It derives from a collective *ret-h- to a Proto-Indo-European word *rot-o- for "wheel" that also resulted in Latin rota and is also known from Germanic, Celtic and Baltic. The Sanskrit terms for the wagon pole, harness, yoke and wheel have cognates in other branches of Indo-European.
Chariots figure prominently in the Rigveda, evidencing their presence in India in the 2nd millennium BC. Among Rigvedic deities, notably Ushas (the dawn) rides in a chariot, as well as Agni in his function as a messenger between gods and men.
The Rigvedic chariots are described as made of Salmali (RV 10.85.20), Khadira and Simsapa (RV 3.53.19).
In RV 6.61.13, the Sarasvati river is described as being big like a chariot of the Rigvedic chariot. Measurements for the chariot are found in the Shulba Sutras. The number of wheels varies. A similar term in the Rigveda is Anas (often translated as "cart").
Development of the spoke-wheeled chariot is associated with the Proto-Indo-Iranians. The earliest fully developed war chariots known are from the chariot burials of the Andronovo (Timber-Grave) sites of the Sintashta-Petrovka culture in modern Russia and Kazakhstan dating from around 2000 BCE.
The chariot must not necessarily be regarded as a marker for Indo-European or Indo-Iranian presence. According to Raulwing, it is an undeniable fact that only comparative Indo-European linguistics is able to furnish the methodological basics of the hypothesis of a "PIE chariot", in other words: "Ausserhalb der Sprachwissenschaft winkt keine Rettung!"
The earliest evidence for chariots in southern Central Asia (on the Oxus) dates to the Achaemenid period (apart from chariots harnessed by oxen, as seen on petroglyphs). No Andronovian chariot burial has been found south of the Oxus.
There are a few depictions of chariots among the petroglyphs in the sandstone of the Vindhya range. Two depictions of chariots are found in Morhana Pahar, Mirzapur district. One shows a team of two horses, with the head of a single driver visible. The other one is drawn by four horses, has six-spoked wheels, and shows a driver standing up in a large chariot-box. This chariot is being attacked, with a figure wielding a shield and a mace standing at its path, and another figure armed with bow and arrow threatening its right flank. It has been suggested (Sparreboom 1985:87) that the drawings record a story, most probably dating to the early centuries BC, from some center in the area of the Ganges–Yamuna plain into the territory of still neolithic hunting tribes. The drawings would then be a representation of foreign technology, comparable to the Arnhem Land Aboriginal rock paintings depicting Westerners. The very realistic chariots carved into the Sanchi stupas are dated to roughly the 1st century.
The earliest chariot remains that have been found in India (at Atranjikhera) has been dated to between 350 and 50 BCE. There is evidence of wheeled vehicles (especially miniature models) in the Indus Valley Civilization, but not of chariots.
Indus valley sites have offered several instances of evidence of spoked wheels. Archaeologist B.B.Lal argues that finds of terracotta wheels painted lines (or low relief lines) and similar seals indicate the existence and use of spoked wheel chariots in Harappan Civilization, as showed in the Bhirrana excavations in 2005-06. Bhagwan Singh had made a similar assertion and S.R.Rao had presented evidence of chariots in bronze models from Daimabad (Late Harappan). The archaeologists at Daimabad are not unanimous about the date of the bronzes discovered there. On the basis of the circumstantial evidence, M. N. Deshpande, S. R. Rao and S. A. Sali are of view that these objects belong to the Late Harappan period. Looking at the analysis of the elemental composition of these artifacts, D. P. Agarwal concluded that these objects may belong to the historical period. His conclusion is based on the fact these objects contain more than 1% Arsenic, while no arsenical alloying has been found in any other Chalcolithic artifacts.
In Hindu temple festivals
Ratha or Rath means a chariot or car made from wood with wheels. The Ratha may be driven manually by rope, pulled by horses or elephants. Rathas are used mostly by the Hindu temples of South India for Rathoutsava (Car festival). During the festival, the temple deities are driven through the streets, accompanied by the chanting of mantra, hymns, shloka or bhajan.
Picture of Tirunelveli Nellaiappar Temple Golden Ratha
Banashankari Amma Temple's wooden Ratha, Badami, Karnataka (1855 photo)
Decorated Ratha, Mundkur, Udupi District, Karnataka.
In some Hindu temples, there are shrines or buildings named rathas because they have the shape of a huge chariot. Or because they contains a divinity like does a temple chariot.
Konark Sun Temple Ratha wheel
Rathas in architecture
Rathas in popular culture
Artist's pseoudonym of Tori J. O'Shea, photographer and graphic novelist.
- A discussion of the difference between ratha and anas is found e.g. in Kazanas, Nicholas. 2001. The AIT and Scholarship
- Cf. Raulwing 2000
- I. e., "Outside of linguistics there's no hope."
- Raulwing 2000:83
- Cf. Henri Paul Francfort in Fussman, G.; Kellens, J.; Francfort, H.-P.; Tremblay, X. (2005), p. 272-276
- They were not used for warfare. H. P. Francfort, Fouilles de Shortugai, Recherches sur L'Asie Centrale Protohistorique Paris: Diffusion de Boccard, 1989, p. 452. Cf. Henri Paul Francfort in Fussman, G.; Kellens, J.; Francfort, H.-P.; Tremblay, X. (2005), p.272
- H. P. Francfort in Fussman, G.; Kellens, J.; Francfort, H.-P.; Tremblay, X. (2005), p. 220, 272; H.-P. Francfort, Fouilles de Shortugai
- (Bryant 2001)
- Bryant 2001
- The Sarasvati Flows on, 2002, pp.74-75, Figs 3.28 to 331
- L.S.Rao, Harappan Spoked Wheels Rattled Down the Streets of Bhirrana, Dist. Fatehabad, Haryana
- Harappan Civilization and the Vedic Literature, in Hindi, 1987
- Dhavalikar, M. K. (1982). Daimabad Bronzes. in Gregory L. Possehl. ed. Harappan Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. Warminster: Aris and Phillips. pp. 361–66. ISBN 0-85668-211-X.
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- Bryant, Edwin (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513777-9.
- Fussman, G.; Kellens, J.; Francfort, H.-P.; Tremblay, X. (2005). Aryas, Aryens et Iraniens en Asie Centrale. Institut Civilisation Indienne ISBN 2-86803-072-6
- Kazanas, Nicholas (2001). The AIT and Scholarship. Omilos Meleton, Athens.
- Peter Raulwing (2000). Horses, Chariots and Indo-Europeans, Foundations and Methods of Chariotry Research from the Viewpoint of Comparative Indo-European Linguistics. Archaeolingua, Series Minor 13, Budapest.