Is the Aryan invasion theory true?
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The prerequisites of the two theories mentioned include similarities between the Indo-European languages as an indication of a common origin and an original language: Proto-Indo-European or Proto-Indo-Aryan. It is also assumed that the speakers of this original language separated at one point in history and migrated in different directions. The place where the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European were last united is called the home of the Aryans. Initially India was considered the homeland of the Indo-Europeans, but in the second half of the 19th century the idea of India as the country of origin was rejected (Bryant 2001: 31).
Aryans and Dravids
The two terms have Sanskrit predecessors, but in their current meaning they are modern constructs that were invented in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The term "Dravide" or "Dravidian" denotes a language family of South Asia with the four main languages Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam, which are mainly spoken in South India and partly in Sri Lanka.
The term "Aryans" has two meanings. It comes from Sanskrit and means "the noble one". However, it was constructed, on the one hand, through the history of ethnic politics and the politics of racial hatred; on the other hand through the discovery of the Indo-European language family and the Indo-European comparative philology (Trautmann 1997: 15).
The Duden describes Aryans as: "(Sanskrit: noble), 1st member of one of the prehistoric peoples with the Indo-Aryan language in India and Iran and 2nd member of the so-called Nordic race in the National Socialist racial ideology."
According to Rajaram and Frawley, extreme exponents of the Indigenous Aryan Theory, the word Aryan is misused in its current uses. It comes from Sanskrit and refers to people who live according to certain spiritual and temporal laws. A translation into English would come closest to the meaning "honorable" or "noble". In the Rigveda, the oldest text in the Vedas, the term Aryan is used as an adjective and has nothing to do with race, nationality or ancestry.
The Aryan Migration Theory
The theory of the Aryan invasion of the subcontinent assumes the area around the Caspian Sea as the home of the Aryans, from where they moved in several waves and over a period of several centuries and around 2000-1500 BC. Reached the Indian subcontinent. There they met the indigenous Dravidian peoples and subjugated them. This theory of Aryan migration is advocated by most western scientists and well-known Indian researchers such as Romila Thapar.
All research on the Indo-European languages, especially in its beginnings, was strongly permeated with biblical ideas. The idea of a common original language - Hebrew - was associated with a common original people. The idea was embedded in the biblical version of the story in which Noah's three sons, Japeth, Shem, and Ham, were believed to be the ancestors of mankind. The evolution of all languages began when the descendants of Noah dispersed after the flood.
Another myth was the Tower of Babylon, which attributes the linguistic diversity to a divine intervention against humanity. Sir William Jones, one of the founders of Indo-European Studies, was also influenced by the biblical myths of a common original language for all people (Bergunder & Das 2002: 27). Jones announced the discovery of the Indo-European language family in 1786. He recognized that Sanskrit was related to Greek, Latin, Gothic, Celtic and Persian and that these were derived from a common original language that no longer existed. The connection between the Indo-Aryan languages of India and the classical languages of Europe led to the search for the original homeland of the speakers of Proto-Indo-Aryan or Proto-Indo-European.
India was considered the cradle of civilization by many scholars in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Representatives of this British indophilia were Henry Colebrooke and H.H. Wilson who worked in the British administration of India. These British orientalists studied Indian languages extensively, in contrast to their successors, the representatives of British indophobia, who soon saw India as the tomb of civilization. This attitude was initiated by evangelists and utilitarians, whose most prominent representatives are James Mill and Charles Grant. The colonial interest took precedence over the scientific interest in Sanskrit. The Aryan invasion theory also served British colonial rule in India. Depending on their programs and strategies, the British glorified, emphasized or minimized in one form or another their Aryan connection with the Indian population (Bryant 2001: 28).
Friedrich Schlegel also found common roots of German, Greek, Latin and Sanskrit in his 1808 treatise "On the language and wisdom of the Indians". For Schlegel, Sanskrit was the original language from which all other languages are derived and northwest India was the original home of all peoples (Bryant 2001: 18).
A few decades later, the ideas of a primeval home were finally transferred into biological thought patterns.
In the years 1853-55, the French Joseph Arthur de Gobineau developed a theory of race. This claims the superiority of the "white" race, called the Aryans, over the "black" and "yellow" races. For Gobineau, the caste system serves as race protection. The first three castes (Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya) were reserved for the Aryans, the lowest caste (Shudra) consisted of the non-Aryan, Dravidian indigenous population of India. Gobineau particularly emphasizes the contrast between Aryans and Dravids. His idea of originally "racially pure white" people also influenced historiography.
During the colonial rule in India in the 19th century, South Asian historiography emerged in which the inhabitants of South Asia are viewed as the descendants of different peoples. Consequently, Indian civilization is a product of the intermingling of the immigrant Indo-Aryans with the indigenous non-Indo-Aryan inhabitants of the country.
The more recent research addresses these dubious roots, and meanwhile avoids describing the Aryans as a race. Instead, the heterogeneity of all groups involved and the coexistence of different cultures in ancient India are emphasized: Accordingly, there was not "the immigration of the Aryans" but countless migrations of semi-nomadic groups, which over the centuries through wars, trade relations and other cultural exchanges with each other and with groups that had been settled for a long time were superimposed and mixed.
The Indigenous Aryan Theory
The reactions to the Aryan invasion theory were initially positive in India. Local elites in particular welcomed the aspect of a link between colonizers and colonized people.
In contrast to this, the theory of India as Aryan homeland developed at the end of the 19th century, which is supported by some Indian scientists. According to this, the Aryans are the autochthonous population of the Indian subcontinent, and the identity of the "real" Indians is based on the Vedic culture and religion. The assumption that Indo-Aryan-speaking people on the subcontinent are of foreign origin is presented as incorrect, especially since immigration could never actually be clearly proven (Bryant 2001: 4). Proponents of the Indigenous Aryan Theory doubt the general statement that the Indus civilization is of Dravidian origin and try to prove its Indo-Aryan origin. They refer to the Rigveda, which supposedly contains no reference to an Aryan invasion.
The representatives of the Indigenous Aryan Theory do not represent a homogeneous group; one has to be aware of the different motives, backgrounds and contexts of the representatives. The theories and ideas vary accordingly.
Talageri, as an Indian linguist who is assigned to the Hindu nationalist camp, developed the theory of Aryan migration in prehistoric times from India to Western Asia and Europe. Rajaram and Frawley have allegedly provided unequivocal evidence that the Aryans migrated from India and into Iran, Western Asia and Europe (Rajaram & Frawley 1997: 13).
The proponents of the Indigenous Aryan Theory criticize and reject the theory of the Aryan "conquest" of South Asia as a product of colonial science. Above all, the motives of the European researchers of the 19th century are called into question. The Aryan invasion theory is seen from their perspective as a constructed version of history and tradition that served colonial and missionary interests. From their point of view, the basic theses of the theory are predominantly anti-imperial and anti-colonialist inspired by the native origin of the Aryans. When it comes to anti-imperial and post-colonial history, these Indian researchers want to gain control over the reconstruction of their national history. The Aryan migration theory is rejected because it is interpreted as a foreign intellectual import that served the imperial interests of the colonial power.
In addition to the revision of the story, another motive soon came to the fore: Hindu nationalist revisionism, which constructs India as the "land of the Hindus" to which the other - supposedly foreign population and religious groups - have to submit. Therefore, a distinction between an anti-imperial and a nationalist understanding is of great importance.
The ideology of the Hindutva movement, first introduced in 1923 by V.D. Savarkar has grown significantly in importance in recent years. In Sarvakar's book "Hindutva - who is a Hindu?" takes the view that Hindus are full-fledged Indians because of their religious ties to the country. Accordingly, only religions of Indian origin are "Hindu".
The Aryan invasion theory is rejected because the Vedic peoples would be equated with the Mughals or other invaders and thus undermine any formulations of the Hindutva concept based on geographical India. The representatives of Hindutva try to prove that the Hindus with a common cultural past, the "Vedic" culture, whose connections extend to the present, embody the indigenous population of India (Bergunder & Das 2002: 210-215).
In this perception, Muslims and Christians are strangers, as India is not the country of origin of their religion and, accordingly, of their ancestors. So the confusion about the biological origin and affiliation to a religion that does not come from India remains the basis for an identification of "indigenous people" and "foreigners" (Trautmann 1997: XV). The Hindutva concept is often used to alienate and hostile minorities and especially Muslims. Hinduism is instrumentalized to construct Islam and Christianity as enemy images, which is often related to communalist conflicts.
In addition to supporters of the Indigenous Aryan Theory, there are also Indian scientists who support the Aryan migration theory. These historians are assumed by their opponents to represent neo-colonial or purely Marxist views (Bergunder & Das 2002: 210 ff.).
The debate on Aryan migration is usually characterized by intense emotions and, as a research area, is closely linked to ideology and politics. A communication between the representatives of both camps is very problematic due to the emotionality and therefore hardly exists. It would be urgently needed to get a balanced picture of the early history of the subcontinent.
The Indus civilization
The Indus or Harappa civilization was discovered by Rakhal Das Banerji in 1922 through excavations in Mohenjodaro (in present-day Pakistan). It is believed that it stretched far across the Indus Valley area from the borders of present-day Iran to eastern Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and the Tapti Valley. Alongside Mesopotamia and Egypt, it is undoubtedly one of the most important early advanced civilizations and probably existed around the time between 2500-1700 BC. The writings found are generally considered to be Dravidian.
The theory of the "Aryan civilization" of the Dravidian "barbarian" population was revised after the discovery of the Indus culture. Instead, it was now believed that the Indo-Aryan-speaking immigrants destroyed the highly developed Dasa civilization.
But what led to the end of the Indus civilization is unclear. It is assumed that attackers died in the 2nd millennium BC. Have attacked the population. Reference is made to passages of the Rig Veda that report on attacks by the Aryans on other population groups. On the other hand, it is certain that civilization was already in an advanced phase of social and economic decline at the time of the presumed attack. A flood disaster or desertification of the watercourses is also considered to be the cause of the sinking.
The advocates of Indigenous Aryanism take a different view. In their opinion, the archaeologically determined area of the Indus civilization encompasses almost the same geographical area as that described in the Rigveda. They therefore assume that the Indus civilization was of Indo-Aryan origin, or at least coexisted with it.
According to Rajaram and Frawley, the civilization of the Rigveda, the so-called golden age, existed before the Mesopotamian and Egyptian high cultures and is dated to a much earlier point in time from approx. 3700 BC. With various archaeological finds of the Indus culture one tried to prove the early presence of the Aryans. These can be interpreted in extremely different ways.
A large number of discoveries remain controversial, such as writing, the deciphering of which could certainly go a long way in resolving the discussion. Answers to many of the millennia-old riddles that Mohenjodaro and Harappa also posed cannot be given unequivocally to this day. Tragically, the attempt to find answers in India today is a political issue that is led with strong emotions and not least - as the excavation under the site of the destroyed medieval Babri Mosque in Ayodhya made clear - is closely linked to violence.
- Bergunder, Michael and Das, Rahul Peter (ed.). "Aryans" and "Dravids". Constructions of the past as the basis for self and other perceptions of South Asia. Hall 2002.
- Bryant, Edward. The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. Oxford 2001.
- Carr, Edward H. What is history? London 1961.
- Chakrabarti, Dilip K. India. An Archaeological History. Palaeolithic Beginnings to Early Historic Foundations. Oxford 1999.
- Rajaram, N.S. and Frawley, David. Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization. A Literary and Scientific Perspective. Quebec 1997.
- Trautmann, Thomas R. Aryans and British India. New Delhi 1997.
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