Aryan Invasion
 
New Foundation
   


A NEW FOUNDATION BEYOND THE ARYAN INVASION

N.S.Rajaram

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.

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
( 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, is a smaller cousin of the Indian bison or gaur. A relative

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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 (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-

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. 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.
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