By: Dr.Naseer Dashti
The first appearance of Aryans in history is about the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C. in the Hurrian empire of Mittani (in northern Mesopotamia). It seems that a group of Indo-Aryans instead of going eastward to India came via Iran to the Fertile Crescent together with the Hurrians, to whom they soon became assimilated as to language and culture.
Different writers presented various theories regarding the original abode of the Aryan tribes and respectively had advocated Southern Russia, Southeast Europe, Central Asia, and the lands adjacent to the Caspian Sea as the original homeland for the Aryans (Muller, 1888; Childe, 1926; Frawley, 1994; Kochhar, 1999; Kuz’mina, 2007). Most plausible of the geographical locations of ancient Aryan land, as postulated by Morris (1888), before their en masse migration is believed to be the region between the Black and Caspian Seas, stretching northward up to Russian steppes and southwards up to Caucasian mountains. However, any scholars of Old Persian and Avestan texts had identified Airiianem Vaejah as the “mythical homeland” of the Aryans and had placed it anywhere from Choresmia on the Aral Lake in Uzbekistan to Azerbaijan, or southern or northwestern Afghanistan. Many considered Central Asia, i.e., roughly the Eastern Iranian steppes of ancient Sogdiana, Chorasmia, and Bactria and the adjacent area to the north of them (between the lower Volga and Kazakhstan) as the original habitat of the nomadic Proto-Aryans.
According to Bongard-Levin (1980), the region of ancient Bacteria was the point of common residence for Indo-Iranian groups of tribes which later divided into Iranian and Indian groups before their final migration into Iran and India. They moved eastward to the region of the southern Ural steppes and the Volga, then further onto Central Asia. At that stage, they appear to have already formed two groups: the Proto-Iranians in the north, and the Proto-Indo-Aryans in the south. Around 2000 BC, the Indo-Aryans moved southeast via Afghanistan into the Indian subcontinent, as well as southwest via the Iranian Plateau into northern Mesopotamia (Ghirshman, 1954). Recent research correlates archaeological pieces of evidence with later linguistically identifiable groups sharing similar cultural traits, suggesting that the Proto-Indo-Iranians originated in the eastern European steppes in the third millennium BC (Kuz’mina, 2007).
Several scenarios for the migration of Indo-Iranian tribes have been proposed along with corroborating archaeological evidence. It has been postulated that the migration of the Indo-Iranian group of tribes into the Iranian Plateau took place through a succession of numerous groups of tribes, each tribe speaking its variety of the Iranian language. The earliest groups contained the “Western” Iranians (Medes and Persians), whose migration is generally placed at the end of the second millennium BC.
According to Matthew (1999), the Iranian immigration onto the Plateau, probably, proceeded in several “waves” and along different routes, and Iranian tribes may have been established throughout the Plateau by the beginning of the first millennium, except, perhaps, the southernmost parts.
Many theories have also been put forward regarding the exact manner of the migration of the Ino-Iranian tribes. There are two possibilities of their exact route of migration as observed by Morris (1888):
- They went north of the Caspian Sea, crossed the Caucasus and the ArmenianHighlands, and then went southeast.
- They came directly from the steppes in the north or northeast and crossed the Ɔaśť ay Kavironly to be brought to a halt by the Zagros Mountains.
According to Morris (1888), the last to come were those Indo-Iranian tribes who settled in the region extending from Margiana and Bactria to Arachosia and (Present-day) Balochistan. Morris (1888) listed some of these migratory groups as Ossetes, Armenians, the Kurds, the people of ancient Media and Persia, the Afghans, the Baloch, and Hindus of the Indus and Ganges.
The migrating Indo-Iranian group of tribes comprised the following culturally quite diverse groups:
- North Iranians who are called Scythians or Sakas
- West Iranians who included the ancient Medes and the modern Kurds, Baloch, and Persians
- East Iranians who were the speakers of Avestanand Bactrian languages
Before migrating to India and Iran and dividing into two distinct groups of people, Indo-Iranian tribes spoke a similar language. They cherished similar myths and legends and offered worship to the same gods and goddesses. They believed in a variety of gods and supernatural phenomena. They believed in the sun, moon, water, fire, wind, etc., having powers over humans and nature. Mithra, Anahita, and Indra were the most powerful of the ancient Aryan gods.
Ghirshman (1954), observed that little is known about the speakers of the non-Iranian languages whom they encountered on their way into Iran. In the east, in the present-day Balochistan and further east in the Gandhara (Kabul) region and Arachosia (Kandahar), the Iranians were most likely still in contact with speakers of Indo-Aryan as well as speakers of Dravidian languages during the second half of the second millennium BC. This assumption is based on the close resemblance of Indic names and customs, particularly in Rigveda with those in Old Iranian texts, which points to the Kandahar region and the present-day Balochistan and is dated to the middle Rigvedic period between 1500 and 1350 BC (Ghirshman, 1954).
The exact reasons for the mass migrations of Aryan tribes from their original abode are still being argued. However, it is widely believed that scarcity of food and pastureland caused by climatic conditions and the pressure applied by the neighboring tribes from the north were among the main factors that forced them to move away in different directions. Whatever had been the causes, Aryan movements have been persistent instead of being occasional or transitory, their effects were permanent on the regions and peoples they came into contact with.
Broadly speaking, during their migration, the tribes speaking Indo-European languages split into two main groups. The Western group rounded the Black Sea, crossed into Balkans and the Bosporus, penetrated Asia Minor, and later on formed a Hittite Confederation. Some of them also appeared in Syria and Egypt. The Eastern group moved eastwards and rounded the Caspian Sea. One group among them crossed the Caucasus and pushed as far as the great bend of the Euphrates where they settled among the indigenous Hurrians and later formed the Kingdom of Mitanni in 1450 B.C. They established their suzerainty over northern Mesopotamia and Zagros. Then the bulk of the Aryans pressed eastwards, crossed the Oxus, and entered Bactrian plains. They scaled the passes of the Hindu Kush along the Panjsher and Kabul rivers. Quite a few tribes might have thrust towards the West and probably southwest to the present Afghan, Pakistani and Iranian parts of Balochistan.
The penetration of Indo-Iranian tribes into the Iranian Plateau came into effect with several waves of immigrants, speaking slightly different dialects. After several centuries, they finally established themselves as masters in the region. Their cavalry greatly contributed to their success over the indigenous population. These nomadic and agropastoral people were comprised of groups or confederacies of various tribes. Later, they became three distinct national entities known as Medes, Persians, and Parthians. Probably they were named after the regions they finally settled in Madai, Persua, and Parthva. For a while, their movements were contained in a region comprising Elam and Mesopotamia in the north and south, and Lake van and Zagros in the east and west. For a time, expanding to centuries, they absorbed the indigenous population and established their civilization. They also absorbed some of the political, cultural, and religious traditions of the people and the civilizations they were absorbing. Dominating the indigenous population, in the beginning, they established small primitive states in the Iranian Plateau. After the final settlement of Indo-Iranian tribes in the Iranian Plateau and their complete socio-cultural and political domination over the indigenous population, the whole region was called Iran, the land of the Aryans.
Courtesy: The Baloch Origin By Dr Naseer Dashti, Published By Balochi Academy Quetta