The last Ice Age, which began nearly 125,000 years ago, had reached its maximum extent during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) around 20,000 years ago. At this time, large parts of the Northern Hemisphere were covered in kilometers thick ice caps, and the sea level was nearly 400 feet lower than it is today.[1] Large tracts of the continental shelves which are now submerged under water, used to be sea-front, real estate – perhaps supporting many thriving, maritime, Ice Age civilizations. Not only were the existing islands much larger back then, but many new islands were exposed in the seas, which were connected to each other and to the mainland by land bridges, forming vast antediluvian landmasses. 

Around 19,000 years ago, as the weather began to warm up, the ice-sheets started to melt and retreat, resulting in a gradual rise in sea level. The Barbados coral reef borings reveal that, a massive pulse of freshwater – called “Meltwater Pulse 1A” or MWP-1A – was released into the oceans from the melting ice caps between 14,690 - 13,730 years ago, which raised sea level by nearly 24 meters.[2] This took place during a sudden warm phase known as the Bølling–Allerød interstadial, which extended from about 14,400 to 13,000 years ago.

It was around this time that the Ice Age finally appeared to be ending and the climate started warming up all over the world. The glaciers were in retreat and plant and animal life started to proliferate. All was warm, good and looking up. But then, something drastic happened which completely reversed the process of post-glacial warming. 

Around 12,900 years ago (10,900 BCE), temperatures suddenly plummeted to glacial-like conditions for a period of nearly 1200 years. It was as if some giant freezer switch had been flipped. The glaciers began to advance to their Ice Age positions. This period of sudden cooling is called the Younger Dryas (YD) period, since it was first recognized in fossil pollens of the Dryas octopetala wildflower, which became common in parts of Europe some 12,800 years ago. 

For a long time scientists were unsure as to what had caused this abrupt reversal to Ice Age conditions. In 2007, a team of international scientists led by Richard B. Firestone found compelling evidence that that the earth was bombarded by multiple fragments of a giant disintegrating comet nearly 12,900 years ago, (c.10,900 BCE) which destabilized the Laurentide Ice Sheet and triggered the Younger Dryas cooling. The shock waves and biomass burning generated by this catastrophic impact even led to the extinction of 35 genera of North American Pleistocene megafauna, and ended the prehistoric Clovis culture – the first human inhabitants of the New World.[3]

The Younger Dryas period, which extended for roughly 1200 years from c.10, 900 to 9,700 BCE, ended as abruptly as it had started, for reasons not clearly understood. Geologists from the Niels Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen, studied the Greenland ice-core data in 2008 and concluded that the Ice Age ended exactly in 9,703 BCE. Ice Core researcher Jorgen Peder Steffensen wrote that, “Then, finally 11,703 years before 2000 AD, the climate flipped back into a warmer mode where it has remained ever since.”[4]

In an interview with the Danish paper Politiken, Steffensen said that the transition from the ice age to our current warm, interglacial period was so sudden that “it is as if a button was pressed.” In a span of a single year, temperatures increased by 10 – 15°C in many parts of the world.

In spite of the fact that the end of the last Ice Age has been narrowed down to a specific year i.e. 9,703 BCE, scientists don’t know what caused this sudden reversal in temperatures. However, the legends and sacred texts left behind by our ancestors provide some tantalizing clues. 

Figure 1: Temperature changes during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene period, with the Younger Dryas period clearly marked out. Temperature graph based on Greenland ice core data. Credit: United States Geological Survey, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Rigvedic legend of Indra killing the dragon Vritra, which has been repeated in many hymns of the Rig Veda, appears to be describing a blistering volley of impacts from a comet swarm as being the causative agent for end of the Ice Age. The echoes of the same story can be found in the Mesopotamian legend of Marduk slaying the water dragon Tiamat, the Cherokee folktale of the God of Thunder killing the monstrous water serpent Uktena, and the Greek legend of Zeus killing the serpent-headed monster called Typhon.

Indra Kills Vritra

The Rig Veda are the earliest scriptural texts of humanity composed in Vedic Sanskrit. The text contains more hymns dedicated to the thunder-wielding King of the Gods, Indra, than to any other deity. The foremost achievement of Indra, for which he had been extolled in many hymns, was the smiting of the dragon Vritra (“the enveloper”), and releasing the waters of the Seven Rivers that had been “imprisoned” by Vritra. It was because of this feat that Indra was given the epithet Vrtraghna (“the slayer of Vritra”). The hymns describing Indra’s battle with Vritra are not only found in the Early Books (6, 3, 7) of the Rig Veda but also in the Middle Books (4, 2) and the Late Books (5, 1, 8, 9, 10).

The first Rigvedic book, Mandala VI (Book 6), provides a detailed description of Indra’s battle with Vritra, which was repeated without much variation in the later books. 

Before his epic battle with Vritra, Indra consumed the Soma juice which gave him “power and rapture” (RV 6.40.2). Then, “leagued with Visnu”, he “slewest Vrtra the dragon who enclosed the waters” (RV 6.20.2). The weapon used by Indra for crushing the dragon was his irresistible thunder, “the bolt with thousand spikes and hundred edges”, which was made for him by Tvastar (RV 6.17.10). When Indra smote the dragon, he “settest free the rushing wave of waters, the floods’ great swell encompassed and obstructed” (RV 6.17.12). The released waters cascaded down the mountain slopes along channels that were carved out by Indra, and rushed towards the ocean. “Along steep slopes their course thou turnedst, Indra, directed downward, speeding to the ocean” (RV 6. 17.12).

This is the essential theme of the legend that repeats in different hymns of the Rig Veda. It is obvious that the hymns describe an event of monumental importance that occurred in the Himalayas in the distant past, for there are unambiguous references to the “Seven Rivers”, which are the seven tributaries of the Indus River that are collectively called Sapta-Sindhu. For instance, 

“He, men, is Indra, Who slew the Dragon, freed the Seven Rivers, and drove the kine forth from the cave of Vala” (RV 2.12.2-3).
“Indra with mighty strength cleft asunder the head of Arbuda the watery monster, Slain Ahi (another name of Vrtra, meaning “serpent”), and set free the Seven Rivers” (RV 10.67.12).

It has been noted by scientists and researchers that the smiting of Vritra and the release of the imprisoned waters of the Seven Rivers could allude to the great meltdown of Himalayan glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age. One of the earliest observations along these lines came from geologist B. P. Radhakrishna, who wrote in the book, Vedic Sarasvati: Evolutionary History of a Lost River of Northwestern India (1999) that,

“Geological record indicates that during Late Pleistocene glaciation, the waters of the Himalaya were frozen and that in place of rivers there were only glaciers, masses of solid ice. As and when the climate became warmer, the glaciers began to break up and the frozen water held by them surged forth in great floods, inundating the alluvial plains in front of the mountains. This was a great event and no wonder, the early inhabitants of the plains burst into song praising Lord Indra for breaking up the glaciers and releasing water which flowed out in seven mighty channels (Sapta Sindhu). The analogy of a slowly moving serpent (Ahi) for describing the Himalayan glacier is most appropriate.”[5]

Figure 2: The Khumbu Glacier lies at an elevation of 17,999 feet on the slopes of Mount Everest and moves an estimated 3 to 4 feet every day. Credit: Uwe Gille, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Radhakrishna’s observation that the serpentine Himalayan glaciers were described in the Vedic hymns as the Vritra dragon is most illuminating. However, his suggestion that the melting of the Himalayan glaciers had resulted in a sudden release of the frozen waters, which flowed out in seven mighty channels, is not entirely convincing. This is because, the melting of glaciers occurs slowly due to the thermal inertia of large ice sheets. The Meltwater Pulse 1B, which had caused an episode of rapid sea level rise between 9500 BCE – 9200 BCE, had begun nearly 200 years after the Ice Age had ended. 

On the other hand, the Vritra legend describes a sudden, dramatic release of the “imprisoned” waters of the Seven Rivers, after Indra smote the dragon. 

A slightly different scenario was proposed by Graham Hancock in the book, Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization (2002). Hancock suggested that the release of the imprisoned waters probably describes a particularly devastating episode of “glacial lake outburst flooding” (GLOF), which occur when massive glacial lakes break through their ice or moraine dams. 

Outburst floods occur routinely in the Himalayas even now. Sometimes landslides or surging glaciers block-off river valleys creating large glacial lakes. A subsequent cloudburst or landslide can cause the moraine dam to be breached, resulting in catastrophic outburst floods that cause significant downstream damages, obliterating villages, army camps, power plants, roads and arable land.

A similar situation may have prevailed towards the end of the last Ice Age, albeit on a much larger scale.

With the onset of the Younger Dryas, the glaciers had started advancing again, and attained the same gigantic size as they had during the Last Glacial Maximum. It is likely that the re-advance of the Himalayan glaciers between 10,900 – 9,700 BCE blocked off most of the important river valleys, cut off the flow of water along the river channels, and created massive, upstream glacial lakes. The Vedic bards may have described this event as the dragon Vritra “imprisoning” the waters of the Seven Rivers.

When the Ice Age came to a sudden end in 9,703 BCE, the ice-dams which had blocked the flow of the rivers were suddenly and catastrophically breached, and the waters of the massive glacial lakes burst out in huge torrents, cascading down the steep mountain slopes, and glided all the way to the ocean. This event was probably described in the Rigvedic hymns as Indra slaying the dragon Vritra and releasing the waters of the Seven Rivers.

Figure 3: Glacial Lake Outburst Floods are caused when the moraine dam is breached due to cloudbursts, landslides, earthquakes and meteor impacts. Credit: Richardson and Reynolds, BBC.

Graham Hancock had further opined that, “the sages who composed at least some of the verses of the Vedas could have been in the Himalayas 12,000 years ago to witness the end of the Younger Dryas cold advance and to commemorate it as Indra’s victory over Vrtra.”[6]

While this seems to be the most logical explanation for these Rigvedic hymns, such ideas are generally ignored by mainstream historians, who seem to assign no particular geological, archaeological or environmental importance to these sacred hymns left behind by our ancestors. Which, of course, doesn’t make any sense, since sacred texts which have been memorized and transmitted orally for many millennia are expected contain important clues to the significant events of past.

The sudden ending of the Younger Dryas period resulted in a slew of catastrophic events transpiring all over the world, and not just in the Himalayas. The Vedic legend of Indra slaying Vritra has its almost exact counterpart in the story of Marduk slaying the water dragon Tiamat, as described in the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation epic. 

Marduk was the god of war and thunder and stood at the head of the Babylonian pantheon. The name Marduk was pronounced as "Marutuk",[7] which sounds uncannily similar to "Marutvat", an epithet of Indra, which means “the leader of the Maruts” (the Maruts are a group of sky-gods who accompany Indra). While Indra rode a chariot drawn by two horses or was seated on an elephant called Airavata, Marduk went to battle on his storm-chariot drawn by four horses, or rode a horned dragon called Mushussu. Marduk’s thunderbolt and the “vajra” in the hands of Indra look exactly similar; both resemble double tridents.

Tiamat, was the goddess of the salt sea, symbolizing the forces of chaos. In some sources she is described as an enormous sea serpent or sea dragon. Tiamat spawned a brood of monsters – fanged serpents, scorpion men and others – and appointed her son Kingu as her general in her battle against the gods. But Marduk made a “net of seven winds” to entrap her, released a mighty wind that burst her belly and slayed her with his lightning bolts.[8] He then sliced Tiamat’s body in half. Her eyes became the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers, and mountains emerged from her breasts. 

Figure 4: This Neo-Assyrian cylinder seal impression from the 8th century BCE could be a depiction of the slaying of Tiamat by Marduk. Credit: Ben Pirard CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

There are a number of obvious parallels between this story and the Rigvedic legend of Indra killing Vritra. While Indra’s killing of Vritra had released the waters of the Seven Rivers, Marduk’s slaying of Tiamat released the waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers. Marduk had trapped Tiamat with a “net of seven winds”, and the net was the weapon used by Indra to snare his enemies. The Atharva Veda states, “Vast indeed is the tactical net of great Indra…By that net, O Indra, pounce upon all the enemies so that none of the enemies may escape the arrest and punishment.”[9]

In Native American folklore, a similar tale has been recounted. In Cherokee legends, Uktena or Great Serpent was a monstrous water serpent having horns and a magic crystal on his head. As per the legends,

“Anyone who approached Uktena would be dazed by the light of the crystal in his head and would run towards the serpent rather than away from it. In one myth, Uktena was slain in a battle with the Tlanuwa, the Great Hawk…In another legend, Uktena fought with the God of Thunder, wrapping himself around Thunder’s head so tightly that the god cried out for help. A hunter called out that he was coming to Thunder’s rescue, but before he could arrive, Thunder killed Uktena with a mortal blow.”[10]

The slaying of the monstrous water serpent Uktena by the God of Thunder has obvious parallels with the killing of Vritra by Indra or of Tiamat by Marduk. The Cherokee legend does not specifically mention the waters of the rivers being released upon the death of Uktena, but in light of the other symbolic connections it is apparent that the same legend has been recorded here.

The Greek story of Zeus killing the monster Typhon is along similar lines. In Theogony, Hesiod writes that, from Typhon’s shoulders grew, “a hundred heads of a snake, a fearful dragon, with dark, flickering tongues, and from under the brows of his eyes in his marvelous heads flashed fire…”[11] Zeus struck Typhon with his thunderbolt, burnt the serpent heads of the monster, and hurled down his wrecked body on the earth. Such was the force of the impact, that the earth groaned, and “a great part of huge earth was scorched by the terrible vapor and melted as tin melts.” 

The melting of the earth’s crust due to the impact is suggestive of meteor and comet impacts. When a comet or an asteroid hits the earth, it vaporizes the material from the rock that they hit, which, then, condenses into microscopic droplets of metal called impact spherules. Is this legend alluding to a comet impact at the end of the last Ice Age? Quite possibly.

A Horse Comet ended the Ice Age?

The Rigvedic hymns inform us that Indra had hurled “the bolt with thousand spikes and hundred edges” to shatter the body of Vritra and release the imprisoned waters. This seems to imply that a shower of large, sharp projectiles – most likely stony meteors or cometary debris - had impacted the Himalayan ice-caps and triggered the collapse of the ice dams, and the subsequent meltdown. 

The Rigvedic hymns spare no effort to remind us of the tremendous force with which Indra’s bolt struck the body of Vritra, shattered them into countless pieces, which were then washed away by the gushing torrents of water. 

“Indra with his own great and deadly thunder smote into pieces Vrtra.” (RV 1.32.5) “Emasculate yet claiming manly vigour, thus Vrtra lay with scattered limbs dissevered.” (RV 1.32.7) “The Dragon lies beneath the feet of torrents which Vrtra with his greatness had encompassed.” (RV 1.32.8) “Rolled in the midst of never-ceasing currents flowing without a rest for ever onward. The waters bear off Vrtra's nameless body.” (RV 1.32. 10)

Even though the Rigvedic hymns generally describe Indra as a powerful god riding a chariot pulled by a pair of horses, one of the hymns praising his feat of slaying Vritra describes him as a “horse’s tail”: 

“A horse's tail wast thou when he (Vritra), O Indra, smote on thy bolt; thou, God without a second” (RV 1.32.12). 

This conjures up the imagery of a comet, since the curvy, white dust tail of a comet bears a resemblance to the tail or mane of a horse. The Roman philosopher Pliny had mentioned a class of comets called “hippeus” or “horse comets”[12], having plumes much like horses’ mane in rapid motion. Hephaistion of Thebes tells us that the hippeus comet foretold the quick fall of kings and tyrants.[13]

Figure 5: Comet McNaught, the Great Comet of 2007, over the Pacific Ocean as viewed from the ESO Paranal Observatory. The white dust tail of a comet can be imagined as the tail or mane of a horse in motion. Credit: ESO/Sebastian Deiries, CC BY 4 via Wikimedia Commons.

The earliest known depiction of a “horse comet” is found on the bronze coins issued by Mithridates VI of Pontus, which shows the unusually bright comet that appeared sometime around c.135 BCE, coinciding with the year of birth of Mithridates. The coins depicts a ten-pointed star with a long tail that resembles a horse’s mane.

Could it be that the celestial appearance of Indra, towards the close of the last Ice Age, was in the form of a “horse comet”? Perhaps, this is why Indra used to be seen in the skies by the early poets, but in a hymn of a later period the composer wonders aloud, “Where the famous Indra is now located? Where he travels, among what people?” (RV VI.21.4)

The Maruts as a Comet Swarm

The idea of Indra being a “horse comet” is aligned with the hypothesis of Prof. R.N. Iyengar of the Indian Institute of Science, who had argued with substantial evidence in the paper titled, “Comets and Meteoritic Showers in the Rig Veda and their Significance”[14] that the group of Rigvedic deities called Maruts, who were the followers of Indra (Indra is called Marutvat i.e. “Chief of the Maruts”), were actually “meteoritic storms”. 

There are 33 hymns dedicated to the Maruts in the Rig Veda. They are described as a group made up of 27 to 60 fierce sons of Rudra (Shiva). Most of the hymns describe them as brilliant celestial objects, who move in swarms, and appear like shining stars. Their roaring sound induces fear in the minds of men, and they hurl stones that disturb the oceans, shatter mountains and human dwellings, and kill animals. Once they created an impact crater filled with water. They also eat up the forests with their bright red flames. 

Prof. Iyengar believes that such hymns can only refer to a “swarm of meteors” that periodically enter into the earth’s atmosphere and cause widespread havoc. Let us review some of these descriptions from the Rig Veda, as documented by Prof. Iyengar:

Maruts are brilliant with terrible forms and kill people. Maruts sit as deities in heaven, above the luminous vault. They move the mountains and disturb the oceans (RV I.19.5, 6, 7). Maruts are described as widening with their light and storming the oceans with their power (RV I.19.8). To withstand the ferocious journey of the Maruts, man has strengthened his dwelling with columns. Even rugged hills get crushed (RV I.37.7). Maruts have mowed down men on earth and have made mountains fall. Wherever the group of Maruts goes, everyone is sure to hear their roaring sound (RV I.37.12, 13). At the roar of the Maruts, every house on the earth shook. The people also trembled (RV I.38.10). The Maruts are mighty, with wondrous power and marvelously bright, self-strong like mountains, who glide swiftly on their way. Like the wild elephants they eat the forests up when they assume their strength among the bright red flames (RV I.64.7). All creatures on earth along with their dwellings shake in fear that they might get hit by the weapons of Maruts. The tearing weapons of Maruts hit animals like well-aimed darts. Maruts are visible at a distance shining like stars (RV I.166). They come in thousands like waves on water (RV I.168.4). They came down to earth together, effortless, with burning looks and shook the mountains (RV I.168.5). Far be from us, your impetuous shaft. Far from us be the stone you hurl (RV I.172.2). Maruts dug a well for Gotama (RV V.52.12).

While Prof. Iyengar’s inference that the Maruts may be a swarm of “stony meteorites” is very insightful, I would like to take the argument forward and propose that the Maruts were likely to have been a “swarm of comets”. This is because the Maruts were said to be a “fixed number of deities”, numbering between 27 and 60. If the Maruts were meteoroids (which are typically small grains of dust or fist-sized pebbles) they would have burnt up and dissipated on atmospheric entry or upon striking the earth’s surface. But a swarm of comets can come close to the earth, strike the surface with stony debris, and move away, thereby retaining the number of members in the swarm. 

Another point that argues in favor of the Maruts being comets is that, they were said to form clouds and bring rain. For instance,

Maruts are sure to bring airless showers to deserts (RV I.38.7). They loosen their rain-floods (RV I.38.8). When they inundate the earth they spread forth darkness in day time, with the water-laden rain-cloud (RV I.38.9). 

The current scientific opinion is that comets seeded life on the early earth by bringing in water and complex organic molecules. Comets are believed to have a frozen nucleus containing the ices of many gases, the most copious amounts being that of frozen water vapor. Hence, comets striking the earth’s surface can create pools of water. However, I believe that it is not even necessary for comets to impact the earth, in order for us to receive water. Comets can create rainclouds, simply by passing through the earth’s atmosphere.

This is because, comets release jets of water vapor and carbon-dioxide (along with small quantities of other organics), which blow dust grains into the coma. If a comet enters the earth’s atmosphere, the dust grains in the coma can act as “nucleating agents” around which water drops can form and fall to the earth as rain. Therefore, if a swarm of comets were to glide through the earth’s atmosphere – something that has not happened in the historical era - we can expect the formation of rainclouds and heavy precipitation.

A Comet Swarm ended the last Ice Age

The Rigvedic legend of Indra slaying Vritra seems to be telling us of an exceptional time in our prehistory, when a swarm of comets called the Maruts, periodically entered the earth’s atmosphere, and struck the surface of the earth with large chunks of rocks causing the mountains and dwellings to shatter. They also brought copious rainfall, for which they were praised by the poets. 

Perhaps, the comet swarm was caught up in the gravitational field of the earth for an extended period of time towards the end of the last Ice Age. Something similar had happened with comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1992, when it was captured by the gravitational field of Jupiter during a close approach, and then broke apart into at least 20 pieces. Over a period of six days in July 1994, these pieces, having diameters up to 2 km, slammed into Jupiter at 60 km/s. and created huge craters on its surface.[15]

One of the comets in this swarm called Maruts, was a giant “horse comet”, which the Vedic sages referred to as Indra, the King of the Gods. This giant comet bombarded the Himalayan glaciers with large chunks of fiery projectiles that caused the ice barriers to shatter and release torrents of waters that had been locked up in the high-altitude glacial lakes. This blistering volley of impactors effectively ended the Ice Age and initiated the warm interglacial epoch that we live in today, called the Holocene. The whole of nature underwent a drastic transformation – almost as if winter had given way to spring – in 9703 BCE.

We now reach a rather incredible conclusion: Indra had killed Vritra in exactly 9,703 BCE! It is quite amazing to realize that, it is, in fact, possible to assign a specific date to this famous Rigvedic legend, which has its counterparts in the traditions of many other cultures. This just goes to show that many of the sacred hymns and oral legends transmitted by our ancestors encode vital information about the monumental events of the remote past; and, as such, they are of great importance to us for gaining a well-rounded understanding of what may have transpired on our planet in those ancient times.

A final question, however, still needs to be answered. If it was a comet swarm that ended the last Ice Age, then from where did this swarm of comets originate? 

The Taurid Resonant Swarm

Prof. R.N. Iyengar, whose insightful paper on comet showers in the Rig Veda I had referred to earlier, had associated the Maruts with the Taurid meteor stream. He provided specific evidence from the Vedic texts to support his argument. He wrote that, the Vedic text called Taittiriya Brahmana (which is a branch of the Krishna Yajurveda) “associates a season with Maruts, namely the hemanta rtu (i.e. autumn) the dewy season, which is the two month period ending with the winter solstice”. As we know, this is the time of the year when the earth passes through the Northern Taurid meteor stream.

He further pointed out that, another Vedic-era text called the Taittiriya Aranyaka (which is also a branch of the Krishna Yajurveda) mentions two different groups of related sky deities - rudra-gana and marut-gana. Prof. Iyengar wrote,

“The Taittiriya Aranyaka differentiates rudra-gana from marut-gana and mentions that the first appear in the grisma-rtu (summer), the two month season ending with the summer solstice before the rainy season starts. The latter appear in the hemanta-rtu, as in the Taittiriya Brahmana. The commentators mention that both are sky deities appearing in the respective seasons. Rudra- gana is described as being white robed and recurring with the summer season. The second group appears red with anger as though ready for battle in the dewy season. It is easily recognized that both should be meteor groups separated by six months.”

On the basis of this information, Prof. Iyengar concluded that the Taurid meteor stream was the source of the impactors since, as he wrote, “even now, the two branches of the Taurid meteor shower appear in May-June and November-December.”

Before we go further, let me add some relevant information about the Taurid meteor stream. We know that the earth experiences a number of meteor showers every year, in course of its annual orbit around the sun. The meteor showers occur when the earth passes though a meteor stream that intersects its orbits. The meteor streams are “rivers of debris” left behind by a comet with an Earth-crossing orbit, composed mainly of dust and pebbles.  

The Taurid meteor stream is the largest stream of cosmic debris in the inner solar system. The earth crosses the Taurid stream twice in course of its orbit around the sun, once in summer and once in late autumn.

Figure 6: The earth crosses the Taurid meteor stream twice a year, in course of its orbit around the sun. Credit: Bibhu Dev Misra.

The first crossing of the Taurids takes place from June 5 – July 18, with peak activity on June 29. This is a daytime shower called the Beta Taurids. The next crossing of the Taurids occurs from Sep 10 – Nov 20, when the earth crosses the Southern Taurids, followed by the Northern Taurids from Oct 20 – Dec 10. These are two cross sections of the same meteor stream. The Southern Taurids peak on October 10, while the Northern Taurids peak on November 12. It is during a one-week time frame extending from November 5 through November 12 when the Taurids are most active. Since these meteor showers occur in late October and early November they are also called “Halloween fireballs”.

As Prof. Iyengar pointed out, in the Vedic astronomical texts, the sky deities called rudra-gana who appeared in the summer season were described as “white robed”. That’s because the Beta Taurids, which is active from June 5 – July 18, is a daytime shower, and the meteors, if at all they are visible, appear as white streaks of light. On the other hand, the Vedic texts describe the marut-gana, who appear in autumn, as being “red with anger”. This is because, the Northern Taurid meteors, which blaze through the skies between October 20 to December 10, have a yellow, orange or reddish hue.

While most meteor streams contain small particles, not larger than a grain of sand or a pebble, the Taurid meteor stream contains some large chunks of rocks. The Beta Taurids have been held responsible for generating Earth-impacting meteors in the recent past. Astronomers believe that the Beta Taurids, which have peak activity on June 29, probably caused the Tunguska event of June 30, 1908, when a large meteor exploded over Eastern Siberia with the force of a 1000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs, and flattened over 2000 square kilometers of forest.[16] The meteor is believed to have been about 120 feet across and weighed a 100 million kilograms. 

British astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier had postulated that the progenitor of the Taurid stream was a giant comet, around 50 - 100 km in diameter, which had entered the inner solar system at least 20,000 to 30,000 years ago. The comet was tossed into a short-term orbit around the Sun, and disintegrated in stages, leaving behind the trail of debris known as the Taurid Complex.[17] 

The research carried out by Clube, Napier, Asher and their colleagues indicate that the giant progenitor comet of the Taurids still remains hidden in the center of the Taurid stream, moving within a tightly packed swarm consisting of several minor comets formed by the fragmentation of the progenitor (all of which are probably in a dormant state), and dozens of full-size asteroids up to 1 km wide. This dense cluster of comets and asteroids within the Taurid meteor stream is called the “Taurid Resonant Swarm”. 

The faint Comet Encke, which is the only visible comet within the Taurid meteor stream today, orbits the Sun once in 3.3 years, and could be a recently reactivated fragment of the Taurid progenitor comet. The Taurid Resonant Swarm is in an orbit similar to that of Comet Encke’s, moving round the sun in an Earth-crossing orbit every 3.3 years. Napier noted that at least 19 of the largest NEO’s (Near-Earth Objects) have orbits significantly close to that of Comet Encke, and are likely to be the remnants of the giant Taurid progenitor.[18]

Therefore, the most likely location for the comet swarm called Maruts and the giant “horse comet” called Indra described in the Rig Veda, is within the Taurid Resonant Swarm, which contains many large fragments of the Taurid progenitor comet. It is eminently possible that the earth had a few head-on encounters with the Taurid Resonant Swarm in the decades prior to 9703 BCE, which resulted in a series of cometary bombardments that brought about the end of the last Ice Age. The memories of this epochal event were recorded by the Vedic sages in their sacred hymns that commemorated the victory of the thunder-god Indra over the dragon Vritra, who had imprisoned the waters of the Seven Rivers.


[1] “Sea Level Rise”, Smithsonian,
[2] Edouard Bard, Bruno Hamelin, Richard G. Fairbanks & Alan Zindler, “Calibration of the 14C timescale over the past 30,000 years using mass spectrometric U-Th ages from Barbados corals”, Nature, May 1990, 345, pp. 405-410.
[3] R. B. Firestone et al, “Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Oct 2007, Vol.104, No.41, pp. 16016-16021,
[4] Jørgen Peder Steffensen, "Determination of end of the Ice Age?" Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen,
[5] B. P. Radhakrishna, S. S. Merh, Vedic Sarasvati: Evolutionary History of a Lost River of Northwestern India, Geological Society of India, 1999, p. 7.
[6] Graham Hancock, Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization, op. cit., p. 196.
[7] “Marduk”, Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. by Lindsay Jones, vol. 8, 2nd ed., pp. 5702–5703.
[8] “Enuma Elish”, New World Encyclopedia,
[9] Atharva Veda 8.8.6, taken from Atharva Veda: Authentic English Translation by Tulsi Ram, 2013.
[10] Native American Mythology A to Z, Infobase Publishing, 2010, p. 48.
[11] Hesdiod, Theogony 825-880,
[12] Pliny, Natural History 2.22.
[13] M. R. Molnar, “New Numismatic Evidence about the Comets of Mithridates the Great of Pontus (134 and 119 BC)", Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, December 1997, Vol.29, p.1262.
[14] R.N. Iyengar, “Comets and Meteoritic Showers in the Rig Veda and their Significance”, Indian Journal of History of Science, 2010, Vol.45, No.1, pp. 1-32,
[15] “Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 Collision with Jupiter”, NASA, 

[16] John Roach, “Meteor Shower Promises Seven Shooting Stars an Hour”, National Geographic News, 7 November 2003,
[17] D.I. Steel, D.J. Asher, S.V.M Clube, “The Taurid Complex: Giant Comet Origin?” International Astronomical Union Colloquium, 1991, Vol. 126, pp. 327-330,
[18] W. M. Napier, “Palaeolithic extinctions and the Taurid Complex”, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol.405, No.3, July 2010, pp. 1901–1906,

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Bibhu Dev Misra

Independent researcher and writer on ancient mysteries, cultural connections, cosmic wisdom, religion and science. Graduate of IIT and IIM with two decades of work experience in different fields

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  1. Interesting that the native Americans also have jewel headed serpents, much like the resident of the lower planetary systems in the vedas.

    1. In Africa and South America, there are widespread beliefs in "snake stones" which are found on the head of a large snake or python.

  2. I'm grateful for the positive influence your blog has on my mindset.