, and the same will be the case with the long day. The long night and the long day will mark the two opposite extremities of the year, the middle of the long day occurring when the sun is at the summer solstice, and the middle of the long night when he is at the winter solstice. This triple division of the year is very important for our purpose, and I shall, therefore, illustrate it by a concrete example. Suppose, for instance, that the observer is so far below the North Pole that instead of a night of six months, he has a night of 2 months, or, in other words, the sun goes below his horizon only for two months. As the winter solstice will fall in the middle of this long continuous night, we may say that the night will extend a month before and a month after December 21, when the sun is at the winter solstice. Corresponding to this long night, there will be a continuous day of two months, a month before and a month after June 21, when the sun is at the summer solstice. If these four months are deducted from the year, there will remain eight months, and during all these months there will be days and nights, as in the temperate zone, a nycthemeron, or a day and a night together, never exceeding, as with us, the ordinary period of twenty-four hours. This alteration of ordinary days and nights will commence after the close of the long night in January, and in the beginning, the night will be longer than the day; but as the sun passes from the southern into the northern hemisphere, the day will gain over the night, and, eventually, after four months, terminate into a continuous day for two months. At the close of this long day in July, the alteration of ordinary days and nights will again commence, the day in the beginning being longer than the night, but a nycthemeron never exceeding, as in the previous case, a period of, twenty-four hours. As the sun passes from the northern into the southern hemisphere, the night will begin to gain over the day, until, after four months of such succession of ordinary, days and nights, it terminates into the continuous night of two months mentioned above. The same description applies, mutatis mutandis, where the long night may last for 3, 4 or 5 months,, until we reach the Polar condition of a day and a night of six months each, when the intermediate succession of ordinary days and nights will vanish.(Cf. Bhāskarâchārya’s Siddhânta Shiromaṇi, Golādhyâya, Chapter vii., verses 6-7.)
We have seen that a long dawn of two months is a special and important characteristic of the North Pole. As we descend southward, the splendor and the duration of the dawn will be witnessed on a less and less magnificent scale. But the dawn, occurring at the end of the long night of two, three or more months, will still be unusually long, often of several day’s duration. As stated above, at first, only a pale flush of light will appear and it will continue visible on the horizon, revolving round and round, if the observer is sufficiently near the Pole, for some days, when at last the orb of the sun will emerge, and start the alternation of day and night described above, to be eventually terminated into a long day. The splendors of the Aurora Borealis would also be less marked and conspicuous in the southern latitudes than at the North Pole.
But if the characteristics of the Arctic regions are different “There is a peculiarity at the place, where the latitude is greater than 66° N. Whenever the northern declination of the sun exceeds the complement of the latitude, there will be perpetual day, for such time is that excess continues. Similarly when the southern (declination exceeds), there will be perpetual night. On Meru, therefore there is equal half-yearly perpetual day and night.” Thus if the latitude of a place be 70°, its complement will be 90 – 70 = 20°; and as the sun’s heights above the celestial equator (that is, his declination) is never greater than 23° 28' there will be a continuous day at the place, so long as the declination is greater than 20° and less 23° 28', and there will be a similar continuous night when the sun is in the Southern hemisphere. Paul Du Chaillu mentions that at Nordkyn or North Cape (N. lat. 71° 6'50'') the northernmost place on the continent of Europe, the long night commences on 18th November, and ends on 24th January, lasting in all, for 67 days of twenty-four hours each from those of the North Pole, they are no less different from the features of the year with which we are familiar in the temperate or the tropical zone. With us the sun is above the horizon, at least for some time every day, during all the twelve months of the year; but to persons within the Arctic circle, he is below the horizon and therefore, continuously invisible for a number of days. If this period of continuous night be excluded from our reckoning, we might say that within the Arctic regions the year, or the period marked by sunshine, only lasts from six to eleven months. Again the dawn in the temperate and the tropical zone is necessarily short-lived, for a day and a night together do not exceed twenty-four hours and the dawn which comes between them can last only for a few hours; but the annual dawn at the Pole and the dawn at the end of the long night in the Arctic regions will each be a dawn of several days’ duration. As for the seasons, we have our winters and summers; but the winter in the Arctic regions will be marked by the long continuous night, while the summer will make the night longer than the day, but within the limit of twenty four hours, until the day is developed into a long, continuous sunshine of several days. The climate of the Polar regions is now extremely cold and severe, but, as previously stated, different climatic conditions prevailed in early times and we cannot, therefore, include climate amongst the points of contrast under consideration.
It will be seen from the foregoing discussion that we have two distinct sets of characteristics, or differentiæ; one for an observer stationed exactly at the terrestrial North Pole and the other for an observer located in the Circum-Polar regions or tracts of land between the North Pole and the Arctic circle. For brevity’s sake, we shall designate these two sets of differentiæ, as Polar and Circum-Polar and sum them up as follows:
I. The Polar Characteristics
(1) The sun rises in the south.
(2) The stars do not rise and set; but revolve, or spin round and round, in horizontal planes, completing one round in 24 hours. The northern celestial hemisphere is alone overhead and visible during the whole year and the southern or the lower celestial world is always invisible.
(3) The year consists only of one long day and one long night of six months each.
(4) There is only one morning and one evening, or the sun rises and sets only once a year. But the twilight, whether of the morning or of the evening, lasts continuously for about two months, or 60 periods of 24 hours each. The ruddy light of the morn, or the evening twilight, is not again confined to a particular part of the horizon (eastern or western) as with us; but moves, like the stars at the place, round and round along the horizon, like a potter’s wheel, completing one round in every 24 hours. These rounds of the morning light continue to take place, until the orb of the sun comes above the horizon; and then the sun follows the same course for six months, that is, moves, without setting, round and round the observer, completing one round every 24 hours.
II. Circum-Polar Characteristic
(1) The sun will always be to the south of the zenith of the observer; but as this happens even in the case of an observer stationed in the temperate zone, it cannot be regarded as a special characteristic.
(2) A large number of stars are circum-polar, that, is, they are above the horizon during the entire period of their
revolution and hence always visible. The remaining stars rise and set, as in the temperate zone, but revolve in more oblique circles.
(3) The year is made up of three parts: — (i) one long continuous night, occurring at the time of the winter solstice, and lasting for a period, greater than 24 hours and less than six months, according to the latitude of the place; (ii)one long continuous day to match, occurring at the time of the summer solstice; and (iii) a succession of ordinary days and nights during the rest of the year, a nycthemeron, or a day and a night together, never exceeding a period of 24 hours. The day, after the long continuous night, is at first shorter than the night, but, it goes on increasing until it develops into the long continuous day. At the end of the long day, the night is, at first, shorter than the day, but, in its turn, it begins to gain over the day, until the commencement of the long continuous night, with which the year ends.
(4) The dawn, at the close of the long continuous night, lasts for several days, but its duration and magnificence is proportionally less than at the North Pole, according to the latitude of the place. For places, within a few degrees of the North Pole, the phenomenon of revolving morning lights will still be observable during the greater part of the duration of the dawn. The other dawns, viz. those between ordinary days and nights, will, like the dawns in the temperate zone, only last for a few hours. The sun, when he is above the horizon during the continuous day, will be seen revolving, without setting, round the observer, as at the Pole, but in oblique and not horizontal circles, and during the long night he will be entirely below the horizon; while during the rest of the year he will rise and set, remaining above the horizon for a part of 24 hours, varying according to the position of the sun in the ecliptic.
Here we have two distinct sets of diferentiæ, or special characteristics, of the Polar and Circum-Polar regions, — characteristics which are not found anywhere else on the surface of the globe. Again as the Poles of the earth are the same today as they were millions of years ago, the above astronomical characteristics will hold good for, all times, though the Polar climate may have undergone violent changes in the Pleistocene period. In short, we can take thesedifferentiæ as our unerring guides in the examination of the Vedic evidence bearing on the point at issue. If a Vedic description or tradition discloses any of the characteristics mentioned above, we may safely infer that the tradition is Polar or Circum-Polar in origin, and the phenomenon, if not actually witnessed by the poet, was at least known to him by tradition faithfully handed down from generation to generation. Fortunately there are many such passages or references in the Vedic literature, and, for convenience, these may be divided into two parts; the first comprising those passages which directly describe or refer to the long night, or the long dawn; and the second consisting of myths and legends which corroborate and indirectly support the first. The evidence in the first part being direct, is, of course, more convincing; and we shall, therefore, begin with it in the next chapter, reserving the consideration of the Vedic myths and legends to the latter part of the book.
THE NIGHT OF THE GODS
Vedic sacrifices, regulated by the luni-solar calendar — A year of six seasons and twelve months, with an intercalary month in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ — The same in the Ṛig-Veda — Present results of the Vedic mythology — All presuppose a home in the temperate or the tropical zone — But further research still necessary — The special character of the Ṛig-Veda explained — Polar tests found in the Ṛig-Veda — Indra supporting the heavens with a pole, and moving them like a wheel — A day and a night of six months, in the form of the half yearly day and night of the Gods — Found in the Sûrya Siddhânta and older astronomical Saṁhitâs — Bhâskarâchârya’s error explained — Gods’ day and night mentioned by Manu and referred to by Yâska — The description of Meru or the North Pole in the Mahâbhârata — In the Taittirîya Araṇyaka — The passage in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa about the year long day of the Gods — Improbability of explaining it except as founded on the observation of nature — Parallel passage in the Vendidad — Its Polar character clearly established by the context — The Vara of Yima in the Airyana Vaêjo — The sun rising and setting there only once a year — The Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna in the Ṛig-Veda — Probably represent the oldest division of the year, like the day and the night of the Gods — The path of Mazda in the Parsi scriptures — Death during Pitṛiyâna regarded inauspicious — Bâdarâyana’s view — Probable explanation suggested — Death during winter or Pitṛiyâna in the Parsi scriptures — Probably indicates a period of total darkness — Similar Greek traditions — Norse Twilight of the Gods — The idea of half-yearly day and night of the Gods thus proved to be not only Indo-Iranian, but Indo-Germanic — A sure indication of an original Polar home.
At the threshold of the Vedic literature, we meet with an elaborately organized sacrificial system so well regulated by the luni-solar calendar as to show that the Vedic bards had, by that time, attained considerable proficiency in practical astronomy. There were daily, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and yearly sacrifices, which, as I have elsewhere shown, also served as chronometers in those days. (See The Orion or the Antiquity of the Vedas, Chap. II. )
The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ and the Brâhmaṇas distinctly mention a lunar month of thirty days and a year of twelve such months, to which an intercalary month was now and then added, to make the lunar and the solar year correspond with each other. The ecliptic, or the belt of the zodiac, was divided into 27 of 28 divisions, called the Nakṣhatras, which, were used as mile-stones to mark the annual passage of the sun, or the monthly revolution of the moon round the earth. The two solstitial and the two equinoctial points, as well as the passage of the sun into the northern and the southern hemisphere, were clearly distinguished, and the year was divided into six seasons, the festivals in each month or the year being accurately fixed and ascertained. The stars rising and setting with the sun were also systematically observed and the eastern and western points of the compass determined as accurately as the astronomical observations of the day could permit. In my Orion or the Antiquity of the Vedas, I have shown how the changes in the position of the equinoxes were also marked in these days, and how they enable us to classify the periods of Vedic antiquity. According to this classification the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ comes under the Kṛittikâ period (2500 B.C.), and some may, therefore, think that the details of the Vedic calendar given above are peculiar only to the later Vedic literature. A cursory study of theṚig-Veda will, however, show that such is not the case. A year of 360 days, with an intercalary month occasionally added, or a year of twelve lunar months, with twelve intercalary days inserted at the end of each year was familiar to the poets of the Ṛig-Veda and is often mentioned in the hymns.
The northern and the southern passage of the sun from equinox to equinox, the Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna, together with the yearly sattras, have also been referred to in several places, clearly showing that the Rig-Vedic calendar differed, if at all, very little from the one in use at the time of the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ or the Brâhmaṇas. A calendar of twelve months and six seasons is peculiar only to the temperate or the tropical zone, and if we were to judge only from the facts stated above, it follows that the people who used such a calendar, must have lived in places where the sun was above the horizon during all the days of the year. The science of Vedic mythology, so far as it is developed at present, also supports the same view. Vṛitra is said to be a demon of drought or darkness and several myths are explained. on the theory that they represent a daily struggle between the powers of light and the powers of darkness, or of eventual triumph of summer over winter, or of day over night, or of Indra over watertight clouds. Mr. Nârâyaṇa Aiyangâr of Bangalore has attempted to explain some of these myths on, the astral theory, showing that the myths point out to the position of the vernal equinox in Orion, in the oldest period of Vedic civilization. But all these theories or methods of interpretation assume that the Vedic people have always been the inhabitants of the temperate or the tropical zone, and all these myths and traditions were formed or developed in such a home.
Such are the results of the latest researches in Vedic philology, mythology or calendar, regarding the ancient home of the Vedic people and the origin and the antiquity of their mythology. But to a man who is working in the same field, the question whether we have reached the utmost limit of our researches naturally occurs. It is a mistake to suppose that all the traditions and myths, and even the deities, mentioned in the Ṛig-Veda were the creation of one period. To adopt a geological phrase, the Ṛig-Veda, or we might even say the whole Vedic literature, is not arranged into different strata according to their chronological order, so that we can go on from once stratum to another and examine each separately. The Ṛig-Veda is a book in which old things of different periods are so mixed up that we have to work long and patiently before we are able to separate and classify its contents in chronological order. I have stated before how owing to our imperfect knowledge of the ancient man and his surroundings this task is rendered difficult, or even impossible in some cases. But, as observed by Prof. Max Müller, it is the duty of each generation of Vedic scholars to reduce as much as possible the unintelligible portion of the Ṛig-Veda, so that with the advance of scientific knowledge each succeeding generation may, in this matter, naturally be in a better position than its predecessors. The Vedic calendar, so far as we know or the Vedic mythology may not have, as yet, disclosed any indication of an Arctic home, but underneath the materials that have been examined, or even by their side, we may still find facts, which, though hitherto neglected, may, in the new light of scientific discoveries, lead to important conclusions. The mention of the luni-solar calendar in the Ṛig-Veda ought not, therefore, to detain us from further pursuing our investigation by examining the texts and legends which have not yet been satisfactorily explained, and ascertaining how far such texts and legends indicate the existence of a Polar or Circum-Polar home in early times. The distinguishing characteristics of these regions have been already discussed and stated in the previous chapter, and all that we have now to do is to apply these tests, and decide if they are satisfied or fulfilled by the texts and legends under consideration.
The spinning round of the heavenly dome over the head is one of the special characteristics of the North Pole, and the phenomenon is so peculiar that one may expect to find traces of it in the early traditions of a people, if they, or their ancestors ever lived near the North Pole. Applying this test to the Vedic literature, we do find passages which compare the motion of the heavens to that of wheel, and state that the celestial vault is supported as if on an axis. Thus inṚig. X, 89, 4, Indra is said “to separately uphold up by his power heaven and earth as the two wheels of a chariot are held by the axle.”*
Prof. Ludwig thinks that this refers to the axis of the earth, and the explanation is very probable. The same idea occurs in other places, and some times the sky is described as being supported even without a pole, testifying thereby to the great power or might of Indra (II, 15, 2; IV, 56, 3).†
In X, 80, 2, Indra is identified with Sûrya and he is described as “turning the widest expanse like the wheels of a chariot.”‡
The word for “expanse” is varâṁsi, which Sâyaṇa understands to mean “lights,” or “stars.” But whichever meaning we adopt, it is clear that the verse in question refers to the revolution of the sky, and compares to the motion of a chariot wheel. Now the heavens in the temperate and the tropical regions may be described as moving like a wheel, from east to west and then back again to the east, though the latter half of this circuit is not visible to the observer. But we cannot certainly speak of the tropical sky as being supported on a pole, for the simple reason that the North Pole, which must be the point of support in, such a case, will not be sufficiently near the zenith in the tropical or the temperate zone. If we, therefore, combine the two statements, that the heavens are supported as on a pole and that they move like a wheel, we may safely infer that the motion referred to is such a motion of the celestial hemisphere as can be witnessed only by an observer at the North Pole. In the Ṛig-Veda§ I, 24, 10 the constellation of Ursa Major (Ṛikṣhaḥ) is described as being placed “high” (uchhâh), and, as this can refer only to the altitude of the constellation, it follows that it must then have been over the head of the observer, which is possible only in the Circum-Polar regions.
Unfortunately there are few other passages in the Ṛig-Veda which describe the motion of the celestial hemisphere or of the stars therein, and we must, therefore, take up another characteristic of the Polar regions, namely, “a day and a night of six months each,” and see if the Vedic literature contains any references to this singular feature of the Polar regions.
The idea that the day and the night of the Gods are each of six months’ duration is so widespread in the Indian literature, that we examine it here at some length, and, for that purpose, commence with the Post-Vedic literature and trace it back to the most ancient books. It is found not only in the Purâṇas, but also in astronomical works, and as the latter state it in a more definite form we shall begin with the later Siddhântas. Mount Meru is the terrestrial North Pole of our astronomers, and the Sûrya-Siddhânta, XII, 67, says: — “At Meru Gods behold the sun after but a single rising during the half of his revolution beginning with Aries.” Now according to Purâṇas Meru is the home or seat of all the Gods, and the statement about their half-year-long night and day is thus easily and naturally explained; and all astronomers and divines have accepted the accuracy of the explanation. The day of the Gods corresponds with the passage of the sun from the vernal to the autumnal equinox, when the sun is visible at the North Pole, or the Meru; and the night with the Southern passage of sun, from the autumnal back to the vernal equinox. But Bhâskarâchârya, not properly understanding the passage which states that the “Uttarâyaṇa is a day of Gods,” has raised the question how Uttarâyaṇa, which in his day meant the passage of the sun from the winter to the summer solstice, could be the day of the Gods stationed at the North Pole; for an observer at the Pole can only see the sun in his passage from the vernal to the autumnal equinox. ( See Orion, p. 30.)
But, as shown by me elsewhere, Bhâskarâchârya has here fallen into an error by attributing to the word Uttarâyaṇa, a sense which it did not bear in old times, or at least in the passages embodying this tradition. The old meaning ofUttarâyaṇa, literally, the northern passage of the sun, was the period of time required by the sun to travel from the vernal to the autumnal equinox, or the portion of the ecliptic in the northern hemisphere; and if we understand the word in this sense, the statement that the Uttarâyaṇa is a day of the Devas is at once plain and intelligible. Bhâskarâchârya’s reference to oldest astronomical Saṁhitâs clearly shows that the tradition was handed down from the oldest times. It is suggested that in these passages Gods may mean the apotheosized ancestors of the human race. But I do not think that we need any such explanation. If the ancestors of the human race ever lived at the North Pole, so must have their Gods; and I shall show in a subsequent chapter that the Vedic deities are, as a matter of fact clothed with attributes, which are distinctly Polar in origin. It makes, therefore, no difference for our purpose, if a striking feature of the primitive home is traditionally preserved and remembered as a characteristic of the Gods, or of the apotheosized ancestors of the race. We are concerned with the tradition itself, and our object is pained if its existence is clearly established.
The next authority for the statement is Manu, I, 67. While describing the divisions of time it says, “A year (human) is a day and a night of the Gods; thus are the two divided, the northern passage of the sun is the day and the southern the night.” ( Manu, I, 67.)
The day and the night of the Gods are then taken as a unit for measuring longer periods of time as the Kalpas and so on, and Yâska’s Nirukta, XIV, 4, probably contains the same reference. Muir, in the first Volume of his Original Sanskrit Texts, gives some of these passages so far as they bear on the yuga-system found in the Purâṇas. But we are not concerned with the later development of the idea that the day and the night of the Gods each lasted for six months. What is important, from our point of view, is the persistent prevalence of this tradition in the Vedic and the Post-Vedic literature, which can only be explained on the hypothesis that originally it must have been the result of actual observation. We shall, therefore, next quote the Mahâbhârata, which gives such a clear description of Mount Meru, the lord of the mountains, as to leave no doubt its being the North Pole, or possessing the Polar characteristics. In chapters 163 and 164 of the Vanaparvan, Arjuna’s visit to the Mount is described in detail and we are therein told, “at Meru the sun and the moon go round from left to right (Pradakṣhiṇam) every day and so do all the stars.” Later on the writer informs us: — “The mountain, by its lustre, so overcomes the darkness of night, that the night can hardly be distinguished from the day.” A few verses further, and we find, “The day and the night are together equal to a year to the residents of the place.”*
* The verses (Calcutta Ed.) are as follows: Vana-parvan, Chap. 163, vv. 37, 38. Ibid, Chap. 164, vv. 11, 13.
night and day of the Gods persistently mentioned, but the Mount Meru, or the North Pole, is, described with such accuracy as to lead. us to believe that it is an ancient tradition, whose origin must be traced to a time when these phenomena were daily observed by the people; and this is confirmed, by the fact that the tradition is not confined only to the Post-Vedic literature.
These quotations are quite sufficient to convince any one that at the time when the great epic was composed Indian writers had a tolerably accurate knowledge of the meteorological and astronomical characteristics of the North Pole, and this knowledge cannot be supposed to have been acquired by mere mathematical calculations. The reference to the lustre of the mountain is specially interesting, inasmuch as, in all probability, it is a description of the splendors of the Aurora Borealis visible at the North Pole. So far as the Post-Vedic literature is concerned, we have, therefore, not only the tradition of the half-year-long
Passing on, therefore, to the Vedic literature, we find Mount Meru described as the seat of seven Âdityas in the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka I, 7, 1, while the eighth Âditya, called Kashyapa is said never to leave the great Meru or Mahâmeru. Kashyapa is further described as communicating light to the seven Âdityas, and himself perpetually illumining the great mountain. It is, however, in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa (III, 9, 22, 1), that we meet with a passage which clearly says, “That which is a year is but a single day of the Gods.” The statement is so clear that there can be no doubt whatever about its meaning. A year of the mortals is said to be but a day of the Gods; but, at one time, I considered it extremely hazardous* to base any theory even upon such a clear statement, inasmuch as it then appeared p me to be but solitary in the Vedic literature. (Taitt. Br. III, 9, 22, 1. See Orion, p. 30 note. (Ed. 1955). )
I could not then find anything to match it in the Saṁhitâs and especially in the Ṛig-Veda and I was inclined to hold that Uttarâyaṇa and Dakṣhiṇâyana were, in all probability, described in this way as “day” and “night” with a qualifying word to mark their special nature. Later researches have however forced on me the conclusion that the tradition, represented by this passage, indicates the existence of a Polar home in old days, and I have set forth in the sequel the evidence on which I have come to the above conclusion. There are several theories on which the above statement in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa can be explained. We may regard it as the outcome of pure imagination, or of a metaphor expressing in figurative language a fact quite different from the one denoted by the words used, or it may be the result of actual observation by the writer himself or by persons from whom he traditionally derived his information. It may also be considered as based on astronomical calculations made in later days, what was originally an astronomical inference being subsequently converted into a real observed fact. The last of these suppositions would have appeared probable, if the tradition had been confined only to the Post-Vedic literature, or merely to the astronomical works. But we cannot suppose that during the times of the Brâhmaṇas the astronomical knowledge was so far advanced as to make it possible to fabricate a fact by mathematical calculation, even supposing that the Vedic poets were capable of making such a fabrication. Even in the days of Herodotus the statement that “there existed a people who slept for six months” was regarded “incredible” (IV, 24); and we must, therefore, give up the idea, that several centuries before Herodotus, a statement regarding the day or the night of the Gods could have been fabricated in the way stated above. But all doubts on the point are set at rest by the occurrence of an almost identical statement in the sacred books of the Parsis. In the Vendidad, Fargard II, para 40, (or, according to Spiegel, para 133), we find the sentence, Tae cha ayara mainyaente yat yare, meaning “They regard, as a day, what is a year.” This is but a paraphrase of the statement, in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, and the context in the Parsi scriptures removes all possible doubts regarding the Polar character of the statement. The latter part of the second Fargard, wherein this passage occurs, contains a discourse between Ahura Mazda and Yima.* Ahura Mazda warns Yima, the first king of men, of the approach of a dire winter, which is to destroy every living creature by covering the land with a thick sheet of ice, and advises Yima to build a Vara, or an enclosure, to preserve the seeds of every kind of animals and plants. ( See Sacred Books of the East Series, Vol. IV, pp. 15-31. )
The meeting is said to have taken place in the Airyana Vaêjo,or the paradise of the Iranians. The Vara, or the enclosure, advised by Ahura Mazda, is accordingly prepared, and Yima asked Ahura Mazda, “O Maker of the material world, thou Holy One! What lights are there to give light in the Vara which Yima made?” Ahura Mazda answered, “There are uncreated lights and created lights. There the stars, the moon and the sun are only once (a year) seen to rise and set, and a year seems only as a day.” I have taken Darmesteter’s rendering but Spiegel’s is substantially the same. This passage is important from various standpoints. First of all it tells us, that the Airyana Vaêjo, or the original home of the Iranians, was a place which was rendered uninhabitable by glaciation; and secondly that in this original home the sun rose and set only once in the year, and that the year was like a day to the inhabitants of the place. The bearing of the passage in regard to glaciation will be discussed latter on. For the present, it is enough to point out how completely it corroborates and elucidates the statement in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa stated and discussed above. The yearly rising and setting of the sun is possible only at the North Pole and the mention of this characteristic leaves no room for doubting that the Vara and the Airyana Vaêjo were both located in the Arctic or Circum-Polar regions, and that the passage in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa also refers to the Polar year. The fact that the statement is found both in the Iranian and the Indian literature further negatives the probability of its being a fabrication from mathematical calculation. Nor can we suppose that both the branches of the Aryan race became acquainted with this fact simply by an effort of unassisted imagination, or that it was a mere metaphor. The only remaining alternative is to hold, as Sir Charles Lyell* has remarked, that the tradition was “founded on the observation of Nature.” (See Elements of Geology, 11th Ed., Vol. I, p. 8. )
It is true, that the statement, or anything similar to it, is not found in the Ṛig-Veda; but it will be shown later on that there are many other passages in the Ṛig-Veda which go to corroborate this statement in a remarkable way by referring to other Polar characteristics. I may, however, mention here the fact that the oldest Vedic year appears to have been divided only into two portions, the Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna, which originally corresponded with the Uttârayaṇa and the Dâkṣhiṇayana, or the day and the night of the Gods. The word Devayâna occurs several times in the Ṛig-Veda Saṁhitâ, and denotes “the path of the Gods.” Thus in the Ṛig-Veda, I, 72, 7, Agni is said to be cognizant of the Devayâna road, and in Ṛig. I, 183, 6, and 184, 6, the poet says, “We have, O Ashvins! reached the end of darkness; now come to us by the Devayâna road.” In VII, 76, 2, we again read, “The Devayâna path has become visible to me... The banner of the Dawn has appeared in the east.” Passages like these clearly indicate that the road of the Devayâna commenced at the rise of the Dawn, or after the end of darkness; and that it was the road by which Agni, Ashvins, Uṣhas, Sûrya and other matutinal deities traveled during their heavenly course. The path of the Pitṛis, or the Pitṛiyâna, is, on the other hand, described in X, 18, 1, as the “reverse of Devayâna, or the path of Death.” In, the Ṛig-Veda, X, 88, 15, the poet says that he has, “heard” only of “two roads, one of the Devas and the other of the Pitṛis.” If the Devayâna, therefore, commenced with the Dawn, we must suppose that the Pitṛiyâna, commenced with the advent of darkness. Sâyaṇa is, therefore, correct in interpreting V, 77, 2, as stating that “the evening is not for the Gods (devayâḥ).” Now if the Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna were only synonymous with ordinary ‘day and night, there was obviously no propriety in stating that these were the only two paths or roads known to the ancient Ṛiṣhis, and they could not have been described as consisting of three seasons each, beginning with the spring, (Shat. Brâ. II, 1, 3, 1-3).*
It seems, therefore, very probable that the Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna originally represented a two-fold division of the year, one of continuous light and the other of continuous darkness as at the North Pole; and that though it was not suited to the later home of the Vedic people it was retained, because it was an established and recognized fact in the language, like the seven suns, or the seven horses of a single sun. The evidence in support of this view will be stated in subsequent chapters. It is sufficient to observe in this place, that if we interpret the twofold division of the Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna in this way, it fully corroborates the statement in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa that a year was but a day of the Gods. We may also note in this connection that the expression “path of the Gods” occurs even in the Parsi scriptures. Thus in the Farvardîn Yasht, paras 56, 57, the Fravashis, which correspond with the Pitṛis in the Vedic literature, are said to have shown to the sun and the moon “the path made by Mazda, the way made by the Gods,” along which the Fravashis themselves are described as growing. The sun and the moon are, again, said to have “stood for a long time in the same place, without moving forwards through the oppression of the Dævas (Vedic Asuras, or the demons of darkness),” before the Fravashis showed “the path of Mazda,” to these two luminaries.(See Sacred Books of the East Series, Vol. XXIII, pp. 193-194. )
This shows that “the path of Mazda” commenced, like the Devayâna road, when the sun was set free from the clutches of the demons of darkness. In other words, it represented the period of the year when the sun was above the horizon at the place where the ancestors of the Indo-Iranian lived in ancient days. We have seen that the Devayâna, or the path of the Gods, is the way along which Sûrya, Agni and other matutinal deities are said to travel in the Ṛig-Veda; and the Parsi scriptures supplement this information by telling us that the sun stood still before the Fravashis showed to him “the path of Mazda,” evidently meaning that the Devayâna, or “the path of Mazda,” was the portion of the year when the sun was above the horizon after being confined for some time by the powers of darkness.
But the correspondence between the Indian and the Parsi scriptures does not stop here. There is a strong prejudice, connected with the Pitṛiyâna, found in the later Indian literature, and even this has its parallel in the Parsi scriptures. The Hindus consider it inauspicious for a man to die during the Pitṛiyâna, and the great Mahâbhârata warrior, Bhiṣhma, is said to have waited on his death-bed until the sun passed through the winter solstice, as the Dâkṣhiṇayana, which is synonymous with the Pitṛiyâna, was then understood to mean the time required by the sun to travel from the summer to the winter solstice.” A number of passages scattered over the whole Upanishad literature support the same view, by describing the course of the soul of a man according as he dies during the Devayâna or the Pitṛiyâna, and exhibiting a marked preference for the fate of the soul of a man dying during the path of the Gods, or the Devayâna. All these passages will be found collected in Shankarâchârya’s Bhâṣhya on Brahma-Sûtras, IV, 2, 18-21, wherein Bâdarâyaṇa,† anxious to reconcile all these passages with the practical difficulty sure to be experienced if death during the night of the Gods were held to be absolutely unmeritorious from a religious point of view, has recorded his opinion that we must not interpret these texts as predicating an uncomfortable future life for every man dying during the Dâkṣhiṇayana or the night of the Gods. ( For the text and discussion thereon, see Orion, p. 38. (Ed. 1955) See also Orion, pp. 24-26. (Ed. 1955) )
As an alternative Bâdarâyaṇa, therefore, adds that these passages may be taken to refer to the Yogins who desire to attain to a particular kind of heaven after death. Whatever we may think of this view, we can, in this attempt of Bâdarâyaṇa, clearly see a distinct consciousness of the existence of a tradition, which, if it did not put an absolute ban on death during the night of the Gods, did, at any rate, clearly disapprove of such occurrences from a religious point of view. If the Pitṛiyâna originally represented, as stated above, a period of continuous darkness the tradition can be easily and rationally explained; for as the Pitṛiyâna then meant an uninterrupted night, the funeral ceremonies of any one dying during the period were deferred till the break of the dawn at the end of the Pitṛiyâna, or the commencement of the Devayâna. Even now death during night is considered inauspicious, and the funeral generally takes place after daybreak.
The Parsi scriptures are still more explicit. In the Vendidad, Fargards V, 10, and VIII, 4, a question is raised how the worshipper of Mazda should act, when a death takes place in a house when the summer has passed and the winter has come; and Ahura Mazda answers, “In such cases a Kata (ditch) should be made in every house and there the lifeless body should be allowed to lie for two nights, or for three nights, or for a month long, until the birds begin to fly, the plants to grow, the floods to flow, and the wind to dry up the water from off the earth.” Considering the fact that the dead body of a worshipper of Mazda is required to be ex posed to the sun before it is consigned to birds, the only reason for keeping the dead body in the house for one month seems to be that it was a month of darkness. The description of birds beginning to fly, and the floods to flow, &c., reminds one of the description of the dawn in the Ṛig-Veda, and it is quite probable that the expressions here denote the same phenomenon as in the Ṛig-Veda, In fact they indicate a winter of total darkness during which the corpse is directed to be kept in the house, to be exposed to the sun on the first breaking of the dawn after the long night. (See infra Chapter IX. )
It will, however, be more convenient to discuss these passages, after examining the whole of the Vedic evidence in favor of the Arctic home. I have referred to them here to show the complete correspondence between the Hindu and the Parsi scriptures regarding the day and the night of the Gods, and their unmistakable Polar characteristics indicating the existence of an early home within the Arctic circle.
The same traditions are also found in the literature of other branches of the Aryan race, besides the Hindus and the Parsis. For instance, Dr. Warren quotes Greek traditions similar to those we have discussed above. Regarding the primitive revolution of the sky, Anaximenes, we are told, likened the motions of the heaven in early days to “the rotating of a man’s hat on his head.” (See Paradise Found, 10th Ed., pp. 192 and 200)
Another Greek writer is quoted to show that “at first the Pole-star always appeared in the zenith.” It is also stated, on the authority of Anton, Krichenbauer, that in the Iliad and Odyssey two kinds of days are continually referred to one of a year’s duration, especially when describing the life and exploits of the Gods, and the other twenty-four hours. The night of the Gods has its parallel also in the Norse mythology, which mentions “the Twilight of the Gods,” denoting by that phrase the time when the reign of Odin and the Æsir, or Gods, would come to an end, not forever, but to be again revived; for we are told that “from the dead sun springs a daughter more beautiful than her sire, and mankind starts afresh from the life-raiser and his bride-life.” (See Cox’s Mythology of the Aryan Nations, p. 41, quoting Brown’s Religion and Mythology of the Aryans of the North of Europe, Arts, 15-1. )
If these traditions and statements are correct, they show that the idea of half-yearly night and day of the Gods is not only Indo-Iranian, but Indo-Germanic, and that it must therefore, have originated in. the original home of the Aryans.
Comparative mythology, it will be shown in a subsequent chapter, fully supports the view of an original Arctic home of the Aryan races, and there is nothing surprising if the traditions about a day and a night of six months are found not only in the Vedic and the Iranian, but also in the Greek and the Norse literature. It seems to have been an idea traditionally inherited by all the branches of the Aryan race, and, as it is distinctly Polar in character, it is alone enough to establish the existence of an Arctic home. But fortunately for us our edifice need not be erected on this solitary pillar, as there is, ample evidence in the Vedic literature which supports the Arctic theory by satisfying almost all the Polar and Circum-Polar tests laid down in the last chapter. The long revolving dawn is another peculiar characteristic of the North Pole, and we shall see in the next chapter that the Rig-Vedic account of the dawn is intelligible only if we take it as referring to the Polar dawn.