Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Divine Horses of Ancient Bactria (900 BC)


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"In his 1998 study The Arrow and the Spindle, Karmay traces several antecedents for the windhorse tradition in Tibet. First, he notes that there has long been confusion over the spelling because the sound produced by the word can be spelt either klung rta (river horse) or rlung rta (wind horse). In the early twentieth century the great scholar Ju Mipham felt compelled to clarify that in his view rlung rta was preferable to klung rta, indicating that some degree of ambiguity must have persisted at least up to his time. Karmay suggests that "river horse" (klung rta) was actually the original concept, as found in the Tibetan nag rtsis system of astrology imported from China. The nag rtsis system has four basic elements: srog (vital force), lu (wylie: lus, body), wangtang (wylie: dbang thang, "field of power"), and lungta (wylie: klung rta, river horse). Karmey suggests that klung rta in turn derives from the Chinese idea of the lung ma, "dragon horse," because in Chinese mythology dragons often arise out of rivers (although druk is the Tibetan for dragon, in some cases they would render the Chinese lung phonetically). Thus, in his proposed etymology the Chinese lung ma became klung rta which in turn became rlung rta. Samtay further reasons that the drift in understanding from "river horse" to "wind horse" would have been reinforced by associations in Tibet of the "ideal horse" (rta chogs) with swiftness and wind.".....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_Horse

Sassanian horses in rock reliefs.....http://dariocaballeros.blogspot.com/2013_07_01_archive.html

"Herodotus provides a description of ten sacred horses in magnificent harness that were paving the way for the sacred chariot of Akhuramazda in the army of Xerxes. Those horses were bred in the Nisei plain"between Balkh and Midis." They were graceful, had long, thin and flexible necks, large eyes, clearly shaped heads, thin and strong legs."

..... the most popular of the Bactrian animals is the Bactrian horse. This animal played a partial role in the reputation of Bactrian cavalry in the ancient world.

Since ancient times the"heavenly horses" were a political issue. The Persian emperor Cyrus married a daughter of King of Medes Astyages to gain access to the Bactrian horses, which he was unable to secure by force. Alexander the Great, through his marriage to Roxane, the daughter of a Bactrian king, acquired the fastest and most gallant horses of his time. It is to them he owed much of his successes on the battlefield. The Chinese, under Emperor Wu, in 103 B.C., even started a war to acquire those horses.

"The Twelve Animals and the Old Scythian Calendar......7. Horse was actually “the Celestial Horse” – a legendary creature with wings and fish tale. These attributes symbolize its ability to move like a wind and swim under water, i.e. to go to the upper and the lower worlds respectively thus connecting the vertical axis of the universe. (“Chulman Tolgau”, I; 17: 66-67). Horse was a common symbol of the life-force (Scyth. vāyuka or the “wind soul”) in the Native Eurasian mythologies being a mediator between the visible and the invisible as its position in the middle of the animal cycle suggests. The horse with golden mane was an incarnation of the solar god Goitosyros (Mithra) sawn by Targitaos in the night of Nausard (cf. Zoroastrian calendar in which Mithra also rules the 7th month Mehr). In the Zodiac horse is related to the summer solstice corresponding to the Zoroastrian month Tīr which deity (= the planet Mercury) has the white horse as one of his incarnations, while the arrow (Pers. tīr) was an attribute of Goitosyros-Apollo carried by his priest – the Scythian mage and poet Abaris. ....Mundus Scythicus..."....http://shakadvipa.blogspot.com/2012/03/normal-0-21-false-false-false-bg-x-none.html

Images of the Akhal–Teke horse dated to 9th centuries B.C., or even from the 4th to the 2nd millennia B.C., are found in the territory between the Caucasus and Luristan.... Probe, an emperor of Rome, is known to have been presented with an Akhal–Teke horse that could cover the distance of 150 kilometers a day for up to ten days in a row.... The Akhal–Tekes have been valued in Baghdad Caliphate (9–10th centuries A.D.). The Caliphate's elite army consisted of mounted Turkmen who rode Turkmenian thoroughbreds.

"At a farm near Geok-Depe, we were able to see a pair of the famous Akhal Teke horses. They are indeed beautiful, tall horses, able to run all day."....http://rnrblog.roughandreadytours.net/category/central-asia/turkmenistan-and-uzbekistan/page/2

Marco Polo paid tribute to the Turkmenian horse. He wrote that Turkmenistan was producing excellent large horses that were selling at 200 libras each. Marco Polo traced the ancestry of Akhal–Tekes to Bucephalos, the legendary stallion of Alexander the Great. Alexander's affection for that horse has a material evidence. At the death of his stallion, Alexander interrupted his campaign to erect a memorial tomb in his honor, which is still in existence in Pakistan.

The Old Iranian name of Paktra, which the classical writers named it Bactria and their language was known as Bactrian, and after invasion of Iran by Arabs in 7th century CE it has come to be called Balkh; A northern province of Turkistan in modern Afghanistan, which boarders to the north, the river Oxus and the former USSR.

Bahlika horses in Mahabharata......Like Kamboja, Bahlika region was famous for its horses. They were used by kings in wars. Vasudeva Krishna gave Arjuna hundreds of thousands of draft horses from the country of the Balhikas as his sister, Subhadra’s excellent dower. Shikhandin's son Kshatradeva used steeds from Balhika in the Kurukshetra war. Bahlika breed of horses were one among the type of horses employed in Kurukshetra war. Many steeds of the Vanayu, the hilly, the Kamboja, and the Balhika breeds, with tails and ears and eyes motionless and fixed, possessed of great speed, well-trained, and ridden by accomplished warriors armed with swords and lances, were seen. Bhagiratha gave away a hundred thousand horses of the Balhika breed, all white of complexion, adorned with garlands of gold. . Dhritarashtra wished to give sixteen cars made of gold, each drawn by four excellent and well-adorned steeds of uniform colour and of the Bahlika breed to Vasudeva Krishna who came to talk to him on behalf of the Pandavas .

Bahlika horses in other references......Brahmanda Purana refers to the horses from Bahlika. Similarly, Valmiki Ramayana refers to the horses of Bahlika, Kamboja and Vanayu countries as of excellent breed. Upamitibhavaprapanchakatha singles out horses from Bahlika and those from Kamboja and Turuksha as the best. The Abhidhanaratnamala also mentions examples of excellent horses from Bahlika, Persia, Kamboja, Vanayu, Sindhu and the land bordering on Sindhu.

The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World David W. Anthony.... lifts the veil that has long shrouded these original Indo-European speakers, and reveals how their domestication of horses and use of the wheel spread language and transformed civilization......Anthony argues that we speak English not just because our parents taught it to us but because wild horses used to roam the steppes of central Eurasia, because steppedwellers invented the spoked wheel and because poetry once had real power. . . .

Models of two-wheeled carts from c. 3000 BCE found at Altyn-Depe are the earliest complete evidence of wheeled transport in Central Asia.....Altyndepe (Алтын-Депе, the Turkmen for "Golden Hill") is a Bronze Age (BMAC) site in Turkmenistan, near Aşgabat, inhabited in the 3rd to 2nd millennia BC, abandoned around 1600 BC.

Proto-Indo-European religion......"Horse Twins, usually have a name that means 'horse' *ekwa-, but the names are not always cognate, because there is no lexical set (Mallory & Adams 2006, p. 432). They are always male and usually have a horse form, or sometimes, one is a horse and the other is a boy. They are brothers of the Sun Maiden or Dawn goddess, sons of the Sky god, continued in Sanskrit Ashvins and Lithuanian Ašvieniai, identical to Latvian Dieva deli. Other horse twins are: Greek, Dioskuri (Polydeukes and Kastor); borrowed into Latin as Castor and Pollux; Irish, the twins of Macha; Old English, Hengist and Horsa (both words mean 'stallion'), and possibly Old Norse Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse born of Loki; Slavic Lel and Polel; possibly Christianized in Albanian as Sts. Flori and Lori. The horse twins may be based on the morning and evening star (the planet Venus) and they often have stories about them in which they "accompany" the Sun goddess, because of the close orbit of the planet Venus to the sun, (JIES 10, 1&2, pp. 137–166, Michael Shapiro, who references D. Ward, The Divine Twins, Folklore Studies, No. 19, Univ. Calif. Press, Berkeley, 1968,).

White horses have a special significance in the mythologies of cultures around the world. They are often associated with the sun chariot, with warrior-heroes, with fertility (in both mare and stallion manifestations), or with an end-of-time saviour.....Herodotus reported that white horses were held as sacred animals in the Achaemenid court of Xerxes the Great (ruled 486-465 BC),.....

In Zoroastrianism, one of the three representations of Tishtrya, the hypostasis of the star Sirius, is that of a white stallion (the other two are as a young man, and as a bull). The divinity takes this form during the last 10 days of every month of the Zoroastrian calendar, and also in a cosmogonical battle for control of rain. In this latter tale (Yasht 8.21-29), which appears in the Avesta's hymns dedicated to Tishtrya, the divinity is opposed by Apaosha, the demon of drought, which appears as a black stallion.....

White horses are also said to draw divine chariots, such as that of Aredvi Sura Anahita, who is the Avesta's divinity of the waters. Representing various forms of water, her four horses are named "wind", "rain", "clouds" and "sleet" (Yasht 5.120).

Native American....In Blackfoot mythology, the snow deity Aisoyimstan is a white-colored man in white clothing who rides a white horse....The "cold maker" of Blackfeet mythology. He freezes the earth or blankets it with snow. Aisoyimstan is portrayed as a man, white in color, with white hair, dresses in white clothes, and riding a white horse.

NAVAJO WINDHORSE......The story goes, that the Johano-ai' starts each day from his Hogan in the east and rides across the skies to his Hogan in the west, carrying the shining golden disk, the Sun. They say that when the skies are blue and the weather is fair, Johano-ai' is mounted on his Turquoise Horse or his White Shell Horse; but when the heavens are dark with storm, he is riding the Horse of Coal......When a horse of the Sun God gallops, he raises not dust but glittering grains of mineral, such that are used in our ceremonies. And that when he rolls and shakes himself, it is this shining mineral that flies from him......The White Shelled Horse of the east is the color of purity and of the spirit. They say that Sun God rode this horse when he was courting Changing Woman, the earth goddess. The white horse occupies the east, the color of dawn or early morning light.

Hayagriva, also spelt Hayagreeva; (Sanskrit:हयग्रीव, IAST:hayagrīva) is a horse-headed avatāra of the god Mahā Viṣṇu in Hinduism. In Sanskrit, Hayagrīva means haya=Horse, grīva=Neck.

"Among 250 equine breeds known today in the world the Akhal–Teke horse is universally considered one of the most ancient ones. Many researchers regard it as the most ancient one. Of ancient noblesse, older than that of the Arabian or the English Thoroughbred, the Akhal–Teke is a full–blooded horse that is second to none.....The Akhal–Teke's origins are lost in the dark of centuries, or even millennia. Cuneiform texts found in Assyria tell us about horses or, as they were then called"donkeys from the mountains" from Midis and Urartu. Tiglatpalasar (1115–1077 B.C.) wrote:"I seized huge herds of horses, mules, and other cattle from their meadows. I made them pay a tribute of 1200 horses.".....Herodotus provides a description of ten sacred horses in magnificent harness that were paving the way for the sacred chariot of Akhuramazda in the army of Xerxes. Those horses were bred in the Nisei plain"between Balkh and Midis." They were graceful, had long, thin and flexible necks, large eyes, clearly shaped heads, thin and strong legs......Images of the Akhal–Teke horse dated to 9th centuries B.C., or even from the 4th to the 2nd millennia B.C., are found in the territory between the Caucasus and Luristan.".....http://www.horses.ru/akhal_teke/history.htm

Midi?.....Notes on Herodotus, Volume 1.....By Thomas Gaisford

Click on the map to enlarge

"The beginning of the 17th century brought a new era for both the Native American and the white men, for this date marked the introduction of the horse into Indian culture. Within a hundred years the horse population had grown into the tens of thousands among the nations of the Comanche, Crow, Cheyenne, Sioux, Arapaho, Kiowa, Nez Perces, Pawnee and Blackfoot. It had become a measure of wealth, trade and class, the main means to hunt buffalo and a tactical instrument of war......Riding at a full gallop with nothing more than a pelt cinched to the horses back they put to shame the generations of European horseman to follow in the West. The Indian and his Spanish Mustang were inseparable companions, sharing a deep sense of friendship and understanding that has not been equaled since....Among the Sioux the horse was more than a mere animal it was viewed as “medicine” with supernatural potency. ....http://spanishmustangs.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/the-age-of-horse-culture-american-indian-horsemanship/

"The Ashvamedha (Sanskrit: अश्वमेध aśvamedhá; "horse sacrifice") was one of the most important royal rituals of Vedic religion, described in detail in the Yajurveda (TS 7.1-5, VSM 22–25[1] and the pertaining commentary in the Shatapatha Brahmana ŚBM 13.1–5). The Rigveda does have descriptions of horse sacrifice, notably in hymns RV 1.162-163 (which are themselves known as aśvamedha), but does not allude to the full ritual according to the Yajurveda.....The Ashvamedha could only be conducted by a king (rājā). Its object was the acquisition of power and glory, the sovereignty over neighbouring provinces, and general prosperity of the kingdom.........The horse to be sacrificed must be a stallion, more than 24, but less than 100 years old. The horse is sprinkled with water, and the Adhvaryu and the sacrificer whisper mantras into its ear. Anyone who should stop the horse is ritually cursed, and a dog is killed symbolic of the punishment for the sinners. The horse is then set loose towards the North-East, to roam around wherever it chooses, for the period of one year (or half a year, according to some commentators). The horse is associated with the Sun, and its yearly course. If the horse wanders into neighbouring provinces hostile to the sacrificer, they must be subjugated. The wandering horse is attended by a hundred young men, sons of princes or high court officials, charged with guarding the horse from all dangers and inconvenience. During the absence of the horse, an uninterrupted series of ceremonies is performed in the sacrificer's home.......Pusyamitra Sunga is said to have performed the Ashvamedha rite after he toppled Mauryan rule in 185 BC......A historically documented performance of the Ashvamedha is during the reign of Samudragupta I (died 380), the father of Chandragupta II. Special coins were minted to commemorate the Ashvamedha and the king took on the title of Maharajadhiraja after successful completion of the sacrifice.".....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashvamedha



John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….December 2012



  1. The red horse in the picture is it a fully grown horse

  2. Nice post on divine horses. Did not know there were divine horses. Good to know more about these horses.
    Check my link on world of horses.