Possible Origins of the Abrahamic and Hindu Religions in the Indus Valley: An Exploration
Bharat Jhujhunwala Formerly, Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru. Corresponding author E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vol. 1, No. 1, 2021, pp. 95-122 © ARF India. All Right Reserved URL: http://arfjournals.com/jasi
Abstract: The first five books of the Bible give the narratives of Five Persons namely, Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham and Moses. It is believed that these Five Persons lived in West Asia. The preferred locations are Lake Van in Turkey for Adam; no specific location for Cain; Mesopotamia for Noah; Mesopotamia and Palestine for Abraham; and Egypt for Moses. The Bible says that Moses led the Hebrews from a place named Mitsrayim—identified with Egypt—to the Promised Land of Yisrael. However, geographical details and the archaeological evidence available at these sites often does not match with the descriptions given in the Bible. We explore whether these Five Persons may have lived in the Indus Valley and Moses may have led the Exodus from here to Yisrael. Further, we find remarkable parallels between the Biblical narratives of the Five Persons and the narratives of particular Five Persons in the Hindu texts, namely, Swayambhu Manu, Indra, Vaivaswat Manu, Rama and Krishna. It is believed that these Five Persons lived in larger Indian Subcontinent. The preferred locations are Mount Kailash for Swayambhu Manu; no specific location for Indra; GujaratRajasthan for Vaivaswat Manu; and the Ganges Basin from Rama and Krishna. However, geographical details and the archaeological evidence available at these sites often does not match with the descriptions given in the Hindu texts. We explore whether these Five Persons may have lived in the Indus Valley and Krishna may have led the Yadavas from there to Yisrael. Lastly, a question for further study is posed: If the geographical descriptions of the Five Persons in the two traditions coalesce in the Indus Valley and their narratives are parallel, might it be that the Five Persons described in the Bible were the same Five Persons described in the Hindu texts.
Conclusion (in advance)
We have tried to show that the time, genealogy, geographical location and the life events at the time of
the Five Persons run parallel in the Biblical and Hindu traditions. This similarity leads us to suggest
that these could be the same Persons. The fact that the geographical descriptions match with the Indus
Valley suggests that they may have lived in the Indus Valley and their narratives travelled from the
Indus Valley to West Asia and not from West Asia to India. The decline of the Indus Valley c. 1500
BCE may have led to migrations from here. The Hebrews may have carried the memory of the earlier
Four Persons with them when Moses led them to Yisrael during the Exodus. The Hindus may have
carried the memory of the same Five Persons with them to the Ganges Basin. In course of time both
could have lost memory of their original home in the Indus Valley. Both traditions have evolved in
different directions in that the 3500 years since their separation hence today they may appear different
and some of their practices may even be contrary to each other. This present reality, however, does not
cancel the common roots in the ancient past.
This paper traverses between the Abrahamic and Hindu traditions. The conventional understanding of the Abrahamic Religions is that the narratives of the Torah were located in West Asia. Generally, the narrative of Adam is located at Lake Van in Turkey or Qurnah in Iraq (Rohl no date; Hill 2000); the narrative of Noah is located in Iraq (Lendering 2007); the narrative of Abraham is located between Iraq, Palestine and Egypt (Encyclopedia Britannica 2008), and the narrative of Moses is located between Egypt and Palestine (Hoffmeier 2012).
The conventional understanding of the Hindu religion is that the narratives from Swayambhu Manu to Krishna were located in the pan-Indian Subcontinent. It has been suggested that the roots may lie in the Indus Valley (Danino 2010); but, to the knowledge of the author, specific credible locations for Swayambhu Manu, Indra and Vaivaswat Manu have not been proposed; the narrative of Rama is located between Ayodhya and Sri Lanka; and that of Krishna at Mathura.
This paper seeks to place both the narratives in the Indus Valley. Moreover, it suggests that the geographical locations of the abovementioned five persons in the two traditions are coterminous. It is proposed that one stream of the people migrated westward to Palestine while another stream migrated eastward to the Ganges Basin at the time of collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization c. 1500 BCE. Thus, we hypothesize a common heritage of the two traditions. We do not suggest that either tradition borrowed from the other. They are equally placed on the same pedestal.
It is our solemn responsibility to bring forth the available knowledge before the people. “One of the central challenges for archaeology over the coming decades will be to find a way to engage with emerging, contemporary, sociomaterial phenomena and, hence, with issues of both contemporary and future ecological, social, political, and economic concern” (Harrison 2016). This challenge cannot wait until more credible evidence emerges. The way forward is to take into account the evidence available today and continually modify the hypothesis as new evidence emerges. Archaeology is continually providing new information. One could not have imagined in 1700 that Sanskrit and Latin languages had common origins. One could not have thought in 1800 that there existed the Indus Valley Civilization. Therefore, the task before us is to continually revise our understanding as new information emerges.
We submit that this hypothesis is consistent with the available archaeological evidence from the Indus Valley Civilization. Needless to say, archaeological evidence may not be expected to provide unequivocal evidence for the living of a particular person at a particular time and place. Archaeology only examines whether the necessary condition for the plausibility of such a hypothesis is satisfied. It does not fulfill the sufficient condition to “prove” such a hypothesis. Perhaps such will never be “proven.” We have to work with plausibility rather than proof.
The religious practices of the contemporary Hindu Civilization and its antecedents in the Indus Valley Civilization stand contrary to the contemporary Jewish beliefs. The Indus Valley Civilization people, for example, were idol worshippers which is contra to the practices of the Abrahamic religions. There are no “prophets” in Hinduism unlike the Abrahamic religions. At the first sight, therefore, it would be natural to assume that they have different origins. However, these present-day differences do not prove that they did not have a common origin. The cultural practices of the Protestants and Catholics, Shias and Sunnis, and Tibetan and Sri Lankan Buddhists are very different although they acknowledge their common origins. We do find parallels between the two traditions despite such differences. The Bible, for example, tells of a particular journey of Jacob in which he had put a stone under his head and had a dream in which he had an encounter with God. Then, the Bible says, “Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it” (Genesis 28:18). This is reminiscent of pouring oil on the Shivalinga.
Another contentious issue is that Hindus do not have “Prophets” unlike the Abrahamic religions. A Prophet is a person who delivers God’s message (Merriam-Webster 2015). The Hindus refer to the Five Persons enumerated above variously. Swayambhu Manu and Vaivaswat Manu are called Prajapati or “lord of creatures, creator;” Indra is called Devta or “godhead, divinity;” and Rama and Krishna are called Avatara or “descent of a deity from heaven” (Monier-Williams 1987, p. 658, 495, 99). The Five Persons in the two traditions, therefore, have all been persons who deliver God’s message. The parallels in the cultures, crops raised, color of the people, the arts and crafts and other cultural practices have not been examined and this is a limitation of this paper. The script of the Indus Valley Civilization has not been credibly deciphered as yet. Therefore, the literary evidence, if any, is hidden from our eyes. However, the march must go on.
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