Historians have long grappled the Aryan invasion theory with a lot of doubtful conclusions. Britannica Encyclopedia mentions,
The theory of an “Aryan race” appeared in the mid-19th century and remained prevalent until the mid-20th century.
What is the Aryan Invasion Theory?
The Aryan Invasion Theory states that a European tribe named Aryans had invaded India about 1500 B.C. They were also responsible for composing the Rig Veda, the science of building chariots, bringing in agriculture, and a host of other inventions.
The Britannica encyclopedia explains the Aryan invasion theory as,
According to the hypothesis, those probably light-skinned Aryans were the group who invaded and conquered ancient India from the north and whose literature, religion, and modes of social organization subsequently shaped the course of Indian culture, particularly the Vedic religion that informed and was eventually superseded by Hinduism.
Background of Aryan Race and AIT
The idea of human races dates back to the Babylonian Talmud, the principal source of Jewish religious law and Rabbinic Judaism, which promotes the concept of humanity as the descendant from Sham, Ham and Japheth (the three sons of Noah) in the forms of Semitic (Asiatic), Hamitic (African), and Japhetic (Indo-European) people.
In the late 18th century, Göttingen school of history coined two fundamental race groups, namely Biblical (Semitic, Hamitic and Japhetic) and Skin colour (White, Brown, Red, Black and Yellow).
A Few Related Concepts
Scientific racism is the belief that pieces of empirical evidence exist for racial inferiority and superiority in humans. For example, propagating this thought, Josiah Clark Nott and George Robbins Gliddon implied in their work, “Types of mankind (1854)” that Negroes were a race in between the Greeks and Chimpanzees.
With an inkling towards the supremacy of the Aryan race, a few organizations got evolved in the past namely Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist street gang and organized crime syndicate in the United States, Aryan Guard, a neo-Nazi group based in Alberta, Canada, Aryan League, an Iranian Neo-Nazi political party, Aryan Nations, a white supremacist religious organization, and White Aryan Resistance, a neo-Nazi white separatist organization.
Monogenism and Polygenism
Monogenists such as Thomas Huxley and Charles Darwin believe that all humans originated as part of the same species. However, Thomas Huxley propounded nine human races in his paper, “Evolution and Ethics.”
Proponents of the Aryan Race and its Superiority
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, a German anthropologist, defined five races in 1779 based on craniometry and skin colour namely Caucasian (White), Mangolian (Yellow), Aethiopian (Black), American (Red) and Malayan (Brown).
The German-language encyclopedia, Meyers Lexikon (1839-1984), describes the dichotomy of Caucasian or Europid or White race.
Arthur De Gobineau, a race theorist and French empire diplomat, was one of the foremost believers of the superiority of white race among the skin colour races that he argued in his 1848 poem “Manfredine”.
However, this Yale paper brings out that Christoph Meiners, a German philosopher, first used “Kaukasischen or Caucasian” as a race in his book “ The Outline of History of Mankind ” in 1785.
British archaeologist, Mortimer Wheeler though safely attributed the most satisfying explanation of the existence of the Indian subcontinent to the Aryan invasion theory.
Many won’t know, however, that it was Dr A. Aiyappan, who pioneered the Arikamedu excavations, an ancient flourishing port town in Pondicherry which are contrastingly recognized worldwide as the works of Mortimer Wheeler. The Arikamedu excavations have provided critical pieces of evidence against the Aryan invasion theory.
The Hindu in this article aptly clarifies the role of Dr A Aiyappan giving references to a report by the Hindu in 1941 and writings of Jouveau Dubreuil, a French archaeologist in 1947.
Where does the AIT Stand Today?
Have you ever wondered whether the Aryan Invasion theory holds any credibility, or is it a state-sanctioned lie to qualify a particular narrative?
Before analyzing this question, it is essential to understand the validity of the conflict. Is it a lie taught to our children at their tender age? Is there a strong enough motive to completely misconstrue the story of our origin.
Dr Raj Vedam beautifully explains the varied constructs of the AIT in this video.
Before understanding the reason, it is essential to understand the stakeholders that are involved in shaping our history in the first place.
Aryan Invasion Theory’s Stakeholders
The East India Company did not face any moral dilemma in colonizing large parts of the country. However, as they started facing united restraint from all parts of the country, it realized that physical might alone would not succeed.
Many won’t know that Mr Sanjiv Mehta, UK-based, India-born entrepreneur is the owner of the East India Company since 2010.
Coming back to the AIT…
Britishers needed an explanation that would justify the European superiority and satiate their moral dilemma while mass fascinating the general masses of the country to be the loyal agents of British rule.
After 1857, the British had established an elaborate education system in India. Britishers saw education as a convenient means of creating a favourable narrative that would legitimate the atrocities of British rule.
Such a convincing theory, however, could not originate from the present or future. Therefore, it fell back on to the support of history.
What do the Historians Say?
The historians started finding the standard links between early European civilizations and Indian civilization.
With an elaborate understanding of the Indian history from the holy scriptures that had clearly defined the geography of that time, it was impossible to draw a parallel with the European history that did not have a chronologically set series of events.
Finally, archivists found a reference in both Indian and European history that seemed to be commonly pointing out to Chandra Gupta Maurya.
Even though these references belonged to different periods, the historians established it as the standard base and traced the journey backwards to create the Aryan Invasion Theory with two particular objectives-
- To portray English as the rightful extension of the Aryan clan that had both the authority and morality to rule over India
- To create a deepening divide within the subcontinent torn between Aryans and Dravidians.
Though there is a clear motive behind creating a false narrative, let us look through shreds of evidence with an unbiased view.
Arguments Attacking Aryan Invasion Theory
Historians, NR Banerjee, 1965 and R.Tiwari, 2003, the proponents of the “Iron Age” theory brings out that enough evidence of iron artefacts suggests that Iron age ushered in India way back between 1800-1000 BCE.
However, two recent developments have pushed the period of the Iron Age in India, further back.
The findings of Prof KP Rao provide evidence in the form of various artefacts such as knives, blades, etc. in Telangana. These shreds of evidence were tested using the Optically Stimulated Luminescence Method that confirmed that these belonged to the period of 2400-1800 BCE much before when Aryans entered India as claimed by the Aryan Invasion theory.
We are also told,
Aryans brought Horse, Chariot to India,
In contrast, however, Indian archaeologists in their recent excavations near Sanauli, UP, have found 10-15 chariot burials along with bronze age weapons (2000-1800 BCE) in them.
In 2018, a research article published by Birbal Sahni Institute Of Paleo Sciences found evidence of paddy cultivation during the early Holocene period in Lahuradewa archaeological site in Uttar Pradesh, India (around 10,000 years ago).
Interestingly, this evidence also invalidates the claim that agriculture was invented in Turkey about 7000 BCE that spread to India.
Human Continuum in India
Archaeology shows ancient artefacts that predate the so-called Aryan invasion period, i.e. North, West, South, and Central India. Hence, one can safely infer that human continuum has existed in India for 1.5 million years as this report of the Hindu, teaching resources of the Victoria State Government, suggests. So, does Jean Liedloff explain in “The Continuum Concept.”
The genetic evidence has proved the great antiquity of Indian people, and all non-African people descended from Indian stock. Also, the mtDNA markers, R1a show a robust presence in India.
The evidence of Vedas and Puranas about ancient Indian Northern tribes, Puru, Anu and Druhyu from modern Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Northern Pakistan is wholly ignored. The Rigveda and Puranas establish that the Purus were the original Vedic Indo-Aryans. This study by Srikant Talageri provides enough references to this conclusion.
The Saraswati River
Rig Veda mentions that the river Saraswati had dried up around 1900 BCE. Scholars opine that it resulted in the outward migration and genetic closeness to Iran and Central Asia.
Arguments Favouring Aryan Invasion Theory
The proponents strongly believe that there is no other way of plausibly explaining the Indo-European linguistic similarity. The presumption is entirely based on the fact that the invading clans introduced new words into the Indian languages.
The verses of Rig Veda have references to armed cattle raids and warriors on horse-driven chariots that portray clans of nomadic pastoral warriors.
Therefore, this imagery fits in perfectly into Babylon, ancient Persia, and other regions near the Caspian Sea that could have gradually moved to the Indian subcontinent.
India, at that time, was flourishing with the urban settlements of Harappan civilization who were far away from the picture of nomadic culture.
Other faint references support the theory, such as invasions in other settled civilizations like Greece, Near East and Europe, Manusmriti hinting at clans of non-Indian origin and such others.
In light of this debate, whether to support or oppose the theory, the new upcoming evidence successfully establishes that historians grappled the Aryan invasion theory with a lot of doubtful conclusions. The academicians themselves are split for and against the method.
Also, the new evidence has very strongly proved that the invention of agriculture, chariots, the iron, and a host of other materials and developments have been indigenous to the Indian subcontinent.
Further excavations in southern India also indicate the clan had been flourishing for a continuum of time in India rather than being displaced by the Aryans as theorized.