“To begin with the Kala produced Prajapati, who then produced all other Prajas.” Atharva Veda [53-10].
In the Vedic doctrine, the astral life span of a pitra, or ancestor, is 3,000 years. A nameless woman who died in Rakhigarhi, a settlement in Haryana of antiquity, and an ancestor of the Harappan civilisation, would never have guessed that she would be the centre of a debate 4,500 years later.
DNA tests showed that the deceased, whose long-forgotten name has been replaced by the number ‘14411’, did not possess the R1a1 gene—the ‘Aryan gene’ of the Bronze Age people who lived 4,000 years ago in the Central Asian ‘Pontic steppe’ situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian.
The discovery cast doubts on the colonial Aryan Migration Theory (AMT), popularly called AIT (Aryan Invasion Theory). When the earth gives up its secrets, ghosts of dead cultures rise to question the beliefs of centuries.
Simply put, AIT states that India was invaded by Aryans, a fair blue-eyed nomadic tribe from Europe in 1,500 BC who drove out the dark, snub-nosed Dravidians to South India. Subsequently, these speaking Aryans composed the Vedas.
Long suppressed by Left-leaning academia and Marxist historians who had been drafting the syllabus of the past for seven decades, Hindutva scholars are on a Swachh Bharat History Mission using classical, anthropological and archaeological evidence to refute the invasion doctrine; sometimes even wandering into the misty miasma of mythology to prove a point.
It’s a touchy subject: a former customs official established Sri Ram’s birthday as January 10, 5114 BC, around noon in Ayodhya using obscure software.
However, AIT has a single common denominator: it undermines India’s sense of unity. Archaeologist George Erdosy has used linguistic evidence derived from archaeological data to deny any evidence of “invasions by a barbaric race enjoying technological and military superiority”, though there were indications of small-scale migrations from Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent in between 3,000 and 2,000 BC—not the sort of violent conquests which is the basis of AIT.
Indic is the new buzzword in the narrative of the Indian right, a broad linguistic umbrella that brings together all Indo-Aryan and Asian languages and scripts, arithmetic and Dharmic faiths. The chronology of Indian languages also disproves AIT post the excavations in Haryana; Tamil, a proto-Dravidian language which originated during 2,500 BC, is considered the world’s oldest discovered language. The genetic map of the Lady of Rakhigarhi shows that the original inhabitants of Harappa could have been Dravidians with more South Indian traits than today’s North Indians.
DNA fuels debate
Paleontological evidence of a Harappan Indian civilisation, which traded with Central Asians around 2500 BC, too, contradicts AIT. The absence of the genetic marker in ‘14411’ proves that the Harappans beat the itinerants by a cool five centuries. Anthropologists and geneticists find no significant differences between the skeletons of Indus Valley Civilisation’s (IVC) inhabitants and the Indo-Aryans.
Cambridge University geneticist Toomas Kivisild notes that researchers of mitochondrial DNA lineages found that the deviations in the common Eurasian gene pool occurred around 50,000 years ago when migrations were rampant across Europe and Asia.
There is no evidence of a significant genetic explosion since then. In the sophisticated Indus Valley cities, where oceanic trade and commerce thrived, excavators found skeletons belonging to different races such as Proto-Australoid, Alpine, Mediterranean and Mongoloid.
However, no new ‘Aryan’ skeletons have been unearthed. Rakhigarhi is the largest Indus Valley site in India, even larger than Mohenjodaro in Sindh, Pakistan, and was ‘discovered’ by British archaeologists in the 1920s.
Archeological Survey of India excavations since the 1960s reveal a sophisticated extensive urban settlement that was extant 70 centuries ago. The reborn Indian existential question of identity—native or imported—has set off a furious debate on colonialism, racism and religion.
Previously, Sanjay Dixit, a bureaucrat, author and chairman of the right-wing Jaipur Dialogue think tank, had announced a prize of Rs 15 lakh to anyone who could prove the AIT or AMT, as anthropologists call it. There were no takers.
Imperials play race politics
AIT is originally a British precept, which propagated the existence of a master race, which rode across the Indus River and conquered pastoral civilisations in Harappa and Mohenjodaro.
Textbooks taught generations of children that Indian civilisation is the result of the migration of Anatolian and Iranian farmers; ancestors from the steppes who spoke the patois of Indo-European languages.
Geneticist Niraj Rai, who co-authored a paper on the subject with archaeologist Vasant Shinde, says, “We analysed a lot of samples from the Indus Valley Civilisation and found that the ancestry of the entire modern-day population of India is Harappan.”
The closest definition of Aryan is perhaps in the Rig Veda which mentions ‘praja arya jyotiragrah’ (Children of Arya are led by light). Considering the spiritual essence of the text, Vedic scholars interpret ‘light’ to mean ‘enlightenment’.
Colonial caste classification had relegated Dravidians as Shudras with the Aryans forming the three upper castes. However, there is no such evidence of an invasion in either Indian literature or tradition. So what is all the fuss about?
Archaeologists say Indo-Aryan migration into northern Punjab started only after the decline of the IVC around 1,900 BC probably due to climate change and flooding, and not an Aryan invasion. This was also when a second migration occurred from the Indus belt.
Company starts faith propaganda
If history is written by the victors, geography is decided by rulers. Every invader, who has intruded into other countries and established empires, has depended on the hyperbole of racial and cultural superiority.
Islamic invaders who subjugated wealthy Indian kingdoms through fire and sword called Hindus idolaters and therefore primitive. Italian Jesuit missionary Roberto de Nobili, who came to South India in 1605 and called himself a ‘Brahmin from Rome’, claimed that he had discovered the lost Yajur Veda, which later proved to be nothing but a fake text claiming that Christian practices were followed by Brahmins. The British were no different.
Though the Nawab of Bengal was defeated at Plassey by Robert Clive, the earlier years of the Company had spawned the genus of Indophile Englishmen—whites who had gone native by adopting Indian ways, studying Indian languages and culture as superior to their own. The 1857 Mutiny changed that eclectic sociography.
The British martially cracked down on Indian kings, promulgated unfair succession laws and established a governance system based on racial and religious lines. The missionaries who came after brought in rigid Victorian social values, which are unfortunately being practised by conservative Hindus even today.
Lord Macaulay decided that conversion was the best means to master India. This needed collaborators; upper-caste Indians with English education. Even before the Mutiny, he had written to his father, a Protestant minister in 1836: “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 idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal 30 years hence.
And this will be effected without any efforts to proselytise, without the smallest interference with religious liberty, by the natural operation of knowledge and reflection. I heartily rejoice in the project.”
Thus began the distortion of Indian history.
British find their German puppet
Macaulay believed that converted Brahmins—intellectuals and scholars among them—would abandon their beliefs and attract other Indians to the British Christian fold, thereby causing internecine divide among the Hindu intelligentsia.
After well over a decade pursuing his dream of religious imperialism, he discovered the perfect vessel—an impecunious German Vedic scholar named Friedrich Max Müller.
Müller was given funds by the East India Company to translate and interpret the Vedas in such a manner so that Hindus lose faith in their religion and prefer Christian virtues.
Müller went on to translate the Rig Veda with Sayana’s commentary and edited the 50-volume Sacred Books of the East. In 1868, he wrote to the Duke of Argyle, 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?”
He was convinced that Brahmo Samaj will produce an Indian form of Christianity. Müller is perhaps the first foreigner who categorised ‘Árya’ as a race.
Though a British employee, he was a staunch German nationalist who promoted the notion of the ‘Aryan race’ and ‘nation’. Hence, it is no wonder that the study of AIT was compulsory in all Nazi textbooks.
The empire gets a fright
AIT owes a debt to the geographical conflicts in Europe in the 19th century and the unification of Germany after Prussia defeated France. Even Müller had attributed German superiority to AMT and Sanskrit.
After united Germany emerged as the most powerful country in Western Europe, British educationist Sir Henry Maine warned, “A nation has been born out of Sanskrit.” The Company was frightened that the unification would inspire Indians, too. Müller was in a spot.
To keep his reputation as a Vedic scholar and Sanskritist in England, he came up with a novel linguistic theory which categorised religions by three languages: Aryan, Semitic, and Chinese.
As the father of racist ethnology in Asia, he proposed a binary Aryan theory about a western and an eastern race from the Caucuses. The first went West and the second to India—Group A was more powerful than Group B, which in turn was more powerful than indigenous people, “who were easy to conquer”.
Colonial civil servant Sir Herbert Hope Risley who conducted the Ethnographic Survey of Bengal in 1885-91 used the width-to-height ratio of noses to classify Indians into Aryan and Dravidian races and seven castes—the prehistoric figurines of the dancing girl and the priest-king made with the lost-wax process in 2500 BC from Mohenjodaro do not have Indo-Aryan features.
But Tamil-speaking Dravidians were already living in India before 1500 BC, and hence could not have been expelled by invaders.
There is no evidence of Harappans speaking Tamil. Colonial annalists had argued that Sanskrit, Latin and Greek originated from a proto-Indo-European language. However, in the 1870s neogrammarians concluded that Greek/Latin vocalism was not based on Sanskrit, and therefore were original.
No common root word is found in all three languages before 700 BC. Dravidian and other South Asian languages share many features with Indo-Aryan speech which is alien to Indo-European languages, including its closest cousin Old Iranian.
Colonialism fears Sanskrit
Sir William Jones, hailed in England as the Father of Indology, fraudulently claimed that he knew 32 languages, including Sanskrit. He set up the Asiatic Society of Bengal, which banned Indians on January 15, 1784.
In his study, Aryans and British India, American historian, cultural anthropologist and Arthashastra expert Thomas Trautmann exposes the dark politics of race hatred in colonial Indian scholarship.
He writes: the racial theory “by century’s end had become a settled fact, that the constitutive event for Indian civilisation…was the clash between invading, fair-skinned, civilised Sanskrit-speaking Aryans and dark-skinned, barbarous aborigines”.
Müller’s letter to his wife is revealing, “It took only 200 years for us to Christianise the whole of Africa, but even after 400 years, India eludes us, I have come to realise that it is Sanskrit which has enabled India to do so. And to break it I have decided to learn Sanskrit.”
The first voice Thomas Edison wanted to record publically on a gramophone record was Müller’s. At a gathering of English scholars in London, Müller played the record on stage. The audience did not understand the words, which were in Sanskrit. It was the first sloka of Rig Veda, “Agni Meele Purohitam” (Oh Agni, You who gleam in the darkness, to You we come day by day, with devotion and bearing homage.
So be of easy access to us, Agni, as a father to his son, abide with us for our well being). Ironically, Müller never visited India, and obtained all his research from manuscripts with the British East India Company in London. The majority of Western Vedic translators were not proficient in Sanskrit either; since it was not a spoken language.
Who is the Aryan
In the late 19th century, Swami Vivekananda had mocked AIT at a meeting in the Madras Presidency, laughing at white ignoramuses who want to prove that “Aryans lived on the Swiss lakes.”
The theory’s political polemics revolve around one word ‘Arya’. Rai claims that they didn’t “use the term ‘Aryan’, because the word is imaginary”. In Sanskrit, Aryan means ‘noble’ and does not denote a race; “Ahakula kulinarya sabhya sajjanasadhavah” (One who is from an aristocratic family, of gentle mien, good-natured and righteous), says Amarakosha.
The Ramayana describes Rama as “Arya sarva samascaiva sadaiva priyadarsanah.” (One who worked for the equality of all and was dear to everyone.)
In none of the 36 mentions of Arya in the Rig Veda lies a racial connotation.
The great Aurobindo defined an ‘Aryan’ as not someone of a particular race, but a person who “accepted a particular type of self-culture, of inward and outward practice, of ideality, of aspiration”.
The Theosophical Society went beyond the premise and declared that the Aryans were the founders of European civilisation.
Right-wing scholars argue that most well-known Leftist historians don’t know Sanskrit, Pali or Tamil which are the main sources of historical references.
They also argue that the deeply Christian Müller calculated periods according to the Biblical timetable that puts the birth of the world in 4444 BC. Hence, he calculated that the Rig Veda was written somewhere between 1,500 and 1,200 BC.
It contains numerous references to constellations and eclipses. Conclusions derived through archaeoastronomy—a field of cultural research which combines archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, statistics and probability, and history—puts the Rig Veda's composition to 4,000 BC, not to AIT-circa 2,000 BC.
The new rise of Vedic India is challenging centuries of colonialism and caste laws, which subverted a national notion of one India. Interpretation and ownership is the culprit behind the schisms of today.
Is the Rig Veda an indigenous Indian work?
Is India’s past black or white?
Did Aryans migrate from India to Europe instead?
Why do most Indians have Harappan genes?
History has conflicting answers. And it is a sensitive matter. In the search for a credible understanding of the country’s ancient philosophy, sciences, art, music and languages, many government-funded projects run the risk of ‘rewriting Indian history’ by engaging obscurantists who have claimed that Ravan had 24 types of aircraft and gravitational waves should be renamed ‘Narendra Modi Waves’.
Indologist Edwin Francis Bryant, professor of religions of India at Rutgers University, USA, blames the poor qualifications of AIT champions. He is of the opinion that they completely discount or dismiss all linguistic evidence of Vedic India as an indigenous nation—Sanskrit was an oral tradition which started from 1200 BCE until Panini standardised its grammar around 500 BC.
It is difficult to believe that a nomadic, pastoral tribe like the Aryans could develop a sophisticated language like Sanskrit, while no written language has been discovered as used by people of the urbanised Indus Valley.
Bryant had spent many years in India studying Sanskrit and receiving training from Indian pundits. If the Rakhigarhi belle was a genetic marker of India’s cohesive past, Sanskrit is its cultural marker with the Vedas as its manual.
True, they recommended brutally horrifying religious restrictions on the lower castes, which made it easy for the Raj to divide religion. But the Indian power structure, which was blamed as an elite edifice dominated by Brahmins in the kingdoms and empires of antiquity, has changed radically.
In spite of Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla’s recent glorification of Brahmins, India has a Dalit President now—its second. The Prime Minister is an OBC. Most chief ministers are non-Brahmins. The argument against the Aryan Migration Theory precedes ancient divisions to prove that a cohesive national identity has a world view, too.
The Colonial Distortion
Aryan Invasion Theory is originally a British precept which propagated the existence of a master race, which rode across the Indus River and conquered pastoral civilisations in Harappa and Mohenjodaro.
Textbooks taught generations of children that Indian civilisation is the result of migration of Anatolian and Iranian farmers; ancestors from the steppes who came bearing the patois of Indo-European languages.
The colonial caste classification had relegated Dravidians as Shudras with the Aryans forming the three upper castes. In 1916, imperial evangelism propagated the thesis that South Indians were the original Indians, who were driven out by North Indian Brahmanical Aryans in pre-Vedic times.
Friedrich Max Müller
He was perhaps the first foreigner who categorised ‘Árya’ as a race. A British employee, Müller was a staunch German nationalist who promoted the notion of the ‘Aryan race’ and ‘nation’. It’s no wonder that the study of AIT was a must in all Nazi textbooks. To keep his reputation as a Vedic scholar and Sanskritist in England, Müller came up with a novel linguistic theory. He categorised religions by languages: Aryan, Semitic, and Chinese. He proposed a binary Aryan theory about a western and an eastern race from the Caucuses. The first went West and the second to India.
Sir Herbert Hope Risley
The colonial civil servant who conducted the Ethnographic Survey of Bengal in 1885-91 used the width-to-height ratio of noses to classify Indians into Aryan and Dravidian races and seven castes. In a study, Aryans and British India, American historian, cultural anthropologist and Arthashastra expert Thomas Trautmann talks about the dark politics of race hatred in colonial Indian. He writes: “The constitutive event for Indian civilisation… was the clash between invading, fair-skinned, civilised Sanskrit-speaking Aryans and dark-skinned, barbarous aborigines.”
Sir William Jones
Hailed in England as the Father of Indology, Sir William Jones falsely claimed that he knew 32 languages, including Sanskrit. He set up the Asiatic Society of Bengal, which banned Indians on January 15, 1784.
Roberto de Nobili
The Italian Jesuit missionary, who came to South India in 1605 and called himself a ‘Brahmin from Rome’, claimed that he had discovered the lost Yajur Veda, which later proved to be nothing but a fake text claiming that Christian practices were followed by Brahmins.
The Sanskrit Question
Colonial annalists argued that Sanskrit, Latin and Greek originated from a proto-Indo-European language. Accordingly, cultural migration happened as indicated by linguistic similarities. However, in the 1870s, neogrammarians concluded that Greek/Latin vocalism was not based on Sanskrit, and therefore were original. No common root word is found in all three languages before
700 BC. Dravidian and other South Asian languages share many features with Indo-Aryan that are exclusive of other Indo-European languages, including its closest relative, Old Iranian.
The Urheimat Factor
Archaeologists began their search for 'Urheimat'—the original homeland of the Indo-European speakers—in the late 18th century with the help of historical linguistics, archaeology, physical anthropology and more recently DNA analysis. A section proposed that speakers migrated east and west to form the proto-communities of different branches of the same language family. However, there are many confusing hypothesis on the location of Urheimat.
TEPPE HYPOTHESIS Urheimat began in the Pontic-Caspian steppe around 4,000 BC
ANATOLIAN HYPOTHESIS Urheimat came into being in Anatolia around 8,000 BC
ARMENIAN HYPOTHESIS Locates Urheimat at the south of the Caucasus in 5,000BC-4,000BC
FRINGE THEORIES Neolithic creolisation hypothesis, Paleolithic Continuity Theory, and the Out of India hypothesis
Aryan Invasion Theory: A Raging Debate
The British brought terms like ‘Aryans and non-Aryans’, ‘Indo-European or Indo-German’ so widely that European academics even established a new discipline in the curriculum named ‘ethnography’
Another name for Indus is ‘sindhu’ meaning sea. India has a vast coastline. Calling a river a sea proves the Vedas were written by people who had never seen the sea. So, most of the Vedas were composed outside India.
There were no excavated images of horses in Harappa civilisation while in the Rig Veda horses are sacred objects as befits a wandering race. This explains how a nomadic race can defeat agriculturally occupied Dravidians.
Indo-Aryan migrations started around 1,800 BCE, after the invention of the war chariot and brought Indo-Aryan languages into Inner Asia.
Upper castes share European traits like fair skin. The lower castes have Negroid features and are dark-skinned. Hence, the Dravidians were conquered by the Aryans.
Skeletons excavated from Indus Valley sites show they were flung into burial chambers instead of given proper burials.
Rig Veda calls ‘sea’ ‘samudra’.
There is archaeological evidence of horses in Harappa. Horse teeth have been excavated in Amri on Indus and Rana Ghundai on Balochistan border dating back to 3,600 BC. Earlier layers of excavations found horse bones and saddles in coastal Gujarat dating back to 2,300 BC.
How could Aryans drive chariots through the mountains of the Hindu Kush?
Punjabi Shudras are fairer than a South Indian or a Bengali Brahmin. A genetic study in Andhra Pradesh discovered that both Brahmins and fishermen have the same ‘Dravidian’ genetic traits.
No evidence of mass graves that would indicate massacres.
Rakhigarhi is the largest Indus Valley site in India, even larger than Mohenjodaro in Sindh, Pakistan, and was ‘discovered’ by British archaeologists in the 1920s. Archeological Survey of India excavations since the 1960s reveal a sophisticated extensive urban settlement that was extant 70 centuries ago.