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The spoked wheel

The spoked wheel is an important symbol in India, especially since the image is an integral part of our national flag. This wheel is considered to be Ashoka’s Dharma Chakra and is associated strongly with Buddhism. Unfortunately, that restricts its magical history, which spreads across Hindu and Jain mythologies also.

But, where did this spoked wheel come from? In the cities of Harappa, we mostly find solid wheels of carts pulled by oxen or donkeys. Evidence for horses and the spoked wheel is relatively sparse.

The first real evidence of chariots with spoked wheels pulled by horses appears around 3,200 years ago in the region we now call Kurdistan, in Turkey. This was where the Mitanni Empire existed. They fought against the Hittites, who lived in the north. The Hittites, in turn, were fighting the Egyptians. During this time, we have the famous king Ramses, whose statues are famous around the world even today. In his murals, we find the spoked wheel for the first time.

It is believed that one branch of people from the Great Steppe moved towards the West and another to the East. Some of them, the eastern branch settled in Iran, some of them moved to India, and maybe a branch went up to the region of Turkey. We can be relatively sure of this because we find clay tablets depicting a treaty signed between the Hittites and the Mitanni, with the first epigraphic evidence of the Vedic god Indra, Varuna, Mitra and the Ashvins.

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