Do Indian texts like the Vedas mention the ancient Persians and Iranians at all?

By Sunil Kumar

Giving an answer to your question would be reaching far back into hoary antiquity, when the concept of modern nation-states was not there, and the world was in a fluid civilizational construct. For example, the history of what is now China would be limited to a very small geographical region and talk about the mythical Jade Emperor etc if we go back to 2500 B.C.

Now, for the Vedas. Although Indian civilization asserts that the Vedas are apaurusheya(divine origin) and dated far back than what Western historians arbitrarily date them to(around 1000 B.C), I think the truth lies somewhere in between. It is a fact that a culturally impoverished West that emerged from the Dark ages into the wonder and wealth of colonial enterprise deliberately falsified Asian and other civilizational constructs in order to rule them, the ancient world was more myth, allegory but sometimes facts were couched somewhere in between. Note this is a personal opinion from my reading, people are bound to have differences.

By the Proto Indo-European hypothesis, the West had acknowledged that the Indian and Iranian(Persian) civilizations had some sort of common source. Ask an average Indian or a guy from modern-day post Islamic Revolution Iran, they may not see anything common. But, this is a result of the cross-currents of history.

Mitra and Aryaman, the devas and the asuras are a common feature in ancient Indian Vedic hymns and the Zoroastrian religion. A major god of the Rig Veda, Indra becomes a evil demonic entity in the Avesta.The religion of Persia before the Arab incursion, the Parsis or the Zoroastrians are supposed to have split from the Vedic Aryans a long time back in remote antiquity. The feud seems to have been big, as the Asuras(generally regarded in Vedic India to be malevolent and even more so later on) tend to be the good guys in ancient Iranian theology.

The supreme God Ahura Mazda of ancient Persia is also believed to be a corruption of A(s)hura Mazda. Regardless of this, India kept its age-old welcoming tradition to every community from the Jews, Christians and early Muslims alive when the King of Gujarat gave shelter to the Parsis as early as the 7th century after the Arab invasion of the erstwhile powerful Persian empire.

As regards your question, the Vedas are mostly mystical composed of suktas(hymns) with more speculation on divinity and the spiritual poetry of life rather than a discussion on ancient tribes except for the Battle of the Ten Kings, and geography that you know keeps on changing and fluctuating. There are millions of mysteries in the ancient world that have completely disappeared in the present day.

Mitra or Mithra(In the Avesta)(Pahlavi text- Mitr, Modern Persian-Mehr) was a very influential Vedic God that was also present in ancient Persia and became very famous in the erstwhile Roman empire. In fact, it is said in some sources that Christianity adopted a lot of practices from this lost Mitra worship and it could have been the religion of the world if we didn’t have an Emperor embracing the Christian faith. Modern holidays like Sunday are also linked to Mitra(who in Vedic terminology was one of the Adityas- or linked to the Sun).

According to a research paper on the subject

‘Mitra is a god who has been invoked by the Achamenian kings beside the gods Ahura Mazda and Anāhita. His name and the name of Anāhita (the goddess of waters) have been appeared in the inscriptions of Achamenian kings from period of second Ardeshir (359-404 BC).

In his inscription he says as follows: “My grand father, Darius built this construction (Persepolis). Fire destroyed it at the time of first Ardeshir (my father). I built it again by order of (according to desire) of Ahura Mazda, Anāhita and Mithra. May Ahura Mazda, Anāhita and Mithra keep me under their shelter and protect me from any enmity; and don‟t destroy whatever I have built’

The Rig Veda frequently mentions the matriarch Ilā, ancestress of a string of related tribes as well as the clan whose poets composed the Vedic hymns. It also mentions the tribe that composed the ancient Iranian scripture ‘Avestā’.

In contrast, Puranas(epic histories) of ancient India have extensive genealogies. Modern historians, infected with a snooty unquestioned pseudo-Western bias tend to disregard these narratives as they are tinged with epic tales of Gods, warriors and battles.

But, Ashoka the Great, an ancient Indian emperor was discovered again after centuries only on the basis of a Puranic narrative by Western Indologists. There was also the fact that a vast corpus of ancient Indian thought encapsulated in great libraries like Nalanda was destroyed by foreign invasions, notably like the Muslim vandal Khilji and numerous others.

It is also frequently mentioned that the Chinese have had a greater sense of history than say ancient India. This is partly true. However, even monumental historians like Sima Qian were more focused on emperors and kings and prone to exaggeration. We have to forgive all the people of that time as judging them from a modern perspective can be slightly unfair. The rock stars and celebrities of the time were the local king, vassal, courtesan or great religious figure. So, on that basis, we can glean useful details from epic histories like the Puranas.

The Mahabharata(ancient India’s greatest epic) also names some tribes in lands that are now in present-day Iran. Undoubtedly, ancient India had a vast cultural soft power as is evidenced by finds around the world from the Hittites invoking Vedic Gods in a treaty with the Mittanis(1350 B.C), Sanskrit inscriptions in Madagascar to Angkor Wat in Cambodia(customs described by Zhou Daguan, ancient Chinese diplomat of Chengzhong of Yuan(1200s A.D).

So, according to Vedic traditionalists, the culture had a vast influence over most of the Indian subcontinent and vast parts of West Asia. So, ancient Bharatvarsha(India) comprised of all these places, so there’s no explicit need to name what are now present-day Iranians or the Persian empires that came later post-Zoroaster.

Many tribes connected with the Vedic tradition are believed to have settled in the ancient Iranian region such as the Druhyus, Panis, Parsas, and Bisnois. They all followed various Vedic practices, such as fire rituals and Sun worship, many of which were later incorporated in ways into Zoroastrianism.

The Yazidis, who have been persecuted by the ISIS bigots, also strangely share many practices with the Hindus and their past is a mystery that deserves extensive investigation or a documentary. Pre-Islamic Arabia was known as Arvasthan in ancient Sanskrit, and considering the many civilizations with Indic links, may very well have been under the Indian cultural umbrella. A Mohyal(Dutt) trading community from ancient India assisted the right claimants in the early Muslim civil war between the latter-day Sunnis and Shias. Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan and even recently the Phillipines has acknowledged its ancient cultural links with erstwhile Indic civilization.

The Mandarins in ancient China are supposed to have originally been Indian(a corruption of the Sanskrit ‘Mantri’), and Buddhism from the subcontinent affected the ancient Chinese milieu more profoundly becoming a part of the landscape along with native Confucianism and Taoism. Ancient India affected the Sinic landscape more than the reverse, hence Hiuen Tsang’s journey to the West(Tianzhu or India-the Heavenly Land of the Buddha).

To sum up, those are the pertinent facts on the subject, in my opinion, from diverse viewpoints.

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