Several of you may already be aware of the debate that has now been current for several years around the theory of �Aryan Invasion of India�. Based on archaeological evidence, new research and fresh examination of existing evidence (and stripping away the colonial bias of earlier interpretations), it now appears that the theory was fundamentally flawed and is difficult to justify in the light of new findings.
I was therefore very pleased when I read �The Aryan-Dravidian Controversy�, By David Frawley [– thanks Sukand]. It very articulately sets the argument for considering a revision of the whole theory and I have attempted a summary below. The original essay in its entirety can be accessed at http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/ancient/aryan/aryan_frawley_1.html
For those of you who are not aware of the tremendous work that is being done by Dr Frawley, please have a look at http://www.vedanet.com/index.html
As Dr Frawley says in his introduction, although many of the theories that British historians postulated had a colonial bias , they are still accepted by many Hindus, although �a deeper examination reveals they may have no real objective or scientific basis.� To quote further,
�One of these ideas is that India is a land of two races – the lighter-skinned Aryans and the darker-skinned Dravidians – and that the Dravidians were the original inhabitants of India whom the invading Aryans conquered and dominated. From this came the additional idea that much of what we call Hindu culture was in fact Dravidian, and later borrowed by Aryans who, however, never gave the Dravidians proper credit for it. This idea has been used to turn the people of south India against the people of north India, as if the southerners were a different race.� Dr Frawley makes the point that colour was the dominant influence in European theories of race which projected Europeans as belonging to a �white� (and therefore superior) race who had the duty and obligation to bear the burden of the �dark� (therefore inferior) natives.
This mental bias was then transposed on the (mistaken) theory that the �fair-skinned� Aryans had �subjugated/conquered� the �dark-skinned� indigenous people who had subsequently migrated southwards.
Around the same time, research into Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages revealed surprisingly large similarities and it became obvious that Indo-European languages and Sanskrit shared a similar origin. It was of course automatically assumed that, �the original speakers of any root Indo-European language must have been ‘white’�. The Europeans of course could not even consider the possibility that �their languages could have been derived from the darker-skinned Hindus. (Further) As all Hindus were dark compared to the Europeans, it was assumed that the original white Indo-European invaders of India must have been assimilated by the dark indigenous population, though they left their mark more on north India where people have a lighter complexion.�
This �racial interpretation� was carried further and applied to explain the reference in Vedas to the fight between �light� and �darkness�. This was �naturally� assumed to be a battle between light-skinned Aryans and dark-skinned Dravidians. The fact that most religions in the world (and most mythological references) speak about the battle between light and darkness (as a metaphor for good and evil) was conveniently ignored.
This projection of racism onto the ancient history of India was further extended to �explain� the caste system. The reference in Vedas to �Brahmins�(being) white, Kshatriyas red, Vaishyas yellow, and Shudras black� was misinterpreted from its original context of referring to �gunas� and was used to conclude that Brahmins were originally the white Aryans and the Dravidians the dark Shudras 
The fact that this theory flew in the face of empirical evidence (where are the red and yellow-coloured castes in India?) was also conveniently ignored.
Dr Frawley then points out the extent to which the ideas were misinterpreted:
�The racial idea reached yet more ridiculous proportions. Vedic passages speaking of their enemies (mainly demons) as without nose (a-nasa), were interpreted as a racial slur against the snub-nosed Dravidians. Now Dravidians are not snub-nosed or low nosed people, as anyone can see by examining their facial features. And the Vedic demons are also described as footless (a-pada). Where is such a footless and noseless race and what does this have to do with the Dravidians? Moreover Vedic gods like Agni (fire) are described as footless and headless. Where are such headless and footless Aryans? Yet such ‘scholar- ship’ can be found in prominent Western books on the history of India, some published in India and used in schools in India to the present day. This idea was taken further and Hindu gods like Krishna, whose name means dark, or Shiva who is portrayed as dark, were said to have originally been Dravidian gods taken over by the invading Aryans (under the simplistic idea that Dravidians as dark-skinned people must have worshipped dark colored gods). Yet Krishna and Shiva are not black but dark blue. Where is such a dark blue race?
Moreover the different Hindu gods, like the classes of Manu, have different colors relative to their qualities. Lakshmi is portrayed as pink, Saraswati as white, Kali as blue-black, or Yama, the God of death, as green. Where have such races been in India or elsewhere? In a similar light, some scholars pointed out that Vedic gods like Savitar have golden hair and golden skin, thus showing blond and fair-skinned people living in ancient India. However, Savitar is a sun-god and sun-god are usually gold in color, as has been the case of the ancient Egyptian, Mayan, and Inca and other sun-gods. Who has a black or blue sun-god? This is from the simple fact that the sun has a golden color. What does this have to do with race? And why should it be racial statement in the Vedas but not elsewhere?
At the same time (circa 19th century), although several scholars (including Max Muller) did state that �Aryan� was not a racial term and there was no evidence of it being used as such (either in the Vedas or other ancient texts), these views were largely ignored.
As Dr Frawley states, �We should clearly note that there is no place in Hindu literature wherein Aryan has ever been equated with a race or with a particular set of physical characteristics. The term Aryan means “noble” or “spiritual”, and has been so used by Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians as well as Hindus. Religions that have called themselves Aryan, like all of these, have had members of many different races. Race was never a bar for anyone joining some form of the Arya Dharma or teaching of noble people.�
If one looks at recent archaeological evidence, the theory of �Aryan Invasion� becomes even less tenable.
Research on the racial profiles of the original Indus Valley inhabitants shows similarities to the inhabitants of North India of the present day. In view of this, it is hard to imagine that any large scale or significant �invasion� took place into the region in the last 4000 years. Even if it did, it must have been so far back that it has no relevance (or bearing on) what we know today about Hindu (Indian) culture.
As Dr Frawley accurately points out, �the idea of Aryan and Dravidian races is the product of an unscientific, culturally biased form of thinking that saw race in terms of color. There are scientifically speaking, no such things as Aryan or Dravidian races. The three primary races are Caucasian, the Mangolian and the Negroid. Both the Aryans and Dravidians are related branches of the Caucasian race generally placed in the same Mediterranean sub-branch.
The difference between the so-called Aryans of the north and Dravidians of the south is not a racial division. Biologically both the north and south Indians are of the same Caucasian race, only when closer to the equator the skin becomes darker, and under the influence of constant heat the bodily frame tends to become a little smaller. While we can speak of some racial differences between north and south Indian people, they are only secondary.
For example, if we take a typical person from Punjab, another from Maharashtra, and a third from Tamilnadu we will find that the Maharashtrians generally fall in between the other two in terms of build and skin color. We see a gradual shift of characteristics from north to south, but no real different race. An Aryan and Dravidian race in India is no more real than a north and a south European race.
Those who use such terms are misusing language. We would just as well place the blond Swede of Europe in a different race from the darker haired and skinned person of southern Italy. Nor is the Caucasian race the “white” race. Caucasians can be of any color from pure white to almost pure black, with every shade of brown in between. The pre-dominant Caucasian type found in the world is not the blond-blue-eyes northern European but the black hair, brown-eyed darker skinned Mediterranean type that we find from southern Europe to north India. Similarly the Mongolian race is not yellow. Many Chinese have skin whiter than many so-called Caucasians. In fact of all the races, the Caucasian is the most variable in its skin color��
Dr Frawley then examines the evidence and the theory of there being significant differences in religion, language and ancient texts between the two �races�, Aryan and Dravidian. In each case, he finds that either the theory is not based on empirical evidence and/or it uses selective observations to fit the conclusion of two different �races�.
To summarise, the theory of two distinct races (Aryan and Dravidian) is neither tenable on empirical evidence nor on religious, linguistic and �cultural� grounds.
He then suggests that people in the South should not consider themselves as �Dravids� and as being different and distinct from the ancient Vedic culture. Nor is there any reason for those in the North to believe that they are the true inheritors of the �Aryan legacy� for there is no such legacy and no evidence of any distinct, culturally superior race.
In his words, �What is necessary is to assert�(that)�the Aryans and Dravidians are part of the came culture and we need not speak of them as separate. Dividing them and placing them at odds with each other serves the interests of neither but only serves to damage their common culture (which is what most of those who propound these ideas are often seeking). Perhaps the saddest thing is that modern Indian politicians have also used this division to promote their own ambitions, though it is harmful to the unity of the country.�
THE TRUE ARCHITECTS of HARRAPAN (SARASWATI RIVER) CIVILISATION
Next, Dr Frawley refers to a number of separate reports and research which indicates that the Indus Valley Civilization may have actually been established by the Dravidians and the Aryan Invasion theory may have been based on half-baked evidence and a blinkered view of progress made in ancient India long before the Christian era. Thus,
“Dravidians, whose descendents still live in Southern India, established the first city communities, in the Indus valley, introduced irrigation schemes, developed pottery and evolved a well ordered system of government.” (Reader’s Digest Great World Atlas, 1970)
Clyde Ahmad Winters, who has written extensively on Dravidian origins (has) commented, “Archaeological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Dravidians were the founders of the Harappan culture which extended from the Indus Valley through northeastern Afghanistan, on into Turkestan. The Harappan civilization existed from 2600-1700 BC. The Harappan civilization was twice the size the Old Kingdom of Egypt. In addition to trade relations with Mesopotamia and Iran, the Harappan city states also had active trade relations with the Central Asian peoples.”
Professor Klaus Klostermaier in ‘Questioning the Aryan Invasion Theory and Revising Ancient Indian History’ (has) commented: “India had a tradition of learning and scholarship much older and vaster than the European countries that, from the sixteenth century onwards, became its political masters. Indian scholars are rewriting the history of India today. One of the major points of revision concerns the so called ‘Aryan invasion theory’, often referred to as ‘colonial-missionary’, implying that it was the brainchild of conquerors of foreign colonies who could not but imagine that all higher culture had to come from outside ‘backward’ India, and who likewise assumed that a religion could only spread through a politically supported missionary effort.While not buying into the more sinister version of this revision, which accuses the inventors of the Aryan invasion theory of malice and cynicism, there is no doubt that early European attempts to explain the presence of Indians in India had much to with the commonly held Biblical belief that humankind originated from one pair of humans- Adam and Eve to be precise …”
Hinduism Today concluded in Rewriting Indian History – Hindu Timeline: “Although lacking supporting scientific evidence, this (Aryan Invasion) theory, and the alleged Aryan-Dravidian racial split, was accepted and promulgated as fact for three main reasons.
� It provided a convenient precedent for Christian British subjugation of India.
� It reconciled ancient Indian civilisation and religious scripture with the 4000 BCE Biblical date of Creation.
� It created division and conflict between the peoples of India, making them vulnerable to conversion by Christian missionaries.”
“Scholars today of both East and West believe the Rig Veda people who called themselves Aryan were indigenous to India, and there never was an Aryan invasion. The languages of India have been shown to share common ancestry in ancient Sanskrit and Tamil. Even these two apparently unrelated languages, according to current “super-family” research, have a common origin: an ancient language dubbed Nostratic.”
Finally, Dr Frawley provides some background and an explanation of how the Aryan Invasion Theory was conceived and how it became the accepted wisdom.
In his own words, �One of the most interesting puzzles in archaeology, and one that hasn’t really been completely answered yet, concerns the story of the supposed Aryan invasion of the Indian subcontinent.
The story goes like this: The Aryans were a tribe of IndoEuropean-speaking, horse-riding nomads living in the arid steppes of Eurasia. Sometime around 1700 BC, the Aryans invaded the ancient urban civilizations of the Indus Valley, and destroyed that culture. The Indus Valley civilizations were far more civilized than any horse-back nomad, having had a written language, farming capabilities, and led a truly urban existence. Some 1,200 years after the supposed invasion, the descendants of the Aryans, so they say, wrote the classic Indian literature called the Vedic manuscripts.
Hitler, or more specifically, Hitler’s pet archaeologist Gustaf Kossinna (1958-1931), used this idea to put forward the Aryans as a master race of Indo-Europeans, who were supposed to be Nordic in appearance and directly ancestral to the Germans.
The problem is, most if not all of this story – “Aryans” as a cultural group, invasion from the arid steppes, Nordic appearance, the Indus Civilization being destroyed, and, certainly not least, the Germans being descended from them – may not be true at all.
The historical basis of this theory was an account of Indian culture by French missionary Abbe Dubois (1770 � 1848) who was driven by the need to fit what he saw with the Biblical myths of Noah and the Great Flood. He also authored some poorly translated versions of the existing literature.
His work was translated into English in 1897 by the East India Company, prefaced by Max Muller and became the basis of the Aryan Invasion Theory.
When excavations in Mohenjo-daro and other sites revealed a far advanced culture, instead of using this evidence to bury the Aryan Invasion Theory, it was ingenuously incorporated to confirm to the existing hypothesis.
Thus it was assumed that the Harappa civilisation must have been destroyed by an �invasion of people from Europe� who then went on to create the second great civilization of India.
Note that instead of admitting that the Aryan Invasion Theory may not be true and there may have been continuity in the civilization and culture for the past five thousand years, British historians used the evidence to confirm to the hypothesis of a superior race invading India.
As Dr Frawley says, �It turns out that there are serious problems with this argument. There are no references to an invasion in the Vedic manuscripts; and the word “Arya” means “superior being” as an honorific, not as a superior cultural group. Secondly, recent archaeological evidence suggests that the Indus civilization was shut down by droughts combined with a devastating flood, not a violent confrontation. Recent archaeological evidence also shows that most of the so-called “Indus River” valley peoples lived in the Sarasvati River, which is mentioned in the Vedic manuscripts as a homeland. And, there is no biological or archaeological evidence of a massive invasion of people of a different race.�
And he concludes by saying, �Born from a colonial mentality, corrupted by a Nazi propaganda machine, the Aryan invasion theory is finally undergoing radical reassessment by Indian archaeologists and their colleagues, using the Vedic documents themselves, additional linguistic studies, and physical evidence revealed through archaeological studies. Indian cultural history is an ancient and complex one, and one that only time will teach us.�
I would add to that by saying that we need to do more to make everyone aware of these biases in the �history� that continues to be taught in schools and colleges even today. And although a generation or two has grown up with this warped colonial-view of Indian history, it is never too late.
P.S. As I was summarising this, I was made aware of a recent change that the BBC made on its website in the section on Hinduism (see �The Aryan Invasion Theory – Why is the theory no longer accepted?� http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/history/history5.shtml ).
I was very pleased to see that even the BBC is now coming around to the view that the �Theory of Aryan Invasion� was a result of poor research based on evidence that has since been discredited and based on misinterpretations of archaeological, linguistic and ethnological observations.
 – in the sense that most of them sought to perpetuate colonial myths, an example being that ancient India had no art or culture to speak of and most of the developments in these areas happened with the advent of the Mughals
 – note that what these colours actually signify are �the gunas or qualities of each class. White is the color of purity (sattvaguna), dark that of impurity (tamoguna), red the color of action (rajoguna), and yellow the color of trade (also rajoguna).�
 � (Indus Valley culture) which should more properly be characterised as �Saraswati culture� since its centre was not Indus Valley but the ancient river �Saraswati� which dried up around 1900 BC
Related Post: The Aryan-Dravidian Controversy