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Aryan Invasion Theory - The Origins

The Aryan Invasion Theory states that the Vedic people mentioned by the Oriental historians, who were responsible for writing the Vedic texts are not indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. They were invaders from the Caucasus mountain region who came to India around 1500 BC.

In short, the invasion of a group of people from outside the Indian subcontinent who assumed to be of a superior race is the main discussion in the Aryan Invasion theory. ‘There is an invasion’ from outside Indian Subcontinent and ‘there is no such invasion’ are the two main arguments which provoked many further arguments, both for and against this theory.

Historic Impact of Aryan Invasion Theory  

The Sanskrit word Arya means ‘Noble’. At first, the word Aryan assumed a synonym for a race, but later it became a linguistic terminology for the term ‘Indo-European’.  But by this time the word Aryan has acquired a powerful shade of political connotation in both the extremes of Indo- European belt. In Germany, in the earlier part of the 20th century, this perfected into a strong racial-political ideology under Hitler, whose consequences are well known. The distortion of this term was also made by other European and Indian scholars as the subject is not just restricted to the concept of a ‘ Dravidian India’ invaded by ‘Aryans’ but it also involves the discussion of the earliest beginning of civilisation and the history of the major part of the world.

Lingustic Origins

But ofcourse, it started with the discovery of the similarity between the Indo-European languages where the geographical zones are separated by thousands of miles.

There are both Indian and western scholars who joined the debate. Started as a debate on the linguistic basis, it collected the scholars from the field of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History. The observation about the relationship between the Sanskrit and principal languages of Europe was first made by Filippo Sassetti in 1583. Later Max Muller came up with the theory of Aryan invasion which he later refuted.

Max Muller and the Euro Centric bias

Max Muller like any other western scholars believed in the Biblical chronology of Historical time period. This placed the creation of earth at 4004 BC and the succeeding great flood mentioned in the conventional religious mythology to 2500 BC. Assuming these dates, it becomes difficult to get Aryans in India before 1500 BC. Accordingly while talking about the scriptures like Vedas and Upanishads, Max Muller arbitrarily gave 200 years gap in the writing of four Vedas and Upanishads.

In 1853 when Max Muller introduced the term Aryan, it was taken by the scholarly world as a connotation for race with a clear decedents and language. Following years Max Muller started the monumental task of translating Rigveda with Sayana’s commentary and the compilation of fifty volume of ‘Sacred books of East’.

But there is a shade of diverted intention in this noble task. In 1866, in the letter to his wife, he observed that “ It (Rigveda) is the root of their religion and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3000 years.

Two years later in 1868 the letter to the Duke of Argyle, the then acting secretary of the state of India he wrote “ (….) the Ancient religion of  India is doomed and if Christianity does not take its place, whose fault will it be?” Max Muller then a young scholar seems to be biased by the euro centric idea of History. He couldn't find a possibility of indigenous development of a culture laudable enough to make a literature so intense in its structure and nature.

Later with the more understanding of Indian scriptures, the phonology of the Sanskrit language, the historical and archaeological revelation, he rejected his own theory of Aryan Invasion. He was deeply saddened by the fact that these classifications later came to be expressed in racist terms.

British Colonial Policy

The British colonial policy towards Indian culture was also drawn from this formulation of theory. Thomas Macaulay proposed the famous ‘Minutes on Indian Education’ in 1835 to reform the secondary education in India on utilitarian lines to deliver ‘useful learning’ similar to the western education. He argued that Sanskrit and Persian are no more accessible than English. His idea was to create a set of English speaking Indians as British collaborators. He believed that conversion of Hindus to Christianity is the only way of effective administration of India. For attaining his goals he needed someone to translate and interpret Indian scriptures, especially Vedas. He wanted the educated Indian elite to see the difference between the Bible and Vedas and choose the former.

Thus the prejudice of the scholarly world along with the colonial agendas made a confusion in the real identity of the Indian culture and the Sanskrit scriptures.

to be continued...

References:

Müller, Georgina (1902) The Life and Letters of Right Honorable Friedrich Max Müller. Vol 1. London: Longman, pp. 357–358

 Talageri, Srikanth (1993) The Aryan Invasion theory A Reappraisal. Aditya Prakashan New Delhi.

 Dhavalikar , M.K (2007) The Aryans - Myth and Archaeology. Munshiram Manoharlal Publication, New Delhi.

Jorg Esleben; Jörg Esleben; Christina Kraenzle; Sukanya Kulkarni (2008).Mapping channels between Ganges and Rhein: German-Indian cross-cultural relations. Cambridge Scholars publication. ISBN 9781847185877

Eliot Weinberger (2000). Karmic Traces, 19931999. New Directions Publishing. p. 174. ISBN 9780811214568.

http://archaeologyonline.net/artifacts/aryan-invasion-history.  retrieved on 10/11 /2016