Horses paraded at the Hindu Machad Mamagam Festival held in February.
India was at the crossroads of the ancient world, connected to the Middle East and Africa by ancient water systems controlled by Afro-Asiatic rulers during the Halocene Wet period (c. 12,000 years ago). The oldest layer of civilization in India is that of the Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (2500-2000 B.C.) which show Sudanese (Sudra-Dravidian) influence. So it appears that the oldest layer of Hindu belief and practice is Afro-Asiatic. This is why the oldest Vedic texts reveal many points of contact with the Afro-Asiatic binary distinctions, belief in a fixed order in creation, a reverence for the divinely-established boundaries between heaven and earth, between male and female, and between humans and other animals.
In the earliest Vedic texts we find warnings about transgressing these boundaries. These warn against actions and words that insult the gods, against homosexuality, and against sexual relations with animals.
Later Hinduism reflects the different worldview of the Indo-European invaders who entered from the north and subdued the Sudroid (Afro-Asiatic) peoples who lived there. Today the Sudroid peoples are regarded as an inferior class/caste in India.
How different are the Afro-Asiatic and Aryan worldviews? Very different, as illustrated by the example of the horse.
The Horse in Afro-Asiatic Religion
The earliest breeding of horses appears to have taken place in the area that is today eastern Sudan along the Upper Nile. The horse was bred and trained as a royal mount well before 800 B.C. Robert Merkot reports that the people of Sheba were famous for the horses they breed and that those horses were exported widely throughout the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion. The world's oldest saddles are from Nubia and the Upper Nile region.
When the Kushite (Sudanese) ruler, Piye, conquered the palace city of King Nimlot, he discovered that the royal horses had been neglected and he was extremely angry about it. It is recorded that “His majesty went to the stable of the horses, and the quarter of the foals. When he saw that they had been left to hunger he said: As Re loves me … that my horses were made to hunger pains me more than any other crime you committed in your recklessness...” Piye reigned over eastern Sudan and Egypt from 752-721 B.C.
The horse while regarded as noble, was never deified in Afro-Asiatic religion. Sexual relations with a horse (or any animal) was an unthinkable violation of the boundaries set by God in creation. Not so in Hinduism after the Aryan invasion.
The Horse in Aryan Hinduism
In ancient times Hindu priests sacrificed horses. The Ashvamedha was offered only by kings seeking to gain strength or to expand their territories. The basis for selection of the horse that was to be sacrificed was the Krittika, the Pleiades, on his forehead. After the horse was sacrificed, the carcass was cut into sections and the priests burned the sections on outdoor altars.
There was a fertility ceremony attached to horse sacrifice. If the King also wasn’t to insure that his wives gave him many sons, he paid the priests to perform an elaborate year-long ritual. A fine horse was selected at the beginning of the year and allowed to wander freely while guarded by royal soldiers. Everywhere the horse wandered was claimed to be under the King’s jurisdiction. If the horse entered the territory of another ruler, that ruler had to submit or engage in combat. During the year the horse was not allowed to mate and at the end of the year it was returned to the city where it was sacrificed in a 3-day ceremony.
The royal fertility ritual called Asvamedha yajna involved the king’s principal wife in a nightlong copulation with the dead horse. The priests and all royal wives and their four hundred attendants spent the night insulting each other. The insults go something like these:
To the wives the insulter says: “Lift up her thighs… she is like…” (insulting remark)
The attendants shout back to the insulter: “Your penis is like a…” (insulting remark)
The story is told that Rama’s mother and co-mothers performed the ceremony to guarantee the birth of sons to King Dasaratha. All three of the king’s wives were united with the carcass, but his principal wife, Kausalya, spent the entire night with the dead horse regarding this as her sacred duty. The account speaks of 300 beasts being sacrificed, including snakes and birds, in addition of Dasaratha’s “jewel of a horse” which was cut by his principal wife with 3 knives. The ceremony was costly as it involved paying a year’s salary to priests (Brahmans), the invoker (hotr), the chief priest (adhvarya) and the singer/cantor (udgatr). There is a similar ritual known among the ancient Celts, only in reverse. In the ceremony of enthronement, the king ritually coupled with a mare that was then sacrificed and cooked, being then eaten in a communal meal. The horse fertility ritual comes from the Indo-European-Aryan worldview and is contrary to the older Afro-Asiatic layer which maintains strict distinction between human and animal.
It appear that there was a parting of ways theologically and it may be represented by different names of God.
Az or Yahweh
The Asvamedha yajna gives the name As (or Az) for God. The name appears in ancient Akkadian texts. A 7th-century text says that Sargon city on the bank of the Euphrates was called Azu-piranu, meaning temple or house of Az. O-piru means house of the Sun. Azu is also a variant of the African name for God - Asa. Azu-piranu is equivalent of the Hebrew word Beth-el, but there appears to have been distinct conceptions of God.
Variants of this name for God include: Azu in Akkadian, Asa in Chadic, Asha in Kushitic, and Ashai in Hebrew. A Jerusalem priest named Am-ashai is mentioned in Neh. 11:13.
The Sakās (Sarki) of the Behistun inscription  of Darius I (521-486 B.C.) were made up of four tribes, the foremost of which were the Asii.
Related reading: 7000 BC Horse Burial Linked to Sheba
1. See Morkot’s book The Black Pharaohs. Sheba was an ancestor of Abraham, according to Genesis 10:28.
2. Goldman, Robert P. The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India. Balakanda (vol.1). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-06561-6, pp. 151-152.
3. I have visited the site of this inscription. It appears in these images and scripts that the binary worldview of the Horites had morphed into the dualism that would characterize Zorastrianism. Ahura Mazda is likely a variant of Hor-Az or Hormazd. Ahura Mazda's dualistic counterpart is Angra Mainyu, the creator of evil.
4. Hans Loescher provides an excellent presentation of the Asii-led confederation that penetrated China.