Dasa

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Dasa is a Sanskrit language term found in ancient Hindu texts, such as the Rigveda and Arthashastra. It usually means enemy or servant. In some contexts, dasa is interchangeable with the Sanskrit words dasyu and asura.

Quotes[edit]

  • Agni born shone out slaying the Dasyus, the darkness by the light, he found the Cows, the Waters, Swar.
    • Rigveda 5.14.4, as translated and quoted by Sri Aurobindo (The Secret of the Veda)
  • A slave (dasa) shall be entitled to enjoy not only whatever he has earned without prejudice to his master's work, but also the inheritance he has received from his father.
  • “I have gone over the names of the Dasyus or Asuras, mentioned in the Rigveda, with the view of discovering whether any of them could be regarded as being of non-Aryan or indigenous origin, but I have not observed any to be of that character.”
    • Original Sanskrit Texts on the Origin and History of the People of India, Vol. H by John Muir, Trübner and Co., London, 3rd edition, 1874.
  • “there is no evidence to show that the term [Dasa, Dasyu] is used in a racial sense indicative of a non-Aryan people” ...“it was the word of abuse used by the Indo-Aryans for the Indo-Iranians (sic)”...[the battles in the Rigveda Were not between Aryans and non-Aryans but between] “different communities of Aryas who were not only different but opposed and inimical to each other.”
    • Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Volume 7 edited by Vasant Moon, Education Department, Govt. of Maharashtra Publications, Mumbai, 1990. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “(1) The Vedas do not know any such race as the Aryan race. (2) There is no evidence in the Vedas of any invasion of India by the Aryan race and its having conquered the Dasas and Dasyus supposed to be the natives of India. (3) There is no evidence to show that the distinction between Aryas, Dasas and Dasyus was a racial distinction. (4) The Vedas do not support the contention that the Aryas were different in colour from the Dasas and Dasyus.”
    • Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Volume 7 edited by Vasant Moon, Education Department, Govt. of Maharashtra Publications, Mumbai, 1990. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Arya and Dasa were only horizontal divisions, denoting groups of people living in their separate territories in north-western India... [dasyus were only] a segment of Dasas...[the term paṇi was used for people who were] rich and niggardly [and possibly] usurers, [and that the group of paṇis] cross-cuts the otherwise horizontal stratification of non-Aryas, [...] and may denote either an occupation or simply a set of values attributable to anyone.
    • Ethnicity in the Rigveda and its Bearing on the Question of Indo- European Origins. Erdosy, George. pp. 35-47 in ―South Asian Studies‖ vol. 5. London.. Quoted in Talageri, S. G. (2010). The Rigveda and the Avesta. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • The Rg-Veda refers to the asikni or “black” people. Some uses of colour symbolism are simply applications of the universal tendency to represent negative properties with a black colour: “When there is sufficient context for interpretation, we find that the notions can at least equally well be read as an ‘ideological’ distinction between the ‘dark/black’ world of the dāsas/dasyus and the ‘light/white’ world of the āryas.” (Hock 1995/2:154) Or they may sometimes innocently refer to natural phenomena, e.g. kṛṣṇa tvac, 9:41:1: “the black cover”, is the night. Yet, the racial-invasionist reading is very common and still has academic sanction, e.g.: “Indra subjected the aboriginal tribes of the Dāsas/Dasyus to the Aryans.” (Elizarenkova 1995:36)
    • Hans Hock 1995/2:154) quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2018). Still no trace of an Aryan invasion: A collection on Indo-European origins.
  • Admittedly, a few instances do refer very clearly to a military enemy identified as asikni/“black”. These are the bedrock of the racial version of the AIT, ensuring that the other times “black” is used, it is not interpreted metaphorically but “must” refer to skin colour. That racial interpretation has largely been discarded in scholarly circles, at least consciously (though still lingering somewhat through inertia), but still very alive in certain Indian political movements. They have been used to justify the methodologically unwarranted shift from linguistic to ethnic categories. ... This word asikni characterizes a military enemy in the Battle of the Ten Kings (RV 7:5:3, apparently repeated in 9:73:5), and is mostly translated or explained as “the black aboriginals” (eventhough they encounter the Vedic people from the west). Moreover, the Vedic priest Vasiṣṭha is described as śvitya, “white-clad” (RV 7:33:1), which some translators render as “white-complexioned” (thus Wilson 1997). But in fact, the enemies are led into battle by a king with an Iranian name, Kavaṣa, belonging to the Iranian Kavi dynasty, their tribal names and nicknames all have Iranian counterparts or are known from Iranian and Greek sources to refer to Iranian communities. Moreover, their religion is described as having the typical characteristics of Mazdeism: without Indra, without Devas, without fire-sacrifice etc.. Asiknī, “the black (river)”, is simply the Sanskrit name of the river whence they come, today the Chenab in West Panjab. Very obviously, the enemies of the Vedic people at that time, when Rg-Vedic books 7 and 4 and the contemporaneous parts of books 1 and 9 were composed, were Iranian, not “black aboriginal”. This is attested from so many angles that one tends to wonder how this mistake could have been made at all, and how the true Iranian identity of the Dāsas (Greek Dahai) could have been missed.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2018). Still no trace of an Aryan invasion: A collection on Indo-European origins.
  • Never in world history has a silly mistranslation been politically more consequential. The projection of 19th-century colonialism and of the earlier subjection of the Amerindians by European invaders onto ancient Indian history has provided an illustration or justification to an array of modern political ideologies, all of a more or less sinister or destructive character. If Western scholars shy away from the OIT because of vague rumours associating it with Hindu Nationalism (though its founding ideologue V.D. Savarkar was an AIT believer while another Hindu Nationalist, B.G. Tilak, even cooked up his own variation of the AIT locating the Vedic Homeland in the Arctic), they should have all the more reason to shun their own AIT. After all, the latter has had many more political ramifications, for a much longer time, in many more countries, and not as a thought experiment of ivory-tower scholars but from a position of power whence it could inform actual policies. .. Moreover, one of these ideologies strongly associated with the AIT is National-Socialism. In order to justify the untouchability of the OIT, invasionist polemicists often try to liken it to Nazism (e.g. Pollock 1993 and Adluri 2011, both rebutted by Grünendahl 2012), directly as well as through the identification with Hindu Nationalism. Firstly, there is nothing Nazi about Hindu Nationalism, as I have demonstrated earlier at great length (Elst 2001 and 2007/1). Secondly, if there were anything Nazi about the OIT, that would still not make it untrue: rocket science is literally a creation of the Nazis and yet the Soviet Union and other countries have profusely applied it, rather than tabooed it because of its political associations. Thirdly, and most importantly in this context, there is nothing Nazi about the OIT, on the contrary. It is the AIT that served as the perfect paradigm of the Nazi worldview, and that was taught in the history textbooks under Nazi control. The AIT defenders are in the same camp as Adolf Hitler, the OIT is the opposite camp. (But let us remain clear that the well-known Nazi use of the AIT is not in itself a reason to object to the truth claims of the AIT.)
    • Elst, Koenraad (2018). Still no trace of an Aryan invasion: A collection on Indo-European origins.
  • It has, moreover, been an extremely consequential mistake. It has been taken over by numerous authors, including many who had no ideological agenda but naïvely lapped it up, e.g. Puhvel (1989:45): “the śūdras were an-ārya, ‘non-Aryan’, referring to the darker-skinned elements of the population (the Sanskrit term for ‘caste’, varṇa, means ‘colour’).” (In fact, varṇa means “one in a spectrum”: a colour in the visual spectrum, a class in the social spectrum, but also a letter in the sound spectrum, hence varṇamāla for “alphabet”.) The whole edifice of the “racial Aryan”, notorious through its Nazi application but equally popular in British colonial discourse and its Indian copycats, was based on a simple mistranslation.
    • Puhvel 1989, , quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2018). Still no trace of an Aryan invasion: A collection on Indo-European origins.
  • Emile Benveniste also notes that "the Avestan word for 'country' dahyu (anc-dasyu) has as its Sanskrit correspondent dasyu" and that this "reflects conflict between the Indian and Iranian peoples". But he tries to fit it into the invasionist paradigm by suggesting that "the name by which this enemy people called themselves collectively took on a hostile connection" and was later applied to natives of India: therefore in the Rigveda "dasyu may be taken as an ethnic" of India!
    • Emile Benveniste (BENVENISTE 1969/1973:260-261)quoted in [1]

External links[edit]

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