History of the horse in South Asia

History Of The Horse In South Asia

History of the horse in South Asia

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The horse has been present in South Asia from at least the mid 2nd millennium BC, more than two millennia after its domestication in Central Asia. The earliest uncontroversial evidence of horse remains on the Indian Subcontinent date to the early Swat culture (ca. 1600 BC). There are claims of stray finds dating to earlier times, as early as the mid 3rd millennium, but these are not generally accepted. The topic is of some importance to the dating of Indo-Aryan migration to India.

Ashva (a Sanskrit word for a horse) is one of the significant animals finding references in several Hindu scriptures.

The horse in Hindu mythology and texts


There are few clear references to actual horse riding in the Rigveda, most clearly in RV 5.61.2-3, describing the Maruts as riders:
Where are your horses, where the reins? How came ye? how had ye the power? Rein was on nose and seat on back.
The whip is laid upon the flank. The heroes stretch their thighs apart, like women when the babe is born. (trans. Griffith)

According to RV 7.18.19, Dasyu tribes (the Ajas, Shigrus and Yakshus) also had horses. McDonnell and Keith point out that the Rigveda does not describe people riding horses in battle (see Bryant 2001: 117). This is in accord with the usual dating of the Rigveda to the late Bronze Age, when horses played a role as means of transport primarily as draught animals (while the introduction of cavalry dates to the early Iron Age, possibly an Iranian (specifically Parthian)...
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