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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Aryan Invasion: History or Politics?


I was going through some blogs which celebrated the "myth of aryan invasion", that the hindus are no more descendents of alien invaders in light of Stephen Oppenheimer's Out of Africa human origins and DNA research and the subsequent "cyber" attack on Romila Thaper et al on promoting the "Aryan tourist" theory. I am no historian, and do not have any credentials to peep into the subject and opine. And I am no Romila Thapar fan, jumping in to justify her. But I would like to point out some facts which I have noticed while "googling" on the issue and turn everyone's focus into "politicising history".

1) In "The Aryan Question revisited", a lecture delivered at JNU in 1999, Romila Thapar opines that "Aryan" is a linguistic term.

"The term Aryan itself is derived from 2 sources. There is a very famous ancient text from Iran, the Avesta, which is linked to the religion of Zoroaster, what is known these days and practised virtually only by the Parsis. The Avesta which was probably written at approximately the same time as the Rigveda uses the term 'airiya' for describing the authors of the text. The authors refer to themselves as 'airiya' from which of course later on you get Iran. And the Rigveda uses the term Arya. So taking both these terms into consideration it was decided that this new language and these new people were to be called Aryan. Now the nineteenth century scholars, this includes people like Max Muller were fully aware that language and race are different things and yet frequently they confused languages with the race and equated them. And that is where in many ways the problem arises. They talked about an Aryan race on the basis of people speaking the same languages. Strictly speaking they should be speaking not about the Aryans but about the Aryan speaking people. But since this is an awkward phrase to use it got cut down to the Aryans. It ceased to be just a language label and became a label for a racial entity as well. The difference between language and race is enormous. The two cannot be equated...
2) She supported the idea of a graduated migration of Aryan-speaking people from the Indo-Iranian borderlands into north-western India.

"The Avesta which is the text of the Zoroastrians written in old Iranian, which is the language which is cognate with, parallel to, close to, related to, Vedic Sanskrit, refers to three place names - Harahwati, Harayu, Haptahindu. Now the old Iranian changes Vedic "s" into "h", consistently. Whatever begins with an "s" in Vedic Sanskrit, changes into an "h" in old Iranian. So Harahwati is in fact Saraswati and the Avesta describes it as a river in the Helmand area of Afghanistan. … The Harayu is therefore the Sarayu, also a river in Afghanistan. Haptahindu is Saptasindhu and it is said in the Avesta that the Aryans, the Aireyas, migrated eastwards to various lands and they list 16 and the last of these is the Haptahindu, Saptasindhu. So the complication is that when we say the Rig Veda is referring to the Saraswati, and the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, - it challenges the whole basis of the location of the Harappan civilization. In fact, we have these developments taking place in Baluchistan and the Northwest and then later on in Gujarat and Saurashtra there is again the evolution from village settlements into urban centres and the urbanization is Harappan urbanization...

...the links between India and Iran, the links between the Rgveda and the Avesta. The Avesta consists of two sections, the gatha section which is the earlier section, and the Yashta and Vendidad which are the later sections. It is now dated to about 1400 BC and could therefore be a contemporary text with the Rgveda. The languages are cognates and there is much similarity in syntax and vocabulary. Those who I have referred to as the Airia and the Arya are the ones who speak these languages. They are grammatically very close and the sounds, the phonetic closeness is also very apparent. For example, I mentioned that the H and the S are interchangeable, so in the Avesta you have references to the Airia and the Daha which is the Dasa, and Dahyu which is the Dasyu. They are not mentioned as being black skinned. They are simply mentioned as being people in the neighbourhood. You have the hotar in the Avesta, you have the hotr and the hotar in fact in the Rgveda. You also have zautar because the z and h are interchangeable. So the Vedic hiranya becomes the Iranian zaranya and the atharavan of the Avesta is the atharvan of the Veda, the Mithra of the Avesta is the Mitra of the veda. And so on.

... So the theory has been put forward that when the Iranian speaking people were living in Iran there was a split and one section moved off into Afghanistan and India and it is this section that created the language of Indo- Aryans. So the argument is that there was a split and a reversal. That is, everything that the Iranians believed in, the groups that began to move away believed in the opposite. They reversed as it were the concepts and possibly it is this reversal of concepts, it would seem, that arrived in India. The Avesta is also depicting a society of cattle keepers and the great honour given to the horse, the aspa. There is a closeness then of old Iranian and Indo Aryan, a closeness which is also expressed in the fact that the only two Indo European speaking cultures that have the cult of the soma plant, which is called the haoma in the Avestan, are the Iranians and the Indians. This cult does not exist amongst other Indo European speaking people. Therefore there is in fact a very close link between them."
3) People portraying her as the propogator of "Aryan Invasion" (in the racial sense) may have not really gone through her works. In her own words "they do not believe in reading the books of those whom they accuse of having incorrect ideas on history".

"The Aryan question is the probably most complex, complicated question in the Indian history. And it requires very considerable expertise in handling both the sources of the questions that arise. The expertise consists of knowing something about at least four different fields... and understand the inter relationships between these disciplines, I am always amazed and surprised that so many people, totally untrained in any of these disciplines rush to make statements about the Aryans. Whether it is the media, newspapers, popular books, whatever it may be everybody imagines that they are experts on the Aryans. And you get an absolutes mass of total nonsense that comes on. .... Today it is the case of the newspapers or the Sunday glossy magazine that tells you that so and so has deciphered the Indus script and everybody says 'ho gaya' - it's been deciphered. Nobody asks the question what is the evidence for this decipherment? So do remember that it is a question, which is politically highly charged. Remember that in all situations of nationalism, whether it be anti colonial secular nationalism or whether it be religious nationalism, the issue of origins and identities becomes a very major issue. Many a battle is fought over the question of origins and identities. So it is politically charged, it is sensational on the media..."
Advances in science may or may not prove history wrong. New history may be discovered. But you never get "his-story" in its purest form. Your get a manipulated, interpreted, mutated, distorted version. It has been happening, it will continue to happen. George Bush the Lesser may go down into the history as the liberator of mankind on account of "War on terrorism". Open your eyes in resistence.

Read the Rediff interview of Romila Thapar in which she opposes saffronisation of history.

79 Comments:

At 5:47 PM, Blogger silverine said...

It is evident that the Aryans are a different race. But studies like these will go a long way in de politicising History. Great job you have done here to dissect the various theories.

 
At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

for u it romila thapar's marxist affiliations are hardly politicial. go get a life.

and linguistic support for ait is the only thing in its favor bcos it can be argued either way. in ur googling, u have obviously ignored scientific evidence rejecting ait.
the marxists have done a wonderful job on you in kerala. no wonder u can barely think.

 
At 2:42 AM, Anonymous raju said...

Leave aside expertise, some (UN)commonsense will do here –
So the latest picture presented by invasionist is –
it was migrating people in small numbers, in waves, of Aryan language/culture, who were nomadic, less cultured, which gradually displaced/overpowered, the densely populated, rich cultured, Dravidians culture-language-people, in such a way that they forgot everything they knew and became low cast people and/or, were driven to the south to become less cultured and forget their city building and other skills and the Indus-script on the way.

 
At 3:34 AM, Blogger kamnar said...

we still do not have enough evidence 2 say wether the aryans were a whole race or a bunch of travelling warriors etc.so i guess all anyone can ,really make right now, are assumptions. but we have to guard against people with political or racial agendas. hitler did that,in d past and we had WW11. personally, i think your comments are genuin, but, my take on the aryans is that they might ve been a warrior group, not necessarily of the same race,but an army that kept on expanding their numbers with each conquest..my 2 bits !

 
At 1:40 AM, Anonymous Rainer Hasenpflug said...

Dear Mr,

Maybe you are interested in my work about the novelty of complete
deciphering and very informative analysis of one of the oldest known
literatures of one of
the oldest known high culture - the Indus-Civilization - from about
2500 BC, what is just now published.

The inscriptions give among others answers on:

The arise of complex urban civilizations
The development of religions
Intercultural relations and common cultural sources
The use of metaphors in ancient and modern languages


More information also at: www.indus-civilization.info
Or at me by email.


Best regards,

Rainer Hasenpflug

 
At 7:58 AM, Blogger Rajiv said...

Suresh

Reading Ms Thapar's quotes here one would believe it is only politicized indians pseudo-historians who contest the aryan theory. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Kenoyer, Schaffer, Lichtenstien, Burke who have also challenged this theory cannot be blamed of this bias. When Ms Thappar comments on the lack of disciplinary erudition on part of writers and reviewers on this topic - one is compelled to draw attention to her own fragmentary knowledge of sanskrit or avestan. Also if one were to dismiss ideas solely on the basis of the researcher's credentials one Albert Einstein would not have seen the light of day. The challenges here should solely be on basis of ideas and thier scientic provenance.
Over the past few years the supporters of the various Aryan theories have been fighting a losing battle in the world of fresh ideas. Thier defence mainly revolves around questionable linguistics, and contestable claims like "no horse in harappa". Genetics and archeology does not provide any proof of large scale migrations or invasions. On the contrary these point to an indegenious origin of Indians and thier civilization far back in antiquity. There have been no convincing explanations of how a supposedly foriegn language spoken by a miniscule number of migrants (as suggested in alternte theories) could totally supplant the language and culture of an evidently vibrant and vast pre-existing cultural complex (to the extent that even hydronomy and place names show very little - if any pre-aryan characteristics ) . There is nothing in relevant local literature (not aryan nor dravidian) that remembers any invasion, migration etc. If at all the indegenious literature points to local origin and developement of local culture, language and philosophy far exceeding presently postulated timescales of western theorists.
It must be noted that over the past few years geology , genetics, study of indegenious literature, archeoastronomy, archeology, ecology, zoology and various other disciplines all are converging with ancient literature. The trouble in placing Aryans in India before the second millenium throws a spanner in the works of indo-european linguistics - and this is exactly what is happening now. Serial hypothesizing is increasingly being challenged by empirical evidence.
As regards politicization of history of india - one could point out that the present history ( compiled and written by westerners ) gives the west a privileged position by virtue of being the descendents of the hypothetical Indo-Europeans ( lets dispense with political correctness and call them aryans). One just has to look at the events leading to the genocide of jews, the hold of the 'white aryan' idea amongst white supremacists, the scramble to claim aryan inheritence by virtually every european nationality, the deep seated resentments against indians trying to make a similar claim, the persistance of the aryan myth even today amongs western academia - to understand how fundamental this has become to the western self identity - all this from a people who did not know the word arya less than 500 years back. The idea of language iheritence is an eyewash - behind it lurks the same sinister shadow of racism that saw the subjugation of africa and india - and the genocide of american indians and australian aborigines - an idea that grants inherent biological and intellectual supremacy to the europeans ,'proven' by the exploits of his alleged forefather - the aryan - who was the dispenser of culture and civilization throughout the world.
What Ms Thapar does by calling a spoon a spade (indian 'revisionists') and complain of politicization is to miss the obivious elephant in the room (western imperialism and its persistent hold on us). By missing the woods for the trees she becomes an active participant in promoting a Eurocentric world. Hence the conclusion of some that she is a "Resident Non-Indian" - a European imperialist in indian skin.

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Pearls-of-thought said...

A series of articles in Frontline which disproves, Rajaram's horse proof and his claim of deciphering Indus script.

http://www.safarmer.com/frontline/taleoftwohorses.pdf

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1720/17200040.htm

Romila Thapar - THE ARYAN QUESTION REVISITED
http://members.tripod.com/ascjnu/aryan.html

Read about N.S.Rajaram(who came up in this new theory) on wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N._S._Rajaram

Rajaram is a mathematician with no proper background in historical studies. He has made some other discoveries, that Swami Vivekananda foresee issues in Quantum Mechanics and the like.

Amarthya Sen on Hindutva -
http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/textbook/AmartyaSen_On_Hindutva.html

 
At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The aryans are native to India and always have been. All the invasionists have now is "archaeological" evidence, while naturally ignoring india's geography and harappan civilization. The genetic evidence has totally debunked any such invasion, in fact the aryans probably invaded europe not India.

 
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At 6:22 AM, Blogger Guptan Veemboor said...

Mr.Balasubramaniam,
I have been searching for someone who have some common traits in thinking. I also read the talk given by Ms.Thapar and fully agreed with her way of thinking. I very much think that there was an Aryan Migration to India. My only reason is that a tall and fair Punjabi has more similarity to an Afghan or Iranian than to an small featured black adivasi. I don't go into any other aspect who is superior or anything like that. They are of different race. A transformation from one to the other can take millions of years and not in ten thousand years or so.
I would like to discuss with you of this. I do not want to talk in the forum just now. Can you please send a personal mail so that I can reply.
Except Romila Thapar I could not get any one who have the same idea as that of mine.
Like you I too have not any background in history. Just by chance got into this controversy while talking to my cousin who is a staunch believer of Michel Danino and David Frawly.
With best regards,
V.K.Guptaan

 
At 8:22 AM, Blogger Nachiketa said...

Supreme court of India judgement:

The Bhils are probably the descendants of some of the original inhabitants of India known as the ‘aborigines' or Adivasis, who now comprise only about eight per cent of the population of India. The rest, 92 per cent, consists of descendants of immigrants. Thus India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/article1082171.ece

The injustice done to the tribal people of India is a shameful chapter in our country's history.

Full judgment :
http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/archive/00351/Full_Text_of_SC_jud_351589a.pdf

 
At 8:24 AM, Blogger Nachiketa said...

Supreme court judgment is based on the historical evidences. To hell with sangh parivari history forgers, pseudo historians like michael canino, rajaram etc.

 
At 9:48 AM, Blogger Guptan Veemboor said...

Hai, here is my idea how the Caveman made his first lesson on cookery. those interested can visit my blog

http://topsyturvyviews.blogspot.com/

Guptan Veemboor

 
At 11:05 AM, Blogger Guptan Veemboor said...

Mr.Nachiketa, I read the judgment of SC from the link you had given. Thank you for the link. It is an excellent judgment and brought plight of the most downtrodden people the adivasis into focus. The governments are doing precious little to their welfare.

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger Guptan Veemboor said...

The concept of Aryans being invaders has not much meaning. They were basically cowherds and wanted grazing land and water sources. An invader wants prescious things or occuppy land. Only if some one is agriculturist he will want to occuppy land. Aryans must have come to India as there was much grazing land and rivers. Not to conquer the farmers and occuppy their land. In fact the farmers would like to have the cows to graze the land where harvest has been done so that the cow dung they get is a good manure for the next crop.

 
At 3:31 AM, Blogger Piyush said...

Sanatan Dharma is the oldest culture in the world, and there was a time when it was spread throughout the world. People can find swastika in every culture like the American Indians, Greece, troy, Italy, Russia and many other countries have this symbol. Look at the 108 symbols of god in Sanatan Dharma and their origin. Things will become very clear about the origin of humanity in this world. It is time to free ourselves from the lies and deception spread throughout the world about our culture.

Dont forget, even today in Sanskrit and Hindi the words for Divorce and any other abusive words do not exist. Yet it contains words like Yantra ( machine) and Vimana ( air-craft), which existed far before the western civilization constructed aircraft themselves.

 

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