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A Concise Guide to Writing Fiction Set in the Mature Harappan = New Rigvedic Period 2600-1700 BCE...
Shrikant G Talageri
1 year ago
[A few words about this article:1. It has been published on the IndicToday site very recently.2. Two parts of it, pertaining to Dravidians, have already been put up on my blogspot recently.3. It has two purposes: firstly, to provide background data for anyone writing fiction set in the Mature Harappan = New Rigvedic period 2600-1700 BCE, and secondly, even otherwise to present an overall picture introducing the reader to the historical scenario in India during that period] Any fiction set in the Mature Harappan period (that is, the period of composition of the New Rigveda) must keep in mind various relevant factors. Before going into those factors, the prehistory of this period, as per the myths recorded in the Puranas, must be kept in mind:The beginnings of Indian history, according to traditional information in the Puranas, begins with a reference to the first king Manu Vaivasvata who ruled over the whole of India, and he was succeeded by his ten sons, who subsequently ruled over the different parts of India. These ten sons, according to the Puranas, were Sudyumna, lkṣvāku, Prāṁṣu, Śaryāti, Dhṛṣṭa, Karuṣa, Nariṣyanta, Pṛṣadhra, Nābhāga and Nabhagodiṣṭa, and these as per the Puranic traditions, were the ancestral figures for the inhabitants of the different parts of the whole of India.The actual Puranic data concentrates on the history of the descendants of only twoof the reportedly ten sons of Manu: Ikṣvāku (whose descendants are referred to as Aikṣvāku or Ikṣvāku) and Sudyumna (who, on the basis of a mythical story in which, due to a curse, he becomes a woman and then is again reconverted into a man, is also given the masculine name Iḷa and the feminine name Iḷā , and his descendants are consequently referred to as Aiḷa or Iḷa).The history of the descendants of the other eight sons is not recorded or discernible from the accounts.The Aiḷas are treated in myth and tradition as members of the Lunar race, and the Ikṣvākus as members of the Solar race.The Ikṣvākus are located in the eastern half of the northern area: in present-day terms, in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.The Aiḷas, who form the central focus of the Puranic accounts, are located to the westand south of the Ikṣvākus. However, even here, the Puranic accounts are more-or-less ambiguous (or confused) about the history of the entire Aiḷa lineage, and only concentrate on the history of descendants who are mythically identified as descended from the five sons of an Aiḷa king named Yayāti: Yadu and Turvasu/Turvaṣa, sons by his wife Devayānī , and Druhyu, Anu and Pūru, sons by his wife Śarmiṣṭhā. These are located as follows:a) To begin with, the Pūrus are located in the Central areas around Kurukṣetra, (Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh), the Anus to their north (Kashmir and the areas to their immediate west in northernmost parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan), the Druhyus to the west (present-day northern and central Pakistan), the Yadus to their south (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra) and the Turvasus (to the east of the Yadus).b) A series of battles in the pre-Rigvedic period leads to a realignment in the northwest: the Druhyus are pushed further out into Afghanistan, while a major section of the Anus expands southwards and occupies the major part of the former areas of the Druhyus.c) The dāśarājña battle in the period of the Old Rigveda leads to a further realignment: the Pūrus expand westwards into the same (northern and central Pakistan) areas and a major section of the Anus expands outwards into Afganistan leading to a further northwards push to the Druhyus who spill out into Central Asia.The end result is that by the time of the New Rigveda, which is the period archaeologically referred to as the Mature Harappan period, we find the following situation in India in 2600-1700 BCE:I. The Mature Harappan Civilization and its Neighbors.1. The Mature Harappan civilization is spread out over the whole area of the Rigveda (from westernmost Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to Afghanistan), whose components are sections of three tribes with possibly the last remnants of a fourthone:a) the central Pūrus in the eastern parts (mainly Haryana and eastern Punjab),b) the eastern Anus and western Pūrus in the western parts (most of northern Pakistan), andc) the western Yadus in the southern parts (Gujarat, Sind) along withd) the last remnants of the Druhyus in the westernmost border areas.They had all developed together as a composite more-or-less Pūru-ized "Indo-Iranian" civilization.To their north, in the original Puranic area of the Anus, we still find the northernAnus, the ancestors of the Nuristani and Dardic people. 2. To the west of the Mature Harappan = New Rigvedic areas, we have:a) the central Anus in the major part of Afghanistan (with remnants of Druhyus still in their midst) who had developed into the proto-Iranian, or pre-Avestan and Avestan, civilization.b) other sections of western Anus further west expanding westwards into Iran: the ancestors of the proto-Armenian, proto-Greek and proto-Albanian speakers later to migrate westwards towards southeastern Europe. They were followed by other sections of the central Anus (proto-Iranian tribes, who spread westwards and northwestwards), and also a section of westernPūrus (the proto-Mitanni Indo-Aryans). 3. To the north in Central Asia, we have the Druhyu people, including:a) the Uttara-Madras in the west (the proto-Hittites, with sections of them migrating westwards towards the Caspian Sea in their historical movement towards Anatolia),b) the Uttara-Kurus in the east (the proto-Tocharians, who remained in the region till they became extinct a thousand or so years ago), and, between the two,c) remnants of the other Druhyus (ancestral speakers of the proto-Italic, proto-Celtic, proto-Germanic, proto-Baltic and proto-Slavic languages), the main body of whom were already migrating westwards through northern Eurasia on their way towards eastern Europe.The migrating Druhyus were also accompanied or followed by small sections of Anus and Pūrus who carried Iranian and Indo-Aryan linguistic elements into the Uralic areas (leaving traces of their ancient presence in the present-day Finno-Ugric languages).4. To the east of the "Indo-Iranian" Harappans within India, were the eastern Pūrus in the major part of western and central Uttar Pradesh. They extended eastwards in the southern parts of Uttar Pradesh perhaps as far as Kashi in the latest parts of the New Rigvedic period. But their culture had evolved differently from the Harappan culture, and was more akin to the culture of the Ikṣvāku culture to their north and east: in northeastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.5. To the south of these northern areas were the areas of the Yadus and, to their east, of the Turvasus: in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh-Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and northern Maharashtra.6. To the east of these areas, in Jharkhand, Orissa and Bengal and further east (greater Assam) were the areas of the speakers of the Austric languages.7. To the south, in southern Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana-Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Kerala, were the speakers of the Dravidian languages.8. In the border-areas of India - the Land of the Descendants of Manu - there were three more linguistic groups: the Andamanese people in the Andaman Islands, the Burushaski people in the areas of the northern Anus (in Gilgit in POK), and the Sino-Tibetan speakers in Ladakh, Tibet and the Himalayas. 9. Far out in the west outside the Indian sphere, the Mesopotamians (Sumerians, Akkadians) were having trade relations with the people of the Mature Harappan civilization, and Indus seals have been found at Akkadian sites from 2600 BCE onwards.This is the picture of ancient India, which, during the Mature Harappan period (= the New Rigvedic period) already had a tradition (long before latter-dayPersians and Greeks called them "Hindus") of a unique composite identity as the descendants of a common ancestor to whom the Puranas at least give the name "Manu".II. Hinduism.The Hindu religion is an amalgam of the religious features of all the different parts of India, not all of which are derived from the Vedas or the Vedic religion (which was only the religion of the first three northwestern areas named above):1. This northwestern religion is represented in the religion of the Anus (as in Iranian Zoroastrianism), the Druhyus (as in the Druidic religion of the Celts, and the Romuvan religion of the Lithuanians) and the Vedic texts of the Pūrus; and consisted of (a) worship of the elements, (b) the performance of fire-sacrifices, and (c) the composition and recitation of hymns.[Being more systematically organized, and having developed a unique and unparalleled technique of recording its sacred hymns by a mnemonic system known as the ghaṇa-pāṭha, this Pūru religion spread all over the rest of India in the next few millennia, absorbing, and in fact losing itself in, the diverse religions of the other "descendants of Manu", leading to the formation of modern-day Hinduism: the Parliament of all the religions of all the Descendants of Manu].2. The religion of the Yadus to their south in particular was more naturalistic, and consisted of the worship of mountains (e.g. govardhan parvata), forests and groves, trees and animals, etc. This was probably a basic feature of the kind of religion which prevailed over most of the rest of India, especially the areas of the easternPūrus.3. The religion of the Ikṣvākus to the east was more deep or spiritual, based on intuition, thought, logic and debate, and it is in their regions that we find the seeds of most of the philosophical and spiritual aspects of present-day Hinduism, including the Upaniṣads, Buddhism, Jainism, and even materialistic philosophies like the Cārvāka.4. The areas of the Austric speaking people to the east contributed much of present-day Tantric rites and beliefs, and perhaps even the concept of reincarnation.5. The areas of the Dravidian speaking people to the south (with perhaps some inputs from the Austric speakers of the east) contributed what is today the most central aspect of Hinduism: idol-worship, with all its accompanying features.To understand the centrality of idol-worship in Hinduism, note that this includes all the following features:1. The worship of consecrated idols, whether of:a) The lingam,b) "Rude blocks of stone" with eyes painted on them, orc) Roughly, or finely, carved, or cast, images of stone, metal or some other material. 2. The most popular Hindu deities in every single part of India, including Ayyappa of Kerala, Murugan of Tamilnadu, Balaji of Andhra, Vitthala (originally) of Karnataka (=Vithoba of Maharashtra), Khandoba of Maharashtra, Jagannatha of Orissa, etc., or the myriad forms of the Mother Goddess, with thousands of names, in every nook and corner of India. Also every single local (originally tribal) God and Goddess in every remote corner of India, in the form of the kuladevatās, the gṛhadevatās or the grāmadevatās of local tribes and communities.[In time, of course, myths were formed nominally associating many of these deities with one or the other of the main Gods and Goddesses of Puranic Hinduism as their manifestations, these Puranic Gods themselves being additions from different parts of India to the Hindu pantheon (or originally Vedic Gods like Vishnu and Rudra with basic characteristics adopted from the other local and tribal deities). But these associations were not an imposition “from above”, they were the result of popular local myth-making and part of the consolidation of the national popularization of the local deities: the deities mostly retained their local names, forms, myths, and special rituals and customs, and became all-India deities, objects of pilgrimages from distant areas].3.The entire process of idol-worship:a) Treating the idols as living beings: bathing, dressing and feeding them, putting them to sleep, etc.b) Performing pūjā by offering flowers (the word, which first appears indirectly in a very late interpolated verse in the Rigveda, is derived from the Dravidian pū or "flower"), water, milk, bananas and other fruits, coconuts, clothes and ornaments to the idols.c) Performing āratī by waving lights in front of the idols, and ringing bells;d) Singing with cymbals, and performing music and dance before the idols;e) Partaking of prasāda, of food offered to the idols.4. The entire system of idol-temples and pilgrim-centres, with sacred tanks and bathing-ghats, and of temples, and temple-festivals with palanquins and chariot-processions.Other vital aspects of Hinduism which are missing in the Vedic religion, but were adopted from the other Descendants of Manu, are:1. The use of ash, kumkuma, sandalpaste, turmeric, etc. for smearing or anointing on the idols, and/or on the foreheads of worshipper. From this follow two very fundamental outward symbols of Hinduism today:a) The tilak marks (of whatever material) on the forehead.b) The sacred saffron colour, and, by implication, also the saffron flag. 2. The idea of soul, and the concept of transmigration of souls, and rebirth. [This concept forms a very fundamental aspect of Hindu philosophy, and is the one concept accepted by all the schools of Hindu philosophy including the Buddhist and the Jain (only excepting the cārvāka and other nāstika schools of thought)]. 3. The enumeration of the days by the phases of the moon, the tithis. [The importance of the pañcāṅga (the annual calendar based on the tithis) in ritualistic Hinduism can never be underestimated]. 4. Zoomorphic aspects of Hinduism:a) The worship of certain animals, birds and reptiles. b) The concept of God coming down to earth in the form of zoomorphic avatāras (Narasiṁha, Kūrma, Matsya, Varāha); and, incidentally, even the very concept of God coming down to earth in the form of avatāras.c) The concept of every God and Goddess having a "vehicle" or some special animal or bird (Viṣṇu's Garūḍa, Gaṇeśa's mouse, Kārtikeya's peacock, Śiva's bull, Durgā's lion, etc). 5. A host of concepts, and socio-religious rituals, rites, superstitions and taboos (for example, the concept of the "evil eye" and rituals for its removal, or taboos against cutting nails at night, or beliefs in different types of spirits and demons) and important ethical concepts (vegetarianism, adopted from the Jain traditions of a section of the eastern Ikṣvākus). 6. Several sacred cities, rivers, mountains, lakes and tanks, located all over India outside the Vedic area, and ancient myths and legends associated with them (often adapted to Puranic mythology).7. A very wide range of materia botanica (coconuts, bananas, rice, sandalwood, turmeric, etc.) used in Hindu worship, native to the non-Vedic parts of the country and not referred to in Rigvedic rituals.NOTE: This spread of the Vedic religion from Haryana to the rest of India was no different from the spread in later times of Buddhism and Jainism from Bihar to the rest of India, and had no elements of "invasion" or "imposition" in it: all these three are component members of modern-day Hinduism. If anything, there was a very much higher degree of acceptance and absorption of religious rituals, concepts, Gods and philosophies in the spread of the Vedic religion. We must keep in mind that except for the Vedic hymns and yajñas, and the Vedic/Sanskrit language, there is little of the Pūru Vedic religion in present-day Hinduism, except as an invisible umbrella layer covering all the different aspects of Hinduism Category One. And even the Vedic rituals are performed in originally non-Pūru religious contexts: in temples and in the worship of idols, all of which were acquired from the Dravidian speakers of the South, and which, as we saw, have today a much more central and dominant role in Hinduism than the original Vedic religious contexts.What do I mean, above, by Hinduism Category One? As I put it at the very start of my article on "Are Indian Tribals Hindus?":"According to the Constitution of India, laws framed for Hindus apply to the following three categories of people:(a) to any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms and developments, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj, (b) to any person who is a Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion, and (c) to any other person domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion.Thus, according to the constitution, every citizen of India, except a Muslim, a Christian, a Parsi or a Jew, is legally a Hindu. The constitution draws a distinction between three categories of legal Hindus:(a) Hindus Category One(consisting of all those who can still be categorised as full-fledged Hindus within the Hindu religious fold, including members of sects having antecedents traceable to mainline Hindu religious texts or individuals),(b) Hindus Category Two(consisting of members of the three sects, namely Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, founded by Hindu individuals, which originated as sects within the Hindu religious fold, but, in the course of history, came to acquire a more distinctive religious identity), and(c) Hindus Category Three(consisting of members of indigenous religious groups native to India, not founded by any particular individual, following ancestral forms of belief or worship not specifically having antecedents traceable to mainline Hindu religious texts or sects).[Hinduism is a Parliament of all the three categories]The people who are outside this purview themselves belong to two categories:(a) ex-Hindus, i.e. Muslims and Christians, who, by and large, are converts from the Hindu fold, and(b) non-Hindus, i.e. Jews and Parsis, who, in spite of different degrees of intermingling with local people, are by and large historical descendants of non-Hindu refugees or migrants from outside India"].To put matters in perspective about the three categories of Hinduism, let me quote a large section of my earlier article on "Are Indian Tribals Hindu?":Keeping in mind that by tribal religions, we are referring only to the Hindu Category Three religions (Sarna, Donyi Polo, Khasi, Meitei, Garo, and possibly others practiced by more microscopic sections of other isolated tribes), since the other tribals are themselves fully conscious that their religious practices are 'Hindu' (which is why they clearly declare their religion to be 'Hindu' in the census, as accepted even by the Joshua Project), can we say that these Hindu Category Three tribal religions are neutral between Christianity and Hinduism?The first and most fundamental factor which places Hinduism and these tribal religions in one fundamental category completely distinct from Christianity is the geographical factor. Hinduism Category One, Hinduism Category Two and Hinduism Category Three religions are all Indian religions, as distinct from Christianity which is a foreignimport.This has further automatic implications. It means that the sacred places, the sacred rivers, mountains and groves, the sacred plants, animals and birds, the materials used in religious rituals, etc. of allthe three Categories of religions are Indian. India is the stage of activity of the acts and events involving all the historical and mythological characters in the narratives of all these religions. The languages in which the original religious lore, poetry and traditions of allthese religions are couched are Indian languages. The traditional religious music, the traditional religious food, the traditional religious costumes, etc. of all these religions are representative of the traditional culture of some part or the other of India. The traditional religious beliefs and rituals of all these religions are derived from their Indianancestors. This geographical factor alone and in itself is so important that Dr Ambedkar placed emphasis not only on the necessity of placing in one legal class the followers of all religions other than those of foreign origin (Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Judaism), but put the matter in even more categorical terms with specific reference to the question of conversion itself: 'If the depressed classes join Islam or Christianity, they not only go out of the Hindu religion, but they also go out of the Hindu culture…What the consequences of conversion will do to the country as a whole is well worth bearing in mind. Conversion to Islam or Christianity will denationalize the depressed classes' (Dhanajay Keer: 'Dr Ambedkar: Life and Mission', p.279). That conversion to Christianity (or Islam) would 'denationalize' the converted Indians, with adverse 'consequences'for 'the country as a whole' was very clearly a matter of deep concern to him.But the geographical factor is only the beginning. Quite apart from the fact that there is no form of religious belief or philosophy (from atheism, through agnosticism, to all forms of 'theism', and from the most 'ahimsak' philosophy to the most violent bloody rituals) which is not found in some part or the other of Hinduism, and which therefore, basically makes it almost impossible to point out fundamental opposition between Hinduism and any particular tribal religious system, the fact is that all the tribal religions have features which fit into the most basic accepted definitions of standard Hinduism: idol-worship, totemism, polytheism, pantheism, animism, worship of the elements and of nature, belief in reincarnation, ancestor worship, etc., every single one of which is pure anathema to Christianity. Note that in the Wikipedia entry on the Karbi tribe, quoted earlier, we are told with a straight face that the 'practitioners of traditional worship believe in reincarnation and honour the ancestors'. In fact, almost all these elements, and even most of the local deities in every village and town of India, which are now the core of Hinduism, entered standard Hindu religion from these very local tribal religions in the course of millenniums of mutual interaction and influence; even as every local tribe and community preserved its own religious traditions without interference, a circumstance which would have been impossible in a Christian dominated country. And by this is not meant only some mediaeval Inquisition-instituting and Crusades-mongering Christian country: see what has been the fate of other Pagan religions which have fallen prey to the Proselytising Armies in the very citadel of the Proselytisers, the U.S.A., which, along with its other white colleague nations (in Europe, Australia and the Americas), is always first and foremost in condemning any curbs on “religious freedom” (read curbs on missionaries) in India, and which prides itself on being the beacon of internal Democracy and Freedom:'From the 1600s European Catholic and Protestant denominations sent missionaries to convert the tribes to Christianity. These efforts intensified during the mid 19th century through mid-20'th as US Government and Christian churches' joint efforts forcibly registered Native Americans as Christians, which caused contemporaneous official government records (and sources that reference these government records) to show 'Christianity' as the majority religion of Native Americans for the past 100 years. These forcible conversions often occurred through US government and Christian church cooperative efforts that forcibly removed Native American children from their families, and forcibly moved those Native children into a Christian-US government operated system of American Indian boarding schools (aka The Residential Schools) where Native children were indoctrinated in European Christian beliefs, mainstream American culture and the English language. This forcible conversion and suppression of Indigenous languages and cultures continued through the 1970s.As part of the US government's suppression of traditional Indigenous religions, most ceremonial ways were banned for over 80 years by a series of US Federal laws that banned traditional sweat lodge and sun dance ceremonies, among others. This government persecution and prosecution continued until 1978 with the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA).' (Wikipedia entry on 'Native American Religion')All this, please note, was being done blatantly and on a war footing in the U.S.A. till 1978. Must we assume there was a sudden magical about turn in that year which miraculously brought about an overwhelming love for the indigenous religions of the native American Indians in the hearts of those who had been carrying on the above mentioned activities so blatantly till then, and that the suppression and persecution completely ceased thereafter?When those same ruthless forces of Christian Evangelization, who thought nothing of indulging in the above barbarism to destroy the native religions of the U.S.A., send their Proselytizing Armies into India to do the same to the native religions of India (whether Hindu Category One, Two or Three), clearly it is the duty of all the native religions to unite against the common enemy. And clearly it is not only the right of Hindus to protect the tribals (whether Hindu Category One, Two or Three) from the depredations of Christian missionaries, it is their sacred duty to protect their fellow-Indians and fellow-Hindus from these wolves. Anyone who has read beyond the leftist and missionary sponsored articles in the media blaming Hindu organisations, every time there is conflict over conversions in tribal areas, will see that the conflicts are basically between the converted tribals and the non-converted tribals, the latter literally fighting a last-ditch battle for the preservation of their ancestral religions from the Proselytising Armies with their multi-pronged military divisions.Note: (1) Hinduism Category One itself is basically a Parliament of (Indian) Religions. (2) If there are some religions born out of mainstream Hinduism (Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism) which have acquired distinctive identities over the centuries, they have still remained part of the Hindu cultural stream (having a common history, a common viewpoint towards life, common religious symbols like Om, respect for Sanskrit as a Sacred language and for the saffron colour as a Sacred colour, vegetarianismas an ideal ethic, similar religious-philosophical terms and institutions, etc., and, as Dr. Ambedkar pointed out: 'The application of the Hindu Code to Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains was a historical development, and it would be too late, sociologically, to object to it. When the Buddha differed from the Vedic Brahmins, he did so only in matters of creed, but left the Hindu legal framework intact. He did not propound a separate law for his followers. The same was the case with Mahavir and the ten Sikh Gurus' (Keer, p.427).) And, (3) if some tribal religions have retained or acquired identities with a distinctive name, all these are included within the different Categories of Hinduism (One, Two and Three), which together form a Full Parliament of Indian Religions. In fact, all these Categories of Hinduism fall within a larger Parliament of World Religions,namely Paganism (which includes all the native religions which existed in the world before the rise of the Abrahamic Religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam).III. Data and Devices for Elaboration of Historical Identities.Any story or novel placed in the area and period of the Mature Harappan = New Rigvedic civilization must keep the following points in mind:A. The Various ethnic groups within or from the Harappan area:1. The Mature Harappan = New Rigvediccivilization itself has a western part centered around the Indus and an eastern part centered around the Sarasvatī:a) The people of the eastern part are mainly the central Pūrus in Haryana.b) The people in the north of the western part, in the Greater Punjab area (now united in an area which, in the Early Harappan = Old Rigvedic period before the westward expansion of the Bharata Pūrus led by Sudās, was probably predominantly Anu) consist of a combination of mainly the eastern Anus and the western Pūrus.c) The people in the south of the western part are mainly the western Yadus in the south in Sind and Gujarat, in the areas of the ports and coastline.Perspective: These internal divisions among the people of the Mature Harappan civilization could form one of the features lending dimensions and nuances to the storyline: perhaps by showing romance, friendships, rivalries, etc. between individualsbelonging to different groups..While doing this, the following points must be kept in mind:All these various people are equally Indian and equally part of the Harappan civilization as well as of our ancestral heritage, and a non-partisan attitude must be shown in showing the different relationships and internal equations between the various groups: there should be no prejudice in depicting heroes and villains. The good people and bad people, peacemakers and mischief-mongers, broad-minded or cosmopolitan people and narrow-minded or orthodox people, etc. would naturally be found among all the groups.In referring, if ever, to past events where Sudās and the Bharata Pūrus expanded into the western part, there should again be a distribution of opinions and attitudes among the various characters in the story, perhaps even an emphasis on disapproval of such imperialistic conflict.2. It must be remembered that these different groups have ethnic links with people outside the actual Mature Harappan civilization:a) The western Pūrus in the northern-western part of the civilization have ancestral links not only with the central Pūrus in the eastern part, but also with the eastern Pūrus spread out in the Uttar Pradesh area beyond the Harappan area.b) The western Yadus in the southern-western part of the civilization have ancestral links with other Yadus to their east (Rajasthan, Madhya-Pradesh) and south (southern Gujarat and northern Maharashtra) on the periphery of the urban civilization or outside it.c) The eastern Anus in the northern-western part of the civilization have ancestral links with the western Anus in the westernmost areas: i.e. the border areas with Afghanistan and in Afghanistan itself (the proto-Avestan and Avestan Iranians) and the last remnants of Druhyus in that area.Perspective: All these are factors which can be woven into the storyline and narrative from a sympathetic viewpoint, perhaps even showing how the characters balance ethnic relationships with groups outside the Harappan area with civilizational relationships with other groups within.3. There are many northwestern groups who departed from India:a) The various groups of Druhyus:the Uttara-Kuru (Tocharians) in eastern Central Asia,the Uttara-Madra or Hittites/Anatolians (in western Central Asia, from where they migrated westwards around the Caspian Sea into Turkey), andthe main Druhyu groups (the proto-Italic, proto-Celtic, proto-Germanic, proto-Baltic and proto-Slavic speakers in that order) on their way from Central Asia to eastern (and in the course of time to the whole of) Europe, and the trail of remnants of these people left in Central Asia.b) The various groups of Anus:the western Anus (proto-Albanian, proto-Greek and proto-Armenian, in that order) already spread out in this period from Iran (and areas to its north) to the Caucasus and south-eastern Europe, andthe central Anus (the proto-Iranian tribes) in Afghanistan and border areas of Central Asia, poised to spread out later over the whole of Central Asia, Iran and the Steppes right up to eastern Europe, absorbing and Iranianizing in their wake the remnants in these areas of the earlier western Anu emigrants.c) The groups of western Pūrus who migrated out of India in the wake of the two (Druhyu and Anu migrations): the Pūrus (and Anus) who migrated northwards and westwards through the Steppes into eastern Europe, taking (now extinct in those areas) forms of Indo-Aryan and Iranian speech which influenced the Finno-Ugric languages; and the Pūrus (proto-Mitanni and proto-Kassites) who migrated into the Zagros mountains of Iran, later to spread out into West Asia and establish (around 1500 BCE) the Mitanni kingdom in the Syria-Iraq area. Perspective: A new dimension can be introduced concerning memories and old tales (perhaps retained and related by bards or wise rishis/elders), or contemporary accounts (maybe through some individuals returning back from those distant lands, or through traders), concerning some of these groups who had departed from India.4. There were originally three priestly classes in the northwest:a) the Druhyu in the west (priests of all the western tribes who were also called by the general name Druhyu on account of the name of their priestly class, who survived as the Drui or Druid among the Celts in Ireland),b) the Bhṛgu or Atharvan (priests of the Anus) andc) the Angiras (priests of the Pūrus).That these were the three classes is confirmed by the Vedic, Avestan and Celtic records: the Avesta (Vendidad 19) shows an Angra and a Druj as the rivals of Atharvan Zarathushtra, the Rigveda (VII.18.16) records a Bhṛgu and a Druhyu as the enemy priests of the enemy coalition, while the Angiras are the priests of the Pūru Bharatas from the earliest period.In later post-Rigvedic times, the Indo-Aryan vs. Iranian conflicts are remembered in both the traditions by converting one of the two names for "Gods" into "demons": for the Avesta, the Gods are Ahuras and the demons are Daevas, while for the Vedic tradition, the Gods are Devas and the demons are Asuras. Further, the priest of the Gods in the Puranas and Epics is Bṛhaspati, an Aṅgiras, and the priest of the Demons is Kavi Uśanas Śukrācārya, a Bhṛgu. The Bhṛgu or Atharvan were the wisest and most innovative of the three classes of priests, and are remembered in both the other traditions for the introduction of the yajña or fire-worship rituals: the Bhṛgus are credited for this in the Rigveda itself, and in Celtic tradition the eternal fire is associated with the temples of a Goddess named Brigit. (Later Bhṛgus developed the cremation rites in the tenth book of the Rigveda and in the Atharvaveda, which, because of its association with the Bhṛgus, was initially considered outside the pale of orthodoxy, and was later adopted into the fold by calling it the Atharvāṅgiras Samhita).In the Rigvedic period itself, one section of the Bhṛgu priests, Jamadagni and his descendants dissociated from the Anus and became affiliated to the Pūrus. Seven other priestly families came into existence besides the original Aṅgirases and Bhṛgus: i.e. the Viśvāmitras, Vasiṣṭhas, Agastyas, Gṛtsamadas, Kaśyapas, Atris and Kaṇvas, as well as a composer family from among the Bharata kings.Of these, the Bhṛgus continued to lead the pack:a) the Bhṛgus are enumerated first in the gotra-pravara lists,b) Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavadgita says "among priests, I am Bhṛgu",c) the Bhṛgus are the only family to have recensions of all the four Vedic Samhitas: in fact the only recension of the Rigveda is a Bhṛgu recension (Śākala), and the main writers associated with all the subsidiary texts (the Padapatha, the Anukramanis, the Rigvidhana, the Ashtadhyayi and the Nirukta) all belong to Bhṛgu gotras (Śākalya, Śaunaka, Pāṇini, Yāska).So do the writers of the one system of philosophy associated with Vedic ritual (Pūrva Mīmāṁsā = Jaimini), the Rāmāyaṇa (Vālmīki), and the final redactors of the Mahabharata (not Vedavyāsa himself, who was a Vasiṣṭha).It is persons from Bhṛgu gotras who later gave shape to the most distinctive and prominent Indian positions on kāma, artha, dharma and mokṣa: Vātsyāyana, Kauṭilya, and Ādi Śaṅkarācārya.Perspective: All these distinctions can be kept in mind while writing stories, all the while keeping a neutral stance between inter-family rivalries.Also, there is a distinct difference between these settled and organized rishis and another class of holy men who are classified as "muni" in the Rigveda (though we would today regard both muni and rishi as the same): these are referred to in 4 hymns in the Rigveda (VII.56.8; VIII.6.17; t17.14; X.136-2-5), and the term apparently refers to wandering sadhus, also called keśins because of their long hair left flowing as they literally seem to fly through the air. In historical or geographical terms, it seems to be a word for holy men from the forests in the interior of India outside and to the east and south of the Harappan civilization areas. [To put it unambiguously, the difference today between shaven-headed brahmin priests with a choti, and sadhusmeditating in forests and mountains with long hair and matted locks, was in the Vedic period the difference between rishis and munis. In our films and in popular perception, all the ancient rishis are depicted like the present-day sadhus, but actually in the Vedic period, they were rather like present-day brahmin priests!] B. The Technology of the Mature Harappan civilization:The Mature Harappan civilization was one of the most highly advanced civilizations of the time in many ways. All these features (apart from the trade angle mentioned above) have to be introduced into the storyline, perhaps by associating important characters with the various features:Some of the very important features are:1. Town-planning, egalitarian architecture and the brick-making industry.The main centre of Rigvedic composition was in the eastern half of the Harappan civilization, on the banks of the Sarasvati, among the centralPūrus. And the hymns of the Rigveda were composed mainly as hymns to be recited in religious contexts: bricks are referred to in the Yajurveda in connection with the construction of fire altars.2. The bead-making industry:The making of beads and ornaments was a very important industry in the Mature Harappan civilization, and these beads and ornament materials were a major item of export to the west.Significantly, the word maṇi for "bead" or "ornament" (found only in the latest part of the New Rigveda in I.33.8 and I.122.14), is the onlygeneral word (apart from personal names and names of Gods) taken westwards by boththe proto-Avestan Iranians and proto-Mitanni Indo-Aryans from the Harappan area.3. Cattle-breeding and Dairy-farming:Strangely, while people love to claim that the Harappans were "urbanites" (in contrast with alleged "Steppe pastoralists" who are claimed to have brought Indo-European languages into India), the truth is that cattle-breeding and dairy-farming was one of the main industries in the Mature Harappan civilization: of course outside the urban city-limits.[The wikipedia article on "Cattle" unambiguously tells us: "Archeozoological and genetic data indicate that cattle were first domesticated from wild aurochs (Bos primigenius) approximately 10,500 years ago. There were two major areas of domestication: one in the area that is now Turkey, giving rise to the taurine line, and a second in the area that is now Pakistan, resulting in the indicine line[….] European cattle are largely descended from the taurine lineage". All other academic sources regularly point out that "the Indus Valley Civilization" was one of the two centers of domestication of cattle. No-one has been able to show the presence of the western cattle, bos taurus, which would necessarily have been the species of domesticated cattle that "pastoralists" from the Steppes would have brought into India. The Indian cattle in the area before and since Harappan times have been the Indian zebu humped cattle native to that area itself. On the contrary, very recent scientific studies have confirmed that the Indian humped zebu cattle, domesticated in the Harappan area since thousands of years, suddenly started appearing in West Asia around 2200 BCE, and by 2000 BCE there was large-scale mixing of the Indian zebu cattle, bos indicus, with the genetically distinct western species of cattle, bos taurus, in West Asia. Thus we have three very distinct animal species native to India - the elephant, the peacock and the domesticated Indian zebu cattle - appearing in West Asia exactly coinciding with the presence and activities of the Mitanni in West Asia at the time, thus confirming that the Mitanni people were migrants from India to West Asia around 2200 BCE: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6449/173]4. Ship-Building and Ports:In the southern parts, in the region of the western Yadus, in Sind and Gujarat, ship-building, port construction and management, and trade through the seas, constituted the main industries.5. Elephant Breeding and the Ivory Industry: Breeding of elephants, ivory-carving, and the export of ivory and ivory-products, were major industries in the Harappan area from very early pre-Harappan times. [As I have shown in detail in my article "The Elephant and the Proto-Indo-European Homeland", the word for elephant/ivory was taken westwards by at least three distinct groups of Indo-European emigrants, as testified by Greek eléphas(Mycenean Greek erepa), Italic (Latin) ebur, and Hittite laḫpa-, all, like the Vedic ibha-, derived from an original *ṛbha- (with the same etymological meaning as the later word hastin). Ivory products, and even baby elephants, were exported to Mesopotamia and further west. Ships carried Harappan ivory not only to ports on the Horn of Africa (from where the ivory as well as the Egyptian name for it, derived from East Cushitic *ʔarb- 'elephant', itself derived from the pre-Vedic word *ṛbha- were carried into Egypt) but also as far as the coast of Portugal and the south-western coast of Spain as far back as 3000 BCE].6. Agriculture and Urban Grain Management, and the Pottery Industry:That agriculture was independently (of West Asia) developed in the Harappan area has been overwhelmingly confirmed recently by archaeologists and even geneticists! The administrative machinery for collecting, storing and distributing the agricultural products in the different parts of the urban and rural parts of the Harappan civilization must naturally have been a major industry in itself. The huge granaries are also witness to this.Needless to say, the pottery industry was also a part of this rural-urban composite system.7. Water-management and the Drainage System:This was one of the two most unique features of the Harappan civilization which put it far ahead of all contemporary civilizations, and ahead of almost all other urban areas even to this very day! That the Harappans had pipes and coveredunderground drainage systems is something unbelievable. Obviously there must have been a regular administrative "municipal" system seeing to the smooth working of all this, with regular paid employees!8. Street Lighting System:This was the second of the two most unique features of the Harappan civilization which put it far ahead of all contemporary civilizations, and ahead of almost all other urban areas even to this very day: the Harappans had street lights, obviously not electrical ones, but lights which had to be lighted every evening or night, and therefore, again, a systematic administrative system to carry out all this, again with regular paid employees.These are some of the features of the civilization which can be brought out in the storyline, the cast of characters and the narratives.[Needless to say, many more can be thought of: e.g. the mining of metals like copper, etc. in interior areas of India, copper items producing industries, metal exporting traders and guilds - the possibilities are almost unlimited].One more important point to be remembered is that the central part of the Mature Harappan = New Rigvedic period (2600-1700 BCE) was the time when two important technological innovations were developed in and around the northwestern parts of the Harappan area - the area where the proto-Mitanni Pūrus and the proto-Iranian Anus were poised to migrate westwards to their historical frontiers. These were:a) the domestication of the Bactrian camel, which is recorded in the Rigveda (in VIII.5.37; 6.48; 46.22,31) as being gifted by kings with what various western scholars (including Witzel) describe as Iranian names to Vedic rishis; andb) the invention of spoked-wheels and spoke-wheeled chariots, which are totally missing in the Old Rigveda but suddenly appear in the New Rigveda.The introduction of these in the Harappan civilization, and their socio-economic and technological effects, could provide ideas for plots and situations in the storyline.C. Links with Western Civilizations:The main known links of the Harappans with western civilizations are those with the Mesopotamians or Babylonians. It is known that the Harappans traded with Mesopotamia: two words identified as Babylonian words are found in the Rigveda, both in book 8 which is the heart of the Mature Harappan period, and both have connections with traders. They are:1. bekanāṭa (money-lender to traders referred to in the same verse) in VIII.66.10 and2. manā (a unit of measure which is still used to this day) in VIII.78.2.Perspective: The thriving commerce between the Harappans and the Babylonians can be introduced into the storyline, through traders from Babylon or Harappan traders who travel regularly to Babylon. These two words can also be introduced in some way (e.g. with someone explaining their meaning and contexts to a curious Harappan citizen).D. The Southern Dravidian Connection, and the East and North within India:As we saw, the period of the Mature Harappan = New Rigvedic civilization and culture was a culturally very rich and diverse one, where the people of this civilization had not only developed into a unique highly evolved civilization in the technical sense, but had developed strong trade relations with civilizations and areas far to their west. Harappan ships travelled not only to the ports of the Gulf, but probably into the Mediterranean Sea as well. Can it be possible that the areas of the south and east within India itself remained unknown to them, or remained out of the sphere of their contacts?As we saw, Indian tradition squarely places the Harappan civilization in the areas of the Anus, the western and central Pūrus, and the western Yadus. But it recognizes the relationship of these people with the people and cultures of the other parts of India: the eastern Indo-European speaking people (the Ikṣvākus) as well as the Dravidian speaking people of the South and the Austric speaking people of the East, all of whom are classified as descendants of a mythical common ancestor, whom the Puranas call Manu.So why is there no reference to these other people to the South or East?As we saw, the only evidence in the New Rigveda of the rich trade relationship with Mesopotamia is in the shape of just two words, bekanāṭa and manā. So we cannot expect detailed accounts of the South and East in the localized hymns of the Rigveda in that early period. But surely there must have been somerelationship, and this must have left some evidence in the text? In reaction to the invasionist tendency to search for linguistic evidence of "pre-Aryan natives", there is usually a reaction-tendency on the part of Indians to reject the presence of non-Indo-Aryan, especially Dravidian, elements in the Rigveda. This is also correct in the sense that civilization and culture developed differently in different parts of the country, and the Rigvedic culture of the northwest in its initial stages (i.e. in the Old Rigveda, restricted to Haryana and its immediate environs) need not necessarily show elements from other parts of India. But what about in the period of the Mature Harappan = New Rigvedic civilization with its far-reaching trade contacts and relations?In my 2008 book "The Rigveda and the Avesta - The Final Evidence", I noted the situation as follows: "Witzel’s first linguistic arguments, in section 11.5 (WITZEL 2005:344-346) have to do with what he calls 'Linguistic substrates'. This issue has been discussed in great detail in TALAGERI 2000:293-308 (and earlier in TALAGERI 1993:197-215). We will not repeat all the arguments and counter-arguments here, except for stressing the difference between 'substrate' words and 'adstrate' words (see section 6B of chapter 6 earlier in this book). In fact, let us accept that there may be some adstrate words of Dravidian or Austric origin in 'Indo-Aryan' ― perhaps we protested a bit too much in our earlier books, due to the implications sought to be drawn from such alleged 'non-Indo-Aryan' words in Classical or even Vedic Sanskrit. The word kāṇa 'one-eyed', in the RV, for example, is obviously derived from the Dravidian word kaṇ 'eye'. Other, not implausible suggestions include the words daṇḍa and kuṭa". (p.292).As a matter of fact, an examination of the actual Rigvedic data shows us that the Rigvedic culture included some Dravidian elements. These elements were not residual elements of an original Dravidian Harappan civilization invaded and taken over by invading "Aryans", as often suggested, they are new elements imported from the Dravidian South. This is proved by the fact that:1. They are not found in the Old Rigveda, and the geographical names in the Old Rigveda show that Dravidian speaking people never lived in the Harappan area before or during that period.2. They are found as incidental elements in the New Rigveda, in a period which shows massive oversea trade contacts even with foreign places like Mesopotamia, and which is the period preceding the Avestan and Mitanni eras: the common elements with the Avesta and the Mitanni are abundantly found in the same texts and hymns which show these incidental Dravidian elements.3. The Indian traditions and linguistics unambiguously and very clearly connect the people associated with these elements with the South. And these people are not inimical to the Rigvedic culture but a part of it.There seem to be at least two distinct streams of originally Dravidian speaking rishis:1. To begin with, the Rigveda contains two important words - very important and common in later Sanskrit as well as in modern Indo-Aryan, but found only once each in the Rigveda - of undoubtedly Dravidian origin. These are:a) the verbal root pūj- "to worship (an idol) with flowers", derived from the Dravidian, e.g. Tamil pū-, "flower", representing a form of worship totally unknown to the Vedic culture, and representing the religion of the South.b) the word kāṇa, "one-eyed" or "cross-eyed", very clearly derived from the Dravidian, e.g. Tamil kaṇ, "eye",When we examine where these two words are found (both in the New Rigveda), it is as follows:a) pūj- in VIII.17.12, attributed to Irimbiṭhi Kāṇva, b) kāṇa in X.155.1, attributed to ŚirimbiṭhaBhāradvāja.It cannot be a coincidence that both the words are composed by two different rishis with such strikingly similar, unusual and non-Indo-Aryan names. The rishi-ascriptions in book 10 are very often garbled - in my 2000 book "The Rigveda - A historical Analysis", pp.25-26, I had written "Maṇḍala X is a very late Maṇḍala and stands out from the other nine Maṇḍalas in many respects. One of these is the general ambiguity in the ascriptions of the hymns to their composers. In respect of 44 hymns, and 2 other verses, it is virtually impossible to even identify the family of the composer" - and it is perfectly possible the composer of X.155 is also the same as the composer of VIII.17, i.e. Irimbiṭhi Kāṇva.The name is clearly Dravidian: in fact, we still have a place in Kerala named Irimbiḷiyam: it is not impossible that this, or a nearby area, is the home-area of this Rigvedic composer - more than 4000 years old! Note that there are two more words in the same hymn, VIII.17, which have also been identified as Dravidian:a) -khaṇḍ- in VIII.17.12,b) kuṇḍa in VIII.17.13,and, to crown it all, the word muni, found in only 4 hymns in the whole of the Rigveda, and referring to holy men from the non-Vedic areas of the East and South within India, is also found in the next verse: in VIII.17.14. That we should have so many indications in three consecutive verses is incredible but extremely significant.Very clearly, this rishi Irimbiṭhi is a person from the Dravidian South who, in a manner similar to members of different religious orders in present-day India who are found in parts of India other than their area of origin, migrated to the busy cosmopolitan Mature Harappan = New Rigvedic civilization area from the South and subsequently became a Rigvedic rishi.2. But Indian tradition has one more, and a very important, rishi who is unanimously and resoundingly associated, in the traditions of both the North and the South, with the South: Agastya. Puranic and Epic tradition tells us that Agastya migrated to the South and settled down there. But here is what Wikipedia has to say:"Agastya was a revered Vedicsage of Hinduism. In the Indian tradition, he is a noted recluse and an influential scholar in diverse languages of the Indian subcontinent. He and his wife Lopamudra are the celebrated authors of hymns 1.165 to 1.191 in the Sanskrittext Rigveda and other Vedic literature. Agastya appears in numerous itihasas and puranas including the major Ramayana and Mahabharata. He is one of the seven or eight most revered rishisin the Vedic texts, and is revered as one of the Tamil Siddharin the Shaivism tradition, who invented an early grammar of the Tamil language, Agattiyam, playing a pioneering role in the development of Tampraparniyan medicine and spirituality at Saiva centres in proto-era Sri Lanka and South India. He is also revered in the Puranicliterature of Shaktism and Vaishnavism. He is one of the Indian sages found in ancient sculpture and reliefs in Hindu temples of South Asia, and Southeast Asia such as in the early medieval era Shaiva temples on Java Indonesia. He is the principal figure and Guru in the ancient Javanese language text Agastyaparva, whose 11th century version survives. Agastya is traditionally attributed to be the author of many Sanskrit texts such as the Agastya Gita found in Varaha Purana, Agastya Samhita found embedded in Skanda Purana, and the Dvaidha-Nirnaya Tantra text. He is also referred to as Mana, Kalasaja, Kumbhaja, Kumbhayoni and Maitravaruni after his mythical origins."Even more to the point: "The etymological origin of Agastya has several theories. One theory states that the root […] is derived from a flowering tree called Agati gandiflora, which is endemic to the Indian subcontinent and is called Akatti in Tamil. This theory suggests that Agati evolved into Agastih, and favors Dravidian origins of the Vedic sage".He is a "non-Aryan Dravidian whose ideas influenced the north […] In Southern sources and the North Indian Devi-Bhagavata Purana, his ashramis based in Tamil Nadu, variously placed in Tirunelveli, Pothiyal hills, or Thanjavur".Therefore, despite later legends taking him from the North to the South, historically he was probably a Dravidian sage from the South who, or rather whose descendants, migrated northwards and became an important part of the Rigvedic priesthood, being recognized as a separate and independent family of Rigvedic rishis:a) Tradition shows him to be different from the other Vedic rishis, more of a recluse and a forest-dweller, who prefers to stay away from the glamour and lucre of urban settings and royal patronage.b) He is totally absent from the major part of the Rigveda, and his descendants have hymns only in the New Rigveda (mainly in book 1, where most of the Dravidian words are found) but tradition not only outside the Rigveda but even within the Rigveda (VII.33.10) consistently portrays him as an ancient Rishi contemporaneous to Vasiṣṭha.c) The only reference to him, outside the New books 1 and 8 (I.117.11; 170.3; 179.6; 180.8; 184.5; VIII.5.26), is an incidental one in a RedactedHymn, probably redacted by a descendant, in VII.33.10. And this hymn has a Dravidian word daṇḍa in the next verse VII.33.11. 3. The arrival of the Irimbiṭhas and Agastyas into the Rigvedic area in the Mature Harappan period seems to have brought in a small stream of Dravidian words, which stream became a small flood in later post-Vedic Classical Sanskrit.The following is a list of other words allegedly of Dravidian origin, found in the Rigveda: vaila, kiyāmbu, vriś, cal-, bila, lip-, kaṭuka, kuṇḍṛṇācī (?), piṇḍa, mukha, kuṭa, kūṭa, khala, ulūkhala, kāṇuka, sīra, naḍa/naḷa, kulpha, kuṇāru, kalyāṇa, kulāya, lāṅgala. They are found only in the New Rigveda and in the Redacted Hymns, except for the occurrence of mukha in IV.39.6, kulāya in VII.50.1, and kulpha in VII.50.2. But note that Arnold (whom Hock cites as an expert on these matters) has classified both these hymns IV.39 and VII.50 also as Redacted Hymns on metrical grounds: so we do not find a single one of these Dravidian words in the Old Rigveda! The references (other than those already mentioned) are found as follows:Redacted Hymns:VI. 15.16; 47.23; 75.15.III. 30.8; 53.6.IV. 57.4; 58.8.New Rigveda:I. 11.5; 28.1-6; 29.6; 31.9; 32.11; 33.1,3,3; 46.4; 97.6,7; 144.5; 162.2,19; 164.48; 174.9; 191.1,3,4. VIII. 1.33; 43.10; 77.4.X. 16.13; 30.5; 48.7; 81.3; 85.34; 90.11-13; 102.4; 173.1,2..Remember, these Dravidian rishis and words are found in the New Rigveda before 2000BCE, nearly two millenniums before the Tamil Sangam Era! And also long before the first appearance of the Mitanni in Syria-Iraq and the Indo-European Iranians (Persians, Parthians, Medians) in Iran! So the Vedic-Dravidian relationship is an old and friendly one.[A few other words, often gratuitously and unwarrantedly - and controversially - sought to be branded as Dravidian words, such as mayūra, phala, bala, gardabha, puṣpa, puṣkara, are rejected by most linguists as Dravidian words:a) Witzel (although he continues to insist it is a "non-Aryan" word borrowed by Sanskrit, inspite of the fact that the name is a purely onomatopoeic name derived from the Sanskrit root mā) rejects mayūraas a Dravidian word in his article "Aryan and non-Aryan names in the Vedic India" (although this is particularly an article in which he goes berserk identifying as non-Aryan even words like Yadu and Pūru!!!).b) Rendich Franco (in his "comparative Etymological Dictionary of Classical Indo-European languages") gives the PIE roots and cognate forms in Greek and Latin for the word phala, and likewise the PIE root for the words puṣpaand puṣkara. c) Mallory and Adams (in their "Encyclopaedia of Indo-European culture") point out that bala is derived from PIE *belos, calling it "the strongest etymology containing the very rare PIE *b-", and give cognate forms in Greek, Latin and Old Church Slavic.d) The word gardabha, though a late word found only in the New Rigveda and Redacted hymns, has a cognate form in Tocharian kercapo, in Central Asia, and in any case, the donkey is native to the northwest and not the south, and cannot be derived from the Tamil kazhutha under any circumstance].Perspective: But how is all this to be interpreted? Although there were important Dravidian rishis from the South within the Vedic ethos in the New Rigveda, the Pūru Vedic religion (similar to the religion of the Anus and Druhyus) was different from that of the East and the South: its main features were worship of the elements, fire-worship in the form of yajñas, and the composition, memorization and recitation of hymns. We have already seen the religious features of the other parts of India in section II above (Hinduism). Therefore, although there were Dravidian rishis in the Mature Harappan era and area who participated in the Rigvedic and post-Rigvedic religion and culture, the actual native religion of the South, with its emphasis on idol-worship and temple culture (described earlier), represented a very different ethos which must already have contained and developed the early seeds of most of the rich arts, crafts, architecture, cuisine (minus, of course, specific items like potatoes and chilies which were introduced by the Portuguese a few centuries ago from the Americas), and music and dance unique to India associated with idol-worshipping Hinduism today.All this can be depicted in the storyline in countless ways:1. There can be local priests belonging to the Irimbitha and Agastya clans active in the storyline.2. There can be traders from the Dravidian South coming to the Harappan ports and interior cities for trade and their interaction with the local traders and Harappan citizens (in which Dravidian words and items can be introduced, including references to southern spices).3. There can be Harappan traders going in ships to trade in the South, or Harappan travelers, coming back with awed tales, told to fascinated Harappan listeners, about the great temples, rituals and ceremonies, arts and crafts, and performing arts witnessed there. Also, about the great mountains, forests and wildlife of the South.4. For good measure, we can also have:a) old bards relating old lore about the people of the South and East as representing the southern and eastern descendants of Manu, orb) mystic seers going into a trance and foretelling about future times when evil worshippers of strange religions would come to India from far-off areas and, with the help of diverse disruptive elements within the land, try to create schisms among the descendants of Manu by pitting the Southern descendants of Manu against the Northern ones. 5. Likewise, there can be ways of introducing, in a respectful friendly and fraternal manner, references (by other Harappans travelers within the frontiers of India) to the languages and cultures, natural wonders, and the religious features (already described in section II earlier) of the other parts of India - of the easternYadus, Ikṣvākus, the Austric speakers, and further eastern people; as well as the peoples in the Himalayas; and maybe even in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lanka. ......
‘I miss the English bants’: Parminder Nagra on ER, Bend It Like Beckham and new sci-fi Intergalactic...
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She went from Leicester to Los Angeles – and is now bound for outer space. But Intergalactic, which was filmed in Manchester, has made the British star want to return homeI can’t tell if the pained expression on Parminder Nagra’s face is because of the bad Zoom connection or the words I can’t help blurting out the moment she appears on my screen. She’s sitting at a table in her home in Los Angeles, the California sun streaming through sash windows into a sitting room dotted with keepsakes from her many films, and all I can think to say is: “I can’t believe I’m talking to Jess from Bend It Like Beckham! I loved that film!”We’re meant to be discussing the actor’s new role in Intergalactic, a dystopian sci-fi drama about a group of female high-security prisoners who hijack a spaceship and set off in pursuit of freedom. But instead we’re discussing the role Nagra took on almost 20 years ago, playing Jess, a teenager who discovers herself on the football pitch, while navigating her Indian heritage and British life. Is it annoying that people still talk about Bend It? “No,” says Nagra, “because it’s such a huge part of my life. I’ve just gotten older. I keep thinking people are going to think I still look the same, when I don’t. But I’m still proud of the film. It’s probably what I’m most recognised for.” Continue reading.........
Hear me out: why 2017's Ghost in the Shell isn't a bad movie...
1 week ago
The latest in our series of writers defending lambasted films sees some praise for Scarlett Johansson’s controversial sci-fi action thrillerIf you dare to suggest that the live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell isn’t completely terrible, you’ll most likely receive a confused dog look from some film fans, while also having your sense of morality brought into question. The 2017 adaptation, directed by Rupert Sanders, was instantly dismissed by many when it was announced that Scarlett Johansson would be playing Major Mira Killian, who, in the original manga, anime films and TV series, was most definitely a young Japanese woman. The whitewashing controversy was then made infinitely worse when it was reported that the film-makers were planning on using CGI and other visual effects to make Johansson look Asian, which would have been biblically disastrous and unforgivable had they gone ahead with it – it was bad enough that it was even considered. Related: Hear me out: why She's the Man isn't a bad movie Continue reading.........
Infinitum: Subject Unknown review – solo time loop echoes lockdown...
2 weeks ago
This iPhone-shot sci-fi drama with cameos from Ian McKellen and Conleth Hill is impressively realised, though the plot ultimately frustratesYou’ve got to admire wife and husband film-makers Tori and Matthew Butler-Hart. Stuck in their London flat at the start of the pandemic, the pair wrote a sci-fi script together: a Groundhog-Day-meets-The-Matrix tale of a woman trapped in a time loop. They shot it à deux on an iPhone; she stars, he directs. And there are a couple of cameos, from Ian McKellen and Game of Thrones actor Conleth Hill (who quite literally phoned in their performances from home). It’s a genuinely impressive achievement, but for a film about the infinite possibilities of parallel universes, it’s exasperatingly samey.Tori Butler-Hart is Jane, a woman who wakes up every morning tied to a chair in the attic of a London semi with no memory of how she got there. Outside, the streets are eerily quiet. Scared but resourceful, Jane finds a door hidden behind a pile of junk. A camera on the wall is watching – and from time to time the soundtrack picks up the voices of her observers, distorted and crackling. Continue reading.........
Newly Published: Vivid Tomorrows...
2 weeks ago
New on our bookshelf: Vivid Tomorrows: On Science Fiction and Hollywood David Brin Can science fiction–especially sci-fi cinema–save the world? It already has, many times. Retired officers testify that films like Doctor Strangelove, Fail-Safe, On the Beach and War Games provoked changes and helped prevent accidental war. Soylent Green and Silent Running recruited millions of environmental activists. The China Syndrome and countless movies about plagues […]......
D-Nice Wins Entertainer of the Year at NAACP Image Awards – Complete List of Winners...
2 weeks ago
D-Nice, the disc jockey, rapper and producer whose Homeschool at Club Quarantine on Instagram Live was one of the biggest entertainment events of the COVID-19 pandemic, was named Entertainer of the Year at the NAACP Image Awards on Saturday night. Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who is credited with rallying Georgia voters who helped defeat Donald Trump and elect two Democratic senators, won the first Social Justice Impact award at the same ceremony, while Eddie Murphy received the Hall of Fame Award. Saturday’s event capped a week of virtual awards presentations with a live special airing on BET and simulcast on across ViacomCBS Networks. Other winners on the final night included “Bad Boys for Life,” which won for best motion picture over a field of nominees that also included “One Night in Miami” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”; Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis, who received acting awards for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”; Davis again, for the drama series “How to Get Away With Murder”; Issa Rae, for “Insecure”; and Regé-Jean Page, who won the drama series acting award for “Bridgerton.” Special awards at the ceremony, which was hosted by Anthony Anderson and introduced by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, went to Eddie Murphy (Hall of Fame Award), LeBron James (Presidents Award) and Rev. D. James Lawson (Chairman’s Award). Also Read: Stacey Abrams Wins Hollywood Salute for Getting Out the Vote in Georgia: 'A Real Superhero' Over the 90 categories handed out at six separate ceremonies, “black-ish” was the big winner with five different awards. The television series “Power Book 2: Ghost,” the limited series “Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” and the films “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Soul” each won three awards. Among individual winners, Beyoncé won two awards for “Black Parade” and another two for her collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, “Savage Remix.” Throughout the week the NAACP rolled out lists of winners in documentaries and literature, below the line categories in film, non-scripted TV, music and film and scripted TV as part of awards that were not televised but revealed through a “Virtual Experience.” Also Read: Beyonce Breaks Grammy Record as Winningest Female Artist Ever View the complete list of winners below: SPECIAL AWARD CATEGORIES Entertainer of the Year: D-Nice Social Justice Impact: Stacey Abrams TELEVISION & STREAMING CATEGORIES Outstanding Drama Series: “Power Book II: Ghost” Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series: Regé-Jean Page – “Bridgerton” Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series: Viola Davis – “How To Get Away With Murder” Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Clifford “Method Man” Smith – “Power Book II: Ghost” Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Mary J. Blige – “Power Book II: Ghost” Outstanding Comedy Series: “Insecure” Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series: Anthony Anderson – “black-ish” Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series: Issa Rae – “Insecure” Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Deon Cole – “black-ish” Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Marsai Martin – “black-ish” Outstanding Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special: “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special: Blair Underwood – “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special: Octavia Spencer – “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker” Outstanding Talk Series: “Red Table Talk” Outstanding Reality Program/Reality Competition or Game Show: “Celebrity Family Feud” Outstanding Variety Show (Series or Special): “VERZUZ” Outstanding News/Information (Series or Special): The New York Times Presents “The Killing of Breonna Taylor” Outstanding Children’s Program: “Family Reunion” Outstanding Performance by a Youth (Series, Special, Television Movie or Limited-Series): Marsai Martin – “Black-ish” Outstanding Host in a Talk or News/Information (Series or Special) – Individual or Ensemble: Trevor Noah – “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” Outstanding Host in a Reality/Reality Competition, Game Show or Variety (Series or Special) – Individual or Ensemble: Steve Harvey – “Celebrity Family Feud” Outstanding Guest Performance – Comedy or Drama Series: Loretta Devine- “P-Valley” Outstanding Animated Series: “Doc McStuffins” Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance (Television): Laya DeLeon Hayes – “Doc McStuffins” Outstanding Short Form Series – Comedy or Drama: “#FreeRayshawn” Outstanding Performance in a Short Form Series: Laurence Fishburne – “#FreeRayshawn” Outstanding Short Form Series – Reality/Nonfiction: “Between The Scenes” – The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Outstanding Breakthrough Creative (Television): Raynelle Swilling – “Cherish the Day” MOTION PICTURE CATEGORIES Outstanding Motion Picture: “Bad Boys For Life” Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture: Viola Davis – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture: Chadwick Boseman – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: Chadwick Boseman – “Da 5 Bloods” Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Phylicia Rashad – “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” Outstanding Independent Motion Picture: “The Banker” Outstanding International Motion Picture: “Night of the Kings” Outstanding Breakthrough Performance in a Motion Picture: Madalen Mills – “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” Outstanding Animated Motion Picture: “Soul” Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance – Motion Picture: Jamie Foxx – “Soul” Outstanding Short-Film (Live Action): “Black Boy Joy” Outstanding Short-Film (Animated): “Canvas” Outstanding Breakthrough Creative (Motion Picture): Nadia Hallgren – “Becoming” RECORDING CATEGORIES Outstanding New Artist: Doja Cat – “Say So” Outstanding Male Artist: Drake – “Laugh Now, Cry Later” Outstanding Female Artist: Beyoncé – “Black Parade” Outstanding Music Video/Visual Album: “Brown Skin Girl” – Beyonce’ feat WizKid, SAINt JHN, Blu Ivy Carter Outstanding Album: “Chilombo” – Jhené Aiko Outstanding Soundtrack/Compilation Album: “Soul” Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste and Tom MacDougall Outstanding Gospel/Christian Song: “Touch from you” – Tamela Mann Outstanding Gospel/Christian Album: “The Return” – The Clark Sisters Outstanding Jazz Album – Instrumental: “Music From and Inspired By Soul” – Jon Batiste Outstanding Jazz Album – Vocal: “Holy Room – Live at Alte Oper” – Somi Outstanding Soul/R&B Song: “Do It” – Chloe x Halle Outstanding Hip Hop/Rap Song: “Savage Remix” – Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Traditional): Chloe x Halle – “Wonder What She Thinks Of Me” Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Contemporary): Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé – “Savage Remix” Outstanding International Song: “Lockdown” – Original Koffee Outstanding Producer of the Year: Hit-Boy DOCUMENTARY CATEGORIES Outstanding Documentary (Film): “John Lewis: Good Trouble” Outstanding Documentary (Television – Series or Special): “The Last Dance” WRITING CATEGORIES Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series: Michaela Coel – “I May Destroy You” – Ep. 112 “Ego Death” Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series: Attica Locke – “Little Fires Everywhere” – Ep. 104 “The Spider Web” Outstanding Writing in a Television Movie or Special: Geri Cole – “The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special” Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture: Radha Blank – “The Forty-Year-Old Version” Outstanding Writing in a Documentary (Television or Motion Picture): Melissa Haizlip – “Mr. SOUL!” DIRECTING CATEGORIES Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series: Anya Adams – “black-ish” – Ep. 611 “Hair Day” Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series: Hanelle Culpepper – “Star Trek: Picard” – Ep. 101 “Remembrance” Outstanding Directing in a Television Movie or Special: Eugene Ashe – “Sylvie’s Love” Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture: Gina Prince-Bythewood – “The Old Guard” Outstanding Directing in a Documentary (Television or Motion Picture): Keith McQuirter – “By Whatever Means Necessary: The Times of Godfather of Harlem” LITERARY CATEGORIES Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction: “The Awkward Black Man” – Walter Mosley Outstanding Literary Work – Nonfiction: “A Promised Land” – Barack Obama Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author: “We’re Better Than This” – Elijah Cummings Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/Autobiography: “The Dead Are Arising” – Les Payne, Tamara Payne Outstanding Literary Work – Instructional: “Vegetable Kingdom” – Bryant Terry Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry: “The Age of Phillis” – Honorée Jeffers Outstanding Literary Work – Children: “She Was the First!: The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm” – Katheryn Russell-Brown, Eric Velasquez Outstanding Literary Work – Youth/Teens: “Before the Ever After” – Jacqueline Woodson SPECIAL AWARDS Special Award – Youth Activist of the Year: Madison Potts Special Award – Activist of the Year: Reverend Dr. Wendell Anthony Special Award – Spingarn Medal: Misty Copeland Special Award – Founder’s: Toni Vaz Special Award – Sports Award II: WNBA Player’s Association (Nneka Ogqumike accepting on behalf of WNBAPA) Special Award – Key of Life: Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett Special Award – Sports Award I: Stephen Curry Chairman’s Award: Rev. D. James Lawson Presidents Award: LeBron James Hall of Fame Award: Eddie Murphy Related stories from TheWrap:HFPA Rejected Press Conferences for Black-Led Projects Like 'Bridgerton,' Insiders Say (Exclusive)Increased Black Representation Could Add $10 Billion Annually to Hollywood Revenues, Study SaysEvery Black Director Nominated for an Oscar, From John Singleton to Spike Lee (Photos)......
How I learned to stop worrying and enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe | James Greig...
2 weeks ago
I devoured 20 of the films in a month-long frenzy. But I can’t quite shake off the guilt that comes with this guilty pleasureI started England’s second lockdown last year with good intentions: I was broke and underemployed, and since it didn’t look like my economic circumstances would be improving anytime soon, I was determined to emerge from the pandemic rich in cultural capital. I decided to work my way through the British Film Institute’s directors’ poll of the 100 best films ever made and soon I was watching arthouse films like there was going to be an exam at the end of the pandemic. This wasn’t purely about self-improvement: many of these films I found straightforwardly entertaining or moving, while some were more challenging (ie boring) but rewarding in different ways. It felt like a good use of time. But then, one Friday evening, it all came crashing down: my younger brother suggested that we watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier, on the tantalising promise that it was “not as bad as you might expect”.Prior to this, it wasn’t so much that I disliked Marvel films but that I’d staked a claim in being the kind of person who didn’t watch them. I opposed them as a symbol of cultural decline, a phenomenon that had destroyed cinema (I was at least partly correct on both counts – Hollywood’s seeming inability to think of anything new can be traced back in part to the franchise’s success). That night, I was sceptical but curious. In the end, the film wasn’t exactly a revelatory experience, but I enjoyed it well enough. Before I knew it, I had watched more than 20 of them in a month-long frenzy. Continue reading.........
5 Sci-Fi RPGs To Play If You Like D&D...
3 weeks ago
A couple of weeks ago, we explored a few of the many RPGs that offer a different take on the fantasy genre from that most familiar and well-known experience available in Dungeons & Dragons. Many experienced D&D players will be the first to tell you; one of the best ways to expand your horizons and become a better player or GM is to experience what other games have to offer. But in this golden age of tabletop role-playing, there are plenty of options that stretch beyond the traditional confines of the fantasy genre, including some wonderful adventures into the realms of science fiction. Here are several top-notch options to try out, if you and your gaming group are ready for the heady speculative realms of futuristic storytelling. Stars Without Number Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing Players already familiar with the mechanics of D&D will find a lot of recognizable territory in Stars Without Number, a fascinating retro sci-fi RPG that draws inspiration from the earliest days of the tabletop gaming hobby, a tradition also often called the Old School Renaissance. In this sandbox-style RPG, players band together to explore a vast sector of space in the year 3200, after humanity has spread out across the stars, and in the wake of the fall of a vast interstellar empire. While familiar trappings, including attributes like Strength and Dexterity, show the roots of the system, Stars Without Number launches into entirely different arenas in several ways. A thoughtfully imagined system supports psychic powers. Players build and control starships to move through the universe. More than anything, this “feels” like the classic science-fiction setting that first comes to mind when you think about the genre. Unlike many role-playing games, Stars Without Number encourages the PCs to adopt their own goals, and use those to drive much of the action. The sandbox element isn’t just lip service; the expectation is that GMs and players work together to craft a story unique to the characters they’ve rolled up, and use the setting as a backdrop to see how those tales unfold. Also Consider: Traveller, Rocket Age The Strange Publisher: Monte Cook Games To discover a dose of the truly odd for a player group ready for something completely different, it’s easy to recommend the aptly named RPG called The Strange. Brought to us by the same publisher as the wonderful Numenera, The Strange is a game about alternate dimensions – and some of those dimensions are downright bonkers. Ostensibly, The Strange is set on Earth. But the PCs of the game are capable of traveling to parallel “recursions” that feature their own rules of reality, creating a vast networked multiverse of pocket dimensions. And in each, your character might appear differently, but maintain the same core consciousness and goals. These recursions are born from the stories and legends of Earth, creating a vast playground of potential alternate settings, which you jump between from one session to the next. In practical terms, it gives you permission to “borrow” entire settings to pull into your game, letting PCs freely pass between recursions inspired by worlds of The Matrix, Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, DC superheroes, or any other favorite story world that you like. In gameplay, The Strange closely follows the freeform and narrative focus of Monte Cook Games’ Cypher System. That means that a lot of action and narrative direction is driven by the players, and enormous flexibility is given to players to build a unique character. The rules are kept light, and your gaming group is provided the freedom to shape nearly every aspect of the ongoing campaign. But don’t worry, The Strange has plenty of insane ideas to get you started on your adventure. Also Consider: Invisible Sun, Cypher System: The Stars Are Fire Cyberpunk RED Publisher: R. Talsorian Games While the latest edition of the Cyberpunk tabletop RPG just recently released, its history stretches back decades, and served as the inspiration and source material for CD Projekt Red’s recent release of Cyberpunk 2077. No matter your feelings about that game, the latest iteration of the tabletop experience is richly imagined and a ton of fun; it’s an ideal place to take your gaming group if your vision of science fiction involve near-future, neon-lit urban playgrounds, filled with gritty fights and high style. For those keeping track, Cyberpunk RED is purpose-built to bridge the gap in timeline from the earliest editions of the tabletop RPG and the new video game. Your group is given the latitude to explore Night City (or beyond) and uncover the breadth of characters living in the sometimes bleak crossover space between being fully human, and giving over fully to technology. Cyberpunk RED does a standout job in offering up a straightforward core mechanic that governs important interactions like basic combat and skills, but plenty of more involved options for players interested in going deeper, including the complexities of cyberware, and how they slowly degrade a connection to a character’s own undefinable soul. This is also a game that embraces the importance of style and appearance, placing a big emphasis on how “cool” your character is, the clothes they wear, and the way they carry themselves. If that dynamic matches what some of the players in your group most enjoy about role-playing, it’s an ideal game to consider bringing to the table. Also Consider: Shadowrun: Sixth World, Altered Carbon: The Role Playing Game Alien: The Roleplaying Game Publisher: Free League Publishing If you like your science fiction tinged with a healthy dose of horror, you likely already enjoy the universe of the Alien films. What you may not know is that the RPG adaptation of that setting is such great fun, providing gaming groups an easy-to-learn system that ably supports truly dark and scary encounters against the iconic xenomorphs. The Alien RPG employs the same straightforward Year Zero gaming engine found in games like Tales from the Loop and Vaesen. A combination of character skills and attributes determine a pool of six-sided dice that must be rolled, with any rolled “six” leading to a success. But in the Alien RPG, the system has a fun added element defined by stress, which can both give you clutch extra dice in critical moments, but also lead to particularly devastating outcomes upon failure. My favorite aspect of Alien is its two styles of play. The campaign style caters to groups that really want to dive in for an extended multi-session arc – perfect for big fans who just want to enjoy a lengthy tale woven through this surprisingly rich fiction. But for many, the greater draw will be the unique cinematic mode that the game offers, built to offer one-shot adventures that more closely resemble individual movies in the franchise. In these tight and terrifying sessions, it’s quite likely that some (or even most or all) of the PCs will meet a grisly demise, but the brisk nature of the setting ensures everyone still has a great time. Also Consider: Coriolis, Mutant Year Zero Star Trek Adventures Publisher: Modiphius In the world of licensed sci-fi RPGs, one of the easiest to recommend is Star Trek Adventures. That’s because almost everyone who might be willing to play a tabletop RPG likely has at least a passing familiarity with the setting. In addition, the game itself is smartly organized and well-tuned to focus on the sort of cooperative interactions that are the heart of most Star Trek stories. At the same time, it also takes its setting seriously enough that even hardcore Trek enthusiasts will have trouble finding reason to complain. Star Trek Adventures supports a wide variety of potential styles of play, including heading back to the Original Series era of Kirk and Spock, or oven the more grounded and socially complex storylines of shows like Deep Space Nine. But the core rulebook is most firmly focused on offering the fantasy I believe most fans will be most eager to try out – controlling a Star Fleet crew in the Next Generation era, exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations in daring adventures. The writers and designers of this Star Trek RPG exhibit a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek fiction and style, which is apparent after only a brief time digging into the Core Rulebook. It's also just a great-playing game, using Modiphius’ 2d20 system to create tense and exciting encounters, with fun rules that encourage players to work together to take on the most difficult tasks. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering if there was a way to really make up and live out the same sort of stories that unfold in your favorite Star Trek episodes, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what’s on offer here. Also Consider: Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition, John Carter of Mars Honorable mentions: I’d be remiss to not mention two of my favorite role-playing games of recent years in this article. I hesitated to include them as dedicated sci-fi entries, or in the companion article that focused on fantasy RPGs, because both so perfectly straddle the line in-between. Star Wars and Starfinder are both squarely in the “science-fantasy” arena, but both games are also too delightful to be overlooked. Several attempts have been made over the years to capture the fun of the Star Wars universe in a role-playing setting, both in official and non-official formats. But I’m especially fond of Fantasy Flight’s recent efforts, which manifested as several distinct RPGs that shared a common system, each focused on different tones of play. Star Wars: Age of Rebellion is all about the Galactic Civil War, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire handles outlaws and smugglers in the dark underbelly of the galaxy, and Star Wars: Force and Destiny focuses squarely on the power of the Force and its practitioners. But all three sourcebooks share a common language, and support mostly shared rules of play. Whichever “style” appeals to you, the core game itself is simply outstanding, using a set of custom dice to encourage the kind of complex narrative outcomes that you so often see in Star Wars fiction, where success and failure are often tinged by additional twists. Like many aspects of the Star Wars fiction, the Fantasy Flight RPG combines the big heart and emotional grandeur of a sweeping fantasy epic, alongside the spaceships, droids, and lasers of science fiction. If you choose to give it a try, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Starfinder undoubtedly drew some strong inspiration from the space opera richness of Star Wars, but it’s a place to go if you want something a bit more fresh, and also a ruleset that doesn’t veer far from the familiar environs of D&D. That’s because Starfinder is a far-future spin-off of the Pathfinder RPG, which itself was an offshoot from an earlier edition of Dungeons & Dragons. As such, Starfinder maintains much of the recognizable nomenclature and structure of a D&D game, but adds in crazy aliens, ship battles, planetary exploration, and more. But just to keep your on your toes, Starfinder also maintains much of the magic and many of the creatures from the Pathfinder universe. If you like the idea of a flaming +2 plasma rifle that you use to fight necromantic liches that come from a planet of all undead, Starfinder may be right up your alley. There are plenty more wonderful sci-fi RPGs to discover, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself going down a rabbit hole if you decide to investigate these and other related games. Speaking as a longtime player and GM, I can say with confidence that few things can enliven a stale gaming dynamic like introducing a new game system – so long as you can get some intellectual buy-in from all involved players to learn some new mechanics. Moving from the familiar environs of classic western fantasy and launching out into space can be especially rewarding as a departure, even if you ultimately decide to return to the excellent and highly useable systems of D&D, or whatever other game you play most. If you’re looking for more recommendations in the tabletop sphere, check out our Top of the Table hub, or dig through the recent round-up of the Best Board Games of 2020, as well as the Best Tabletop RPG releases of 2020. Finally, if you need help finding the right game for you and your group, feel free to drop me a line, and I’ll do my best to help you find what you’re looking for.......
Does Zack Snyder's Justice League signal the end of the DC Extended Universe?...
3 weeks ago
Can we expect more episodes in DC’s multi-character story arc now that Snyder’s original vision has been released? Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a movie that would never have existed without Covid-19. Just as the pandemic has, on occasion, given the rest of us time to pause and reflect on our place in the world, it gave Snyder time and space (thanks to the rise of streaming) to produce a film he probably never would have made the first time around. And it is better – much, much better – than we had any right to expect.Compared with the 2017 theatrical release, directed by Joss Whedon after Snyder felt compelled to step away from the project after the death of his daughter, the new Justice League is a sombre yet operatic affair, reflecting the sheer breadth and impact of the events on display. Yet it only occasionally feels bloated and overblown. Continue reading.........