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The Aryan Invasion: Fact or Fallacy?
|by Rekha I Nambiar|
Like most Indians of my generation, I grew up studying about how the Indian sub-continent was invaded by a race of ‘Aryans’, who gave us the Vedic heritage that we are so proud of. It is only recently, as a result of reading articles and then delving into the roots of the whole theory that I have come to understand my own roots better. To confirm, what has always been a suspicion. That ours is one of, if not the oldest civilization, of which any written records still exist. That the Vedas are not the delusions of a poet, but the records of a civilization. That the culture that evolved on the banks of the Saraswati and the Sapta Sindhu composed the ancient scriptures, and they were without doubt indigenous people and not nomadic barbaric hordes that brought the glory of the Vedas with the thundering hooves of their horses. The Aryan Invasion theory (AIT) was propagated by the west to justify their own purposes. If that race brought us this literature common sense demands that they document their own entry into this part of the world. In addition, all the Vedic literature that was supposedly given to us by the invading Aryans has not ONE reference to any region outside the Indian sub-continent. And to think for a moment that a horde of invaders, nomadic in their existence, would produce the sublime wisdom of our scriptures, defies intelligence. Such a vast literature could only have been the product of a civilization that was well rooted and highly developed. Not a constantly moving people on horses !!!!
The Aryan Invasion theory (AIT) propounded by western scholars gives a Eurocentric history of civilization, based on racial parameters. It was used to justify colonialism and derived its fundamentals from Biblical chronology. It states that around 1500 BC ,‘Aryans’ ,a race of fair skinned, blue-eyed, sharp nosed invaders from Central Asia invaded the Indus Valley and drove out the indigenous black skinned Dravidian race that was pushed further down south. This nomadic horde on horses is supposed to have ‘conquered’ a civilization covering an area of almost 800,000 square kilometers.
If it is a racial theory, could the Germans or Europeans be far behind ? Yes, Max Mueller is credited (!!!) with popularizing AIT. "Max Muller, like many of the Christian scholars of his era, believed in Biblical chronology... Given then that the world was created in 4000 BC and the flood occurred in 2500 BC, it was impossible to give the Aryan invasion a date earlier than 1500 BC Also, many of these scholars had dubious credentials and motives. "( D Frawley)
The word ‘Arya’ itself is not used in the context of race anywhere in the Vedas. It is a form of address to give respect as in Sir or Monsieur. Its connotations were in the context of assigning the qualities of nobility, righteousness and culture to a person. In Ramayana, Rama is described thus…Aryah sarvasamashchaivah sadaiv priyadarshan. Arya - who cared for the equality to all and was dear to everyone. The astronomical data in the hymns of the Vedas, would date it to at least 3000 BC and the Aryan invasion is given a date (by AIT proponents) of around 1500 BC. And the Aryan-Dravidian divide does not account for the fact that the scriptures, cultures and historical traditions of North and South are essentially the same. If one was the conqueror and the other the conquered, and from two different cultures, how does one account for a homogeneity in the Hindu tradition from Mount Kailash to Kanya Kumari? Another inconsistency in the theory of Aryan invasion is that the excavated sites of Harrappa show that all the sites were abandoned. Now if an invader came and drove the inhabitants out, logic dictates that such an invader would occupy these towns. But archaeological findings prove this was not the case. And these ‘great invaders’ who came from the north west and occupied this land, sang the praises of our rivers, glorified our mountains and called this the holy land. Not their own homeland? That doesn’t make sense. Every reference to any place in the scriptures can be found on what is still, to this day, the Indian sub-continent. Not one place is somewhere in Central Asia or Europe where these supposed invaders came from. The culture spread, to parts of Iran and Central Asia but archaeology has proven beyond doubt that civilization has moved East to West and not the other way around as propounded by western scholars in the 19th and 20th centuries. The kind of spiritual depth, poetic refinement and cultural history that is reflected in the Vedas requires a great civilization to produce it. And they could not have done that on horseback! And if they developed it here, there should be some record of their roots in what they consider to be their literature.
The first discovery of buried townships in Harappa and Mohenjodaro was in 1922. Since then thousands of settlements have been excavated by archaeologists that stretch across the sub-continent along the banks of what used to be the Saraswati river. Archaeological evidence has proven that a series of floods around the second millenium BC brought to an end the Harrapan civilization, that stretched along the mighty Saraswati river. This river, is the holy river mentioned in the Vedas and not the Ganga. The Ganga is mentioned only once in the Rig Veda, while its sister Saraswati, has numerous verses testifying to its glory. All the excavations have revealed that the settlements of this civilization are along the banks of the Saraswati, accounting for its fame and glory in the Vedic texts. Excavation of Harappan sites in Dhaulavira in Gujarat to Ropar in Punjab reveal abandoned towns and testify to cultural practices that date well before 3000 BC. The Dhaulavira region in Kacchh (Gujarat), which is now a stretch of desert was apparently a major port city, dating well before 3000 BC. Its proximity to the sea, and what was the delta of the Saraswati river would account for the marble pillars excavated there. These pillars, a gateway to the mainland, are mentioned in the Rig Veda. And since the Saraswati dried up long before 1500 BC it would not explain why it is glorified in the literature of the nomads who are claimed to have conquered this land post 1500 BC. Kunal, in what is now Haryana, was again in the Saraswati region and is dated to pre-Harrapan times, which would justify that the civilization was highly developed long before 3000 BC. The Saraswati-Drishadvati region seems to have been the main focal point of this civilization. Rakhigarhi, on the Drishadvati has been found to much larger than the remains found at Harappa or Mohenjodaro. Archaeological remains have been found of altars, Harappan script and crafts. These are described in detail in the Vedas and would associate this literature with that civilization.
The Vedic Age is dated from around 7000 BC to 3000 BC. Now, if the Rig Veda mentions the Saraswati, that dates long before 3000 BC, then the Vedas would have been in existence prior to 3000 BC…which is the period of the Mahabharata. This mighty river, over seven kilometers wide, flowed from the Himalayas through the western deserts and into the ocean. When this river dried up, as has been proven by satellite images, it is logical to assume that the people who lived on its banks were forced to move elsewhere. During the time of the Pandavas and Kauravas, the mighty Saraswati is referred to as a ‘dying’ river. It is the drying up of this river and not an invading race that led to the decline and subsequent disappearance of the civilization. If anything this massive exodus moved north, west and south rather than any people coming in. The people of the Vedic Age were displaced by the onslaught of nature and not a tribe on horses. That would account for the large-scale abandonment of all the settlements along the Saraswati river .Along the Sindhu river, prolonged droughts drove the inhabitants away, in search of new lands. It is at this time that the people of this land are supposed to have migrated in all directions. The cultural similarities with the Iranians would testify to the spreading of this culture outside the region and westward. It seems to have stretched as far as the Celtic region, with numerous referenced in Celtic literature to what is originally Vedic culture. That the Vedas have no reference whatsoever to anything in Ireland or Iran would mean that the culture moved from East to West. And it is the culture that moved as a people, not as invaders; because the Vedic peoples did not leave to conquer other lands, but to find new homes.
If any single archaeological discovery has shattered AIT, it is the discovery of this submerged city off the coast of Gujarat. It proves beyond doubt that the events of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are historical facts and not the ramblings of an imaginative poet! There are several references to Dwarka being swallowed by the ocean in the Mahabharata and Krishna’s warning to the residents of this city prior to its submersion. The remains have been dated between 3000 and 1500 BC, which sends the Aryan Invasion theory flying out of the historical window.
The North-South divide does not refer to an Aryan-Dravidian divide, but that of two cultures from the Vedic Age that form the two warring families referred to in the Vedas. The Brighu rishi family and the Angirasa rishi family. The Turvashus and Yadus were from the Bhrigu family. The Vedas were a product of the northern Angirasa rishis (Purus and Ikshvakus) along the Saraswati Drishadvati region. Although products of the same civilization, the northern faction prevailed as is evident in the Vedic and Puranic scriptures. Given the symbolisms associated with the sea in the earlier literature and given the period of the Ice age, it is logical to assume that the southern culture is the older of the two but eventually the northern offshoot came to prevail and claim the land as the land of Bharata. There are very little cultural or genetic differences between these two rishi families that can substantiate any claim to another race. The only other culture in Vedic literature is that of what is now Punjab and Afghanistan. The Anus and Druhyus of this region were the ones who gradually migrated north and west and do not form any significant part of the ancient scriptures, thus attesting to their minimal influence in the region. The Vedas were a testament to the powerful Rishi-Raja culture along the Saraswati and the enduring power of a culture that prevailed and spread over the region over thousands of years.
It is argued that Aryans brought horses and chariots into the Indian sub-continent and that accounts for their mention in the Vedas. Now why would the horse be of a totally different anatomical structure, if that were the case:
The horses from Europe and Central Asia had 18 sets of ribs. Did they lose one set of ribs enroute from Europe to India? And if these horses came with the Aryans we should be able to find some remains of this huge migration of species into the sub-continent. Neigh !!!!… Not a single horse bone. The spoke wheel chariot is a symbol in much of Harrappan excavations, so it was most definitely not an ‘import’ from West Asia. And the symbols found would date it far before 2000 BC which is about when they are dated in West Asia.
If this mythical race invaded this region around 1500 BC one would assume that the skeletal remains found in pre-Harrapan sites and those post 2000 BC would show some evidence of a ‘new race’. Again not a single bone that shows any discontinuity in genetic information. It is much more likely that some of the indigenous population of the sub-continent moved north and west and spread to parts of Central Asia as is evident in the cultural similarities with Iran. And the only discontinuities in genetics are around 6000 BC. Nothing dating between 1500 BC to 800 BC which is when the Aryan invasion is supposed to have taken place. And even in the other case, there is no significant alteration in the genetics in this part of the world. So why in all these archaeological findings is there not one shred of evidence to support the theory that these Aryans ever existed? And how come this glorious invasion left no proof of its existence when substantial proof of the civilization they supposedly conquered exists. If there were battles, there is no proof of it, and if skeletal remains were found not one of them was of a foreign race. No signs of battle, no signs of conquest and absolutely no genetic trace of these ‘foreign invaders’.
The Cow is again given as an example of an import. Now even in today’s day and age we can tell that the Indian cow is ‘different’ from its brethren in other parts of the world. Not just in anatomy but also in attitude!!! That’s perhaps because this species dates back many thousand of years and is not an offshoot of its western comrades. The worship of Shiva in the South is taken as a justification for the divide between Aryan and Dravidian cultures. Those who put forward this theory seem to forget that the most holy place of Shiva is Mount Kailash which is about as North as you can get on the Indian sub-continent. Many important sites for this God are located in North India and not the South.
The linguistic diversity on the Indian sub-continent is cited as a basis for the invasion theory. That language has more to do with culture than race is historically evident. Vedic culture is the main reason why Sanskrit has a widespread acceptance throughout the Indian sub-continent. And as with many cultures, poetic verse was a powerful and effective medium of communicating ideas and thoughts. Linguistic diversity has little to do with race or even invasions but rather a peculiarity of the human race to develop unique means of communication. Sanskrit exists in its original form, as in the Vedas, only in this part of the world. And since everything written in this language only validates events in this region, and is limited to the geography of the region, it would seem illogical to assume that the language itself was an ‘import’.
The seven holy rivers are all from the Indian sub-continent. The twelve Jyotirlings are all in what is still India. The pilgrimage centers of our culture are within this region. The mountains and valleys, ocean and deserts are still here. The excavations at Harappa indicate that writing existed in this civilization in 4000 BC. Nothing, absolutely nothing, has any reference to any place or people outside of this region. Not in any of the Vedas, Puranas or the Epics.
A Euro-centric version propounded in the last two centuries has found its way into our textbooks courtesy the British Raj. Like true invaders, the Brits brought with them their theories, religion, architecture, art and culture that centered around their homeland. That is true invasionist imperialist culture. If the ‘Aryans ‘ had done that there would have been SOME proof of it. If there is evidence of what life was like in pre-Harappan ages that existed in 4000 BC right down to their crafts and measuring instruments, why has nothing been found about this mythical Aryan race.
"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......" (M S Elphinstone).
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