The Siberian region of the Russian far-east is famed for a number of reasons. Beautiful topography, freezing temperatures, tundra forests, and nomadic peoples. Within the region lies the Baikal Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the world, withholding around 20% of the world’s water reserves in the frozen state.
Baikal Lake is also what the people of the Buryat community call their home. The republic of Buryatia is settled in and around the lake & among other things, it is also known for being the last surviving Vedic outpost in the far north of Eurasia.
Buryatia has a rich synthesis of different linguistic and religious cultures in it. They use a hybrid script composed of Mongol and Sanskrit scripts, along with the state language of Russian. The richness of their culture has survived the arrival of Islam, Christianity, and Communism in this region in the past centuries.
Buryatia people have a rich culture interspersed with Hindu, Buddhist, and Shaman religions.
The Vedic pantheon lives in sync with the sub-zero freezing terrain of the region. The worship of nature, ancestors, and gods continue to happen with the polytheist zeal for which India is much known.
The modern language is used in the hybrid Vagindra script developed by Agvan Dorzhiev in the 20th century. It is a synthesis of Sanskrit and Mongol scripts and is named so after the Sanskrit iteration of the name of the writer.
The synthesis of Vedic and shamanic cultures in Buryatia is a subject of academic as well as cultural interest among enthusiasts for a good time now. Various scholars have given their lives to understanding the culture of the people.
The subject was touched for the first time in India by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his magnum opus ‘The Arctic Home of the Vedas’. The book tried to talk about the expanse of the Vedic influence in history by giving Siberia as an illustration.
It shook the morale of the British notion of racial superiority in India, and eventually, the book was banned so as to arrest the distribution of knowledge among Hindus.
The various shaman songs of the region are in fact, odes to the Vedic deities Agni and Indra. Agni & Indra are among the several deities for whom shrines are in a place where the Buryats pray for the well-being of their loved ones. One of the most famous shrines is in fact dedicated to the goddess Sarasvati.
Professor K Warikoo (retired) is an authority on inner Asian studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He has done immense research on the Siberian iteration of the Vedic culture. In his seminal work ‘Siberia & India: Cultural, Historical affinities’, he elaborated on the subject in detail.
Rhetoric aside, people have embarked on the trajectory of modernism as the rest of the world has done. People across Baikal lake are now trying to integrate themselves with the vagaries of the modern world under the umbrella of a Russian State.
Similar occurrences have happened with the Buryat people in the past as well. During the czarist regime in Russia, they came to the attention for their non-Christian beliefs as well as the nomadic lifestyle. In order to organize themselves against state imposition, Buddhism was introduced in the early 18th century to hold on to the traditions.
The sine qua non of the tradition is the nature and ancestor worship with Vedic hymns and prayers. The Buryat customs reflect the deep inculturation of the Vedic rituals, and the prasadam being offered at the Sarasvati temple is enough to give a Hindu a nostalgia for his homeland.
The iconography of the Buryatia is laden with colorful lotuses and peacocks, and the pagodas of the Buddhist monasteries are reflective of the Shikhara of the temple architecture from India.
The Ramayana takes a Siberian setting, the water of the Baikal becomes Gangin-os, the holy water of the Ganges.
All of this is composed of the Vedic-Shamanic odes, which are now well recorded in the works of scholars such as professor Daniel Berounsky.
This is a moment of reckoning in the Indian culture right now, where the people are beginning to reclaim their customs and collective memories without becoming obsessed with the approval of the West.
The Vedic gods continue to dance to the tunes of chants in Siberia, in reflection of the ethos of Bharat.
Perhaps, Bharat existed as a civilizational state in its history as being reclaimed by the Indians today.