The Goddess Uma suddenly appears in the very late vedic period and has
a meteoric rise displacing sarasvati as the trans-functional goddess
in Indian culture. She displaces prishni as the wife of rudra by the
latest phase of the Vedic culture in India. This sudden rise of uma
and her lack of direct cognates in the rest of the IE world suggests
her foreign origin- while she absorbs the roles of prishni (taking in
the ancient PIE aspects also seen in the other IE goddess Artemis) in
large part, she also has peculiar properties: her association with the
sati myth, her association with cold mountains, her role in the care
of children. This taken with her name suggests that she is a direct
cognate of the Pan-Altaic goddess Umai and was horizontally transfered
to the Indo-Aryans via a minor early Altaic invasion of India from
central asia. The goddess Umai is very prominent in several Altaic
lineages and the syncreticism could have easily occurred through the
conflation with the Aryan prishni. Given her central role in the
shakta cult and the earlier text the kena we may profitably speculate
that in the late upanishadic period there was an invasion by turkic
tribes from Central Asia into the Indo-Aryan domains in northern
India. They brought Uma along with them and on assimilation into the
Aryan society composed the kena upanishad and founded the shakta cults
A test to this hypothesis could lie in a comparison of the earliest
shakta material with Altaic lore of their goddess Umai and
demonstration of the non-IE nature of the word Uma.
The Kena Upanishad is found in the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana and
this itself is a part of the Jaiminiya Brahmana. These texts, do
infact have the earliest elements of ‘Tantric’ cult in them and
therefore Somasushama should see these texts.
The idea that Uma is of Dravidian origin has been around for long. But
I found that untenable for 3 reasons: 1) there is no evidence what soe
ever for such a deity exisiting in protodravidian mythology and the
known Dravidian etymologies are all based on tamil and not really
applicable to Gondi and others. 2) The probability of extensive direct
Dravidian-Aryan contact at the time of the Jaiminiya tradition is low
and the evidence for it is not very convincing. 3) The epithet
Haimavati and the association with a mountain goddess is not in line
with the homeland or the route taken by the Dravidian invaders.
So we are left with a very neomorphic deity standing out suddenly in
the vedic mythosphere. Contrary to a suggestion I proposed this
hypothesis only after having read the Talavakara text where the
section on Uma is rather incongrous in comparison with the rest of the
text that keeps in line with regular brAhmaNa literature (notice the
denigration of the great vedic gods vayu and agni in the talavakara
text in this part).
So we are left with the option of her origin within the IE fold or
from else where. In light of the particular displacement of sarasvati
she was likely to be foreign- hence the Altaic hypothesis.
Also note that the early spread of Altaic myths seems to have occured
elsewhere in the IE world: It appears quite clear that the greek tale
of Jason and the Argonauts has been acquired from an Altaic source
from the pre-islamic Turko-Mongol epic of the hero Koeguedey Mergen.
Of course the early Altaic hypothesis can be falsified if it can be
shown that Altaic had not undergone an spread from Mongolia at that
point in time. Though Uralic sources could still take their place in
the early period.