What is the current state of historical thought on the Aryan invasion/migration theory?

What is the current state of historical thought on the Aryan invasion/migration theory?

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Recent findings in archaelogy and related fields have led some scholars to replace "invasion" with "migration" in the "Aryan invasion" theory. E.g. Romila Thapar in this edition of The Penguin History of Early India.

Further discoveries (E.g. the satellite mapping of the Saraswati river) have forced a relook at the whole idea of Aryans entering India through the North-West corridor. However, such discoveries remain confined to academic journals or remain scattered in different scholarly silos until somebody collects them and analyzes them collectively.

What are, if any, books/articles which have done this collective analysis in the last couple of years?

OK. I've looked into this as best I can. And I'll preface this by saying Indian history is my weakest point, so I didn't really have an opinion on this going in.

First off, for a tribal people like the Iranians/Aryians there really isn't a dime's worth of difference between a "migration" and an "invasion". All of Eurasia was settled by this time, so when a tribe moves into a new area, the old inhabitants have to be pushed out somehow.

You could try to picture some kind of peaceful coexistance and absorption if you want, but that would certianly fly in the face of the historical record we have for these same Iranian peoples' arrival at the same time in the near east. They pretty much wiped out the Elamite poeple in Persia, and the Akkadians in Mesopotamia. They weren't using all those chariots for circuses.

So now let's follow your link, like you suggested. Any time I see an interesting book on Amazon I like to read the favorable reviews and the unfavorable ones. Often the unfavorable ones contain the most information. Here's the one for the book you linked. I won't quote it here because it is both too long, and to detail-filled to really cull parts of it.

Still, this is just one guy. So the next step is to hit the Wikipedia page for the author. This should give us a good idea of how accepted his theories are among historians.

Well, there we find out that this is one in a series of books by this same author that reinterpret history in a rather unusual (and Hindu-nationalist) manner.

Bryant (2001) commented that Frawley's work is more successful in the popular arena, to which it is directed and where its impact "is by no means insignificant", rather than in academic study and that "(Frawley) is committed to channeling a symbolic spiritual paradigm through a critical empirico rational one".

In a series of exchanges published in The Hindu, Michael Witzel rejects Frawley's linking of Vedic literature with the Harappan civilisation and a claimed lost city in the Gulf of Cambay, as misreading Vedic texts, ignoring or misunderstanding other evidence and motivated by antiquity frenzy. Witzel argues that Frawley's proposed "ecological approach" and "innovative theories" of the history of ancient India amount to propagating currently popular indigenist ideas.

Bruce Lincoln attributes autochthonous ideas such as Frawley's to "parochial nationalism", terming them "exercises in scholarship ( = myth + footnotes)", where archaeological data spanning several millennia is selectively invoked, with no textual sources to control the inquiry, in support of the theorists' desired narrative.

Basically what these critics are saying is that (according to them) it seems he decides what he wants the history to be, then goes out and looks for facts to back it up. It should go without saying that good science does things the other way around.

I note on this same page that there's actually a Wiki page for the Indigenous Aryans theory. Reading through there, it appears the theory itself isn't taken particularly serioiusly by the various historical and scientific communities it touches on. To give an example, one of the largest sections in there is titled "Pseudoscience and postmodernism".

Regardless, you may buy his argument, and he may even turn out to be right. However, getting back to your question, I think it is fair to say that you aren't in fact going to find a lot of serious published research along these same lines.

I am sorry.

Firstly, linguistic groups do not represent genetic haplogroups. If by "race" we mean a constructed identity based upon language, then the debate on AIT, OIT (Out of India Theory) and other such theories make sense. With respect to genes, however, the results are far more confusing, because genetic 'types' seem to be much more mixed up.

This study reported in the European Journal of Human Genetics seems to suggest that the transfer of the R1a haplotype "predate(s) the upper bound of the age estimate of the Indo-European language tree". It concludes-

Although this distinction by geography is not directly informative about the internal divisions of these separate language families, it might bear some significance for assessing dispersal models that have been proposed to explain the spread of Indo-Aryan languages in South Asia, as it would exclude any significant patrilineal gene flow from East Europe to Asia, at least since the mid-Holocene period.

Another study, reported in Nature, suggests an Ancestral North Indian and an Ancestral South Indian gene pool. However, Thangaraj, one of the authors, has explained that the ASI group is 60,000 years old, and the ANI group at least 40,000 years old.

A third study

[… ] found that the influence of Central Asia on the pre-existing gene pool was minor. The ages of accumulated microsatellite variation in the majority of Indian haplogroups exceed 10,000-15,000 years, which attests to the antiquity of regional differentiation.

In other words, again, the possible gene pool transfer pre-dates the AIT dates.

A fourth study on Y-chromosomes seems to suggest a similar conclusion:

The Y-chromosomal data consistently suggest a largely South Asian origin for Indian caste communities and therefore argue against any major influx, from regions north and west of India, of people associated either with the development of agriculture or the spread of the Indo-Aryan language family.

A fifth source concludes:

Our result indicates that the Indian mtDNA pool consists of several deep rooting lineages of Macrohaplogroup 'M' suggesting in situ origin of these haplogroups in South Asia, most likely India.

Well, you linked to Indus Valley Civilization, which is considered the native civilization of India. If one rejects the Aryan invasion/migration theory he should conclude that this civilization spoke an Indo-European language as the modern Indians do.

But as it is known that Indo-Europeans originated in eastern Europe, this only puts the supposed migration of Indo-European peoples into India further in time.

I do not know whether you would consider pre-Aryan indo-European migration to India as a "repellation" of the Aryan invation theory, but if you reject that any tribe of Indo-Europeans ever migrated to India, you evidently propose that Indo-Europeans originated in India and that all branches of Indo-European languages derived from Indic languages such as Sanskrit.

The latter idea is contrary to all scientific evidence, so I am sure you will have a hard time finding any academic source to support such claim.

The debate between Frawley and Witzel over the use of the word Samudra does not led to a clear-cut "victory" for the latter. Witzel has been known to make mistakes and even play politics. He also starts from the "Aryans originate in Central Asia" premise and proceeds to get the (mainly linguistic) evidence for it.

The Harappans of the Indus Valley have left profuse archaeological records over a vast region - from the borders of Iran and beyond Afghanistan to eastern UP and Tapti valley, and must have supported over 30 million people and believed to be living an advanced civilization. And yet these people have left absolutely no literary records.

The Vedic Aryans and their successors on the other hand have left us a literature that is probably the largest and most profound in the world. But according to the AIT there is absolutely no archaeological record that they ever existed. Either on the Indian soil or outside its boundaries. So we have concrete history and archeology of a vast civilization of 'Dravidians' lasting thousands of years that left no literature, and a huge literature by the Vedic Aryans who left no history and no archaeological records. The situation gets more absurd when we consider that there is profuse archaeological and literary records indicating a substantial movement of Indian Aryans out of India into Iran and West Asia around 2000 BC. This is the paradox.

Other scholars like Shrikant Talageri have worked for a long time on the Indo-European homeland problem, analysed the Rig Veda and The Avesta to conclude that "India is likely to be the PIE homeland".

Then there is the history of the Lost river of Saraswathi].This thesis states that the river Saraswathi dried up around 1900 BCE. The Rig Veda predates the Indus (or Sindhu-Saraswathi) civilization, as per N. Kazanas.

Razib khan has a good genetic analysis of South Asians. It shows that Ancient South Indians and Ancient North Indians were "mixed up" long before 1500 BCE.

Koenraad Elst also refutes the AIT in detail.

A comprehensive and brief argument against the AIT was given by Rajeev Chandran a long time ago, but it is not widely disseminated.

  1. There is no archaeological attestation of aryan invasion/migration in spite of more than a hundred years of archaeological effort.
  2. There is no traditional memory or mention of aryan invasion/migration/intrusion in any of all the diverse historical traditions of India.
  3. There is no genetic trace of foreigners to attest to such a historical mixing. If at all Indian genotypes not only closer to each other but substantially more diverse and much older than European or middle eastern genotypes - therefore suggesting a reverse migration. After Africa the most ancient and diverse population happens to be that of India. In essence most other non-African people descended from prehistoric Indians.
  4. Philology is a tool of uncertain provenance and its conclusions are highly debatable. Aryan invasion/migration are hypothesis emerging basically from philology - hence open to debate.
  5. Development of historical theories on ancient India through more accurate means (archaeology & traditional history) rather than philology points to the indegenity and antiquity of Indians.
  6. Self references in many ancient Indian texts points to indegenity of Indians in a time-scale far older than those proposed by Aryan Invasion theory.
  7. In ancient Indian texts Arya means 'noble of conduct and character' rather than a race. If the oldest texts negate Aryan being a race - the idea of Aryan being a race of people can be traced to the rise of British imperialism and German nationalism - both historically discredited and defunct ideologies.
  8. Geology (mapping of the old Saraswati), archeo-metallurgy (iron working in ancient india), archeo-agriculture (maize, rice farming) etc points to a far greater antiquity of ancient Indians (which does not agree with Aryan Invasion Theory).
  9. Archeo-astronomy, archeo-mathematics, hydronomy (river names) seem to corraborate ancient indian texts on thier antiquity and claims of indigenity.
  10. Study of ancient Indian history has been held hostage to various extraneous constraints notably - euro-centricism, communism, various kinds of religious and regional chauvinism, and hence must be discarded.

It wont be totally right to say that the Aryan migration theory has no physical base at all and only a philological base. The Bogazkoy inscription in Asia minor, and the Al Armena inscriptions naming Rigvedic characters, gave a strong support to the Indo Aryan Migration theory. The Rigveda mentions non Aryan people, with whom Aryans had to struggle. Aj Yakshu Kikat Pishach Shishru to name a few. The Aryans called them Anasah(flat nosed), Adevayu(not accepting Gods), Akarman, Shisradevah. Besides, there were striking dissimilarities between the lifestyle and the culture of the Aryans, as the Vedas throw light, and the Harrapans, as archaeology concludes. The Harrapans were largely an urban civilization. The Aryans had a tribal exsistence until the end of the Later Vedic age.

Philology is already a sound discipline. Yet it is strongly complemented by comparative mythology, for those whom it's not enough. The Proto Indo European belief is well established.

And yes, as T.E.D said, there have been no recent publications trying to demolish The Indo Aryan Migration theory.

A recent paper from Archaeogenetics might be of interest in this regard. I do not know enough about genetics and its methods, to comment on the validity of the results. But for those who do, this shall be an apt link

A genetic chronology for the Indian Subcontinent points to heavily sex-biased dispersals

I shall quote the abstract

Background India is a patchwork of tribal and non-tribal populations that speak many different languages from various language families. Indo-European, spoken across northern and central India, and also in Pakistan and Bangladesh, has been frequently connected to the so-called “Indo-Aryan invasions” from Central Asia ~3.5 ka and the establishment of the caste system, but the extent of immigration at this time remains extremely controversial. South India, on the other hand, is dominated by Dravidian languages. India displays a high level of endogamy due to its strict social boundaries, and high genetic drift as a result of long-term isolation which, together with a very complex history, makes the genetic study of Indian populations challenging.

Results We have combined a detailed, high-resolution mitogenome analysis with summaries of autosomal data and Y-chromosome lineages to establish a settlement chronology for the Indian Subcontinent. Maternal lineages document the earliest settlement ~55-65 ka (thousand years ago), and major population shifts in the later Pleistocene that explain previous dating discrepancies and neutrality violation. Whilst current genome-wide analyses conflate all dispersals from Southwest and Central Asia, we were able to tease out from the mitogenome data distinct dispersal episodes dating from between the Last Glacial Maximum to the Bronze Age. Moreover, we found an extremely marked sex bias by comparing the different genetic systems.

Conclusions Maternal lineages primarily reflect earlier, pre-Holocene processes, and paternal lineages predominantly episodes within the last 10 ka. In particular, genetic influx from Central Asia in the Bronze Age was strongly male-driven, consistent with the patriarchal, patrilocal and patrilineal social structure attributed to the inferred pastoralist early Indo-European society. This was part of a much wider process of Indo-European expansion, with an ultimate source in the Pontic-Caspian region, which carried closely related Y-chromosome lineages, a smaller fraction of autosomal genome-wide variation and an even smaller fraction of mitogenomes across a vast swathe of Eurasia between 5 and 3.5 ka.

Keywords Mitochondrial DNA Indian Subcontinent Genome-wide Y chromosome Neolithic Indo-European

In Original Languages

Aryans: Race or Culture?

The evidence of science now points to two basic conclusions: first, there was no Aryan invasion, and second, the Rig-Vedic people were already established in India no later than 4000 BC. How are we then to account for the continued presence of the Aryan invasion version of history in history books and encyclopedias even today? Some of the results – like Jha’s decipherment of the Indus script – are relatively recent, and it is probably unrealistic to expect history books to reflect all the latest findings. But unfortunately, influential Indian historians and educators continue to resist all revisions and hold on to this racist creation – the Aryan invasion theory. Though there is now a tendency to treat the Aryan-Dravidian division as a linguistic phenomenon, its roots are decidedly racial and political, as we shall soon discover.

Speaking of the Aryan invasion theory, it would probably be an oversimplification to say: “Germans invented it, British used it,” but not by much. The concept of the Aryans as a race and the associated idea of the ‘Aryan nation’ were very much a part of the ideology of German nationalism. For reasons known only to them, Indian educational authorities have continued to propagate this obsolete fiction that degrades and divides her people. They have allowed their political biases and career interests to take precedence over the education of children. They continue to propagate a version that has no scientific basis.

Before getting to the role played by German nationalism, it is useful first to take a brief look at what the word Arya does mean. After Hitler and the Nazi atrocities, most people, especially Europeans, are understandably reluctant to be reminded of the word. But that was a European crime Indians had no part in it. The real Aryans have lived in India for thousands of years without committing anything remotely resembling the Nazi horrors. So there is no need to be diffident in examining the origins of the European misuse of the word. In any event, history demands it.

The first point to note is that the idea of the Aryans as foreigners who invaded India and destroyed the existing Harappan Civilization is a modern European invention it receives no support whatsoever from Indian records – literary or archaeological. The same is true of the notion of the Aryans as a race it finds no support in Indian literature or tradition. The word ‘Arya’ in Sanskrit means noble and never a race. In fact, the authoritative Sanskrit lexicon (c. 450 AD), the famous Amarakosa gives the following definition:

An Arya is one who hails from a noble family, of gentle behavior and demeanor, good-natured and of righteous conduct.

And the great epic Ramayana has a singularly eloquent expression describing Rama as:

Arya, who worked for the equality of all and was dear to everyone. The Rigveda also uses the word Arya something like thirty six times, but never to mean a race. The nearest to a definition that one can find in the Rigveda is probably:

praja arya jyotiragrah … (Children of Arya are led by light) RV, VII. 33.17

The word ‘light’ should be taken in the spiritual sense to mean enlightenment. The word Arya, according to those who originated the term, is to be used to describe those people who observed a code of conduct people were Aryans or non-Aryans depending on whether or not they followed this code. This is made entirely clear in the Manudharma Shastra or the Manusmriti (X.43-45):

But in consequence of the omission of sacred rites, and of their not heeding the sages, the following people of the noble class [Arya Kshatriyas] have gradually sunk to the state of servants – the Paundrakas, Chodas, Dravidas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Shakhas, Paradhas, Pahlavas, Chinas, Kiratas and Daradas.

Two points about this list are worth noting: first, their fall from the Aryan fold had nothing to do with race, birth or nationality it was due entirely to their failure to follow certain sacred rites. Second, the list includes people from all parts of India as well as a few neighboring countries like China and Persia (Pahlavas). Kambojas are from West Punjab , Yavanas from Afghanistan and beyond (not necessarily the Greeks) while Dravidas refers probably to people from the southwest of India and the South. Thus, the modern notion of an Aryan-Dravidian racial divide is contradicted by ancient records. We have it on the authority of Manu that the Dravidians were also part of the Aryan fold. Interestingly, so were the Chinese. Race never had anything to do with it until the Europeans adopted the ancient word to give expression to their nationalistic and other aspirations. Scientists have known this for quite some time. Julian Huxley, one of the leading biologists of the century, wrote as far back as 1939:

In 1848 the young German scholar Friedrich Max Müller (1823-1900) settled in Oxford, where he remained for the rest of his life. … About 1853 he introduced into the English language the unlucky term Aryan as applied to a large group of languages…. Moreover, Max Müller threw another apple of discord. He introduced a proposition that is demonstrably false. He spoke not only of a definite Aryan language and its descendants, but also of a corresponding ‘Aryan race’. The idea was rapidly taken up both in Germany and in England. It affected to some extent a certain number of the nationalistic and romantic writers, none of whom had any ethnological training…. In England and America the phrase ‘Aryan race’ has quite ceased to be used by writers with scientific knowledge, though it appears occasionally in political and propagandist literature. In Germany the idea of the ‘Aryan’ race found no more scientific support than in England. Nonetheless, it found able and very persistent literary advocates who made it very flattering to local vanity. It therefore spread, fostered by special conditions.

This should help settle the issue as far as its modern misuse is concerned. As far as ancient India is concerned, one may safely say that the word Arya denoted certain spiritual and humanistic values that defined her civilization. The entire Aryan civilization – the civilization of Vedic India – was driven and sustained by these values. The whole of ancient Indian literature: from the Vedas, the Brahmanas to the Puranas to the epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana can be seen as a record of the struggles of an ancient people to live up to the ideals defined by these values. Anyone regardless of birth, race or national origin could become Aryan by following this code of conduct. It was not something to be imposed upon others by the sword or by proselytizing. Viewed in this light, the whole notion of any ‘Aryan invasion’ is an absurdity. It is like talking about an ‘invasion of scientific thinking’.

Then there is also the fact that the concept of the Aryan race and the Aryan-Dravidian divide is a modern European invention that receives no support from any ancient source. To apply it to people who lived thousands of years ago is an exercise in anachronism if there ever was one.

The sum total of all this is that Indians have no reason to be defensive about the word Arya. It applies to everyone who has tried to live by the high ideals of an ancient culture regardless of race, language or nationality. It is a cultural designation of a people who created a great civilization. Anti-Semitism was an aberration of Christian European history, with its roots in the New Testament, of sayings like “He that is not with me is against me.” If the Europeans (and their Indian disciples) fight shy of the word, it is their problem stemming from their history. Modern India has many things for which she has reason to be grateful to European knowledge, but this is definitely not one of them.

European Currents: ‘Aryan Nation’

As Huxley makes clear in the passage cited earlier, the misuse of the word ‘Aryan’ was rooted in political propaganda aimed at appealing to local vanity. In order to understand the European misuse of the word Arya as a race, and the creation of the Aryan invasion idea, we need to go back to eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe, especially to Germany. The idea has its roots in European anti-Semitism. Recent research by scholars like Poliakov, Shaffer and others has shown that the idea of the invading Aryan race can be traced to the aspirations of eighteenth and nineteenth century Europeans to give themselves an identity that was free from the taint of Judaism.

The Bible, as is well known, consists of two books: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament gives the traditional history of mankind. It is of course a Jewish creation. The New Testament is also of Jewish origin recently discovered manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls show that Christianity, in fact, began as an extremist Jewish sect. But it was turned against the Judaism of its founding fathers by religious propagandists with political ambitions. In fact, anti-Semitism first makes its appearance in the New Testament, including in the Gospels. Nonetheless, without Judaism there would be no Christianity. To free themselves from this Jewish heritage, the intellectuals of Christian Europe looked east, to Asia . And there they saw two ancient civilizations – India and China. To them the Indian Aryans were preferable as ancestors to the Chinese. As Shaffer has observed:

“Many scholars such as Kant and Herder began to draw analogies between the myths and philosophies of ancient India and the West. In their attempt to separate Western European culture from its Judaic heritage, many scholars were convinced that the origin of Western culture was to be found in India rather than in the ancient Near East.”

So they became Aryans. But it was not the whole human race that was given this Aryan ancestry, but only a white race that came down from the mountains of Asia , subsequently became Christian and colonized Europe . No less an intellectual than Voltaire claimed to be “convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges – astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, etc.” (But Voltaire was emphatically not intolerant he was in fact a strong critic of the Church of his day.)

A modern student today can scarcely have an idea of the extraordinary influence of race theories in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe . Many educated people really believed that human qualities could be predicted on the basis of measurements of physical characteristics like eye color, length of the nose and such. It went beyond prejudice, it was an article of faith amounting to an ideology. Here is an example of what passed for informed opinion on ‘race science’ by the well-known French savant Paul Topinard. Much of the debate centered on the relative merits of racial types called dolichocephalics and brachycephalics, though no one seemed to have a clear idea of what was which. Anyway, here is what Topinard wrote in 1893, which should give modern readers an idea of the level of scientific thinking prevailing in those days:

“The Gauls, according to history, were a people formed of two elements: the leaders or conquerors, blond, tall dolichocephalic, leptroscopes, etc. But the mass of the people, were small, relatively brachycephalic chaemeophrosopes. The brachycephalics were always oppressed. They were the victims of dolicocephalics who carried them off from their fields…. The blond people changed from warriors into merchants and industrial workers. The brachycephalics breathed again. Being naturally prolific, their numbers [of brachycephalics] increased while the dolichocephalics naturally diminished. … Does the future not belong to them?” [Sic: Belong to whom? – dolichocephalic leptroscopes, or brachycephalic chaemeophrosopes?]

This tongue-twisting passage may sound bizarre to a modern reader, but was considered an erudite piece of reasoning when it was written. In its influence and scientific unsoundness and dogmatism, ‘race science’ can only be compared in this century to Marxism, especially Marxist economics. Like Marxist theories, these race theories have also been fully discredited. The emergence of molecular genetics has shown these race theories to be completely false.

By creating this pseudo-science based on race, Europeans of the Age of Enlightenment sought to free themselves from their Jewish heritage. It is interesting to note that this very same theory – of the Aryan invasion and colonization of Europe – was later applied to India and became the Aryan invasion theory of India. In reality it was nothing more than a projection into the remote past of the contemporary European experience in colonizing parts of Asia and Africa. Substituting European for Aryan, and Asian or African for Dravidian will give us a description of any of the innumerable colonial campaigns in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. According to this theory, the Aryans were carbon copies of colonizing Europeans. Seen in this light the theory is not even especially original.

The greatest effect of these ideas was on the psyche of the German people. German nationalism was the most powerful political movement of nineteenth century Europe. The idea of the Aryan race was a significant aspect of the German nationalistic movement. We are now used to regarding Germany as a rich and powerful country, but the German people at the beginning of the nineteenth century were weak and divided. There was no German nation at the time the map of Europe then was dotted with numerous petty German principalities and dukedoms that had always been at the mercy of the neighboring great powers – Austria and France.

For more than two centuries, from the time of the Thirty Years War to the Napoleonic conquests, the great powers had marched their armies through these petty German states treating these people and their rulers with utter disdain. It was very much in the interests of the French to keep the German people divided, a tactic later applied to India by the British. Every German at the time believed that he and his rulers were no more than pawns in great power rivalries. This had built up deep resentments in the hearts and minds of the German people. This was to have serious consequences for history.

In this climate of alienation and impotence, it is not surprising that German intellectuals should have sought solace in the culture of an ancient exotic land like India. Some of us can recall a very similar sentiment among Americans during the era of Vietnam and the Cold War, with many of them taking an interest in eastern religions and philosophy. These German intellectuals also felt a kinship towards India as a subjugated people, like themselves. Some of the greatest German intellectuals of the era like Humbolt, Frederick and Wilhem Schlegel, Schopenhauer, and many others were students of Indian literature and philosophy. Hegel, the greatest philosopher of the age and a major influence on German nationalism was fond of saying that in philosophy and literature, Germans were the pupils of Indian sages. Humbolt went so far as to declare in 1827: “The Bhagavadgita is perhaps the loftiest and the deepest thing that the world has to show.” This was the climate in Germany when it was experiencing the rising tide of nationalism.

Whereas the German involvement in things Indian was emotional and romantic, the British interest was entirely practical, even though there were scholars like Jones and Colebrooke who were admirers of India and its literature. Well before the 1857 uprising it was recognized that British rule in India could not be sustained without a large number of Indian collaborators. Recognizing this reality, influential men like Thomas Babbington Macaulay, who was Chairman of the Education Board, sought to set up an educational system modeled along British lines that would also serve to undermine the Hindu tradition. While not a missionary himself, Macaulay came from a deeply religious family steeped in the Protestant Christian faith. His father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother a Quaker. He believed that the conversion of Hindus to Christianity held the answer to the problems of administering India. His idea was to create an English educated elite that would repudiate its tradition and become British collaborators. In 1836, while serving as chairman of the Education Board in India, he enthusiastically wrote his father:

“Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully. The effect of this education on the Hindus is prodigious……. It is my belief that if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolator among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And this will be effected without any efforts to proselytise, without the smallest interference with religious liberty, by natural operation of knowledge and reflection. I heartily rejoice in the project.”

So religious conversion and colonialism were to go hand in hand. As Arun Shourie has pointed out in his recent book Missionaries in India, European Christian missions were an appendage of the colonial government, with missionaries working hand in glove with the government. In a real sense, they cannot be called religious organizations at all but an unofficial arm of the Imperial Administration. (The same is true of many Catholic missions in Central American countries who were, and probably are, in the pay of the American CIA. This was admitted by a CIA director, testifying before the Congress.)

The key point here is Macaulay’s belief that ‘knowledge and reflection’ on the part of the Hindus, especially the Brahmins, would cause them to give up their age-old belief in favor of Christianity. In effect, his idea was to turn the strength of Hindu intellectuals against them, by utilizing their commitment to scholarship in uprooting their own tradition. His plan was to educate the Hindus to become Christians and turn them into collaborators. He was being very naive no doubt, to think that his scheme could really succeed converting India to Christianity. At the same time it is a measure of his seriousness that Macaulay persisted with the idea for fifteen years until he found the money and the right man for turning his utopian idea into reality.

In pursuit of this goal he needed someone who would translate and interpret Indian scriptures, especially the Vedas, in such a way that the newly educated Indian elite would see the differences between them and the Bible and choose the latter. Upon his return to England, after a good deal of effort he found a talented but impoverished young German Vedic scholar by name Friedrich Max

Müller who was willing to undertake this arduous task. Macaulay used his influence with the East India Company to find funds for Max Müller’s translation of the Rigveda. Though an ardent German nationalist, Max Müller agreed for the sake of Christianity to work for the East India Company, which in reality meant the British Government of India. He also badly needed a major sponsor for his ambitious plans, which he felt he had at last found.

This was the genesis of his great enterprise, translating the Rigveda with Sayana’s commentary and the editing of the fifty-volume Sacred Books of the East. There can be no doubt at all regarding Max Müller’s commitment to the conversion of Indians to Christianity. Writing to his wife in 1866 he observed:

“It [the Rigveda] is the root of their religion and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last three thousand years.”

Two years later he also wrote the Duke of Argyle, then acting Secretary of State for India: “The ancient religion of India is doomed. And if Christianity does not take its place, whose fault will it be?” The facts therefore are clear: like Lawrence of Arabia in this century, Max Müller, though a scholar was an agent of the British government paid to advance its colonial interests. But he remained an ardent German nationalist even while working in England. This helps explain why he used his position as a recognized Vedic and Sanskrit scholar to promote the idea of the ‘Aryan race’ and the ‘Aryan nation’, both favorite slogans among German nationalists. Though he was later to repudiate it, it was Max Müller as much as anyone who popularized the notion of Arya as a race. This of course was to reach its culmination in the rise of Hitler and the horrors of Nazism in our own century.

Although it would be unfair to blame Max Müller for the rise of Nazism, he, as an eminent scholar of the Vedas and Sanskrit, bears a heavy responsibility for the deliberate misuse of a term in response to the emotion of the moment. He was guilty of giving scriptural sanction to the worst prejudice of his or any age. Not everyone however was guilty of such abuse. Wilhem Schlegel, no less a German nationalist, or romantic, always used the word ‘Arya’ to mean honorable and never in a racial sense. Max Müller’s misuse of the term may be pardonable in an ignoramus, but not in a scholar of his stature.

At the same time it should be pointed out that there is nothing to indicate that Max Müller was himself a racist. He was a decent and honorable man who had many Indian friends. He simply allowed himself to be carried away by the emotion of the moment, and the heady feeling of being regarded an Aryan sage by fellow German nationalists. To be always in the public eye was a lifelong weakness with the man. With the benefit of hindsight we can say that Max Müller saw the opportunity and made a ‘bargain with the devil’ to gain fame and fortune. It would be a serious error however to judge the man based on this one unseemly episode in a many-sided life. His contribution as editor and publisher of ancient works is great beyond dispute. He was a great man and we must be prepared to recognize it.

Much now is made of the fact that Max Müller later repudiated the racial aspects of the Aryan theory, claiming it to be a linguistic concept. But this again owed more to winds of change in European politics than to science or scholarship. Britain had been watching the progress of German nationalism with rising anxiety that burst into near hysteria in some circles when Prussia crushed France in the Franco-Prussian war in 1871. This led to German unification under the banner of Prussia. Suddenly Germany became the most populous and powerful country in Western Europe and the greatest threat to British ambitions. Belief was widespread among British Indian authorities that India and Sanskrit studies had made a major contribution to German unification. Sir Henry Maine, a former Vice Chancellor of Calcutta university and an advisor to the Viceroy echoed the sentiment of many Englishmen when he said: “A nation has been born out of Sanskrit.”

This obviously was an exaggeration, but to the British still reeling from the effects of the 1857 revolt, the specter of German unification being repeated in India was very real. Max Müller though found himself in an extremely tight spot. Though a German by birth he was now comfortably established in England, in the middle of his lifework on the Vedas and the Sacred Books of the East. His youthful flirtation with German nationalism and the Aryan race theories could now cost him dear. German unification was followed in England by an outburst of British jingoism in which Bismarck and his policies were being daily denounced Bismarck had become extremely unpopular in England for his expansionist policies. With his background as a German nationalist, the last thing Max Müller could afford was to be seen as advocating German ideology in Victorian England. He had no choice but to repudiate his former theories simply to survive in England. He reacted by hastily propounding a new ‘linguistic theory’ of the Aryan invasion.

So in 1872, immediately following German unification, the culmination of the century long dream of German nationalists, Friedrich Max Müller marched into a university in German occupied France and dramatically denounced the German doctrine of the Aryan race. And just as he had been an upholder of the Aryan race theory for the first twenty years of his career, he was to remain a staunch opponent of it for the remaining thirty years of his life. It is primarily in the second role that he is remembered today, except by those familiar with the whole history.

Let us now take a final look at this famous theory. It was first an Aryan invasion theory of Europe created by Europeans to free themselves from the Jewish heritage of Christianity. This was to lead to Hitler and Nazism. This theory was later transferred to India and got mixed up with the study of Sanskrit and European languages. Europeans–now calling themselves Indo-Europeans–became the invading Aryans and the natives became the Dravidians.

The British hired Max Müller to use this theory to turn the Vedas into an inferior scripture, to help turn educated Hindus into Christian collaborators. Max Müller used his position as a Vedic scholar to boost German nationalism by giving scriptural sanction to the German idea of the Aryan race. Following German unification under Bismarck, British public and politicians became scared and anti-German. At this Max Müller worried about his position in England, got cold feet and wriggled out of his predicament by denouncing his own former racial theory and turned it into a linguistic theory. In all of this, one would like to know where was the science?

As Huxley pointed out long ago, there was never any scientific basis for the Aryan race or their invasion. It was entirely a product–and tool–of propagandists and politicians. Giving it a linguistic twist was simply an afterthought, dictated by special circumstances and expediency.

The fact that Europeans should have concocted this scenario which by repeated assertion became a belief system is not to be wondered at. They were trying to give themselves a cultural identity, entirely understandable in a people as deeply concerned about their history and origins as the modern Europeans. But how to account for the tenacious attachment to this fiction that is more propaganda than history on the part of ‘establishment’ Indian historians? It is not greatly to their credit that modern Indian historians–with rare exceptions–have failed to show the independence of mind necessary to subject this theory to a fresh examination and come up with a more realistic version of history. Probably they lack also the necessary scientific skills and have little choice beyond continuing along the same well-worn paths that don’t demand much more than reiterating nineteenth century formulations.

It is not often that a people look to a land and culture far removed from them in space and time for their inspiration as the German nationalists did. This should made modern Indian historians examine the causes in Europe for this unusual phenomenon. It is one of the great failures of scholarship that they failed to do so.

We no longer have to continue along this discredited path. Now thanks to the contributions of science–from the pioneering exploration of V.S. Wakankar and his discovery of the Vedic river Sarasvati to Jha’s decipherment of the Indus script–we are finally allowed a glimpse into the ancient world of the Vedic Age. The Aryan invasion theory and its creators and advocates are on their way to the dustbin of history.

Historiography, not Indology, is the answer. The rise and fall of Indology closely parallels the growth and decline of European colonialism and the Euro-centric domination of Indian intellectual life. (Marxism is the most extreme of Euro-centric doctrines – a ‘Christian heresy’ as Bertrand Russell called it.) The greatest failure of Indology has been its inability to evolve an objective methodology for the study of the sources. Even after two hundred years of existence, there is no common body of knowledge that can serve as foundation, or technical tools that be used in addressing specific problems. All that Indologists have given us are theories and more theories almost all of them borrowed from other disciplines.

If one went to botany to borrow tree diagrams for the study of languages, another went to psychology to study sacrificial rituals, and a third – followed by a whole battalion – borrowed the idea of the class struggle from Marx to apply to Vedic society. Not one of them stopped to think whether it would not be better to try to study the ancients through the eyes of the ancients themselves. And yet ample materials exist to follow such a course. With the benefit of hindsight, even setting aside irrational biases due to politics and Biblical beliefs, we can now recognize that Indology has been guilty of two fundamental methodological errors.

First, linguists have confused their theories–based on their own classifications and even whimsical assumptions–for fundamental laws of nature that reflect historical reality.

Secondly, archaeologists, at least a significant number of them, have subordinated their own interpretations to the historical, cultural, and even the chronological impositions of the linguists. (Remember the Biblical Creation in 4004 BC which gave the Aryan invasion in 1500 BC!) This has resulted in a fundamental methodological error of confounding primary data from archaeology with modern impositions like the Aryan invasion and other theories and even their dates.

This mixing of unlikes–further confounded by religious beliefs and political theories–is a primary source of the confusion that plagues the history and archaeology of ancient India . In their failure to investigate the sources, modern scholars–Indian scholars in particular–have much to answer for.

As an immediate consequence of this, the vast body of primary literature from the Vedic period has been completely divorced from Harappan archaeology under the dogmatic belief that the Vedas and Sanskrit came later. This has meant that this great literature and its creators have no archaeological or even geographical existence. In our view, the correct approach to breaking this deadlock is by a combination of likes–a study of primary data from archaeology alongside the primary literature from ancient periods.

This means we must be wary of modern theories intruding upon ancient data and texts. The best course is to disregard them. They have outlived their usefulness if they had any. In the final analysis, Indology–like the Renaissance and the Romantic Movement–should be seen as part of European history. And Indologists–from Max Müller to his modern successors–have contributed no more to the study of ancient India than Herodotus. Their works tell us more about them than about India . It is time to make a new beginning. The decipherment of the Indus script–and the scientific methodology leading up to it–can herald this new beginning.

Navaratna Srinivasa Rajaram was an Indian academic and a Hindutva ideologue, notable for his publications from the Voice of India publishing house, propounding the “Indigenous Aryans” hypothesis and asserting that the Vedic period was extremely advanced from a scientific viewpoint.

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The Aryan Invasion: theories, counter-theories and historical significance

The Aryan Invasion theory was first propounded when linguistic similarities between Sanskrit and the major European languages were discovered by European scholars during the colonial era. In an atmosphere of raging eurocentricism, it was inevitable that any explanation of this seemingly inexplicable discovery would taken on racial and ideological overtones. (See Refs. 1)

Colonial expositions of the Aryan Invasion Theory

British intellectuals were particularly nonplussed by this apparent link between the languages of the conquerors and the conquered. In the earliest phases of British rule in India, the East India Company proceeded largely unconsciously - without moral dilemmas and without overt recourse to ideological or racial superiority. But as the rule of the East India Company expanded, and battles became more hard fought and the resistance to British occupation in India grew, the ideology of European racial superiority became almost essential in justifying British presence in India - not only to assuage British conscience, but also to convince the Indian people that the British were not mere colonial conquerors but a superior race on a noble civilizational mission.

After 1857, the British education system in India had been deliberately designed to assist in the development of a narrow but influential class of deeply indoctrinated and predominantly loyal agents of British colonial rule in India. British elaborations of the Aryan invasion theory became powerful and convenient ideological tools in generating legitimacy for British rule. In it's most classical and colonially tinged incarnation, it portrayed the Aryans as a highly advanced and culturally superior race in the ancient world, locating their original home in Northern Europe. It then went on to suggest that some time in antiquity, the Aryans migrated from their original home in Europe and brought with them their language and their superior culture and transcendental philosophy to civilize the primitive and materially backward Dravidian people of the subcontinent. All the greatness of Indian civilization was ascribed to the Aryans, thus implying that if India were to ever achieve greatness again, a return to Aryan rule was imperative.

And by claiming a cultural continuity between this noble race of ancient times and themselves, the British could become inheritors of the grand Aryan tradition and assert their "legitimate" civilizational right to rule over the people of the subcontinent - not to exploit them, but so as to "reinvigorate" Indian civilization by reintroducing Aryan rule that had been disfigured and corrupted by the violent and barbaric incursions of the Muslims. Preposterous and distorted as it was, this absurdly racist proposition was made palatable to a self-doubting and repressed class of upper-caste Hindus who were told that they were descendants of the Aryans, and could identify with the manifold and globally encompassing achievements of the Aryan people by accepting British authority so as to participate in this great Aryan renaissance in India. (See Ref. 2)

The theory gained rapid currency amongst upper-caste Hindus who had legitimate gripes against the Muslim nobility for having been denied equal access to power in the Muslim courts, but were too enfeebled to put up a fight on their own, and were too alienated from the mass of artisans and peasants to join in popular rebellions against the feudal dispensation. The British rulers offered the opportunity of gaining petty privileges in exchange for acquiescence to colonial rule, and the Aryan invasion theory provided the ideological justification for betraying the rest of ones nation. By placing the ancestral home of the Aryans far off in Northern Europe, the British were putting the idea in the heads of such upper-caste Hindus that they were far removed from the Indian masses and had no good reason to identify with them.

Wittingly or unwittingly, the Aryan invasion theory thus became the emotional bait for a section of the Indian population who were to aid and abet the colonial project in India. Although some of these Indians ultimately did develop national feelings, and forged a national identity that eventually came into conflict with the continuation of colonial rule, the theory continued to play an important role in confusing the psyche of the post-independence Indian intelligentsia.

Since the Aryan invasion belongs to a period of considerable antiquity, and there is little physical evidence to support any authoritative conclusion, theories affirming (or opposing) the invasion hypothesis can vary from being wildly speculative at worst, to being reasonably plausible at best. Even the most diligent and objective of historians can at best come up with informed conjectures, leaving open the possibility for uncertainty, and ideologically-driven diversionary postulations. The absence of concrete data and the ambiguity involved in interpreting surviving texts from the Aryan period makes the task of combating history-writing that has been colored by colonially influenced analysis doubly difficult.

Nevertheless, it is possible to construct the contours of what may be more plausible, and at least eliminate what is obviously fiction or fantasy.

Arguments for and against the Invasion Theory

Opponents of the invasion theory make a somewhat plausible case that the sacrificial rites and rituals described in some of the Vedic texts bear a resemblance to practices that may have been common during the Harappan period. The similiarity of Harappan and Vedic altars is indeed intriguing. This would bolster the argument that Brahmins of the Vedic age emerged from the Harappan priesthood, and not from any Aryan invasion. But a link between the Harappan priesthood and Vedic Brahminism does not preclude the possibility of an invasion or foreign migration. It is not inconceivable that the Vedic Brahmin developed as a composite of the Harappan priest and the priest of an invading (or migrating) tribe or clan. Animal sacrifices were common amongst many tribes in that age - and it is not entirely implausible that some kind of synthesis may have taken place.

Philological Analysis

Proponents of an invasion (or migration) theory feel quite strongly that the Indo-European linguistic commonality cannot be explained in any other way, and cite philological studies that appear to bolster their case.

However, opponents of the invasion theory argue that the structural commonality of the Indo-European group of languages could have been achieved without an Aryan invasion. They observe that the Harappan civilization had extensive trade and commercial ties with Babylon as well as with civilizations to the further West. There is a remarkable similarity in seals and cultural artifacts found in Harappan India, Babylon and even the early civilizations of the Mediterranean such as Crete. Hence, they argue that a linguistic commonality may have developed quite early through trade and cultural contacts and that this common linguistic structure may have subsequently moved from South to North. Since Mediterranean Europe and the Middle Eastern civilizations developed well before the civilizations of Northern Europe, such a possibility is not altogether inconceivable.

But such a hypothesis does not preclude the possibility that invading or migrating clans may have also introduced non-Indian words into the existing Indian languages - leading to a composite language stream that incorporated both Indo-European and indigenous features. (Urdu is an example of a language that was introduced as a result of a series of invasions, adding a large body of foreign words while maintaining the syntactical structure and vocabulary base of the previous language.)

Since much of the Indo-European linguistic commonality appears to correspond to the basic vocabulary of a pastoral nomadic population, intrusions by patriarchal warrior clans from Central Asia cannot be ruled out. Authors such as Gimbutas (The Civilization of the Goddess, the World of Old Europe) present a reasonably convincing model of how the older matriarchal order in Europe was gradually broken down by migrants/conquerors who spoke a language that might account for certain common elements of the Indo-European group of languages. Although it would be inappropriate to mechanically apply the same conclusions to India, the linguistic and philological arguments are hard to ignore.

It must nevertheless be noted that there are both similarities and differences amongst the various Indo-European languages, and often, historians (and philologists) tend to downplay (or ignore) the contributions of the Adivasi and Tamil language streams in the development of the Indic languages. Philological analysis of the Indian languages points to both Indo-European links, as well as to a considerable degree of independent development. Moreover, just as South Indian languages have absorbed Sanskrit words, North Indian languages have also absorbed words from Tamil and languages related to it.

Another criticism of the inasion theory lies in the interpretation of the word "Arya" to mean race, nationality or even linguistic group. Critics suggest that the word Arya as used in the Rig Veda and other texts is better translated as one who was noble in character (or noble in deed) or perhaps hailing from a noble background. Hence, to use the term "Aryan" to describe the racial or national characteristics of an invading clan or clans would naturally be erroneous. Thus, if an invasion did take place, and if the invaders identified themselves as "Aryans", it would merely reflect their claim to noble status, and would not reflect upon their national or racial origin.

On the other hand, historians favoring the invasion theory have based many of their arguments on postulates connecting the introduction of the horse and chariot in India to invading (or migrating) "Aryans". They also point to the balladic character of some of the verses in the Rig Veda with references to armed cattle raids and warriors on horse-driven chariots who appear to portray a race or a group of clans of pastoral nomadic warriors. The imagery fits particularly well with artifacts found in Babylon and Ancient Persia (and other regions near the Caspian Sea) that depict warriors riding on horse-driven chariots. Other literary evidence from the Rig Veda also appears to connect the authors of these Rig Veda verses to the "Aryan" identified civilization of ancient Persia.

On the other hand, there is no tangible evidence of warrior clans in the numerous urban settlements that comprise the Harappan civilization. There are also few references to pastoral nomadism or cattle raids. The Harappans appear to have been a relatively urbanized people and based their existence on what seems to be primarily settled agriculture. The character of such verses in the Rig Veda texts does not fit well with a people who designed vast granaries, roads, urban bungalows, and for their time a highly sophisticated drainage system. And while there is evidence to suggest that the Harappans had a priestly class, there is almost no evidence of standing armies. There is evidence of a local police force but there is little to suggest that the police forces were as well armed or proficient in the use of archery as were the warrior tribes that find mention in the Rig Veda. Unlike the contemporaneous civilizations of Babylon and old Persia, where the institution of monarchy may have been already established, requiring the existence of standing armies and warrior clans to support the monarchy, the Harappan civilization seems to have been largely republican in character, with a much weaker and smaller police force to ensure stability. Based on a survey of surviving physical artifacts, it is possible to surmise that priests may have played a greater role in ensuring the legitimacy of the Harappan state, whereas the warriors may have begun to play a more powerful role in the civilizations of the Middle East and Central Asia.

It is therefore, not unlikely that the introduction of monarchy and standing armies (and the introduction of the Kshatriya caste and the subsequent institutionalization of the caste system) may have come about, at least indirectly, as a consequence of an invasion or conquest. Another argument favoring some kind of an invasion is the evidence for Aryan-like invasions of other settled civilizations such as in Greece, and other parts of the Near East and Europe, and references in the Manusmriti to ruling clans who were clearly of non-Indian origin. Considering how frequently the subcontinent has faced invasions from the North West, an "Aryan" identifying invasion would not be entirely out of character with the experience of the subcontinent. As to the physical origins of these possible invaders, it is very hard to be definitive - but in all likelihood, their origins could not have been too far from the Caspian region.

Some verses in the Rig Veda paint a picture of a people who were familiar with settled agriculture, but whose economic life was dominated by animal husbandry, and who had been exposed to a large body of water such as the Caspian Sea. Geographically, parts of Persia fit quite well with such a description as might other regions bordering on the Caspian or located in the geographical vicinity of the Caspian. These regions offered rather limited possibilities for settled agriculture and shepherding played an important role in the semi-urban civilizations that emerged around the Caspian basin.

The Aryan identifying warrior clans could have been a branch of the ruling warrior clans of early Persia, or else they may have originated in Central Asia or Southern Russia with a civilization that closely resembled the civilization of the old Persians. While some of the verses in the Rig Veda point to a Persian connection, other verses suggest that while these warrior tribes who came to India followed practices that closely resembled those of the Persians, they may not have originated in Persia. The close similarities between names for various kinship ties and familial relationships in India and Russia appears to place these Aryan identifying clans or tribes on the northern side of the Caspian. An explanation that reconciles this apparently conflicting evidence is that there was not a single invasion but a series of intrusions (or migrations) by different Aryan identifying clans - some of whom collaborated with each other while others saw each other as rivals or enemies.

Examples from more recent history might also offer us some clues of what may have occurred. Just as India was confronted by a series of invasions by Islamic rulers from different parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, it is not implausible that several Aryan identifying tribes or clans developed certain common cultural features that spanned Persia, Central Asia and the South Caucasus region and then spread South East towards India, (and also North and West into greater Russia, Europe and the Mediterranean). Of course, it is possible and likely that upon their entry into India, they also borrowed from the settled agriculture civilizations of India who may have been culturally more advanced in many ways.

Alternatively, the invaders of the Rig-Vedic period may have been like the Rajputs or Gujjars, entering India as warrior clans, conquering territories in India, but adopting the culture of India albeit with certain modifications, and enjoining their balladeers to introduce into the Rig Veda, verses that glorified their conquests, and expressed their particular world view. This would not be too dissimiliar from how the Rajputs and other ruling dynasties had local court chroniclers invent fictional noble lineages to create an impression of continuity.

Links between Harappan and Vedic Civilization

However, it should be noted that regardless of the geographical origin of such invaders, it is almost certain that the ruling clans of the Gangetic plain included both locals and invaders (or migrants). Later texts (such as the Manusmriti) describe a large number of ruling clans (of varied national origin, including Dravidian origin) as being "Aryan" i.e. of noble descent. Hence, it would be incorrect to argue that the ruling clans of the Vedic period were exclusively made up of "invading Aryans".

There is also compelling circumstantial evidence linking the settlers of the Gangetic plain to earlier Harappan settlements. For instance, emerging geological evidence pointing to ancient river systems drying up and changing course, and the excavation of numerous settlements along the banks of these ancient river systems (such as the Saraswati basin that ran in parallel to the Indus) lends credence to the argument that the settlers of the Gangetic plain must have been predominantly domestic migrants.

Finds of Shatranj (chess) pieces, dice and terracotta animal and goddess figurines also point to connections between Harappan and later civilizations. It is also quite remarkable how the ornamentation of some temples in Rajasthan and Western Madhya Pradesh appears to derive from some of the excavated jewelry from Harappan sites in Northern India.

Some scholars also see a continuity between the Sulva Sutras and the Harappan civilization which owing to it's material advance must have very likely developed a level of arithmetic and ritual and abstract philosophy concomitant with it's achievements in urban planning and agricultural management. The evidence for decimal weights and measures in the Harappan civilization, and the later perfection of a decimal numeral system in India lends further substance to such claims.

Relevance of the Aryans

All this suggests that there is a much greater degree of continuity in Indian civilization than previously realized, and further examination of the Indian historical record will demonstrate that the numerous developments in philosophy and culture that have taken place in India cannot be attributed to "Aryan" invaders. In fact, the main significance of the invasion theory lies not in the determination of whether such an invasion took place or not, but rather in how much of a debt Indian civilization might owe to such an invasion.

For instance, prior to the series of Islamic invasions, and long after the Aryan period of Indian history, there have been numerous other invasions that had an impact on the subcontinent. Yet it is only the "Aryan" invasion that attracts popular and scholarly attention. This is primarily because of the importance ascribed to the "Aryan" invasion by British colonial historians. Before the invention of the "exalted" Aryan by British ideologues, references to the Aryans in the Rig Veda were not treated with any particular importance, and few Indians had any conscious memory of an "Aryan" warrior past. This is not surprising, because the legacy of such invading warrior tribes or clans to Indian civilization is not especially significant.

Prior to any "Aryan" invasion, India already had a relatively advanced settled-agriculture based urban civilization. And within a few centuries after their possible introduction in India, the Aryan-identified gods described in the Rig Veda ceased to be worshipped and gradually faded from Indian consciousness. Brahmin gotra (clan) names mentioned in the Rig Veda also lost their import and the vast majority of Brahmin gotra (clan) names that came into common use could not have had any "Aryan"-invasion connection. As Kosambi convincingly points out in his Introduction to Indian History, many of India's Brahmins rose from 'Hinduised' tribes that earlier practised animism or totem worship, or prayed to various fertility gods (and/or goddesses), or revered fertility symbols such as the linga (phallus) or the yoni (vagina). A majority of these Hinduised tribes retained many elements of their older forms of worship, and several Brahmin gotra (clan) names are derived from pre-Aryan clan totems and other tribal associations.

For instance, one of the most popular gods in the Indian pantheon - Shiva - appears to have no connection with any Aryan invasion, and may in fact have it's prototype in the fertility god of the Harappans. Similiarly, Hanuman, Ganesh, Kali, or Maharashtra's Vithoba - none could have any Aryan connection, since they don't even find any mention in the Rig Veda. Whether in matters of popular religion or in matters of high philosophy, there is little contribution of note that can be traced directly to an "Aryan invasion".

Uniquely Indian Aspects of Vedic Literature

It is important to note that much of the Vedic literature - both in the style and substance of it's verses, appears to be uniquely Indian, and it is not impossible that at least some of the verses may have Harappan origin. Many of the philosophical themes that are explored and developed in the Vedic literature have insightful naturalist references that are consistent with Indian geography. In addition, there are certain philosophical aspects of the Vedic literature that don't appear to be replicated in quite the same way in any other civilization that was contemporaneous to the Vedic civilization.

The best of the Vedic Shlokas refer to a common life-spirit that links all living creatures, to human social-interconnectedness, to the notion of unity in diversity and how different sections of society might have different prayers and different wishes. Whereas some verses point to god as being a source for wish-fulfillment, in other verses, there are doubts and queries about the nature of god, whether a god really exists, and whether such questions can every be really answered. These aspects of Vedic thought were elaborated upon by later schools of Indian philosophy, and recur frequently in Indian literature and philosophy.

While some of India's rational schools developed in parallel with the Vedas, and are included as appendices to the Vedic texts, others developed practically independently of the Vedas, or even in opposition - as polemics to the Vedas (such as those of the Jains and the Buddhists). (See Philosophical development from Upanishadic theism to scientific realism) The Upanishads, the Sankhya, and the Nyaya-Vaisheshika schools, the numerous treatises on medicine, ethics, scientific method, logic and mathematics clearly developed on Indian soil as a result of Indian experiences and intellectual efforts.

India's great surviving temples and Stupas with their rich carvings and sculpture were all created with aesthetic principles and formulations that developed centuries after any invading or migrating "Aryans" would have completely melted into Indian society. And though it is possible that these foreign "Aryans" may have introduced certain technological innovations and inventions (possibly in the realm of metallurgy, metal tools or carpentry, and may have thus facilitated the spread of settled agricultural civilizations along the Gangetic plain), knowledge of textile production, tool-making, and metallurgy was already available to the Harappans.

The grammar of Sanskrit and its highly systematized alphabet also had little to do with any "Aryan" invasion. Sanskrit is a highly structured and methodical language, optimized for engaging in rational debates and expressing mathematical formulas. And its skillfully organized alphabet bears little resemblance to the rather random and arbitrary alphabet of its European "cousins". Much of its vocabulary and syntax developed long after any supposed invasion, and although the structure of the South Indian languages may differ from those of the North in some respects, the majority of India's languages (both Northern and Southern) share a large base of a common Sanskrit-derived vocabulary. In addition, what is especially significant is how the North Indian scripts share so much in common with the scripts of Southern India. The phonetic organization of consonants and vowels, phonetic spelling, and the many other commonalities that bind all of India's syllabic scripts weakens the entire linguistic premise of the Aryan invasion theory. In fact, when it comes to scripts, consonant and vowel sounds, all Indian languages are closely related, and their closest relatives are to be found in South East Asia, Ethiopia (and even Korea and Mongolia to some degree) but not in Europe. (See Ref.6)

It is thus curious, to say the least, when Indian civilization is described as synonymous with an imported "Aryan" civilization - and the self-esteem of so many Indians is tied up with trying to disprove the Aryan invasion theory. Other than perhaps accelerate the demise of republicanism in India, and possibly hasten the spread of settled agriculture along the Northern plains, there appears to be few other tangible and long-lasting effects that could be ascribed to an "Aryan" invasion.

Not only is it unclear as to how much any invading or migrant "Aryan" clan may have introduced into the Vedic literature, Vedic civilization itself is only a subset of Hindu civilization.

While the Aryans of the Vedas may be credited with laying the foundations of "Hindu" civilization in the Gangetic plain, the essence of Hindu civilization emerged gradually, taking several centuries to crystallize. Undergoing both internal reform and fusion with pre-existing tribal and matriarchal cultures, the Hinduism of both the rulers and the masses kept evolving. Even as it retained certain philosophical elements from Vedic literature, it also broadened and in some ways diverged completely from the Vedas.

Beyond the Northern (Yamuna/Gangetic) plains, the influence of Aryan-identified Vedic civilization was generally more limited. Vedic influences on the civilizations in Bengal, Assam and Orissa were initially almost minimal, and these Eastern civilizations largely followed their own (and somewhat unique trajectories), as did the civilizations of South India - absorbing Vedic philosophical concepts gradually and only partially. Throughout India, Buddhism and Jainism also found converts, and in Kashmir, the North West, and in the East - Buddhism had a particularly profound influence, while in Western India (such as in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Western Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka) Jainism was very influential. In Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, West Bengal and Orissa, Tantric influences were important.

In essence, Indian civilization whether Hindu, Buddhist or Jain, or any other, developed primarily from the unique (and varied) conditions of Indian geography and the human exertion that went into modifying those conditions to advance agriculture and settled civilization. Taken in the general context of say three or four thousand years of Indian history, it is hard to ascribe to an "Aryan" invasion/s the sort of paramountcy assigned by the British. While British motives in magnifying the "Aryan" character of Indian civilization are only too apparent, this contemporary obsession with the "Aryan" question that appears to have gripped large sections of the Indian intelligentsia suggests that the ideological confusion created by the British has not yet been fully sorted out.

One consequence of this is that the debate on the Aryan question has been highly contentious, with historians adopting strident and extreme positions, not seeing that there can be both continuities and discontinuities in the development of Indian civilization. It has also diverted many of India's historians from equally (or more) important tasks - such as describing and integrating those periods of Indian history where considerable new archeological material is now available and needs to be incorporated into the presently known and documented view of Indian history.

Key aspects of Indian history remain poorly researched and documented. Many Sanskrit and vernacular texts have not been studied and assimilated by English speaking historians. Regional variations in Indian history have not been studied enough. A deeper understanding of some of the lesser known kingdoms all across India is required to correct false generalizations about Indian history. Much more effort is required in understanding social movements, gender and caste equations. Simplifications and generalizations based on antiquated documents like the Manusmriti (which was mainly resurrected by British historians) provide a very incomplete and distorted picture of actual social relations and practice in India. The Manusmriti also offers little in terms of understanding local and regional peculiarities in matters of social relations. (See Ref.3)

Considerable work is also required in unifying haphazard and scattered studies in the area of India's economic history and the history of philosophy, science, technology and manufacturing. It is also important that the vast body of work that has been published since independence in English be translated into the nation's many languages and regional dialects. It is tragic that so much of the best research done in Indian history is available only to English speakers. These are just some of the tasks that need greater attention from the community of Indian historians.

Intriguing as the Aryan-origin debate may be, it is in the end only one facet of Indian history, and merits further attention only if historians and archeologists can offer fresh and new insights on this subject and relate them to the broad dynamics of Indian civilization.

Notes and References:

1. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, famous for his work on the Indian Constitution, as well as his campaign in support of the nation's dalit community noticed the racial overtones underlying the theory and described the British espousal of the Aryan Invasion theory in the following words: "The theory of invasion is an invention. This invention is necessary because of a gratuitous assumption that the Indo-Germanic people are the purest of the modern representation of the original Aryan race. The theory is a perversion of scientific investigation. It is not allowed to evolve out of facts. On the contrary, the theory is preconceived and facts are selected to prove it. It falls to the ground at every point."

b. British anthropologist, Edmund Leach also termed the Aryan invasion theory as being born out of European racism.

2.. "What has taken place since the commencement of the British rule in India is only a reunion, to a certain extent, of the members of the same family," John Wilson, a colonial missionary, declared with a straight face, and naturally this happy reunion had now brought India into contact "with the most enlightened and philanthropic nation in the world." - quoted by Sri Aurobindo: The Origins of Aryan Speech, (The Secret of the Veda, p. 554).

3. See Madhu Kishwar: Manusmriti to Madhusmriti

4. See Marija Gimbutas: The Civilization of the Goddess, The World of Old Europe on the philological commonalities of the Indo-European languages, and how these commonalities relate to the culture and ethos of pastoral nomadic patriarchal warrior clans.

5. P.T. Srinivasa Iyengar (History of the Tamils) makes a similar case emphasizing the essentially indigenous development of Tamil language and civilization. Although some of his conclusions appear to be somewhat conjectural (such as those pertaining to Tamil Nadu possibly being the "original" homeland of the Sumerians), his assertion that Tamil language and culture arose from the very geography of the Tamil country is well substantiated. He does this by citing the anthropological observations of the ancient Tamils and demonstrating how the distinct geographical features of the Tamil country influenced the development of distinct modes of production and patterns of living, which in turn, helped shape their culture and language.

6. See, for instance, Wikipedia's on-line article on Indian and other Syllabic/Abugida scripts.

More evidence

Aryan-Dravidian divide a myth: Study
25 September 2009

HYDERABAD: The great Indian divide along north-south lines now stands blurred. A pathbreaking study by Harvard and indigenous researchers on ancestral Indian populations says there is a genetic relationship
between all Indians and more importantly, the hitherto believed “fact” that Aryans and Dravidians signify the ancestry of north and south Indians might after all, be a myth.

“This paper rewrites history… there is no north-south divide,” Lalji Singh, former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and a co-author of the study, said at a press conference here on

Senior CCMB scientist Kumarasamy Thangarajan said there was no truth to the Aryan-Dravidian theory as they came hundreds or thousands of years after the ancestral north and south Indians had settled in India.

The study analysed 500,000 genetic markers across the genomes of 132 individuals from 25 diverse groups from 13 states. All the individuals were from six-language families and traditionally “upper” and
“lower” castes and tribal groups. “The genetics proves that castes grew directly out of tribe-like organizations during the formation of the Indian society,” the study said. Thangarajan noted that it was
impossible to distinguish between castes and tribes since their genetics proved they were not systematically different.

The study was conducted by CCMB scientists in collaboration with researchers at Harvard Medical School,
Harvard School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. It reveals that the present-day Indian population is a mix of ancient north and south bearing the genomic contributions from two
distinct ancestral populations – the Ancestral North Indian (ANI) and the Ancestral South Indian (ASI).

“The initial settlement took place 65,000 years ago in the Andamans and in ancient south India around the same time, which led to population growth in this part,” said Thangarajan. He added, “At a later stage,
40,000 years ago, the ancient north Indians emerged which in turn led to rise in numbers here. But at some point of time, the ancient north and the ancient south mixed, giving birth to a different set of population.
And that is the population which exists now and there is a genetic relationship between the population within India.”

The study also helps understand why the incidence of genetic diseases among Indians is different from the rest of the world. Singh said that 70% of Indians were burdened with genetic disorders and the study could
help answer why certain conditions restricted themselves to one population. For instance, breast cancer among Parsi women, motor neuron diseases among residents of Tirupati and Chittoor, or sickle cell
anaemia among certain tribes in central India and the North-East can now be understood better, said researchers.

The researchers, who are now keen on exploring whether Eurasians descended from ANI, find in their study that ANIs are related to western Eurasians, while the ASIs do not share any similarity with any other
population across the world. However, researchers said there was no scientific proof of whether Indians went to Europe first or the other way round.

Migratory route of Africans

Between 135,000 and 75,000 years ago, the East-African droughts shrunk the water volume of the lake Malawi by at least 95%, causing migration out of Africa. Which route did they take? Researchers say their study of the tribes of Andaman and Nicobar islands using complete mitochondrial DNA sequences and its comparison those of world populations has led to the theory of a “southern coastal route” of migration from East Africa through India.

This finding is against the prevailing view of a northern route of migration via Middle East, Europe, south-east Asia, Australia and then to India.

Demise of the Aryan Invasion Theory

Aryan Race and Invasion Theory is not a subject of academic interest only, rather it conditions our perception of India’s historical evolution, the sources of her ancient glorious heritage, and indigenous socio-economic-political institutions which have been developed over the millennia. Consequently, the validity or invalidity of this theory has an obvious and strong bearing on the contemporary Indian political and social landscape as well as the future of Indian nationalism. The subject matter is as relevant today as it was a hundred years ago when it was cleverly introduced in the school text books by British rulers. The last couple of decades have witnessed a growing interest among scholars, social scientists, and many nationalist Indians in this some what vapid and prosaic subject due to their aunguish on the great damage this theory has wrought on the psyche of the Indian society, and its tremendous contribution in creating apparently lasting schism between the different sections of the Hindu society. This subject must especially and urgently interest to all those people who are committed to the ideology of Hindutva, for one of the primary and fundamental premises of Hindutva philosophy lies in the fact that the Indian cultural nationalism has been evolved and fostered over the millenia by our ancient rishis who at the banks of holy rivers of Saptasindhu had composed the Vedic literature – the very foundation of Indian civilization, and realised the eternal truth about the Creator, His creation, and means to preserve it. The fact that these pioneers of the ancient Vedic culture and hence the Hinduism were indigenous people of mother India, is mendaciously denied by the Aryan Invasion theory which professes their foreign origin. If such a false theory is allowed to perpetuate and given credence without any tenable and reliable basis, the very raison d’etre of Hindutva is endangered. In this essay, an attempt has been made to expose the myth of Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) based on scriptural, archaeological evidences and proper interpretation of Vedic verses, and present the factual situation of the ancient Vedic society and how it progressed and evolved into all-embracing and catholic principle, now known as Hindusim.

The Aryan issue is quite controversial and has been the focus of historians, archaeologists, Indologists, and sociologists for over a century. AIT is merely a proposed ‘theory’, and not a factual event. And theories keep modifying, are discredited, nay even rejected with the emergence of new knowledge and data pertaining to the subject matter of the theories. The AIT can not be accepted as Gospel truth knowing fully well its shaky and dubious foundations, and now with the emergence of new information and an objective analysis of the archaeological data and scriptures, the validity of AIT is seriously challenged and it stands totally untenable. The most weird aspect of the AIT is that it has its origin not in any Indian records (no where in any of the ancient Indian scriptures or epics or Puranas, etc. is there any mention of this AIT, sounds really incredible!), but in European politics and German nationalism of 19th century. AIT has no support either in Indian literature, tradition, science, or not even in any of the south Indian (Dravidians, inhabitants of south India, who were supposed to be the victims of the so-called Aryan invasion) literature and tradition. So a product of European politics of the 19th century was forced on Indian history only to serve the imperialist policy of British colonialists to divide the Indian society on ethnic and religious lines in order to continue their reign on the one hand and accentuate the religious aims of Christian missionaries on the other. There is absolutely no reference in Indian traditions and literature of an Aryan Invasion of Northern India, until the British imperialists imposed this theory on an unsuspecting and gullible Indian society and introduced it to the school curriculum. The irony is that this is still taught in our schools as an unmitigated truth, and the authorities who set the curriculum of Indian history books are not yet prepared to accept the verdict, and make the amends. This is truly a shame! Now, more and more evidence is emerging which not only challenges the old myth of Aryan Invasion, but also is destroying all the pillars on which the entire edifice of AIT had been assiduously but cleverly built.

It is a known fact that most of the original proponents of AIT were not historians or archaeologists but had missionary and political axe to grind. Max Muller in fact had been paid by the East India Company to further its colonial aims, and others like Lassen and Weber were ardent German nationalists, with hardly any authority or knowledge on India, only motivated by the superiority of German race/nationalism through white Aryan race theory. And as everybody knows this eventually ended up in the most calamitous event of 20th century: the World War II. Even in the early times of the AIT’s onward journey of acceptability, there were numerous challengers like C.J.H. Hayes, Boyed C. Shafer and Hans Kohn who made a deep study of the evolution and character of nationalism in Europe. They had exposed the unscientificness of many of the budding social sciences which were utilized in the 19th century to create the myth of Aryan Race Theory.

In the last couple of decades, the discovery of the lost track of the Rig Vedic river Saraswati, the excavation of a chain of Harappan sites from Ropar in the Punjab to Lothal and Dhaulavira in Gujarat all along this lost track, the discovery of the archaeological remains of Vedis (alters) and Yupas connected with Vedic Yajnas (sacrifices) at Harrapan sites like Kalibangan, decipherment of the Harappan/Indus script by many scholars as a language belonging to Vedic Sanskrit family, the view of the archaeologists like Prof. Dales, Prof. Allchin etc. that the end of the Harappan civilization came not because of the so called Aryan invasion but as a result of a series of floods, the discovery of the lost Dwarka city beneath the sea water near Gujarat coast and its similarity with Harappan civilization – all these new findings and an objective, accurate and contextual interpretation of Vedas indicate convincingly towards the full identity of the Harappan/Indus civilization with post Vedic civilization, and demand a re-examination of the entire gamut of Aryan Race/Invasion Theories which have been forcefully pushed down the throats of Indian society by some European manipulators and Marxist historians all these years.

For thousands of years the Hindu society has looked upon the Vedas as the fountainhead of all knowledge: spiritual and secular, and the mainstay of Hindu culture, heritage and its existence. Never our historical or religious records have questioned this fact. Even western and far eastern travellers who have documented their experiences during their prolonged stay and sojourn in India have testified the importance of Vedic literature and its indigenous origin. And now, suddenly, in the last century or so, these the so-called European scholars are pontificating us that the Vedas do not belong to Hindus, they were the creation of a barbaric horde of nomadic tribes descended upon north India and destroyed an advanced indigenous civilization. They even suggest that the Sanskrit language is of non-Indian origin. This is all absurd, preposterous, and defies the commonsense. A nomadic, barbaric horde of invaders cannot from any stretch of imagination produce the kind of sublime wisdom, pure and pristine spiritual experiences of the highest order, a universal philosophy of religious tolerance and harmony for the entire mankind, one finds in the Vedic literature.

Now let us examine the origin and the conditions in which this historical fraud was concocted.

Max Muller, a renowned Indologist from Germany, is credited with the popularization of the Aryan racial theory in the middle of 19th century. Though later on when Muller’s reputation as a Sanskrit scholar was getting damaged, and he was challenged by his peers, since nowhere in the Sanskrit literature, the term Arya denoted a racial people, he recanted and pronounced that Aryan meant only a linguistic family and never applied to a race. But the damage was already done. The German and French political and nationalist groups exploited this racial phenomenon to propagate the supremacy of an assumed Aryan race of white people, which Hitler used to its extreme absurdities for his barbaric crusade to terrorize Jews and other societies. This culminated in the holocaust of millions of innocent people. Though now this racial nonsense has mostly been discarded in Europe, but in India it is still being exploited and used to divide and denigrate the Hindu society. Our aim is to expose myth about AIT, and establish the truth of the identity of the pioneers of the Vedic civilization and set the historical events after the Vedic period in proper perspective and in realistic time frame.

What, really, is the A ryan I nvasion T heory?

According to this theory, northern India was invaded and conquered by nomadic, light-skinned RACE of a people called ‘ARYANS‘ who descended from Central Asia (or some unknown land ?) around 1500 BC, and destroyed an earlier and more advanced civilization of the people habitated in the Indus Valley and imposed upon them their culture and language. These Indus Valley people were supposed to be either Dravidian, or AUSTRICS or now–days’ Shudra class etc.

The main elements on which the entire structure of AIT has been built are: Arya is a racial group, their invasion, they were nomadic, light-skinned, their original home was outside India, their invasion occurred around 1500 BC, they destroyed an advanced civilization of Indus valley, etc. And what are the evidences AIT advocates present in support of all these wild conjectures:

  • Invasion: Mention of Conflicts in Vedic literature, findings of skeletons at the excavated sites of Mohanjodro and Harappa
  • Nomadic, Light-skinned: Pure conjecture and misinterpretation of Vedic hymns.
  • Non-Aryan/Dravidian Nature of Indus civilization: absence of horse, Shiva worshippers, chariots, Racial differences, etc.
  • Date of Invasion, 1500 BC: Arbitrary and speculative, in Mesopotamia and Iraq the presence of the people worshipping Vedic gods around 1700BC, Biblical chronology.

Major Flaws in the A ryan I nvasion T heory

A major flaw of the invasion theory was that it had no explanation for why the Vedic literature that was assumed to go back into the second millennium BC had no reference to any region outside of India. Also the astronomical references in the Rig Veda allude to events in the third millennium BC and even earlier, indicating origin ofVedic hymns earlier than 3000BC. The contributions of the Vedic world to philosophy, mathematics, logic, astronomy, medicine and other sciences provide one of the foundations on which rests the common heritage of mankind, is well recognized but cannot be reconciled if Vedas were composed after 1500BC. Further, if it is assumed that the so-called Aryans invaded the townships in the Harappa valley and destroyed its habitants and their civilization, how come after doing that they did not occupy these towns? The excavations of these sites indicate that the townships were abandoned. And if the Harappan civilization had a Dravidian origin, who were allegedly pushed down to the south by Aryans, how come there is no Aryan-Dravidian divide in the respective literatures and historical traditions. The North and South have never been known to be culturally hostile to each other. Prior to the descent of British on Indian scene, there was a continuous interaction and cultural exchange between the two regions. The Sanskrit language, the so-called Aryan language was the lingua-franca of the entire society for thousands of years. The three greatest figures of later Hinduism – Shankaracharya, Madhavacharya and Ramanujam were Southerners who are universally respected in the North, and who have written commentaries on Vedic scriptures in Sanskrit only for the benefit of the entire population. Even in the ancient times some of the great Sutra authors like Baudhayana and Apastamba were from South. Agastya, a celebrated Vedic rishi, is widely venerated in the South as the one who introduced Vedic learning to the South India. And also was the South India un-inhabitated prior to the pushing of the original population of Indus Valley? If not, who were the original inhabitants of South India, who accepted the newcomers without any hostility or fight?

There is enough positive evidence in support of the religious rites of the Harappans being similar to those of the Vedic Aryans. Their religious motifs, deities and sacrificial altars bespeak of Aryan faith, indicating continuity and identity of Vedic culture with the Indus valley civilization.

If the Aryan Hindus were outsiders, why don’t they name places outside India as their most holy places? Why should they sing paeans in the praise of India’s numerous rivers crisscrossing the entire peninsula, and mountains – repositories of life giving water and natural resources, nay even bestow them a status of goddesses and gods. If Aryans were outsiders why should they consider this land as the ‘holy land’ and not their original land as the ‘holy land’ or motherland? For the Muslims, their holy placeis Mecca. For the Catholics it is Rome or Jerusalem. For the Hindus, their pilgrim centers range from Kailash in the North, to Rameshwaram in the South and from Hingalaj (Sindh) in the West to Parusuram Kund (Arunchala Pradesh) in the East. The seven holy cities of Hinduism include Kanchipurum in the south, Dwaraka in the west and Ujjain in central India. The twelve jyotirlings include Ramashwaram in Tamil Nadu, Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Nashik in Maharashtra, Somnath in Gujarat and Kashi in Uttar Pradesh. All these are located in greater India only. No Hindu from any part of India has felt a stranger in any other part of India when on a pilgrimage. The seven holy rivers in Hinduism, indeed, seem to chart out the map of the holy land. The Sindhu and the Saraswati (now extinct) originating from the Himalayas and move westward and southwards into the western sea the Ganga and the Yamuna also start in the Himalayas and move eastward into the north-eastern sea the Narmada starts in central India and the Godavari starts in western India, while the Kaveri winds its way through the south to move into the southern sea. More than a thousand years ago, Adi Shankaracharya, who was born in Kerala, established several mathas (religious and spiritual centers) including at Badrinath in the north (UP), Puri in the east (Orissa), Dwaraka in the west (Gujarat), and at Shringeri and Kanchi in the south. That is India, that is Bharat, that is Hinduism.

These are some of the obvious serious objections, inconsistencies, and glaring anomalies to which the invasionists have no convincing or plausible explanations which could reconcile the above facts with the Aryan invasion theory and destruction of Indus Valley civilization.

Now let us examine the facts about the so-called evidences in support of AIT:

    Real Meaning of the word Arya

In 1853, Max Muller introduced the word ‘Arya’ into the English and European usage as applying to a racial and linguistic group when propounding the Aryan Racial theory. However, in 1888, he himself refuted his own theory and wrote:

I have declared again and again that if I say Aryas, I mean neither blood nor bones, nor hair, nor skull I mean simply those who speak an Aryan language… to me an ethnologist who speaks of Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or a brachycephalic grammar.” (Max Muller, Biographies of Words and the Home of the Aryas, 1888, pg 120).

In Vedic Literature, the word Arya is nowhere defined in connection with either race or language. Instead it refers to: gentleman, good-natured, righteous person, noble-man, and is often used like ‘Sir’ or ‘Shree’ before the name of a person like Aryaputra, Aryakanya, etc.

In Ramayan (Valmiki), Rama is described as an Arya in the following words: Arya – who cared for the equality to all and was dear to everyone.

Etymologically, according to Max Muller, the word Arya was derived from ar-, “plough, to cultivate“. Therefore, Arya means – “cultivator” agriculturer (civilized sedentary, as opposed to nomads and hunter-gatherers), landlord

V.S. Apte’s Sanskrit-English dictionary relates the word Arya to the root r-,to which a prefix a has been appended to give a negating meaning. And therefore the meaning of Arya is given as “excellent, best“, followed by “respectable” and as a noun, “master, lord, worthy, honorable, excellent“, upholder of Arya values, and further: teacher, employer, master, father-in-law, friend, Buddha.

So nowhere either in the religious scriptures or by tradition the word Arya denotes a race or language. To impose such a meaning on this epithet is an absolute intellectual dishonesty, deliberate falsification of the facts, and deceptive-scholarship. There are only four primary races, namely, Caucasian, the Mangolian, the Australians and the Negroid. Both the Aryans and Dravidians are related branches of the Caucasian race generally placed in the same Mediterranean sub-branch. The difference between the so-called Aryans of the north and the Dravidians of the south or other communities of Indian subcontinent is not a racial type. Biologically all are the same Caucasian type, only when closer to the equator the skin gets darker, and under the influence of constant heat the bodily frame tends to get a little smaller. And these differences can not be the basis of two altogether different races. Similar differences one can observe even more distinctly among the people of pure Caucasian white race of Europe. Caucasian can be of any color ranging from pure white to almost pure black, with every shade of brown in between. Similarly, the Mongolian race is not yellow. Many Chinese have skin whiter than many so-called Caucasians. Further, a recent landmark global study in population genetics by a team of internationally reputed scientists over 50 years (The History and Geography of Human Genes, by Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi and Alberto Piazza, Princeton University Press) reveals that the people habitated in the Indian subcontinent and nearby including Europe, all belong to one single race of Caucasion type. According to this study, there is essentially, and has been no difference racially between north Indians and the so-called Dravidian South Indians. The racial composition has remained almost the same for millennia. This study also confirms that there is no race called as an Aryan race.

A. Conflicts between the forces of nature: Indra, the Thunder-God of the Rig Veda, occupies a central position in the naturalistic aspects of the Rigvedic religion, since it is he who forces the clouds to part with their all-important wealth, the rain. In this task he is pitted against all sorts of demons and spirits whose main activity is the prevention of rainfall and sunshine. Rain, being the highest wealth, is depicted in terms of more terrestrial forms of wealth, such as cows or soma. The clouds are depicted in terms of their physical appearance: as mountains, as the black abodes of the demons who retain the celestial waters of the heavens (i.e. the rains), or as the black demons themselves. This is in no way be construed as the war between white Aryans and black Dravidians. This is a perverted interpretation from those who have not understood the meaning and purport of the Vedic culture and philosophy. Most of the verses which mention the wars/conflicts are composed using poetic imagery, and depict the celestial battles of the natural forces, and often take greater and greater recourse to terrestrial terminology and anthropomorphic depictions. The descriptions acquire an increasing tendency to shift from naturalism to mythology. And it is these mythological descriptions which are grabbed at by invasion theorists as descriptions of wars between invading Aryans and indigenous non-Aryans. An example of such distorted interpretation is made of the following verse:

The body lay in the midst of waters that are neither still nor flowing. The waters press against the secret opening of the Vrtra (the coverer) who lay in deep darkness whose enemy is Indra. Mastered by the enemy, the waters held back like cattle restrained by a trader. Indra crushed the vrtra and broke open the withholding outlet of the river. (Rig Veda, I.32.10-11)

This verse is a beautiful poetic and metamorphical description of snow-clad dark mountains where the life-sustaining water to feed the rivers flowing in the Aryavarta is held by the hardened ice caps (vrtra demon) and Indra, the rain god by allowing the sun to light its rays on the mountains makes the ice caps break and hence release the water. The invasionists interpret this verse literally on human plane, as the slaying of vrtra, the leader of dark skinned Dravidian people of Indus valley by invading white-skinned Aryan king Indra. This is an absurd and ludicrous interpretation of an obvious conflict between the natural forces.

B. Conflict between Vedic and Iranian people: Another category of conflicts in the Rigveda represents the genuine conflict between the Vedic people and the Iranians. At one time Iranians and Vedic people formed one society and were living harmoniously in the northern part of India practising Vedic culture, but at some point in the history for some serious philosophical dispute, the society got divided and one section moved to further north-west, now known as Iran. However, the conflict and controversy were continued between the two groups often resulting into even physical fights. The Iranians not only called their God Ahura (Vedic Asura) and their demons Daevas (Vedic Devas), but they also called themselves Dahas and Dahyus (Vedic Dasas, and Dasyus). The oldest Iranian texts, moreover depict the conflicts between the daeva-worshippers and the Dahyus on behalf of the Dahyus, as the Vedic texts depict them on behalf of the Deva-worshippers. Indra, the dominant God of the Rigveda, is represented in the Iranian texts by a demon Indra. What this all indicate that wars or conflicts of this second category are not between Aryans and non-Aryans, but between two estranged groups of the same parent society which got divided by some philosophical dichotomy. Vedas even mention the gods of Dasyus as Arya also.

C. Conflicts between various indigenous tribal groups over natural resources and various minor kingdoms to gain supremacy over the land and its expansion: A global phenomenon known to share the natural resources like, water, cattle, vegetation and land, and expand the geographical boundaries of the existing kingdoms. This conflict in no way suggests any war or invasion by outsiders on the indigenous people.

What of these skeletal remains that have taken on such undeserved importance? Nine years of extensive excavations at Mohenjo-daro (1922-31) – a city of three miles in circuit – yielded the total of some 37 skeletons, or parts thereof, that can be attributed with some certainty to the period of the Indus civilizations. Some of these were found in contorted positions and groupings that suggest anything but orderly burials. Many are either disarticulated or incomplete. They were all found in the area of the Lower Town – probably the residential district. Not a single body was found within the area of the fortified citadel where one could reasonably expect the final defence of this thriving capital city to have been made.

He further questions: Where are the burned fortresses, the arrow heads, weapons, pieces of armour, the smashed chariots and bodies of in the invaders and defenders? Despite the extensive excavations at the largest Harappan sites, there is not a single bit of evidence that can be brought forth as unconditional proof of an armed conquest and the destruction on the supposed scale of the Aryan invasion.

Colin Renfrew, Prof. of Archeology at Cambridge, in his famous work, “Archeology and Language : The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins“, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988, makes the following comments about the real meaning and interpretation of Rig Vedic hymns:

“Many scholars have pointed out that an enemy quite frequently smitten in these hymns is the Dasyu. The Dasyus have been thought by some commentators to represent the original, non-Vedic-speaking population of the area, expelled by the incursion of the war like Aryas in their war-chariots. As far as I can see there is nothing in the Hymns of the Rigveda which demonstrates that the Vedic-speaking population were intrusive to the area: this comes rather from a historical assumption about the ‘coming’ of the Indo-Europeans. It is certainly true that the gods invoked do aid the Aryas by over-throwing forts, but this does not in itself establish that the Aryas had no forts themselves. Nor does the fleetness in battle, provided by horses (who were clearly used primarily for pulling chariots), in itself suggest that the writers of these hymns were nomads. Indeed the chariot is not a vehicle especially associated with nomads. This was clearly a heroic society, glorifying in battle. Some of these hymns, though repetitive, are very beautiful pieces of poetry, and they are not by any means all warlike.

…When Wheeler speaks of the Aryan invasion of the Land of the Seven Rivers, the Punjab’, he has no warranty at all, so far as I can see. If one checks the dozen references in the Rigveda to the Seven Rivers, there is nothing in any of them that to me which implies an invasion: the land of the Seven Rivers is the land of the Rigveda, the scene of the action. Nothing implies that the Aryas were strangers there. Nor is it implied that the inhabitants of the walled cities (including the Dasyus) were any more aboriginal than the Aryas themselves. Most of the references, indeed, are very general ones such as the beginning of the Hymn to Indra (Hymn 102 of Book 9).

To thee the Mighty One I bring this mighty Hymn, for thy desire hath been gratified by my praise. In Indra, yea in him victorious through his strength, the Gods have joyed at feast, and when the Soma flowed.

The Seven Rivers bear his glory far and wide, and heaven and sky and earth display his comely form. The Sun and Moon in change alternate run their course that we, O Indra, may behold and may have faith . . .

The Rigveda gives no grounds for believing that the Aryas themselves lacked for forts, strongholds and citadels. Recent work on the decline of the Indus Valley civilization shows that it did not have a single, simple cause: certainly there are no grounds for blaming its demise upon invading hordes. This seems instead to have been a system collapse, and local movements of people may have followed it.”

M.S. Elphinstone (1841): (first governor of Bombay Presidency, 1819-27) in his magnum opus, History of India, writes:

Hindu scripture…. “It is opposed to their (Hindus) foreign origin, that neither in the Code (of Manu) nor, I believe, in the Vedas, nor in any book that is certainly older than the code, is there any allusion to a prior residence or to a knowledge of more than the name of any country out of India. Even mythology goes no further than the Himalayan chain, in which is fixed the habitation of the gods…

…To say that it spread from a central point is an unwarranted assumption, and even to analogy for, emigration and civilization have not spread in a circle, but from east to west. Where, also, could the central point be, from which a language could spread over India, Greece, and Italy and yet leave Chaldea, Syria and Arabia untouched?

And, Elphinstone’s final verdict:

There is no reason whatever for thinking that the Hindus ever inhabitated any country but their present one, and as little for denying that they may have done so before the earliest trace of their records or tradition.

So what these eminent scholars have concluded based on the archaeological and literary evidence that there was no invasion by the so-called Aryans, there was no massacre at Harappan and Mohanjo-dara sites, Aryans were indigenous people, and the decline of the Indus valley civilization is due to some natural calamity.

It is argued that the Aryans were horse riding, used chariots for transport, and since no signs of horse was found at the sites of Harappa and Mohanjo-daro, the habitants of Indus valley cannot be Aryans. Well, this was the case in the 1930-40 when the excavation of many sites were not completed. Now numerous excavated sites along Indus valley and along the dried Saraswati river have produced bones of domesticated horses. Dr. SR Rao, the world renowned scholar of archeology, informs us that horse bones have been found both from the ‘Mature Harappan’ and ‘Late Harappan’ levels. Many other scholars since then have also unearthed numerous bones of horses: both domesticated and combat types. This simply debunks the non-Aryan nature of the habitants of the Indus valley and also identifies the Vedic culture with the Indus valley civilization.

The advocates of AIT argue that the inhabitants of Indus valley were Siva worshippers and since Siva cult is more prevalent among the South Indian Dravidians, therefore the habitants of Indus valley were Dravidians. But Shiva worship is not alien to Vedic culture, and not confined to South India only. The words Siva and Shambhu are not derived from the Tamil words civa (to redden, to become angry) and cembu (copper, the red metal), but from the Sanskrit roots si (therefore meaning “auspicious, gracious, benevolent, helpful kind”) and sam (therefore meaning “being or existing for happiness or welfare, granting or causing happiness, benevolent, helpful, kind”), and the words are used in this sense only, right from their very first occurrence. (Sanskrit- English Dictionary by Sir M. Monier-Williams).

Moreover, most important symbols of Shaivites are located in North India: Kashi is the most revered and auspicious seat of Shaivism which is in the north, the traditional holy abode of Shiva is Kailash mountain which is in the far-north, there are passages in Rigvada which mention Siva and Rudra and consider him an important deity. Indra himself is called Shiva several times in Rig Veda (2:20:3, 6:45:17, 8:93:3). So Siva is not a Dravidian god only, and by no means a non-Vedic god. The proponents of AIT also present terra-cotta lumps found in the fire-alters at the Harappan and other sites as an evidence of Shiva linga, implying the Shiva cult was prevalent among the Indus valley people. But these terra-cotta lumps have been proved to be the measures for weighing the commodities by the shopkeepers and merchants. Their weights have been found in perfect integral ratios, in the manner like 1 gm, 2 gms, 5 gms, 10 gms etc. They were not used as the Shiva lingas for worship, but as the weight measurements.

The discovery of this city is very significant and a kind of clinching evidence in discarding the Aryan invasion as well as its proposed date of 1500BC. Its discovery not only establishes the authenticity of Mahabharat war and the main events described in the epic, but clinches the traditional antiquity of Mahabharat and Ramayana periods. So far the AIT advocates used to either dismiss the Mahabharat epic as a fictional work of a highly talented poet or would place it around 1000 BC. But the remains of this submerged city along the coast of Gujarat were dated 3000BC to 1500BC. In Mahabharat’s Musal Parva, the Dwarka is mentioned as being gradually swallowed by the ocean. Krishna had forewarned the residents of Dwaraka to vacate the city before the sea submerged it. The Sabha Parva gives a detailed account of Krishna’s flight from Mathura with his followers to Dwaraka to escape continuous attacks of Jarasandh’s on Mathura and save the lives of its subjects. For this reason, Krishna is also known as RANCHHOR (one who runs away from the battle-field). Dr. SR Rao and his team in 1984-88 (Marine Archaeology Unit) undertook an extensive search of this city along the coast of Gujarat where the Dwarikadeesh temple stands now, and finally they succeeded in unearthing the ruins of this submerged city off the Gujarat coast.

It is well known that in the Rig Veda, the honor of the greatest and the holiest of rivers was not bestowed upon the Ganga, but upon Saraswati, now a dry river, but once a mighty flowing river all the way from the Himalayas to the ocean across the Rajasthan desert. The Ganga is mentioned only once while the Saraswati is mentioned at least 60 times. Extensive research by the late Dr. Wakankar has shown that the Saraswati changed her course several times, going completely dry around 1900 BC. The latest satellite data combined with field archaeological studies have shown that the Rig Vedic Saraswati had stopped being a perennial river long before 3000 BC.

As Paul-Henri Francfort of CNRS, Paris recently observed, “…we now know, thanks to the field work of the Indo-French expedition that when the proto-historic people settled in this area, no large river had flowed there for a long time.”

The proto-historic people he refers to are the early Harappans of 3000 BC. But satellite ‘photos show that a great prehistoric river that was over 7 kilometers wide did indeed flow through the area at one time. This was the Saraswati described in the Rig Veda. Numerous archaeological sites have also been located along the course of this great prehistoric river thereby confirming Vedic accounts. The great Saraswati that flowed “from the mountain to the sea” is now seen to belong to a date long an terior to 3000 BC. This means that the Rig Veda describes the geography of North India long before 3000 BC. All this shows that the Rig Veda must have been in existence no later than 3500 BC. (Aryan Invasion of India: The Myth and the Truth By N.S. Rajaram)

River Saraswati IN RIGVEDA

The river called Saraswati is the most important of the rivers mentioned in the Rig Veda. The image of this ‘great goddess stream’ dominates the text. It is not only the most sacred river but the Goddess of wisdom. She is said to be the Mother of the Veda.

A few Rig Vedic hymns which mention Saraswati river are presented below:

ambitame naditame devitame sarasvati (II.41.16)
(The best mother, the best river, the best Goddess, Saraswati)

maho arnah saraswati pra cetayati ketuna dhiyo visva virajati (I.3.12)
(Saraswati like a great ocean appears with her ray, she rules all inspirations)

ni tva dadhe vara a prthivya ilayspade sudinatve ahnam:
drsadvatyam manuse apayayam sarasvatyam revad agne didhi (III.23.4)
(We set you down, oh sacred fire, at the most holy place on Earth, in the land of Ila, in the clear brightness of the days. On the Drishadvati, the Apaya and the Saraswati rivers, shine out brilliantly for men)

citra id raja rajaka id anyake sarasvatim anu
parjanya iva tatanadhi vrstya sahasram ayuta dadat (VIII.21.18)
(Splendor is the king, all others are princes, who dwell along the Saraswati river. Like the Rain God extending with rain he grants a thousand times ten thousand cattle)

Saraswati like a bronze city: ayasi puh

surpassing all other rivers and waters: visva apo mahina sindhur anyah

pure in her course from the mountains to the sea: sucir yati girbhya a samudrat (VII.95.1-2)

All this indicates that the composers of the Vedic literature were quite familiar with the Saraswati river, and were inspired by its beauty and its vasteness that they composed several hymns in her praise and glorification. This also indicates that the Vedas are much older than Mahabharat period which mentions Saraswati as a dying river.

Dr. SR Rao, who has deciphered the Indus script, is an ex-head of Archaeological Survey of India, a renowned Marine archaeologist, has been studying archeology since 1948 and has discovered and excavated numerous Indus sites. He has authored several monumental works on Harappan civilization and Indus script. To summarize his method of decipherment of Indus script, he assigned to each Indus basic letter the same sound-value as the West Asian letter which closely resembled it. After assigning these values to the Indus letters, he proceeded to try to read the inscriptions on the Indus seals. The language that emerged turned out to be an “Aryan” one belonging to Sanskrit family. The people who resided at Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, and other sites were culturally Aryan is thus confirmed by the decipherment of the Harappan script and its identity with Sanskrit family. The Harappa culture was a part of a continuing evolution of the Vedic culture which had developed on the banks of Saraswati river. And it should be rightly termed as Vedic-Saraswati civilization.

Among the many words yielded by Dr. Rao’s decipherment are the numerals aeka, tra, chatus, panta, happta/sapta, dasa, dvadasa and sata (1,3,4,5,7, 10,100) and the names of Vedic personalities like Atri, Kasyapa, Gara, Manu, Sara, Trita, Daksa, Druhu, Kasu, and many common Sanskrit words like, apa (water), gatha, tar (savior), trika, da, dyau (heaven), dashada, anna (food), pa(protector), para (supreme), maha, mahat, moks, etc.

While the direct connection between the late Indus script (1600 BC) and the Brahmi script could not be definitely established earlier, more and more inscriptions have been found all over the country in the last few years, dating 1000 BC, 700 BC, and so on, which have bridged the gap between the two. Now it is evident that the Brahmi script evolved directly from the Indus script. (Sources: Decipherment of the Indus Script, Dawn and Development of Indus Civilization, Lothal and the Indus Civilization, all by S. R. Rao)

Since the first discovery of buried townships of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro on the Ravi and Sindhu rivers in 1922, respectively, numerous other settlements, now number over 2500 stretching from Baluchistan to the Ganga and beyond and down to Tapti valley, covering nearly a million and half square kilometers, have been unearthed by various archaeologists. And, the fact which was not known 70 years ago, but archaeologists now know, is that about 75% of these settlements are concentrated not along the Sindhu or even the Ganga, but along the now dried up Saraswati river. This calamity – the drying up of the Saraswati – and not any invasion was what led to the disruption and abandonment of the settlements along Saraswati river by the people who lived a Vedic life. The drying up of the Saraswati river was a catastrophe of the vast magnitude, which led to a massive outflow of people, especially the elite, went into Iran, Mesopotamia and other neighboring regions. Around the same time (2000-1900 BC), there were constant floods or/and prolonged draughts along the Sindhu river and its tributaries which forced the inhabitants of the Indus valley to move to other safer and greener locations, and hence a slow but continuous migration of these highly civilized and prosperous Vedic people took place. Some of them moved to south east, and some to north west, and even towards European regions. For the next thousand years and more, dynasties and rulers with Indian names appear and disappear all over the West Asia confirming the migration of people from East towards West. There was no destruction of an existing civilization or invasion by any racial nomads of any kind to cause the destruction or abandonment of these settlements.

  • Vedic Age – 7000-4000 BC
  • End of Rig Vedic Age – 3750 BC
  • End of Ramayana – Mahabharat Period – 3000 BC
  • Development of Saraswati-Indus Civilization – 3000-2000 BC
  • Decline of Indus and Saraswati Civilization – 2200-1900 BC
  • Period of Complete chaos and migration – 2000-1500 BC
  • Period of evolution of syncretic Hindu culture – 1400 – 250 BC

D avid F rawley’s P aradox

The Harappans of the Indus Valley have left profuse archaeological records over a vast region – from the borders of Iran and beyond Afghanistan to eastern UP and Tapti valley, and must have supported over 30 million people and believed to be living an advanced civilization. And yet these people have left absolutely no literary records. Sounds incredible! The Vedic Aryans and their successors on the other hand have left us a literature that is probably the largest and most profound in the world. But according to the AIT there is absolutely no archaeological record that they ever existed. Either on the Indian soil or outside its boundaries. So we have concrete history and archeology of a vast civilization of ‘Dravidians’ lasting thousands of years that left no literature, and a huge literature by the Vedic Aryans who left no history and no archaeological records. The situation gets more absurd when we consider that there is profuse archaeological and literary records indicating a substantial movement of Indian Aryans out of India into Iran and West Asia around 2000 BC.

So, how can all these obvious anomalies and serious flaws be reconciled? By accepting the truth that the so-called Aryans were the original people habitants of the townships along the Indus, Ravi, Saraswati and other rivers of the vast northern region of the Indian subcontinent. And no invasion by nomadic hordes from outside India ever occurred and the civilization was not destroyed but the population simply moved to other areas, and developed a new syncretic civilization and culture by mutual interaction and exchange of ideas.

The Vedic seers in Vedic literature have proclaimed and practiced the following all-embracing, catholic, and harmonious principles for a peaceful coexistence of various communities. How can such people be accused of annihilater of a civilization, murderer of innocent people, and destroying large number of cities?

ahm bhumimdadamaryam (Rgveda)
Creater declares: I have bestowed this land to Aryas.

Kirnvanto Vishwaryam (Rgbeda)
Make the entire world noble.

Aa na bhadra katavo yanto vishwatah (Rgveda)
Let noble thoughts come from all sides.

Mata Bhumih putro ham prithvyah (Atharv veda)
Earth is my mother, and I am her son.

Vasudeva kutumbubakam
The entire universe is one family.

Consequences of the Aryan Invasion Theory in C ontext of I ndia

  • It serves to divide artificially India into a northern Aryan and southern Dravidian culture which were made hostile to each other by various interested parties: A major source of social tension in south Indian states.
  • It gave an easy excuse to the Britishers to justify their conquest over India as well as validating the various conquests and mayhems of invading armies of religious fanatics from Arab lands and central Asia. The argument goes that they were doing only what Aryan ancestors of the Hindus had previously done millennia ago to the indigenous population.
  • As a corollary, the theory makes Vedic culture later than and possibly derived from Middle Eastern cultures, especially the Greek culture: An absurd proposition.
  • Since the identification of Christianity and the Middle Eastern cultures, the Hindu religion and Indian civilization are considered as a sidelight to the development of religion and civilization in the west: A deliberate and dishonest undermining of the antiquity and the greatness of the ancient Indian culture.
  • It allows the science of India to be given a Greek basis, as any Vedic basis was largely disqualified by the primitive nature of the Vedic culture: In fact the opposite is true.
  • If the theory of Aryan invasion and its proposed period were true, this discredited not only the Vedas but the genealogies of the Puranas, and all the kings mentioned in these scriptures including Lord Krishna, Rama, Buddha etc. would become as fictional characters with no historical basis: Which simply means disowning and discarding the very basis and raison de’etre of the Hindu civilization.
  • The Mahabharat, instead of being a civil war of global proportion in which all the main kings of India participated as is described in the epic, would be dismissed as a local skirmish among petty princes that was later exaggerated by poets.
  • In other words, the Aryan Invasion Theory invalidates and discredits the most Hindu traditions and almost all its vast and rich literary and civilizational heritage. It turns its scriptures and sages into fantasies and exaggerations.
  • On the basis of this theory, the propaganda by the Macaulayists was made that there was nothing great in the Hindu culture and their ancestors and sages. And most Hindus fell for this devious plan. It made Hindus feel ashamed of their culture – that its basis was neither historical nor scientific, the Vedas were the work of nomadic shepherds and not the divine revelations or eternal truth perceived by the rishis during their spiritual journey, and hence there is nothing to feel proud about India’s past, nothing to be proud of being Hindu.

S wami V ivekananda on Aryan Invasion Theory

“Our archaeologists’ dreams of India being full of dark-eyed aborigines, and the bright Aryans came from – the Lord knows where. According to some, they came from Central Tibet others will have it that they came from Central Asia. There are patriotic Englishmen who think that the Aryans were all red haired. Others, according to their idea, think that they were all black-haired. If the writer happens to be a black-haired man, the Aryans were all black-haired. Of late, there was an attempt made to prove that the Aryans lived on Swiss lake. I should not be sorry if they had been all drowned there, theory and all. Some say now that they lived at the North Pole. Lord bless the Aryans and their habitations! As for as the truth of these theories, there is notone word in our scriptures, not one, to prove that the Aryans came from anywhere outside of India, and in ancient India was included Afghanistan. There it ends…”

“And the theory that the Shudra caste were all non-Aryans and they were a multitude, is equally illogical and irrational. It could not have been possible in those days that a few Aryans settled and lived there with a hundred thousand slaves at their command. The slaves would have eaten them up, made chutney of them in five minutes. The only explanation is to be found in the Mahabharat, which says that in the beginning of the Satya Yoga there was only one caste, the Brahmins, and then by differences of occupations they went on dividing themselves into different castes, and that is the only true and rational explanation that has been given. And in the coming Satya Yuga all other castes will have to go back to the same condition.” (The Complete Work of Swami Vivekananda, Vol.III Page 293.)

So, What are the facts?

Now, based on what has been presented above, following facts about an ancient and glorious period of India clearly emerge:

  1. The Aryan Invasion and Racial theories, and Aryan-Dravidian conflicts are a 19th century fabrication by some European scholar. They are being exploited even now for political reasons.
  2. The hymns of Rigveda had been composed and completed by 3700BC, this can be scientifically proved.
  3. The language of the Indus script is related to Sanskrit, the language of Vedas.
  4. The Indus valley civilization should be aptly called as Saraswati Vedic civilization, as the new evidences and right interpretation of the archaeological findings indicate.
  5. There is now strong evidence that the movement of the ancient Aryan people was from east to west, and this is how the European languages have strong association and origin in the Vedic Sanskrit language.
  6. The ending of Indus Valley and the Saraswati civilization was due to the constant floods and drought in the Indus area and the drying up of the Saraswati river. This had caused a massive emigration of the habitants to safer and interior areas of the Indian subcontinent and even towards the west.
  7. There was no destruction of the civilization in the Indus valley due to any invasion of any barbaric hordes.
  8. The Vedic literature has no mention of any invasion or destruction of a civilization.
  9. There is no evidence in any of the literature which indicate any Aryan-Dravidian or North-South divide, they were never culturally hostile to each other.
  10. The population living in the Indus valley and surrounding the dried up Saraswati river practiced the Vedic culture and religion.

Most of the material presented above has been taken from the following books.

1. The Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism (1993) By Shrikant G. Talageri (Voice of India)

2. The Astronomical Code of India (1992) By Subhash Kak

3. Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization (1995) By N.S. Rajaram and David Frawley (World Heritage Press)

4. Aryan Invasion of India: The Myth and the Truth By N.S. Rajaram (Voice of India Publication)

5. Indigenous Indians: Agastya to Ambedkar (1993) By Koenraad Elst

6. New Light on The Aryan Problem: Manthan Oct. 1994 (Journal of Deendayal Research Institute)

Myth of Aryan Invasion Update 2001

Since the first publication of this book (Myth of the Aryan Invasion) in 1994, there have been many new discoveries in the field that uphold its basic premises from various angles. Therefore, it requires an update for its new edition While the original booklet was based on my longer book Gods, Sages and Kings first published in 1991, the update reflects several points from my new book on ancient India, the Rig Veda and the History of India, that will be published shortly (2001). Like the original, the updated booklet is meant as an overview and introduction for readers who may not wish to examine longer works on the subject. For those looking for more information, please examine such longer works as well, including those by archaeologists like B.B. Lal and S.P. Gupta that add much technical data to this approach.

David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)
Makara Sankranti (Jan. 15, 2001)

Aryan Invasion or Migration: An Update and a Look Forward

As readers look at the ongoing debate relative to ancient India (2001), they surprisingly see that the main scholars who used to support the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT)-whether leftists in India like Romila Thapar or American academics like Michael Witzel-now claim to no longer accept it. We might think that the myth of the Aryan Invasion has been exposed and is now being removed from history books.

However, the same scholars speak of the Aryans coming into India with their language, their Gods, their horses and their chariots about the same time as the old Invasion scenario (c. 1500 BCE). While some of them insist that the Aryans entered in significant numbers, most porrtray it as a cultural diffusion that involved only small groups of people. If we look carefully, therefore, we see that the invasionist scenario has been replaced with a not too different migration/acculturation theory. Though the main edifice of the Aryan Invasion has been removed-the invading Aryan hordes that destroyed Harappa-the conclusion that the Vedas represent an intrusive culture from Central Asia persists.

Yet instead of acknowledging that the idea of the Aryan destruction of Harappa was a great blunder which casts a shadow over their entire approach to ancient India, such former supports of the theory would simply push it under the rug. They are trying to pretend that it makes no difference. Even if the Aryans did not destroy Harappa, even if there is no evidence of significant populations coming from the northwest into India, even though the archaeological record shows an unbroken continuity of civilization from the pre-Harappan to the post-Harappan periods in the very regions described in Vedic texts-they still hold to their earlier estimation of Vedic culture as an import from Central Asia. Yet, if they were so wrong about the end of Harappa, how can they still be so right that the Vedic culture was later and not connected to Harappa?

What is more incredulous is that, even after recognizing that the idea of an Aryan destruction of Harappa was an error, these scholars have made no effort to remove this faulty scenario from textbooks. They act as if this mistaken interpretation has nothing to do with them and is not their responsibility to correct! The Aryan Invasion theory spawned many distortions and denigrations of India, as earlier portions of this booklet address. The image of the Aryans as the cruel destroyers of Harappa-the Aryans as militant fascists and racists-continues to be used by various groups inside and outside India, for political and religious advantage.

Instead of trying to correct this view that they now regard as wrong, the same scholars complain that those who connect Vedic literature with Harappan civilization are only acting out of political motives or projecting a religious bias. Therefore, whatever evidence for ancient India as a Vedic culture is proposed, they need not take seriously. They use this argument to refuse even to look at the massive Sarasvati river data, as if even geological evidence could be rejected as politically incorrect.

One might ask: What makes the Aryan Invasion/Migration theory such a big issue? After all, it concerns events of over three thousand years ago that really shouldn’t be relevant to anyone today. Does what might have happened in ancient Europe or America thousands of years ago arouse such passions today? What this debate really represents is a ‘clash of cultures’, to use a current phrase. The Aryan Invasion/Migration view represents a largely Eurocentric interpretation of Indic civilization. It holds that Vedic literature doesn’t even represent the country that has so long honored and preserved it and places a big question mark over its validity.

The real struggle behind this debate is between two views of humanity-a largely western-based view that is materialistic in nature, viewing history in terms of economics and politics, and a largely eastern view that follows a spiritual or dharmic approach. The Aryan debate reflects the West’s failure to really face, honor or accept Indic civilization. It is part of a cultural imperialism that is holding on long after the colonial armies have left. So ingrained is this prejudice that those who have it are usually not even aware of it. On the contrary, they fail to recognize any real Indic tradition from ancient times and view any attempts to propose one as dangerous-an atavistic Hindu nationalism that should be opposed by all possible means.

However, what we could call the pro-Vedic camp-those who see a deep spirituality and profound culture in the Vedas underlying the civilization of India-is not made up of poorly educated, backward or biased Hindus but includes great modern Yogis like Aurobindo, Vivekananda and Yogananda. It now has a whole array of researchers, archaeologists, linguists and geologists who have produced extensive scientific data to support it and whose work is expanding rapidly every year, while its opponents only rehash the same old failed interpretations, changing only a few terms in the process.

The greater issues involved in this apparently obscure debate are quite significant. If ancient India was a Vedic culture, then we would have to rewrite not only the history of India but also that of Europe and the Middle East. The whole edifice of western civilization’s interpretation of history would go down ignominiously. The ancient Europeans would be cultural offshoots of India and heir to the type of mystical and yogic vision that India has always held as the basis of its thought and culture. The Indo-European heritage from India to Ireland would be that of the largest and perhaps greatest civilization of the ancient world, Vedic India, in its cultural spread. The change in our view of history would be as radical as Einstein’s ideas that changed our view of physics.

Objections to the Aryan Migration Theory

The scholars of the Aryan Migration Theory-the new incarnation of the invasion view-place the Aryan entry after the end of Harappan culture in the 1900-1000 BCE era. In the absence of any evidence of significant migrations, the Aryan takeover of India has been reduced by most migrationists to a gradual process of acculturalization from Central Asia accomplished by a small group of elites. This absolves its proponents from needing to produce any tangible evidence for it, which they do not have. This Outside India Theory (OIT) for the Vedas, much like the Aryan Invasion Theory that it supplants, ignores major data in several areas.

Much important work has been done on the Sarasvati river over the past few years, through the Geological Society of India and other scientific groups, [1] with dozens of papers and studies outlining the change of courses of this great river over the centuries. The migration theory, just like the invasion theory, ignores the prominence of the Sarasvati river in Vedic texts. It was the drying up of this river that brought the Harappan civilization to an end. However, such scholars even while recognizing that river changes caused the abandonment of Harappan sites, ignore the fact that the same river is central to Vedic texts. They will not equate the great lost river of ancient India with the Vedic Sarasvati, in spite of dozens of Vedic references to its size and its location. They would still date the Aryan entrance into India after the drying up of the sacred river in India that the Vedas honor as their ancestral homeland.

There have also been many new important archaeological findings that show Harappan civilization to be older and larger than previously thought. Rakhigarhi, located on the long dry Drishadvati river of Vedic fame in the Kurukshetra region, though barely excavated, has been found to be much larger than either Harappa or Mohenjodaro and perhaps the oldest city of its type. This confirms the Vedic idea that the Sarasvati-Drishadvati region was the real center and origin of civilization in ancient India. In addition, the sophisticated pre-Harappan site, Kunal in Haryana, again in the Sarasvati region, shows the earlier development of civilization in the region.

Meanwhile, Dholavira, a Harappan site in Kachchh, has been revealed as one of the largest port cities in the ancient world, dating perhaps before 3000 BCE. Dholavira is located in what is now desert, some miles from the sea, and its habitation would only make sense owing its proximity to what would have then been the delta of the Sarasvati river. At Dholavira, interesting marble pillars have been found, marking what is probably a gateway to visitors from across the sea. Note that in the Rig Veda, Varuna, the Vedic God of the sea, is associated with great pillars (RV V.62). Such maritime sites as Dholavira make perfect sense relative to the numerous references to the ocean in the Rig Veda and its pervasive maritime symbolism.

Archaeological findings are confirming the continuity of Harappan civilization into the post-Harappan era, albeit with less urban sites. Harappan arts, crafts and building practices continued long after the Harappan cities were abandoned. This makes it more difficult to draw the line between the Harappan era and the supposed intrusive Vedic culture that came later. The older, vaster and more continuous Harappan culture becomes, the more difficult it becomes to separate it from the Vedic. In this regard, we must remember that only a fraction of Harappan sites that have been found have yet been excavated and the existent boundaries of Harappan culture are continually being expanded by new finds.

Above all, the migration theory, like its invasionist ancestor, ignores the spiritual and philosophical sophistication of Vedic texts, including the poetic and metrical depth of the Vedic language, which requires a great civilization to produce. The deities and rituals portrayed in the Vedas reflect a long period of development and a synthesis of diverse groups and views, such as would be found only in the Indian subcontinent. The Vedas are not primitive texts but the bedrock that could produce the great spiritual traditions of the region which arose through history.

Just as Vedic literature requires a civilization to produce it, so does Harappan civilization require a great literature to reflect it. Such a vast urban culture would have left a literary mark. Certainly, it could not have been completely overwhelmed by the crude literature of a few intruders from Central Asia, particularly when that intrusive tradition was oral, not written, and the Harappans had writing! Since archaeology now shows that there was no real break in ancient Indian civilization but only a post-Harappan relocation, the literature of the region would have persisted as well.

Horse and Chariot

The issue of the horse has become the main line of demarcation for the invasionists/ migrationists. It has become a one-issue argument used to neutralize any other data. They see Vedic/Aryan culture as a movement of horse-riding people into India from Central Asia. They point out the development of a horse culture at an earlier period in Central Asia and the lack of horse remains in ancient India. They equate the Aryans with the horse and chariot and Harappa with a non-horse, non-chariot and hence non-Vedic culture. Such a simplistic equation has many flaws and ignores the many other issues. It overlooks that Vedic culture was essentially a rishi-king culture, not a horse/nomad culture.

First, one should note that horses and chariots spread throughout the ancient world from Egypt and China. It was not accompanied by a radical change of culture, language or population for an entire subcontinent as has been proposed for ancient India. Ancient Egypt and China took on horses and chariots without any break in the continuity of their civilizations. Certainly, ancient India, the largest urban civilization of its time in the world, could have taken on a new horse/chariot culture without having to change everything else as well. Therefore, even if horses or chariots came into India from the outside at some point in time, this is no reason to assume that the language and culture of the region had to change as well.

Second, a study of horse anatomy shows that there were two types of horses in the ancient world that we still find today. There is a south Asian and Arabian type that has seventeen ribs and a West and Central Asian horse that has eighteen ribs. The Rig Vedic horse, as described in the Ashvamedha or horse-sacrifice of the Rig Veda [2] has thirty-four ribs (seventeen times two for the right and left side). This shows that the Rig Vedic horse did not come from Central Asia but was the South Asian breed. The Rig Vedic horse is born of the ocean, [3] which also indicates southern connections. The Yajur Veda ends with an invocation of the Divine horse that has the ocean as its belly (samudra udaram, TS VII.5.25). The Brihadarayaka Upanishad identifies the day and night as the two greatnesses of the horse rooted in the eastern and western oceans (BU I.1.2).

Some scholars have argued that there are not enough horse remains or horse seals to show that the horse was as significant in the Harappan era as it appears to be in Vedic literature. In this regard, we see that the unicorn is a common Harappan image. Should we then imagine that unicorns were common animals of the time? Harappan seals contain many mythical, composite and multiheaded animals. The Rig Veda also has such mythic and composite images like the Vedic bull with four horns, three feet, two heads and seven hands (RV IV.58.3). Clearly, the Harappan seals are not an anatomical record of existent animal species!

Horse bones have now been found in Harappan and pre-Harappan sites in India, not only in the north and west but also in the south and east, showing that the horse was known to the Harappan people, though it was probably mainly the south Asian horse. At the same time, the horse evidence required to prove the Aryan invasion/migration theory is also lacking. We do not find any significant evidence of horses coming into India around 1500 BCE in the form of horse remains, horse encampments or horse images. If the Aryans came with the horse around 1500 BCE, such remains would be dramatic. There is no archaeological trail of horse bones into India around 1500 BCE. If the horse were indigenous to India, on the other hand, there would not be dramatic horse remains at one level as opposed to another. So far there are no dramatic horse finds at any level. Even in the Bactria and Margian Archaeological Complex, which is supposed to be horse rich and a staging area of successive Indo-Aryan migrations/invasions into India, not a single horse bone has been found yet. This means that other areas supposedly rich in horses do not exhibit significant horse remains either.

Moreover, there are many equus bones found in ancient India, particularly the onager (Equus hemionus), which is native to Kachchh in Gujarat. There is evidence that the onager was used to draw chariots or battle cars in ancient Sumeria and was later replaced by the stronger and faster horse. The same thing probably occurred in India. It is also likely that the Vedic people did not discriminate between the different equus animals as strictly as we do the true horse from other breeds. This means that the Rig Vedic horse (ashva) could have, at least in the beginning, been an onager, which explains its oceanic connections as its native region of Kachchh is along the sea in what would have been the delta of the Sarasvati river.

Other scholars have noted that the Rig Veda knows of a light spoked-wheel chariot that did not appear in the Middle East until around 2000 BCE, suggesting it must be later than this period. They point out the lack of chariot remains in Harappan sites. Countering this view, the spoked-wheel is a common Harappan writing symbol. So there is evidence that the spoked wheel chariot had considerable antiquity in Harappan India. [4]

Genetic Information

Genetics is offering us important new information, both in regard to human and animal populations. India’s climate, flora and fauna are closely related to those of Southeast Asia, much more so than to Central Asia or the Middle East. In particular, Indian cattle (Bos Indicus) are domesticated versions of the wild cattle of Southeast Asia known as the Banteng (Bos Banteng or Bos Javanicus, a close relative of the Indian bison or gaur).

The Indian cow is an indigenous breed going back tens of thousands of years and not an offshoot of the Central and West Asian cow. Cattle husbandry is an independent development in India, not brought in from the west. Cattle genetics is even more detrimental to the migration theories because unlike invaders, migrants would always travel with their cattle and horses. Cattle genetics does not show this. As both the ancient Indian cow and horse reflect native breeds, one can no longer propose that the invading Aryans brought them in. That the invading Aryans left their cows and horses behind and adapted those of the indigenous Indians would be a rather silly proposition.

An examination of human skeletal remains also does not show any discontinuity from 1900-800 BCE, the period of the proposed Aryan entrance into India. In a recent article, Hemphill et al [5] state that there are two discontinuities in the area in so far as the human remains are concerned. One occurred between 6000-4500 BCE and the other occurred between 800-200 BCE. In the intervening period, there is a general biological continuity, notwithstanding a limited interaction with the populations from the west that has always occurred to some degree.

Human populations in India show the persistence of the same main population groups back to the pre-Harappan period and before. There is no evidence of an intrusion of new populations from West Asia that altered the genetics of humans in India at the time of the proposed Aryan intrusion. The skeletal record shows that in most ways the Indian population is quite unique. As a result, one thing can safely be asserted: Indians are ancient inhabitants of India and Southeast Asia (or Greater India) and not recent immigrants. Their literature should also belong to them.


One of the criticisms of those who reject the invasion/migration theory is that those who hold that Vedic culture is indigenous to India have not explained the linguistic situation in India, in which Sanskritic or Indo-European dialects prevail in the north of India and west into Central Asia, Iran and Europe, with Dravidian tongues in the south.

To counter this, I have proposed a model of ‘Sanskritization’, which is a Hindu term referring to a model of ‘cultural elite predominance’, to explain the spread of Indo-European languages. It resembles how English has spread in the modern world, not so much by migration as by a dominant culture. Harappan India with its many urban sites provides such a dominant culture that could have had a far reaching influence on different peoples and their dialects. Vedic literature provides a vehicle for this. In this regard, all the river and place names of North India are Sanskritic as far back as can be traced, confirming it. Even South India has many Sanskrit place names of great antiquity.

The Rig Vedic language was a synthetic language, combining elements of the different languages of the region, upholding an older and sanctified terminology for spiritual and religious purposes. Vedic Sanskrit, called ‘chhandas’ or meter, was probably a poetic language acceptable to the various peoples of the region at least on a religious level. Hence, it could travel far and be accepted by various groups, even those speaking rather different common dialects.

While linguists have argued that an elite Aryan culture from Central Asia could change the languages of India, they have missed the basic facts of culture and demographics. The civilization of ancient India was larger, older and more populous than that of Central Asia. Any primary cultural diffusion would have been from east to west, not west to east. This is what history shows us, with ancient Indo-Europeans like the Persians, Greeks and Celts coming originally from regions to the east of their later homelands.

We must note that linguistic diversity was a characteristic feature of the entire ancient world. No region-whether Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Europe or the Mediterranean-had only one linguistic group. India would not have been different. The persistence of linguistic diversity in India may not be a sign of an Aryan migration but of the existence of several old cultures in the region. Just as there are both Indo-European and Dravidian dialects in India, so there are both Indo-European dialects in Europe and non-Indo-European like the Finno-Hungarian and Basque languages. Mesopotomia has Indo-European (predominantly Iranian) dialects as well as Semetic and other groups like the Caucasian languages or ancient Sumerian. The division of linguistic groups in India is no different than that of other regions. Just as Mesopotamian groups like the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Kassites and Assyrians shared the same basic cultures and deities, though having several different language groups, so was the situation in ancient India.

However, even if a migration or invasion is required to explain the different language groups in India, it must have occurred prior to 3000 BCE, before the beginnings of urban civilization in the region. After that period the region was too populated and the basic culture too well formed to allow for such a massive change of languages without significant migrations or a clear archaeological record to support it. Therefore, even if one is compelled to accept certain linguistic constraints, there is no reason for an invasion/migration of 1500 BCE.

Southern and Northern Vedic Cultures

A close study of Vedic literature reveals that there were two related cultures in ancient India. This is one of the main points of my book, the Rig Veda and the History of India. The first was a northern kingdom centered on the Sarasvati-Drishadvati river region. It was dominated by the Purus and the Ikshvakus and their mainly Angirasa gurus that produced the existent Vedas texts that we have. The second was a southern culture along the coast of the Arabian Sea in the Sarasvati delta, and into the Vindhya Mountains. It was dominated by the Turvashas and Yadus and their mainly Bhrigu gurus and extended into groups yet further south.

These two groups vied for supremacy and influenced each other in various ways as the Vedas and Puranas indicate. That is why in Vedic literature the Turvashas and Yadus, the southern people are the main enemies, though originally kinsmen, of the Vedic Bharatas. Great Vedic kings like Divodasa, Srinjaya and Sudas have the Turvashas and Yadus as their main opponents. The mythical ancient Deva-Asura war of the Vedas and Puranas involves the Angirasas and Bhrigus (Brihaspati and Shukra) or the northern and southern rishi families.

Similarly, in Puranic literature it is the Yadus who cause the most conflicts. The great king Sagara of the Ikshvakus defeated the Yadus. So did Parshurama, the great avatar of lord Vishnu. The Ramayana shows a similar north-south battle, with Ravana as a Brahmin with connections to the Yadus. The northern or Bharata culture ultimately prevailed making India the land of Bharata and its main ancient literary record the Vedas, though militarily the Yadus remained strong throughout history.

The southern culture was probably the older of the two, reflecting the fact that north India was a desert prior to the ending of the last Ice Age. The Vedic people probably came originally from the south, not the northwest, spreading gradually northwards after the end of the Ice Age which turned the desert of North India into a fertile region for agriculture. This southern connection is the basis of the maritime symbolism at the core of Vedic thought, which reflects an ancient heritage. There was much borrowing and intermixture between these two groups who shared a common culture. However, we should not think of the two as some Aryan-Dravidian racial divide but as a division within the same basic peoples. That is why many Bhrigus remain prominent in Vedic and post-Vedic literature.

In addition, there was a third or northwest Vedic culture in Punjab and Afghanistan-that of the Anus and Druhyus who were closely related to the Puru-Bharatas. This was first part of the northern kingdom but gradually developed its own identity. It was partly assimilated by the Bharatas as they became the dominant northern people. Another portion of it extended north and west outside of the Indian subcontinent. Its influence was secondary to that of the northern and southern kingdoms and much of it passed out of the Indic sphere of civilization altogether. Sometimes this northwest group of the Anus and Druhyus allied with the southern group of Turvashas and Yadus against the Bharatas, as in the story of Sudas and the Battle of the Ten Kings.

However, this northwest Vedic culture was the basis of the Indo-European cultures that we find in Europe, Central Asia and the Near East. Much of what western scholars have done to show the origin of the Indo-Europeans in Central Asia is really a discovery of this western branch of the Vedic people, not a discovery of the real origins of Indo-European languages or culture as a whole.

Therefore, we must look to the south and the east to understand Indic civilization and the Vedas themselves. The connections west to the Europeans and Iranians were more an outflow, while the southern connections were more original and enduring. Western scholars, dominated by a European mindset, only trace Indo-European culture from Europe and the Middle East to India as its eastern border. They fail to see that the boundary is only in their minds. We can also trace linguistic, cultural and religious influences east and south from India as far as Indonesia, not only during the classical Hindu-Buddhist period, but also in the Vedic period itself. We must, therefore, look to the Rig Veda in terms of southern and eastern connections, recognizing the influences of the greater subcontinent itself which is part of South Asia.

The Rig Veda as the First Bharata

A more sensitive study of the Rig Veda shows it as a book of great kings and seers (rajas and purohits). The Vedas reflect great kingdoms and a sophisticated ancient culture, with the main Vedic rishis like Vasishta being the purohits or chief priests of great emperors like Sudas, said to have ruled India from sea to sea in Brahmanical literature. The Vedas look back to many generations of kings and seers in their Sarasvati homeland. They are not the kind of primitive or barbaric poetry that the invasion/migration scenario requires. Even their glorification of horses and chariots is that of an urban nobility, such as occurred in the ancient literature of Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia, not of primitive invaders.

The Rig Veda lasted because it was the main literature of the subcontinent and its dominant rishi and royal families. The main kings and rishis of the Rig Veda are those of the Bharata dynasty that ruled on the Sarasvati river, from whom India gained its traditional name as Bharata. Just as the Mahabharata later endured because it was a natural literature, so did the Rig Veda itself. The Vedic as a royal literature of the region explains its power to endure. As nomadic poetry, there is no reason why it could have ever been preserved.

Moving Forwards: Towards a New Spiritual Vision of the Vedas

Our view of history evolves along with civilization. Every generation interprets history anew. The views about ancient India set forth in the colonial era are no more the last word then are the colonial views on any civilization. India is now independent and must rewrite its own history. This does not mean to ignore the findings of modern science and archaeology but it also does not mean to ignore the soul and dharma of the country, its yogic and spiritual vision. It is no longer possible to reinvent the Aryan Invasion as a migration or anything else. There is simply no data for it, and the data against it, like the Sarasvati river work, grows stronger every day.

Yet, a revision of the history of ancient India is only the beginning of a greater examination. The real work that lies ahead is an encounter with Vedic literature on a spiritual level. The Vedas contain, at least in seed form, the great wisdom that we find more clearly articulated to us in the Vedantic, Yogic, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh traditions of the region-perhaps even something more. They hold a mantric power in their teachings that later traditions relied only on a portion of, like the power of the great Vedic mantra OM itself. Even modern Hindu teachers like Swami Dayananda of the Arya Samaj, Sri Aurobindo or Pandurang Shastri Athavale have used the great Vedic mantras to energize new yogic paths today.

So far, we have just touched the great spiritual power of the Vedas that can transform our civilization in the light of consciousness. Modern scholars have served not to help open the doors to that great Vedic vision, but have worked hard to keep them shut, not even suspecting the great treasure that lies behind them. In so doing they have taken the role of the proverbial Vedic Panis, the anti-gods who hide the light of truth and joy and keep it constricted by greed and ignorance.

After we have removed the cobwebs of historical misinterpretation fostered by the Aryan Invasion/Migration theory, we can move directly into the real Vedic world. The wonders there will astound us. They will connect us not only to the Divine but also to our inner Self. They will dwarf our estimation of revelation or of science, helping to unfold the secrets of the great conscious universe in which we live and which lives inside of us. The Vedas provide us this deeper vision of humanity. Only if we reintegrate our present culture with that of the ancient seers can we truly go forward to the enlightened world that all sensitive human beings truly wish to create.

May that Vedic vision again come forth for the benefit of all creation.
May the misinterpretations that obscure it disappear like the darkness at the rising of the Sun!

[1] Note the work of S. Kalyanaraman in this respect.

[2] RV I.162.18, catustriæìad vàjino devabandhor vaèkrãr aívasya

[3] RV I.163.1, yad akrandaâ prathamam jàyamàna udyant samudràt uta và purãìàt


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Aryan, name originally given to a people who were said to speak an archaic Indo-European language and who were thought to have settled in prehistoric times in ancient Iran and the northern Indian subcontinent. The theory of an “Aryan race” appeared in the mid-19th century and remained prevalent until the mid-20th century. According to the hypothesis, those probably light-skinned Aryans were the group who invaded and conquered ancient India from the north and whose literature, religion, and modes of social organization subsequently shaped the course of Indian culture, particularly the Vedic religion that informed and was eventually superseded by Hinduism.

However, since the late 20th century, a growing number of scholars have rejected both the Aryan invasion hypothesis and the use of the term Aryan as a racial designation, suggesting that the Sanskrit term arya (“noble” or “distinguished”), the linguistic root of the word, was actually a social rather than an ethnic epithet. Rather, the term is used strictly in a linguistic sense, in recognition of the influence that the language of the ancient northern migrants had on the development of the Indo-European languages of South Asia. In the 19th century “Aryan” was used as a synonym for “Indo-European” and also, more restrictively, to refer to the Indo-Iranian languages. It is now used in linguistics only in the sense of the term Indo-Aryan languages, a branch of the larger Indo-European language family.

In Europe the notion of white racial superiority emerged in the 1850s, propagated most assiduously by the comte de Gobineau and later by his disciple Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who first used the term “Aryan” to mean the “white race.” Members of that so-called race spoke Indo-European languages, were credited with all the progress that benefited humanity, and were purported to be superior to “ Semites,” “yellows,” and “blacks.” Believers in Aryanism came to regard the Nordic and Germanic peoples as the purest members of the “race.” That notion, which had been repudiated by anthropologists by the second quarter of the 20th century, was seized upon by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and was made the basis of the German government policy of exterminating Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and other “non-Aryans.”

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, many white supremacist groups used the word Aryan in their name as an identifier of their racist ideology. Those groups include the Aryan Circle (a large group that had its roots in the Texas prison system), the Aryan Nations (a Christian Identity-based hate group prominent in the late 20th century), and the Aryan Brotherhood (a group originating in San Quentin [California] prison). That association with racism, crime, hate crimes, and Nazism has given the word a powerful new negative sense.

What is the current state of historical thought on the Aryan invasion/migration theory? - History

Frequently asked questions

1. Isn&rsquot it true that the Aryans Invasion Theory has been disproved? There is no evidence of invasions taking place, and the whole theory is based on flaky linguistic theories.

The Aryan Invasion Theory has many variants. The Aryan Invasion Theory advocating a purely racial &ldquoinvasion&rdquo proposed by Max Mueller has been questioned by many, including the noted historian, Romila Thapar, in the 1960s. The contemporary theory of Aryan origin corroborates data and evidences from over two dozen different fields of study and demonstrate a pattern of cultural, social and linguistic migration/domination/invasion of people speaking the Indo-European languages from Central Asia into India. This theory about the Aryan origin, which is currently the most authoritative theory among historians, does not state that the Aryans were an indigenous people. For details see: "The Aryan Question Revisited", by Romila Thapar at http://members.tripod.com/ascjnu/aryan.html .

The Hindutva groups are misleading the masses by criticizing Max Mueller&rsquos Aryan Invasion Theory (which is already discredited) and cleverly, falsely and deviously claiming that Michael Witzel and others (including Romila Thapar) are supporting Max Mueller&rsquos theory. In fact, under the cover of criticizing Max Mueller, the self -styled Hindutva historians [most of whom are engineers and businessmen] are promoting a theory that Aryans did not migrate from Central Asia but were the original inhabitants of India. This theory has been propped up as a propaganda item on numerous websites and is discussed as a community specific truth within the Hindutva circles. It holds no currency within established historical scholarship.

The main agenda of promoting this theory is ideological and political. For those concerned with a Hindutva ideology, the invasion has to be denied. The definition of a Hindu as given by Savarkar (a fascist ideologue of the RSS) was that India had to be his pitribhumi (ancestral land) and his punyabhumi (the land of his religion). A Hindu therefore could not be descended from alien invaders. Since Hindus sought a lineal descent from the Aryans, and a cultural heritage, the Aryans had to be indigenous. This definition of the Hindu excluded Muslims and Christians from being indigenous since their religion did not originate in India. Hence the basis of Hindutva ideology.

2. What about the genetic evidence that conclusively proves that the Aryans are indigenous to India?

For every one paper using population genetics that claims that Aryans are indigenous to India, there are multiple others that show just the opposite . We, however, would like to point out that this method simply does not have the temporal resolution to address questions about population movements in the time period that we are looking at. The error bars on these papers are in kiloyears (1000 years) and hence cannot authoritatively suggest anything about the question of the origin of Aryans in the time frame of 3000 or so years ago, and are useful only for determining the movements of people in pre-historic periods.
For a more in-depth discussion, visit our page summarizing recent findings in Archaeogenetics.

3. Isn&rsquot it true that the Aryan Invasion/ Migration Theory is a racist idea and undermines the importance of India by suggesting that Hinduism originated elsewhere?

The original Aryan Invasion Theory does have a colonial geneology and was largely a product of eighteenth and nineteenth century Orientalist scholarship, which was true of most historical research done at that period.

However, to call the contemporary theory of influx/ migration &lsquoracist&rsquo is outrageous. Such serious charges should only be levied when followed with strong arguments, and the only argument that the Hindutva groups have offered so far is the race of *a few* scholars proposing it. First of all, many well-respected scholars in India have also done extensive work to further develop the current theories-- Romila Thapar, DN Jha and Shireen Ratnagar to name a few. And also, there are quite a few White &ldquohistorians&rdquo who have also championed the theory that Aryans are indigenous (Koenraad Elst, Michel Danino, David Frawley&mdashthough, the last two really cannot be called historians!)

Connecting the dots

Two additional things should be kept in mind while looking at all this evidence. The first is how multiple studies in different disciplines have arrived at one specific period as an important marker in the history of India: around 2000 B.C. According to the Priya Moorjani et al study, this is when population mixing began on a large scale, leaving few population groups anywhere in the subcontinent untouched. The Onge in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are the only ones we know to have been completely unaffected by what must have been a tumultuous period. And according to the David Poznik et al study of 2016 on the Y-chromosome, 2000 B.C. is around the time when the dominant R1a subclade in India, Z93, began splintering in a “most striking” manner, suggesting “rapid growth and expansion”. Lastly, from long-established archaeological studies, we also know that 2000 BC was around the time when the Indus Valley civilization began to decline. For anyone looking at all of these data objectively, it is difficult to avoid the feeling that the missing pieces of India’s historical puzzle are finally falling into place.

The second is that many studies mentioned in this piece are global in scale, both in terms of the questions they address and in terms of the sampling and research methodology. For example, the Poznik study that arrived at 4,000-4,500 years ago as the dating for the splintering of the R1a Z93 lineage, looked at major Y-DNA expansions not just in India, but in four other continental populations. In the Americas, the study proved the expansion of haplogrop Q1a-M3 around 15,000 years ago, which fits in with the generally accepted time for the initial colonisation of the continent. So the pieces that are falling in place are not merely in India, but all across the globe. The more the global migration picture gets filled in, the more difficult it will be to overturn the consensus that is forming on how the world got populated.

Nobody explains what is happening now better than Reich: “What’s happened very rapidly, dramatically, and powerfully in the last few years has been the explosion of genome-wide studies of human history based on modern and ancient DNA, and that’s been enabled by the technology of genomics and the technology of ancient DNA. Basically, it’s a gold rush right now it’s a new technology and that technology is being applied to everything we can apply it to, and there are many low-hanging fruits, many gold nuggets strewn on the ground that are being picked up very rapidly.”

So far, we have only looked at the migrations of Indo-European language speakers because that has been the most debated and argued about historical event. But one must not lose the bigger picture: R1a lineages form only about 17.5 % of Indian male lineage, and an even smaller percentage of the female lineage. The vast majority of Indians owe their ancestry mostly to people from other migrations, starting with the original Out of Africa migrations of around 55,000 to 65,000 years ago, or the farming-related migrations from West Asia that probably occurred in multiple waves after 10,000 B.C., or the migrations of Austro-Asiatic speakers such as the Munda from East Asia the dating of which is yet to determined, and the migrations of Tibeto-Burman speakers such as the Garo again from east Asia, the dating of which is also yet to be determined.

What is abundantly clear is that we are a multi-source civilization, not a single-source one, drawing its cultural impulses, its tradition and practices from a variety of lineages and migration histories. The Out of Africa immigrants, the pioneering, fearless explorers who discovered this land originally and settled in it and whose lineages still form the bedrock of our population those who arrived later with a package of farming techniques and built the Indus Valley civilization whose cultural ideas and practices perhaps enrich much of our traditions today those who arrived from East Asia, probably bringing with them the practice of rice cultivation and all that goes with it those who came later with a language called Sanskrit and its associated beliefs and practices and reshaped our society in fundamental ways and those who came even later for trade or for conquest and chose to stay, all have mingled and contributed to this civilization we call Indian. We are all migrants.

Tony Joseph is a writer and former editor of BusinessWorld. Twitter: @tjoseph0010

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