Research paper written by London Swaminathan
Research article No.1448; Dated 30th November 2014.
Dasyus were Hindus but led a different life style in the forests. Vedic literature said they were the children of sage Visvamitra who went astray. Of course they were criticised by both ancient Tamil and Sanskrit literatures. Foreign “scholars” described them as aborigines which was wrong. Aitareya Brahmana, Mahavamsa of Sri Lanka, Sangam Tamil Literature, Tamil Epic Silappadikaram and Tamil Periya Purana described the life of hunters. One of the Dasyu tribes was the class of hunters/Sabaras. Another tribe known as Pulindas, who were also sons of Visvamitra, are described as the children of Yakshas in the Buddhist chronicle Mahavamsa (Chapter 7).
There is amazing similarity in the description of their life in both literatures which did not change for at least 2000 years. They did not do any fire sacrifice, but worshipped Hindu goddesses and led a rustic life. The description of the Sabaras (Eyinar or Marvar in Tamil) who were hunters and robbers in the forests is same in Tamil epic Silappadikaram. The episode described in the Tamil epic happened in the second century CE. Later Banabhatta of Sixth Century and Sekkizar of Tenth Century CE described their life. Sangam Tamil literature also described their life in various places.
Those who read the above can see the customs they followed in the forest were that of Hindus. Their “Kumari Festival” is described in detail in the Tamil epic Silappadikaram. Tamil epic gave only Sanskrit names to their goddess who rides a stag. All their dances and songs described Goddesses’ achievements including the Killing of Mahisasura (Buffalo headed Demon).
They worshipped Durga and offered human sacrifice. Several statues of offering their heads with their own swords were discovered throughout Tamil Nadu and there are inscriptions confirming their sacrifice of human heads. All their songs were on goddess Durga and Mahisasura Mardhani. They followed cremation and not burial! (For details about human sacrifice and pictures, see my earlier post)
Sabaras in Aitareya Brahmana 7-8
Aandhraahaa punaindraahaa pulindaahaa muthinaahaa
Ithyuthanthyaa bhahavoo dasyunaam bhuuyishtaa ithi
Earliest reference in the Aitareya Brahmana says that the eldest sons of Visvamitra were cursed to become the progeny of the most abject races such as the Andhras, Pundras, Sabaras, Pulindas and the Mutibas.
Bhanabhattaa (606 to 648 CE) in his prose Kadambari gives a graphic description of a tribal gang, which was moving in a forest in a day to day hunting activity:-
1.”Oh they live a life devoid of knowledge
2.Their life style is condemned by the wise men
3.For example human sacrifice – to present it to the gods –is their religious devotion.
4.They eat flesh, honey etc. which is forbidden in the civilized society
5.Their physical exercise is hunting
6.Their religious texts are the cry of jackals
7.They decide good and evil from the voice of owls
8.Their intelligence lies in understanding the nature of the birds
9.Their inmates are the dogs
10.Their kingdom is the lonely forest
11.Their friends are the bows which impart the cruel deeds
12.Their supporters are the poison tipped snake like arrows
13.Their sons are those which attract to captivate the deer
14.Their wives are those women who have been captured. They had been wives of others.
15.They live with cruel animals like tigers. Hence they are as cruel.
16.They propiate their gods with the animal blood
17.Theft is their life
18.Their ornaments are the jewels of cobras
19.They use the elephant’s musth as body lotion
20.They uproot and destroy the forests where they live
Ashura Babipala lion hunt in Assyria
In merely 20 sentences and less than 100 words – in Sanskrit —Bhanabhatta has narrated all that which the 19th and 20th centuries have narrated in voluminous books.
The chieftain’s name was Maatanga. This is the name of Shiva . Bhanabhatta says that the chieftain was an ardent believer of goddess Katyayani/Durga.
They collected from the forest hair and skin of deer and elephants tusks.
They covered their bodies with lion skin. They collected the colourful mayur puchcha or the long feathers of peacock. They pulled out the poison teeth of snakes. Probably they collected the snake poison. They collected fruits and roots of forest trees.
Now compare the above list given by Bhanabhatta with the information from Tamil literature summarised by Dr R Nagasamy, eminent historian and archaeologist and VR Dikshitar in his Translation of Tamil epic Sillapdikaram.
In the North they were known as Sabaras and Pulindas and in Tamil Nadu they were called Maravars and Eyinars.
1.They killed people who passed through the forests or arid lands (Puram 175)
2.They can shoot anyone without a miss. They covered the dead bodies with stones (Puram2)
3.They killed the merchants by attacking their caravans and shared the booty among themselves (Akam.89)
4.They had very long bows standing up to their shoulders (from the ground)- Akam.175
5.They are so uneducated that they will bite their bows (Akam 214) if they miss the target.
6.They had uncouth appearance with beard (Akam 297)
7.They had flesh for their food and toddy for their drinks. They never washed their hands ( Akam 297)
8. They took whatever they wanted and destroyed the rest (Puram 23)
Dr Nagasamy added the following from Periyapurana from the life story of Kannappa Nayanar, who became famous by offering his both eyes to Lord Shiva. Kannappan means who offered eyes and this is a household story in Tamil Nadu.
1.This tribes speaks a language of words with “Kill , Stab, Spear, Throw” according to Sekkizar of 10th Century CE.
2.They rob the cows (like Panis of Rig Veda) from the villages
3. They eat flesh and the worms wriggling on it.
4.They worshipped Lord Skanda and offered him Pea cocks and Cocks to Skanda.
5.They tied the teeth of tiger around the Children’s necks
6.Young boys of the hunters brought little boars, deer and tiger cubs for playing. They were their toys.
7.They had a chieftain and his son was trained in archery in a ceremony. This Bow Festival was celebrated grandly for 7 days. Sekkizar gives full details in hundreds of verses about their forest life.
8.On the seventh day of the Training/initiation ceremony the boy was initiated in to archery amidst all the fanfare . Big drums and horns were played by the tribe.
Salini’s Role as Soothsayer
9. They had a woman soothsayer by name Salini. She will give them directions about what should be offered to the goddess. She gave all the predictions when she was possessed. The old lady’s dance amazed even the cruel hunters. She advised them to give sacrifice to goddess Durga (Kotravai who rides a stag)
10.Tamil Epic Silappadikaram described a Kumari Festival inside the forest (It is a bit similar to Kumari festival in Nepal and other places). V R Dikshita summarised it from Vettuvavari of Silappadikaram:
“It was usual to select a virgin from among their community and make her appear like the goddess installed in the shrine. The virgin was taken in procession to the temple of their guardian deity and worshipped in front of the shrine, where the goddess was said to appear and approve what the damsel spoke.
The Eyinar/sabara decked their goddess with ornaments and peculiar to their mores. A tiger skin and elephant skin formed the clothing of their goddess. Similarly the teeth of tiger formed her garland. The virgin’s hair was dressed in the form of jata – the coiffure of Shiva – and ornamented with a small silver snake and a crescent like semi circular tooth from the wild hog . Her Tali/mangal sutra was a necklace made up of teeth plucked from a strong limbed tiger. Her girdle was a cleaned tiger skin. The bow in her hand was of heart wood. She was mounted upon a stag with twisted horns. The eyinar/sabara ladies followed her carrying paints, powders, cool and fragrant pastes, boiled grains, gingelli/sesame cakes, rice with meat, flowers, frankincense and fragrant scents. This was accompanied by the beating of the drum, blowing of the trumpet. The same drum and horn were used while they loot and rob caravans passing through the forest. There the virgin worshiped the goddess.
Following this, in their songs, they praised the goddess as Mahisasura Mardhani and wife of Shiva and Durga’s fight with Asuras/demons in various forms. Sanskrit names of Goddess such as Amari, Kumari, Gowri, Samari, Suli, Nili, Arya were used by Ilango, the author of the epic. Goddess was praised as Vishnu’s sister in accordance to the story in Hindu mythology. All this happened inside the deep forest of Tamil Nadu 2000 years ago!
This shows that all the foreigners’ accounts of tribes are wrong and spread with a motive. My study of all the tribes in India confirmed lot of Hindu customs. Most of their Goddess names are of Sanskrit origin.
The friendship between Guha , Sabari and Rama of Ramayana also stand as evidence that they were part and parcel of Hindu society, but living in their own way. Even in my country England, a fisherman’s life is very different from us, the Londoners. But no one called them Dasyus! A whaler in New Zealand and Japan may look like primitives for a Londoner or a New Yorker. They were not Dayus!
Mahabharata and Hindu mythology show that great people of wisdom even among butchers like Dhrmavyadha and Tuladhara. We have a saint Vyasa from the fishermen community and a Valmiki from the hunter community!
Long live Hindu Dasyus!