The Mittanni, empire located in northern Mesopotamia flourished roughly from 1500-1300 BC. At its height the empire extended from Kirkuk (ancient Arrapha) and the Zagros Mountains in the east through Assyria to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 

Its heartland was the Khabur River region, where Wassukkani, its capital, was located. The name Wassuukkani has been traced to the Sanskrit ‘Vasu-khani’ (वसु खानि) that is ‘a mine of wealth’.

The capitals’ archaeological sites have not yet been located. The foreign policy of Mitanni during its early years was based largely on competition with Egypt for control of Syria, but amicable relations were established with the Egyptian king Thutmose IV who reigned between 1425–17 BC. Mitanni’s north-western border with the Hattian kingdom of the Hittites was fluid and constantly subject to aggression except when the two rivals concluded a peace treaty – one that invoked the Indo-Iranian pantheon of Mitra, Varuna, Indra and the Nasatyas (Aswin twins).

The Kingdom of Mittani. Notice the other Sanskrit names
such as Ugarit and Urkesh on the map.

Despite its greatness no Mittani texts regarding its own history have been found, so most of the information concerning the Mittani comes from Egyptian, Hittitie and Assyrian records.

Two important figures in the Mittani-Egyptian equation are the Mitanni king Tushratta and the New Kingdom Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten. The Sun King Akhenaten of Egypt who ruled between 1352-1336 BC was a son-in-law of Tushratta, the Mitanni king. The name Tushratta has been recorded in the Hittite cuneiform script. Some have suggested that the Sanskrit origin of Tushratta is Dasaratha, a few others that it is Tvesaratha (having splendid chariots), a name which is attested in the Rigveda.

In his research paper ‘Akhenaten, Surya, and the Rigveda’, Prof Subhash Kak (an Indian American computer scientist, previous Head of Computer Science Department, Oklahoma State University known for his Indological publications on history, the philosophy of science, ancient astronomy, and the history of mathematics) states that the Mitanni, who worshiped Vedic gods, were an Indic kingdom that had bonds of marriage across several generations with the Egyptian 18th dynasty to which Akhenaten belonged.

Subhash Kak traces the names of the Mittani kings to Sanskrit. He says, “The first Mitanni king was Sutarna I (good sun). He was followed by Baratarna I (or Paratarna great sun), Parasuksatra (ruler with axe),…. Saustatar (Sauksatra, son of Suksatra, the good ruler), Artadama (abiding in cosmic law)..Tushratta (Dasaratha), and finally Matiwazza (Mativaja, whose wealth is thought) during whose lifetime the Mitanni state appears to have become a vassal to Assyria”. Subhash Kak traces the ‘arna’ syllable in the names of the kings to ‘araNi’ (अरणि) meaning ‘sun’.

A cuneiform inscription.
Amarna letter from King Tushratta
to Akhenaten – an Egyptian Pharaoh of
the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt.
The name Akhenaten has been traced to
the Sanskrit ‘Eknathan‘. 

In his research ‘About the  Mittani-Aryan Gods’, Arna ud Fournet states, “A number of Indo-European sounding words have been identified in the cuneiform documents of the Mitanni kingdom (1500-1200 BC). In addition to nouns and adjectives with parallels in Sanskrit this Hurrian speaking kingdom had kings with Indo-Aryan names and two documents even list the main Gods of the Indian pantheon….”

Arna ud Fournet quotes Manfred Mayrhofer who was an Austrian Indo-Europeanist who specialized in Indo-Iranian languages. Mayrhofer served as professor emeritus at the University of Vienna. He is noted for his etymological dictionary of Sanskrit. Mayrhofer had written about some other adjectives that have been found in a document in Yurgan Tepe (ancient Gasur) which included “babru and pabru-nni (cf. Skrt babhrú- ‘brown’), parita (cognate of  Sanskrt palitá- ‘grey’) and pinkara (cf. Sanskrit  pingala or ‘red’).”

One of the most fascinating sections of the Mitanni Aryan documentation is the mention of five major Indo-Aryan deities – Mitra, Varuna, Indra and the Nasatya. Mayrhofer states, “If asked to cite them in their most common nominative forms, no Vedologist could possibly hesitate to put down the series: Mitrá, Varuna, Indra, Nasatya. .If further asked to name a Rigvedic verse in which thesenames appear side by side and in this order, he would have to quote Rig Veda 10.125.1bc :

Aham mitra varunobha bibharmyaham
aham indragnee aham asvinobha

In fact not only the Mittani Kings, but the Egyptian Pharaohs have also have been known to have a major Indic influence.

Suggested readings:

1. About the Mittani Aryan Gods

2. Mittani – Indo Iranians of Asia Minor 


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