Wednesday, November 3, 2010

4. Miscellaneous aspects of the Aryan invasion debate


4. 1. 1. A beehive

The expansion of the IE languages must have started with a certain amount of emigration from the Urheimat, though at later stages the numerical importance of natives joining the new speech community of immigrants and expanding it further in their turn became preponderant: “The transfer of languages like a baton in a relay race refers precisely to the gradual spread of the speakers from the initial area (but not necessarily from inside of it!). Such an expansion can have only one reason: population growth in ecological conditions unusually favourable (for ancient times).” (1) With its extensive and fertile river systems of the Indus, Saraswati and Ganga, India was the best place on earth for food production, for demographic growth, for cultural life and for scientific progress. That is not a chauvinistic myth, but a materialist dogma: economic quantity generates quality in the superstructure. It is quite certain that, after mankind had been wandering over the earth for several hundreds of centuries, trying out the best places for survival, a generous country like India must have had a large population. Next, it is perfectly plausible that large groups of Indians went to other countries as traders and colonists, precisely like the Europeans did when it was their turn to have a demographical as well as a technological edge over their neighbours. And just like a dominant Spanish minority managed to make its own language the mother-tongue of much larger populations which are genetically predominantly Native American, so also the slightly darker emigrants from India may have passed on their language to the white people of Russia and Europe. The view of some chauvinist Hindu writers that “the ancient Hindus colonized the world”, may have a grain of truth in it. (2) Saying that India had a large population may not sound -very revolutionary, yet in the context of the AIT, it is. The theory of the Aryan Invasions, complemented by the secondary theory of an earlier Dravidian invasion, assumes, as it were, that India was nearly empty. On the other hand, the steppes of Eastern Europe and Central Asia must have been a beehive of people. Today, the huge ex-Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan has hardly more people than the city of Mumbai, but in those days, the steppes had so many people, most of them “Aryans”, that they could flood both India and Europe with them; at least according to the AIT. So, against that common though unspoken presupposition, it has somehow become quite a statement to say that lands with a hospitable climate like India had a bigger population than the outlying steppes, and were a more likely source of emigrants. In the early days of the Aryan theory, it was often assumed that civilization had to come from the North. One argument given was that people in the Tropics didn’t need either effort or ingenuity to survive, since they just had to pick bananas from trees or wait for coconuts to rain down; while by contrast, people in the North were forced to be inventive, creative and hard-working. Yet, there were advanced civilisations in the Tropics: Zimbabwe, Ghana, the Mayas, the Incas. Within Europe, it is the North which received civilizing influences from the South. This is not to belittle the ingenuity and effort of North-Europeans in their struggle for survival in tough circumstances - but that is precisely the point: they had to use their skills in the struggle for life, while people in a more comfortable climate (Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, India) had more leisure to focus on the long-term development of complex civilizational achievements. Therefore, it is quite normal that the greatest advances were made in places like India, that the demographic growth was the greatest there, and that consequently, IE expansion went from India to Russia and Germany rather than the reverse.


4. 1. 2. Civilization and demography

Population growth at that stage was mainly the effect of the recently invented practice of agriculture. The IE Urheimat was consequently a centre of agriculture, and the Proto-Indo-Europeans were a sedentary population, and not nomads as is often claimed: “Why does a migration happen? We have to distinguish two things in this context: the migrations of nomads (and of other tribes uprooted by waves of nomadic migration) and other migrations. The Proto-Indo-Europeans were no nomads: their well-developed agricultural and social terminology testifies against this; and so does history: nomadism is mobile cattle-breeding with regular change of pasture on vast territories, either absolutely without agriculture (agricultural products were to be stolen or bought) or with underdeveloped subsidiary agriculture. Nomadism supposes riding with cattle: either horse-riding or camel-riding. Chariots are not suitable for tending cattle: they are no good on broken terrain and require very specialized service. The Middle East did not know true nomadism until the last centuries of the second millennium BC (…) Nomadism did not exist in Middle Asia (…) until the second millennium BC either.” (3) The charioteers of the Vedic culture were not fresh arrivals from the steppe, but members of a mature sedentary civilization. Such a civilization is the source more than the goal of migrations. In many versions of the Aryan migration theory, it is assumed that the Aryans originally lived in inhospitable territory and subsequently descended upon lands with a more pleasant climate and material culture. This scenario is familiar throughout history, e.g. the steppe nomads overrunning parts or all of China, time and again. However, the outcome of such episodes is systematically the opposite of the general outcome of IE expansion: the invaders were usually assimilated into the sedentary civilization which they had overpowered in battle, if they were not driven back out. The Mongols became Chinese in China, Muslim in Iran, and of the enormous territory they conquered, there is (with the exception of Kalmukkia) not one square mile where a native language was permanently replaced with Mongolian. Only when the conquest was focused on a smaller and manageable area did it produce a lasting imposition of the conquerors’ language, e.g. the Uralic settlement in Pannonia, now Hungary. The Germanic conquests at the end of the Roman period resulted in a lasting germanization of the thinly populated areas where it was supported by a strong demographic influx (Austria, Bavaria, much of Switzerland and Belgium, England), partly made possible by the advances of the Slavs who pushed Germanic tribes westward and thus made them available for colonizing the newly-won lands. But the Germanic element disappeared quickly in a far larger part of the conquered territories: France, Italy, Spain, North Africa and Ukraine. It seems that the model of the barbarians overrunning vast tracts of the more civilized world generally does not apply to the IE expansion. A far better model in this case is European colonization. Europe was going through a period of fast demographic growth, and had gained a technological (including a military) lead; so, it became the source of massive emigration, and it managed to europeanize whole continents with permanent effect (in spite of nativist revivals, it is improbable that English and Spanish will leave Oceania and the Americas anytime soon). Similarly, the indo-europeanization of such a vast area could only succeed because the Urheimat had produced a technological lead and a demographic surplus. To be sure, there are the inevitable differences: in much of the New World, there was a racial discontinuity, a physical replacement of the Native with the European race; in the case of IE expansion, there seems to have been more racial continuity and assimilation. But then again, judging by present trends, a few centuries will suffice to restore the Native American racial element to some prominence; the USA will not be a white country eventhough its citizens will still use the language which the white man brought. In that case, the end result will be quite similar to that of IE expansion: the spread of a language and culture to areas and populations with different racial complexions. At any rate, a good demographic starting-point was needed to make the transcontinental and transracial expansion of IE possible. With an agricultural and urban population larger than that of all contemporaneous civilizations combined, the pre- or early Harappan culture of northwestern India was an excellent candidate.



1. I. M. Diakonov: “On the Original Home of the Speakers of Indo-European”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, 1-2/1985, p. 92-174, spec. p-153-154.

2. E.g. Harbilas Sarda: Hindu Superiority, 1906; Krishan Lal Jain: Hindu Raj in the World, 1989: and K. L. Jain Vasasisya: The Indian Asuras Colonised Europe.

3. Diakonov: “on the Original Home”, JIES 1-2/1985, p. 148-149.


4. Miscellaneous aspects of the Aryan invasion debate


4. 2. 1. Ayu and Amavasu

In this section, we will consider the sparse attempts to discover references to the Aryan invasion in Vedic literature, and argue that these have not yielded any such finding. A first category consists of old but still commonly repeated cases of circular reasoning, e.g. the assumption that the enemies encountered by the tribe with which the Vedic poet identifies, are “aboriginals”. (4) In fact, there is not one passage where the Vedic authors describe such encounters in terms of “us invaders” vs. “them natives”, even implicitly. Among more recent attempts, motivated explicitly by the desire to counter the increasing skepticism regarding the Aryan invasion theory, the most precise endeavour to show up an explicit mention of the invasion turns out to be based on mistranslation. Michael Witzel tries to read a line from the “admittedly much later” Baudhayana Shrauta Sutra as attesting the Aryan invasion: “PrAn ayuh pravavrAja, tasyaite kurupañcAla kAshI-videhA ity, etad Ayavam, pratyan amAvasus tasyaite gAndhArayas parshavo’rattA ity, etad AmAvasyam” (BSS 18. 44:397. 9). (5) This is rendered by Witzel as: “Ayu went eastwards. His (people) are the Kuru-Panchala and the Kashi-Videha. This is the Ayava (migration). (His other people) stayed at home in the West. His people are the Gandhari, Parshu and Aratta. This is the Amavasava (group).” This passage consists of two halves in parallel, and it is unlikely that in such a construction, the subject of the second half would remain unexpressed, and that terms containing contrastive information (like “migration” as opposed to the alleged non-migration of the other group) would remain unexpressed, all left for future scholars to fill in. It is more likely that a non-contrastive term representing an action indicated in both statements, is left unexpressed in the second: that exactly is the case with the verb pravavrAja “he went”, meaning “Ayu went” and “Amavasu went”. Amavasu is the subject of the second statement, but Witzel spirits the subject away, leaving the statement subjectless, and turns it into a verb, “amA vasu”, “stayed at home”. To my knowledge vasu is not even a verb form. In fact, the meaning of the sentence is really quite straightforward, and doesn’t require supposing a lot of unexpressed subjects: “Ayu went east, his is the Yamuna-Ganga region”, while “Amavasu went west, his is Afghanistan, Parshu and West Panjab”. Though the then location of “Parshu” (Persia?) is hard to decide, it is definitely a western country, along with the two others named, western from the viewpoint of a people settled near the Saraswati river in what is now Haryana. Far from attesting an eastward movement into India, this text actually speaks of a westward movement towards Central Asia, coupled with a symmetrical eastward movement from India’s demographic centre around the Saraswati basin into the Ganga basin. The fact that a world-class specialist has to content himself with a late text like the Baudhayana Shrauta Sutra, and that he has to twist its meaning this much in order to get an invasionist story out of it, suggests that harvesting invasionist information in the oldest literature is very difficult indeed.


4. 2. 2. Iranians in the Rg-Veda

Aren’t the references to Iranian tribes in the Rg-Veda proof of Central-Asian memories? Prof. Witzel claims that: “Taking a look at the data relating to the immigration of Indo-Aryans into South Asia, one is struck by a number of vague reminiscences of foreign localities and tribes in the Rgveda, in spite [of] repeated assertions to the contrary in the secondary literature.” (6) But after this promising start, he fails to quote even a single one of those “vague reminiscences”. On the next page, however, Witzel does mention the ethnonyms of the enemies of the Vedic Aryans, the Dasas (Iranian Daha, known to Greco-Roman authors as Daai, Dahae), Dasyus (Iranian dahyu, “tribe”, esp. hostile nomadic tribe) and Panis (Greek Parnoi), as unmistakably the names of Iranian tribes. The identification of these tribes as Iranian has been elaborated in the same volume by Asko Parpola, the Finnish author of a Dravidian reading of the Indus script. (7) The Iranian identity of Dasas and Dasyus is now well-established, a development which should at least put an end to the talk of the Dasas being “the dark-skinned aboriginals enslaved by the Aryan invaders”. Unfortunately, Witzel and Parpola project their invasionist notions onto their discovery: they assume that the mentioning of Iranian tribes constitutes a “reminiscence” of the Indo-Aryan sojourn in Central Asia. This is in disregard of the explicit evidence of the geographical data given in the same Vedic texts, which locate the interaction with the Dasas and Dasyus in Panjab. From the identification of the Dasas and Dasyus as Iranians, it could be deduced that these Iranian tribes have lived in India for a while. Of course, this inference might be explained away with the plea that a narrative transfer of geographical setting may have taken place, but that would be a purely external conjecture not supported by the Vedic text itself. Witzel makes much of the transfer of geographical names: SarasvatI, GomatI, SarayU, RasA are the names of rivers in India as well as in Afghanistan. (8) This is well-known, but what does it prove ? The Vedic references to these rivers definitely concern the Indian rivers, not the Afghan ones, e.g. the Vedic description of the Saraswati as ‘sea-going’ does not apply to the Afghan HarahvaitI (the Iranian equivalent of Sanskrit SarasvatI), which, quite remarkably for a river, does not send its waters to the sea but to a small lake on the Iranian plateau. It is perfectly possible that the names were taken from the Indian metropolis to the Afghan country of emigrant settlement, rather than the other way around.


4. 2. 3. The south was on their right-hand side

Another philological argument which keeps on being repeated is the migration-related interpretation of the polysemy of ordinary terms of direction, e.g. dakshiNa: “south” and “right-hand side”; pUrva: “east” and “frontside”, pashcima: “west” and “backside”. Since the equivalence of “south” with “right-hand side” presupposes an eastward orientation, it is assumed that this linguistic fact (along with its ritual application of carrying the fire eastward during the Vedic agnicayana ceremony) “is connected with the eastward expansion of the Vedic Indians through the plains north of the Ganges”. (9) Frits Staal elaborates: “In an early period, the Vedic Aryans made their way, fighting, into the Indian subcontinent, from the West to the East, and carried the fire with them. In the agni-praNayana rite, the fire is still carried from West to East.” Mercifully, he adds that Vedic ritual does not function as a commemoration of this invasion. With reference to a warlike hymn to Indra, still chanted in the course of the agni-praNayana ritual, and off-hand interpreted as celebrating the Aryan invasion, he writes: “But the priests are not commemorating the conquests of their ancestors, of which they actually knew nothing. The function of the hymn has not changed, but has become ritual, i.e. it has lost its [meaning].” (10) If we understand this correctly, he means that the rite originally did celebrate the successful Aryan invasion, but that contemporary Brahmins, having forgotten the invasion history, keep on conducting the rite without realizing its origin. This inference assumes that the Vedic Aryans had impressed on such elementary items in their language as the term for the cardinal directions an association with an eastward movement which must have taken only a small part of their daily routine (even migrants are sedentary much of the time, producing or finding food and other necessities) and a relatively short span in their national history. Yet, though they impressed this invasion memory so deeply upon their language, they managed to forget it altogether, so that today, even the Vedic ritual specialists have to learn the “true” meaning of their ritual from a big white professor from Berkeley. Moreover, this explanation is contradicted by a study of similar polysemic terms in other languages. It is in fact very common to identify the “positive”, solar directions (east, south) with the front side, the “negative” directions (west, north) with the back side. Sometimes, the emphasis is on the north-south axis, e.g. in Chinese, where the character bei, “north”, is derived from the character for “backside”. Likewise, in Sanskrit, uttara, “north”, also means “last, final”, while in Avestan, paurva, “frontside”, also means “south”. Otherwise, the emphasis is on the east-west axis, as in Sanskrit pUrva, “east” and “frontside”. Thus, the old Hebrew word yamIn means both “right-hand side” and “south” (hence the country name Yemen, the “south” of the Arabian peninsula), this eventhough Abraham had made a westward journey from Ur of the Chaldees in Mesopotamia to the Promised Land. (11) The same polysemy exists in some of the Celtic languages, which had also migrated westward from the central part to the western coasts of Europe. A standard history book of Mesopotamia reports about a Sumerian text: “Enheduana’s Temple Hymn addressing the temple of Enlil at Nippur, says: ‘On your right and left are Sumer and Akkad’. This reflects a long-lasting tradition that north is ‘left’ and south ‘right’”. (12) The very word orientation, from Latin, testifies to the natural tendency of taking the orient as the direction of reference. The term pUrva/paurva is discussed further by I. M. Diakonov, who argues that Avestan paurva means “forward, south”, while Sanskrit pUrva means “forward, east”, because the Proto-Iranians migrated to the south while the Proto-Indians migrated to the east. (13) One cannot deny that it sounds good, but it would only be convincing if he could also find a word meaning “forward, west” in a westbound IE protolanguage (say, Celtic). The point is that in practically all prescientific cosmologies, both south and east are “positive” (in Chinese: yang) or solar directions, associated with clarity and the front side, while both west and north are “negative” (in Chinese: yin) or lunar directions, associated with obscurity and the hidden side. The word pUrva itself, spatially the opposite of pashcima, “west”, is in its metaphorical temporal use, “earlier” (as in PUrva-MimAMsA, “earlier Veda hermeneutics”, ritualism), the opposite of uttara (as in Uttara-MimAMsA, “later Veda hermeneutics”, monistic Vedanta metaphysics), which in its literal spatial sense means “north”. The distribution of the two positive directions over the words pUrva/paurva in Iranian and Indo-Aryan is therefore only superficially an opposition. The alternance south/east in the case of paurva/pUrva stems from their common “positive” character. This has parallels elsewhere, e.g. Germanic east corresponds to Latin Auster, “south wind”, both being related to Skt. UshA, Gk. Eos, Lat. Aurora, Gmc. Ostarra (whence Eng. Easter), “dawn goddess”, the common meaning being “light”, “the direction of the light”. As for the orient-ation of the Vedic agnicayana ritual, if this proves an eastward movement of the Vedic ancestors, what shall we say about the rule that Christian churches are oriented towards the east, eventhough Christianity is not particularly associated with any eastward migration? The explanation of the ritual of carrying the fire to the east may be much simpler and of universal application: it symbolizes the underground night journey of the sun from the sunset west to the sunrise east. Here again, Staal’s explanation of the West-East direction is an unnecessary superimposition of a specific (and unsubstantiated) historical connotation on a widespread practice of orientation. Traditional Christian churches are directed to the East so that ideally, the light of the rising sun at Easter (i.e. spring equinox) falls on the consecrated wafer which the priest holds up; and so that at any rate the sunlight confers an aura upon the frontal part of the church interior. Of course, this was a christianized adaptation of a Pagan practice, preserved by Roman, Germanic and other “Aryans”; these nations have either not invaded their habitat from anywhere, or alternatively, according to the dominant theory, they (as well as the Christian religion) have invaded Europe in a westward movement from the east. Here again we find that the south sometimes alternates with the east: while most church buildings were directed east, the churches of the Knights Templar were directed south. And that, too, had nothing to do with any migration history apart from the sun’s daily migration in the sky.


4. 2. 4. Geographical implications of Vedic chronology

Sometimes, invasionist scholars miss the non-invasionist information which is staring them in the face. It is easy to establish on the basis of internal evidence (the genealogy of the composers and of the kings they mention) that the 8th maNDala of the Rg-Veda is one of the younger parts of the book. It is there (RV 8:5, 8:46, 8:56) that we find clear reference to the material culture and fauna of Afghanistan, including camels. Michael Witzel duly notes all this, but fails to realize that the invasionist scenario requires that such references appear in the oldest part of the Rg-Veda. (14) What we now have is an indication that the movement went from inside India to the northwest, where Indian explorers and emigrants got acquainted with new scenery, new fauna and new ethnic groups. Witzel makes a beginning with a long-overdue project: establishing the internal chronology of the Rg-Veda on the basis of internal cross-references between kings and poets of different generations. (15) Unfortunately, his first results are rather confused because he does not confine himself to the information actually given in the Rg-Veda, frequently bringing in the “information” (actually conjecture) provided by modern theorists with their invasionist model. This is in fact a general tendency among academics trying to come to grips with the challenge to their trusted AIT-based models: even while evaluating non-AIT scenarios, they often relapse into AIT-derived assumptions. By contrast, Shrikant Talageri’s survey of the relative chronology of all Rg-Vedic kings and poets has been based exclusively on the internal textual evidence, and yields a completely consistent chronology. (16) Its main finding is that the geographical gradient of Vedic Aryan culture in its Rg-Vedic stage is from east to west, with the eastern river Ganga appearing a few times in the older passages (written by the oldest poets mentioning the oldest kings), and the western river Indus appearing in later parts of the book (written by descendents of the oldest poets mentioning descendents of the oldest kings). The status quaestionis is still, more than ever, that the Vedic corpus provides no reference to an immigration of the so-called Vedic Aryans from Central Asia. This need not be taken as sufficient proof that such an invasion never took place, that Indo-Aryan was native to India, and that India is the homeland of the Indo-European language family. Perhaps such an invasion from a non-Indian homeland into India took place at a much earlier date, so that it was forgotten by the time of the composition of the Rg-Veda. But at least, such an “Aryan invasion” cannot be proven from the information provided by the Vedic narrative itself.



4. E.g. in Ralph Griffith’s translation The Hymns of the Rgveda, 1889 (Motilal Banarsidass reprint, Delhi 1991), still commonly used.

5. Michael Witzel: “Rgvedic History”, in G. Erdosy, ed. : The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, Berlin 1995, p. 321.

6. Michael Witzel: “Rgvedic History”, in G. Erdosy, ed. : The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p. 320.

7. Asko Parpola: “The problem of the Aryans and the Soma”, in G. Erdosy: The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p-367.

8. Michael Witzel: “Rgvedic History”, in G. Erdosy, ed. : The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p. 321.

9. Frits Staal: Ritual and Mantras: Rules without Meaning, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1996 (1990), p. 154, and to the same effect, Frits Staal: Zin en Onzin in Filosofire, Religie en Wetenschap, Amsterdam 1986, p. 310.

10. F. Staal: Zin en Onzin, P. 310.

11. According to Langenscheidt’s Pocket Hebrew-English Dictionary, the word yamin is translated as: “right side, right hand, the south; prosperity”. As for the latter meaning, cfr. the meaning of the derived Sanskrit word dakshiNA, viz. “(esp. teacher’s) fee”.

12. J. N. Postgate: Early Mesopotamia. Society and Economy at the Dawn of History, Routledge, London 1992, p. 38.

13. I. M. Diakonov: “On the Original Home of the Speakers of Indo-European”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, spring 1985, p-92-174, specifically p. 159.

14. Michael Witzel: “Rgvedic History”, in G. Erdosy, ed. : The Indo-Aryans of ancient South Asia, p. 322.

15. Michael Witzel: “Rgvedic History”, in G. Erdosy, ed. : The Indo-Aryans of ancient South Asia, P. 324ff.

16. Shrikant Talageri: The Rg-Veda, a Historical Analysis, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, forthcoming.


4. Miscellaneous aspects of the Aryan invasion debate


4. 3. 1 Kurgan immigrants

From the east, a foreign IE-speaking population intruded into Europe, soon to be diluted by genetically mixing with the natives, and totally assimilated before they, or rather their language and culture, reached Europe’s western shores. However, it stands to reason that they were still genetically distinct when their entry began. That is why the start of the Kurgan culture was accompanied by a change in the racial composition of the population of South Russia in about 4500 BC: “The Dniepr-Donets people are known to be massive Cro-Magnons, continuous from the Upper Palaeolithic; the Strednij Stog-2 men are described as more gracile, tall-statured, dolichocephalic with narrow faces.” (17) And again, Maria Gimbutas writes: “The skeletal remains are dolichomesocranial, taller-statured and of a more gracile type than those of their predecessors in the substratum.” (18) It is this new racial element which the Kurgan Urheimat school identifies as IE. In that case, the cultural change was effected by an incoming new ethnic group. It is fair to observe that the racial type described here as typical of the first Kurgan-making community, is similar to the tall, robust and long-headed type which you find in the Pashtu, Panjabi and Kashmiri populations of contemporary India and Pakistan, as also in the Harappan and pre-Harappan settlements. But the two racial types coexisted for long, though still culturally distinct: “Kurgan II, ca. 4000-3500 BC. Materials from this period demonstrate continuous coexistence with the Dniepr-Donets culture: two different physical types (both of ‘Cro-Magnon C’ type, but with the Kurgan people being more gracile) and burial customs (collective burials in trenchlike pits characteristic of the Dniepr-Donets culture, and single burials of Kurgan type) were proved to be present even in the same villages.” (19) This is precisely the type of coexistence which renders cultural assimilation and transmission of the IE language to pre-IE populations possible.


4. 3. 2. Eastern origins

While V. Gordon Childe, one of the first to identify South Russia as the Urheimat, thought that the Urheimat population and/or culture had come from more westerly regions, “Gimbutas, following most recent Russian work, has departed from Childe, to the extent of deriving the Kurgan cultures from the steppes on the Lower Volga and farther east (…) While linguistic opinion has been moving in the direction of putting the Indo-European homeland in the region of the Vistula, Oder or Elbe, archaeological opinion is now putting it in the Lower Volga steppe and regions east of the Caspian Sea.” (20) This was written in 1966, when considerations of the geographical and linguistic location of “birch” and “beech”, now quite outdated, were still tempting people to locate the Urheimat in Germany or Poland “on linguistic grounds”. Population geneticists like L. Cavalli-Sforza have also discerned an east-to-west migration through eastern Europe in ca. 4000 BC, and identified this westbound population with the bringers of the Indo-European languages. (21) The archaeological evidence also indicates an abrupt change, suggesting an immigration, and more particularly an immigration from the east: “Local evolution cannot account for such abrupt changes (…) The pottery is relatable to the earliest Neolithic in the Middle Urals and Soviet Central Asia.” (22) We already saw how the Kurgan people brought the cultivation of millet from Central Asia. (23) All in all, there is now a very strong case for an Asian origin, dated to before 4500 BC, of the Kurgan culture. Tracing these pre-Kurganites to India is a job yet to be done, but at present it should certainly be considered one the reasonable hypotheses. Remark that in this section, I have only quoted findings which predate the ongoing AIT debate by years or by decades. All of them were published by established academic indo-europeanists. On respected platforms, all the necessary information had been made available to deduce an Asian origin of IE. Yet, so strong is the paradigm inertia that few if any established academics have intervened to draw that conclusion openly. Let us therefore add the more recent and more outspoken opinion of Bernard Sergent: “The present stage of research effectively permits tracing an Asian origin for the Indo-Europeans well before their dispersion.” (24) Sergent affirms in so many words that “the Kurgan people had to originate in Central Asia” (25), and even that may have been a waystation en route from yet another country of origin.



17. Editorial note in Journal of Indo-European Studies, 1977/4, p-345.

18. Marija Gimbutas: “Primary and Secondary Homeland of the Indo-Europeans”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, 1985/1-2, p. 191.

19. M. Gimbutas: “Proto-Indo-European Culture: The Kurgan Culture during the Fifth, Fourth and Third Millennia BC”, in Cardona at al. , eds. : Indo-European and Indo-Europeans, p. 178.

20. Ward H. Goodenough: “The Evolution of Pastoralism and Indo-European Origins”, in G. Cardona et al. , eds. : Indo-European and Indo-Europeans, p. 253-265, specially p. 255, with reference to V. Gordon Childe: The Aryans. A Study of Indo-European Origins, London 1926.

21. A. J. Ammerman and L. L. Cavalli-Sforza: The Neolithic Transition and the Genetics of Populations in Europe, Princeton 1984, p. 59, and L. L. Cavalli-Sforza. The History and Geography of Human Genes, Princeton 1994, p. 108. Honald Haarmann: “Aspects of early Indo-European contacts with neighbouring cultures”, Indogermanische Forschungen 1996, p. 12, tries to refute the theory of the geneticists by pointing out early linguistic contacts between IE and North-Caucasian as well as Uralic. In fact, North-Caucasian may easily have borrowed everything it has in common with IE rather than having imparted anything, while Uralic itself migrated from north-central Asia to eastern Europe.

22. M. Gimbutas: “Primary and Secondary Homeland”, JIES 1985, p. 191, emphasis added.

23. B. Sergent: Les Indo-Européens, p. 398, p. 432.

24. B. Sergent, Les Indo-Européens, p. 62.

25. B. Sergent: Les Indo-Européens, p. 440, with reference to Roland Menk: Anthropologie du Néolithique Européen, dissertation, Geneva, 1981.


4. Miscellaneous aspects of the Aryan invasion debate


4. 4. 1. The horse and IE expansion

Horses are prominent in the traditions of every known branch of the ancient Indo-Europeans. In 731 AD the Pope had to prohibit the consumption of horse meat in order to help the conversion effort among the horse-revering Germanic heathens, who used to ritually eat horse meat As consecrated food (prasAda) after the horse sacrifice. Horse domestication is commonly taken to have triggered the unprecedented Indo-European expansion, with a revolution in the lifestyle of the IE tribes (paralleled by the military, political and economic revolution which the horse caused among Native Americans in the 17th-18th century) as the first stage. In Mesopotamia, horse trade made its appearance in about 2000 BC along with IE communities. The Sumerian sign for “horse” was apparently borrowed from Elamite, which was spoken on the northern (now Iranian) coast of the Persian Gulf, half-way between Sumer and the Indus Valley. Linguists have argued that the Sumerian word si-si, “known in Sumerian since the fourth millennium BC”, and the derived Semitic words (Hebrew sUs), were borrowed from Indo-Iranian aSva, eventhough “the chronology has to be stretched to make this comparison acceptable”. (26) If we accept an Indian Urheimat, the chronological problem disappears: since Vedic and related dialects of Old Indo-Aryan were spoken in the Indus basin in the 4th millennium BC, their term for “horse” may have been imparted to Sumerian in that very period. But: according to the first archaeological surveys, there had been no horses in the Harappan cities. By contrast, plenty of horse remains have been found in Ukraine and South Russia, including bridle-scarred horse teeth dated to 4300 BC. (27) Is that not proof enough that horses are a foreign import into India, and that the momentous step of horse domestication was taken far outside India? Even if there had not existed any horses in Harappan India, it would still be conceivable that Indians had domesticated the horse outside India. The idea of domestication may have been brought to the horse-rich steppes from a more advanced area where donkeys and oxen were already being used as beasts of burden or even to pull carts. It is often claimed that horses were first used for the same purpose before becoming mounts; other scholars reject this hypothesis, considering that bare-back riding is not much more difficult and dangerous than the whole process of harnessing a horse to a cart. But this makes little difference for our argument, among other reasons because both the horse and the wheeled cart are part of the common IE heritage, as shown by their presence in the common PIE vocabulary. For an explanation of the Aryans’ remarkable expansion, it is not necessary that they were the first to domesticate the horse; it is sufficient that they were the first to use the advantages of domesticated horses to the fullest. Compare: gunpowder was invented by the Chinese, but used to the best effect by the European colonizers, even in their confrontations with the Chinese. Nor is it necessary that they domesticated the horse before their expansion began. No case should be built on eager but unconfirmed hypotheses that the horse was domesticated in India, but the more popular hypothesis that it was first domesticated in Central Asia or Eastern Europe will do just fine even for an Indian Urheimat hypothesis. The first wave of IE emigrants, in pre- or early Vedic times, may have reached the Caspian Sea coasts and domesticated the horse there, or learnt from natives how to master the horse. They communicated the new knowledge along with a few specimens of the animal to their homeland (supposing it was indeed unknown or nearly unavailable in India itself), and along with the appropriate new terminology, so that it became part of the cultural scene depicted in Vedic literature. Meanwhile, the IE pioneers on the Caspian Sea coast made good use of the horse to speed up their expansion into Europe.


4. 4. 2. The absence of horse remains

The possibility of horse domestication inside India should not be dismissed too quickly: we insist that, in the presence of other types of evidence (the familiarity with domesticated horses literarily attested since the earliest Vedic hymns), the seeming absence of archaeological evidence should not be treated as positive counter-evidence. For a striking example of the discrepancy between abundant reality and meagre archaeological testimony, let us not forget that the Harappan seal inscriptions have yielded only a few thousands of lines of text, though they are obviously the tip of an iceberg of a vast literary tradition. Even stranger: there are practically no Leftovers of writing from the centuries between the abandonment of the Harappan cities and the Maurya empire, more than a thousand years during which numerous important works in Sanskrit and Prakrit were, shall we say, composed. Does this prove that writing was absent from India during those centuries (as has been claimed in all seriousness by accomplished scholars), and that the grammarians including Panini had to do their path-breaking research without the aid of a literary corpus or written notes? Of course not: the inability of archaeologists to find Leftovers from what we know to be a highly literate stage of Indian civilization, simply proves that the archaeological record in India falls short of the historical reality to a vastly greater extent than in Egypt or West Asia. In the case of artefacts, this may be due to a greater availability of organic, perishable materials to build with or to write on. In the case of bodies, it is mostly cultural: unlike the Egyptians who embalmed their pharaohs as well as their Apis (bull-god) temple’s sacred bulls, Indians had no inclination to preserve mortal entities for a day longer than their allotted life-span. For the rest, the most important factor is climatological, with India’s damp heat leading to a faster decay of the available relics. That the presence of horses in Harappa may well be out of proportion to the meagre archeological testimony of horse bones, has unwittingly been confirmed by Marxist historian Romila Thapar. All while affirming that “the horse is an insignificant animal in the Indus cities”, apparently referring to the paucity (but not absence) of horse bones in Harappan ruins, she neutralizes this oft-used argument for the non-Aryan character of Harappa by also telling us: “Excavated animal bones from Hastinapur in the first millennium BC when the use of horses was more frequent, indicate that horse bones make up only a very small percentage of the bones.” (28) In today’s India, cows are vastly more numerous than horses, as future archaeologists are bound to discover in their turn, yet on ceremonial occasions like army parades you get to see whole regiments of horses with riders but not a single cow. This, as archaeology has confirmed, was also the situation in Hastinapur: horses were rare in absolute figures, though very prominent on ritual occasions of the kind recorded in the vedas. And likewise in Vedic culture: “From the Vedic texts onwards the horse is symbolic of nobility and is associated with people of status.” (29) So, the Vedic attention paid to horses was quite out of proportion with their percentage in the domesticated animal population. Compared with Russia, India was relatively poor in horses, and on top of that, it was by far not as good in preserving what much of horse bones it had, for reasons outlined above. Therefore, the paucity of horse remains is only to be expected; it is not as strong an argument against “Vedic Harappa” as it once seemed to be.


4. 4. 3. The presence of horse remains

Meanwhile, in several Harappan sites remains of horses have been found. Even supporters of the AIT have admitted that the horse was known in Mohenjo Daro, near the coast of the Arabian Sea (let alone in more northerly areas), in 2500 BC at the latest. (30) But the presence of horses and even domesticated horses has already been traced further back: horse teeth at Amri, on the Indus near Mohenjo Daro, and at Rana Ghundai on the Panjab-Baluchistan border have been dated to about 3,600 BC. The latter has been interpreted as indicating “horse-riding invaders” (31), but that is merely an application of invasionist preconceptions. More bones of the true and domesticated horse have been found in Harappa, Surkotada (all layers including the earliest), Kalibangan, Malvan and Ropar. (32) Recently, bones which were first taken to belong to onager specimens, have been identified as belonging to the, domesticated horse (Kuntasi, near the Gujarat coast, dated to 2300 BC). Superintending archaeologist Dr. A. M. Chitalwala comments: “We may have to ask whether the Aryans (…) could have been Harappans themselves. (…) We don’t have to believe in the imports theory anymore.” (33) Admittedly, the presence of horses in the Harappan excavation sites is not as overwhelming in quantity as in the neolithic cultures of Eastern Europe. However, the relative paucity of horse remains is matched by the fact that the millions-strong population of the Harappan civilization, much larger than that of Egypt and Mesopotamia combined, has left us only several hundreds of skeletons, even when men sometimes had the benefit of burial which horses did not have. The implication for the question of the horses is that any finds of horses are good enough to make the point that horses were known in India, and that they were available to a substantially greater extent than a simple count of the excavated bones would suggest. The cave paintings in Bhimbetka near Bhopal, perhaps 30,000 years old (but the datings of cave paintings are highly controversial), showing a horse being caught by humans, confirm that horses existed in India in spite of the paucity of skeletal remains. (34) There is, however, room for debate on whether the animals depicted are really horses and not onagers. Other cave paintings, so far undated, show a number of warriors wielding sticks in their right hands and actually riding horses without saddles or bridles. (35) The fact that both the Austro-Asiatic and the Dravidian language families have their own words for “horse” (e.g. Old Tamil ivuLi, “wild horse”, and kutirai, “domesticated horse”) not borrowed from the language of the Aryans who are supposed to have brought the horse into India, should also carry some weight. Partly because of the uncongenial climate, horses must have been comparatively rare in India (as they would remain in later centuries, when Rajput forces were attacked by Turkish invaders with an invariably superior cavalry), but they were available. The evidence concerning horses remains nonetheless the weakest point in the case for an Indian Urheimat. While the evidence is arguably not such that it proves the Harappan culture’s unfamiliarity with horses, it cannot be claimed to prove the identity of Vedic and Harappan culture either, the way the abundance of horse remains in Ukraine is used to prove the IE character of the settlements there. At this point, the centre-piece of the anti-AIT plea is an explainable paucity of the evidence material, so that everything remains possible. This is true both at the level of physical evidence and on that of artistic testimony: the apparent absence of horse motifs on the Harappan seals (except one) (36) can certainly be explained, viz. by pointing at the equally remarkable absence of the female cow among the numerous animal depictions on the seals, eventhough the cow must have been very familiar to the Harappans considering the frequent depiction of the bull. A taboo on depictions of the two most sacred animals may well explain the absence of both the cow and the horse. However, it is obvious that a positive attestation of the horse on the Harappan seals would have served the non-invasionist cause much better.



26. The linguists arguing in favour of this IE-Sumerian connection are T. V. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov; in reply to two Russian articles of theirs, I. M. Diakonov wrote: “On the Original Home of the Indo-Europeans”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, spring 1985, p. 92-174. The quotations are Diakonov’s, p. 134.

27. The story of horse domestication and its social effects is told by David Anthony, Dimitri Y. Telegin and Dorcas Brown: “The Origin of Horseback Riding”, Scientific American 12/1991.

28. Romila Thapar: “The theory of Aryan race and India”, Social Scientist, January-March 1996, p. 21.

29. Romila Thapar: “The theory of Aryan race and India”, Social Scientist, January-March 1996, p. 21.

30. E. J. H. Mackay and A. D. Pusalker, quoted in Talageri: Aryan Invasion Theory, a Reappraisal, p. 118; see also K. D. Sethna: KarpAsa, p. 13-15.

31. Cited in Harry H. Hicks & Robert N. Anderson: “Analysis of an Indo-European Vedic Aryan Head, 4th Millennium BC”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, fall 1990, p. 425-446, specifically p. 437.

32. S. P. Gupta: The Lost Sarasvati and the Indus Civilization, p. 193-196, with full references.

33. Interviewed in: “Aryan civilization may become ‘bone’ of contention”, Indian Express, 10/12/1995.

34. These paintings have been reproduced in, among others, Klaus Klostermaier: Survey of Hinduism, p. 35.

35. Dated to la nuit des temps, “the night of time”, in Science Illustrée, May 1995.

36. Reproduced in N. S. Rajaram: From Harappa to Ayodhya, inside the front page.


4. Miscellaneous aspects of the Aryan invasion debate


4. 5. 1. The Kassite and Mitannic peoples

An important anomaly in the AIT is the presence of the Mitanni kings in northern Mesopotamia, with their Vedic cultural heritage and language, as early as the 15th century BC, with absolutely no indication that they Were “the Aryans on the way to India”. In fact, the Vedic memories appearing in the Mitanni texts were already remote, with only four Vedic gods mentioned amid a long list of non-Vedic gods. This does not in itself prove that the Mitanni dynasty was post-Vedic, but it certainly confers the burden of proof on those who want to declare it pre-Vedic. Their language was mature Indo-Aryan, not proto-Indo-Iranian. Satya Swarup Misra argues that the Mitannic languages already showed early Middle-Indo-Aryan traits, e.g. the assimilation of dissimilar plosives (sapta > satta), and the break-up of consonant clusters by interpolation of vowels (anaptyxis, Indra > Indara). (37) This would imply that Middle-Indo-Aryan had developed a full millennium earlier than hitherto assumed, which in turn has implications for the chronology of the extant literature written in Middle-Indo-Aryan. In the centuries before the Mitanni texts, there was a Kassite dynasty in Mesopotamia, from the 18th to the 16th century BC. Linguistically assimilated, they preserved some purely Vedic names: Shuriash, Maruttash, Inda-Bugash, i.e. Surya, Marut, Indra-Bhaga (Bhaga meaning effectively “god”, cfr. Bhag-wAn, Slavic Bog). The Kassite and Mitanni peoples were definitely considered as foreign invaders. They are latecomers in the history of the IE dispersal, appearing at a time when, leaving India out of the argument, at least the area from Iran to France was already IE. They have little bearing on the Urheimat question, but they have all the more relevance for mapping the history of the Indo-Iranian group. Probably the Kassite and Mitannic tribes were part of the same migration, with the latter settling in a peripheral area and thereby retaining their identity a few centuries longer than the Kassites in the metropolitan area of Babylon. According to Babylonian sources, the Kassites came from the swampy area in what is now southern Iraq: unlike the Iranians, who migrated from India through Afghanistan, the Kassites must have come by sea from Sindh to southern Mesopotamia. While the Iranians migrated slowly, taking generations to take control gradually of the fertile areas to the south of the Aral Lake and of the Caspian Sea, the Kassites seem to have been a warrior group moving directly from India to Mesopotamia to carry out a planned invasion which immediately gave them control of the delta area, a bridgehead for further conquests of the Babylonian heartland. They were a conquering aristocracy, and having to marry native women, they lost their language within a few generations, just like the Vikings after their conquest of Normandy. If the earlier Kassite and the later Mitanni people were indeed part of the same migration, their sudden appearance falls neatly into place if we connect them with the migration wave caused by the dessiccation of the Saraswati area in ca. 2000 BC. Indian-Mesopotamian connections relevant to the Urheimat question have to be sought in a much earlier period. Whether the country Aratta of the Sumerian sources is really to be identified with a part of the Harappan area, is uncertain; the Sumerian legend Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta (late 3rd millennium BC) mentions that Aratta was the source of silver, gold and lapis lazuli, in exchange for grain which was transported not by ship but over land by donkeys; this would rather point to the mining centres in mountainous Afghanistan, arguably Harappan colonies but not the Harappan area itself. However, if this Aratta is the same as the Indian AraTTa (in West Panjab) after all, it has far-reaching implications. AraTTa is Prakrit for A-rASTra, “without kingdom”. The point here is not its meaning, but its almost Middle-Indo-Aryan shape. Like sapta becoming satta in the Mitannic text, it suggest that this stage of Indo-Aryan is much older than hitherto assumed, viz. earlier than 2000 BC.


4. 5. 2. The Sumerian connection

At the material high tide of the Harappan culture, Mesopotamia had trade contacts with Magan, the Makran coast west of the Indus delta, with Bad Imin, “the seven cities”, and with Meluhha, the Indus valley. The name Meluhha is probably of Dravidian origin: Asko Parpola derives Meluhha, “to be read in the early documents with the alternative value as Me-lah-ha”, from Dravidian Met-akam, “high abode/country” (with mel/melu, “high”, being the etymon of Sanskrit Meru, the cosmic mountain). (38) Meluhha is the origin of Sanskrit Mleccha, Pali Milakkhu, “barbarian” (39): because of the unrefined sounds of their Prakrit and because of their cultural impurity (whether by borrowing foreign elements or simply by an indigenous decay of existing cultural standards), the people of Sindh/Meluhha were considered barbarian by the elites of Madhyadesh (the Ganga-Yamuna doab) during the Sutra period, which non-invasionists date to the late 3rd millennium BC, precisely the period when Mesopotamia had a flourishing trade with Meluhha. The search is on for common cultural motifs between the Harappan culture and Sumer. One element in literature which strikes the observer as meaningful, is this: according to the account given by the Babylonian priest Berosus, the Sumerians believed their civilization (writing and astronomy) had been brought to the Mesopotamian coast by s sages, the first of whom was one Uana-Adapa, better known through his Greek name Oannes. He was a messenger of Enki, god of the Abyss, who was worshipped at the oldest Mesopotamian city of Eridu. Like the Vedic “seven sages”, meaning both the seven clans of Vedic seers as well as the seven major stars of Ursa Maior, these seven sages are associated with the starry sky; like the Matsya incarnation of Vishnu, Oannes’s body is that of a fish. The myth of the Flood, wherein divine guidance helps the leader of mankind (Sumerian Ziusudra, Sanskrit Manu, Akkadian Utnapishtim, Hebrew Noah) to survive, is another well-known common cultural motif. The antediluvian kings in Sumer are said by Berosus to have ruled for 120 periods of 3,600 years, or 432,000 years; epochs of 3600 years were in use among Indian astronomers, and the mega-era of 432,000 is equally familiar in India as the scripturally estimated (inexact) number of syllables in the Rg Veda, and as the “high” interpretation of the length of the Kali-Yuga . (40) Rather than being a late borrowing, this number 432,000 may well be part of the common IE heritage. At least implicitly, it was present in Germanic mythology, which developed separately from Hindu mythology for several millennia before Berosus (ca. 300 BC): 800 men at each of the 540 gates of Wodan’s palace makes for a total of 432,000. This does not prove any far-fetched claim that “the gods were cosmonauts” or so, but it does show that early Indo-European had a world view involving advanced arithmetic (Sanskrit being the first and for many centuries the only language with terms for “astronomical” numbers), and that they shared some of it with neighbouring cultures. We may be confident that a deeper search, more alert to specifically Indian contributions than is now common among sumerologists, will reveal more connections. Through the Hittites, Philistines (i.e. the “Sea Peoples” originating on the Aegean coasts and settling on the Egyptian and Gaza coasts in ca. 1200 BC), Mitannians and Kassites, elements of IE culture were known throughout West Asia. Even ancient Israelite culture was culturally much more Indo-European than certain race theorists would like to believe.



37S. S. Misra: The Aryan Problem, p. 10. Of course, the data are to be handled with care, for the foreign script in which the Indo-Aryan words were rendered, may not have been phonologically accurate.

38Asko Parpola: “Interpreting the Indus Script”, in A. H. Dani: Indus Civilisation: New Perspectives, p. 117-132, specifically p. 121.

39V. S. Pathak (“Semantics of Arya”, in S. B. Deo & S. Kamath: The Aryan Problem, p. 93) derives the modern ethnic term Baluch from Bloch (< Blukh < Mlukh) < Meluhha. This is very unlikely, if only because the Baluchis have immigrated into this area from Western Iran during the early Muslim period. Before that, in most of the areas where Pashtu and Baluchi are now spoken, the language was Indo-Aryan Prakrit.

40Discussed in Ivan Verheyden: “Het begon met Oannes”, Bres (Antwerp), May 1976. Strictly, Kali-Yuga is to last for 1,200 years, but since “a year among men is but a day among the gods”, scribes have magnified the number to 360 x 1,200 = 432,000.


4. Miscellaneous aspects of the Aryan invasion debate


4. 6. 1. Poetry vs. history

The Vedas do not preserve any veneration, not even any mention, of an Urheimat. Compare this with the Thora (the first five books of the Bible): edited in about the 6th century BC, it gives a central place to Moses’ exodus from Egypt in about 1200 BC, and of Abraham from “Ur of the Chaldees” in about 1600 BC. Similarly, in the 16th century, the Aztecs in Mexico still preserved the memory of Aztlan (probably Utah), the country from which they migrated in the 12th century. Postulating that the Vedic people kept silent about a homeland which they still vividly remembered, as the invasionists imply, is not coherent with all we know about ancient peoples, who preserved such memories for many centuries. Admittedly, the Vedas are a defective source of history. As religious books, they only deal with historical data in passing. But that has never kept the invasionist school from treating the Vedas as the only source of ancient Indian history, to the neglect of the legitimate history books, the ItihAsa-PuraNa literature, i.e. the Epics and the Puranas. It is like ignoring the historical Bible books (Exodus, Joshua, Chronicles, Kings) to draw ancient Israelite history exclusively from the Psalms, or like ignoring the historians Livius, Tacitus and Suetonius to do Roman history on the basis of the poet Virgil. What would be dismissed as “utterly ridiculous” in Western history is standard practice in Indian history. Essentially the same remark was already made by Puranic scholar F. E. Pargiter. (41) It was dismissed by some, with the remark that the Puranas are even more religious and unhistorical than the Vedas. (42) However, that does injustice to the strictly historical parts of the Puranas, mixed though they are with religious lore. No serious historian would ignore the Exodus narrative simply because it also contains unhistorical episodes like the Parting of the Sea and the voice from the Burning Bush. Experience should also make us skeptical towards the knee-jerk skepticism displayed by historians when confronted with ancient historiography. Thus, the king-list of the Chinese Shang dynasty (16th-12th century BC) was dismissed as “obviously mythical”, but when in the 1920s the Shang oracle bones were discovered, all the kings were found to be mentioned there: the “mythical” dynastic list proved to be correct to the detail. Likewise, the first Bible historians were skeptical of Biblical history, e.g. of the “obviously wildly exaggerated” description of the huge city of Niniveh; but then archaeologists discovered the ruins of Niniveh, and found that the Bible editors had been fairly accurate in their description. The Bible provides another important parallel with the Epics and Puranas: most historians now accept the basic historicity of the Biblical account of Israelite political history from at least king David until the Exile, yet it is almost completely unattested in non-Biblical documents, just as ancient Indian history as narrated in the Epics and Puranas (and glimpsed in the Vedas) is practically unattested in non-Indic literature. The non-attestation of Israel’s history in the writings of its highly literate neighbours is more anomalous than the non-attestation of early Indian history in the writings of other literate cultures, which were more distant from India geographically and linguistically than Babylon was from Jerusalem. So, if Biblical history can be accepted as more than fantasy, the same credit should be given to the historiographical parts of the Epics and Puranas.


4. 6. 2. Value of the Puranas

In spite of the low esteem in which they are held, the Puranas are essentially good history. More than 30 years ago, P. L. Bhargava has already demonstrated that the dynastic lists which form the backbone of Puranic history cannot be dismissed as legend or propaganda. (43) His first argument is that the oldest names of kings, though mostly Indo-Aryan, are often of a different type (e.g. absence or paucity of theophoric names, like in ancient Greek or Germanic) than those common at the time of the Puranic editors, who show their unfamiliarity with the obsolete names by sometimes misspelling or misinterpreting them. This would not be the case if they had made them up. Secondly, against those who think that court historians may have concocted genealogies and ancient claims to the land for their royal patrons, Bhargava points out that the Puranas do not locate any dynasties in those areas which are reasonably assumed to have been non-Aryan originally but which were dominated by Indo-Aryan dynasties (or Dravidian-speaking dynasties claiming an “Aryan” ancestry) at the time of the Purana editors, e.g. parts of Bihar, the east coast (Utkala, Kalinga, Cola), and the south (Pandya, Kerala): “This clearly means that the lists are all genuine and the later Puranic editors, in spite of their failings, never went to the extent of interspersing imaginary genealogies with genuine ones.” (44) The argument is similar to one of Irving Zeitlin’s arguments for the authenticity of the Biblical account of the conquest of Palestine by the Israelites. (45) Zeitlin shows that the land conquered by Joshua according to the Biblical narrative did not coincide with the Promised Land as promised by Jahweh to Joshua (it falls short of the promised area while also comprising some non-promised territory); a purely propagandistic narrative intent on legitimizing the later extent of the Israelite kingdom or on glorifying Jahweh’s reliability, would have made Joshua acquire the exact territory promised by the Lord. Thirdly, many names from the Puranic lists also show up in other sources, including the Epics, the Jain Agamas, the Sutras, and earliest of all, the Vedas. Of course, persons are sometimes shown in a rather different light in different sources, and there are differences on details between the different Puranas as well as between the Puranas and the other sources; but that is exactly what happens when authentic events (such as a traffic accident) are related by different witnesses.


4. 6. 3. Dynastic history in the Puranas

Shrikant Talageri takes up the argument where Bhargava had left it, and proceeds to demonstrate that the fragmentary Vedic data and the systematic Puranic account tally rather splendidly. (46) The Puranas relate a westward movement of a branch of the Aila/Saudyumna clan or Lunar dynasty from Prayag (Allahabad, at the junction of Ganga and Yamuna) to Sapta Saindhavah, the land of the seven rivers. There, the tribe splits into five, after the five sons of the conqueror Yayati: Yadu, Druhyu, Anu, Puru, Turvashu. All the rulers mentioned in the Vedas either belong to the Paurava (Puru-descended) tribe settled on the banks of the Saraswati, or have come in contact with them according to the Puranic account, whether by alliance and matrimony or by war. Later, the Pauravas (and minor dynasties springing from them) extend their power eastward, into and across their ancestral territory, and the Vedic traditions spread along with the economic and political influence of the metropolitan Saraswati-based Paurava people. This way, the eastward expansion of the Vedic horizon, which has often been read as proof of a western origin of the Aryans, is integrated into a larger history. The Vedic people are shown as merely one branch of an existing Aryan culture, originally spanning northern India (at least) from eastern Uttar Pradesh to Panjab. The approximate and relative chronology provided by the dynastic lists allow us to estimate the time of those events as much earlier than the heyday and end of the Harappan cities. Puranic history reaches back beyond the starting date of the composition of the Vedas. In the king-lists, a number of kings are enumerated before the first kings appear who are also mentioned in the Rg-Veda. In what remains of the Puranas, no absolute chronology is added to the list, but from Greek visitors to ancient India, we get the entirely plausible information such a chronology did exist. To be precise, the Puranic king-list as known to Greek visitors of Candragupta’s court in the 4th century BC or to later Greco-Roman India-watchers, started in 6776 BC. (47) Even for that early pre-Vedic period, there is no hint of any immigration.


4. 6. 4. Emigrations in the Puranas

What is more: the Puranas mention several emigrations. The oldest one explicitly described is by groups belonging to the Afghanistan-based Druhyu branch of the Aila/Saudyumna people, i.e. the Pauravas’ cousins, in the pre-Vedic or early Vedic period. They are said to have moved to distant lands and set up kingdoms there. Estimating our way through the dynastic (relative) chronology given in the Puranas, we could situate this emigration in the 5th millennium BC. It is not asserted that that was the earliest such emigration: the genealogy starts with Manu’s ten successors, of whom six disappear from the Puranic horizon at once, while two others also recede in the background after a few generations; and many acts of peripheral tribes and dynasties, including their emigration, may have gone unnoticed. But even if it were the earliest emigration, it is not far removed from a realistic chronology for the dispersion of the different branches of the IE family. It also tallies well with the start of the Kurgan culture by Asian immigrants in ca. 4500 BC. Later the Anavas are said to have invaded Panjab from their habitat in Kashmir, and to have been defeated and expelled by the Pauravas in the so-called Battle of the Ten Kings, described in Rg Veda 7:18,19,33,83. The ten tribes allied against king Sudas (who belonged to the Trtsu branch of the Paurava tribe) have been enumerated in the Vedic references to the actual battle, and a number of them are unmistakably Iranian: Paktha (Pashtu), BhalAna (Bolan/Baluch), Parshu (Persian), PRthu (Parthian), the others being less recognizable: VishANin, AlIna, Shiva, Shimyu, BhRgu, Druhyu. At the same time, they are (except for the Druhyus) collectively called “Anu’s sons”, in striking agreement with the Puranic account of an Anava struggle against the Paurava natives of Panjab. Not mentioned in the Vedic account, but mentioned in the Puranic account as the Anava tribe settled farthest west in Panjab (most removed from the war theatre), is the Madra (Mede?) tribe. Talageri tentatively identifies the other tribes as well: the Druhyu as the Druids or Celts (untenable) (48); the Bhrgus as the Phrygians (etymologically reasonable); the AlInas as the Hellenes or Greeks (shaky); the Shimyus with the Sirmios/Srems or ancient Albanians (possible), etc. It is hard to prove or disprove this; all we can say is that along with the Iranian tribes, there may have been several non-Iranian tribes who emigrated from northwestern India after the Battle of the Ten Kings. More migrations are attested, of individuals, families as well as whole tribes. The Vedic character Sarama calls on the Panis to go far away and to the north; assuming that the Panis are not some kind of heavenly creatures, this presupposes that the northward exit was a well-known route, and perhaps a common trail for exiles, outlaws and refugees (just as in the colonial period, an Englishman who had lost all perspectives in his homeland could always move to Australia). (49) Vishvamitra’s sons, fifty in number, dissented from their father and left the country, after which they are called udantyah, “those of the northern border”. (50) A group of Asuras are said to have fled across the northern border, chased by Agni and the Devas, who mounted guard there. (51)


4. 6. 5. Migration history of other IE tribes

Other branches of IE have a clear migration history, even if no literary record has been preserved. It is commonly accepted that the Celtic and Italic peoples were invaders into their classical habitats. The Celts’ itinerary can be archaeologically traced back to Slovakia and Hungary, and Germany still preserves some Celtic place-names. (52) In France, Spain, and the British Isles, a large pre-IE population existed, comprising at least two distinct language families. Of the Iberian languages, only a few written fragments have been preserved. Etruscan is extinct but well-attested and fully deciphered, though we don’t know what to make of the persistent claims that it was a wayward branch of the IE Anatolian family. The Basque language survives till today, but attempts to link it to distant languages remain unsuccessful. At any rate, this area witnessed a classic case of IE expansion, resulting in the near-complete celtization or latinization of western and southern Europe. Germanic, Baltic and Slavic cover those areas of Europe which have been claimed as the Urheimat: Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, South Russia. In the case of the Germanic peoples, there is no literary record (but plenty of archaeological indications) of an immigration, nor of the replacement or assimilation of an earlier population. The Baltic language group, represented today by Latvian and Lithuanian, once covered a slightly larger area than today, but there is no literary memory of a migration from another area. However, many Balts today will tell you that they originally came from India. Before this is declared to be an argument for an Indian Urheimat, it should be verified that this belief really pre-dates the 19th century, when it was the prevalent theory among scholars throughout Europe. The folklore avidly recorded by nationalist philologists in the 19th century could well contain not only age-old oral traditions of the common people but also some beliefs fashionable among those who recorded them. The Slavic peoples have expanded to the southwest across the Danube, and in recent centuries also (back?) to the east, across the Ural mountains. The farthest in time that human memory can reach, Ukraine and southern Poland seem to have been the Slavs’ homeland. When scholars from the Germanic, Baltic and Slavic countries started claiming their own country as the IE Urheimat, this certainly was not in contradiction with facts known at the time. But these Urheimat claims were only based on a weak argumentum e silentio: the first written records of these peoples are comparatively recent, several millennia younger than the break-up of PIE, and the true story of their migratory origins has simply been lost. This is not to deny that they may have preserved traditions of their own migrations for as long as the Israelites, but apart from the erosion wrought by time, it is christianization which has generally put a stop to the continuation of the traditional tribal knowledge. And where Christian monks stepped in to collect and preserve remnants of the national heritage (as in Ireland), it was too late: stories had gotten mixed up, the people who remembered the traditional knowledge were dying out, the thread had become too thin not to be broken, That the Greeks took their classical habitat from an Old European population is not in doubt, but there is no definite memory of their immigration. Perhaps the myth of the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece, located in Georgia, should be read as a vague indication of a Greek migration from there, overseas to Thracia, whence the Greek tribes entered Greece proper in succession. But an actual immigration narrative is missing.


4. 6. 6. Iranian Urheimat memory

The one branch of IE which has preserved a relatively unambiguous record of its migration, is Iranian. The Iranians once controlled a much larger territory than today, after the Slavic and Turkic expansions. The Cimmerians and Scythians spread out over the steppes between Ukraine and the Pamir mountains; of this branch of the Iranians, only the Ossets in the northern Caucasus remain. The Sogdians in the Jaxartes or Syr Darya valley and even as far east as Khotan (Xinjiang) made important contributions to culture and especially to Buddhist tradition. An unsuspected wayward branch of the Iranian family is the Croat people: till the early Christian era, when they were spotted in what is now Eastern Europe, they spoke an Iranian language, which was gradually replaced by Slavic “Serbo-Croat”. They call themselves Hrvat, apparently from Harahvaiti, the name of a river in Western Afghanistan, which is merely the Iranian form of Saraswati. In an Achaemenid inscription, the Harahvaita tribe is mentioned as one of the tribute-paying components of the Iranian empire. The migration of the Croats from Afghanistan to the western Balkan (and likewise, that of the Alans, a name evolved from Arya, as far west as France) could be the perfect illustration of the general east-to-west movement which the Indian Urheimat hypothesis implies. The Iranians are fairly clear about their history of immigration from Hapta-Hendu and Airyanam Vaejo, two of sixteen Iranian lands mentioned in the Zoroastrian scripture Vendidad. To the extent that they are recognizable, all sixteen are in Bactria, Afghanistan or northwestern India. Iran proper is not in the picture, nor is the Volga region whence the Iranians are assumed to have migrated in the AIT. Their religious reformer Zarathushtra, whom modern scholarship dates to the mid-2nd millennium BC, lived in present-day Balkh in Afghanistan, then a more domesticated land than today. (53) Afghanistan was a half-way station in a slow migration from India. The Iranians may have brought the name of the lost Saraswati river along with them and given it, in the phonetically evolved form Harahvaiti, to a river in their new country; similarly with the name Sarayu, the river flowing through Ayodhya, becoming Harayu, the old name of another river in western Afghanistan. The Iranian homelands Airyanam Vaejo, described as too cold in its 10-months-long winter, and Hapta-Hendu, described as rendered too hot for men (i.e. the Iranians) by the wicked Angra-Mainyu, are Kashmir and Sapta-Saindhavah (Panjab-Haryana) respectively. (54) They are considered as the first two of sixteen countries successively allotted to the Iranians, the rest being the areas where the Iranians have effectively been living in proto-historical times. This scenario tallies quite exactly with the Vedic and Puranic data about the history of the Anavas, one of the five branches of the Aila/Saudyumna people: from Kashmir, they invaded Sapta-Saindhavah, but were defeated by the Paurava branch (which composed the Rg-Veda) and driven northwestward. Those who deny this scenario have had to invent a second “land of seven rivers” as the common Indo-Iranian homeland, from which the Iranians’ Vedic cousins took the name but not the memory into India; or to interpret the Avestan river-name Ranha (correlate of Sanskrit RasA, the Puranic name of the Amu Darya or Oxus) as meaning the Volga. (55) It is a safe rule of scientific method that “entities are not to be multiplied without necessity” (Occam’s razor), and therefore, until proof of the contrary, we should accept that the term Sapta Saindhavah and its Iranian evolute Hapta Hendu refer to the same region historically known by that name. Both Indian and Iranian sources situate the break-up between Indians and Iranians, Deva- and Asura-worshippers, in Sapta-Saindhavah. Before such a concordant testimony of all parties concerned, it is quite pretentious to claim that one knows it all better, and that they separated in Iran or Central Asia instead. The balance-sheet is that some branches of the IE family have no memory of any migration, some have vague memories of their own immigration into their historical habitat, the Iranian branch has a distinct memory of migration from India to Iran, and only the Indian branch has a record of emigration of others from its own habitat.


4. 6. 7. Rama in the Avesta?

In India, it is sometimes claimed that the Avesta contains the names of the Hindu hero Rama and of his guru Vasishtha. This was suggested by among others, Prof. Sukumar Sen and Illustrated Weekly journalist O. K. Ghosh, who tried to use this hypothesis as “proof” that Rama could not have been born in Ayodhya, locus of a Hindu-Muslim controversy involving Rama’s birthplaces. (56) The word rAma appears in Avestan, e.g. thrice in Zarathushtra’s GAthA-s (29:10, 47:3, 53:8), but apparently only in its proper sense (“joyful, pleasant, peaceful”, whence the derivative A-rAm, till today the Persian and Urdu word for “rest”). This means that it is not referring to the name of an individual called RAma, whether Ramachandra son of Dasharatha or another. The same is true in the even older YaSna GAthA-s and in the much younger Pehlevi writings (Denkart, Vendidad), where derivatives of the root rAm appear in their proper sense. There does exist a royal name RAmateja, carried by at least two kings of Media in the 8th-7th centuries BC (unless this form is Indic rather than Iranian, which could be explained as a late remainder of the Indic Mitanni presence in the same area which later became Media, or today’s Kurdistan). In the regular Zarathushtrian prayer, RAm is seemingly used as a personal name: every day of the month is dedicated to one of the ferishta-s, sort of angels (the Amesha Spenta-s or aspects of Ahura Mazda, and their hamkar-s or co-workers) who are personifications (yazad-s) of values, e.g. Bahram (<< VRtraghna) is the yazad of victory, Ashtad of rectitude etc. , and RAm is the yazad of joy, invoked in prayer on the 21st day of the month. Though used as a personal name, this instance too may have nothing to do with the Rama from Ayodhya. In the oldest Avestan texts, the word vahishta also appears, the equivalent of VasishTha, but this again probably not as a personal name, but rather in its proper sense of “the best” (whence behesht, “he best [state]”, paradise). That at least is the view of accomplished iranologists. (57) Admittedly, translating the ancientmost Iranian texts is even trickier than the already difficult Vedas, but I have as yet no reasons to insist on a different translation than the established one. Prof. Sukumar Sen and his translator (for the Illustrated Weekly). O. K. Ghosh, found it useful to interpret Avestan rAma and vahishta as personal names because they thought it would confirm the Aryan invasion theory, by putting all the Ramayana characters and places in Iran-Afghanistan. Others think that it would rather confirm the Indian origin of the Iranians, giving them a memory of the indisputably Indian characters Rama and Vasishtha. I think that either explanation is possible once the reading of Rama and Vasishtha as personal names is accepted. Therefore, nothing is lost if we return to the non-personal reading.



41. F. E. Pargiter: Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, London 1922, p. v.

42. A. K. Majumdar: Concise History of Ancient India, Delhi 1977, p. 89, and D. K. Ganguly who quotes him approvingly: History and Historians in Ancient India, p. 30.

43. Bhargava: India in the Vedic Age, p-139-140. Not that I recommend Bhargava’s book as an introduction to the Puranic history, for it imposes grossly arbitrary “corrections” on the geographical data so as to fit them into a kind of Invasionist framework. He is a mild example of the school which claims that Puranic history actually took place alright, but in Central Asia or thereabouts rather than in India; and that Puranic historians simply transferred it to an Indian setting. As if an American were to write national history by transferring the Battle of Hastings and the War of the Roses from a British to an American setting.

44. Bhargava, Vedic Age, p. 139.

45. Irving M. Zeitlin: Ancient Judaism, Polity Press, Cambridge 1991 (1984), ch. 4, particularly p. 125ff. Zeitlin’s thesis is that the Biblical account of the conquest is quite factual. The thesis is controversial not because actual discoveries plead against it, but because it is ideologically uncomfortable. After the Holocaust, it is painful to accept the Biblical account because what it describes is a genocide in the full sense of the term, eliminating all the men, women and children of the conquered parts of Canaan. Liberal theologians of Judaism and Christianity would greatly prefer a more peaceful version.

46. Talageri: Aryan Invasion Theory, a Reappraisal, p. 304ff.

47. Pliny: Naturalis Historia 6:59; Arrian: Indica 9:9.

48. The etymology of Druid is as follows: do-ro-vid, i.e. Celtic do, “very”, plus ro (from *pro, as in Latin, cfr. Sanskrit pra), “very”, plus IE vid, “know”, hence “very very knowing”. For a full discussion, see Françoise Le Roux & Christian-J. Guyonvarch: Les Druides, Editions Ouest-France, Rennes 1986, appendix 1.

49. Rg Veda 10:108:11.

50. Aitareya Brahmana 33:6:1. My attention was drawn to this passage by L. N. Renu: Indian Ancestors of Vedic Aryans, p. 28.

51. Shatapatha Brahmana 1:2:4:10. Thanks again to L. N. Renu: Indian Ancestors, p. 31-32. Renu also draws attention to a type of evidence which we cannot elaborate on: the continuity between the four-syllable folk-metre which is mentioned in the Shatapatha Brahmana 4:3:2:7 as “prevalent earlier” (before being reduplicated to the standard eight-syllable metric unit of Vedic verse) and which according to Renu (p. 24) “belongs to the pre-Samhita days” but is “still popular amongst the tribal folk in India”. Continuity between tribal and Vedic culture is one of the most important demonstranda for non-AIT theorists.

52. It is claimed that the Druids had a tradition tracing their own origins “to Asia in 3903 BC”, quoted for what it is worth in Harry H. Hicks & Robert N. Anderson: “Analysis of an Indo-European Vedic Aryan head - 4th millennium BC”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, fall 1990, p. 426, from W. Morgan: St. Paul in Britain, published in 1860.

53. The Cambridge History of Inner Asia (p. 15) puts him in the period 1450-1200 BC, others go as far back as 1800 BC. It is to be kept in mind, however, that this dating is partly based on the AIT, including the assumption that Zarathushtra must be roughly contemporaneous with the vedas. It is also disputed that the Gathas were written by Zarathushtra: just as the Thora was attributed to Moses but written much after his death, die Gathas may have been written long after Zarathushtra.

54. In the Zoroastrian evil spirit’s name Angra-Mainyu, later Ahriman, we can recognize the names Angiras, one of the principal clans of Vedic seers, and Manyu, “intention”, one of the names of Indra, and addressed in Rg-Veda 10:83-84. Coincidence?

55. E.g. Jean Haudry: Les Indo-Européens, p. 118. Remark that in other contexts, Rasa can also mean the Narmada river, and also the mythical river which surrounds the world. Oxus and Narmada were apparently the borderline rivers of the Indus-Saraswati civilization.

56. O. K. Ghosh: “Was Rama an Iranian?”, Illustrated Weekly of India, 27-2-1993, with reference to Sukumar Sen: RAm ItihAser Prak-kathan (Bengali: “Introduction to the History of Ram”).

57. My thanks to Prof. Wociech SkalmowskI, who teaches Persian and Iranian at Catholic University, Leuven.


4. Miscellaneous aspects of the Aryan invasion debate


4. 7. 1. Indra stands accused

A central Vedic myth is the killing of the dragon or snake, Vrtra, by the Vedic thunder god Indra. Here is a beautiful occasion to demonize Vedic religion to its core, considering that “the duel between Indra and Vrtra, officially the symbol of the eternal fight between good and evil, is the central element of the Vedic sacrificial rite.” (58) For Dravidianist agitators and other anti-Brahmin writers, the central Vedic myth of the dragon-slayer is but an allegorical report of the Aryan invasion and defeat of the pre-Aryan natives, a commemoration of an ancient crime against humanity. (59) In reality, the slaying of the dragon is a pan-IE myth, attested even in the remote Germanic tradition, where it was later christianized into Saint George’s and Archangel Michael’s dragon-slayings. In Iranian this dragon-slayer is actually called Verethraghna, a form eroded in Armenian to Veragn (remark that while the rejection of Indra was a central concern of Zarathushtra, Indra’s epithet Verethraghna remained as a separate deity in the Avesta). Obviously, the Iranians and Armenians did not have a history of conquering North-India from the Harappans, as per the AIT itself, so we may safely assume that the Vrtra myth has nothing to do with an Aryan-Harappan war. Nor is there any evidence that there ever was any war between Aryans and Harappans in the first place. No large-scale destruction of Harappan cities has been noticed. Contrast this with the IE expansion in the Balkans. From linguistic evidence, we understand that the Hellenes (Greeks) along with the Illyrians and Thracians supplanted or absorbed a highly civilized non-IE native population, whose culture is known as the VinCa culture (after its richest excavation site near Belgrade). These natives had used an as yet undeciphered writing system reportedly going back to 5300 BC, and disappearing along with the Old European culture in about 3500 BC. So there it really was an advanced civilization being overrun by barbarian invaders who largely destroyed it. That model is being projected onto the Vedic-Harappan history: a literate urban and agricultural civilization being overrun by semi-nomadic horsemen. But the crucial difference is that in the Balkans, this violent scenario is attested by archaeological findings: “The existence of archaeologically attested burnt layers at many settlements is evidence for military confrontations between the native farmers of Southeast Europe and the cattle-breeding nomads from South Russia.” (60) The same thing happened when, according to most specialists, the Greeks entered mainland Greece in 1,900 BC, driving the last remains of Old European culture to their last refuge on Crete: “numerous destructions”, “widespread destruction on the mainland, but no destruction on Crete or the islands”. (61) This testimony of many settlements having been burnt down is absent at the Harappan sites. All the same, a whole superstructure of invasionist readings of Indian symbols and mythology has been erected on the invasionist suspicion that, in Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s famous words, “Indra stands accused” of destroying the Harappan civilization.


4. 7. 2. Continuity between Indra and Shiva

Once Indra had been identified by the AIT as a deified tribal leader of the invaders, an antagonism was elaborated between the “Aryan” sky-god Indra and the “pre-Aryan” fertility god Shiva; Indra being the winner of the initial military confrontation, but Shiva having the last laugh by gradually winning over the conquerors to the cult of the subdued natives. As I heard a Catholic priest from Kerala claim, “Shiva is not a Hindu god, because he is the god of the pre-Aryans.” That Shiva was the god of the Harappans, is based on a single Harappan finding, the so-called Pashupati seal. It depicts a man with a strange headwear sitting in lotus posture and surrounded by animals. Though not well visible, he seems to have three faces, which may mean that he is a three-faced god (like the famous three-faced Shiva sculpture in the Elephanta cave), or that he is a four-faced god with the back face undepictable on a two-dimensional surface. The common speculation is that this is Shiva in his Pashupati (“lord of beasts”) aspect. Ever since the discovery of the Gundestrup cauldron in Central Europe, which depicts the Celtic horned god Cernunnos similarly seated between animals, this Pashupati seal is actually an argument in favour of the IE character of Harappan culture. Let us, nevertheless, go with the common opinion: Shiva for the Harappans, Indra for the Aryans. Those who see it this way have never explained why the dominant Aryans have, over the centuries, abandoned their victorious god (Indra is practically not worshipped in any of the temples manned by Brahminical priests) in favour of the god of their defeated enemies. At any rate, when we study these two divine characters, we find that they are not all that antagonistic. Shiva is usually identified with the Vedic god Rudra. It so happens that Indra’s and Rudra’s domains are more or less the same: both are thundering sky gods. In mythology, Indra is, like Shiva, a bit of an outsider, who is in conflict with the other gods, shunned by them (and even by his mother), left alone by them to fight the Dragon, doing things that disrupt the world order. Christians who picture Jesus as the friend of the outcasts, may like to know that the despised “Aryan racist god” Indra is in fact on the side of the outcasts: “Indra, you lifted up the outcast who was oppressed, you glorified the blind and the lame.” (Rg-Veda 2:13:12) As David Frawley has shown, Indra has many epithets and attributes which were later associated with Shiva: the dispeller of fear, the lord of mAyA (enchantment), the bull, the dancer, the destroyer of cities (Indra purandara, Shiva tripurahara). (62) Both are associated with mountains, rivers, male fertility, fierceness, fearlessness, warfare, transgression of established mores, the Aum sound, the Supreme Self. Shiva and Indra are both associated with intoxication. Indra is praised as having a tremendous appetite for the psychedelic soma juice. Shiva has Soma-Shiva as one of his aspects, a name containing one of those Brahminical etymology games: Soma is the Vedic intoxicant, and also the moon (as in SomwAr, “Monday”), which is part of Shiva’s iconography (hence his, epithet SomanAtha). The now-popular theory that Shiva is a non-Vedic and anti-Vedic god, is partly based on the Puranic story of the destruction of Daksha’s sacrifice. Daksha is the father of Shiva’s beloved Sati: he rebukes Shiva, Sati commits suicide, and Shiva vents his anger by disturbing the sacrifice which Daksha is conducting. Daksha refuses to worship Shiva because Shiva is vedabAhya, “outside the Vedas”; as in a fit of anger, mortals also call their relatives all kinds of inaccurate names. As David Frawley shows, the Daksha story is quite parallel to the Vedic story of Indra stealing the soma from Twashtr and even killing the latter, and to the Vedic story of Rudra killing Prajapati. In each case, a god who disrupts or “destroys” the world order, is seen to defeat a god representing the process of creation, which is equated with the process of the Vedic sacrifice (the Creator creates the world by sacrificing). The destroyer-god, himself a cornerstone of the created world, disrupts the creative sacrifice. David Frawley restores these stories to their traditional metaphysical interpretation: “Both Indra’s and Shiva’s role of destroying Prajapati or his son relate to their role as eternity (absolute time) destroying time or the year (relative time) represented by Prajapati and the sacrifice.” (63) Personally, I prefer the more physical explanation given by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and in consonance with modern insights into mythology, viz. that the victory of the one god over the other may simply refer to the replacement of one constellation by the next as the stellar location of the equinox. The outsider role of Shiva in the Puranic pantheon is the continuation of Indra’s role in the Vedic pantheon, which in turn is only the Indian version of a role which exists in the other IE pantheons as well, e.g. the Germanic fire god Loki or the Greco-Roman warrior-god Ares/Mars. Shiva also continues Indra’s role of warrior-god. Till today, many Shiva sadhus are proficient in the martial arts. The Shaiva war-cry Hara Hara Mahadev is still used by some regiments of the Indian army as well as by Hindu demonstrators during communal confrontations. (64) Finally, shiva, “the auspicious one”, is an epithet of not only Rudra but of Vedic gods in general. Indra himself is called shiva several times (Rg-Veda 2:20:3, 6:45:17, 8:93:3). Shiva is by no means a non-Vedic god, and Indra never really disappeared from popular Hinduism but lives on under another name.



58. André. Van Lysebeth: Tantra, p. 25.

59. A very elaborate interpretation of the whole Rg-Veda as a report on the destruction of the Harappan “Asura Empire” by the Aryan invaders is Malati Shendge: The Civilized Demons. The Harappans in Rg-Veda.

60. Harald Haarmann: Universalgeschichte der Schrift, p. 80.

61. William F. Wyatt, jr. : “The Indo-Europeanization of Greece”, in Cardona et al. , eds. : Indo-European and Indo-Europeans, p. 89-111, specifically p-93.

62. D. Frawley: Gods, Sages and Kings, p. 224-225, and in more detail: Arise Arjuna, p. 170-181.

63. D. Frawley: Arise Arjuna, p. 177. The symbolism of eternity and time is very clear in the iconography of Shiva’s consort KAli. Representing all-devouring time, she dances on Shiva’s unconscious body: the world of change and destruction exists and affects us as long as the timeless self-consciousness of the Self has not awoken.

64. In the Chanakya TV-serial, broadcast in truncated version on Doordarshan in 1992, the Hara Hara Mahadev sequences were censored out for fear that they might arouse communal passions.


4. Miscellaneous aspects of the Aryan invasion debate


4. 8. 1. Dasa

Though not a pandit or philologist, Dalit leader Dr. Ambedkar took the trouble of verifying the meaning and context, in every single instance, of the Vedic terms which Western scholars often mentioned as proof of a conflict between white Aryan invaders and dark non-Aryan aboriginals. (65) His line of argument has been elaborated further by V. S. Pathak and Shrikant Talageri. (66) Among the Vedic terms figuring prominently in the AIT reading of the Vedas, the most important one is probably dAsa. DAsa, known to mean “slave, servant” in classical Sanskrit, but in the Rg-Veda the name of an enemy tribe, along with the apparently related word dasyu, is interpreted in AIT parlance as “aboriginal”. More probably these words designate the Vedic people’s white-skinned n cousins, who at one point became their enemies, for both terms exist in Iranian, dahae being one of the Iranian tribes, and dahyu meaning “tribe, nation”. The original meaning of dAsa, long preserved in the Khotanese dialect of Iranian, is “man”; it is used in this sense in the Vedic names DivodAs, “divine man” and SudAs, “good man”. (67) In Iranian, it always preserved its neutral or positive meaning, it is only in late-Vedic that it acquired a hostile and ultimately a degrading connotation. Strangely a similar evolution has taken place in Greek, where doulos, “slave”, is an evolute of *doselos, from *dos-, the IE root of dAsa. The post-Vedic evolution in meaning from an ethnic name to “servant” does not necessarily point to enslavement of enemies; no military event of such nature and relating to the word, dAsa is mentioned in the Vedic literature. Instead of seeing the Vedic people as warriors, we may see them as a prosperous merchant population which at some stage, in a perfectly normal economic development, attracted the inflow of neighbouring populations as guestworkers willing to do the menial work, the way the Biblical twelve sons of Jacob went to Egypt of their own free will, where their children became a class of menial workers. But it is admittedly just as likely that the evolution was from “enemy” through “captive” to “slave”. Whatever the scenario of their social degradation may have been, nothing in the Vedic text shows that the Dasas were dark, nor that they were aboriginals as opposed to invaders.


4. 8. 2. Asura

Asura is the original Indo-Iranian and Vedic term for “Lord”, a form of address both for the gods and for people of rank. The late- and post-Vedic concept of DevAsurasaMgrAma, usually translated as “war between Devas/gods and Asuras/demons”, has led to the notion that this represents a war between two categories of gods, comparable to the Germanic Aesir and Wanir, or to the warring Gods and Titans of Greek mythology. However, there never existed a separate category of celestial beings called Asuras; the Devas themselves were originally addressed as Asura. At this point, we have to give credit to the invasionists for identifying the DevAsurasaMgrAma as essentially a political struggle between two nations using their respective religious terminology as a banner. However, the Asura-worshippers, or Asuras for short, are not the non-Aryan aboriginals of whom we merely assume that they must have worshipped Asura; they are the nation known to worship Asura, or in their own dialect Ahura (epithet Mazda, so “wise Lord”), the usual Iranian term for the Vedic god Varuna, god of the cosmic order and the truth (Rta/arta). The religious difference between Iranians and Vedic “fire-worshippers” was a minor difference in emphasis, and had nothing to do with the causes of their conflict. It was only after a war over the control of prize territory in the Panjab erupted, that the term Asura got identified with the aggression of the Kashmir-based Anava/Iranian people against the Paurava/Vedic heartland in Sapta-Saindhavah, and acquired a negative, anti-Vedic or anti-Deva meaning. Conversely, it must have been on that same occasion that the Iranians turned Deva/Daeva into a term for “demon”.


4. 8. 3. Speech defects

MRdhravAk, “of harsh speech”, could refer to hecklers mocking the Vedic rituals, more or less “blasphemers”. Usually it is interpreted as “speaking a foreign language”, though that is not its literal meaning; and even if correct, this could still refer to another IE language or dialect. Scornful references to other people’s languages are more often about closely related ones, cfr. the many English expressions pejoratively using the word “Dutch”, the language of England’s enemies in the 17th century, but nonetheless also the language which is (except for Frisian) the most closely akin to English. AnAsa is interpreted as a-nAsa, “noseless”, stretched to mean “snub-nosed”; but classical commentators analysed it, just as credibly, as an-Asa, “speechless” (Asa being the regular cognate of Latin os, “mouth”). This type of anthropomorphic imagery. is often used in the Vedas for characterizing natural elements, e.g. fire as “footless”. If referring to people, it is to be remarked that few Indians even among the tribals are snub-nosed. If taken to mean “speechless”, hence perhaps “unintellegible”, the same remark is valid as in the case of mRdhravAk: unintellegibility is most striking when hearing someone speaking a dialect of your own language, i.e. when he was expected to be intellegible in the first place. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that the Vedic people have encountered enemies on some occasions, that some of these enemies did speak a completely different language, that Vedic hymns were composed in preparation or commemoration of the battle, and that the enemies were mentioned in the hymns along with their strange language as their most distinctive trait. So, let us assume that the above terms do refer to people speaking a non-IE language. That would not at all be proof of an Aryan invasion, because both parties may be native, or the non-IE-speaking party may be the invading one. When the Germans invaded France in 1870, 1914 and 1940, the French duly noted that the German language was full of “harsh” sounds; even so, it was the mRdhravAk Germans who were the invaders.


4. 8. 4. Black

KRsNayoni (“from a black womb”), kRshNatvac (“black-skinned”), tvacamasiknIm (id. ), asiknivishah (“black tribe”) and other composites involving “black”, read in their contexts, usually refer to darkness, to nightly stratagems in war, or metaphorically to evil. Most languages have expressions like “black deeds”, “dark portends”, “the dark age”, associating darkness with evil, ignorance or danger. Vedic Sanskrit is extremely rich in metaphors, in techno-scientific contexts (for lack of a separate technical jargon) as well as in cultural and religious contexts, e.g. the word go, “cow” can refer to Mother Earth, the sunshine, material wealth, language, the Aum sound, etc. It is not far-fetched to perceive a metaphorical intention behind the use of words like “black”, similar to that in other languages. It also has to be inspected case by case whether the reference is at all to human beings (whether skin-colour or figurative characterization), because many Vedic expressions are about gods and heavenly phenomena. When it is said that Agni, the fire, “puts the dark demons to flight”, one should keep in mind that the darkness was thought to be filled with ghosts or ghouls, so that making light frees the atmosphere of their presence. And when Usha, the dawn, is said to chase the “dark skin” or “the black monster” away, it obviously refers to the cover of nightly darkness over the surface of the earth. (68) The term varNa is understood in classical Sanskrit as “colour”. This is then explained as referring to the symbolic colours attributed to the three cosmological “qualities” (guNa): white corresponds to sattva (clarity), red to rajas (energy) and black to tamas (darkness), following the pattern of daylight, twilight and nightly darkness. Likewise, the different functions in the social spectrum are allotted a member of the colour spectrum: the menial (tAmasika) Shudras are symbolically “black”, the heroic (rAjasika) Kshatriyas are “red”, and the truth-loving (sAttvika) Brahmins are “white”; in addition, the entrepreneurial Vaishyas are considered to have a mixture of qualities, and are allotted the colour yellow. This sense of “colour” has nothing to do with skin colour, as should also be evident from the ancient use of the same colour code among the all-white Germanic peoples. Moreover, “Colour” might even not be the original, Vedic meaning of varNa. Reformist Hindus eager to disentangle the institution of varNa from any doctrines of genetic determinism, derive it from the root var-, “choose” (as in svayamvara, “[a girl’s] own choice [of a husband]”), with the implication that one’s varNa is not a matter of birth but of personal choice. This seems to tally with Stanley Insler’s rendering, in his classic translation of The Gathas of Zarathustra, of the corresponding Avestan term varanA as “preference” (which other translators sometimes stretch to mean “conviction”, “religious affiliation”). But we believe that the root meaning is even simpler. In the Rg-Veda, the word varNa usually (17 out of 22 times) refers to the “lustre” (i.e. “one’s own typical light”, a meaning obviously related to “colour”) of specified gods: Usha, Agni, Soma, etc. (69) As for the remaining cases, in 3:34:5 and 9:71:2 it indicates the lustrous colour of the sky at dawn. In 1:104:2 and 2:12:4, reference is only to quelling the varNa of the DAsas, - meaning “the Dasas’ luster” (in the first case, Ralph Griffith translates it as “the fury of the DAsa”). Finally, in the erotic Rg-Vedic hymn 4:179, verse 6, where Agastya, in doing the needful with his wife Lopamudra to obtain progeny, is said to satisfy “both varNas”, this is understood by some as referring quite plainly to the two families of husband and wife, who rejoice in the arrival of a grandchild. Since the hymn mentions the conflict between sexuality and asceticism, others interpret it as meaning “both paths (of worldliness and world-renunciation)”. At any rate, there is simply no question of reading a racist meaning into it. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, let us assume that some of the above references to “colour” or “blackness” are really about dark-skinned neighbouring tribes. That would still not prove that the lighter-skinned people were invaders. At the same latitude and in essentially the same climate, the people of Mesopotamia are predominantly white; the presence of whitish people in northwestern India can be explained by the same factors as their presence in Mesopotamia, and does not require an invasion. Nor would it prove that the Vedic Aryans were racists: there is not the slightest hint anywhere in the vast Vedic literature that “dark-skinned” tribes were treated as enemies because of their skin colour, that there existed a doctrine of inequality by skin colour. It is only said that these “demons” disrupted the worship of the gods, so that the Aryans had to defend their culture against them. When read in their specific Vedic contexts, the terms which we have just discussed do not fit the “white Aryans attack black Dasas” scenario at all. Most conflicts hinted at in the Vedas and described in the Puranas are between different Aryan tribes and kings. A closer reading of the ancientmost Indian writings reveals a total absence of any immigration stories. In fact, even if there had been mention of a struggle between “whites” and “blacks”, this would still not be proof of an immigration. From Pashtunistan and Kashmir southeastwards, skin colour changes fast from nearly white to nearly black; to a race-conscious observer, a war between two tribes could therefore easily look like a war between “whites” and “blacks”, even when neither tribe had invaded the Indian subcontinent from outside.



65. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, vol. 1, p. 16-22 (from his Caste in India), p. 49 (from his Annihilation of Caste); p. 74-85 (from his Who Were the Shudras?), p. 301-303 (from his The Untouchables). I have discussed these passages in K. Elst: Dr. Ambedkar, a True Aryan, Voice of India, Delhi 1994, p. 15-23.

66. V. S. Pathak: “Semantics of Arya: Its Historical Implications”, in S. B. Deo and Suryanath Kamath: The Aryan Problem, p. 86-99; S. Talageri: Aryan Invasion Theory, p. 226-254.

67. See V. S. Pathak: “Semantics of Arya”, in Deo & Kamath, The Aryan Problem, p. 91-95.

68. This is admitted in so many words by Sir Monier-Williams in his A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, entry tvac. Reference is to Rg Veda 1:92:5 and 4:51:9.

69. As pointed out by Dr. Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, vol. 7, p. 82. It should be kept in mind that gods were primarily identified with stars and their “lustre”.


4. Miscellaneous aspects of the Aryan invasion debate


4. 9. 1. Continuity between castes

Half a century ago, Dr. Ambedkar surveyed the existing data on the physical anthropology of the different castes in his book The Untouchables. He found that the received wisdom of a racial basis of caste was not supported by the data, e.g. : “The table for Bengal shows that the Chandal who stands sixth in the scheme of social precedence and whose touch pollutes, is not much differentiated from the Brahmin (…) In Bombay the Deshastha Brahmin bears a closer affinity to the Son-Koli, a fisherman caste, than to his own compeer, the Chitpavan Brahmin. The Mahar, the Untouchable of the Maratha region, comes next together with the Kunbi, the peasant. They follow in order the Shenvi Brahmin, the Nagar Brahmin and the high-caste Maratha. These results (…) mean that there is no correspondence between social gradation and physical differentiation in Bombay.” (70) A remarkable case of differentiation in skull and nose indexes, noted by Dr. Ambedkar, was found to exist between the Brahmin and the (untouchable) Chamar of Uttar Pradesh. (71) But this does not prove that Brahmins are foreigners, because the data for the U. P. Brahmin were found to be very close to those for the Khattri and the untouchable Chuhra of Panjab. If the U. P. Brahmin is indeed “foreign” to U. P., he is by no means foreign to India, at least not more than the Panjab untouchables. This confirms the scenario which we can derive from the Vedic and ItihAsa-PurANa literature: the Vedic tradition was brought east from the Vedic heartland by Brahmins who were physically indistinguishable from the lower castes there, when the heartland in Panjab-Haryana at its apogee exported its culture to the whole Aryavarta (comparable to the planned importation of Brahmins into Bengal and the South around the turn of the Christian era). These were just two of the numerous intra-Indian migrations of caste groups. Recent research has not refuted Ambedkar’s views. A press report on a recent anthropological survey led by Kumar Suresh Singh explains: “English anthropologists contended that the upper castes of India belonged to the Caucasian race and the rest drew their origin from Australoid types. The survey has revealed this to be a myth. ‘Biologically and linguistically, we are very mixed’, says Suresh Singh (…) The report says that the people of India have more genes in common, and also share a large number of morphological traits. ‘There is much greater homogenization in terms of morphological and genetic traits at the regional level’, says the report. For example, the Brahmins of Tamil Nadu (esp. Iyengars) share more traits with non-Brahmins in the state than with fellow Brahmins in western or northern India. (…) The sons-of-the-soil theory also stands demolished. The Anthropological Survey of India has found no community in India that can’t remember having migrated from some other part of the country.” (72) Internal migration accounts for much of India’s complex ethnic landscape, while there is no evidence of a separate or foreign origin for the upper castes. Among other scientists who reject the identification of caste (varNa) with race on physical-anthropological grounds, we may cite Kailash C. Malhotra: “Detailed anthropometric surveys carried out among the people of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bengal and Tamil Nadu revealed significant regional differences within a caste and a closer resemblance between castes of different varnas within a region than between sub-populations of the caste from different regions. On the basis of analysis of stature, cephalic and nasal index, H. K. Rakshit (1966) concludes that ‘the Brahmins of India are heterogeneous and suggest incorporation of more than one physical type involving more than one migration of people’. “A more detailed study among eight Brahmin castes in Maharashtra on whom 18 metric, 16 scopic and 8 genetic markers were studied, revealed not only a great heterogeneity in both morphological and genetic characteristics but also showed that 3 Brahmin castes were closer to non-Brahmin castes than [to the] other Brahmin castes. P. P. Majumdar and K. C. Malhotra (1974) observed a great deal of heterogeneity with respect to OAB blood group system among 50 Brahmin samples spread over 11 Indian states. The evidence thus suggests that varna is a sociological and not a homogeneous biological entity.” (73)


4. 9. 2 Family traits

This general rejection of the racial basis of caste does not exclude that specific castes stand out in their environment by their phenotypical or genotypical characteristics. Firstly, any group that goes on breeding endogamously for generations will have “family traits” recognizable to the regular and sharp observer, at least to a statistically significant extent. This does not mean that these family traits (rarely distinctive enough to be called “racial” traits) are in any way the reason why one caste refuses to intermarry with another caste, as you would have in the case of racial discrimination. Secondly, intra-Indian migrations have taken place so that certain caste groups stand out by retaining the physical characteristics of their source region’s population for quite a few generations. Thus, the Muslim invasions chased some Rajput castes from western India to the Nepalese borderland, and some Saraswat Brahmins from Kashmir to the Konkan region; geneticists ought to be able to find traces of that history. It is well-known that the Brahmin communities of Bengal and South India originated in the physical importation of Brahmin families by kings who sought accession to the prestigious Vedic civilization and wanted to give extra religious legitimacy to their thrones. These Brahmin families were brought in from northwestern India where, for obvious geographical reason, people are whiter and closer to the European physical type than in Bengal or the South. (Even so, due to intermarriage and the incorporation of local priesthoods, numerous Brahmins in South India are simply black. ) Apart from Brahmins, numerous other caste groups throughout India have histories of immigration, putting them in environments where they differed in genetic profile from their neighbours, e.g. the Dravidian-speaking Oraon tribals of Chotanagpur recall having migrated from Maharashtra along the Narmada river. The Chitpavan Brahmins of Maharashtra are often mentioned as a caste that stands out by its physical type. Their slightly more “Nordic” build and the occurrence of blue eyes among them look like the perfect evidence for the theory that the Brahmins are the descendents of the Nordic Aryans who invaded India in 1500 BC. In fact, it is only during the initial Islamic onslaught that the Chitpavans migrated from the Afghan borderland to their present habitat. Nevertheless, the Chitpavan case shows that sometimes, such distinctive family traits do coincide with the difference between the higher or lower incidence of the distinctive traits of the white race, esp. the low pigmentation of the skin or, in this case, the eyes. The difference between castes can in some cases be expressed in terms of the respective distances between their average characteristics and those of the European type. And this is only to be expected given the basic fact that India is a large country with great variation in physical type and lying in the border zone between the major races. The rich biological variety in the Indian chapter of the human species is due to many factors, but so far the Aryan Invasion has not been shown to be one of them.


4. 9. 3. Mixing of castes

The genetic differential between castes has recently been confirmed in a survey in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. (74) The main finding of the survey, conducted by human-geneticists Lynn B. Jorde (University of Utah) and Bhaskara B. Rao and J. M. Naidu (both with Andhra University), concerned the role of inter-caste marriages: men stay in their castes, while women sometimes go and live with a man from another, mostly higher caste. In spite of the definition of caste as an “endogamous group”, the fact is that there has always been a marginal mixing of castes as well. Likewise, even outside the marital framework, upper-class employers (in any society) have made passes at their maid-servants, while prostitutes got impregnated by their higher-class clients, all producing mixed offspring. Factoring all these marginal mixed-caste births in, the cumulative effect over centuries is that the castes have mixed much more than the theory of caste would lead you to expect. Over many generations, this mixing had to lead to a thorough genetic kinship even between castes of very divergent origins. Given these known sociological facts, the scientists naturally found that genetic traits in the male line (Y chromosome) are stable, those in the female line (mitochondrial DNA) considerably less so. Because inter-caste marriages are mostly between “neighbouring” castes in the hierarchy, the genetic distance between highest and lowest is about one and a half times greater than that between high and middle or between middle and low. However, none of this requires a policy of racial discrimination nor an Aryan invasion into India: the known history of internal migrations and the general facts about relations between higher and lower classes in all societies can easily account for it. (75) Moreover, the observed differences between Indian communities are much smaller than those between Indians collectively and Europeans (or Africans etc.) collectively. A provisional table of the genetic distance between populations shows that North-Indians and South-Indians are indeed very close, much closer than “Aryan” North-Indians and “Aryan” Iranians are to each other. (76) Both sides in the debate should realize that this evidence can cut both ways. If an Aryan or other invasion is assumed, this evidence shows that all castes are biologically the progeny of both invaders and natives, though perhaps in different proportions. Conversely, if the genetic distance between two castes is small, this still leaves open the possibility that the castes or their communal identities can nonetheless have divergent origins, even foreign versus native, although these are obscured to the geneticist by centuries of caste mixing.


4. 9. 4. Tribals and “Caucasians”

The one important general difference between two parts of the population is that between a number of tribes on the one hand, and some other tribes plus the non-tribals on the other. V. Bhalla’s mapping of genetic traits shows that the latter category roughly belongs to the Mediterranean subgroup of the Caucasian race (though by the superficial criterion of skin colour, it can differ widely from the type found in Italy or Greece). Incidentally, the term Caucasian as meaning the white race was coined in 1795 by the German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who believed that the Caucasus region, particularly Georgia, “produces the most beautiful human race”, and that it was the most likely habitat of “the autochthonous, most original forms of mankind”. (77) Thus, the typically Caucasian Rhesus-negative factor is “conspicuous by its absence” in the Mongoloid populations of India’s northeast, but the non-tribal populations “show a moderately high frequency of 15% to 20% but not as high as in Europe” of this genetic trait. (78) Bhalla lists a number of specific genes which are characteristically strong or weak in given racial types, and finds that they do define certain ethnic sub-groups of India, esp. the Mongoloid tribals of the northeast, the Negritos of the Andaman Islands, and the Australoids in the remaining tribal pockets of the south. Everywhere else, including in many tribal areas, the Mediterranean type is predominant, but the present battery of genetic markers was not able to distinguish between subtypes within this population, much less to indicate different waves of entry. In fact, no “entry” of these Mediterranean Caucasians can be derived from the data, certainly not for the post-Harappan period. According to an older study, they were present even in South India in 2,000 BC at the latest: “The evidence of two racial types, the Mediterranean and the Autochthonous proto-Australoid, recognized in the study of the skeletal remains from the neolithic levels at Brahmagiri, Piklihal, Tekkalakota, Nevasa etc. , seems to suggest that there was a thick population consisting mainly of these two races in South India around 2000 BC.” (79) The Caucasian race was present in India (like in Europe and the Kurgan area) since hoary antiquity. Kailash Malhotra reports, starting with their geographical spread today: “The Caucasoids are found practically all over the country, though the preferred habitats have been river valleys and plains.” (80) In the past, the Caucasian presence was also in evidence: “Although a large number of prehistoric sites have been excavated in India, only a few of them have yielded human osseous remains (…) None of the pre-Mesolithic sites have yielded skeletal material; the earliest remains are around 8,000 years old. An examination of the morphological features of skeletons from sites of the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic and iron age periods reveals the presence of Australoids and Caucasoids in all the periods, the absence of Mongoloids, and the existence of at least two types of Caucasoids, the dolichocephals and the brachycephals (…) The skeletal evidence thus clearly establishes the presence of Australoids and Caucasoids in India for at least 8,000 years.” (81) All that can be said, is that the population of India’s northeast is akin to that of areas to India’s north and east, that of the southeast to that of countries further southeast, and the bulk of the Indian population to that of areas to India’s west. Probably a large demographic expansion from India’s northwest to the east and south took place during and at the end of the Harappan period (2,000 BC). It is logical to infer that the populations of the Mediterranean type were more concentrated in the northwest prior to that time; but it does not follow that they came from the outside. India’s northwest simply happened to be the easternmost area of Caucasian habitation, just like India’s northeast happens to be the frontier of the Mongoloid type’s habitat. For politically correct support in denying the racial divide between tribals and non-tribals, we may cite the Marxist scholar S. K. Chatterjee, who dismissed the notion of distinct races in India, be they Aryan, Dravidian, Mongoloid or Austro-Asiatic. He called the Indian people a “mixed people, in blood, in speech and in culture”. (82) Though the Christian missionaries have been the champions of tribal distinctness, Christian author P. A. Augustine writes about the Bhil tribals: “The Bhils have long ceased to be a homogeneous people. In the course of millennia, various elements have fused to shape the community. During their long and tortuous history, other aboriginal groups which came under their sway have probably merged with them, losing their identity. One can see a wide range of physical types and complexion. The variation in complexion is very striking indeed, ranging between fair to quite dark-skinned (…) There is no consensus among scholars on the exact ethnic character of the Bhils, They have been alternatively described as proto-Australoid, Dravidian or Veddoid.” (83) The same racial “impurity” counts for most Indians, tribal as well as non-tribal. While not by itself disproving the Aryan invasion, it should prove even to invasionists that all Indians are descendents of both indigenous and so-called invader populations.


4. 9. 5. Language and genetics

While it is wrong to identify a speech community with a physical type, it is also wrong to discard physical anthropology completely as a source of information on human migrations in pre-literate times. Lately, findings have been published which suggest that, for all the racial mingling that has taken place, there is still a broad statistical correlation between certain physical characteristics and nations, even language groups. Thus, the percentage of individuals with the Rhesus-negative factor is the highest (over 25%) among the Basques, a nation in the French-Spanish borderland which has preserved a pre-IE language. Other pockets of high incidence of Rh-neg. (which is nearly non-existent among the Bantus, Austroloids and Mongoloids) are in the same part of the world: western Morocco, Scotland and, strangely, the Baltic area, or apparently those backwater regions least affected by immigrations of the first Neolithic farmers (from the Balkans and Anatolia), the Indo-Europeans, and in Morocco also the Arabs. Another European nation which stands out, at least to the discerning eye of the population geneticist, is the Sami (Lapp) population of northern Scandinavia: when contrasted genetically with the surrounding populations, the Sami genetic make-up “points to kinship with the peoples of North Siberia” eventhough they now resemble the Europeans more than the native Siberians. (84) This confirms the suspicion of an Asian origin for the Uralic-speaking peoples of which the Sami people is one. Where a small group of people have spread out over a vast area and lived in isolation ever since, as has happened in large parts of America in the past 20,000 years, genetic differentiation and linguistic differentiation have gone hand in hand, and the borderline between genetic types usually coincides with a linguistic borderline: “Joseph Greenberg distinguishes three language families among the Native Americans: Amerind, Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut. (…) According to Christy Turner of Arizona University, Native American dental morphology indicates three groups, which coincide with Greenberg’s. Luigi Cavalli-Sforza from Stanford investigated a variegated set of human genes. His results equally point in the direction of Greenberg’s classification.” (85) Linguistic difference between populations may coincide with genetic differences; and likewise, linguistic mixing may coincide with genetic mixing. A perfect illustration is provided by Nelson Mandela, leader of the anti-Apartheid struggle and belonging to the Xhosa nation. His facial features are more Khoi (Hottentot) than Bantu, and his language, Xhosa, happens to be a Bantu language strongly influenced by the Khoi-San (Hottentot-Bushman) languages, most strikingly by adopting the click sounds. In this case, genetic mixing and linguistic mixing have gone hand in hand. However, in and around the area of IE expansion, a notorious crossroads of migrating peoples, the remaining statistical correlation between genetic traits and language groups is less important than the evidence for the opposite phenomenon: languages spreading across genetic frontiers. In India, the only neat racial division which coincides with a linguistic borderline is between the mainland and the Andamans: though so-called Negrito features are dimly visible in the population of Orissa and surrounding areas, the pure Negrito type is confined to the Andamans, along with the Andamanese language group. For the rest, in India, like in Central Asia or Europe, i.e. in areas with lots of migration and interaction between diverse peoples, genetic and linguistic divisions only coincide by exception. Thus, the Altaic languages are spoken by the Mongolians, eponymous members of the Mongoloid race, and by the Turks, who have mixed so thoroughly with their Persian, Armenian, Greek and Slavic neighbours that they now belong to the Caucasian race. The Hungarians are genetically closer to their Slavic and German neighbours than to their linguistic cousins in the Urals. India being the meeting-place (or rather, mixing-place) of Mongoloid, Caucasian and Austroloid racial strands, it is naturally impossible to identify the speakers of the different Indian language-groups with different races. Asked whether there are “concordances between genetic data and languages”, L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, the world’s leading population geneticist, explains: “Yes, very much so. Our genealogical tree [of genetic traits] corresponds remarkably well with the table of linguistic families. There are a few exceptions e.g. the Lapps, genetically rather European, have preserved the language they spoke in their Siberian-Uralic homeland. The Hungarians, similarly, speak an Uralic language while being predominantly European. In the late 9th century AD, the Magyar invaders in Hungary, then called Pannonia, imposed their language on the natives. (…) What counts from a genetic viewpoint, is the number of invaders relative to the natives. As the Hungarians were not very numerous, they left only a feeble genetic imprint on the population.” (86) So, the replacement of native languages by those of less civilized but stronger invaders is a real possibility (it is also what the Greeks did to the Old Europeans), though it becomes less probable in proportion to the size and the cultural superiority of the native population. The reason why the replacement of native languages by the languages of genetically distinguishable invaders remains relatively exceptional, is this: “In a traditional culture, language is transmitted vertically from parents to children, just like the genes. But in some conquests or in civilizations with schools, there is also horizontal transmission and substitution of languages. The Romans organized schools in their part of Europe and thereby managed to replace the native languages by their own. But this type of phenomenon is relatively recent. In 90% of its history, mankind consisted of hunter-gatherers speaking tribal languages. That is why the genetic tree has preserved a strong concordance with the linguistic tree.” (87) A typical example are the Basques: “The Basque language is the direct descendent of a language which must have arrived along with modern mankind, say 30,000 years ago. It is [in Europe] the only pre-Indo-European language which has been preserved. Why? Probably because the Basque people had a very strong social cohesion. Genetically too, the Basques are different. They have mixed very little. All the other Europeans have lost their original language and adopted an Indo-European language.” (88) So, the Basques are both biologically and linguistically the straight descendants of Old Europeans. Most other Europeans are biologically the progeny of the non-IE-speaking Old Europeans, with some admixture of the Asian tribes who originally brought the IE languages into Europe. These immigrants may have differed somewhat from the average European type, into which their smaller number got genetically drowned over the centuries. Linguistically, most non-Basque (and non-Uralic) Europeans are the progeny, through adoption, of the IE-speaking invaders.


4. 9. 6. The original “Aryan race”

Is there anything we can say about the ethnic identity of the nomads or migrants who spread the early IE languages, if only to help physical-anthropologists to recognize them when found at archaeological sites? Competent authorities have warned against the “semi-conscious prejudices on original genetic characteristics of the Indo-Europeans: they are supposed to be blond and blue-eyed”. (89) This prejudice has even been reinforced recently by the discovery of blond-haired mummies of presumably IE-speaking people in the Xinjiang province of China. (90) The fact that the IE speech community includes people of diverse race, from the dark-skinned Sinhalese to the white-skinned Scandinavians, definitely implies that the spread of the language cannot be equated with the spread of a racial type. Languages can and do migrate across racial boundaries. That the IE languages crossed racial frontiers during their expansion accords well with established perspectives on the spread of IE, e.g. by I. M. Diakonov: “These expanding tribes met local, poor and hungry sparser populations, often consisting of hunters and cattle-breeders. The migrants started to merge with the local population, giving them their language and cultural achievements. But in some cases, the local population may have been larger in numbers than the migrants. In some historical situations the language of the minority, if it was widely used and understandable on a vast territory, could be accepted as lingua franca, and later as the common language, particularly if it was a language of cattle-breeders (cf. the examples of the Semites and the Turks). The area of the newly created population became itself a centre of population spread, and so on. Bloody conquests could take place in some instances; in others it was not the case, but the important thing to realize is that what migrated were languages, not peoples, although there had to be at least a handful of users of the languages, though not necessarily native speakers.” (91) On the other hand, the fact that the PIE-speaking community must have been a fairly small ethnic group, living together and marrying mostly within the community, implies that they must have belonged collectively to a fairly precisely circumscribed physical type. Even if you throw together people from all races, after a few generations of interbreeding they will develop a common and distinctive physical type, with atavistic births of people resembling the pure type of one of the ancestral races becoming rarer and rarer. Therefore, in the days before intercontinental travel and migrations, a speech community was normally also a kinship group (or, in strict caste societies, a conglomerate of kinship groups) presenting a fairly homogeneous physical type. During the heyday of the racial theories, a handful of words in Greek sources were taken to mean that the ancient Indo-Europeans were fair-haired and had a tall Nordic-looking build. In Homer’s description, the Greek heroes besieging Troy were fair-haired. The Egyptians described the “Sea Peoples” from the Aegean region (and even their Libyan co-invaders, presumably Berber-speaking) as fair-haired. The Chinese described the Western (Tokharic) barbarians likewise. However, the incidence of Nordic looks was not necessarily overwhelming. In classical Greek writings, the Thracians and Macedonians (most notably Alexander the Great), whose language belonged to an extinct Balkanic branch of the IE family, are mentioned as being fair-haired; apparently most Greeks were by then dark enough to notice this fair colour as a trait typical of their “barbaric” northern neighbours. The Armenians have a legend of their own king Ara the Blond and his eventful personal relationship with the Assyrian queen Sammuramat/Semiramis (about 810 BC), who is known to have fought Urartu (the pre-IE name of Armenia, preserved in the Biblical mountain name Ararat). The use of “the blond” as a distinctive epithet confirms the existence of fair-haired people in Armenia, but also their conspicuousness and relative rarity. All this testimony, along with the Xinjiang mummies and the presence of Nordic looks in the IE-speaking (Dardic/Kafiri) tribes in the Subcontinent’s northwestern valleys, does suggest a long-standing association between some branches of the IE family and the genes which program their carriers to have fair hair and blue eyes. These traits give a comparative advantage for survival in cold latitudes: just as melanine protects against the excessive intake of ultraviolet rays in sunny latitudes, lack of melanine favours the intake of ultraviolet. This segment of the sunrays is needed in the production of vitamin D, which in turn is needed in shaping the bones; its deficiency causes rachitis and makes it difficult for women to birth - a decisive handicap in the struggle for life. The link between northern latitudes and the light colour of skin, hair and eyes in many IE-speaking communities only proves what we already knew: IE is spoken in fairly northern latitudes including Europe and Central Asia. Yet, none of this proves the fair-haired and blue-eyed point about the speakers of the original proto-language PIE. Suppose, with the non-invasion theorists, that the original speakers of IE had been Indians with dark eyes and dark hair; then, according to I. M. Diakonov: “if this population had migrated together with the languages, blue-eyed Balts could not have originated from it. Blue eyes, as a recessive characteristic, are met everywhere from Europe to the Hindu Kush. But nobody can be blue-eyed if neither of his/her parents had blue-eyed ancestors, and a predominantly blue-eyed population cannot originate from ancestors with predominantly black eyes.” (92) This allows for two possible scenarios. Either the PIE speakers were indeed blue-eyed and fair-haired: that is the old explanation, preferred by the Nazis. (93) Or the blue-eyed people of Europe have not inherited their IE languages from their biological ancestors, but changed language at some point along the genealogical line, abandoning the pre-IE Old European language of their fair ancestors in favour of Proto-Germanic, Proto-Baltic, Proto-Slavic etc. , based on the language of the invaders from Asia. The latter scenario would agree with I. M. Diakonov’s observation: “The biological situation among the speakers of modern Indo-European languages can only be explained through a transfer of languages like a baton, as it were, in a relay race, but not by several thousand miles’ migration of the tribes themselves.” (94) That this is far from impossible is demonstrated by the Turks who, after centuries of mixing with subdued natives of West Asia and the Balkans, have effectively crossed the racial borderline from yellow to white. But against using this Turkish scenario as a simile for the story of IE dispersal, one could point out that some eastern Turkic people, such as the Kirghiz and the Yakut, are still very much Mongoloids. However, far from forming a contrast with the IE state of affairs, this makes the simile more splendid: if IE spread from a non-white to a white population, it also remained the language of numerous non-whites (though technically “Caucasians”), viz. the Indians. On the Eurasian continent, South-Asians still constitute more than half of the wider IE speech community; the Indian Republic alone has more IE speakers than the whole of Europe. It is perfectly possible that the PIE language and culture were developed after a non-white group of colonists from elsewhere settled among and got racially immersed in a larger whitish population. As we saw in our speculations about IE-Austronesian kinship and about Puranic history, it is at least conceivable that Aryan culture in India started after “Manu” and his dark-skinned cohorts fled the rising sea level by moving up the Ganga and settling high and dry in the upper Ganga basin, whence their progeny conquered areas to the northwest with even whiter-skinned and lighter-haired populations: the Saraswati basin, the upper Indus basin, the Oxus riverside, the peri-Caspian region. By the time these Indian colonists settled in eastern Europe with their Kurgans, their blackness had been washed off by generations of intermarriage with white people of the type attested by the Xinjiang mummies. (Likewise, their material culture had been thoroughly adapted to their new habitat, hence de-indianized. ) So, it is perfectly possible that the Aryan heartland lay farther to the southeast, and that, like eastern Europe in the later 5th millennium BC, the Panjab area a few centuries earlier was already a first area of colonization, bringing people of a new and whiter physical type into the expanding Aryan speech community which was originally darker. While the Panjabi is physically very similar to the European, the Bihari, Oriya or Nepali is markedly less so, and yet it is possible that he represents more closely the ultimate Proto-Indo-European.


4. 9. 7. The race of the Vedic Aryans

As for the Vedas, the only ones whom they describe as “golden-haired” are the resplendent lightning gods Indra and Rudra and the sun-god Savitar; not the Aryans or Brahmins. At the same time, several passages explicitly mention black hair when referring to Brahmins. (95) These texts are considerably earlier than the enigmatic passage in Patanjali describing Brahmins as golden- or tawny-haired (piNgala and kapisha). (96) Already one of Patanjali’s early commentators dismissed this line as absurd. To the passage from the grammarian Panini which describes Brahmins as “brown-haired”, A. A. Macdonnell notes (apparently against contemporary claims to the contrary): “All we can say is that the above-mentioned expressions do not give evidence of blonde characteristics of the ancient Brahmans.” (97) Considering that Patanjali was elaborating upon the work of Panini, could it have anything to do with Panini’s location in the far northwest, where lighter hair must have been fairly common? On the other hand, demons or Rakshasas, so often equated with the “dark-skinned aboriginals”, have on occasion been described as red- or tawny-haired (also piNgala or kapisha, the same as Patanjali’s Brahmins). (98) Deviating from the usual Indian line that all these demon creatures are but supernatural entities, let us for once assume that they do represent hostile tribals racially distinct from the Vedic Aryans. In that case, reference can only be to certain northwestern tribals, among whom fair and red hair are found till today, indicating that they at least partly descended from a fair-haired population. If the Vedic Aryans were dark-haired and migrated from inside India to the northwest, these odd coloured hairs may have struck them as distinctive. In modern Anglo-Hindu publications, such as the Amar Chitra KathA religious comics, Rakshasas are always depicted as dark-skinned, a faithful application of the AIT. Yet, there are instances in Vedic literature where “blackness” is imputed to people whom we know to have had the same (if not a lighter) skin colour than the Vedic Aryans: the Dasas and Dasyus, as Asko Parpola has shown, were the Iranian cousins and neighbours of the Vedic Aryans. Physical (as opposed to metaphorical) blackness or more generally skin colour was never a criterion by which the Vedic Aryans classified their neighbours and enemies; that precisely is why we have no direct testimony on the Vedic Aryans’ own skin or hair colour except through a few ambiguous, indirect and passing references.


4. 9. 8. Evidence of immigration?

A very recent study, not on crude skull types but on the far more precise genetic traits, confirms the absence of an immigration from Central Asia in the second millennium BC. Brian E. Hemphill and Alexander F. Christensen report on their study of the migration of genetic traits (with reference to AIT advocate Asko Parpola): “Parpola’s suggestion of movement of Proto-Rg-Vedic Aryan speakers into the Indus Valley by 1800 BC is not supported by our data. Gene flow from Bactria occurs much later, and does not impact Indus Valley gene pools until the dawn of the Christian era.” (99) The inflow which they do find, around the turn of the Christian era, is apparently that of the well-known Shaka and Kushana invasions. Kenneth A. R. Kennedy reaches similar conclusions from his physical-anthropological data: “Evidence of demographic discontinuities is present in our study, but the first occurs between 6000 and 4500 BC (a separation of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic populations of Mehrgarh) and the second is after 800 BC, the discontinuity being between the peoples of Harappa, Chalcolithic Mehrgarh and post-Harappan Timargarha on the one hand and the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age inhabitants of Sarai Khola on the other. In short, there is no evidence of demographic disruptions in the northwestern sector of the subcontinent during and immediately after the decline of the Harappan culture. If Vedic Aryans were a biological entity represented by the skeletons from Timargarha, then their biological features of cranial and dental anatomy were not distinct to a marked degree from what we encountered in the ancient Harappans.” (100) Kennedy also notes the anthropological continuity between the Harappan population and that of the contemporaneous Gandhara (eastern Afghanistan) (101) culture, which in an Aryan invasion scenario should be the Indo-Aryan settlement just prior to the Aryan invasion of India: “Our multivariate approach does not define the biological identity of an ancient Aryan population, but it does indicate that the Indus Valley and Gandhara peoples shared a number of craniometric, odontometric and discrete traits that point to a high degree of biological affinity.” (102) And so, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, one of the great pioneers of the AIT, may be right after all. Indeed, even he had remarked that “the anthropologists who have recently described the skeletons from Harappa remark that there, as at Lothal, the population would appear, on the available evidence, to have remained more or less stable to the present day.” (103) If anything Aryan really invaded, it was at any rate not an Aryan race. There are no indications that the racial composition and distribution of the Indian population has substantially changed since the start of the IE dispersal, which cannot reasonably be placed much earlier than 6,000 BC. This means that even if the IE language is imported, as claimed by the AIT, the IE-speaking people in India are nevertheless biologically native to India. Or in practice: the use of the terms “aboriginal” and “indigenous” (AdivAsI) as designating India’s tribals, with the implication that the non-tribals are the non-indigenous progeny of invaders, has to be rejected and terminated, even if the Urheimat of the IE languages is found to lie outside India. One of the ironies of Indian identity politics is that those most vocal in claiming an “aboriginal” identity may well be the only ones whose foreign origin has been securely established. The Adivasi movement is strongest in the areas where Christian missionaries were numerously present since the mid-19th century to nourish it, viz. in Chotanagpur and the North-East. Most tribals there speak languages belonging to the Austro-Asiatic and Sino-Tibetan families. Their geographical origin, unlike that of IE which is still being debated, is definitely outside India, viz. in Southeast Asia c.q. in northern China. The Tibeto-Burmese tribals of Nagaland and other northeastern statelets are among India’s most recent immigrants. Many of those tribes have entered during the last millennium, which is very late by Indian standards. As for the Munda tribes in Chotanagpur, it is not even certain that the ancestors of the present tribes are the authors of the attested Neolithic cultures in their present habitat. In H. D. Sankalia’s words: “It is an unanswered but interesting question whether any of the Aboriginal tribes of these regions were the authors of the Neolithic culture.” (104) Those who want to give the Austro-Asiatic peoples of India a proud heritage, will find more of it in China and Indochina than in India, e.g. in the Bronze age culture of 2300 BC in Thailand. On the other hand, biologically the Indian Austro-Asiatics (unlike the Nagas) are much closer to the other Indians than to their linguistic cousins in the east. Exactly like the Indo-Aryans in the Aryan invasion hypothesis, they are predominantly Indian people speaking a foreign-originated language: “Whereas the now Dravidian-speaking tribals of Central and South India can be considered to be descendents of the original inhabitants of India, who gave up their original languages in favour of Dravidian, Tibeto-Chinese speaking tribals (Northeast India) and Austro-Asiatic speaking ones (East India) immigrated into India since ancient historical times. Most likely they came in several waves from Southern China (Tibeto-Chinese speakers) and from Southeast Asia (Austro-Asiatic speakers) respectively. Without doubt these immigrating groups met with ancient Indian populations, which were living already on their migration routes, and thus one cannot exclude some cultural and also genetic contacts between immigrants and original inhabitants of India, at least at some places.” (105) In the case of Indo-Aryan, by contrast, its speakers have obviously also mixed with other communities, but its foreign origin has not been firmly established.


4. 9. 9. Conclusion

We may conclude with a recent status quaestionis by archaeologist Jonathan Mark Kenoyer of Wisconsin University at Madison: “Although the overall socioeconomic organization changed, continuities in technology, subsistence practices, settlement organization, and some regional symbols show that the indigenous population was not displaced by invading hordes of Indo-Aryan speaking people. For many years, the ‘invasions’ or ‘migrations’ of these Indo-Aryan-speaking Vedic/Aryan tribes explained the decline of the Indus civilization and the sudden rise of urbanization in the Ganga-Yamuna valley. This was based on simplistic models of culture change and an uncritical reading of Vedic texts. Current evidence does not support a pre- or proto-historic Indo-Aryan invasion of southern Asia. Instead, there was an overlap between Late Harappan and post-Harappan communities, with no biological evidence for major new populations.” (106) We repeat that physical anthropology is going through rapid developments due to the availability of new techniques, and we don't want to jump to conclusions in this moving field. But we notice that whatever new technique is applied and from whichever new angle the question is approached, it has so far consistently failed to yield evidence of the fabled Aryan Invasion.



70. Dr. Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, vol. 7, p. 301.

71. Dr. Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, vol. 7, p. 301, with reference to G. S. Ghurye: Caste and Race on India, London 1932.

72. N. V. Subramaniam: “The way we are. An ASI project shatters some entrenched myths”, Sunday, 10-4-1994.

73. K. C. Malhotra: “Biological Dimensions to Ethnicity and caste in India”, in K. S. Singh: Ethnicity, Caste and People, Manohar, Delhi 1992, p. 65. Reference is to H. K. Rakshit: “An Anthropometric Study of the Brahmins of India”, in Man in India #46; and P. P. Majumdar & K. C. Malhotra: OAB Dynamics in India: A Statistical Study, Calcutta 1974.

74. Pallava Bagla: “Study shows caste system has changed genetic makeup of Hindus. Studying 200 men in AP, Indo-US team finds that lower castes have over the years become ‘genetically different’ from upper castes”, Indian Express, 18-10-1998. See also the subsequent critical editorial: “Questionable enterprises. DNA and caste can make a deadly combination”, Indian Express, 22-10-1998, which points out that the study merely confirm what observers of caste relations had known all along.

75. Thus, Kancha Ilaiah (Why I Am Not a Hindu, Samya/Bhatkal & Sen, Calcutta 1996) offers a description of the differences in life style between upper castes and Shudras, with the declared intention of getting the reader indignated at the injustice and absurdity of the typically Hindu castle system. Yet, his testimony unwittingly shows just how similar Hindu caste inequality is to the social inequality in other societies, e.g. Ilaiah’s repeated observation that women are more controlled in upper castes and more assertive and free in lower castes is or was just as true for Confucian China or the feudal and bourgeois societies of Europe.

76. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza: “Genes, Peoples and Languages”, Scientific American, November 1991.

77. Quoted in Simon Rozendaal: “Ras - wat is dat eigenlijk?”, Elsevier, 14-10-1995.

78. V. Bhalla: “Aspects of Gene Geography and Ethnic Diversity of the People of India”, in K. S. Singh: Ethnicity, Caste and People, P. 51-60; specifically p. 58.

79. B. Narasimhaiah: Neolithic and Megalithic Cultures in Tamil Nadu, Sundeep Prakashan, Delhi 1980, p. 195:

80. Kailash C. Malhotra: “Biological Dimensions to Ethnicity and Caste in India”, in K. S. Singh: Ethnicity, Caste and People, p. 63.

81. Kailash C. Malhotra: “Biological Dimensions to Ethnicity and Caste in India”, in K. S. Singh: Ethnicity, Caste and People, p. 63.

82. S. K. Chatterjee: Indianism and Indian Synthesis, Calcutta 1962, p. 125.

83. P. A. Augustine: The Bhils of Rajasthan, Indian Social Institute. Delhi 1986, p. 2-3.

84. Hilde Van den Eynde: “Genetische kaart van Europa tekent oorlogen en volksverhuizingen”, De Standaard (Brussels), 20-7-1993.

85. Hilde Van den Eynde: “Biologen en archaeologen moeten Amerikaanse taalknoop doorhakken”, De Standard (Brussels), 3-8-1990; see also Joseph H. Greenberg & Merritt Ruhlen: “Linguistic Origins of Native Americans”. Scientific American, November 1992.

86. Interview in Le Nouvel Observateur, 23-1-1992.

87. Interview in Le Nouvel Observateur, 23-1-1992.

88. Interview in Le Nouvel Observateur, 23-1-1992, emphasis added.

89. T. V. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov, in Journal of Indo-European Studies, 1985/1-2, p. 182.

90. See e.g. the fall/winter 1995 issue of Journal of Indo-European Studies, almost entirely devoted to the Xinjiang mummies.

91. I. M. Diakonov: “On the Original Home of ther Speakers of Indo-European”, Journal of Indo-Europen Studies, 1-2/1985, p. 92-174, specifically p. 152-153.

92. I. M. Diakonov: “On the Original Home of the Speakers of Indo-European”, Journal of Indo-Europen Studies, 1-2/1985, p. 153-154.

93. Related with details and undisguised favour by Alian de Benoist: Les Indo-Européens (Nouvelle Ecole no. 49, Paris 1997), p. 47.

94. I. M. Diakonov: “On the Original Home of the Speakers of Indo-European”, Journal of Indo-Europen Studies, 1-2/1985, p. 153-154.

95. Atharva-Veda 6:137. 2-3 is a charm, for making “strong black hairlocks” grow, apparently on the heads of bald or albino or greyed people. Paramesh Choudhury (The Aryan Hoax, p. 13) also mentions Baudhayana’s Dharma-Sutra 1:2, “Let him kindle the sacrificial fire while his hair is still black”, also cited in Shabara’s Bhasya on Jaimini 1:33, as instances where Brahmins’ hair is off-hand assumed to be black.

96. Patanjali: Mahabhashya (comment on Panini) 2:2:6.

97. Quoted from his A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary by Paramesh Choudhury: The Aryan Hoax, p. 13.

98. E.g. Mahabharata: Adiparva 223, describes a Rakshasa as red-haired, as pointed out by Paramesh Choudhury: The Aryan Hoax, p. 13. He also mentions that Ravana’s sister Surpanakha is described by Valmiki as having pingala eyes, but remember that Ravana’s family is described as a Brahmin family immigrated in Lanka from northern India.

99. Hemphill & Christensen: “The Oxus Civilization as a Link between East and West: A Non-Metric Analysis of Bronze Age Bactrain Biological Affinities”, paper read at the South Asia Conference, 3-5 November 1994, Madison, Wisconsin; p. 13.

100. K. A. R. Kennedy: “Have Aryans been identified in the prehistoric skeletal record from South Asia?”, in George Erdosy, ed. : The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p. 49. On p. 42, Kennedy quotes the suggestion that “not only the end of the [Harappan] cities but even their initial impetus may have been due to Indo-European speaking peoples”, by B. and F. R. Allchin: The Birth of Indian Civilization, Penguin 1968, p. 144.

101. Note that many scholars assume an (albeit somewhat irregular) etymological kinship between GandhAra and the Greek word Kentauros, meaning a horse-man. The rough terrain of Afghanistan was unfit for chariot-riding and required horseback-riding. To people from countries unfamiliar with horses (as India must have been in some pre-Vedic age, and as Mesopotamia was until the 2nd millennium BC), horseborne men must have looked like strange creatures with a human head and torso and a equine body; indeed, that is what the Aztecs thought when they first saw Spanish cavalrists. Could the concept of a kentaur date back to the early days of horse domestication when the first riders made such an impression on people from a region bordering on Afganistan and whence the Greeks originated?

102. K. A. R. Kennedy: “Have Aryans been identified in the prehistoric skeletal record from South Asia?”, in George Erdosy, ed. : The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, p. 49.

103. M. Wheeler: The Indus Civilization, Cambridge University Press 1968, p. 72, quoted in K. D. Sethna: The Problem of Aryan Origins, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi 1992 (1980), p. 20.

104. H. D. Sankalia: Indian Archaeology Today, Delhi 1979, p. 22.

105. H. Walter et al. : “Investigations on the variability of blood group polymorphisms among sixteem tribal; populations from Orissa, Madhya Prades and Maharashtra, India”, in Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Anthropologie, Band 79 Heft 1 (1992).

106. J. M. Kenoyer: “The Indus Valley Tradition of Pakistan and Western India”, Journal of World Prehistory, 1991/4. Interestingly and fortunately, Kenoyer was until recently misinformed about the political connotations of the Aryan question, as I noticed during a conversation with him on 20 October 1995 in Madison, Wisconsin. Labouring under the assumption that the Bharatiya Janata Party is a "fascist" party, proud of Nordic Aryan origins and disdaining the dark-skinned Indian natives, he thought he was taking a bold stand against the BJP by refuting the AIT. If he had known that the BJP shares the dislike of most Indian patriots for the AIT, he might have been more subdued in his advocacy of a non-AIT scenario, esp. considering the extreme politicization (in an anti-BJP sense) of Indology in the USA.

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