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The debate over the Origin of the Vedics

Editorial Comment (March 17,2006)

If one asks an average Indic whether he has any comments on the debate regarding the origin of the Vedics, his first reaction might be that he was not aware there was a debate and as far as he could recall the Vedics had since the beginning of recorded history, populated an area roughly contiguous with present day Haryana and Uttaranchal. In other words (it is my suspicion that ) this topic is not exactly one that  occupies center stage in the streets and living rooms of  Mumbai and Kolkatta .However, this remains a subject with far reaching implications for the future of India. One example being the dialog that is taking place in India over the  perceived inequalities among various classes  of Indic society today, their causes and how they should be handled.  One other point should  be made regarding the consequences of such a hypothesis . The colonial overlord thereby made the implication very clearly that they were just the latest in a long line of conquerors and had as much right to be present as the descendants of the Vedics ,who would after all be now be regarded as conqueror much as the Normans  conquered England

Ever since Friedrich Max Mueller first postulated this hypothesis, it has been a major preoccupation of  a fairly large section of linguists, historians, philologists, religious clergy and other academic scholars in Europe  and now even in America.. The reasons for this are not difficult to fathom. It was Sir William Jones who first noticed that there appeared to be a common origin of some commonly used words like father (Pater, Latin, pitr, Sanskrit), mother and brother   . Soon it became apparent that even well known names of Gods in Greek and Roman Mythology such as Zeus (Dyaus ,Sanskrit) and Jupiter (Dyaus Pitr, Sanskrit) had their origin in Sanskrit. This was a major revelation especially to the linguistic and historian community in Europe at that time, because it was a paradigm change in the manner in which they viewed the Indian subcontinent and the origins of their own language. How did this commonality in literally hundreds of words come about ? The simplest explanation at that time (and even today) was that there was a significant migration of people accompanied by invasions that was the primary engine for the spread of language. Even though Sanskrit was palpably the more ancient language in this group of languages, they immediately dismissed the notion that there was any kind of migration from the Indian subcontinent. Thus was born the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT).  The main flaw in the theory and there are many more described for example in the many links and books in this section (for instance my summary in The South Asia File) , the main flaw  is that there is absolutely no record of such an invasion or even a migration in any of the vast literature of the Vedics.

This theory and its far reaching implications  has escaped the notice of the Indic population in general, preoccupied as they were with the more mundane necessities  of making a living and the more immediate task of nation building.

The invasion theory of Indian History was first postulated by Hegel (1831) that India lacked historical agency and that India was a cultural cul de sac from which nothing worthwhile ever emanated. The Aryan Invasion Theory (which has now morphed into Aryan Immigration or Influx Theory), based largely on linguistic conjectures and postulates is a narrative that was force fitted to Hegel’s postulate. In one brilliant master stroke, the Brits killed several birds with one stone.

What were the Basic Postulates of AIT – that a race of nomadic Aryans came thundering across the passes of the Hindu Kush mountain range on horse drawn chariots and overcame the sedentary urban civilization of the Indus river valleys who happened to belong to the Dravidian race and then shortly thereafter in short order decided to compose the entire gamut of Vedic Literature from the Vedas, puranas, the smritis, the Brahmanas the Upanishads and the Itihaas of India. If this is was what really happened, the transformation from Central Asian Nomads to the intellectual speculations inherent in the Vedic literature must surely rank as one of the most rapid transformations in human history
See for instance


What did the postulation of AIT accomplish

Postulated a discontinuity between the Vedics and the Saraswathi Sindhu Civilization, and assigned a much more recent date to the Vedics and hopelessly confused the issue of the precedence of the Vedics.

Postulated the presence of two new races, Aryan and Dravidian, a racial nomenclature that was custom fitted to the Indian peninsula to suit the need of the colonial overlord for emphasizing the diversity of ethnic and linguistic communities in the subcontinent. When it became unfashionable to be Aryan, especially when the Germans, courtesy of Nietzsche and others elevated the category to the status of a master race, the nomenclature was changed to Indo - European and this has since morphed into various other names.  Despite the lack of a proper definition both terms continue to be used ad nauseum when referring to certain ethnic groups in the Indian subcontinent and also as the defining word in the ‘AIT’ acronym. I may be forgiven for avoiding use of the word as much as possible, as I remain ignorant of the defining characteristics of the Aryan people.

Ergo, the Vedics became aliens to the subcontinent and became associated with the mythical Aryans, a noun which is never used in the Vedas, with all its 20th century fascist connotations. The communists in India have now latched on to this  notion of the mythical Aryans and have decided that henceforth  they will refer to any Hindu who does not conform to their jaundiced view of Indian history, as not only Aryan but also a fascist. Such a notion was (and is) of course lapped up very willingly by the western press, as the irony of a fascist Brahmana priest performing a puja clad only in a loin cloth was too delicious to pass up and thus was born the nirvana, the piece de resistance of the clich kingdom, the ad hominem of choice, the Hindutva[1] fascist. So lavishly is this appellation now applied to the millions of inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent, creating thereby the spectacle of the first instance of an impoverished fascist in the known galaxy and so widespread is this outlandish and absurd notion of the fascist Hindutva, that it has spawned at least one PhD thesis[2], more than a half a dozen books, excoriating the straw man of a  Hindu nationalist’ and is a major contributor to the bandwidth of the internet discussions on the sociology of India

To top it off, the caste system was now associated with these marauding but anthropologically non-existent Aryan people.

The conclusion was inescapable –the British were simply a latter version of the Aryans to have conquered India and had as much legitimacy to remain and rule India as did the original Vedics.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the defeated and displaced Dravidians allegedly retreated to the south and formed the bulk of the downtrodden castes (the castes were now delineated and created very conveniently and fortuitously by the colonial overlord who was never at a loss to miss such a golden opportunity as this) of modern India – gave rise to the plethora of Dravidian parties in the state of Tamilnadu. So much so that today no party can get elected in the southern state of Tamil Nadu without the appellation of Dravidian tacked on to its name.


To this day many Indians remain oblivious to the glaring fact that there is not a shred of evidence for this set of egregious hypotheses masquerading as a theory and the reasons for this sad state of affairs with the resulting disastrous effects on the body politic of the Indian Republic are too obvious to recount here. We trust we will have the opportunity to elaborate on these consequences in a later section, should there be need to do so.


[1] Please see glossary in the linguistics section for meanings of words of Indic or Sanskritic origin

[2] Incidentally this thesis and the accompanying books by Dr. Koenraad Elst are  definitely a landmark in the sense that he has  marshaled a compelling narrative of why such an appellation in the Indian subcontinent is without relevance and in fact without any meaning whatsoever

So what was once purely a preoccupation of the Europeans over their roots has now been transformed into a debate on the  origin of the Vedics with large scale implications on the history  of India. It is important to note that the writing or more  precisely the rewriting or revising of Indian History was largely in the hand of the English since they were the colonial overlords and they retained control of the language of command and control, namely English ,by making it  the official language of India. The engineering of this paradigm shift, was a major coup for the British administrators of colonial India and is described in greater detail in our essay The South Asia File. That it was a ploy to justify the colonial rule by the British 'descendants' of the Aryans of an earlier era was as much as admitted by the British Prime Minister himself ..We will let Navaratna Rajaram describe the situation in his own pithy style, as only  he can do;

"The British, however, put it to more creative use for imperial purposes, especially as a tool in making their rule acceptable to Indians. A recent BBC report admitted (October 6, 2005).  'It [the Aryan invasion theory] gave a historical precedent to justify the role and status of the British Raj, who could argue that they were transforming India for the better in the same way that the Aryans had done thousands of years earlier.'   That is to say, the British presented themselves as a ‘new and improved brand of Aryans’ who were only completing the work left undone by their ancestors in the hoary past. This is how the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin put it in the House of Commons.


Now, after ages, …the two branches of the great Aryan ancestry have again been brought together by Providence… By establishing British rule in India, God said to the British, “I have brought you and the Indians together after a long separation, …it is your duty to raise them to their own level as quickly as possible …brothers as you are…”


 This leaves little to the imagination."

The BBC show also lists the adverse effects of the AIT as follows

Dangers of the theory
Opponents of the Aryan invasion theory claim that it denies the Indian origin of India's predominant culture, and gives the credit for Indian culture to invaders from elsewhere.

They say that it even teaches that some of the most revered books of Hindu scripture are not actually Indian, and it devalues India's culture by portraying it as less ancient than it actually is.

The theory was not just wrong, some say, but included unacceptably racist ideas:

  • it suggested that Indian culture was not a culture in its own right, but a synthesis of elements from other cultures

  • it implied that Hinduism was not an authentically Indian religion but the result of cultural imperialism

  • it suggested that Indian culture was static, and only changed under outside influences

  • it suggested that the dark-skinned Dravidian people of the South of India had got their faith from light-skinned Aryan invaders

  • it implied that indigenous people were incapable of creatively developing their faith

  • it suggested that indigenous peoples could only acquire new religious and cultural ideas from other races, by invasion or other processes

  • it accepted that race was a biologically based concept (rather than, at least in part, a social construct) that provided a sensible way of ranking people in a hierarchy, which provided a partial basis for the caste system

  • it provided a basis for racism in the Imperial context by suggesting that the peoples of Northern India were descended from invaders from Europe and so racially closer to the British Raj

  • it gave a historical precedent to justify the role and status of the British Raj, who could argue that they were transforming India for the better in the same way that the Aryans had done thousands of years earlier

  • it downgraded the intellectual status of India and its people by giving a falsely late date to elements of Indian science and culture

So successful was this endeavor of postulating the AIT, that today most of the prescribed English language textbooks in India mention the AIT as fact and not as an unproven hypothesis. What is even sadder is that a significant proportion of the population in India have internalized this version of history and are vociferous in debating in favor of it. The debate has been documented by  Edwin Bryant (2005),within the context of the framework established by the European Indologists, while pronouncing himself an agnostic on the issue. We will touch upon several aspects of the debate in this section


Dilip Chakrabarti " This book explores some underlying theoretical premises of the Western study of Ancient India. These premises developed in response to the colonial need to manipulate the Indian's perception of their past. The need was felt most strongly from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards, and an elaborate racist framework, in which the interrelationship between race, language, and culture, was a key element, slowly emerged as an explanation of the ancient Indian historical universe. The measure of its success is obvious from the fact that the Indian nationalist historians left this framework unchallenged."



  • Point Counterpoint

What follows is a the expression of slightly different points of view on this highly charged topic

First a column by Rajiv Malhotra in Hinduism today Spring 2006 edition

While there has been much heat generated on this topic, a successful campaign must realize that it is long term and is up against very heavily intellectually armed opponents. Hence there must be a long term study and discussion by serious scholars on our side, just as there has been within the other side for several decades. This is like cricket practice to make the home team stronger. In this spirit I recommend the following 3 books to those wanting to understand the racist/Eurocentric origins of the Aryan theories in the west. Each of these books is from a credible author and academic publishing house, and not from anyone linked with politics of Hinduism or Indian nationalism - this is important. Yet these books give hard facts to support our case and each is the result of a decade of sweat and toil on the author's part.

1) Maurice Olender, "The Language of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century." Harvard University Press. 1992.

2) Thomas R. Trautmann, "Aryans and British India." University of California Press. 1997.

3) Edwin Bryant, "The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture : The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate." Oxford University Press. 2004.

It could also be a good strategy to gift this set to future state  education boards, as attachments to our position paper, and to quote from these in a proper manner. This would raise the barrier to counterattacks, as it would not be a simple matter to assert
guilt-by-association against alleged "Hindu Nationalists." One should argue that this debate has serious contenders on BOTH sides, and hence it is best left out of the classrooms of 11-year old Americans and their naive teachers.

Personally I think it is wiser to refute the Aryan migration (yes, migration is just as harmful as invasion) theory WITHOUT trying to replace it with an alternative out-of-India theory. That way you don't arm the opponents with an opportunity to attack. What matters is
REMOVING the prevailing Aryan theory, and in fact explaining it as the result of 19th century European racism and nationalism that culminated in Nazism. For a theory to be refuted it is not required that one must supply an alternative theory - v important point, so lets avoid over-ambition. It is okay to let it at this stage be moved to neutral territory, as something of a mystery in which further archeological research is required because current knowledge is simply inadequate. This is a sound agnostic position for an educator to take.

In short, my position is as follows:
1) Aryan theory (invasion or migration) was invented by 19th century racist European intellectuals for political reasons.
2) It was never argued in proper intellectual fashion and was simply assumed, with generation after generation adding more layers of white supremacist suppositions.
3) Archeological data discovered in the 20th century data started to contradict this.
4) Many sound scholars such as the authors of the above listed books have come out to refute this old theory.
5) Many Indians came out to build alternative theories which are India/Hindu centric, and these have been attacked as counter chauvinism.
6) The hard data does not support either kind of chauvinism - the Aryan theory must not be taught as some kind of fact, while at the same time no out-of-India alternative should replace it. The gaps between textual evidence and archaeological evidence has simply not been bridged at this stage. This is a very sound and defensible position.


and my reply

Rajiv, since you have been kind enough to include me in your mailing list on such an important issue, it behooves me to give you the courtesy of a reply, especially when on those rare occasions i find myself in disagreement with you.


It is not the diagnosis  (which even the most rabid supporter of the Aryan Migration does not have the courage ,much less the data to dispute)  that i take issue with but the remedy or strategic response and the reasoning behind it. In addition to your diagnosis i might point out that the sole leg to stand on for the Aryan tourist theories is the POSTULATION (not a fact but a hypothesis based upon layers of linguistic postulates -which are in turn represented as fact-on the nature and velocity with which languages diffuse and change) that there once existed a PIE with a Urheimat ,for want of  a better phrase LIES ANYWHERE BUT IN INDIA. BTW, as an aside ,as far as the classroom textbooks are concerned we were even lucky to have gotten acknowledgement that there is a controversy.


But apart from the lack of merit in the Aryan Tourist theory I have the following points to make for you to ponder (probably not for the first  or even the last time surely).


  1. The first point to make is that there is no middle ground here. For once it is not a reductionist argument to say that this is primarily a binary proposition. Either the Vedics migrated out of India or the Proto Europeans migrated in all the way to the heart of the Vedic civilization namely the upper reaches of the Saraswati Yamuna Gangetic Doab, which they would have had to do before it dried up (recall that during Balaramas pilgrimage that the Saraswati was no longer a mighty flowing river, but only gets scant  mention in the Great Bharata epic. This places it before the beginning of the Kaliyuga 3100 bce. There is simply no other way to explain the cognate nature of the large group of languages


Furthermore, if one postulates that the entire corpus of the Vedas awaited the arrival of the blessed Lithuanians (who qualify under the general rubric of anywhere but India theory), then their migration should date back even further to the 5th or 6th millennia bce. But these are relatively minor specks of 'dal mein kuch kala hai' for our erudite adversaries to bother about. I personally have little interest in postulating a OIT, as all I desire is that the narrative of our heritage and Civilizational ethos be wrested back from an assorted gaggle of individuals all with a vested interest in retaining this theory. See my essay on The South Asia File where i flesh out the narrative and the motives of the Brits (it need not take the intelligence of a CVRaman to figure this out). But my point is that given  the stakes were and are so high, and that it is primarily a binary  issue , there remains no face saving fallback position for our esteemed opposition and hence the obstreperous stonewalling. Conclusion, they will never back down from this purely binary proposition, because the alternative is ignominy and ridicule. Confucius may have brought attention to the all too common failing of face saving, but it is the denizens of the west that have perfected it to a fine art, especially when the antagonists are the impoverished and teeming millions of  a former colony


  1. This leads me to the second point. To imply that any attack on the postulates of the tourist theory classifies me ipso facto as rabid right wing chauvinist, presumably one of the much reviled genus called Hindutvavadi is definitely a reductionist argument and to hold that up as an eventuality even for the sake of argument, is exactly what our opposition would have us do . This is the oldest trick in the book practiced to perfection first by the Romans who first used the locals to enforce their rule, and then by a succession of imperial powers till Britain did the same in India with at most 100,000 of their country men. Basically the proposition is very simple either you are for us, in which case you are reasonable and we will throw in a dog bone that you are almost one of us , by virtue of being a indo European, or you are against us in which case we will brand you an extremist and (trumpets please) the ultimate insult a Hindutvavadi a term which our esteemed professor has picked up from his Marxist allies in India. Never mind that a Hindutvavadi was Prime Minister of the worlds largest democracy for five years, elected to the highest executive position in the land. Were it not a malicious charge made by people incapable of getting elected to dog catcher , I would find it droll that I would be classified as such. Not that I find it pejorative because then, I am in the same company as KD Sethna, my  distinguished contemporary and fellow alumni from St.Xaviers College, Mumbai who wrote those 2 landmark books (listed as a footnote) which set the ball rolling towards unraveling the great hoax of the  Migration Invasion Acculturation Tourist Theory. We must recognize that the Quest for the origin of the so called Aryan is primarily a preoccupation of the West in search of their own roots and their inability to come to terms with the glaring fact that Sanskrit had a developed grammar and described an evolved Civilizational ethos far ahead of anything comparable in the West and has little to do with the heritage of India


There are other points to be made, but I wanted to highlight today the futility of a strategy ,premised on a ‘log kya kehenge’ syndrome, because this is precisely what our opposition want us to do. It is my humble opinion that every once in a while one must take a stand. This is one of those instances. Once again, I couldn’t care less about alternatives to the ATT, other than as an academic curiosity. However, there is too much at stake here, Too much mischief has sprung from this one postulate (the miscasting  and misnaming of the caste system, the north south divide, the misdating of the chronology starting from Sir William Jones and reinforced by Max Mueller}. In fact this challenge provides us a once in a rare occasion to shake the shibboleths and assumptions of the west  and initiate a paradigm change in the way the west would view us and equally importantly have us look at our selves.


With kind regards,




Books by KD Sethna


Sethna, K.D.,(1992) The Problem of Aryan Origins, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi    (the second book is reviewed here)

Response from RM

I appreciate various inputs from OIT proponents that I have received after my recent article in Hinduism Today on the Aryan issue. However, any debate must be in its context, so let me first of all state that there are two debates, briefly as follows:

Debate A: Winning the US school textbook battles involving various  states and publishers.
Debate B: The academic scholars' debate among themselves about ancient history.

My posting in a private email group on Debate A were excerpted by Hinduism Today with my permission, so the context of my statement in the article should be clear. Unfortunately, our side has been far less organized than the opponents, despite having had a lead of several months when the proceedings started. Many on our side lost track of the pragmatics and wandered off in theorizing and getting mixed up with Debate B.

In the long run, B influences A, and I have been one of the earliest voices calling upon Hindus to take the academic biases seriously. But in the immediate context of winning A, it has a life of its own and one must understand the processes at work to be effective.

So let me address debate A strategy: When the proofs available are anything less than absolutely conclusive, the side with the burden of proof has a handicap. For instance, the prosecutor has the burden to prove guilt, while the defendant does not have to prove his innocence and has to merely show flaws in the prosecutor's case. (OJ Simpson's lawyer did not try to prove who committed the murder. Rather he merely showed that the prosecutor's case against OJ was defective because "the glove did not fit." Period.)

Lesson: It is easier to shoot holes in the other party's arguments than to establish one's own counter thesis. Therefore, shifting the burden of proof is a very sound strategy. Don't be a hero and try to prove more than is necessary to win, because in the attempt to become a hero one arms the opponent with opportunities to deflect attention away from the opponent's weak spots.

Here are three alternative strategies one may adopt in debate A in California or another state:

1) Require proponents of AIT/AMT to prove THEIR position: They will fail for sure as it was never proven and merely adopted by default and based on the credibility of its proponents for 150 years.

2) Prove flaws in AIT/AMT: This gives us the burden of proof and this should be a backup choice after (1).

3) Make a counter thesis of our own, i.e. OIT, and prove it: This puts the burden of proof on us for OUR hypothesis. Unfortunately, too many persons arguing in California's debate A adopted this strategy and it was ineffective.

Now as far as debate B goes, that's another matter and should not to be mixed up here and now with A.

In debate B, AIT/AMT vs. OIT are NOT the only two (binary) choices. We also have the choice, "insufficient data available to decide." A judge may decide "guilty" or "innocent" or "insufficient evidence." Given the hard reality that the AIT/AMT side controls the forums of prestige and power in the academy, and blocks all participation by their opponents, moving the debate to the middle ground and thereby bringing both sides as equal participants would be a step in the right direction. This is impossible if we go with OIT demands up front.

Furthermore, linguistic and cultural influences can and do flow simultaneously in many directions. Today's internet results in
co-development by teams spread around the world. In ancient times the process was far slower but analogous. Ancient trade of goods is well acknowledged and likewise there was "trade" of ideas, memes, etc. as  well.

A common mistake is to assume that flow of genes from place X to Y correlates with the flow of ideas from X to Y. Buddhists did not have a massive gene flow from India to East Asia and yet ideas flowed from India to East Asia. Another example is that today third worlders go to US colleges and bring back US culture; so net gene flow is from third world to USA and a small number return with the reverse flow of  culture. In other words, there may be a million humans (and hence net gene flow) from X to Y, but a small number of intellectuals (say 500) from Y to X bringing ideas back. Indian mathematics went to Europe via  Middle East, without Indian gene flow to Europe. Aveda (owned by Estee Lauder) is the top selling brand of Ayurveda in USA not because Indian genes brought it to USA but because one American couple who lived in
India brought it back to USA.

Another mistake is to assume that gene flow is always from invader to invaded. Indians were taken as slaves in massive numbers to the slave markets of Middle East and Central Asia, and they took Indian music (e.g. via "gypsies") and other culture with them. It would be false to say that the existence of Indian influence in the Middle East correlates with an Indian invasion of the Middle East.

Incidentally, in debate B, I would like to recommend a very important book by Prof D.K. Chakrabarti of Oxford University, 'Colonial Indology – Sociopolitics of the Ancient Indian Past.' (  Delhi 1997: Munshiram Manoharlal).



Response of Dr. Rajaram to Rajiv Malhotra

Dear Sri Arumugaswamy:  

I read with interest Rajiv Malhotra's  op-ed piece "Assessing the Aryan Myth" in the Spring issue of HINDUISM TODAY. While I laud his intentions, I found his article to be uninformed and misleading. It gives the impression
that there is still a serious debate about the Aryan invasion over fundamentals, when both history and science have demolished it. What we have is no longer an academic debate but a battle of polemics and propaganda that has lately degenerated into political lobbying as witnessed in the California school controversy.

The basic problem is Malhotra's (and other's) reliance on secondary and tertiary sources like Trautmann and Edwin Bryant, when ample primary data is available. Also, I fail to see the 'refutation' of the Aryan invasion in
these books, especially in Edwin Bryant's. It is a timid work which tries hard to be on the right side of academic power equation. (I know this for a fact since Bryant came to see me before he wrote the book.)

I find that Malhotra (and others) treat these academics with excessive deference, thus emboldening propagandists like Michael Witzel to throw us on the defensive by taking an aggressive posture. They rightly assume that their opponents will never go beyond passive protest, which will get lost in the din.

There are no short cuts. We must take the bull by the horn and argue from facts and fundamentals. There is no reason for timidity when the facts are on our side. (See attachment.)

 Appeasement, which is what I see in Malhotra's article will for ever condemn us to be engaged in a non-existent "debate" on their terms that will go on forever.

Finally, totally disagree with his stance: "We don't know." We do know a great deal as the attached article shows. The truth needs only to be propagated, not diverted by conceding the ground to our adversaries.

Sincere regards,


And his letter to the President of Harvard university

March 18, 2006
Mr. Steven Hyman, Provost
Harvard University

Dear Mr. Hyman:


 I am writing this in connection with an article in the Pakistani newspaper DAWN by Michael Witzel, Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard, advertising his supposed triumph over the Hindus (Hindus) in California schools. (See attachment.)  

 Leaving aside the fact that it is tasteless, but protected by academic freedom, and the fact that it might involve him and the California Scholl Board in a protracted legal battles, I am struck by the fact that Witzel advertises himself as Professor of South Asian Studies, and not Professor of Sanskrit.  

The reason for suppressing this fact is not hard to seek. His advertising his position as Sanskrit Professor might turn off potential Pakistani sponsors in his efforts to sell himself as an anti-Hindu lobbyist.  

I use the word "advertise" because Witzel has formed a consulting group that calls itself  The Academic Indology Advisory Council , and IAPC (Indian American Public Education Council), with the dedicated website , offering its services to potential customers. 

Naturally, it would be bad policy to advertise himself to potential Pakistani customers as Sanskrit Professor. 

It is not my place to decide whether the Wales Professor Michael Witzel is guilty of conflict of interest in simultaneously posing as an independent expert on Hinduism to California school authorities, while suppressing the relevant facts in selling his services to potential customers in Pakistan. That is something for the California courts to decide, where there are several lawsuits pending.  

 All this proves, if any further proof was needed, that Michael Witzel is less a scholar than a political lobbyist, and now a budding entrepreneur looking for customers for his anti-Hindu lobbying skills.



N.S. Rajaram




India Acquired Language, Not Genes, From West, Study Says Posted April 3, 2006

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News

January 10, 2006

Most modern Indians descended from South Asians, not invading Central Asian steppe dwellers, a new genetic study reports.

The Indian subcontinent may have acquired agricultural techniques and languages—but it absorbed few genes—from the west, said Vijendra Kashyap, director of India's National Institute of Biologicals in Noida.


The finding disputes a long-held theory that a large invasion of central Asians, traveling through a northwest Indian corridor, shaped the language, culture, and gene pool of many modern Indians within the past 10,000 years.

That theory is bolstered by the presence of Indo-European languages in India, the archaeological record, and historic sources such as the Rig Veda, an early Indian religious text.

((This is a plain non sequitor, the AIT is not bolstered by either the archaeological record or the Rg veda. There is absolutely no mention of a migration froma  distant land anywhere i the Rg)

Some previous genetic studies have also supported the concept.

But Kashyap's findings, published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, stand at odds with those results.

True Ancestors

Testing a sample of men from 32 tribal and 45 caste groups throughout India, Kashyap's team examined 936 Y chromosomes. (The chromosome determines gender; males carry it, but women do not.)

The data reveal that the large majority of modern Indians descended from South Asian ancestors who lived on the Indian subcontinent before an influx of agricultural techniques from the north and west arrived some 10,000 years ago.

Most geneticists believe that humans first reached India via a coastal migration route perhaps 50,000 years ago.

Soon after leaving Africa, these early humans are believed to have followed the coast through southern India and eventually continued on to populate distant Australia.

Peter Underhill, a research scientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine's department of genetics, says he harbors no doubts that Indo-European speakers did move into India. But he agrees with Kashyap that their genetic contribution appears small.

It doesn't look like there was a massive flow of genes that came in a few thousand years ago," he said. "Clearly people came in to India and brought their culture, language, and some genes."

"But I think that the genetic impact of those people was minor," he added. "You'd don't really see an equivalent genetic replacement the way that you do with the language replacement."

Language, Genes Tell Different Tales

Kashyap and his colleagues say their findings may explain the prevalence of Indo-European languages, such as Hindi and Bengali, in northern India and their relative absence in the south.

"The fact the Indo-European speakers are predominantly found in northern parts of the subcontinent may be because they were in direct contact with the Indo-European migrants, where they could have a stronger influence on the native populations to adopt their language and other cultural entities," Kashyap said.

He argues that even wholesale language changes can and do occur without genetic mixing of populations.

"It is generally assumed that language is more strongly correlated to genetics, as compared to social status or geography, because humans mostly do not tend to cross language boundaries while choosing marriage partners," Kashyap said.

"Although few of the earlier studies have shown that language is a good predictor of genetic affinity and that Y chromosome is more strongly correlated with linguistic boundaries, it is not always so," he added.

"Language can be acquired [and] has been in cases of 'elite dominance,' where adoption of a language can be forced but strong genetic differences remain [because of] the lack of admixture between the dominant and the weak populations."

If steppe-dwelling Central Asians did lend language and technology, but not many genes, to northern India, the region may have changed far less over the centuries than previously believed.

"I think if you could get into a time machine and visit northern India 10,000 years ago, you'd see people … similar to the people there today," Underhill said. "They wouldn't be similar to people from Bangalore [in the south]."


This is the kind of sloppy reporting that prints adhoc assumptions and then presents them as facts , that makes  it difficult to accept such statements with equanimity. When mr. Underhill says that 'Clearly people came in to India and brought their culture, language, and some genes.",I am simply floored. Why is it so clear . Where is the evidence of such clarity. Just because there are similarities in language , it does not necessarily follow that there was a migration large or small scale into India. For example the Normans came into England about a thousand years ago but French has not survived as a language in England. In fact it was the other way around. The Normans (corruption for Norse men or Vikings ) first adopted French when they  settled in Northern France and lost their Viking language and then they later adopted English when they came and conquered England and lost their French. It is always the conqueror who gets absorbed into the mainstream of the land he conquers. Witness the case of the Mongols in China or the case of the Moghals in India. In both cases the conqueror is subjugated by the culture of the land he conquers. The Mongols became Chinese speaking and the Moghals ended up speaking Hindustani or Urdu. Bahadur Shah the last of the Moghals wrote his poetry in Hindustani  but he would have been  hard pressed to speak a sentence of Chagatai  ( a dialect of Turkish) that his ancestor Babar spoke. This is also the case with prior conquerors like the Kushans, who were completely Indianized and many speculate transformed themselves into what was later to be termed the Rajputs.

The only exception perhaps to this is the prevalence of English in India , a language that was obviously brought in by the English invader. But the reasons for such an exception are not far to seek. It took an extraordinary degree of coercion on the part of the colonial overlord to make English stick in India and even so , he could rarely converse with his domestic staff in English, even after 150 years of absolute autocratic rule and the imposition of English as the official lingua franca of the Indian subcontinent . Even today the percentage of English speakers in India remains well below 10%. In order to replicate the feat of the British in India , the ancient migrants would have had to be highly persistent and  tenacious to impose their will on the million's of people already residing there.

All this merely indicates that one has to be very cautious in extrapolating 19th and 20th century  mores into those of an earlier era.

The simple fact of the matter is that there is no mention of a migration in any of the Itihasas of India. Surely if there was any significant migration of a people who looked so different from the native population would be chronicled extensively But the reality is quite compelling there is not a single mention of a migration in any of the Vedas or Puranas or Itihasas.  In fact the land and topography  they describe an area that is remarkably similar in  topography to that of present day Punjab, Haryana, Uttaranchal and Kashmir and refer to the subsequently dried up Saraswathi (present day Ghagar,Hakra) in glowing terms at least 50 times as a  river flowing from the mountains to the sea.

The correct answer -Whatever migrations occurred during the period of recorded history (going back 8000 years} were inconsequential and had negligible numbers to warrant the conclusion that there was a large scale tectonic event enough to cause a change in the language. There was neither a major change in the genetic composition of the large mass of people in India (which was a always a heavily populated country during the period of recorded history that we are concerned with, nor was their a significant influx of migrants to cause such a large tectonic change as adoption of a  completely different language.

There is one other point to be made. When a group of people migrate from one continent to another as in the case of the early immigrants from England to America, the archaic form of the language is left behind and the language that takes root in the new land is one that is derived and a more recent version (in this example American English). In the case of Sanskrit it is without a doubt the most archaic among the languages of the Indo-European languages including Old Persian. If that is the case then why is there no evidence of an even more archaic language than Sanskrit with an oral tradition similar to that of Sanskrit anywhere else in the world. why is there no other no other region in the world with a well developed grammar such as that of Panini's  Ashtadhyayi anywhere else in the world except in Vedic India. Why is there no evidence of anybody who could chant Sanskrit slokas (verses) with the same facility that they were able to muster in Vedic India. The conclusion is that the migration theory(ies) into India simply do not make sense and do not stand up to scrutiny

If there was no migration into India, how did the commonality in phrases come about in such a large group of languages spread over a significant portion of the  Eurasian land mass ? I have my own deductions, but that will have to wait for another day.



  • AIT Debate in Bharat Rakshak (4 years ago)

Excerpts from the thread. The complete thread is available at

References to the sea apparently appear

That is a nice qualifier. Because in many of the verses quoted by Kaushal from Sethna's book both sindhu and samudra have been used.

I-46-2 -- sindhu mAtarA -- rm"w bt;ht | sindhu = either river or sea and mAtara = mother. This verse describes Ashwins as sons of the sea i.e they were born or they came out of a sea every morning.

I-163-1 -- udyant samudrAduta -- W'mbwŠt=w; | The same after breaking up becomes: W';T + mbwŠt;T + W; which respectivley mean rising (as in the morning)+ from the sea + up.

Since the Ashwins and the sun are intimate to one another, it makes more sense to interpret the word sindhu in I-46-2 as describing a sea rather than the river Sindhu in the light of I-163-1.

Two seas are mentioned frequently together in the context of the sun residing in both i.e. rising from one in the morning and retiring in the other in the evening. The following verse makes it clear:

X-136-5 -- ubhau samudrAvA ksheti yashcha pUrva utAparaha -- WCti mbwŠtJt Gur; ga vqJo W;tvh& | ubhau = both; samudrAvA = seas; ksheti = dwells; yashcha = who (masculine); pUrva = east(ern sea); utAparaha = after rising up.

The above is further qualified by the mentions in VII-6-7 (ref.: Sethna's book)

VII-6-7 -- aasamudrAdavarAda parasmAt -- ytmbwŠt=Jht=t vhbt;T | After breaking up it becomes (IMO): yt + mbwŠt;T + yJht=t + vhbt;T, which respectivley mean: or + from the sea + near/this + from the other/far.

in association with in the same verse, from heaven or earth:

VII-6-7 -- diva aa prithivyAhA -- r=J yt v]r:gt& | diva = heaven; aa = or; prithivyAhA = from the earth

VIII-26-17 -- yad ado divo arNava iSHo vA madatho grhe -- g=T y=tu r=Jtu yKoJ RMtu Jt b=:tu d]nu | The word divo meaning heaven before arNava meaning sea, could mean some sort of sea in the heaven. Hence I am not too sure about it. But the important thing is the use of the synonym arNava for sea.

[This message has been edited by VRaghav (edited 14-10-2000).]

The Myth of Aryan Invasion of India

By Dr. David Frawley

Ch.9.The Rediscovery of the Sarasvati River

Ch.10.The Vedic Image of the Ocean


10. Manu Samhita II.17-18.

11. Note Rig Veda II.41.16; VI.61.8-13; I.3.12.

12. Rig Veda VII.95.2. This is in a hymn of the rishi Vasishta who has the greatest number of hymns in the Rig Veda.

13. Studies from the Post-Graduate Research Institute of Deccan College, Pune, and the Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI), Jodhpur. Confirmed by use of MSS (multi-spectoral scanner) and Landsat satellite photography. Note MLBD NEWSLETTER (Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass), Nov. 1989.

Note also Sriram Sathe, BHARATIYA HISTORIOGRAPHY (Hyderabad, India: Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Samiti, 1989, pp. 11-13.

14. David Frawley, GODS, SAGES AND KINGS: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization. Salt Lake City, Utah: Passage Press 1991/ Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass 1993.

15. R. Griffith, THE HYMNS OF THE RIG VEDA (Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1976).

The best mentioned geographical features in the Rg are the rivers, many of which have been called by special names.

1. In one verse the rSHi Agastya speaks of ninety-nine rivers and claims to have secured all their names. But he does not mention them, nor are they enumerated anywhere else. The verse is as follows:

I-191-13 -- lJtltk lJle;tltk rJMg htuvwNeKtbT < mJtomtbd{Ck ltbthu

2. The rSHi of yet another verse speaks of ninety-nine flowing rivers:

I-32-14 -- lJ a glJr;k a m{J;e&

3. In another verse Agastya first probably speaks of twenty-one beautiful rivers and then of seven main rivers:

I-191-14 -- rt m; bgqgo& (literally twenty-one peahens)

I-191-14 -- m; mJmthtu (literally seven sisters)

4. In certain other verses, the rSHis speak of twenty-one rivers, but they do not supply the names of all of them:

I-34-8 -- rthrJlt rm"wrC& m;bt;]rC&

IX-86-21 -- rm"wgtu rt& m;

5. The most frequently used term is however, the 'Seven Rivers':

I-32-12 -- m; rm"qlT

I-71-7 -- m; gJe&

I-164-3 -- m; Jmth&, m; Jnr; etc.

It would thus appear that among the ninety-nine rivers, twenty-one were fairly large and seven were main. It is on account od this that the country had been called 'Sapta Saindhava' -- m; mi"J (Avestic Hapta Hendava). One would be tempted to jump the gun here and identify the seven rivers as the present five rivers of the modern day Punjab and the Indus and the Sarasvati.

Bhargava says that people obsessed too much with AIT are unable to conceive that the now very insignificant Sarasvati could ever have been big enough to deserve the honour of being one of the Sapta Sindhus. He says that had they cared to know the size of the Sarasvati either from the Mahabharata or the old beds of the river itself, they probably would have realised how palpably wrong they were.

Now to the main rivers of the Sapta Saindhava:

A verse shows the VitastA (the Jhelum) and the AsiknI (the modern Aik(?)) as the tributaries of the MarudvrdhA (the Chenab) and the ParuSHNI (the Ravi) as that of the ShutudrI (the Satluj). The Bias (Rgvedic VipAs) is not at all mentioned in that verse. Thus out of the modern five large rivers of the Punjab, three viz. the Bias, the Ravi and the Jhelum were not the main rivers but mere tributaries.

The verse is as follows:

X-75-5 -- Rbk bu dkdu gbwlu mhJr; Nw;wrŠ ;tubk ma;t vhgt>
yrmlgt bh=TJ]"u rJ;;t_gtLsfUegu ]Kwt mwMtubgt>>

Translation: O! Ganga, O! Yamuna, O! Sarasvati, O! ShutudrI with the ParuSHNI accept my laud. O! MarudvrdhA with the AsiknI and the VitastA and O! AarjIkIyA with the SushomA listen. The verse following this i.e. X-75-6 is addressed to the Sindhu (Jk rm"tu ), which is described as as going forward to unite with several other rivers one after another.

Hence the main rivers of the Sapta Saindhava were the Ganga, the Yamuna, the SarasvatI, the ShutudrI (Satluj), MarudvrdhA (Chenab), AarjIkIyA (?) and the Sindhu (Indus).

IP: Logged

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All times are ET (US)

Posted byPoster VRaghav

Before proceeding to the verses which refer to the Sarasvati river, I thought it might not be a bad idea to quote some verses which point towards other geographical features in the Sapta Saindhava region viz. the desert.

1. The Rg speaks of deserts ("J) in plural number. One verse speaks of three desert regions indicating that there were three deserts in the country:
I-35-8 -- te "J gtuslt

2. There are references like passing over deserts:
III-45-1 -- "JuJ ;t Rrn

3. Parjanya made the deserts passable:
V-83-10 -- yfU"okJtggu;Jt W

4. Like water brought to a man in the desert:
VI-34-4 -- slk l "JlrCmk g=tv&

5. Overcame by thrist in the desert:
IX-79-3 -- "Jl ;]Kt mbhe;

6. Bless us in paths and deserts:
X-63-5 -- Jr; l& vgtmw "Jmw

7. How many leagues in the desert?:
X-86-20 -- "J a gf];tk a fUr; rJtt rJ gtuslt

8. In a verse rivers are said to cut their paths through the deserts:
V-45-2 -- "kJKokmtu l‘& Ft=tuyKto&

9. There are expressions like deserts got flooded and water flowed:
IV-17-2 -- yt=o"Jtrl mhg; ytv&

10. Indra inundated thirsty desert plains:
IV-19-7 -- "Jtgs{t yv]K;]MtKt

11. Rain falls over deserts:
V-53-6 -- ylw "Jlt gr; J]g&

12. Plants spread over deserts:
IV-33-7 -- "Jtr;ltuM"e& etc.

The above references show that there were deserts in the Sapta Saindhava which were passable and in fact were crossed frequently by men. Also some verses allude to rivers meandering through the deserts and good rainfall occurring over them, which sort of corroborates with the life-sustainable semi-arid or temperate climate which geologists predict to have been enjoyed by the people of the Sapta Saindhava.


[This message has been edited by VRaghav (edited 17-11-2000).]

Indology and Racism

Distinguished British anthropologist Edmund Leach is quoted as saying,

>Why do serious scholars persist in believing in the Aryan invasions?... Why is this sort of thing attractive? Who finds it attractive? Why has the development of early Sanskrit come to be so dogmatically associated with an Aryan invasion?...
Where the Indo-European philologists are concerned, the invasion argument is tied in with their assumption that if a particular language is identified as having been used in a particular locality at a particular time, no attention need be paid to what was there before; the slate is wiped clean. Obviously, the easiest way to imagine this happening in real life is to have a military conquest that obliterates the previously existing population!

The details of the theory fit in with this racist framework... Because of their commitment to a unilineal segmentary history of language development that needed to be mapped onto the ground, the philologists took it for granted that proto-Indo-Iranian was a language that had originated outside either India or Iran. Hence it followed that the text of the Rig Veda was in a language that was actually spoken by those who introduced this earliest form of Sanskrit into India. From this we derived the myth of the Aryan invasions. QED.

Jim Shaffer and Diane Lichtenstein, perhaps the foremost modern scholars of Indian prehistory, write in a recent essay:

>The South Asian archaeological record reviewed here does not support ... any version of the migration/invasion hypothesis. Rather, the physical distribution of sites and artifacts, stratigraphic data, radiometric dates, and geological data can account for the Vedic oral tradition describing an internal cultural discontinuity of indigenous population movement.


Sateesh. I am still a student and have a long distance to traverse before I can get my PhD in the field I am pursuing my research. I am also a student when it comes to AIT and the Rg. In fact I am baffled everytime I go through the information heaped by Kaushal or some other sources outside of BR. I feel happy to have stumbled upon the Bhargava book in my school library and BR ofcourse through which I am able to answer many 'axioms' that I have come across as a child, like Sarasvati still flows under-ground; legends from the Mahabharata and the disappearance of Dwaraka city under the sea etc. Now I know I don't have to 'bluff' my niece and nephew with such myths anymore. And it's all been possible only because I am in good company i.e. Satsangati of BRites. I am reminded of another of Bhartrhari's padya glorifying Satsangati:

stzTgk r"gtu nhr; rm@Tar; Jtra mgbT >
btltulr;k r=Nr; vtvbT yvtfUhtur; >>

au;& Œmt=gr; r=Gw ;ltur; fUeL;bT >
mmETdr;& fU:g rfUbT l fUhtur; vwkmtbT >>

It rids away (harati) the weeds (jADyam) from the mind (dhiyo); irrigates (sinchati) the speech (vAchi) with truth (satyam)|
Enhances the status (mAna unnatim); keeps away (apAkaroti) from bad deeds (pApam)| |

Gladdens (prasAdayati) the heart (chetaha); spreads (tanoti) fame (keertim) all around (dikshu)|
Pray tell (kathaya) what (kim) does good company (satsangati) not (na) do (karoti) to human beings (pumsAm)| |

I was reading Rajaram's review of Talageri's book The Aryan Invasion Theory, a Reappraisal last night. I was struck by the following observations of Rajaram:

As Talageri observes:
... the joint testimony of the Rig Veda and the Puranas provides incontrovertible evidence that there were these dynasties ... during, and even before, the composition of the majority of the hymns of the Rig Veda: and that the movement of these dynasties took place from east to west and not vice versa. (p. 297; emphasis added)

In the light of the above and with what Bhargava says "I shall discuss them (the rivers) from sout-east to north-west as far as possible keeping in-line with the practice of the rSHis", one of the earlier posts can be examined:

Going back to the post (12-11-2000, 15.25 hrs) where I have posted the verse X-75-5, which describes the seven main rivers of the Sapta Saindhava, one can find that the verse starts with not an important river of the Rg i.e. Ganga (then Yamuna, Sarasvati, Shutudri i.e Satluj, MarudvrdhA i.e Chenab, ArjIkIya i.e HAro) and ends with the Indus in the direction going from east to west. It can be better understood with this picture --

It is most interesting to note the rSHis giving an overview of the rivers first and then going on to praise the rivers most dear to them in separate hymns. This organized fashion of arranging the rivers in the Rg puts Sarasvati firmly between the Ganga valley in the east and the Indus valley in the west. The cherry on top of this icing is the LandSat image which proves the existence of the Paleo channel of the river. So much for the "fundamentalist argument", and some insignificant Harqvati of Afghanistan which I came across in the thread started by Spinster. Now, the next best thing that I ought to do is to buy Talageri's book.

Kaushal, thanks. While I (read Dr. Kak) am (is) in the quest for Godavari in the Rg, I think I am ready to quote the verses concerning Sarasvati from the Rg.

1. One verse describes Sarasvati as swelled by many rivers:
VI-52-6 -- mhJ;e rm"wrC& rvJbtlt > denoting that it had several tributaries.

2. Another verse (VI-61-12) speaks of it as having three origins or sources (rtM":t >) and bearing or receiving the waters of seven rivers (m;"t;w& >)

3. Still another verse describes it as the seventh and the mother of rivers:
VII-36-6 -- mhJ;e m;:e rm"wbt;t >
The description probably means that the Sarasvati was the main out of the seven rivers; the other six were like her children coming to her. At this point, it should be quite clear that we are talking about Sarasvati and her tributaries and affluents and NOT the Sapta Sindhus. IOW, and to be more precise, we are talking about 'Sapta SArasvata' i.e. the seven Sarasvatis or the seven tributaries of the main Sarasvati. The tributaries have also been called 'seven sisters' -- m; Jmt in VI-61-10.

4. Yet another verse speaks of Sarasvati and seven rivers:
VIII-54-4 -- mhJgJ;w m; rm"J& >

The Sarasvati, according to Bhargava, "would thus appear to be formed higher up by three main affluents; then by seven streams (i.e. six others, probably including the above three and main Sarasvati as the seventh) and to have seven other sister rivers, running more or less parallel to it for a comparatively longer course, and then, either joining it or falling into the sea directly." Thus he says "there were in total 14 streams."

From here, he has gone much further to explain the rivers in the Sarasvati basin (he claims to have studied about 40 streams in the basin of that river). He also has put in great effort to especially identify the seven sisters of Sarasvati. To what extent it is correct, I really can not say. However, the seven rivers in the basin of the Sarasvati (i.e the 3 affluents in its upper course and others including the main Sarasvati as the seventh) can be seen in this picture (IMO) --

Some scholars like Zimmer, Griffith have doubted the identity of the Sarasvati. They have tried to interpret her and the Indus as one and the same river.

5. But Bhargava quotes verses where both the Sarasvati and the Sindhu have been mentioned side by side with the Sarayu intervening between them. They have been described as large rivers with huge waves:
X-64-9 -- QLbrCbontu bnehJmt > Also others like X-75-5 and X-75-6 which I have quoted in my earlier posts mention the Sindhu and the Sarasvati side by side.

6. Sarasvati has been described as a mighty river running direct from hills to the sea:
VII-95-2 -- Nwragor; rdrhg yt mbwŠt;T >

7. One verse calls it a mighty stream:
I-3-11 -- bntu yKo& >

8. In another verse it is said to have swept away a ridge of hills with its mighty waves just as one digs out stems of the Lotus plant:
VI-61-2 -- Rgk mwburCcomFtRJthsmtlw rdheKtk ;rJMurCLbrC& >

9. One more verse speaks of its unlimited and unbroken floods moving swiftly with a rapid rush and thundering roar:
Vi-61-8 -- ggt yl;tu yh;JuMarhKwhKoJ& > ybahr; htuhJ;T >>

10. Yet another verse speaks of it as filling the earth and the wide regions of the heavens with its roar:
VI-61-11 -- ytvŒwMe vtL:Jtgwhhstu y;rhGbT mhJ;e rl=vt;w >>

11. Still another one calls it the mightiest of the mighty streams and the most rapid among rapid streams:
VI-61-13 -- brnlt brnltmw and yvmtbv;bt > respectively.

12. According to one verse, it surpassed all other rivers in greatness:
VII-95-1 -- rJJt yvtu brnlt rm"whgt& >

13. While in another it is described as the broadest river:
VII-96-1 -- J]n=w dtrgMu >

From the above it is clear that Sarasvati has been devoted one full hymn (i.e. VI-61) even though while the Sindhu was known to be the largest river of the country (as in X-75-5 and X-75-6).

14. It is diefied and in one verse has been described as the inspirer of good songs and inciter of good thoughts:
I-3-11 -- atu=rgte mql];tltk au;;e mwb;eltbT >>

15. In the verse just following it, she is said to generate and illuminate with her light and intelligence:
I-3-12 -- Πau;gr; fUu;wlt r"gtu rJJt >

Bhargava says "If these verses have any meaning, it is that a good many hymns of the Rg were composed on her banks."

16. She is the best of mothers, the best of rivers and the best of devis:
II-41-16 -- yrc;bu l=e;bu =urJ;bu >

17. In still another verse it is addressed as the dearest of dear streams:
VI-61-10 -- rŒgt rŒgtmw >

18. She is prayed not to spurn the rSHis and not to let them go away from her fields to places not lovely (like them):
VI-61-14 -- btvVUhe& vgmt bt l yt"fUT > swMJ l& mgt Jugt a bt JGuttghKtrl >>

Bhargava again: "Sentiments like these would be meaningless unless the Sarasvati valley was the original home of the Rgvedic Aryas."

19. She is the sure defence like a fort of iron:
VII-95-1 -- ytgmevw& >

20. She is said to have given milk and butter to NahuSHa:
VII-95-2 -- D];k vgtu =w=wnu ltMtg >

21. The PUrus are said to live on the banks of the Sarasvati:
VII-96-2 -- yr"rGgr; vqhJ& >

Bhargava avers "I hope it is quite clear that by now that the Sarasvati was the most important and one of the largest rivers of the Sapta Saindhava and that it was in the valley of this river and its seven sisters that the Rgvedic culture and religion originated and developed and then spread to other parts of the country including the valley of the Indus itself" (i.e. towards the west as Talageri asserts).

[This message has been edited by VRaghav (edited 04-12-2000).]

Witzel's philology

Witzel has removed the Rigvedic Aryans from all but the corner of north India according to his philological conclusions. Though the Rigveda mentions samudra, the common Sanskrit term for ocean over 150 times, as the goal of all rivers, as endless in extent and as containing great waves, Witzel will not credit them with knowing the ocean because according to him they didn't portray samudra with the correct salt content! Though the Rigveda is centered on a great river called Sarasvati located between the Yamuna and Sutlej (Shutudri) that flows to the sea, Witzel would turn the real Saraswati into a small runoff stream in Afghanistan. That the Indian Sarasvati is the site of the great majority of Harappan ruins doesn't count for him either.

While Witzel denied that there was any monsoon mentioned in the Rigveda, when I showed him references, he conveniently placed this Vedic monsoon in the Caspian Sea. He has also located great Vedic sages like Vasishta and Agastya in Afghanistan and nearby Iran, though people in these regions seem to have no record of them or their teachings.

Vanishing Dravidians

What does Witzel think happened in ancient India instead? According to Witzel, the Harappans were a Para-Munda people related to the current aborigines of the country. It was they who produced the great cities and the seals of the Indus civilisation, neither Aryans nor Dravidians who were both intruders from Central Asia.

To quote a long article of his on this subject, "The language of the pre-Rigvedic Indus civilisation, at least in the Panjab, was of a (Para-) Austro-Asiatic nature (Early Sources for South Asian Substrate Languages by Michael Witzel, Mother Tongue, Special Issue, Oct. 1999, pg. 17)." He further claims that "This means Haryana and Uttar Pradesh once had a Para-Munda population that was acculturated by the Indo-Aryans" (p.46). Note the former barbaric invading Aryan hordes have now been reduced to clever perpetrators of `acculturalisation.'

How does Witzel know all this? Has he produced any decipherment of the Indus seals? No, he hasn't dared to. Has he found any ancient Munda records of this type? They are no ancient Munda records of any type. Are his conclusions based upon skeletal remains? No, it all based on his philology.

As aboriginal people, the Mundas have no written records or recorded history. Where they came from and what they spoke in the Harappan era is quite speculative. Such problems don't bother Witzel. His philology can reconstruct unrecorded languages over a period of five thousand years and can override what geology or archaeology might otherwise indicate. With his Munda Harappa, Witzel has the Dravidians entering into Sindh from Iran about the same period as he has the Vedic Aryans coming into the Panjab from Afghanistan (c. 1500 BCE). Like the Vedic Aryans he deems them to be illiterate semi-nomads. "The Dravida entered South Asia from the Iranian highlands. Their oldest vocabulary (Southworth and McAlpin) is that of a semi-nomadic, pastoral group, not of an agricultural community" (pg. 27). Later he states, "Dravidians were not a primary factor in the population of the Indus civilisation," and "the Dravidians apparently were just as foreign to Sindh and its agriculture as the Indo-Aryans to the Panjab" (pg. 37, note this entire section on Dravidian Immigration). He claims the evidence for this is all in the philology, mainly from reconstructing proposed Dravidian and Munda loan words in Vedic texts.

Yes, in the Witzel world it was the aborigines that produced the great civilisation of ancient India and both the Aryans and Dravidians were later uncivilised immigrants from Central Asia who conquered them, stole their culture, replaced their languages and gave them no credit! He has the Dravidians supplanting the Harappan people in Sindh just as the Aryans supplanted them in Punjab. From there he has the Dravidians migrate south, while the Aryans mainly went east, both remarkably preserving their own languages and becoming the dominant peoples of their areas, though originally just small groups of illiterate nomadic migrants!

Not content with one Aryan invasion/migration, Witzel requires a second Dravidian invasion/migration to go along with it! In a non-published proposal of his, he even says that the Munda languages also came to India from S.E. Asia! It seems that anywhere in the world but India can produce languages or peoples.

While these aborigines produced the great Harappan cities and lost all remembrance of their literature and civilisation, he allows the great Vedic literature no real civilisation of its own. The Dravidians fare no better. Their Sangam literature is later and by his account even more suspect than the Vedas.

Witzel quotes favorably a statement at the beginning of this rather long article about India's role as "the cultural diffusion cul-de-sac of Asia" (p.1), an idea that has "kept me occupied on and off over the past few years." This sums up Witzel's view of Indian civilisation — it is the cultural backwater and dead end of Asia, where wandering nomads can go no further, with no real civilisation of its own.

Not surprisingly Witzel has little appreciation for the Vedas, Vedanta, Yoga, Buddhism or anything else India has produced. His extensive bibliographies on ancient India seldom refer to any Indian scholars, and certainly avoid mentioning any yogis like Aurobindo who have different views. You would never find Witzel chanting Om, practicing Yoga or in any other way honoring the great traditions of the region. His anti-India views reflect those of the colonial era which he is continuing. For this reason Witzel is mainly honored by Marxists in India whose political agenda favors rejecting anything great not only in the Vedas but in Indian civilisation as a whole, which many Marxists following Marx himself see as an invention of the British. However, no one who really studies and loves the Vedas will be fooled by such theatrics. There is much more to the Vedas than Witzel's philology. For my more detailed response to Witzel, please note the web site, or



The Riddle of India’s Ancient Past
An Overview of the Aryan Problem

By Michel Danino

A revised version of a paper presented at a seminar on Value Education
organized by the Chinmaya Mission at Coimbatore on February 4-5, 1999.

I have been asked to speak a few words on India’s ancient past, a subject which ought to be of interest to every Indian, and especially to teachers, since students should be naturally curious to know the remotest origins of their country. The birth of Indian civilization is a subject I have been studying for some time, first of all because I find it fascinating: to explore the roots of a great and living civilization spanning over 6,000 years is something we can probably do only in India, since all other ancient civilizations have long disappeared. There is, however, another reason for my interest, and that will be the focus of this brief presentation; it is the so-called Aryan problem.

As you all know, what our history textbooks today teach is still basically the theory of a few nineteenth-century European scholars (including the famous Max Mller). According to them, around 1500 B.C., hordes of semi-barbarian, pastoral nomads, the so-called “Aryans,” poured out of Central Asia into Northwest India, and drove south the ancestors of today’s Dravidians; then, over a few centuries, they composed the Vedas, gradually got their “Aryan” culture (with its language, Sanskrit) to spread all over India, and eventually built the mighty Ganges civilization. This, with some variations, is still today what the school-going child is taught. Not only textbooks, even respectable dictionaries and encyclopaedias will tell you more or less the same thing.

So at first sight, there would seem to be little scope for differing views on the matter. Yet there are widely differing views, even a raging debate—and it rages not only in India but in Western universities and among eminent scholars and archaeologists. As a matter of fact, many of them have in recent years called for a new look at the established theory. In India that includes reputed archaeologists such as B. B. Lal, Dilip Chakrabarti, S. R. Rao, V. N. Misra, J. P. Joshi, S. P. Gupta, R. S. Bisht, K. M. Srivastava, Madhav Acharya, etc.; in the West, Jim Shaffer, J. M. Keyoner, G. F. Dales, Colin Renfrew, J.-F. Jarrige, K. A. R. Kennedy and many others. They are joined by scholars from various fields, such as David Frawley, Koenraad Elst, N. S. Rajaram, Subhash Kak, Klaus Klostermaier, K. D. Sethna, A. K. Biswas, Shrikant Talageri, Bhagwan Singh, etc. All of them agree that archaeological evidence entirely fails to support the Aryan invasion theory and actually goes against it; many of them also find the linguistic evidence that was used to buttress it quite shaky. But this debate, as we shall see, is by no means limited to the academic world; it is not a dry scholarly matter, and it has far-reaching repercussions on today’s India, especially where her unity is concerned.

I have studied the question not only from an archaeological point of view, but also taking into account the views of great Indians such as Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and several others (my starting point was in fact Sri Aurobindo’s own research into the Veda[1]). For it is a vast subject which touches not only on archaeology and linguistics, not only on astronomy, ancient mathematics, geology, metallurgy, even ecology, but also on Indian Scriptures, culture and tradition. A few years ago, I summarized some important points in a small book.[2] Today, however, I will limit myself to a few main lines of argument which, to my mind, are sufficient to show that the “new school” of archaeologists and scholars is right in calling for a radical review of India’s remote past.

At the center of the riddle of India’s ancient past lies the famous Indus Valley (or Harappan) civilization, one of the world’s oldest. It was certainly the most extensive by far, since it covered today’s Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, much of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Kashmir, western Uttar Pradesh, the whole of Pakistan, even parts of Afghanistan ; it was also one of the most sophisticated in terms of urbanization, industry, technology, trade and sailing. Its art and crafts were varied and refined, though much less abundant than in contemporary Egypt or Mesopotamia. However, its hallmarks were a remarkably peaceful civic organization based on cultural integration, and the care it bestowed on its humblest inhabitants. Its sanitation and water management, for instance, were of such a level that one wishes our municipal corporations would follow them today. In its fully developed phase (the “mature phase,” as archaeologists call it), it lasted from about 2600 to about 1900 B.C. ; its early phase dates back to at least 3500 B.C. (J. M. Kenoyer opts for 5000 B.C.). A few sites, such as Mehrgarh, even show a continuity of preceding cultures going back to 7000 BC. So far, over 2,600 sites have been identified, over half of them in India, with 700 along the dry bed of a mighty river to which we will soon return. While the best-known cities, Mohenjo-daro (on the Indus river) and Harappa (on the Ravi), now lie in Pakistan, Indian archaeologists have since Independence unearthed a number of important settlements, such as Dholavira and Lothal in Gujarat, Kalibangan in Rajasthan, Rakhigarhi and Banawali in Haryana.

When this civilization was discovered in the 1920s, the attempt was naturally to fit it into the accepted framework. It was therefore assumed that its inhabitants were Dravidians, that the invading Aryans destroyed its great cities, and that the surviving Dravidians fled south for refuge. But today, no one (except our textbook writers perhaps) takes this assumption seriously, since there is no evidence on the ground to corroborate it. Archaeologists, whatever their school of thought, whether Indian or Western, agree at least on these three point :

First, as surprising as it may seem, there is no physical trace whatsoever of any invaders, Aryan or other, from the Northwest or elsewhere, and no findings have been made which could be associated with an Aryan people coming into India—neither pottery nor utensils nor tools nor weapons nor graves nor any form of art. It is hard to imagine how a people supposed to have conquered the subcontinent failed to leave the slightest physical trace! Not only that, there is also no trace of any major conflict in any of the cities, and no evidence of any southward population movement ; the only clear movement, about the end of the Harappan civilization, is eastward and more precisely towards the Gangetic basin. B. B. Lal, former director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India, observes,

The supporters of the Aryan invasion theory have not been able to cite even a single example where there is evidence of “invaders,” represented either by weapons of warfare or even by cultural remains left by them.[3]

J. M. Kenoyer, who is still pursuing excavations at Harappa, is even more categorical :

There is no archaeological or biological evidence for invasions or mass migrations into the Indus Valley between the end of the Harappan Phase, about 1900 B.C. and the beginning of the Early Historic period around 600 B.C.[4]

Second, experts analyzing the skeletons found in Harappan cities (especially in Sindh, Punjab and Gujarat) concluded that the physical traits of their inhabitants were not markedly different from those of the populations found today in the same regions. There is no sign of any sudden disruption in population patterns, only the gradual changes that one would expect to take place naturally over the centuries. Kenneth A. R. Kennedy, biological anthropologist at Cornell University, U.S.A., who has worked extensively on Harappan sites to study human skeletal remains, concludes unambiguously:

Biological anthropologists remain unable to lend support to any of the theories concerning an Aryan biological or demographic entity.... What the biological data demonstrate is that no exotic races are apparent from laboratory studies of human remains excavated from any archaeological sites, including those accorded Aryan status [by the old school]. All prehistoric human remains recovered thus far from the Indian subcontinent are phenotypically identifiable as ancient South Asians.... In short, there is no evidence of demographic disruptions in the north-western sector of the subcontinent during and immediately after the decline of the Harappan culture.[5]

Third, as mentioned earlier, the highest concentration of Harappan settlements is found along a huge and now dry river, which follows with some precision (though more to the North) the traditional Sarasvati, and once flowed across Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Sindh and Gujarat, joining the Arabian sea in Kutch. Its exact course has been plotted by geologists and confirmed by satellite photography; the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre has even found that in parts of Rajasthan, “in extreme desert conditions,” the water of the Sarasvati “remains available at a depth of fifty to sixty metres,” and radiocarbon measurements of some water samples have shown them to “range from 2400 to 7400 Before Present,” with “no modern recharge discernible.”[6] Today, scientists agree that this river, whose bed was three to ten kilometres wide, could only have been the ancient Sarasvati—the same river that is often praised in the hymns in the Rig-Veda. (This identification is accepted by most archaeologists, for instance Kenoyer, Raymond and Bridget Allchin, G. L. Possehl or D. P. Agrawal.) But it so happens that this river dried up in stages, and its final disappearance has been scientifically dated to about 2000 B.C. Then why did the supposed Aryans, who are said to have invaded India five hundred years later and to have composed the Rig-Veda still later, lavish so much praise on a long dried-up river? It stands to reason that the composers of the Vedic hymns lived near the Sarasvati while it was still in full flow, and that again fits perfectly well with the Harappan era.

In addition, had Dravidians fled to the South as was supposed, many scholars have asked why they should have forgotten the famous Indus script on the way, so that no trace of it is found in Southern India, and the oldest extant Tamil inscriptions had to wait another two thousand years, that too in the Brahmi script? Similarly, nowhere do we find in the South artefacts associated with Harappan culture, much less any trace of the urban skills found in Indus cities—in fact urbanization in the South grew only from the third century B.C., probably under Mauryan and Roman influences.

Finally, it is increasingly recognized that there are strong links between the Veda and the Harappan culture: We find statues and seals depicting yogis and yogic postures, we find a Shiva-like deity, worship of a mother-goddess, fire altars, all of which are suggestive of Vedic culture. Harappan symbols include the trishul, the svastika, the conch shell (also used as a trumpet), the pipal tree, all of which are central to later Indian culture. The Rig-Veda itself is full of references to fortified cities and towns, to oceans, sailing, trade and industry, all of which are found in the Harappan civilization. Studying Harappan town-planning, R. S. Bisht, director at the Archaeological Survey of India and excavator of the well-known site of Dholavira in the Rann of Kutch, finds that city “a virtual reality of what the Rig-Veda, the world’s oldest literary record, describes.”[7] S. P. Gupta, chairman of the Indian Archaeological Society, agrees : “Our analysis shows that [. . .] the Indus-Sarasvati civilization reflects the Vedic literature.”[8]

So it is clear that objective data repudiate the old invasion theory. Archaeology completely fails to support the existence and arrival into India of any supposed Aryan people. On the other hand, there is much evidence to suggest that from a cultural point of view the Harappan civilization had a Vedic backdrop, which would make the Rig-Veda at least 5,000 years old.

Of course, many questions remain. (I am leaving out here the linguistic question, which is briefly discussed in The Invasion That Never Was.) For instance, what about the mysterious Indus script found on thousands of seals? The fact is that several scholars worked for decades trying to show that the language behind the script was some form of proto-Dravidian, but without any conclusive success at deciphering it. Most of them have now abandoned their attempt. Other scholars (such as S. R. Rao or N. Jha) worked on the opposite line, trying to show that the language was some form of Sanskrit, but their decipherments have not received general acceptance either. Only the discovery of a bilingual inscription, or a sufficiently long one (since most of the inscriptions on the seals are very brief) could clinch the issue.

So that is, briefly, what science has to tell us. One question that has interested me a good deal is : What does Indian tradition have to tell us on the same subject? Does it agree with science, or does it support the old Aryan theory? Does it also support the division between Aryans and Dravidians which comes as a result of the theory? The answer leaves no room to ambiguity: No Indian scripture makes any mention of an invasion from the Northwest or of a previous homeland outside India. In fact, the Vedic homeland most frequently referred to in the Rig-Veda is Saptasindhu, in other words, the Indus and Sarasvati basins, which is exactly where the Harappan civilization flourished. Let me quote here Swami Vivekananda :

There is not one word in our scriptures, not one, to prove that the Aryans ever came from anywhere outside India.... The whole of India is Aryan, nothing else.[9]

Some may say that this concerns the tradition of North India only. So let us take a look at the South. In the Sangam literature, we find the legendary origin of the Tamilians not in the North, but further South, in a now submerged island or continent called Kumari Kandam. This may be an embellished memory of the submergence of Poompuhar, the city described in the Shilappadikaram and Manimekhalai epics, a submergence confirmed by preliminary underwater explorations (note that marine archaeology in India is only beginning : we can hope for some major discoveries in the years ahead).

What about the so-called “Dravidian culture,” then? No one will dispute the greatness and richness, even the distinctiveness of the Tamil genius, but I will certainly dispute what some like to call its “separateness.” Early Tamil culture was no more “separate” than, say, Bengali or Gujarati cultures. All of them have their own stamp and own original contribution, but all are branches of the same tree. If you take a look at the Shilappadikaram again, you will see vivid references to Indra, Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Durga, Lakshmi, and several mentions of the Veda; King Shenguttuvan is shown as bringing the stone for Kannagi’s idol from the Himalayas, where his ancestors are said to have carved their emblem; he does fight North Indian kings, but there is no hint that their culture is regarded as different. In historical accounts, we find Chola and Chera kings proudly claiming descent from Rama or from kings of the Lunar dynasty—in other words, an "Aryan" descent. We are told that the greatest Chola king, Karikala, was a patron of both the Vedic religion and Tamil literature, while the Pandya king Nedunjelyan performed many Vedic sacrifices, and the dynasty of the Pallavas made their capital Kanchi into a great centre of Sanskrit learning and culture. Another Pandya king is said to have fed the armies on both sides during the Bharata war. And let us not forget the reverence accorded in the South to Agastya, the great seer (rishi) from the North. Countless similar examples could be cited from Sangam poetry or even the ancient Tamil grammar Tolkappiyam.[10] None of this suggests any clash of culture ; rather the contrary, it was a mutual enrichment. While Vedic culture was welcomed in the South and harmonized with local elements, what has come to be called “Hinduism” owes much to the generous contribution the Tamil land made in return, for instance in music, dance, architecture, or the bhakti movement.

It is now time to conclude, and to my mind there are several important lessons to be drawn from our brief study of the Aryan controversy.

The first is that there was never any Aryan invasion of India and that our textbooks will have to be revised in the light of sound scientific findings. To quote Dr. Ambedkar: "The theory of [Aryan] invasion is an invention. It is a perversion of scientific investigation, it is not allowed to evolve out of facts.... It falls to the ground at every point.”[11] All available evidence shows that India’s civilization, whose roots go back even before the Harappan civilization, grew on Indian soil. As the U.S. archaeologist Jim Shaffer puts it :

Current archaeological data do not support the existence of an Indo-Aryan or European invasion into South Asia any time in the pre- or protohistoric periods. Instead, it is possible to document archaeologically a series of cultural changes reflecting indigenous cultural developments from prehistoric to historic periods.[12]

Naturally, this new view will have considerable repercussions on the history of ancient India and of the ancient world, and we can safely predict that India will be shown to have been the source of much of Western civilization. This had been anticipated by a number of Western thinkers, such as the French philosopher Voltaire, who said more than two hundred years ago :

I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges, astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, etc. . . [13] It does not behove us, who were only savages and barbarians when these Indian and Chinese peoples were civilized and learned, to dispute their antiquity.[14]

The second lesson is that those who today still insist on Aryan-Dravidian divide do so not only in disregard of archaeological findings, but also in complete disregard of Indian tradition (whether from the North or from the South); they prefer to blindly follow a few nineteenth-century European scholars who made up the invasion theory simply because they would not accept that ancient civilization could have flowed out of India. It had to be the white man who brought it to India. Moreover, in that colonial age, they were eager to divide India further into Aryan and Dravidian, North and South, upper and lower castes, so as to encourage conversions to Christianity and justify the British presence in India. Certain present-day followers of those scholars are equally interested in this job of division; the best proof of it is that they shy away from serious debates, preferring to hurl invectives at serious and respected archaeologists or historians, whom they call “communal,” “parochial,” etc. for suggesting, for instance, that Vedic culture was indigenous and formed the backdrop of the Harappan world. In other words, if you look into the problem objectively you are communal, while if you propagate outdated theories for political ends, you utter gospel truths that no one should dare dispute. This is not only unscientific and irrational, it is obscurantism plain and simple.

The third lesson is that Indian culture is essentially one, though with considerable regional variations, which only go to enrich it. Sri Aurobindo never tired of stressing this essential unity. “In India,” he said, “at a very early time the spiritual and cultural unity was made complete and became the very stuff of the life of all this great surge of humanity between the Himalayas and the two seas.”[15]

Western civilization, not even three centuries after the Industrial Revolution, is now running out of breath. It has no direction, no healthy foundations, no value left except selfishness and greed, nothing to fill one’s heart with. India alone has preserved something of the deeper values that can make a man human, and I am convinced that the world will be turning to them in search of a remedy to its advanced malady. Once India’s ancientness is recognized, we will better understand the strength that has enabled her to survive through all those ages. Whether she will survive her present phase of degradation and lead the world to a new phase is the question.

I will end with these words from Sri Aurobindo :

A time must come when the Indian mind will shake off the darkness that has fallen upon it, cease to think or hold opinions at second and third hand and reassert its right to judge and enquire in a perfect freedom into the meaning of its own Scriptures. When that day comes we shall, I think, [. . .] question many established philological myths—the legend, for instance, of an Aryan invasion of India from the north, the artificial and inimical distinction of Aryan and Dravidian which an erroneous philology has driven like a wedge into the unity of the homogenous Indo-Afghan race.[16]

When the most advanced minds of the occident are beginning to turn in this red evening of the West for the hope of a new and more spiritual civilization to the genius of Asia, it would be strange if we could think of nothing better than to cast away our own self and potentialities and put our trust in the dissolving and moribund past of Europe.[17]






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