As I wrote in my last Friday post, I am deeply into reading about history and here is something fascinating that I found which I am sure will be of interest to my readers too.
In the late 13th Century BC, a military elite called The Mitanni migrated from the East (India) into Northern Iraq and there are many war stories about them in that region’s history. A treaty that they entered into with the Hittites was solemnized in the name of Vedic Gods Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nasatya. The Mitanni also took with them technology of Indian origin – Iron. Noteworthy is the fact that this was five centuries after mass production of iron took place in South India.
Interestingly, the Mitanni God Mitra would remain a popular deity in the Middle East and, centuries later, would witness a major revival in the Roman empire (where he would be known as the solar god Mithras). The cult of Mithras would become very widespread in the late Roman period, and would produce serious competition with Christianity. The pagan Romans used to celebrate a big festival called Saturnalia that went on for a week from December 17. At the end of the festival on 25th December, the Mithras cult would celebrate the feast of Sol Invictus or Unconquered Sun. Many scholars believe that when the Christians came to power they simply took over the popular pagan festival. (After all, the exactly date of birth of Jesus Christ is not known.)
Mind you,not every one agreed with this choice and the Orthodox Church still celebrated Christmas on 7th January. The Puritans would later disapprove of the unseemly heathen celebrations that clung to the festival and would try to ban Christmas in North America and Britain in the 17th and 18th Centuries. 25th December survived nevertheless as official Christmas day and a festival celebrated by Christians and non Christians alike. Thus one of the unintended consequences of early iron age migration seems to be that the world has come to celebrate the birthday of an ancient god from Haryana in India!
PS. Even today, the phrase Indo Aryan is used in many communications, like the Wikipedia article on Mitanni though the Aryan invasion / migration of India has been thoroughly disproved by archeological and genetic findings. This is a topic by itself for another post in the future.
PPS: My source – The Ocean Of Churn by Sanjeev Sanyal.