WHO WERE ARYAS?
Ranade is (ex) Professor of Physics in the SNDT Womens College.She obtained
her Doctorate in Physics.She has also obtained an M.A. degree in Indology
from the famous Tilak Mahavidyalaya.Dr.Ranade has been intently pursuing
the study of the progress of India through the different ages.Presently,
she is also studying the development of Indian culture and Temples.
The western world became familiar with the word 'Arya' in the middle of
the nineteenth century, when the Vedas were translated into European Languages.
This word is often used in Vedas, but it is never used to indicate a 'race'.
However, the view of the western world was to attach the word 'Aryan'
to a particular race. In Vedas it is used for an honourable, respectable
or cultured person.
A Florentine merchant Filippo Sassetti, who lived in Goa between 1583
to 1588 said that there was a definite relation between Sanskrit and some
of the principle languages of Europe. In 1786 Sir William Jones in his
famous address to the Asiatic society of Bengal suggested that this relation
is due to the common source of origin. The common - origin languages such
as Greek, Latin, Gothic, Celtic, Sanskrit, Persian, etc were given the
name Indo-Germanic or Indo European.
In 1847 British historian Lassen used the word ‘Aryan' in reference to
a race in his book "History of Ancient India". The credit for ‘Arya Race'
concept however goes to MaxMuller. He popularised this concept between
1857 to 1871. But in 1871 he changed his view and declared, "Aryan, in
scientific language, is utterly inapplicable to a race. It means language
and nothing but language; and if we speak of Aryan race at all we should
know that it means no more than X+Aryan speech." This purely linguistic
formulation of the problem was never fully accepted and Jacobi, Hilderbrandt
and Winternitz opposed it right from the beginning.
This was however the European view which "ignores or denigrates other ancient traditions
like those of India, China and Mesoamerica as of little importance."The
next step was to look for the place of origin. This could never be proven
without doubt.Yet the view that ‘Aryan' is a race and that they invaded
India from North-West still continued to hold. In this article we will
try to analyse this problem on the available facts.
1) Importance of Archaeology
The 'Aryan Race'theory which was proposed somewhere in mid-ninteenth century,was
not based on archaeological findings. The Archaeological Society of India
was formed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Mohenjodaro
was discovered in 1922. Following this sequence of events, first we will
see if the archeological findings support the Aryan Race hypothesis or
not.So we must critically investigate the following aspects.
a)Whether the cultural development in India accompanied the so-called
Aryan Invasion in BC. 1500.
b)Whether the Vedas were formed before BC 1500 or later.
c) If the Aryan attacked, fought and defeated the original people of this
land or not.
2) Antiquity of India- The British design
The Brahmi script was deciphered by James Princep in 1837. The archeological
investigation was also started at the beginning of the century. Lord Curzon,
the then Viceroy India, re-organised the department of Archaeology in
1900. In his address to the 'Asiatic Society of Bengal' on 7.2.1900, he
said that the artifacts found in India are not as old or ancient as those
found in Assyria, Egypt or Europe. According to his understanding, the
railings around the middle of Sanchi stupa are not much older than the
3rd century B.C. The stupa itself could have been older.
3)The Mohenjodaro excavation-
The excavation in 1922 in the Sindhu valley and the discovery of Mohenjodaro
brought a change in worldview. In 1924 Sir John Marshall wrote in 'The
Illustrated London News' that, "the, Indus civilization must have developed
for many centuries and flourished in western India. The gold jewellery
found here compares well with the jewellery now available in Bond Street."
This brought to light a fact that five thousand years ago when the name
of Aryan was not even known, a very developed civilization existed in
Punjab and Sindh and perhaps elsewhere too. This civilisation had similarities
to the contemporary Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisation but in some
respect was even superior. (Vol. 1 Page 5)
He has further expressed that looking at the findings of Hariappa of Mohenjodaro
it seems that the civilisation was not in its formative years but was
a very old, mature and developed one. Hence India must be considered with
the other lands that have ancient civilisation like Persia and Mesopotamia.
This excavation brought a change in view regarding the antiquity of the
Indian civilization and a review of the opinion held thus far became necessary.
4) Some features of Harappa civilization-
Many of the sites excavated before 1947 were in the newly formed Pakistan.
New excavations in Indian revealed more than thousands of cities in the
Indian Subcontinent e.g. at Kotdiji, Kalibangan, Lothal, Dholavira etc.
The Kotdiji and Kalibangan show signs of early Harappa civilization, so
we can say that the civilization developed in this land. The town- planning,
trade and commerce, the definite shape and size of burnt bricks and their
setting pattern, means of transport (bullock carts, boats, etc) and the
pottery have their own tales to tell.
The fully developed or mature Harappa civilization is the natural development
of this previously existing culture and people.The understanding of the
civic responsibility is a notable and important feature of this culture.
The city was a creation of careful planning and forethought as it shows
orientation of all the principal streets to the points of compass, the
successfully- aligned street, the correspondence of the houses and public
buildings with the orientation of thoroughfares, etc.
The streets intersect at right angle, dividing the city into squares and
rectangles. The width of the streets varied from 9 feet to 34 feet. Each
lane has a public well and most of the houses have private well and a
bath. Nowhere was a building allowed to encroach on public highway as
in summer. The city had an elaborate drainage system consisting of horizontal
and vertical drain, street drains, soakpit etc. This indicates their awareness
about sanitation and hygiene.
The granaries are also well-planned, the weights and measures were standardised.
The cities had good flourishing business within India and with other countries.
At Lothal in Gujrat a dockyard has been excavated. All this goes to show
that these people were not insolated but were in very good contact with
the world and were an important constituent of the world society. They
worshipped mother goddess, Shiva, trees etc. Their religion was that of
sacrificial cult (Yagnya based), which continued to be followed later
and is still practised today. Hence it can be said that this period was
much prior to the so-called Aryan invasion.
5) The end of the culture-
According to Mortimor Wheeler the civilization or culture was destroyed
by someone coming from outside and because Indra is called Purandar (destroyer
of cities) so he was given the credit for destroying Harappa civilization
cities. This view is not accepted by archeologists because the end of
the culture cannot be dated later than 1750B.C. and the Aryan invasion
date 1500B.C. Is 250 years later. Even in this period it transformed into
post Harappan culture.
The skeletal remains that are connected with the destruction
have been studied in detail by Prof. K. A. R. Kennedy, a
famous philologist from Cornell University. He has proved
beyond doubt that
there are no marks to indicate death by striking a weapon
and violence. Prof. G. F. Delse from Berklay University
has also provedthat those remains are found in the different
layers formed because of regular floods in the river.If
the hypotheses of invasion is true, then the invasion
would be from both the warring factions.
The skeletons are not those of Mongoloid, Nordic or Mediterranian
races (which are supposed to be the warring sides). Amalanand
Ghosh declares “The skeletons at Mohenjodaro have
a skull index similar to the Sindhis of today and those
at Lothal match with the present Gujrat population.
All this shows that just as Aryan Race hypothesis is baseless,
similarly the theory that the people living there then,
belonged to a race other than the one existing today also
does not hold any ground.
6) Antiquity of Vedas and Harappan civilization-
The assumption that the Rigveda mentions Aryan invasion
also presumes that the Harappan culture is older than
Vedas. Vedas refer to horses but at that time horse skeleton
was not found in excavation which was found later so this
argument was no more valid.
Harappa culture was familiar with cotton but the Vedas
knew of sheep wool and Kshaum vastra (made from tree /
vegetable fibre, i.e.rayon). So Vedas were not familiar
with cotton, therefore, Harappan culture must date later
Vedic term 'ayas' is interpreted according to invasion
theory as iron, and so it is argued that this culture
must date later than the introduction of iron around 1500BC.
But 'ayas' in Rigveda means only metal (in other Indo-
European language like Latin or German, Ayas usually mean
copper, bronze or ore , not specifically iron) and the
Harappan culture knew only copper, so both these cultures
are prior to iron age.
'Yagnashalas' sacrificial altars/kund) have been found
at some Harappan sites. The sites are scattered right
from Baluchistan in West to Uttar Pradesh in east to Gujrat
in south. Dr. Ahmed Hassan Daoni from Pakistan is of the
view that this whole region had a culture where yagnya
shalas were important. The Vedic culture revolves around
‘yagna' so this wide area practiced Vedic culture
prior to the Harappan culture.
7) Not Indus valley or Harappan civilization but Saraswati
Remote satellite sensing has proved the existence
of Saraswati river and its dry bed as existing now from
Shivalik hills near Simla to Rann of Kutch. In older times,
Sutlej and Jamuna were tributaries of Saraswati. The dried
bed has a width of upto 8 km at some places. The wells
in the dried bed of Saraswati have the same composition
of water which is different from the wells outside of
the bed. (Even today, at the confluence of Ganga (which
is a comparatively new river) and Jamuna at Allahbad it
is said that Saraswati is secretly present. Could it refer
to the water of Saraswati which now drains into Jamuna!)
J. P. Joshi, Madhubala and Jasuram say that in the geographical
region between Baluchistan hills and Ghaggar (old Saraswati)
valley, a cultural development of long duration resulted
in Indus Valley civilization. The harappan culture and
map shows that the cities are centred around the Saraswati
river. We find the pre-Harappan and then the overlapping
mature Post-Harappan culture. Hence S. P. Gupta suggests
(as is also proposed by David Frawley and others) that
the Harappan civilization should be rightly renamed
Yashpal in his article "Remote-Sensing to the lost
Saraswati river" says that Saraswati existed about
2000 to 3000 BC and this area was rich in vegetation and
because some other river also emptied into Saraswati,
it made Saraswati a big river, which, rather than confluencing
with Indus, emptied into the sea (Rann of Kutch).
The dried beds of the river Saraswati which emptied in
the sea have been traced. This river-bed was full of water
in BC 1800, so the earlier one must have been older than
Seals have been found in Harappan excavation, so this
written evidence must indicates a culture which is later
than the culture not familiar with writing, so Rigveda
must precede the Harappan Culture; yet, there are suggestions
(Burrow) that Harappan culture knew writing, but it was
forgotton by Vedic period. This seems too far-fetched
because even Vedas mention "Speaking can be seen"
and "It was possible to take out Vedas and keep them
in a cupboard "Such statements suggest a hand- written
manuscript of Vedas.
Archaeology does not support the Race hypotheses-
Western scholars had decided that there was an Aryan Invasion
in BC 1500 and the Aryan culture spread in India after
that. The excavation at Mohenjodaro put a doubt on this
hypothesis which had to be abondoned. However, it is very
strange that this Aryan Invasion theory is still propagated
by our prescribed school history books, even though it
has be rejected on scientific findings. History should
be as near to truth to the best of our knowledge. In that
case, such erroneous information should be removed immediately,
says Dr. Ajaymitra Shastri, head of the department of
Archaeology and Ancient History, Nagpur.
Effects of the Aryan Invasion hypothesis-
This Aryan hypothesis has harmed India much more than
the harm caused due to II nd world war in Europe. This
has given birth to the separatist mentality .The thought
that we have a great culture that has preserved 'Vedas'
for thousands of years and that whenever there is something
new, we have been able to modify the old and assimilate
the new thought, so the old thought does not die but blooms
with new glows, is lost from the minds of our leaders.
Now it is believed that our development and National thinking
are a product of British rule. That a nation is different
from a country or state is forgotton.The concept of a
nation is cultural whereas the concept of country and
state are political. Today, politically we are grouped
together, but we have forgotten the culture and hence
lost love for our nation. From time immemorial, this nation
has followed its unique culture which was born and developed
here and this internal development does not create tensions
in the society because this comes from within and is rather
a slow process.
But today we are under the influence of the material culture
from west. The western culture has no antiquity, the usefulness
of their social and national views have yet to be proved.
When such cultures are imposed and accepted, then we experience
what we do today. A fast-dying culture.
Everything is misinterpreted- even religion, secularism
and what not. If we really want to be secular, then we
do not have to look elsewhere, because that is what our
ancient culture teaches us -"To look within!"
Warren Hastings might have been influenced by the moral
and ethical standards of Indian but the later rulers were
successful in impressing on Indians that we have a pagan
culture, that culturally we were backward etc. And they
continued to twist and turn facts to suit this propaganda.
Even today we are called a developing nation.If we were
conscious and more vigilant then our prescribed curriculum
books would have scrapped the Aryan Invasion theory. But
only changing this one line is not enough, because we
were under foreign rule over a long time. The whole of
history has to be rewritten with an open mind.
1. David Frawley "The myth of the Aryan Invasion
2.Mohenjodaro of Indian valley civilisation 1931: John
3. J. P. Joshi, Madhubala and Jasuram, "A reconsideration
on the basis of distribution Maps: Indus civilization"Frontier
of Indus civilization.
The Vedic Age - Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
Who were Aryan - Shree Ram Sathe, Bharatiya Ithihas
Sankalan Samitee Pune.
The Myth of the Aryan Invasion- David Frawley (Vamdeva
Shastri), Voice of India, New Delhi.