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The Sumerian God Anu and the Ancient Seers in the Rig Veda

The oldest of the Vedas, a large body of ancient literature and scriptures of Hinduism, the Rigveda contains poetic and mythological origin stories involving gods and their descendants.

In Hindu mythology, Angiras are celestial beings and descendants of gods, who watch over humans and protect sacrificial fires. The Angirasas are among the oldest families of Rishis (Seers) in the Rigveda. In this text, Agni, god of fire, is sometimes referred to as Angiras.

The supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon is AN, or Anu. In the first two letters of the Sanskrit word An-gir-as, AN could refer to Anu. GIR might relate to the Akkadian fire-god— fire as in rocket propulsion. DinGIR in the cuneiform writing meant sky or heaven, and also a god or goddess.

The masters of the sky were perceived as deities by the earthbound. This reminds of Angiras and his descendants, the Angirasas, as a group of higher beings who traversed the realms between gods and men — an inter-stellar and inter-dimensional elite.

Rigveda manuscript in Sanskrit on paper, India, early 19th century. Public Domain

The seven Rishis are identified with the seven stars of the Big Dipper. Their wives are the six stars of the Pleiades (Krittikas), plus one visible double star of the Big Dipper. Originally these seven Rishis, sapta vipra, were identified as Angirasas. — [David Frawley]

Agni, god of fire, shown riding a goat in a miniature painting from an 18th century watercolor. 

The Angirasas and the Bhrigus families “…represent the pre-Rig Vedic past: they go so far back into the past that not only are they eponymous founders of these families (Angiras and Bhrigu respectively), but even certain other ancient Rishis belonging to these families (Brihaspati, Atharvan, Ushana) are already remote mythical persons in the Rigveda; and the names of the two families are already names for mythical and ritual classes: the Angirasas are deified as ‘a race of higher beings between Gods and men’… the Bhrigus and the Atharvans are synonymous with fire-priests in general. …the names of these two families are also found in the Iranian and Greek texts…” — [Shrikant G. Talageri]

A Hermit (Rishi), India was an inspired poet of Ṛegvedic hymns. They were responsible for tending sacrificial fires and were said to invoke gods with poetry. 11th century AD, pink sandstone.  

“No one can compare the Avestan poetry with the Indian [Rigvedic] poetry in its content, in its style of expression, and in its entire coloring, without coming to the conclusion, on account of their agreement in small details which force themselves on us at every step, that both the literatures point not only to a common origin of these two peoples and their religions, but also to a community of Indo-Iranian religious poetry, developed in well-established forms.” — [Hermann Oldenberg]

“The name Anu or Ânava for the Iranians appears to have survived even in later times: the country and the people in the very heart of Avesta land, to the immediate north of Hâmûn-i Hilmand, were known as late as Greek times as the Anauon or Anauoi. The names of Anu tribes in the Rigveda and the Puranas can be clearly identified with the names of the most prominent tribes among latter-day Iranians.” — [Shrikant G. Talageri]

Malati J. Shendge says “Sanskrit is derived from Akkadian and Sumerian…Sanskrit is not a language of the Aryas…It is essentially a lineal descendent of the languages of the Asuras.” She states that the Rig Veda does not belong to the Aryas and in fact in her view this was “purely an assumption without any firm basis.”

And she states “…it is possible to find parallels in the Akkadian sources to many clans and personal names of the poets of Rig Vedic compositions, and of the Asuras, the enemies of Indra.” She believes that the language of the Rig Veda — [meaning the older Vedic Sanskrit which is very different from the latter classical Sanskrit] — is a form of Akkadian and “that the Akkadian in the process of evolution has become what we know today as Sanskrit.”

You can read the full detailed article on the topic at Susan’s website here.

Featured image: A page of a Bhagavata Purana illustrated manuscript in Devanagari. Illustration depicts Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva seated on their respective vahanas. Public Domain

By V. Susan Ferguson, Ancient Origins | References:

Prolegomena on Metre and Textual History of the Rigveda, by Hermann Oldenberg, Berlin 1888; translated into English by V.G. Paranjape and M.A. Mehendale; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Ltd., Delhi, 2005.

The Rig Veda and the History of India, by David Frawley; Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 2001, 2003.

The RIGVEDA, A Historical Analysis, by Shrikant G. Talageri; Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 2000, 2004.

The Civilized Demons: The Harappans in Rigveda, by Malati J. Shendge; Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 1977.

The Language of the Harappans: From Akkadian to Sanskrit, by Malati J. Shendge; Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 1997.