Aryan Invasion
Who were Aryas?

-Dr.Neela Ranade

Dr Neela 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.

Linguistic Basis-

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 than Vedas.

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 civilization!

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 Saraswati Civilization.

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 BC 1800.

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 of India."
2.Mohenjodaro of Indian valley civilisation 1931: John Marshall
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.


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