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A NEW FOUNDATION BEYOND THE ARYAN INVASION

 

With the collapse of the Aryan Invasion Theory, it is necessary to build ancient history on a scientific foundation with due respect to the primary sources.

 

N.S. Rajaram

 

Background

With the accumulation of data from a wide range of sources— from archaeology, satellite photography and the newly deciphered writings on the Indus seals, it is becoming increasingly clear that the version of ancient Indian and world history based on the so-called Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) is no longer tenable. The AIT held that the ancient Harappan civilization of the Indus-Sarasvati Valley (c. 3100 – 1900 BC) was non-Vedic, and that it was destroyed by the invading Vedic Aryans. A careful examination of the primary sources — both literary and archaeological — shows this to be without basis. On the other hand, the civilization of India is seen to be a continuum whose recorded origins go back at least to the seventh millennium in Mehrgarh in the northwest and about the same period in Kodlihwa and Mahagara in Central India. Further, the Rigveda is seen to be quintessentially Indian, showing no traces of any foreign origins. It is also older by at least a millennium than the Harappan Civilization. That is to say, the Rigveda is pre-Harappan and the Harappan civilization is later Vedic.

An examination of the flora and fauna as well as the genetic records of humans and domesticated animals shows that India has close affinities with East and Southeast Asia going back untold millennia. Historically and culturally, India has been much closer to East and Southeast Asia than West Asia or Europe. This was interrupted by the European colonization of the region beginning in the seventeenth century. This led to a Eurocentric version of history being imposed on the region. Its most visible manifestation was the Aryan invasion by which the history and civilization of India were sought to be made subordinate to Europe and Eurasia. This has now collapsed in the face of more objective research.

No less significantly, it is not just this version of history that has broken down, but also the methodology that was used to create the field called Indology (of which ancient history is a part). The present article shows that a more accurate picture of ancient India can be obtained by a methodology that combines ancient Indian scholarship with the modern scientific method. The most significant outcome of this approach was the recent decipherment of the Indus script. The article also highlights the scientific evidence showing close links between India and Southeast Asia going back tens of thousands of years. The article concludes by pointing out that the present chaos in ancient history and historiography is the result of imposing a European version of history based on colonial and Christian missionary needs than any objective criteria. The need of the hour is a new approach to history and historiography based on science and the primary sources rather than dogmas and political ideologies that have dominated the field during the past century and more. Further, the close cultural and other ties with East and Southeast Asia must be brought into the study in a major way.

 

Beyond the Aryan invasion

It is a curious fact that for well over a century, the study of ancient India has been dominated by the theories of linguists. The study of ancient India, at least in the modern Western sense, may be said to have begun with Sir William Jones in the late 18th century. With his discovery of the Sanskrit language and its closeness to European languages, Jones became the founder of the field that we now call Indology. For the next century and half, this became the basis for the study of everything connected with ancient India, including its history. The central theme of this effort was to make Indian history and civilization subordinate to Europe. This was a natural consequence of European colonialism and the Christian missionary movement that prospered under its umbrella.

The main instrument of this subversion of scholarship by colonial-missionary interests was the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). This theory claimed that the history of India was a record of invaders, going back to Vedic times. The Vedic Aryans, said to be one branch of a people called ‘Indo-Europeans’, were said to have brought both the Vedas and the Sanskrit language in an ‘Aryan invasion’ of India. This was placed in 1500 BC. To this day, despite repeated refutation by scholars in both East and West, the AIT version of history continues to be supported by residual Eurocentric interests like Christian missionaries and Indian Marxists. The latter, also a Eurocentric ideology like the ‘White Man’s Burden’ that sustained colonialism, was for nearly fifty years the dominant position of the Indian intellectual establishment. This allowed this scientifically untenable, colonial version of history to continue in independent India.

With the discovery of the Harappan Civilization in 1921 — greater in extent than ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia combined — archaeological data also became available that could now be used in the study of ancient India. But no systematic effort was made to connect archaeological data with the ancient Indian literature. On the other hand, entrenched theories like the Aryan invasion sought to keep Harappan archaeology and ancient Indian literature permanently separated. This has created a strange situation. The Harappans, the creators of the greatest material civilization of antiquity, have no literary or historical context. On the other hand, the Vedic Aryans, the creators of the greatest literature the world has ever known, are without archaeological or even geographical existence.

This is only part of the problem. In their effort to make Indian civilization subordinate to Europe, scholars of the colonial period — including their successors today — ignored a vast body of literary and scientific evidence linking India to Southeast Asia. Through the millennia, India’s relationship with East Asian countries like China, Japan, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and even the Philippines was much closer than with Europe, Eurasia or Central Asia. This was interrupted during the two-to-three centuries of European (Christian) colonial presence in the region. This gave rise to a school of Eurocentric scholarship that sought to make India — the most influential civilization in the region — subordinate to European thought and achievements. This was compounded by the aggressive activities of Christian missionaries who imposed their own version of history and culture to justify both colonial rule and Christian superiority.

In the light of these deficiencies, it is not surprising that most of the significant advances in ancient history — from the discovery of the Sarasvati River to the decipherment of the Indus script — should have resulted from the work of scholars outside the establishment. Many of these outsiders (like the present writer) came from the sciences. It was only when an examination of primary data threw up contradictions that several of these began to question both the theory and the methodology. As previously noted the real battle today is between theorists trying to fit data to their favorite models, and empiricists trying to interpret data in the best manner possible. This is finally giving way to a more rational outlook based on a multidisciplinary approach to the study of scientific data and primary records.

These alternative approaches based empirically rather than theory and conjectures are beginning to yield significant results. The most spectacular of these is probably N. Jha’s decipherment of the Indus script (or the Harappan script)— an effort in which the present writer has also participated. This culminated in this writer’s decipherment of what has been called ‘World’s Oldest Writing’, showing it to be connected to the Rigveda. As a result, there is now a firm link that connects Harappan archaeology to the Vedic literature. Prior to this, historians were faced with the enigma known as Frawley’s Paradox: archaeology without literature for the literate Harappan, and a vast literature without archaeology or even geography for the Vedic Aryans.

 

Links to the east

  There is now a new dimension to this scenario. Careful examination of Asian flora and fauna, including genetic study of animals and populations, is beginning to show that the links between India and Southeast Asia are much stronger than that with Europe and Central Asia. In particular it is seen that: (1) the Indian humped cattle (Bos Indicus) resulted from the domestication of the East Asiatic banteng; and (2) the ancient (Vedic) Indian horse is a different species that is unrelated to the Central Asiatic or Eurasian variety. This settles the much-discussed topic of the importance of the horse in the Vedas, by showing the Rigvedic horse to be indigenous rather than an import. The banteng, (shown left) is a smaller cousin of the Indian bison or gaur. A relative of the gaur known as the mithun has also been domesticated in India.)

This is not the full story. Archaeological data demonstrate that there were repeated migrations out of India to West Asia, going as far as Europe. Though there probably never was an ‘Aryan Invasion of Europe’, the Puranas record that several ruling dynasties and priestly families migrated north and west leaving their imprint on Europe and West Asia in the form of languages, religion and culture. All this calls for a fundamental reconstruction of history of the ancient world, in which the basis should be primary records and a scientific approach. The two-century old record of Indology is seen to be little more than a collection of beliefs and interests presented as ‘research’. This may have been acceptable in the nineteenth century but has no place in the present age. The rest of the article briefly summarizes the highlights of these developments.

 

Sarasvati River and the Rigveda

Although most history books still claim that the Vedic Aryans were pastoral nomads from Central Asia or Eurasia who invaded India in 1500 BC, a careful reading of the Vedic literature combined with archaeology emphatically shows that the Rigveda describes North India as it was long before that date. The key evidence is provided by the course of the river known as the Sarasvati. Ancient Indian literature, notably the Rigveda refers to the Sarasvati as a great river flowing in a course more or less parallel to the Indus but to the east of it. In Vedic times, it was this Sarasvati and not the Ganga (Ganges) that was regarded the greatest and the holiest of rivers. The Rigveda describes it as the ‘greatest of rivers’ (naditame) that flowed from the ‘mountains to the sea’ (giribhya a-samudrat). Today there is no great river answering to that description. This made many scholars assume that it was entirely mythical.

But beginning about thirty years ago, the picture began to change. Photos taken by the NASA remote sensing satellite Landsat showed that the Rigveda was right in its description. These images showed that there was indeed a great river answering to that description that dried up thousands of years ago due to a combination of ecological factors— from the loss of some of its tributaries to increasing aridity. Then in a great field expedition that took several months, the late V.S. Wakankar and his team of archaeologists charted the course of the Sarasvati during the various phases of its existence. In particular, his work showed that the river had dried up completely by 1900 BC. Later studies show that the Rigveda may in fact be describing the river as it was even before 3000 BC. In addition, a majority of the archaeological sites belonging to the so-called Indus civilization (Harappan civilization) actually lie closer to the Sarasvati. It is therefore more appropriately called the Indus-Sarasvati civilization.

This raises two fundamental issues. First, the Aryans coming in 1500 BC as the Aryan invasion theory holds could not be describing the Sarasvati River as it used to be long before there supposed arrival. Next, the Harappan civilization, which flourished mainly in the third millennium (c 3100 – 1900 BC) must be later than the Rigveda. So, the natural question follows is: who were the Harappans and what was their relationship to the Vedic civilization? This is what we may examine next.

 

Who were the Harappans?

The last quarter of the twentieth century saw major advances in our understanding of ancient India, which allow us to answer a fundamental question: who were the Harappans? Beginning with the discovery of the Vedic Sarasvati River by the late V.S. Wakankar, it has reached a new stage following the decipherment of the famous and difficult Indus script (or the Harappan script) by Natwar Jha in collaboration with this writer. All this work, including the decipherment, settles the question of the identity of the Harappans and their language, which had remained one of the major unsolved problems of twentieth century historical research. No less significantly, the decipherment provides a historical context for both the Harappans and the Vedic people by linking Harappan archaeology and the Vedic literature. Without this historical linkage, we would have the paradox of a vast archaeology without literature for the Harappans, and a great literature without archaeology for the Vedic Aryans. This is all the more paradoxical when we note that the Harappans were literate, while the Vedic Aryans were said to be illiterate who depended on memory for preserving their records!

This paradox disappears once the two people are linked. In brief, this connection shows that the Harappans belonged to the later Vedic age and that the language of the seals is Vedic Sanskrit of the post-Rigvedic period. As a result, the version of history based on an ‘Aryan invasion’ in 1500 BC and the idea that the Harappans were pre-Vedic ‘Dravidians’ are found to be baseless. On the contrary, the Rigveda is seen to be older than the Harappan civilization. This is supported by this writer’s recent decipherment of a pre-Harappan sample of writing, which he showed to be connected with the third mandala (book) of the Rigveda.

An important point to note is that the Aryan invasion version of history had stood demolished by archaeology and other sources even before the decipherment. But for reasons ranging from academic inertia to protection of vested interests, the scientifically discredited version based on the ‘Aryan invasion’ and the ‘Aryan-Dravidian wars’ continues to be found in history books. It is worth noting that no archaeologist today — Indian or Western — subscribes to the Aryan invasion, which is mainly the creation of nineteenth century linguists. (There were also political and Christian missionary considerations that are not germane here.) Recently available genetic evidence also contradicts any invasion or large-scale migration 3000 – 4000 years ago, as claimed by the Aryan invasion version of history.

 

East Asian connections: the biological imprint

Beginning with the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century, until the last vestige of colonial (British) rule left in Hong Kong left Asia, South and Southeast had been under European domination for the better part of three centuries. This was supplemented by the aggressive activities of Christian missionaries who dominated education, especially in the humanities. As a result, a Christian Eurocentric version of history and culture, along with a corresponding approach to the humanities came to be imposed on the region. This was particularly the case in India, where a fiction known as the Aryan Invasion was used to attribute all Indian achievements — including the Vedas and the Sanskrit language — to foreign sources. This has had the effect of seriously distorting the historical picture of the region. The fact is, going back to prehistoric times, the connections between the Indians and the Southeast Asians have been extremely close— far more than with West Asia, let alone Europe. Recent genetic evidence suggest that this might go back tens of thousands of years, perhaps to the time when the ancestors of the Asians left their place of origin in Africa. This, as just noted was ignored in favor Eurocentric theories resulting from colonialism. But a careful analysis of both scientific and literary evidence is now restoring the correct picture: historically, culturally and ecologically, India and Southeast form one vast region. (Paul Manansala calls it the ‘Austric region’ based on the assumption that Austric languages dominated in the region at one time, but it seems preferable to use a term based on more permanent features like geography and climate. Tentatively, this writer would suggest ‘Tropical Asia’ or ‘Monsoon Asia’.)

The focus of this article being science rather than culture, what follows is a brief summary of the biological evidence that highlights this connection. The abundant biological data — from genetic studies to the similarity of the flora and fauna mentioned in ancient sources — continues to be ignored by advocates of the Eurocentric version of history. (This includes the AIT, but much more, like the tracing the horse and even Indian humped cattle — or the Bos Indicus — to Eurasia.) We may begin by looking at the most important of Indian animals, one that is quintessentially a symbol of the Hindu reverence for life— the humped bull. It is also know as the Zebu. Its scientific name is Bos Indicus. In the US is called the Brahma bull. It is described in the Rigveda and is also one of the commonly depicted figures on Harappan seals. Its domestication is of major significance to Indian and East Asian cultures.

Until recently, the wild ancestor of the Zebu was believed to be the East Asiatic animal known as the banteng. The banteng (Bos Javanicus or Bos Banteng) is a close relative of the Indian bison more correctly called the gaur. (The gaur is not really a bison.) A domesticated relative of the gaur known as the gavial or mithun is common in the northeastern India, especially Assam. So there is no reason why the Indian cattle cannot be descended from the domesticated version of the gaur or the gavial. But the situation appears to be more complex. But the fact that it is found in domesticated form in Indonesia and often in hybrid form with the zebu suggested a common ancestry, and more importantly, an East Asiatic origin for the Indian cattle. Obviously this creates problems for the Aryan Invasion theorists. So an attempt was made to trace it to Bos Nomadicus, the ancestor of the European/West Asian Bos Taurus cattle. This was simply a suggestion, but as so often was the case with Indological scholarship, it was not long before it began to be treated as an established fact. This is a familiar pattern that underlies much of the methodology that led to (and derives from) the AIT.

But this pretence could not be sustained in the face of conclusions following detailed scientific analysis. Studies based on mitochondrial DNA in 1994 and 1999 showed that the Indian and the taurine (Eurasian) cattle were separated by something like 600,000 years of evolution. The conclusion was inevitable: The zebu (Indian) and the taurine (West Asian-European) cattle were "domesticated separately in different regions of the world," as Manansala puts it. Later studies showed that the zebu is close to banteng and may indeed have had a common ancestor. Further, the Indian cattle or the zebu (Bos Indicus) was domesticated separately in South Asia. In other words, Indian cattle are a completely different animal both biologically and in their domestication history. It could not have been introduced from West Asia or Europe. So the ‘invading Aryans’ could not have brought their cattle from the northwest.

 

The horse myth

It is a similar story with the horse. Of late, with archaeology contradicting the AIT, the horse — or the supposed absence of it in Harappa — has become the evidence of last resort for the supporters of the Aryan invasion. The claim of the AIT proponents is that the horse was unknown in India until it was brought by the invading Aryans. Thus the absence of the horse in prehistoric India is crucial for the survival of the AIT. In fact it is so to such an extent that any attempt to suggest the possibility of horse as native to South Asia can lead to high emotion and vehement denunciations by the AIT proponents. (This writer can attest to it from recent personal experience when he produced evidence showing that the horse was known to the Harappans.) But the fact is that considerable confusion has been created due to sloppy data handling, scientific ignorance and what Manansala has called "shoddy scholarship". It is a complex issue, but here is the story in brief.

The first point is that despite repeated assertions by AIT advocates of "No horse at Harappa," horse bones have been found at Harappan sites at all levels. It is also not true that artistic representations of the horse have not been found among the Harappan artifacts. There are terra-cotta figurines representing the horse. Also Jha and this writer have shown that there is at least one seal from Mohenjo-Daro that contains a slightly damaged image of a horse. (It was this that gave to vehement reactions and denunciations from a few AIT advocates.) Later, I showed that the horse was depicted on at least one other seal.

In any event, the absence of the horse in artistic representations — especially among the small fraction that have survived over thousands of years — does not prove their absence altogether. Also, horse representations are relatively rare in Indian iconography. Iconography, including the seals, contains people’s ideas— not a record of zoological specimens.

This is still not the full story, for horse remains have been found in Central India, at places like Koldihwa and Mahagara, dating to before 6000 BC. But even more significant is the following fact: The Indian domesticated horse, like Indian cattle, is different from the Central Asian variety. As Manansala puts it in his masterly study:

 

Deep in the specialized literature on horse classification, we can find that Indian and other horses extending to insular Southeast Asia were peculiar from other breed. All showed anatomical traces of admixture with the ancient equid known as Equus Sivalensis. …However, like that equid, the horse of southeastern Asia has peculiar zebra-like dentition. Also both were distinguished by a pre-orbital depression. The orbital region is important because it has been demonstrated as useful in classifying different species of equids. Finally, and most importantly in relation to the Vedic literature, the Indian horse has, like Equus Sivalensis, only 17 pairs of ribs. (Emphasis added.)

 

In contrast the West Asian, Central Asian and the European varieties had 18 pairs of ribs. So the horse of India and Southeast Asia is a distinct variety native to the region. So the Indian horse could not have been brought into India by any invading people from the northwest— Aryan or not. So the Harappan horse is irrelevant— seal or no seal. What the advocates of the Aryan invasion have to show is demonstrate an archaeological trail of horses from Central Asia that became the Rigvedic horse. But this is impossible for the following reason.

But what is amazing and most significant is that this horse with 34 ribs (or 17 pairs) is what is described in the Rigveda during the Ashvamedha sacrifice. Here is verse 18 from hymn I.162, which is devoted to the sacrifice (author’s translation):

 

The horse of victory has thirty-four ribs on the two sides that face threat in the battle. O skilled men, treat these uninjured parts with skill, so they may recover their energy! (RV, I. 162.18)

So the horse evidence, far from supporting the Aryan invasion, actually refutes it.

 

The human imprint

This should settle the issue of the horse, showing that the Rigveda knew the South and Southeast Asian horse long before the Central Asian variety appeared in India. It is a similar story when we examine the human imprint on the region. As Manansala points out: "Genetic studies have often focused more on establishing the validity of Western theories concerning the subcontinent like the AI [Aryan invasion]… However these same studies often provide evidence that supports our own theory." That is to say, they support the indigenous origin of Indians with links to East Asia. This has been the experience of this writer also: a recent genetic study that purported to show that high caste Hindus came from the Caucasus ended up showing that, if anything, they indicated a movement out of India. When we look at studies that use older methods like cranial measurements we get the following picture (Manansla):

 

According to the old standard of cephalometry, or measurement of skulls, the situation in India had always presented problems to AIT proponents. The theory requires that the Vedic Aryans have some biological relationship with the old Persians of Iran. However, the evidence available shows that Iranians are and were a markedly broad-headed people while the peoples in India including the northwest were strongly long-headed. Broad-headed people appeared in pockets in western India around Maharastra and Gujarat and in eastern India, but the expected high frequency of such types in the northwest was not found. The discrepancy led to AI theorists to claim that the earlier invasion had come from long-headed 'Nordics', the cousins of the broad-headed Iranians. The theory suffered some obvious weaknesses as the supposed separation of the two groups from the hypothetical Central Asian homeland was not that great— certainly not great enough to allow divergence into broad and long head categories from a proposed proto-Indo-Iranian people.

 

Manaslala goes on to observe that the evidence is even more revealing when the skeletal remains are examined more thoroughly. "Kenneth Kennedy, who has done extensive research on early Indian crania, has stated that the "Aryan" is missing from the early skeletal record." By ‘Aryan’ is meant here a group that would cluster with Central Asians or Eurasians believed to be Indo-Europeans. The skeletal record shows that in most ways the Indian population is quite unique. As a result, one thing that can quickly be dismissed: Indians are ancient inhabitants of India and not recent immigrants. The idea that they are recent immigrants due to an Aryan invasion’ or anything else represents a theoretical fancy that is contradicted by hard evidence.

It is a similar story when we examine the genetic record. "The overall genetic picture indicates a very old biological relationship, probably extending in part to at least to the original migration out of Africa.” In this context it may be pointed out that the current theory is that Africa was the home of the entire human population now distributed all over the world. The genetic picture of Indians is that they are closely related to the Southeast Asians, going back tens of thousands of years. Genetic studies have also shown that the contribution of Central Asia or Eurasia to Indian populations is insignificant to non-existent. All this has been confirmed by more recent studies relating to the human genome project.

It is a similar story when we look at Indian and Southeast Asian mythologies. As Manasala notes: "When we delve more deeply into mythology…, we will find that Indian tradition, preserved in the Puranas, epics and other works, assigns the origin of a great many things to the East. In the story of the churning of the Milky Ocean, the divine cow Surabhi arises from the sea after it becomes milk. The Milky Ocean, as we will see, is located geographically to the east of Mt. Meru. Likewise, in the Satapatha Brahmana, the priesthood is also connected with the East, although here east could refer to eastern India."

            So, ties to the East and to the ocean are much stronger than those going west or northwest. A fundamental problem in the theories advanced by AIT proponents is the almost total incomprehension on their part of the time scale involved in biological change. Two thousand or four thousand years is a long time span in the historical sense but insignificant when viewed in context of biological evolution. As a result, developments that must have taken tens of thousands of years are compressed into centuries leading to scientific absurdities. As their main goal was to justify a Eurocentric vision of civilization, they violated fundamental laws of nature, often resulting in what scientifically knowledgeable scholars have termed "shoddy scholarship" and repeated and dogmatic assertion of discredited positions.

 

Rigveda and the ocean

It is clear from the discussion so far that the version of history found in textbooks is not merely wrong but catastrophically wrong. It is wrong in every respect— in history, chronology, literary interpretation, as well as identifying the regional flora and fauna. It may safely be said that the Aryan Invasion version of history represents one of the great blunders in the history of scholarship— a blunder that may be classed with Christian Creationism and the Flat Earth Theory. Before we get to suggest an alternative approach to history we may first note that the Rigveda is the product strictly of an Indian milieu. There are occasional references to lands beyond the Indus — notably Afghanistan — but these are greatly exceeded by references to oceans and seafaring. This is clear from the numerous references to oceans and the use of oceanic symbolism found in the Rigveda. Here are some examples. (Translations by David Frawley.)

 

In the beginning, there was darkness hidden in darkness, all this universe was an unillumined sea.

Rigveda X.129.3

The Gods stood together in the sea. Then as dancers they generated a swirl of dust.

When, like ascetics, the Gods overflowed the world, then from hidden in the ocean they brought forth the Sun.

Rigveda X.72.6-7

The creative Sun upheld the Earth with lines of force. He strengthened the Heaven where there was no support.

As a powerful horse he drew out the atmosphere. He bound fast the ocean in the boundless realm.

Thence came the world and the upper region, thence Heaven and Earth were extended.

Rigveda X.149. 1-2

Law and truth from the power of meditation were enkindled. Thence the night was born and then the flooding ocean.

From the flooding ocean the year was born. The Lord of all that moves ordained the days and nights.

The Creator formed the Sun and Moon according to previous worlds; Heaven and Earth, the atmosphere and the realm of light.

Rigveda X.190

 

All these passages are pervaded by the image of the ocean. And there are literally hundreds of them. As David Frawley has pointed out, a society totally ignorant of the sea does not visualize the process of creation itself in terms of the ocean. Can anyone believe this to be the poetry of a nomadic people from Eurasia who had never seen the ocean? What trust are we to place in a scholarship that missed all this for over a century while insisting that its creators were nomadic invaders ignorant of the sea?

So to understand the origins of the Vedas, we need to look not West to Central Asia or Eurasia, but East and South — and possibly to Africa — which have always been close to India until European colonialism interrupted this natural connection. There were movements West, but it was usual from India westward— to Iran, Central Asia, Anatolia and even Europe. There is even archaeological evidence to support this. The figures below show just one example— of the symbolism of the ‘Yogi’ finding its representation both in West Asia and Europe later. This suggests a westward trail out of India.

In this context it worth noting that the ancients never denied India’s contribution to knowledge, including the sciences. As late as in the 11th century AD, the Spanish Arab scholar Sa’id ibn Ahmad al-Andalusi (1029 – 1070 AD) wrote in his Tabaqat al-umam: "The first nation to have cultivated science is India… Over many centuries, all the kings of the past have recognized the ability of the Indians in all the branches of knowledge… The Indians known to all nations for many centuries, are the essence of wisdom, the source of fairness and objectivity… To their credit Indians have made great strides in the study of numbers and geometry. They have acquired immense information and reached the zenith in their knowledge of the movements of the stars… After all that they have surpassed all others in their knowledge of medical sciences."

The same was true of the Greeks, even after the coming of Christianity. Greek sages beginning with Pythagoros looked to India as the Land of Wisdom. Some like Pythagoros are believed to have studied in India. But the Eurocentric bias of colonial and missionary interests — and their later followers in India — turned all this upside down. In the process, they overturned also the history and culture of the region. The Aryan Invasion Theory was a tool of this colonial enterprise. It is time to set it right.

 

A new foundation for history

The idea of the Aryan invasion, related to such concepts as the ‘Aryan race’ and the ‘Aryan nation’, has more to do with Europe than India. Like the German Nationalist Movement that gave rise to it, the ‘Aryan race’ concept should be seen as part of European history. It became part of Indian historiography only because it could be used to impose a Eurocentric version of Indian history to go with European colonialism. Its creators and beneficiaries were mainly colonial scholars and Christian missionaries. They made no secret of their intentions. Lord Elphinstone, Governor of Bombay, once said: "Divide and rule was Roman policy and it should also be ours." This was put into practice in the form of the invading fair-skinned Aryans colonizing the dark-skinned Dravidians— little more than a copy of European colonization of Asia and Africa. And W.W. Hunter, a leading Indologist of the nineteenth century wrote: "Scholarship is warmed with the holy flame of Christian zeal." It was such scholars who created the version of history that went into textbooks in colonial India.

This is understandable from the colonial point of view, but why are they still taught in Indian schools and colleges fifty years after independence, especially when they are entirely without a scientific foundation or even rudimentary evidence? To understand this, it helps to recognize that British education left behind an elite that was cut off from Indian tradition but uncritically accepted anything coming from the West as valid. This elite soon gained monopoly of the Indian intellectual and educational establishment. This allowed a ‘colonial hangover’ to continue, with the same version of history becoming the version favored by the Indian ‘establishment’. This was supplemented by another Eurocentric ideology called Marxism, which became the official position of the Indian establishment.

This had been anticipated by Sri Aurobindo long ago when he wrote: "That Indian scholars have not been able to form themselves into a great and independent school of learning is due to two causes: the miserable scantiness of the mastery in Sanskrit provided by our universities, crippling to all but born scholars, and our lack of sturdy independence which makes us over-ready to defer to European [and Western] authority."

This colonial-Marxist elite dominated the history establishment, leading to stifling of debate and rejection of alternative viewpoints. In the circumstances, it is no accident that the most significant advances in Indian history — from the discovery of the Vedic Sarasvati River to the decipherment of the Harappan script — should have come from the work of non-establishment scholars. As for as the Harappan civilization is concerned— we now have conclusive evidence to show that it was Vedic. What is presented in the present article is a small part of the new picture. The deciphered readings make it even more conclusive. (For details see The Deciphered Indus Script by N. Jha and N.S. Rajaram, Aditya Prakashan, Delhi.)

            The two great weaknesses of the Indian history establishment — apart from their lack of independence — are ignorance of the scientific method and ignorance of the primary languages. These weaknesses have led its members to apply modern trappings like Christian prejudices and Marxism to people and cultures that lived thousands of years ago. This suggests that a new school of scholarship needs to be built that combines traditional learning like Vedic scholarship and the modern scientific method. They provide a firm foundation for ancient Indian history by linking archaeology to ancient literature, beginning with the Rigveda. Such an approach has already yielded dividends in solving the demanding problem of deciphering the Indus script. The present article provides other examples of such a mix. The study of ancient Indian can now begin in real earnest, based on science and the primary sources rather than on the whims and fancies of colonial and missionary interests. This has been long overdue.

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