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Understanding the Aryans

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A roadmap for students and beginners

Burjor Avari
(Manchester Metropolitan University)

It is a known fact of history that the British curiosity and interest in Indian cultures increased phenomenally after the East India Company came to acquire a territorial hold on Bengal from the late 1750s onwards. Their paramountcy over India’s millions depended upon their thorough understanding of the cultures of the sub-continent which required a mastery in its languages.[i] The small circle of dedicated and assiduous students of India’s languages included Sir William Jones, the eminent jurist and polymath who resided in India between 1783 and 1794.[ii] After studying Sanskrit for just under three years he observed, in 1786, that Sanskrit, Greek and Latin and Old Persian had all descended from an original speech. His observation has proved correct; and, since his time, most learned philological opinion has accepted that, in terms of language classifications, the common source of these tongues was what is now called proto-Indo-European. Its geographical focus was presumed to be the area around the Caspian Sea. It is also generally accepted that the eastern branch of the Indo-European family of languages is known as the Indo-Iranian whose first speakers called themselves Aryans. Whether the Aryans, speaking some variety of Indo-European languages, invaded or migrated into Iran and India from their original trans-Caspian homeland or had actually originated in India and moved outwards to Iran and lands further west is a subject of continuing controversy.[iii]

The purpose of this paper is three-fold: firstly, to provide a background to the historical Aryans by summarizing the main conclusions of philological scholarship on their role in Indo-Iranian history in general; secondly, to examine how the Aryans became both racialised and mythologised by 19th century European ethnologists, and their impact on Victorian and post-Victorian India; and thirdly, to note the consequences for Indian historical chronology after the momentous discoveries of the Harappan civilization and to highlight some of the revisionist claims made by the “Out-of-India” protagonists.

It is hoped that the reader will be mindful of the way “Aryan” was used and abused in historical literature and also of the way events unfolding on the Indian sub-continent in the last two centuries have shaped ideologies which, in turn, have steered our interpretations of history. In recent years the debate over the origins of the Aryans has taken on a new passion, with scholars and polemicists fiercely engaged over issues which are complex and difficult to resolve. A mass of evidence has been produced to support frequently partisan view-points. Where evidence is in short supply, obfuscating arguments are substituted. Small wonder then that many, whether members of the lay public or college and university students taking a course in Indian History or Indological Studies, find themselves entrapped in a maze of prejudiced assertions. For them the Aryan Debate becomes a hazardous terrain to traverse. Over many years of teaching Indian history at a provincial British university I have had personal experience of students being unable to follow the lines of argument in the debate, owing partly to a lack of coherence in published works and partly to unhistorical methods of argumentation. In my India: The Ancient Past – The History of the Indian Sub-Continent from 7500 BC to 1200 AD (Routledge, 2007) I attempted to provide a summary of the pertinent issues, but space constraints imposed by the Series Editors consequently narrowed the scope of the discussion. I can here elaborate the quintessential points of the theme, some of which I have touched upon in the fore-mentioned book.

The fruits of Jones’s work

From a very early age Sir William Jones had a commanding grasp of several important European languages. In his early 20s he also learnt Persian and, by the age of twenty six in 1772, had published a Persian Grammar – an achievement readily taken into account from his application for the post of judge in the Bengal Supreme Court of Judicature. It is necessary to recall that Persian was still the language of official correspondence at that time in India.

Sharply percipient as he was, Jones quickly realized on his arrival in India in 1783 that the true key to understanding Indian culture lay in the mastery of Sanskrit rather than Persian; despite the various difficulties caused by the general unavailability of good Indian teachers of Sanskrit, Jones made the best use of whatever help he could get and rapidly mastered the language. During the eleven years that he resided in India. Jones studied and wrote extensively about such subjects as Indian law, literature, music and history. He worked in the atmosphere of official liberality and generosity of outlook that had been encouraged by the Governor-general Warren Hastings who himself possessed great empathy towards Indian culture.[iv] Jones’s ground-breaking contribution to the world of knowledge came through his acute observation that Sanskrit was not only related to some of the most refined languages of Europe but perhaps even superior to them. His brave conclusion clearly resonates to this day, and is well worth quoting:

‘Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure, more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either; yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the roots of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident: so strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists’.[v]

Jones certainly held Sanskrit in the highest esteem, placing the profundness of Sanskrit texts in the same league as the Bible.[vi] He did not, however, suggest that Sanskrit was the parent of all the Indian and European languages, nor did he think that Sanskrit was the source of all civilization. His real emphasis was on the linguistic affinities among such well-known languages as Greek, Latin, Persian and Sanskrit; and for him “there was a fundamental unity in human thought, belief and action hidden under the veneer of linguistic differences”.[vii] But, above all, there was his view that there was “some common source” from which these languages had sprung, which strongly influenced the way people perceived the origins of language. Jones counted among his colleagues eminent British intellectuals and men greatly esteemed in public life at that time; Goethe observed in 1819 that the “merits of this man (Jones) are universally known and have been emphasised and detailed on numerous occasions”.[viii]

The most positive aspect of Jones’s legacy has been realized, over the last two centuries, in the works of linguists, philologists and grammarians who searched for inter-connections linking the world’s languages and their structures. One of the main conclusions reached from their combined research, and now generally agreed by most scholars, is that the diverse tongues of Europe, Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan and the northern parts of the Indian sub-continent are all part of what is broadly called the Indo-European linguistic family, among the largest of the world’s more than 6000 languages.[ix] Within this over-arching family there are two oriental sister families: the Indo-Aryan and the Iranian.[x] Sanskrit is the oldest established Indo-Aryan language; and it is from the progressive evolution of Sanskrit over many millennia that the other present-day Indo-Aryan languages of India have developed. Within the sub-continent the Indo-Aryan family co-exists with the other smaller and older southern family of Dravidian languages, with members of both families fruitfully inter-acting over a long period.[xi] Within the Iranian branch Avestan is the oldest language, now defunct, although still recited by Zoroastrian priests in their liturgies. This detailed classification of languages and the systematic understanding of their characteristics gave rise to the sciences of philology and linguistics. The scholarly world thus owes much to Jones and his successors.

Living languages are currently spoken by people, and any attempt to understand the origins and classifications of languages inevitably led to speculation about their past speakers. Despite the several differences within the Indo-European languages, their similarities in grammar, syntax and vocabulary led most 19th century researchers to conclude, like Jones, that in the distant past a group of people might have spoken an original language (Ursprache) that was the common ancestor of the modern Indo-European languages. They called this language proto-Indo-European; and they earnestly started searching for an ancestral homeland (an Urheimat) in which this postulated language had been spoken.[xii] The evidence uncovered thus far suggests that this homeland covered a far smaller area than that in which the spread of modern Indo-European language speakers live; again, the consensus holds that it was in the European steppe lands north and east of the Black sea, and extending towards the Caspian.[xiii] While there is no hard and fast knowledge of the proto-Indo-European language and no direct proof of the existence of proto-Indo-European speakers, researches in archaeology and oral traditions indicates that, owing to climatic and environmental changes, differentiated groups of people were moving outwards from this area in a number of directions during the third millennium BC. Among the many models of Indo-European migration the one considered most plausible is known as the Kurgan Hypothesis, originally developed, by the eminent Lithuanian scholar, Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994) from her researches in proto-linguistics and archaeology in the 1950s. It explains the applicability to the various groups of Indo-Europeans of conditions under which a particular culture, the Kurgan, spread outwards.[xiv]

We cannot suggest that those who left their Caspian homeland emerged in one mighty torrent and spread over Europe and Asia by force of arms. Migrations in ancient times were always slow, gradual and mostly peaceful. The people who were migrating had domesticated the horse and developed wheeled vehicles, thereby speeding up their outward progressions. They must have spoken a variety of dialects and languages. Eventually they came to occupy areas with a natural environment vastly different from their homeland. This meant that their language also had evolved, since many words and expressions peculiar to the requirements of their homelands fell into disuse in their new surroundings. Their original vocabulary would have been augmented and modified by their encounters with settled groups of people they came to assimilate or displace.[xv] A large undifferentiated group of migrant proto-Indo-European speakers, mainly pastoralists with their cattle and horses, migrated southwards about 2000 BC, spreading into Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan. Historians, somewhat imprecisely, call them by the generic name of Aryans.

The Irano-Indian Aryan axis

Long before the British and European scholars and historians of the 18th century evinced interest in the languages, cultures and histories of the Orient, the Indians and the Persians were familiar with the concept of “Aryan”. Both recognized and intuitively understood the meaning of such terms as Arya (noble); the Indians would recognize Aryavarta (the Indo-Gangetic heartland of the Aryans) and, with their Iranian counterparts, an an-Arya (non-Aryan). For nearly four millennia the Indian mind had selectively and sub-consciously imbibed the notion of the Aryan as something that was positive, ennobling, and all that was best in India. The Vedas and their ancillary literature, along with the later literatures of the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas and the varied devotional practices of Puranic Hinduism had augmented this learning process in a country that lacked a systematic historiographic tradition. In Iran too, ever since the middle of the first millennium BC, the people have taken pride in calling themselves Aryan or noble: Iranshahr meant “the Aryan land”. It was through Persian that the Europeans first came to understand the significance of the Aryan civilization in Iran. The French traveler and scholar, Anquetil-Duperron, translated in 1771 a core religious text of the Zoroastrian religion, the Zend-Avesta, which greatly excited the attention of the learned people in Western Europe.[xvi] In India, its Sanskrit literature, beginning with the Vedas, provided an indispensable key to knowledge of the Aryans.

The revisionists who argue for the exclusively Indian origins of the Aryans tend to forget the crucial role of Iran in the Aryan story. A deeper understanding of the Aryans is gained by juxtaposing both the Iranian and Indian traditions and, additionally, those of Central Asia. Historians employ the word Aryan to describe all the early Indo-Iranian migrants from the Caspian region; and modern Iranians use it in an ethnic and nationalistic context by calling their country, Iran, the land of the Aryans. Strictly speaking, however, the precise self-ascription of the word ‘Aryan’ applied only to two particular sub-groups, the Avestan and the Rig Vedic people. They alone, of all the neighboring and displaced tribes of the original settled peoples, claimed a special status of honour and nobility in the territories they invaded and inhabited.[xvii] A deeper understanding of this Aryan culture can be gained only by studying the languages, religious customs and traditions of the Avestan and the Rig Vedic people, both of whom co-existed in eastern Iran and Afghanistan.[xviii] Common ties of language,[xix] culture, mythology and rituals developed amongst them before they ultimately separated. In their religious beliefs and practices they together worshipped a number of deities. They both shared a tradition of composing lavish hymns in praise of their gods. In both traditions the descriptions of such nature gods as those of wind and sun, for example, are similar in tone and feeling. Some of their earliest prayers also bear similarities. Sanskrit is very close to the language of the Yashts, the earliest hymns of the Avesta, the sacred text of the present day Zoroastrians of Iran and India. The Iranian prayers are part of the Avesta collection. Some sections of the Avesta resemble, not only in language but in content as well, the Rig Vedic hymns that were composed by the Indian bards. The two groups once shared a common practice of drinking the juice of an originally hallucinogenic plant, called soma in the Rig-Veda, or haoma in the Avesta, for strength, virility and wakefulness. The present-day substitute plant has been identified as a species of ephedra, and its main habitat is the area around eastern Iran and south Afghanistan.[xx] The symbolic role of fire in the rituals of worship for both groups should also be noted. In the words of a noted Sanskrit scholar:

‘taking into account the similarities in mythology, language, religious practice and beliefs, we may safely conclude that the traditions of the Avesta and that of the Rig-Veda have emerged from a single common source’.[xxi]

Speaking a form of proto-Sanskrit, the earliest wave of Aryans might have reached India around 1700 BC, while the Rig Vedic people followed some 300 years later, around 1400 BC. The latter brought with them their collection of sacred hymns and chants composed over the centuries during their Iranian and Afghan sojourn. That collection represents the earliest portions of the Rig-Veda. The original form of Sanskrit which they utilized would have been more complex and sophisticated than that of their predecessors, but this early Sanskrit too would have had to adjust to the then existing native languages of India. The Rig-Vedic people were, culturally speaking, the most influential of the Aryans, and it was their great literary and spiritual opus, the Rig-Veda, which provides penetrating insights into the Vedic culture of India. From then on, it was considered to be a purely Indian climactic opus.

The Avestan people continued to follow the old Indo-Iranian religion shared by the Rig-Vedic people; but around 1000 BC, a visionary philosopher, named Zarathushtra, brought about a momentous religious revolution in the eastern regions of Iran by dethroning most of the Indo-Iranian gods and charting out a new ethic and religious philosophy for his followers.[xxii] The hymns that he composed are known as the Gathas. Although the contents of the Rig-Veda and the Gathas are different in character, nevertheless the similarities of the Gathic language and the early Vedic Sanskrit are very striking.[xxiii] Despite his separation from the older Indo-Iranian tradition, Zarathushtra retained fire as supreme external symbol for the Iranian Aryans. Even today, a common element in the rituals of the Hindus and of the Zoroastrians of Iran and India is this symbolic fire.[xxiv]

The tortuous European understanding of the “Aryan” connotation

It is clear from the earlier sections that Sir William Jones was the pioneer not only of Indo-European studies, but of the entire sciences of philology and modern linguistics. We can also say that the word Aryan refers to those migrants moving from the north and west Caspian regions on to the Iranian plateau c. 2000 BC and into what is known as the Swat Valley in the sub-continent between c. 1700 and 1400 BC. Their languages originated in proto-Indo-European. These basic facts were curtain raisers for a developing series of ideas and, sadly, their drawbacks in Europe for some 150 years between Jones’s death and the end of the Second World War.

In late 18th and the early 19th century Britain, despite adverse cultural winds, Jones’s orientalist studies were promoted by three Sanskrit scholars of renown: Charles Wilkins (1749-1836), Henry Colebrook (1765-1837) and Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860). Through their efforts dictionaries and grammars of Sanskrit became available in Britain; they also continued Jones’s systematic investigative and translation methods tackling the great Indian religious and literary works, such as the Rig Veda and the Mahabharata.[xxv] The understanding of the Vedic religion was greatly expanded and, consequently, greater respect began to be accorded to the Hindu religious and spiritual ideas from at least the learned. While many of the early Sanskritic orientalists felt that the India of their day needed revitalization, they were generally agreed that Hindu civilization had claim to as many achievements as had the classical Greco-Roman European. Such sentiments came to be echoed in another discipline. The strong parallels between the European classical and the ancient Vedic Aryan civilizations were noticed by one not formally trained in philology but who was early 19th century Britain’s greatest ethnologist: James Cowles Prichard (1786-1848). Ethnology, now known as cultural anthropology, was then a growth science concerned with the typological classification of humankind. An intellectual, Prichard had specialized in medicine, ethnology and Biblical scriptures. Much influenced by the contributions of the orientalists, Prichard believed in one single species of humankind (monogenism), one single place of human origins and the inter-relatedness of all languages. His intuitive understanding of languages and their differences provided him with the key to studying human diversity.[xxvi] Living during a time when the ideas of evolution had not yet blossomed, he basically entrusted the explanation of human origins as given in the Biblical Genesis. He was of the opinion that the Europeans, Egyptians, Indians and Persians were all descended from the Biblical character called Ham, one of Noah’s three sons, the other two being Shem and Japheth. Prichard too, like Jones, believed in the spiritual unity of the Indians and Europeans. Later in life, however, he was drawn to the ideas of colour differences and climatic factors to explain human diversity, a more conventional standpoint that ethnology was to cautiously adopt.[xxvii]

The enthusiasm and dedication of the British orientalists and their friends like Prichard yielded only a modest recognition in the academic and public life of Britain. The British then dominated many parts of India, and the majority of them were not to be readily diverted by the ideas of Jones and his followers. A degree of reluctance, born out of prejudice or ignorance, pride in their ability to hold down India, or perhaps even shrewd pragmatism, prevented them from wholeheartedly embracing Jonesian vision and idealism. For these reasons Britain had comparatively few high academic posts in Sanskrit or Indology at her universities. It was much more promising on the continent. Owing to the lack of large scale meaningful contacts with real Indians on the ground, the Europeans envisioned India through rose-tinted spectacles. It may be argued that, not having control over India, the Europeans were less defensive about their culture than the British. Whatever may be the underlying reason, Sanskrit literature and Indian history were in great vogue on the mainland of Europe. In France the Societe Asiatique was founded in 1832. J. L. Burnouf was the great French Sanskritist, while his son Eugene was a specialist in both Pali and Sanskrit; and in 1840 he translated from Sanskrit the great corpus of Bhagavata Purana. It was in Germany, however, that the major advances in Sanskrit studies and scientific philology took place. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries Germany was not yet one nation; but the notion of the Germans as a great people was palpably real.[xxviii] There existed also an underlying historical tension between the Germans and the Jews.[xxix] When the news of Jones’s literary discoveries reached Germany in the 1790s, a succession of refined and sensitive German writers began to utilize Indian literature in their pursuit of the legends and myths of human origin. These writers collectively come to be known as belonging to the school of German Romanticism.[xxx] The great names among them were those of J.G. Herder (1744-1803), Johann Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), Friedrich von Schlegel (1772-1829) and the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). All of them revered Sanskrit literature, but Schlegel went the furthest, in that he was the first to link Sanskritic excellence with the question of origins. Firstly, he maintained that: “Everything, absolutely everything, is of Indian origin”.[xxxi] Secondly, he thought that the ancient Indians, motivated “by some impulse higher than the spur of necessity”[xxxii] had moved towards the West. Thirdly, he popularized the word Aryan, which was then just beginning to circulate in Europe, by linking it to those ancient Indians who had moved westwards, and by connecting the root ari- with the German word Ehre, or honour.[xxxiii] The conclusion that was drawn was that the people of Germany were people of honour – the Aryans. Fourthly, the Jews and other Semitic peoples, Schlegel argued, were inferior in achievements than the Aryans, thereby consciously exacerbating the anti-Jewish prejudices of many ordinary Germans.[xxxiv]

In time, Schlegel’s view of the origins of the world’s peoples and their relative status became more elaborated by the development of the science of eugenics and what may be called the Scientific Racism of the 19th century. With the increasing industrialization and modernization of Europe from the mid 18th century onwards, and the colonization of the world by the great European powers, European cultural arrogance rapidly festered. Obsessed with a desire to explain the intellectual superiority of the Europeans and their scientific prowess, certain scholars obviously sought answers in some particular roots and origins of the Europeans.[xxxv] Their sought-after answers lay in the concepts of polygenism, geographical determinism, physiognomic measurements and the hierarchy of races.[xxxvi] Polygenism was the theory of human origination from several independent pairs of ancestors, with the implication that human beings belong to different species. Geographical determinism made place and climate the determining factors in any study of people’s attributes. Physiognomic measurements were crude attempts to understand human diversity by measuring ratios and proportions of their skulls, jaws and noses. The hierarchy of races was constructed artificially to provide a specious respectability to the notion that European peoples were superior to all others. To a certain extent the Darwinian theory of evolution, which proposed a steady process of development from a single celled creature to the homo sapiens, along with the so-called Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer, helped to confirm the contemporary cultural anthropologists in their belief in the hierarchy of races.[xxxvii] In this hierarchy the superior people were the so-called Caucasians who included the descendants of the Indo-Europeans and the Aryans; and the Caucasians were higher than the Africans and the Chinese. These ideas became common through the works of such writers as Dr. Robert Knox (1791-1862), Comte Gobineau (1816-1882) and Ernest Renan (1823-1892). They promoted the idea of racial purity and attacked the mixing of peoples. Individualistic nationalism within each European nation made the stories of national origin popular among the masses; in the atmosphere of pride and prejudice, they accepted the so-called scientific racism as the truth.[xxxviii] It was ironical that, as race science became intertwined with the myths of origin, the term Aryan came to be exclusively appropriated by European racists. For them, it was synonymous with the superiority of Europe’s white populations; and the modern descendants of the ancient Aryans living in India and Iran occupied only the second rung on the Caucasian ladder.

In Britain, during the second half of the 19th century, the most important student of India and her culture was Professor Friedrich Max Muller (1823-1900).[xxxix] A German by birth, he spent most of his life in Britain, teaching at Oxford. A Sanskrit scholar and a student of comparative religion, he held all Indian learning in high regard: he remained a figure of great significance in oriental scholarship. Today his fame rightly rests on the 50 volumes of the Sacred Books of the East that he edited in his lifetime. Had he concentrated exclusively on Sanskrit and eastern religions there would not be any controversy about him over a hundred years after his death.[xl] He was, however, strongly influenced during the first half of his career by contemporary continental ideas which racialised the Aryan.[xli] Like all orientalist philologists he had a great admiration for the spiritual and literary heritage of the Aryans contained in the Vedas and the Avesta; but he also went on to propound that the Aryans were a unique race of people. He next stated that, despite the resistance of ordinary British people, they and the modern Indian descendants of the Aryans were one and the same people.[xlii] More controversially still, he argued that the superior Aryans had invaded India and eventually civilized its indigenous peoples. Civilization there became possible through invasion: by implication, the British Empire of India was a force for the good of India.[xliii] The British became, as it were, the latter-day Aryans come to save their brothers of old. Later in life Max Muller retreated from the racialised concepts when he declared that it was “antiscientific… speak of an Aryan race, Aryan blood or Aryan skulls”.[xliv] He was also humble enough to appreciate a sea change in attitudes that had been brought about by both Darwin’s theory of evolution and the growing science of archaeology. Whereas at one level, as noted, Darwinism had indirectly helped the theorists of race science in the construction of racial hierarchies, both Darwinism and archeology ultimately killed off the long held Biblical Creation theory which postulated an extremely curtailed chronology for human history.[xlv] It became equally evident that humanity had a history that stretched far beyond reckonable Aryan history. The short chronology scenario which compressed human history in a period of about 6000 years, proposed by the 19th century Biblical fundamentalists, became simply unacceptable in the intellectual circles of Europe. As will be shortly seen, it was also to be wholly inappropriate for the proper understanding of the timelines of Indian history.

Muller’s contrition was not matched by many other ethnologists and race theorists. Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927) in Britain and his various colleagues on the continent continued with their obsession with race science, producing ever more sophisticated versions of the Aryan Myth. In their hands the ancient Aryan symbol of the Swastika became a potent symbol of hatred, leading ultimately to the great holocaust of Jews, Gypsies and other non-Aryan degraded peoples and communities of the Nazi empire of Adolf Hitler.[xlvi] Since 1945 the term Aryan has simply been banished from all civilized European discourse as misjudged and inappropriate.

Aryanism in Victorian India

During the decades before Queen Victoria ascended the throne, the Sanskritist orientalists had been losing ground to the so-called Anglicists. The latter comprised of two powerful British lobbies: the Evangelicals and the Utilitarians. Both began with the proposition that the Indians, whatever their earlier achievements might have been, had fallen far behind the Europeans in both moral and secular domains.[xlvii] The evangelical missionaries asserted the supremacy of Christianity over both Hinduism and Islam and passionately believed that only Christianity could help uplift the moral standards of the Indians. They were therefore keen to set about the task of spreading the gospel of Jesus through Christian education. The Utilitarians were practical people who had witnessed the many benefits accrued in Europe through the industrial and scientific revolutions of the late 18th and the early 19th centuries. They believed that India’s future too lay with science and modernization. Lord Macaulay’s insistence on the provision of English education in India and his refusal to provide a government subsidy to maintain the traditional Hindu and Muslim schools testify to the Utilitarian ideology and ways of thinking. Neither the Evangelicals nor the Utilitarians took William Jones’s ideas concerning the linguistic and spiritual unity of the Europeans and the Indians too seriously. They cared little for Indian knowledge, whether Hindu or Islamic, because they were convinced that only by acquiring European knowledge could the Indians redeem themselves from their lowly position. This did not mean that they were racist, in the sense that they thought that the Indians were incapable ever of reaching the European standards.

The Anglicist tide was tempered by a number of developments. Firstly, from the very beginning, there were Indians who were prepared to forthrightly address certain urgent social and cultural issues and not leave these entirely to the British missionaries and humanitarians. They appreciated the need for modernizing the Indian society on rational lines, but they nonetheless wished to advance through internal reform rather than by external conversion. They argued for a root and branch reform of Hindu society, not by discarding their own literature and lore as Macaulay might have advised, but by re-visiting and re-interpreting such ancient texts as the Upanishads. Rammohan Roy (1772-1833), for example, agreed wholeheartedly with the government of Lord Bentinck that such barbarous customs as the Suttee should be abolished;[xlviii] and he justified his stance on the basis of his scrutiny of the Hindu scriptures. He entered into a serious dialogue over the question of rationality in religion with the English and American Unitarians, but from a strictly Hindu standpoint rather than Christian. He believed that Hinduism and modernity need not be at odds with each other, and that the scriptures like the Upanishads indeed held the key to a Hindu modernity.[xlix] The foundation of the Brahmo Samaj in 1828 was Roy’s response to the Christian missionary efforts, some of whose goals he fully endorsed. Secondly, despite the general lack of funds from the government, much dedicated orientalist scholarship produced learned translations of such great Indian texts as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and compiled the Vedic Index.[l] Sufficient intellectual stimulus was generated by mutual discourses exchanged between the British and Indian scholars. One of the major gifts brought by the Prince of Wales on his Indian tour of 1875-76 was Max Muller’s magnum opus, his translation of the Rig Veda.[li] Official Britain was beginning to recognize, however belatedly, the wisdom contained in ancient Indian literature, whether in religious compilations or legal tracts. Thirdly, whatever reservations the ordinary British people might have had, Max Muller’s ideas about the unity and affinity between the British and the Indians through their common Aryan stock definitely struck a chord with Indian sensibilities. Aryanism, in a sense, seemed to create a bond between the masters and the subjects. Less than two decades after the great rebellion of 1857-58 an Indian educationist proclaimed in 1876: “What a sublime spectacle is afforded by the present concourse of nations. The Hindu and Englishman are brothers! ...Philosophy has evolved a strange unity out of the hopeless variety of races. Let that unity be the groundwork of future peace and brotherhood”.[lii] These generous words testify to the fact that the Indians never became cultural slaves of the Anglicists. And in 1883 the foundation stone of the Indian Institute at Oxford contained the following translation of a Sanskrit inscription, which seems to be a belated act of atonement for the lapses of Macaulay and of Anglicism:

‘This building, dedicated to the Eastern sciences, was founded for the use of Aryas (Indians and Englishmen) by excellent and benevolent men desirous of encouraging knowledge…..By the favour of God may the learning and literature of India be ever held in honour; and may the mutual friendship of India and England constantly increase’.[liii]

Max Muller’s vision of unity between the British and the Indians through their common Aryan connections, however, was overshadowed by the consequences emanating from his other understanding of the Aryans, which he had developed under the influence of some of the European race theorists. One such view was that the Aryans were a race of people endowed with superior qualities and that India became civilized through their invasions. This theme of a superior Aryan civilization gripped the imagination of a number of 19th century Indian social thinkers and reformers. Two of them stood out uniquely. Dayananda Sarasvati (1824-1883), the founder of the Arya Samaj, was convinced that the decline and degeneracy of the Hindus was due to their straying from the pure and pristine message of the Vedas that the Aryan religion encompassed.[liv] He believed that the Vedic revelation contained all scientific knowledge, that Vedic worship was essentially monotheistic or monist in character, leaving no room for image worship, and that the caste system existing in the 19th century was a degeneration of the natural Vedic ordering of society into four groups: priests, warriors, traders and servants. Dayananda also attacked Brahman priests for their secrecy, selfishness and hegemonic privileges; and he wished to endow the entire religious community with greater powers of authority. For this to be achieved he argued for more secular and humane education. Dayananda’s ideas and life work positively affected the mind set of vast numbers of middle class Indians, particularly in his home state of Punjab.[lv] A thirst for both modern education and Vedic knowledge became their passion. The path of Dayananda’s spiritual upliftment of the Hindu society ran parallel to the ideology of Hindu nationalism as expressed by Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920), another leader suffused with Aryan idealism and vision. Tilak absorbed wholesale all the ideas concerning the Aryans that flowed from European pens, but came to two astonishing conclusions.[lvi] One was that the home of the Aryans was not originally Central Asia or the Caspian region but the far Arctic tundra lands. In his opinion the retreat of the Ice Age generally around 10000 BC had made the Arctic much more unfavorable for human habitation, thus forcing the Aryans to move down with their advanced culture towards the south and eventually to India. Tilak’s other contention was that the Aryans came to India much earlier than the traditional date proposed by Sanskritists like Max Muller. He used Indian astrology for his evidence and proposed that the Vedas dated from 4000 BC, not Max Muller’s date of 1200 BC. Apart from these assertions, based upon both European and Indian knowledge, Tilak’s main forte lay in convincing his readers and listeners of the superiority of the Aryan culture, thereby instilling in them a pride in the Hindu nation. Such ideas of the Aryan were destined to become a weapon in the armory of Hindu nationalists.

It would not be until the last quarter of the 20th century that the Hindu nationalists would secure the opportunity to propagate some of their assertions from a position of political strength. It was British imperialism that held sway in the 19th and early 20th centuries; and the views of British scholars and administrators were decisive in their influence on the way India was seen and governed. The men who ruled India had come to imbibe two central views concerning the Aryans. One was that the Aryans were a superior race of people, and superiority could be measured scientifically. The second was that the Aryans were the invaders and civilizers of India. In their earnest desire to understand the complexity of the peoples of India the British experimented with new-fangled methods and quirky criteria in order to classify and categorise the various social and cultural groups within the Indian society.[lvii] One particular method, that of anthropometry, was championed and adopted by one of British India’s most distinguished civil servants, Sir Herbert Risley (1851-1911), a man who had a thorough grasp of all the tools employed in the service of scientific racism at that time. One of the tools, craniology or the study of skulls, had been much in vogue with the British to determine the level of criminality among lawless bandits etc.[lviii] Now Risley perfected what came to be called the Nasal Index as the scientific indicator of caste differences. Risley argued, from his bizarre experiments, that those Indians who had the most perfectly shaped noses belonged to the higher castes of Brahman and Kshatriya, and those with the most ugly and ill-formed noses belonged to the lower castes. Risley believed that the Brahmans preserved the best of the Aryan genes and indeed were the superior Indians.[lix] This was nothing but blatant racism throughout. Combined that with the other general perception that the Aryans were civilizing invaders, another negative consequence arose in what may be called the Aryan-Dravidian divide.[lx] Linguistically the Indo-Aryan languages of the north are different from the south, but there is scant historical evidence that a people called the Aryans swooped down on the south and civilized the southerners. That racist proposition presaged the argument that the new Aryans, in the guise of the British, had come to civilize India. By continuing to hold on to the theory of Aryan invasion that Max Muller had earlier propagated the British academics and administrators were to open up new fissures in the Indian society. Thus, for example, by confirming the elevated status for the Brahmans within the caste system, they legitimized the Brahman hegemonic privileges and prerogatives which led in turn to the later large scale anti-Brahmanic movements.[lxi] Similarly the issue of Dravidian nationalism was also stirred to life later in the 20th century.

The Harappan time-bomb

Everything that had been discussed and written about Indian historical chronology since Jones’s time suddenly became obsolete in the year 1924. In that year’s issue of the Illustrated London News Sir John Marshall, the Director of the Archaeological Survey of India, wrote the following momentous lines:

‘Not often has it been given to archaeologists, as it was given to Schliemann at Tiryns and Mycenae, to light upon the remains of a long forgotten civilization. It looks, however, at this moment, as if we are on the threshold of such a discovery in the plains of the Indus. Up to the present our knowledge of Indian antiquities has carried us back hardly further than the third century before Christ…..Now, however, there has unexpectedly been unearthed an entirely new class of objects which have nothing in common with those previously known to us’.[lxii]

Marshall was referring to the great archaeological discoveries at Mohenjo Daro and Harappa in Sind and Punjab. Rudimentary excavations had taken place at those sites as early as the 19th century, but systematic work on them started only after 1920. Even before the diggings could begin, the archaeologists could see for themselves from the thousands of perfectly built and shaped bricks found at both sites (but particularly at Mohenjo Daro, since a railroad company had used up the bricks at Harappa as railway sleepers) that they were about to expose the remains of two huge cities, for that was what they proved to be. The traces of straight roads built on a grid plan, of large monumental structures and small houses, of drains and sewers, and a great number of soapstone seals with curious engraved inscriptions and images pointed to the existence of two very large sites of human habitation. During the 1920s and 30s, and ever since, more and more sites, small and great, containing similar artifacts, have been excavated along the entire north western sector of India and also in the lands of the western basin of the River Ganga. This whole complex of towns and villages was at first called the Indus Valley Civilization; but as new similar sites have been discovered further away from the River Indus, the term Harappan is increasingly used in archaeological circles. It helps to describe collectively the styles and features of monuments and artifacts from the entire complex to which the city of Harappa belonged.[lxiii]

The dating of the finds from Mohenjo Daro and Harappa yielded amazing results which were to create great confusion and disarray among the historians and cultural scholars of India. Traditionally, Indian scholarship had never placed great credence on the time-definitiveness of dates; the great cycles of yugas and eras ran into thousands of years, according to astrological calculations. Since the introduction of western methodologies of studying the past, however, a new generation of trainee historians had been encouraged to view their subject from a secular standpoint, to check all dates by comparative synchronisms and, above all, to disassociate history from mythology as far as possible. Archaeologically speaking, King Ashoka’s pillar and rock edicts had until then acted as guideposts to historical Indian dating, pushing back its chronology to the 3rd century BC, as Marshall had established. From language study and philology, begun by William Jones and continuing all through the 19th century and, say, reaching their climax in Max Muller’s work, it had been ascertained that the Aryans had come into India around 1500 BC. The 19th century Indian history books, based on western dating methods, began the story of Indian greatness from the supposed time of the invasion of the civilized Aryans around 1500 BC. The first volume of the grand Cambridge History of India, published in 1922, began with the world of the Rig Veda and the Aryans. Now the importance of 1500 BC paled into insignificance when the true dates for Mohenjo Daro and Harappa were revealed. The two cities were at their most glorious between approximately 2600 BC and 1900 BC, now referred to as the Mature Harappan phase. Very evidently, therefore, the Aryans were not the first civilized people of India, because long before their advent the people of the north west of India were enjoying a highly sophisticated urban life style.

As one misconception was being cleared up in the 1920s, another came into being. Such indeed was the attractiveness of the idea of the civilized Aryan, particularly for those Eurocentric scholars nurtured in 19th century traditions, that for them the idea of an indigenous urban civilization in India before 1500 BC seemed implausible. They were convinced that the Indus Valley cities were an extension of Sumerian urban culture.[lxiv] It took nearly 50 years of uncovering layer after layer of human and non-human habitation at varied sites located in different geographical and ecological zones for the Sumerian hypothesis to be reversed. The crucial excavations at Mehrgarh in Baluchistan in 1974-75 by a French-Pakistani team led by Jean-Francois Jarrige demonstrated the thread of archaeological continuity from the earliest Neolithic foundations of Mehrgarh in the seventh millennium BC to the great Bronze Age cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. The roots of the Indus city civilizations lay, therefore, not outside the sub-continent but clearly and categorically within it.[lxv]

Around 1900 BC a decline within the dynamics of the Harappan system set in, and archaeologists are now agreed that after 1700 BC very little remained of the great cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. A further major controversy arose out of the claim made by no less an authority than the great archaeologist, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, that the cities were destroyed by the invading Aryans who entered India from Afghanistan through the northwestern Bolan and Khyber passes.[lxvi] Wheeler used the literary evidence from the Rig Veda asserting that the Aryan god Indra destroyed the indigenous Dasas and the Dasyus who lived in fortified places called pur. He also seized upon the discovery of a certain number of skeletons in Mohenjo Daro’s lower city to pronounce upon the so-called last massacre of the Harappans by the Aryans. “On circumstantial evidence”, Wheeler asserted, “Indra stands accused”.[lxvii] Most literary scholars and archaeologists soon dismissed Wheeler’s theory as being too simplistic.[lxviii] The first place of Aryan settlement in India was the Swat Valley, which is at least 200 miles from Harappa and some 500 from Mohenjo Daro.[lxix] Their presence in those cities was most unlikely. The purs in the Rig Veda were, most probably, structures of flimsy ramparts and stockades rather than fortified cities.[lxx] If they had been the Indus cities then some aspects relating to them, like the well laid out streets, wells, drains, granaries or seals should have been mentioned; but they are not. The few skeletons in the streets could not be considered a sufficiently credible evidence of an attack upon such a large system of authority and government as represented by the Harappan Civilization.[lxxi] Wheeler’s famous so-called Aryan Invasion Theory has been rejected for many decades now; and the causes of the decline of the Harappan culture are attributed to a combination of factors, some natural and some man-made.[lxxii]

The Harappan urban civilization disappeared after 1700 BC, but aspects of its culture, particularly those pertaining to rural and agricultural lifestyle, continued for centuries. Records exist of several post-Harappan cultures, such as the Ochre-Coloured Pottery Culture in the Ganga plain, the Jhukar Culture in Sind, the Cemetery H Culture in the Punjab, the Banas Culture in Mewar in Rajasthan or the Malwa Culture of Madhya Pradesh. These cultures have been identified from their pottery styles, grave goods, burial patterns and the quality of ornaments and tools. The peoples of these cultures in due course came into contact with other nomadic foreign groups, such as the Aryans who came in two different waves, in 1700 BC and 1400 BC. It was out of the fusion of several groups, including the Aryans, that the Indo-Aryan civilization was to shape India’s history over the next thousand years and more.[lxxiii]

We end this section with two models of Indian chronology: the early 20th century pre-Harappan variety, and the late 20th century version incorporating the Harappan findings:

Early 20th century

c. 4000 BC – 3000 BC --- The era of the proto-Australoids and Aborigines
c. 3000 BC – 1500 BC --- The Dravidian Age
c. 1500 BC – 1000 BC --- The Aryan Age
c. 1000 BC – 500 BC --- The era of the Vedic states

Late 20th Century

c. 7000 BC – 4500 BC --- Early Neolithic Baluchistan phase
c. 4500 BC – 3500 BC --- Later Neolithic phase
c. 3500 BC – 2600 BC --- Proto-urban Early Harappa phase
c. 2600 BC – 1900 BC --- Mature Harappa phase
c. 1900 BC – 1700 BC --- Post-Harappa phase
c. 1700 BC – 600 BC --- Indo-Aryan Vedic civilization

A critique of the revisionist challenge

While our understanding of the Aryans has gone through many changes of interpretation since Jones’s time there is also a measure of consensus on certain key issues among international scholars of languages, historians and archaeologists. These are:

1) There is an Indo-European family of languages; and Sanskrit, the mother of Indo- Aryan languages, is related to such other languages as Greek, Latin and Old Persian. There is also the Dravidian language family in the south of India. Over the long time span of Indian history the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages have fruitfully inter-acted with each other. 2) The Aryans were not an invading race of people. They were nomadic migrants speaking an early form of Old Iranian or proto-Sanskrit. Their original Indo-European homeland was around the Caspian regions, and after 2000 BC they went east and south as part of the concurrent dispersal of peoples. They did not invade India or attack the Harappan civilization, but did first enter the Swat Valley in north west India through Afghanistan, in two waves of c. 1700 BC and c. 1400 BC. The latter, known as the RigVedic Aryans, possessed an inordinate sense of high self-esteem. 3) The European scholars of the 19th century, searching for the roots of their own cultures and nationhoods, appropriated the concept of Aryan and endowed it with the qualities of a superior race from which had descended their fellow Europeans and, in a lower grade, the northern Indians and the Iranians. The racialisation of the Aryan concept also infected 19th century India. 4) Historians had to completely revise the chronology of Indian history after the discoveries of the Harappan civilization.

A group of Indian and non-Indian writers has, over the last two or three decades, vehemently challenged some of the above points and re-interpreted them. Their revisionism has sprung out of a combination of certain beliefs and ideas, occasionally backed up by some good research. These include: an underlying belief that European historians have presented the Aryan story in a way that asserts the superiority of Europe over India; that India’s ancient history can be understood primarily through the Hindu religious literature and that the evidence from outside of India is of marginal importance[lxxiv]; that the Hindu nation must re-assert itself against all foreigners[lxxv] and that modern Indian secularism is manipulated by groups as disparate as Muslims, Dalits and Marxists. Out of these beliefs have emerged certain Hindu-centric lines of argument which are briefly examined below.

Initially the revisionists argued that there never was an Aryan invasion from outside the sub-continent’s bounds. They claimed this was a 19th century construct of racist writers, that no trace or mark of Aryan incursion has been found, and that the references to warfare in the Rig Veda indicated conflict within India rather than between Indians and outsiders[lxxvi]. This argument has been well rehearsed, and there is growing agreement that the invasion models were flawed. We no longer accept the 19th century thesis, propounded by people like Schlegel and the early Max Muller, that the Aryans were an invading race. Over three decades ago the historian Romila Thapar, who has been constantly under attack by the revisionists, clearly stated the following:

‘The notion of the Aryan race is alien to the Indian tradition…..Race is not the criterion and obviously could not be, for the concept of race both in the scientific and popular sense is a product of modern Europe’.[lxxvii]

Nor do the historians believe in Sir Mortimer wheeler’s scenario of the last massacre of the Harappans by the Aryans. The revisionists have, however, gone further by an additional assertion that there never was any Aryan immigration – one that flies in the face of two strong pieces of evidence: the extensive links of language and religion between ancient Iran and ancient India, and the documentary testimonies concerning Indo-Aryan gods such as Indra, Mitra and Varuna from far places as Mesopotamia and Turkey, which strongly suggest that some of the earliest of the Rig Vedic concepts were developed “in a central area, from where they traveled towards the west as well as the east”.[lxxviii] The migration is also discounted by the revisionists on grounds that the Rig Veda makes no mention at all of the foreign lands to the west, in the Afghanistan region, from where the Aryans had come. This can be contested in the light of a number of oblique references to the places, rivers and fauna of Afghanistan in the Rig Veda.[lxxix] It is also worth remembering that the Rig Veda was composed over a long period. By the time of its completion in c. 900 BC the Rig Vedic Aryans had been in India for some 500 years, while the earlier Aryans would have been there for 800 years. They had long co-mingled and become assimilated into the wider Indian society.[lxxx]

The revisionists’ second line of argument is that the Harappan Civilization was neither pre-Vedic nor non-Vedic. It was supposedly a part of the Vedic Aryan Civilization, a viewpoint argued by a revisionist historian thus:

‘The Indus Civilization was essentially a Vedic Civilization…..That since in India there was a continuity of kingship from Manu onwards to Candragupta (ie Chandragupta Maurya) there could have been no ‘Aryan’ invasion or migration, at least unknown to the closest neighbors, the Persians. Since the majority of the people of this part of the world belonged to the eastern branch of the Mediterranean race from about the 9th or the 10th millennium BC, the people of the Indus cities also belonged to the same race, as also the Vedic Indians and, consequently, there can be no question of ‘pre-Aryan’ or ‘non-Aryan’ orientation of this civilization. The Indus people belonged to one of the Vedic tribes or ‘Janas’ and were essentially Indian with Vedic culture. In the circumstances, there could have been no invasion Aryans or ‘Indo-Europeans into India as professed by occidental orientalists. Hence the Indic Civilization was Rig Vedic Civilization’.[lxxxi]

Part of the claim made above is based on the Puranas which provide lists of ancient dynasties. The Puranas have much of value in them, but they are quite unreliable for accuracy of historical chronology. There is little archaeological or other credible evidence for claiming a continuity of Indian kingship from as early a period as the tenth millennium BC; and it is therefore necessary to exercise a measure of skepticism. It is also difficult to agree with the view that no immigrant waves entered India from that time onwards. More important, however, is the point that if the Harappan and the Vedic civilizations were one and the same, then surely the glories of the former should have been celebrated in the Rig Veda or other Vedic literature or, at least, recalled by posterity through the oral tradition[lxxxii]. It is difficult to identify any meaningful references to Harappan cities in the Vedic texts; until the early 20th century few in India had heard of ancient Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. It is inexplicable that a people avowedly steeped in Vedic culture had so completely obliterated the memory of the Harappan cities of the Indus valley.

Other claims have similarly been lodged by the revisionists. One of these concerns the existence of the horse in India – whether it was native to India or imported from abroad with the immigrating Aryans. There is scant doubt on the verifiability of the Central Asian origin of the horse, and it has been generally accepted that the equine entered India during the second millennium BC. The revisionists have disputed this, and have gained credibility since an eminent Indian archaeologist B B Lal entered the debate and pointed to the evidence of the horse’s earlier presence in India. However, the revisionist attempts to identify the image of the horse in the Harappan script have been met with much skepticism.[lxxxiii] Claims have also been made about the decipherment of the script on the Harappan seals, but the international scholarly community has remained unconvinced. Three great scholars – Professor Mahadevan of the Archaeological Survey of India, Asko Parpola of the University of Helsinki and Walter Fairservis Jr. of the Vassar College, New York – spent years striving to uncover the mysteries of the Harappan script, but without success.[lxxxiv] Nor are we able to definitively determine whether the Harappan language was Indo-Aryan or Dravidian. A Belgian revisionist, Koenraad Elst, has gone perhaps the furthest among the revisionists by claiming that, yes, there was a migration of the Aryans, but now that it was outwards from India. The Aryans were the natives of the land of Sapta Sindhava, or Punjab. It was out of this Indian ancestral homeland, their ‘Urheimat’, that the Aryans expanded outwards towards Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia and, ultimately, towards Europe.[lxxxv] This Out-of-India theory has not yet gained any acceptability among international scholars, but it deserves careful study in view of the author’s erudite knowledge of Indo-European languages and history.

Doubts have also been cast by the revisionists on the motivations of two groups of people. In fact, much of the revisionist literature, particularly on the internet, rages against them: these are the Western historians in general and some Indian historians in particular. Among the former, Professor Max Muller gets the harshest censure, which is ironical, because Indian researchers have had profound respect for Muller. He has presumably been singled out for his rather impetuous early pronouncements on the Aryan invaders, and how the Aryans were a civilizing race. The revisionists have argued that people like Muller were in fact attempting to justify and legitimize British rule in India, by linking the British with the Aryans. Since Muller wrote extensively, it is easy to find faults with certain aspects of his argumentation; but he did change his Aryan thesis some thirty years before he died.[lxxxvi] It is likely that he was patronizing towards the Indians of his day, but it is undeniable that he always wished them well and had great respect for the Hindu religion. Since the publication of Edward Said’s book, Orientalism, it has almost become a fashion to attack Western scholars indiscriminately for the misdeeds of the rulers of their past empires; but it is important to remember that the first and the earliest phase of orientalism in British India was when the British and the Indians inter-acted on equal terms. In late 18th century India British orientalism was a force for good. Sir William Jones should not be mistaken for a Saidian orientalist. Among the modern Indian historians particularly reviled by the revisionists are the so-called Marxist historians like Romila Thapar[lxxxvii], R. S. Sharma or Irfan Habib. Marxist methodology generally lays less stress on religion as a motivating factor in human life. It does not consider evidence gathered from mythology or astrology as reliable evidence for studying history; it instead places emphasis on such phenomena as class conflict, the oppression of the subalterns and the role of capital. Much of our modern social and economic history was pioneered by historians who followed rigorous Marxist methodology. These historians value the secular state established by the founding fathers of independent India, allowing them to pursue their historical research without some suppressive ideology overseeing their work. The revisionists, on the other hand, are normally those who wish to have a Hindu state in India and reinterpret the course of Indian history on Hindu-centric lines. Hence their ire against the modern Indian historical establishment which they abusively denounce as Marxist. The Aryans, all exercising modern varieties of speech descended from a common ancestral proto-Indo-European Ursprache, have now unfortunately become mutually antagonistic pawns across such dividing lines.

(The author wishes to thank Farrokh Vajifdar, a London-based specialist in Indo-Iranian Studies and former Vice-President of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, for corrections and constructive suggestions).

[i] Cohn 1996: 3-56.
[ii] ODNB 2004: Vol. 30, 665-74.
[iii] Vide, for example, the internet site: “Zydenbos contra Elst: an example of a fight against dilettantism”-
[iv] Cannon: 1990.
[v] Ibid: 245.
[vi] Trautmann 1997: 57-9.
[vii] Ballantyne 2002: 30.
[viii] Ibid: 32.
[ix] Crystal 1997: 296-303.
[x] Watkins 1998: 25-33.
[xi] Crystal 1997: 308.
[xii] Mallory 1989: 143-85.
[xiii] For two differing perspectives, compare Mallory 1989: 9-23 with Renfrew 1987: 9-19.
[xiv] Mallory 1989: 182-85.
[xv] Gamkrelidze & Ivanov 1990: 82-90; Mallory 1989: 257-61; Renfrew 1987: 77-86.
[xvi] Mirza 2002: 164-83; Kriwaczek 2002: 34-46.
[xvii] Kochhar 2002: 37.
[xviii] Ibid: 89-117.
[xix] Renfrew 1987: 193.
[xx] Kochhar 2002: 104-12.
[xxi] Dange 2002: 191.
[xxii] Boyce 2002: 19-27.
[xxiii] Hinnells 1985: 30-33; Boyce 1984: 8-11.
[xxiv] Jamkhedkar 2002: 193-97.
[xxv] Trautmann 1997: 135-42, 146-9.
[xxvi] Veer 2001: 140.
[xxvii] Trautmann 1997: 165-72.
[xxviii] Veer 2001: 114-16
[xxix] Poliakov 1974: 246-49.
[xxx] Osborne 2006: 313-15.
[xxxi] Poliakov 1974: 191.
[xxxii] Ibid.
[xxxiii] Ibid, 193.
[xxxiv] Ibid, 194-95.
[xxxv] Thapar 2002: 4-5; Mallory 1989: 266-70; Riencourt 1986: 254-68.
[xxxvi] Pieterse 1995: 30-51.
[xxxvii] Poliakov 1974: 215, 233, 282-83, 290ff, 298.
[xxxviii] Ibid: 206-209, 232-38.
[xxxix] Chaudhuri 1974: ODNB 2004: Vol. 39, 706-11.
[xl] Veer 2001: 106-12.
[xli] Trautmann 1997: 172-81
[xlii] “The conception of India as the great ancestress did not, however, recommend itself greatly to the British. Admittedly the Aryan myth, in as much as it was considered a scientific truth, ended up by gaining acceptance in the British Isles. But when its distinguished god-father, Max Muller, declared from the vantage point of his Oxford University chair that the same blood ran the veins of English soldiers “as in the veins of the dark Bengalese” he seemed to be criticising the national pride which refused to admit any such relationship”. Poliakov 1974: 209-10.
[xliii] Chaudhuri 1974: 311-43.
[xliv] Poliakov 1974: 214.
[xlv] Trautmann 1997: 192-94.
[xlvi] Poliakov 1974: 255-325.
[xlvii] For a fuller background, see Inden 1990: 89-93; Metcalfe 1995: 28-43; Edwards 1967: 53-70.
[xlviii] Robertson 1999: 161-62.
[xlix] Ibid: 69-79.
[l] Veer 2001: 116-22.
[li] Ibid: 50.
[lii] Ballantyne 2002: 173.
[liii] Trautmann 1997: 5.
[liv] Ballantyne 2002: 176-79; Veer 2001: 49-52.
[lv] Jordens 1978: 160-83.
[lvi] Ballantyne 2002: 179-81; Veer 2001: 123.
[lvii] Pinney 1990: 252-63.
[lviii] Veer 2001: 150-55; vide also ODNB 2004: Vol. 47, 7-8.
[lix] Trautmann 1997: 198-204.
[lx] Inden 1990: 58-66.
[lxi] Veer 2001: 148-50.
[lxii] Marshall 1924.
[lxiii] Among the many good works on the Indus Valley/Harappan Civilisation, the most accessible and informative is Kenoyer 1999.
[lxiv] Read, for example, Sayce 1924: 526; Gadd & Smith 1924: 614-16.
[lxv] Coningham 2005: 524-25, 528-30; D.K. Chakrabarti 1999: 120-26.
[lxvi] Wheeler 1959: 113; Wheeler 1966: 78-83.
[lxvii] Quoted from Kochhar 2002: 77.
[lxviii] Dales 1966: 307-12 and Raikes 1964: 297-306.
[lxix] Mallory 1989: 47; Kochhar 2002: 180-85.
[lxx] Kochhar 2002: 78-79.
[lxxi] Dales 1964: 293-96.
[lxxii] In fairness to Wheeler it should be said that he later admitted that, in addition to his Aryan invasion theory, there were other natural and man-made factors causing the decline. See Wheeler 1966: 78-83.
[lxxiii] Allchin 1995: 29-40.
[lxxiv] Witzel 2005: 341-404.
[lxxv] Fosse 2005: 434-67.
[lxxvi] Lal 2005: 50-74.
[lxxvii] Thapar 1975: 2-8; quoted from Gottlob 2003: 221-22.
[lxxviii] Kochhar 2002: 117.
[lxxix] Witzel 1995: 321-24.
[lxxx] Kochhar 2002: 94.
[lxxxi] Chandra 1980: 218.
[lxxxii] One of the world’s greatest experts on the Indo-Europeans has concluded that “…..the only way that one may retain an Indo-Aryan identity for the Indus Civilization is to assume that, after its collapse about 1800 BC, it receded into the type of world reflected in the Vedic hymns and that these are the product of the degenerate descendants of the Indus Civilization. Given all the other objections, this solution would call for far more special pleading than anyone has reason to credit. All of our earliest evidence for the Indo-Aryans in India, therefore, indicates that they came from elsewhere” in Mallory 1989: 45.
[lxxxiii] Witzel & Farmer 2000; vide also Bryant & Patton 2005: 487-90.
[lxxxiv] “A major negative conclusion emerging from an analytical study of the concordances is that none of the published claims of decipherment of the Indus script is valid”. Mahadevan 1982: 311-17.
[lxxxv] Elst, Internet site- http: //
[lxxxvi] Chaudhuri 1974: 313-14.
[lxxxvii] Venkat (no date): Internet site-


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