Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Aryan Non-Invasion Theory

On the Indo-Eurasian Research List, a certain Touraj Daryaee announced that he was going to write something about the Iranian Homeland Theory, an idea that has reportedly been launched in the 1990s. So, he informed about what must be, according to his information, a similar development in India. I sent him, through the list, the following reply on 21 October 2013. Two days later, moderator Steve Farmer let me know that this message could, alas, not be posted.

Dear Touraj,


The Indian homeland theory dates back to the 18th century European Enlightenment (Kant, Voltaire) and was espoused by the first generation of Indo-Europeanists in the very early 19th century (Schlegel). But by 1830 or so, Eastern or Central Europe (and thus, as far as India was concerned, the "Aryan Invasion Theory") was near-universally accepted as homeland.


Immediately it was put to political use in Britain's colonial policies. It was a God-sent in justifying Britain's occupation of India, as the British were deemed only to be repeating what their Indo-Aryan cousins had done thousands of years ago. As the die-hard colonialist Winston Churchill said more than a century later: "We have as much right to be in India as anyone there, except maybe the Depressed Classes who are the native stock." In India, the theory was immediately seized upon by anti-Brahmin activist Jotirao Phule, incidentally an alumnus of the missionary education system.


In 1916, the British authorities, in a move against the Brahmin-led Freedom Movement, patronized the founding of an anti-Brahmin and Dravidian-chauvinist party, the Justice Party. After independence and till 1962, it espoused a Dravidian (in effect, only Tamil) separatism, and more recently, it supported and aided the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. The AIT is the alpha and omega of its worldview. Idem for the Dalit movement: while its founder BR Ambedkar articulately opposed the AIT, his followers reduce every issue to Aryan upper castes vs. native Dalits. Idem for the "Other Backwards Castes" (Bahujan) or at least their Western-sponsored spokesmen. British colonial administrators also coined the pseudo-Sanskrit term Adivasi ("Aboriginal") for the tribals, projecting the American racial situation, with European invaders subjecting the natives, onto India. Till today, even scholars who ought to know better, innocently use the very word Adivasi as proof of the tribals' native and the non-tribals' invader origins. It was used on many fronts to pit variously defined "natives" against variously defined "invaders".


All this while, Hindu nationalists were also active, e.g. Hindu Mahasabha's founding 1922 and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's founding 1925, without ever questioning the AIT which was so massively used against them. The AIT was so unassailable, with all the prestige of the "scientific" West, that nobody dared to question it. It was e.g. roundly accepted in the 1923 book Hindutva by VD Savarkar, the very manifesto of Hindu nationalism. Cultural spokesmen often quoted by Hindu nationalists, such as AK Coomaraswamy and VS Agarwal, also presupposed it in their work. As late as the 1960, RSS leader MS Golwalkar only dared to posit an Indian homeland by crankily postulating that the poles and all other places' coordinates had shifted and that this Indian homeland was the same as the Wolga/steppe homeland that the scholars assumed.


So, Hindu nationalism can perfectly coexist with a foreign homeland, and it did not invent the Indian homeland theory (though the terminology you use implies otherwise). Many national myths are not based on nativeness but on their state's establishment by foreigners, e.g. the USA, of course, or Mexico, but also Romania, Russia and others. What irked Hindu nationalists about the AIT, however, was its political use to divide the Indian population, both before and after independence. (See about this Rajiv Malhotra & Aravindan Neelakandan: *Breaking India*.) Those academics who choose to oppose the Indian homeland theory *because* of its alleged political use by the Hindu nationalists (there are of course other reasons, too), should realize that in that case, they should oppose the East-European homeland theory annex AIT a hundred times more, for it has been politically misused for a far longer time in far more countries (including Nazi Germany, which espoused and used the AIT as a perfect illustration of its racialist worldview), and from positions of power. The Indian homeland theory is the pastime of a handful of writers, while the AIT is on the Indian government website and is taught to hundreds of millions of pupils and students. We hardly have a level playing field here.


This much for the (necessary) background. Now to answer your question. In the 1980s (1982, from memory), a remarkable book was published by KD Sethna, the erstwhile secretary of Sri Aurobindo, and then already nearly 80 years old: Karpasa in Vedic India. It argues that the AIT cannot be true, for the Rg-Vedic culture, indubitably located in India, predates the Harappan civilization. Indeed, he argues, cotton/Karpasa does not figure in the Rg-Veda but is quite present in the Harappan cities. Other material items follow the same pattern, according to Sethna. This drew a few other writers' attention to the subject, and they then published their own (good or not-so-good) arguments for Vedic indigenousness, as well as their account of the massive political use, both in the West and in India, of the AIT. Around 1990, historiography was very much in focus, though mostly of the medieval period (due to the Ayodhya temple/mosque controversy), and in that climate, the Hindu nationalist movement seized upon the Aryan non-invasion theory. But being intellectually very lazy, the movement invested nothing whatsoever in further research into Aryan origins but at once shouted victory: the AIT was declared dead.


Mind you: I have not used the now-common term Out-of-India Theory. To describe the Hindu position, this term is too flattering. It was coined ca. 1996 probably by Edwin Bryant, and assumes Indo-European linguistic unity from Iceland to Lanka, with India as the source of expansion. But in fact, Hindus don't look beyond the Khyber Pass: they are satisfied that e.g. no archaeological proof has ever been found for Aryans moving into India, so they conclude that no Aryan invasion has taken place, but they don't assume the burden of responsability to explain how, in that case, the Europeans have come to speak cognate languages. They don't go looking for traces of India-based tribes moving out of India and making their way to Central Asia and then to Europe. Quite a few of them put in doubt this linguistic unity, disparaging comparative-historical linguistics to be a "pseudo-science", and most don't even think of the non-Indian dimension of the homeland question. The Aryan non-Invasion Theory has millions of followers, the articulate Out-of-India Theory only a handful.


Always welcome if you have any further questions.


Kind regards,


Koenraad Elst

Postscript (23 October 2013): Now I remember another factor for the fairly sudden rise in Aryan Non-Invasion thinking ca. 1990: a few anti-Invasion publications by Western archaeologists such as Jim Shaffer. These emboldened a mass of Indian archaeologists to vent loudly what they had been noticing for some time: that in spite of being the official and well-funded doctrine for a century and a half, the AIT had still not yielded a single trace of the Aryans moving into India. BB Lal, routinely slandered on this list and elsewhere as a mere "Hindu nationalist", made his name as a promising top archaeologist by identifying the "Painted Grey Ware" culture with the Aryans moving deeper into India in the 50s and 60s; but he changed his mind and saw that he had merely *assumed*, not proven, the AIT. He is but one of many scholars who "converted" away from the AIT. Among Indian archaeologists, the Aryan Non-Invasion Theory is by no means a fringe opinion. 


Gururaj B N said...

Habits seem hard to break, even amongst scholars, who are supposed to draw inferences based on evidence. More often, evidence is "found" or concocted to justify the preconceived notions, established theories. This seems to be the case with the AIT. Scholars may be too lazy - it is easier to justify a well accepted theory, than defend a theory which requires hard work, diligence, and ability to receive and ingest abuses of AIT protagonists. Unfortunately, the field was cluttered up by some untrained and over-enthusiastic defenders of 'home-land theory', such as N.S.Rajaram.

Giacomo Benedetti said...

Thank you for this clear summary, I did not know that Shaffer had such a momentous effect in Indian archaeology, actually I started studying the topic from 2004 (starting with your book about the Aryan Invasion debate, which I found in the library of the Scuola Normale of Pisa).
But I have a remark about the change to a European homeland. I have found an Italian publication of the beginning of the 20th century where it was written that for most of the 19th century the orthodox theory was that of Pictet, supporting a Bactrian homeland on the Oxus, and that only at the end of the 19th century there was a shift to a European homeland. Also Max Muller supported an Asian homeland, although undefined ('somewhere in Asia'). B. Sergent writes: "L'immense majorité des savants du XIXe siècle pensait que les Indo-Européens étaient originaires de l'Inde ou de l'Asie centrale." Still in an important Italian etymological dictionary of 1907, now available online, O. Pianigiani took the Bactrian homeland for granted:

Tejaswininimburia said...

We in Tamilnadu stoutly oppose AIT for the following reasons and you should not vaguely explain. i)the word Dasa/dasyus never figure in Tamil. How can Arya/Dasas war can be considered as Arya Dravidas war.ii)you are intellectually dishonest Dravida first occurs only in Buddhist chronicles i.e.,after spread of Buddhism in Krishna Godavari basin in third century BC coinciding with Anuradhapuram inscription indicating Damela bahmana gahapathi/merchant. It is clear that Damela refers only to Krishna Godavari basin supported by the fact that in subsequent Sanskrit literature from Mahabharata to Kumarila Bhatta Chinese chronicles Dravida refers only to Krishna Godavari region. Why Ramayana Panini Asokan edicts Buddhist/Jain chronicles before 300BC never mention Dravida?iii)there was no Sanskrit literature before Bhasa and Story of Udayana was in Prakrit who was a Jain king. Why did you suppress the fact that before Rudradaman KADAMBAS there was no Hinduistic epic? It was only because of Rudradaman and Kadambas who had matrimonial relationship with Vakatakas and Guptas Sanskrit flourished. The earliest Sanskrit poets Bhasa Pravarasena Shakthibadra Bharavi Dandi lived only in South India. Buddha asks his followers to convert unaryas in Banavasi and Mahishamandalam in south as Aryan and makes no mention about Dravidas.v) who taught Aryans burning of dead instead of burials as practised by them?no aryan rishi has tuft who taught Aryans to have tuft? Who taught Aryans elephant regiment?why was Shivaites belonging to mahavratyas and Pasupathas performed sacrifices(Gnanasambandar to Sadasiva Brahmendrar)?why was it PUNJAB to UP did not have any kings till Gahadwalas/Gurjara Prathiharas arrived?do you admit that there is complete vacuum from 800BC TO ARRIVAL OF BHASA? Then where is the question ofAryanism. AIT is like OPERATION SUCCESS BUT PATIENT DEAD. LONG LIVE AIT AND INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY

Tejaswininimburia said...

INTELLECTUALS DISHONESTY PART II: The AIT is based on backward integration i.e., take Vedic hymns compiled by Sayana in 14th century AD. Don't look for earlier comments and come to 200 - 500 AD when Mahabharata Puranas Smritis were compiled extrapolate to any period between 1500 -800BC then come to Asoka/Megasthenes and Alexander then go to Buddha then Mahavira DariusI 16th province of Punjab Indo Iranians at last Indo Europeans. Is this the way of scientific history?India lives only in present and not bothered about past or future. Heavens will not fall if it is said that India does not need history. Before analysing the Vedic hymns let us ask this question why should be history analysed on Sayanas commentary on Vedic hymns. Nachinarkiniyanar the older contemporary of Sayana extensively says Four Vedas mean TAITTRIUM CHANDAM TALAVAKARAM AND SAMAM alias Jaiminiam. The Chola inscriptions extensively refer to these only. Further in older Andhra inscriptions Agniveshya is specifically mentioned. Incidentally the Vaidhya Brahmins of Tamilnadu upto the period of Varuna belonged to this the notable being Siruthondar and Satan kari of famed Velvikudi Grant. In one of the Paranthaka I inscription Venkata Madhava the commentator on Rig Veda samhita is mentioned. The question is what happened to it and what are the sources of inscriptions on Vedas in North India and no historian ever mention them? There were no kings who performed vedic sacrifices in Hindi belt except Sungas and Guptas who can never be considered as pure Aryans? Why was it Tamil kings had fascination for vedic sacrifices? The answer is simple. North Indian masses were not imperialistic unlike South Indians. Even now they seldom move out of their native place unlike South Indians. Hence their knowledge about India is a big zero. The geography as depicted in Sanskrit literature coincides with Green mariners. That is why Sanskrit literature never mentions Tamil as a separate language Pallavas and Cholas. Even Alberuni is completely ignorant of Cholas. It is only after 1070 AD Chinese substituted Cholas for Dravidas. The funniest part is that North Indians even upto the time of Harsha travelled to Srilanka either from Broach or Tamralipti by ship. That is why in Sanskrit from Malavigagnimithram to Priyadarshika there will always be Ceylonese princess engulfed in shipwreck during sojourn to North India. There is also a story of Sita being daughter of Ravana abandoned in the sea and reaching East India. Compare this with geographical descriptions given accurately in Sangam literature and Rajendrachola inscriptions. As per map of ancient Greece the tip of India was very narrowed and Srilanka is on the western side. This compares favourably with Vanaras reaching southern tip and Sampathi pointing out Srilanka. The protagonists of AIT derive sadistic pleasure in depicting non moving unchange non imperialistic North Indian masses as legacy of looters and marauders. There will be more bucks.

Tejaswininimburia said...

PARTIV: THE RIDDLES OF AGE OF ARYANS: In this we shall discuss the anachronism of age of various Aryan tribes. The AIT PROTAGONISTS fixes the age of various categories of Aryans as below: Asia Minor: as per the recent excavations the oldest and largest urban settlement dating back to 7000 BC has been unearthed. The curious part is the finding of bronze idol of priest with having tufts in the middle of the head like head plate worn by Greeks. IBERIA: The Celtic culture has been found to be existing even before 3000BC. GREECE: The Ionian culture existed even before 3000BC. MIDDLE EAST: The Hittites even before 2300BC entered into matrimonial alliance cum agreements with Pharao. Now the question is why Indo Aryans alone were uncivilized. If they are uncivilized who gave them Chariots? Why is that of all the uncivilized invading tribes Indo Aryans alone recite poems in chaste language?is it simultaneous or what is the time lag? Why is it that Vedic hymns stopped after Satapada Brahmana? How is that prakrit nearly ruled for thousand years from 800BC to 200AD? Even now compared to population the learners of Sanskrit is very limited. INDO IRANIANS AND INDO ARYANS: Much hype is made on the similarities between Zend Avesta and Rig Veda. The comparison ends there. There is neither reference to India in Avesta or Iran in Rig Veda. The funniest part is that Persian words resembling Vedic words appear only during Achchemenian Empire in 600BC. Thus Darius - Turvasu Cyrus - Kuru appear nearly 800 years after being used in Vedas when only Prakrit was in vogue and no such names were used contemporarily in India. The sixteen janapadas were clear imitation of Darius I. If one compares the inscriptions of DariusI with Asokan edicts and Meikeerthis of RajarajaI to Kulothunga I one is struck by similarities in context descriptions and orders issued. The AIT protagonists should synchronize the events and boldly say that Indo Aryans were nuisance creaters driven by brother Aryan tribes. The problem with AIT protagonists is that they essentially represent a strange combination of anti Christ Zionists zealots who cannot go beyond date of creation by Hebrews with Graeco Roman concept of Plato's republic and carrying the mantle of Teutonic Templars scoffing at Norse and Celtic mythologies. The contempt for all mythologies is directed as Indo Aryan/European marauders thus insulating their scientific temper from the fear of those mythologies in the mask and garb of AIT. LET INDIA BE SPARED AND LET ITS HISTORY BE LIMITED TO A FEW HUNDRED YEARS NOT BURDENED WITH IVC OR AIT. LET ALL GLORY GO TO WEST. SPARE THE PEOPLE OF SUB CONTINENT AND ALLOW THEM TO LIVE IN PEACE WITHOUT HALLOWED AND HAUNTED BY OLD GLORY.