This is not an easy subject to write about unless one wants to mock and taunt the so called “Right Wing” Hindus – a group who are portrayed in media images as ugly violent looking men clad in saffron coloured robes with paan-stained mouths gaping – apparently shouting and ready to lynch someone. This group appear worthy of mocking so a great deal of effort is not considered desirable to explain or understand their anger. Their anger only serves to evoke the joy and satisfaction of Schahdenfreude – or pleasure in the other person’s misery.
However such reactions are not necessarily a wise choice in India because provoking an angry majority is always a dangerous exercise when it comes to issues that evoke strong emotions in an under-policed land where rule of law does not always extend to every village or by-lane. The dividing line between courage and foolhardiness is very narrow.
So what is it that makes angry Hindus angry about a theory that claims that a group of fair skinned Aryans came to India from somewhere outside India, riding on horses, bringing with them the culture that created the Rig Veda? These migrants (or invaders), it is now claimed, came into western India (the Punjab region) as the Mohenjo-Daro/Harappan civilization was dying out. It was originally postulated that the invaders who were the composers of the Rig Veda found dark skinned “dasyus” who had short “negroid” noses (“anas”). These were Dravidians, it was stated – speaking a rough language of uncultured people unlike the refined Aryans speaking the refined Sanskrit that was brought from abroad. These Dravidians were pushed down south by the victorious Aryans.
It was further claimed that the fair skinned Aryans who brought Sanskrit created a caste system to prevent the corrupt dark skinned people from having access to their superior language and culture. By the time this theory became mainstream (around the year 1900) European “Indologists”, who studied and wrote about India and Indians like zoo animals, were getting worried that too many black skinned people seemed to know the Vedas and had to be included in the superior white culture. This anomaly had to be explained. The explanation came soon – unfortunately all were racist explanations as to how the Aryans who came to India inevitably mixed with Dravidians and ended up being discolored and corrupted.
With minor modifications, this is still the story of how India acquired the Vedas as told by Europeans and taught as history in schools in India after 1857.
Hindus do not believe this story. They never knew terms like Aryan and Dravidian until those names were introduced as “history” in India. Hindus still believe that their entire history goes back many thousands of years in India. Nothing in the ancient Indian narrative speaks of people coming from abroad or fighting wars, or of people being driven out of their lands. Within India – the narrative of the comparatively dark skinned people of the south was exactly the same. The Hindu past lay inside India. Hindu epics, tales and narratives were chock-full of familiar landmarks that were still present and still being visited with reverence by Hindus from all over India. These landmarks include the Himalayas in the north, the Yamuna and Ganga rivers, their meeting point at Hardwar, the Vindhya mountains, the forests of central India and the southern peninsula with a shallow crossing to the island of Sri Lanka in the south corroborated in ancient epics.
Hindus basically do not accept the modern “Aryan invasion” narrative because they believe their own narrative which has no reference to Aryans, Dravidians or lands outside the geographical boundaries of India – which in earlier days included what is now Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan. Hindu anger at what appears to be a cooked up story could be assuaged if it could be shown that the “modern narrative” has credible proof. For example – although Kandahar in Afghanistan conjures up unsavory memories of the Taliban hijacking an Indian airliner, the name Kandahar is derived from Gandhara. No Hindu gets upset if he is told that part of his culture did come from Afghanistan for that has been part of the Hindu narrative for many millennia. No Hindu is upset that the Indus, from which the name India is derived and which is also the sacred Sindhu river, exists in Pakistan. That is an accepted part of Hindu history and creates no conflict even if it provokes some heartburn among Hindus and Punjabis and Sindhis who lost their lands at partition.
But the narrative of horse riding Aryans from somewhere in Europe or Eurasia coming to India is simply not believed. The Hindu narrative is deeply enough entrenched that it will not go away and people will react with anger at attempts to change the narrative unless there is irrefutable proof of people having come from abroad with the language.
However the proof is far from irrefutable. Despite vigorous handwaving that genetic researchers have proved the Aryan invasion theory – the proof is either non existent or weak for a very large number of reasons. It is not my intention to discuss these in detail, for there is enough to fill several books, but before I list a few salient points I would like to point out that what we see today is not just “Hindu anger” as suggested but “counter anger” of people who have, for their own reasons, tried to promote the Aryan invasion as true and an almost desperate push to try and make the Aryan invasion idea become true and credible using evidence that is not just paltry, but is often totally absent. Part of the problem is anger at the fact that Hindus do not accept “scientifically proven” theories – which makes Hindus retrogressive and superstitious. These ideas are going to need a rethink because the original stories about an Aryan invasion were racist theories as indicated in a previous article on this portal that can be accessed at https://swarajyamag.com/culture/aryans-and-dravidians-an-invention-of-racist-nineteenth-century-scholars
The racism part has now been consigned to the dustbin but the theories remain weak. Among the most blatant errors made by linguists, historians and archaeologists is using “translations” of the Vedas without consulting Vedic scholars about what the Vedas mean. Vedic scholars invariably point out that the Vedas are not a history or a narrative. They were never meant to describe day to day events. They are, in the words of the famous ancient Vedic scholar Sayana – simply a “heap of words” (“sabdarasi”) whose purpose is to aid in human spiritual upliftment. How and why is not relevant here but what is relevant is that the Vedas are not a story or a history. The original meanings of the words in the Vedas are obscure, and some meanings are lost altogether. The Vedas are meant to be chanted as “mantras” and not written down as stories. But they were written down and translated and the translations read like the work of a drunken lunatic. I quote a few randomly selected lines from Ralph Griffiths’ English translation of the Rig Veda to show how ridiculous the translations sound.
O Indra, stimulate thereto us emulously fain for wealth,
And glorious, O most splendid One.
Give, Indra, wide and lofty fame, wealthy in cattle and in strength,
Lasting our life-time, failing not.
The reader is urged to download and read these translations at the risk of much boredom and perhaps some amusement. No sane person who reads these translations of the Vedas can glean any knowledge or spirituality from them. Yet the Vedas have served as the source of all of Hindu spirituality. But that spirituality was never meant to appear from written down translations such as the one by Griffiths or others.
Unfortunately linguists, Indologists and historians have reached all their conclusions about Aryans and Dravidians from these comical translations. The word Aryan does not occur at all, but that did not stop “scholars” from using the word “Arya” to imagine an Aryan race. The Dravidian race was conjured up from words like “dasyu” and “anas” (a word mistranslated as “without nose” – like negroid people with small noses).
As bad as the above assumptions may sound, they did not end there. The source of Sanskrit had to be shown to have been from somewhere else. Ever since the nineteenth century, scholars have argued that Sanskrit (or a mother language now called P.I.E.) must have originated in Sweden, or Russia or some far away Arctic regions. Current theories favour the Eurasian steppe region. It would make a wonderful story if someone had found Sanskrit texts in the steppe region. Or if there were some lost tribe speaking Sanskrit or some other tongue with oral narratives that made a connect with India. But nothing of the sort exists. There is no evidence whatsoever that the language that the steppe people spoke 3500 years ago was a precursor or a relative of Sanskrit. It is just an assumption, often rationalized as “a reasonable assumption”. But it remains an assumption nevertheless with no proof whatsoever.
One might well ask how people connected the Eurasian steppe with India. Here, once again the comical “translations” of the Vedas that sound like a badly written story came in handy. The Eurasian steppe has graves with buried horses and chariots. Somehow it was assumed that Vedic culture in India was similar to a steppe culture which slaughtered and cooked horses, ate horse meat, drank horse milk and buried horses and chariots in graves. This laughably unlikely link of graves with an equally unlikely “translation” of the Vedas is now considered fact in mainstream texts and find mention in a great many publications.
Now, when genetics researchers look for evidence of migration – they look to see if they can find any connection between Eurasia and India. And they also look for a date that corresponds to a period when horse graves were found in Eurasia. If they find a hint of this – genetics papers report that as “possible evidence of the Aryan migration that brought language to India”. Genes cannot reveal what language people spoke, but the assumption made by historians about an “Aryan invasion” are assumed by genetics researchers to be true. Geneticists cannot be blamed – after all it was neither their fault that such preposterous theories were conjured up, nor is it the geneticists responsibility to correct them.
But this fake historical record has had serious social and political repercussions in India. The Dravidian political parties have named themselves after an essentially fake racial construct and still have people who claim that north Indians are alien invaders. For their part, neither north Indians nor western historians realize that south Indian languages are not Tamil alone, but include Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam along with a whole host of other languages like Konkani and Tulu, all of which have deep links with Sanskrit despite being called “Dravidian” languages. Large portions of Malayalam and Kannada are Sanskrit derived. The culture of South India is of a people who feel as closely linked to the Himalayas, Ganga, Yamuna and the Vindhyas as the mythical “Aryans” were said to feel.
The troubling sub-text here is that Hindus in general see India as a “whole” nation with Hindu related landmarks ranging from Kashmir and the Himalayas in the north to the southern tip, and from the far eastern hills to the western tip where Lord Krishna’s Dwaraka was built. Hindus see the breaking away of Pakistan as an indicator of a people who feel no connection with the contiguous wholeness of India – which is thought of as Indian nationalism. Similarly the rampant conversion of “Dravidian” Tamil speaking people and tribals in Andhra Pradesh to Christianity are seen as the use of the racist Aryan invasion theory to pull apart an inherent social unity in India and introduce new social fissures based on religion by people who hide behind excuses like “secularism” or “minorities”. True of false, this is perceived as an attempt to break India. These issues amount to a Hindu viewpoint that has been aggravated by trying to replace an ancient Hindu narrative with a fake Aryan-Dravidian narrative which has still not (and will not) come up with convincing evidence of its validity after 200 years of various explanation recipes.
Continuous mocking of Hindus and presentation of fake historical narratives is only likely to result in a solid convergence of diverse Hindu views under a Hindutva banner. This is already happening and has less to do with Muslims than a secular liberal polity who have traditionally seen Hindus and Muslims as useful vote-banks for permanent political power.
Dr. Shiv Sastry