The Aryans were indigenous: Neither invaders nor immigrants
by B B Lal on 08 Jul 2017 10 Comments

My attention has been drawn to an article published by Tony Joseph in The Hindu, dated June 17, 2017, which, in essence, tries to say that The Vedic Aryans came to India from outside. I would like to apprise the readers of the reality of the situation. I have published many books on the subject, each one dealing with a specific aspect of the issue. The latest book, The Rigvedic People: Invaders? Immigrants? Or Indigenous?, published in 2015 by Aryan Books International, New Delhi, clearly explains, using evidence of archaeology, hydrology, C-14 dating and literature, why the Aryans were neither Invaders nor slow Immigrants, but were
indigenous. I present here my arguments, as briefly as possible.


At the root of the trouble lies the dating of the Vedas to 1200 BCE by the German Scholar Max Muller. He did it on a very ad hoc basis and when his contemporaries, such as Goldstucker, Whitney and Wilson, challenged his methodology, he surrendered by saying, “Whether the Vedas were composed in 1000 or 2000 or 3000 BC no one on earth can ever determine.” The pity is that in spite of such a candid confession by Max Muller himself, many of his followers
even today stick to this date, or at the most give concession to 1500 BCE.


In 1920s the Harappan Civilization was discovered and dated to the 3rd millennium BCE on the basis of the occurrence of many Indus objects in the already dated archaeological contexts in Mesopotamia. This led to the immediate conclusion that since, according to Max Muller, the Vedas were not earlier than 1200 BCE, the Harappan Civilization could not have been the creation of the Vedic people.


In 1946 Mortimer Wheeler (later knighted) excavated Harappa and discovered a fort over there. On learning that in the Vedic texts Indra has been described as puramdara i.e. ‘destroyer of forts’, he jumped to the conclusion that the Vedic Aryans, represented by Indra, invaded India and destroyed the Harappan Civilization. But, it must be stressed that there was no evidence of any kind of destruction at Harappa.


In support of his Invasion thesis, however, Wheeler referred to some skeletons at Mohenjo-daro which he said represent the people massacred by the Invading Aryans. But the fact is that these skeletons had been found in different stratigraphic contexts, some in the Middle levels, some in the Late and some in the debris which accumulated after the desertion of the site. Thus, these cannot be ascribed to a single event, much less to an Aryan Invasion.


The ghost of ‘Invasion’ re-appeared in a new avatara, namely that of ‘Immigration’. Said Romila Thapar in 1991: “If invasion is discarded then the mechanism of migration and occasional contacts come into sharper focus. These migrations appear to have been of pastoral cattle breeders who are prominent in the Avesta and Rigveda. ” Faithfully following her, R.S. Sharma elaborated: “The pastoralists who moved to the Indian borderland came from Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex or BMAC which saw the genesis of the culture of the Rigveda.”


These assertions of Thapar and Sharma are baseless. In the first place, the BMAC is not a product of nomads. It has fortified settlements and elaborate temple-complexes. It has yielded a very rich harvest of antiquities which include silver axes, highly ornamented human and animal figurines and excellently carved seals. But what is more important is that no element of the BMAC has ever been found east of the Indus which was the area occupied by the Vedic people. So there is no case whatsoever for the BMAC people having migrated into India.


Now, if there was no Aryan Invasion or an Aryan Immigration, were the Vedic people indigenous? To answer this question we must first find out the correct chronological horizon of the Rigveda. It refers to the river Sarasvati nearly seventy times. The river dried up before the composition of the Panchavimsa Brahmana, as this text avers. Today this dry river is identifiable with the Ghaggar in Haryana and Rajasthan. On its bank stands Kalibangan, a site of the Harappan Civilization.


An Indo-Italian team, under the leadership of Robert Raikes, bore holes in the dry bed to find out its history. Raikes wrote an article in Antiquity (UK), captioning it: ‘Kalibangan: Death from Natural Causes.’ C-14 dates show that the flourishing settlement was suddenly abandoned because of the drying up of the Sarasvati around 2000 BCE. What are the implications of this discovery? Since the Sarasvati was a mighty flowing river during the Rigvedic times, the Rigveda has got to be earlier than that date. Thus, at least a 3rd millennium-BCE horizon is indicated for the Rigveda.


We now pass on to another very important statement in the Rigveda. Verses 5 and 6 of Sukta 75 of Mandala 10 enumerate all the rivers serially from the Ganga and Yamuna on the east to the Indus and its western tributaries on the west. In other words, this was the area occupied by the Rigvedic people in the 3rd millennium BCE (the minimal date arrived at for the Rigveda, referred to in the previous paragraph). Now, if a simple question is asked, ‘Which  archaeological culture flourished in this very area in the 3rd millennium BCE’, the inescapable answer shall have to be, ‘The Harappan Civilization’. In other words, the Rigveda and Harappan Civilization are but two faces of the same coin.


The Harappan Civilization, which attained its maturity in the 3rd millennium BCE, had its formative stages at Kunal and Bhirrana in the Sarasvati valley itself, taking the beginning back to the 5th millennium BCE. In other words, the Harappans were the ‘sons of the soil’. And   since, as already established, the Harappan Civilization and the Rigveda are but two faces of the same coin, the Vedic Aryans ipso facto were indigenous. They were neither invaders nor immigrants.


The application of DNA research to the Aryan debate is nothing new. The renowned scientist Sanghamitra Sahoo and colleagues had declared: “The sharing of some Y-chromosomal haplogroups between Indian and Central Asian populations is most parsimoniously explained by a deep, common ancestry between the two regions, with the diffusion of some Indian-specific lineages northward.”


This north-westward movement of the Vedic people is duly supported by both literature and archaeology. The Baudhayana Srautasutra, a later Vedic text, mentions that Amavasu, a son of Pururavas and Urvashi, migrated westwards and his progeny are the Gandharas, Persians and Arattas. Moving through these regions, a section of the Vedic people reached Turkey where a 1380-BCE inscription from Boghaz Koi refers to a treaty between the Hittite and Mitanni kings mentioning as witnesses the Vedic gods Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nasatya. Further, there a treatise on horse-training by one Kikkuli, which uses Sanskrit terms like ekavartana, dvivaralana and trivartana, meaning thereby that the horses under training should be made to make one, two or three rounds of the prescribed course. What more evidence is needed to support a westward migration of the Vedic Aryans themselves?


Let us, therefore, analyze the facts coolly and not remain glued to the 19th century paradigms!



The map shows a correlation between the Rigvedic area and the spread of the Harappan Civilization before 2000 B.C. 


The author is a renowned archaeologist, author, and former Director General, Archaeological Survey of India  

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