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Entry of Kanvas in Vedic Tradition!

Updated on September 10, 2014

The predominance of Bharata Tribe was waning when Rig Veda was still being composed by various Rig Vedic seer families, generations after generations. We have no conclusive records available to know exactly when Sudasa clan lost its glory and what were reasons of that loss. It is clear that the Vedic people had to seek not only monetary but military help also from the non-Vedic clans like Yadu, Turvasa and Ikshvakus in this later period.

However change of Asura epithet from God to demon in Rig Veda certainly has some connection with the end of Rig Vedic Bharata dyansty. The drastic shift in religious concepts in the same composition otherwise cannot be justified. We are aware from Rig Veda about the enmity between Persians and other tribes those practiced different faiths and waged several wars against each other. Though the victories are found well recorded in the present version of Rig Veda, the defeats are hardly been recorded. Moreover entry of non-Vedic seers in Vedic stream at later period suggests that the Sudasa or Bharata clan had become non-existent by then and Rig Vedic geography too had shifted from the River Saraswati (Harxavaiti) to the east.

We are not talking or suggesting any demographic migration here. Defeat of king and establishment of new rule does not require demographic migrations. The defeated people accept new rule, though reluctantly, keeping on living in the most usual way adopting to the changes and hardships enforced.

Also let us not forget here the religious developments do not remain confined to single tribe for longer time. The way new developments attract enemies in similar manner it creates interest in some as well. We are aware how Buddhism spread elsewhere. The way it spread through the missionary work, same time scholars from abroad traveled long distances to study it.

Rule of a dynasty for several centuries also is improbable if looked at the world history. The dynasties collapse by the aggressors or of internal burden. Sudasa’s tribe does not seem to be larger in size. The area occupied by the Vedic people couldn’t have been big as the co-existence of various tribes across the borders is mentioned in Rig Veda. Looking at that large number, we can safely assume that Bharata tribe too was about same size as others were.

What Vedic seers do when Bharata clan was on death bed? Supposedly they were till then conducting fire sacrificial rituals reciting whatever portion of Rig Veda was composed and making life on donations. Those seers were mere priests not necessarily having genius enough to add to the bulk of Rig Veda. However the fire sacrificial practices must have been polished, articulated to different purposes creating science of it. Early Yajur veda must have been composed with such developments.

But when Bharata clan, their chief mentor-patron was at decline, as we have seen in last chapter, must have in an attempt to find new patrons. We have also seen in whom they found their patrons. Also we have seen the new seers entering in to the compositions of Rig Veda were not from original Vedic tradition.

We have discussed the case of Bhrigus. Not Bhrigus alone, Kanvas and Agastyas too joined Vedic stream those too were originally non-Vedic and unrelated with Bharata or Puru clan. The geography of these three families too was different.


It seems ethnically Kanvas were ethnically from different group. They are described as dark brown (RV 10.31.11). It is believed that the influx of non-Aryan beliefs in Rig Veda is owed to Kanvas. “The case in the point of myth about an archer god who cleaves a mountain with his arrow , kills the boar Emusa and gains access to the cooked rice-milk (Odana). The myth is grafted upon Indra-Vritra –myth, is mainly found in the eighth Mannfdala….” (Aryans in the Rigveda- By Franciscus Bernardus Jacobus Kuiper). The further author of the book suggests that the myth was introduced by Kanvas whose non-Aryan origin is probable for several reasons. In Brahmana and Sutra period Kanvas are even called as non-Brahmina. (A-bhrahmana). Moreover, the word Kanva does not fit into the structure of Vedic Sanskrit!

Kuiper further states that the magical practices got legitimated because of Kanvas in Vedic tradition. Also he states that all the Kanvas did not aspire to membership of the Aryan society. Those who stayed behind were naturally feared as dangerous sorcerers as is documented by the well known hymn Saun. (II.25.3-5). Here the Kanvas are described as blood drinking and embryo eating. It is also argued the Kanvas being of foreign origin because of the linguistic differences that makes their book apart from other family books.

This only does suggests that the Vedic tradition no longer was propriety of the Bharata clansmen as it used be before their decline. The Vedic tradition had become catholic not by the virtue of its being secular, but because they had no longer any control over the tradition they were progenitor of.

Also the above description shows the compositions of Kanvas didn’t take place in the original geography of the Bharata Tribe. From other mythologies floating in Puranas and epics, Kanvas could have been resident of central-north India, having their own kind of ritualistic practices, probably associated with sorcery, but unlike of Atharvans. However credit goes to the Kanvas for incorporating sorcery in Rig Veda which otherwise is alien to the main doctrine of Rig Veda

Shrikant Talageri in his book “The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis” in chapter five, states that “The Atris and KaNvas are also relatively neutral families, but in a different sense from the BhRgus and Agastyas. These two families, in fact, are not only not affiliated to the Bharatas in particular or the PUrus in general, but they are more often associated with non-PUrus (IkSvAkus, Yadus, TurvaSas, Anus). This association is basically mercenary: the Atris and KaNvas appear to have officiated as priests for, and composed dAnastutis in praise of, any king (irrespective of his tribal identity) who showered them with gifts. This more catholic or cosmopolitan nature of these two families is also recognized (in the case of the Atris) in I.117.3, where Atri is characterised as pAñcajanya (belonging to all the five tribes).”

Though Talageri propagates his "out of India"theory and his lame explanation for their praises of the kings in Danastutis, the fact comes out that the praises did not come just out of gratitude for the donations, but because they ethnically and politically too belonged to them. The original geography of the Rig Vedic compositions had shifted to east and no more original Rig Vedic seer families no longer were associated with Rig Vedic tradition when the closing point was nearing.

It was not any demographic migration as is largely believed.... in any direction. The original seer families those started composing Rig Veda either had became extinct or had deserted vedic stream, the way Vishwamitra did by the time Rig Veda had come to the certain juncture and was taken over by non-Vedic seers and patronized by non-Vedic tribal kings.

This is very interesting fact and still as yet overlooked by the scholars so far. Or they knew it but never wanted to acknowledge it. Their main purpose has been to prove Aryan invasion or Aryans migrating from India to spread their culture, language and religion. They have neglected the basic things those are so clear from Rig Veda itself that the Vedic religion had been taken over by the enterprising non-Vedic intellectuals those liked it, adopted it and spread it.

To conclude this chapter, it does prove that the Kanvas were from ethnically and linguistically different non-Vedic stock. All Kanva clan did not join the Vedic faith, just handful, leaving rest to be despicable to the Vedic tradition.

In theext chapter, to cement our theory, we will discuss on Atri and Agastya clans.


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    • profile image

      Prajakt Karanjkar 

      4 years ago

      Okay. Keep sharing the quality information with us. Thanks again...

    • sanjay-sonawani profile imageAUTHOR

      Sanjay Sonawani 

      4 years ago from Pune, India.

      Prajakt Karanjkar, I am coming to the Yajurved Samhita in next installments! Thanks.

    • profile image

      Prajakt Karanjkar 

      4 years ago

      Interesting. I too belong to Kanva Shakha of Shukla Yajurveda. Does it have any connection with Kanvas, who you are talking about ??

    • sanjay-sonawani profile imageAUTHOR

      Sanjay Sonawani 

      4 years ago from Pune, India.

      Thanks billybuc for your appreciation.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very interesting. I always love to learn new things about different cultures. Thank you.


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