The myth of the Aryan invasion of India – Prof.S.M.Khodke

He who has no hands, must perforce use his tongue.
Foxes are so cunning, because they are not strong.

The history of ancient India abounds in myths, and myths within myths. Take, for instance, the myth of the Aryan Invasion of India. Within this myth there lies another – the myth of the ‘Aryan race’. Let us take up the latter first for analysis.

The Aryan race theory

This theory was first propounded by Mr.Max Mueller, a German philosopher, who introduced the Sanskrit word ‘Arya’ into the English language as referring to a particular race or language. According to him the word ‘Arya’ means a cultivator or a ‘farmer’. Perhaps he wanted to suggest that the Indo-Aryans, when they entered India, knew agriculture, which is not true. The word ‘Arya’ is, however, nowhere used in Vedic literature to denote a race or a language. Mr.V.S.Apte, an Indian lexicographer, in his Sanskrit-English dictionary, has given various meanings of the word ‘Arya’ such as ‘master,’ ‘lord,’ ‘worthy,’ ‘honourable,’ ‘respectable,’  ‘excellent,’ ‘best,’ ‘teacher,’ ‘friend,’  or anything and everything except a ‘race’ or a ‘language.’

Mr.Max Mueller not only advanced his Aryan race theory but also maintained that they had their early home somewhere in eastern Persia wherefrom they spread to almost all over Europe. He further said that another wave of the Aryan race invaded India from the north-west about 1500 B.C. He called them Indo-Aryans in order to distinguish them from the continental Aryans. But eminent scholars and historians opposed Max Mueller’s Aryan race theory so strongly that he had to refute his own theory later.1

The Indian Brahmins, however, taking their cue from Max Mueller’s Aryan race theory, were quick to accept and appropriate it, as it gave their race a name and a new identity.

 The vain-glorious Brahmins took great pride in their being ‘Aryans’ – a superior and militant race which, according to Max Mueller, had given the world great emperors like Darius of Persia, Alexander of Macedon and Julius Caesar of Rome. Gail Omvedt rightly says that “the Brahmins accepted the ‘Aryan theory of race’ which had the implications of identifying them (the Brahmins) ethnically with their British conquerors rather than the majority of their fellow country-men.2

Taking advantage of the Aryan race theory and the Aryan Invasion Theory, the Brahmin writers started glorifying their so-called Aryan race and wrote mythical stories about their imaginary invasion of India and the imaginary battles they fought against the original inhabitants of India. All this is embodied in their mythical stories of ‘Dashavatara’ or the ten incornations of their Lord Vishnu. Though Max Mueller himself later refuted his own theory of Aryan race and the theory of Aryan invasion, the Brahmins have been deliberately ignoring his later refutation and have been fooling the non-Brahmins, the non-Aryans, and the aborgins of India as well as the world community with their false, mythological stories referred above. The myth of the ten incarnations is nothing but the willful indulgence of the Brahmins in self-glorifications. Now we will examine the Aryan Invasion Theory in some detail.

The myth of the Aryan Invasion of India

Indologists, both occidental and oriental, believe that the Indo-Aryans coming from Persia invaded India through the north-west in about 1500 B.C. So we Indians have accepted this fact of Aryan invasion as a historical truth and have been teaching it in our schools, Colleges and Universites. But we should not ignore the fact that there have also been scholars who have opposed this theory. Let us, therefore, examine the claims of the proponents as well as of the opponents of this theory.

One Swami B.V.Giri, an Indian Brahmin writer and one of the opponents of the invasion theory, in his essay, ‘The Aryan Invasion of India’, explains how a misconception about the Aryan invasion was born. He writes:

“Interest in the field of Indology during the

19th century was of mixed motivations. Many scholars such as Max Mueller, August Wilhelm von Schlegal, Hern Wilhelm von Humbolt and Arthur Schopenhauer praised the Vedas for their profound wisdom. Still some others were not so much impressed. It was later discovered that the Indian Brahmins had supplied false versions of the Rig Veda to European scholars! To accept that there was an advanced civilization outside the boundaries of Europe . . . was impossible to conceive of for most European scholars, who harboured a strong Christian tendency. Most scholars of this period were neither archaeologists nor historians in the strict sense of the word. Rather, they were missionaries paid by their governments to establish western cultural and racial superiority over the subjugated Indian citizens, through their study of the indegenous religious texts. Consequently, for racial, political and religious reasons, early European Indologists created the myth of the Aryan invasion of India which survives to this day.3

Motives of the British Indologists

Mr. Wole Soyinka, the African Nobel Laureate, while delivering the 20th Nehru Memorial lecture in New Delhi on Nov. 13, 1988, made an important observation about the motives of the British scholars.

He said: “The mind of the British scholars was shaped by their position as rulers of a fast-expanding empire and by its need to consolidate itself ideologically and politically. As rulers, they felt a new cultural and racial superiority and, reinforced by their religion, developed a strong conviction of their civilizing mission. Many of them also felt a greater urge to bring the blessings of Christian morals and a Christian god to a benighted paganhood, as long as the attempt didn’t endanger the Empire.

“The British had an interest in telling the Indian people that the latter had never been a nation but a conglomerate miscellaneous people drawn from diverse sources and informed by no principle of unity; that their history had been an history of invaders and conquerors, and that they had never known indegenous rule, and that, indeed, they were indifferent to self-rule, and that so long as their village-life was intact, they didn’t bother who ruled at the centre. All these lessons were tirelessly taught and dutifully learnt, so much so, that, even after the British had left, these assumptions and categories  still shape our larger political thinking and our historical perspective. That India is multi-racial, multi-national, multi-linguistic, multi-cultural, painfully trying to acquire a principle of unity, is also the assumption of our own elite.4

Now we can concude from the above discussion that almost all the European scholars – Max Mueller, V.A.Smith and others – believed in the Aryan invasion of India from the north-west. But there were also scholars and historians who challenged  the invasion theory. For example, M.S.Elphinstone, the first governor of the Bombay Presidency, Prof. G.F.Dales, former HoD, Department of South-Asian Archaeology and Anthropology, Berkley University, U.S.A. and Swami B.V.Giri, an Indian writer, opposed the invasion theory on different grounds and for different reasons. Let us consider on what grounds and for what reaons each one of them opposed the Aryan Invasion theory.

M.S.Elphinstone:

In 1841 Mr.M.S.Elphinstone wrote in his book ‘History of India’.

“It is opposed to their (Hindu’s) foreign origin, that neither in the Code of Manu nor, I believe, in the Vedas, nor in any book that is certainly older than the Code, is there any allusion to a prior residence or to a knowledge of more than the name of any country out of India. Even mythology goes no further than the Himlayan chain, in which is fixed the habitation of the gods. . . To say that it (the human race) spread from a central point is an unwarranted assumption. . . for emigation and civilization have not spread over India, Greece and Italy and yet leave Chaldea, Syria and Arabia untouched? There is no reason whatever for thinking that the Hindus ever inhabited any country but their present one, and as little for denying that they may have done so before the earliest trace of their records or traditions.5” (Hindus here is a misleading term. ‘Indo-Aryans’ would be the right word.
Prof. G.F.Dales:

In his book ‘The Mythical Massacre at Mohenjo-daro’ states the following about the evidence
(i.e., the human skeleton remains found at Mohenjo-daro).

“What of these skeletal remains that have taken on such an undeserved importance? Nine years of extensive excavations at Mohenjo-daro (1922-31), a city three miles in circuit, yielded a total of 37 skeletons, or parts thereof, that can be attributed with some certainty to the period of the Indus civilization. Some of these were found to contorted positions and groupings that suggest anythying but orderly burials. Many are either disarticulated or incomplete. They are all found in the area of the lower town- probably the residential districts. Not a single body was found within the area of the fortified citadel where one could reasonably expect the final defence of this thriving capital city to have been made. . . where are the burned fortresses, the arrow-heads, weapons, the pieces of armour, the  smashed chariots and bodies of the invaders and the defenders? Despite the extensive excavations at the largest Harappan sites, there is not a single bit of evidence that can be brought forth as an unconditional proof of an armed conquest and the destruction on the supposed scale of the Aryan invasion.6

Most scholars agree that the Indus Valley civilization (I.V.C.) flourished from 3300 B.C. to 1750 B.C. and that it flowered from 2600 B.C. The Indo-Aryans immigrated into India about a thousand years after the disappearance of the I.V.C. So they (the Indo-Aryans) cannot be said to have invaded India and to have destroyed the I.V.C. The scholars also believe that the I.V.C. suddenly disappeared in 1750 B.C., not due to an Aryan invasion but due to an unexpected catastrophe. It might be due to the mighty floods of the river Indus, a changing climate leading to the encroachment of the desert over cultivated areas or an outbreak of an epidemic.

- (To be continued in the next issue)

References:

1.    Max Mueller, ‘Biographies of words and the Home of the Aryans.’ 1888, p.120

2.    Omvedt Gail, ‘Jotirao Phule and the Ideology of Social Revolution in India’ pp3-4

3.    Giri, Swami B.V., His essay ‘The Aryan Invasion’.

4.     Ram Swarup, “Historians versus History’, his article in ‘The Indian Express’ dated Nov.20, 1988.

5.     Elphinston, M.S.,. ‘ History of India’, 1841

6.     Dales, Prof.G.F., ‘The Mythical Massacre at Mohenjo-daro’
 

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