Who Were the People Who Produced the Rigveda?
Part 4. The Rigveda and the Avesta
In our previous post, we began exploring possible answers to the following question:
Were the Rigvedic people indigenous to India? If not, where did they come from, and when?
The first piece to this jigsaw puzzle of a question was the discovery, in the 18th and 19th centuries, of the remarkable similarity between Sanskrit, Latin and Greek. This realisation, as we saw in our previous post, gave rise to the idea of an ancestral language, called Proto-Indo-European (PIE), common to the languages of India and Europe and a shared Indo-European homeland in the distant past.
The 19th century also saw another parallel, and equally exciting, discovery. European scholars had long been aware of Zarathustra through the ancient Greeks. A French translation of the Avesta, the collection of Zoroastrian scripture from ancient Iran, had been published as early as 1771 by the French scholar and orientalist, Anquetil Du Perron. An almost unbelievable similarity was now noticed between the Rigveda and the Avesta in language, mythology, and religious ideas, pointing towards a shared Indo-Iranian heritage.
This discovery gives us the next piece of our puzzle. Let us therefore take a closer look at the Avesta, and the features it holds in common with the Rigveda. We shall also be introduced to the Indo-Iranians, the common ancestors of those who composed the Rigveda and the Avesta.
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