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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Top of the page
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.
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
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
(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.