Aryan Invasion Theory

This article is presented in 3 main parts:


One of the most hotly controversial theories about Indian history in the modern ages has been the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). According to this theory, India was invaded about 1500 B.C, by a tribe of European origins called the Aryans who composed the Rig Vedas. At first they were thought to be the creators of Hindu civilization. Later discoveries were made of a highly sophisticated urban civilization in Mohen-jo-daro and Harappa, which are definitely older than the ‘Aryan invasion’. The Orientalist scholars came up with the theory that these people were Dravidians (i.e., dark, as opposed to the the fair skinned blue eyed Aryans) and their civilization was destroyed by invading Aryans and they themselves reduced to the status of shudras (the lowest category in the caste-hierarchy) while the Aryans formed the master-race of three upper castes. Various different homelands were suggested for these ‘Aryans’ / Indo-Europeans: central Asia, Scandinavia, North Germany, Hungary and Ukraine. They were pictured as primitive nomads who knew nothing of civilization and had no connection with the ‘dravidians’. At first this theory was accepted by the Indians. However this theory soon produced political ramifications (the British declaring that as whites they themselves are the legitimate heirs to Aryan culture and therefore entitled to colonize India, cleavage between North and South Indians with the South Indian politicians insisting that they were Dravidians who had been brutally imposed on by North Indian Brahmanical Aryans, Christian missionaries spreading the propaganda that the lower castes as original rulers should rise up and convert from Hinduism to Christianity) which led many Indian scholars to re-examine the issue. Many Westerners also opposed the theory of invaders. Thanks to recent archaeological developments and intellectual freedom from the belief that the white man is always right, there has been intense discussions on this issue and AIT has become more and more untenable. However instead of taking into account the new theories many AIT academics prefer to ignore it altogether and instead say that any objections to their theory is driven by Hindu fascism. For many Indians it has become a matter of pride to establish that their civilization is indigenous and their civilization did not come from the West; some also insist that Aryans travelled from India to Europe carrying civilization with them. The main contention of anti-AIT theorists is that the race that composed Rigveda is native to India and is responsible for Mohenjodaro civilization and it was not white. I have given the arguments for AIT and objections to it in question-answer format, and later discussed the anti-AIT theory in more detail.

Anti-AIT Arguments

(i) The similarities between Sanskrit, Latin and Greek prove that there was once a proto Indo-European language, from which all three are descended. The oldest form of Lithunian language found dates only upto 1500 A.D, but it is similar to reconstructed IE. A language does not keep such archaic phonology and morphology intact if it has interacted with other cultures. Therefore its speakers must have kept so close to their hooriginalmeland that too much change was avoided. Therefore, IE must have its source in a region near it.

Ans: A common source does not prove the direction of migration; it can very well be that the Aryan tribes travelled from India to Europe. No common root word has been found which date back beyond 700 B.C. So it is possible that whatever identical words we find is due to trade contacts from the Mohen-jo-daro period. As regards Lithunia, it is well known that primitive groups who shun contact with outsiders and are unprogressive will keep their archaic ways and language much longer. There is nothing to stop a tribe from travelling to Lithunia and settling down there. Also, if this argument is valid, then one must point out that Vedic Sanskrit has a large number of vocables which are not present in such numbers in any other Indo-European language and its consonants are purer. This suggests that ancient Sanskrit is the original source, or at any rate the oldest source.

(ii) The language of Vedas and that of Avesta in ancient Persia is nearly identical: “Almost any Sanskrit word may be changed at once into its Avestan equivalents merely by applying certain phonetic laws”. Most tellingly, in Vedas the gods or devas are addressed as asuras, but later asura became the name for demons; but in Zorastranism, asura is the name for gods throughout while devas are portrayed negatively. Thus it is obvious that the Persian religion is the older version while Vedic tribes split away from it.

Ans: This does not prove that the composers of Vedas had passed through, or came from Iran. It might be that the Persians were the ones who broke away due to a quarrel. They could have used only one term for their gods to distinguish them from the other gods worshipped by their original tribe. The fact that in Vedas Asuras first meant lord/god but later came to mean demons can be an indication that after strife with Avesta group the nomenclature acquired a different meaning through association with the enemy. This theory is supported on the grounds that in 500 B.C, Xerxes forcibly suppressed the worship of Devas in his kingdom.

(iii) The river Indus is called ‘sindhu’ meaning sea. India has oceans for her borders, yet a mere river is called sea, proving that the writers had never seen the sea. Surely then most of the Vedas were composed outside India.

Ans: Wrong. The proper term for sea in Vedas is ‘samudra’. This term is used frequently throughout various portions of the Rig-Veda and Varuna (one of the oldest Vedic gods who is mentioned in a 1400 B.C Hittite inscription) is categorically stated to be lord of oceans.

(iv) The ‘no horse evidence’: This item is generally considered to be clinching proof. In the RigVeda horses are of great importance, both as secular and sacred objects. This is what would be expected of a pastoral race. But in Harappa civilization there are no images of horses, either as figurines or seals. An agricultural community can get by without horses. This also helps to explain why the nomadic invaders managed to defeat the settled Dravidians: the latter were no match for the raiders who had the advantage of speed and mounted attack.

Ans: Archaeological evidence demonstrates that Harappans knew the use of horses. Horse teeth has been found in Amri on Indus and Rana Ghundai on Baluchistan border which is dated to 3600 B.C. Bones of the domesticated horse has been found in earlier layers of Harappa (which precludes the possibility that they were left by the ‘invaders’), Gujarat coast and other places dated to 2300 B.C. A horse saddle has also been found in the deeper layers. The reason that horses as such are not found on seals but mentioned frequently in Vedas can be due to different causes. But one major reason can be that the horse was a valuable and not a very common animal. It was used only by the kings and priests. Since the Rigveda is a sacred text, naturally it would mention such an animal repeatedly. Indeed the horse is a sacred animal and the horse-sacrifice was the prerogative only of victorious emperors. On the other hand most items dug up at Harappan sites relate to ordinary life. I think this also solves the riddle of why the horse is not pictured on the seals. The majority of seals belong to individuals or families; only the highest classes would be allowed to use the horse image, as the horse denoted divinity and royalty. In fact there are seals with a picture of what has been described as an unicorn; it seems to belong to the ruling lineage. The unicorn can very well be the stylized picture of a horse. However the fossil bones is most convincing.

(v) Tiger and elephants were known in Harappan civilization, but Rigveda do not mention the tiger and the elephant is described as ‘mrigahastin’ which shows it was a novelty. On the other hand the lion is mentioned. Similarly Rigveda do not make mention of rice but refers to wheat only.

Ans: The Invasion theorist contradicts himself. If tigers and elephants were known by 3000 B.C, then it is not possible that by 1500 B.C these two animals had disappeared altogether. If for the sake of argument is is assumed that the bulk of RigVeda was composed elsewhere, then why did not the tenth mandala which was undoubtedly composed here and at a later date than the rest, not mention it? The description of elephant as ‘mrigahastin’ is simply a poetic ornament. Again like the horse, the lion was rarer and so more impressive and therefore mentioned. The case is only a little different with rice. The Harappan civilization is a northern civilization and the Vedic tribes are firmly situated in the north — in such places wheat is far more common. After all salt is not mentioned in Rigveda either; so are we to conclude that the Vedic people ddid not eat salt? Absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence.

(vi) The Vedas show that the Aryans were a nomadic and pastoral people who frequently raided settlements. Indra has been described as ‘destroyer of forts’. Therefore the citydwelling Harappans were destroyed by Aryans.

Ans: Just because a god is called ‘destroyer of forts’ does not mean that the attackers themselves did not have forts. Vedas show evidence of both types of lifestyle, the pastoral and the agricultural. Herding nomads and sedentary farmers can be contiguous, specially when spread over large areas. The emphasis on cows prove nothing as the cow would be important to agriculture. Many hymns to Indra address him as god of rain and celebrate rainfall which would be of prime importance to an agricultural society. Many prayers show urgent desire for fertile lands. Goddess Earth had a high place and many prayers to her ask to grant abundant crops. All this show that both lifestyles were practised.

(vii) The different castes are distinguished by their ethnic qualities. The upper castes have affinity with European races, and are generally fairer in complexion. The lower castes display more Negroid features and are closely connected with Dravidian race, and are dark in colour. This proves that the latter had been conquered by the former.

Ans: If one looks at every province without preconceptions he will find race has nothing to do with caste. India is a subcontinent and it is not surprising that there should be different ethnic groups, but in each region both upper and lower castes belong to the same race. The Shudra of Punjab is fairer than a South Indian or Bengali Brahmin. While the Nambooripad Brahmins in South India are very fair, history records that they came from North India originally and kept their stock pure by intermarrying. On the other hand, a genetic study of Andhra Pradesh population has discovered that both Brahmins and fishermen exhibit the same ‘dravidian’ traits. In short the people of a given geographical area is more genetically related to each other than they are to some distant racial category. Therefore we cannot say that one race had conquered another.

(viii) Proof that violent invasion took place is in the skeletons unearthed from the Indus valley cities. A group of skeletons have been found which have been thrown hastily in the burial chamber which indicates that the people who buried them were pressed for time. There are also two skeletons, one male and one female, who had been discovered on a staircase, obviously fleeing and examination shows they had been murdered.

Ans: However if there was a violent invasion there would be more evidence. We do not find any mass dead. The skeletons flung hastily into the grave may simply have been paupers. the pair murdered could have been killed by robbers or for some reasons which are too abundant in any cosmopolitan city.

(ix) AIT is an well established theory widely accepted by reputable scholars for many years.

Ans: this the weakest argument of all, argument from authority. For that matter, Muir himself from the very beginning had declared that there had never been any Aryan migration because there is no proof of similar language and religion in the NorthWest direction, and that people living in the West of N. India are descendants of Indian Aryans. So too Kane had insisted that no invasion ever took place. In recent years many archaeologists and historians have refuted invasion theory. Thus there is authority against this also.

New anti-AIT theory

From the beginning, many Indian scholars had refused to accept this theory of Aryan invasion. In the first place this struck them as highly improbable since nothing in the history of India has ever hinted at this. In the second place they saw this as blatant racism on part of the Westerners, who arrogated all glory to a race of foreigners who were as whiteskinned and blue-eyed as themselves. Their suspicions were not unjustified. Many European scholars of the time of British empire flatly refused to give credit to Asians for any civilization at all. Many like Beber, Kopp, Sayce, Whitney decided that Indians never created any written script of their own but borrowed the alphabet from Hebrews and Phoenicians. Other scholars declared Indians developed their writing only about 400 B.C (even though before this date there were already large kingdoms where accounts had to be kept). Dugald Stewart even held that there was no such ancient language as Sanskrit which is too sophisticated for Indians: William Jones et al have cooked up this language to gain fame for themselves. Many missionaries and scholars insisted that Gita has been taken from the New Testament. (In fact even now missionary literature claim that “christ became Krishna when he came to India”). One Fergusson even said that since in many temples and palaces there are sculptures of naked women, this proved that in common with most savage societies women in classical India did not wear clothes.

When it comes to Aryan race theory racism is even more evident. Before the discovery of Mohen-jo-daro and Harappa, the natives of India were pictured as primitives and lazy who were conquered easily by the vigorous Aryans who proceeded to build a great civilization just as the modern day descendants of the Aryans had conquered the Indians. After the discovery of Indus valley cities the nature of pre-Aryan civilization had to be revised. But some still fought the good fight and suggested that this civilization is not really native to India — it was brought here by people who had known the civilizations of Palestine or Anatolia; so it is back to Judaeo-Christian and European roots. When this proved too difficult to sustain, another theory was constructed. According to this, the Aryans conquered the civilization enslaving the inhabitants and reducing them to Shudras; this is the reason why intercaste marriages were frowned upon — to prevent polluting the blood of conquerors with that of the darkskinned races. But the attempts failed and now India has degenerated. Also the invaders so violently destroyed the older civilization that no trace of it survived; hence whatever civilization India created later was the Aryan civilization alone. But the ‘scholars’ were not content with Aryan invasion of India alone; instead they suggested that Aryans spread over all parts of the world and colonized it. Theories abounded: Assyria must be derived from Asura; Virtra (a demon defeated by Indra, actually a metaphor for rain bearing clouds) founded Babylon but was later killed by Indra, Ethiopia was colonized by a small Aryan group from India; Egyptian civilization was built by Indian Aryans; Egypt and Chaldea was colonized by migrating Aryans; the original home of Aryans is the now lost continent of Lemuria. Places and rivers mentioned mentioned in Rig Veda was automatically held to refer to European places — e.g., Yakshu must mean Oxus. One Bailey even enthusiastically declared that the Aryans came from North of Tartary and split up into Egyptians, Chaldean, Chinese and Indians (obviously he gave no importance to racial categories). All these crackpot theories have one thing in common — the supremacy of a small group of white people colonizing the world and creating all the civilizations anywhere. Most of these theories had gone to oblivion, and most people no longer remember that these theories were once discussed in all seriousness. But the Aryan invasion theory of India also comes from the same stable at the same time and is part and parcel of the whole pattern; yet many stubbornly cling on to it as if it alone among all these fantasies must be the truth. Most academicians seem to cling to this out of institutional inertia and the fear that to criticize it would mean they would be accused of Hindu fundamentalism. On the Indian side, on the other hand, throughout the last half century patient work and theorizing has created a far more authentic picture.

The first question that arises was whether there was an original Aryan race at all. The term was coined by the Orientalists themselves. The actual word used by Indians is not Aryan, but Arya meaning noble in behaviour. It originally meant people who accepted the vedas as their most sacred literature and followed certain rituals and spoke a certain language: behaviour was the criterion That is why northern India upto Vindhays was described as Aryavarta, or abode of the Aryas. (This mention of specific location proves that the original Aryas were Northern people, but the cities of Harrappans were all situated in North India). The vedas freely acknowledge this as does later histories that there were many kingdoms that did not follow the Arya way of life with whom the Aryas were constantly engaged in conflict. However this distinction in Vedas are made first on basis of speech and rituals, not of race. Even Max Mueller said that he used Aryan as a linguistic category and it has nothing to do with race. Two objections are given to this theory. One is that language and race are closely connected; so it is probable that the Vedic tongue was spoken by an ethnically distinct tribe. However the point the anti-AITs make is that this does not mean that Vedic tribes came from outside India nor that they were not ethnically related to their enemy tribes; India is a large place and there are bound to be different tribes from the same root. Two branches of the same civilization can clash, each claiming to be ‘purer’ in their habits. Another argument is that Arya came to mean noble only later, but in the beginning it might very well have denoted a distinct race; because the conquerors associated nobility with themselves the name for their race and nobility became conflated. Linguistic history certainly shows such possibility. Villain for example comes from ‘villien’ or serf; because the serf belonged to the lower classes the term automatically acquired its negative connotation. Similarly in India the word for ‘servant’ and ‘robber’ are derived from the names of tribes that fought with the Vedic people. However, I would point out that if Arya originally meant the ruling elite alone then contrary to expectations it broadened its scope: the smrits classify the shudras (the conquered dark race in this invasion-scenario) as Aryas. Arthashastra (c 300 B.C) explains a kingdom consists of five types of men: that Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishays and Shudras are Aryas; the Antyajas are tribals who are not Aryas because they do not live according to the Arya way: hence laws regarding Aryas need not be applied to them. Above all, there is no proof that Arya anywhere was ever used — even in RigVeda — as a racial category. Finally, the non-Aryas in Atharvaveda are called ‘Vratyas” or those without rituals: an entire chapter is devoted to describing their prowess and how they are adopted into the Vedic tribes — but one cannot change the colour of one’s skin or facial features and so the Vedic tribes could not be race-conscious. Similarly, marriages between Aryas and non-Arya tribes were fairly common, which would not have been the case if they were that concerned about racial purity. The Orientalists described the Aryans as a distinct ethnic type — but the question remains where did they get this description from? Thus the argument is that the scholars worked backwards, forming the concept of race from a social definition.

The next problematic term is ‘varna’. The traditional fourfold division of society is referred to as ‘chaturvarna’ or four varnas. Since the scholars were working from the premise of race, they decided that it must refer to colour. I agree that colour is one meaning of the term. However varna has several meanings. Among other things it also means the halo round a god’s head, the colour of gold used in touchstones, and alphabet. The Invasion-theorists failed to explain by what justification they decided that in ‘chaturvarna’ the varna refers to colour. Nor is there any evidence to show that this meaning is the oldest term. More inconsistently, they failed to explain that if ‘chaturvarna’ literally meant four colours, then what are the colours? They have given us only two colours — white and black, with no shades of intervening brown! Finally, nowhere in vast Indian literary sources or in the Hindu consciousness is there any indication that ‘chaturvarna’ is based on colour. In other words there is no objective source for assuming a colour-divison of society; it was simply accepted because it fitted into the Aryan hypothesis. Even the term used in in RigVeda ‘anasa’ to describe the enemy tribes which had been translated as ‘snub-nosed’ (as contrasted to the straight-nosed “aryans’) is now realized to be wrong; the term actually means ‘those who cannot speak properly’.

I would also point out that Vishnu, the Preserver is dark-skinned; the very name of His Avatar Krishna means black; so too Arjuna the great hero, son of Indra is black. The Mother Goddess is pictured as both fair and black. Incidentally, in Bengal the traditional icons of Durga portray her as yellowish, with a Mongolian cast to her features. Yet, Shiva who is supposedly the god of the darker races had always been pictured from the beginning as white skinned. This makes the equation of colour with power problematic.

The Indians who opposed this scenario originally could only argue that there is no proof of any such migration. In the first place no Indian records declare this. People who migrate from their homelands to a foreign region nostalgically remember their past ties: but there is no trace of such a homeland. If RigVeda hymns were composed either on the way or soon after coming to India then it would recorded such memories For example the Parsis are living in India for 800 years, yet though much has changed, their holy book has not, their speech and lifestyle remain largely pure and they definitely remember their origins. That is obviously not the case with Aryan migration. A treaty between the Hittite king Shubbiluliuma and Mitanni Mattivaza mention Mitra, Varun, Indra, Nasatya : all Vedic gods. Its date is apporximately 1400 B.C, plus or minus a few years. If the Aryans came here by 1500 B.C, then they wwouldhave definitely mentioned they passed through such a place. If, as by some, the RigVeda is held to be composed about 1000 B.C., then it is not possible for the Aryans to have forgotten their history a mere 400 years later. (On the other hand, Kurdish professor, Mehrdad Izady at Harvard University, showing the influence of Indic/Sindhi people on Kurdistan (parts of Iraq, Turkey, Iran) states that “The Mittani aristocratic house almost certainly was from the immigrant Sindis, who survive today in the populous Kurdish clan of Sindi in the same area where the Mittani kingdom once existed. These ancient Sindi seem to have been an Indic, and not Iranic group of people, and in fact a branch of the better known Sindis of India-Pakistan, “. Hence here the opinion is that Aryan influence travelled from India to outside). The only explanation is that if there was an Aryan migration then it took place such a long time ago that it predates Mohenjodaro cities, and everyone had forgotten about their ancestral lands.

If Vedas are a product of Aryan culture, then surely other Aryan cultures would also show such literature. But there is no such books like Vedas anywhere in any Eurpean/Asian lands, nor the slightest hints of such hymns ever existing. The vedas emphasize a mysterious sacred drink called soma repeatedly. It was offered as a libation to the gods. We today no longer know what Soma is. But nowhere in literature of other countries is there any hint of something like soma. Such a massive migration must leave some kind of evidence en route — in the form of language changes, introduction of new rituals, racial changes (otherwise we have to accept that the Aryans kept themselves pure all those years only to succumb to the dark charms of native Indians) , traces of pottery or chariots or whatever physical debris a tribe on the march would inevitably leave behind the trail. But there is no such archaeological evidence. The hymns of RigVeda show sophisticated rituals and complex linguistic and philosophical developments. These are not the hymns of simpleminded nomads but of people who enjoyed some degree of high culture. The invasion scenario also assumes that the Dravidians were pushed back to South India. However in South India no traces had been found of Harappa type cities with their characteristic features of Public Granary and Great Baths. Even if they were refugees bereft of the resources of their homeland, how could they forget something so central as the great Baths — is not human nature to recreate the comforts of the familiar? Not only that, this assumes that South India was largely empty to make place for the fleeing refugees, or that these refugees behaved in the same manner as the brutal Aryans did to the indigenous people. Similarly what is this mysterious Dravidian language? No one seems to know what that is! Finally I would argue that a myth shows evidence of common origins of both South and North Indian cultures. According to this, Shiva took two drums in his hands and beat out two rhythms. From the rhythm of one hand was created Sanskrit and from another was created Tamil (the oldest ‘Dradividan’ language). Shiva thus is held to be the common originator of both cultures.

In recent times a great deal of excavations had been carried out all over India and new facts have come to light. The civilization of Harappa-Mohenjadaro has been found to be vaster than previously estimated. It apparently stretched over a large portion of North India and had trading links with Mesopotamia (as early as 2600 B.C). Harappan seals and jewellery have been discovered at Ur, Kish, Susa and there was an outpost outside Oxus. ‘Empire’ is the correct term for such a civilization. All the various cities show that a central plan was followed with all the buildings and streets laid out in an uniform pattern; the same currency and weight system was followed everywhere. Such unvarying arrangement and regular trading activities over such distances means that the empire was run by a centralized bureaucracy and the central authority was very strong. Such an empire cannot collapse simply because a horde of barbarians attacked. As long as it was believed that the cities were few in number and not co-ordinated, it was somewhat feasible. But when such a vast well-organized wealthy empire falls, the reasons are far more complex than mere invasion. When we study the fall of Rome we realize that the Roman empire had decayed long before it actually fell. That is exactly what happened to the Harappan empire

Climate change seems to be the major cause of decline. In Mohen-jo-daro itself there is evidence of three major floods. The city survived because it was on a higher level. But several smaller sites which were dug up later were found to be totally submerged. This happened even in the case of important cities which were on a lower plane. Repeated heavy floods can only hamper the normal life of a city and impel the inhabitants to flee. Lothial in Gujarat was a major port; even today we can see a portion of the harbour with water trapped in it where ships used to cast their anchor. There are no traces of violence anywhere. The only evidence of destruction is that of overwhelming flood which led the city being abandoned. Thus flood is one reason. The second cause is rivers shifting their course. Whether this is due to irrigation canals and excessive deforestation (as some ecologists claim) or due to purely natural disaster is not known. But Sindhu changed course and the fabled Saraswati river vanished altogether. During this period the land became more saline while Rajasthan became desertified. Ports also dried up. Consequently, the settlements on the now dry bed of Saraswati river was abandoned; the population moved to Ganga-Yamuna valley and Gujarat — there is archaeological evidence of such migration. After 1900 B.C, there is no evidence of any more trade between Mesopotamia and Harappa. Obviously domestic disasters had affected seatrade. Such collapse of widespread trade network would have further adverse impact on the economy. The later Harappan sites show that the earlier cities characterized by uniform planning and straight evenly laid out roads have disappeared. Instead of palaces which were plentiful the houses are smaller and not so well built. The drains were badly maintained in contrast to the earlier elaborate sewerage systems. Pottery too had become cruder. All these show that general culture had declined and above all administration had broken down.

The pattern of decline seems to be clear. Floods destroyed many cities: the inhabitants who survived would naturally flee to the bigger cities. Meanwhile agricultural land was slowly becoming infertile. This again would mean villagers would migrate to the cities. But the bigger cities were themselves damaged by floods. As the press of refugees grew, the cities would be hard placed to provide food for all, particularly since productivity of rural areas was going down. Collapse of seatrade would generate more urban unemployment. Inevitably public services and law and order would break down. Gradually more and more people would abandon the cities to move out to more fertile pastures. This transition would be gradual.

In 1995-98, extensive excavations were carried out at Mehrgarh, Nausharo and Pirak. The excavations showed the complete sequence of gradual transformation on Kachi plains. The one integrated culture of Harappan civilization had collapsed into several local ones. That is why for those in the profession, the period from 1900 B.C to 1300 B.C is called Late Harappan period. Archaeological Survey of India director BB Lal observed, “The archaeological evidence from most of the Harappan sites shows cultural continuity, though a substantial decline in the economy resulted in an overall decline and a shift from an urban to a rural scenario. Amidst agricultural activities, even the crisscross pattern of ploughing the fields, seen in Punjab and Haryana today, goes back to the Harappan times, … the hard fact is that these [Harappa style artefacts] came from various levels, some from the middle and some from the late, and some were found in deposits after the site was abandoned”.

There does not seem to be any major break in culture as required by the invasion scenario. On the contrary, there is ample evidence of continuity of tradition, showing that the transition was gradual. Same kinds of weights and measures continued to be used; even in Gupta period we find the same weights as used in Harappan cities being used. Even in modern day we find the same type of water jugs, carts, surma and comb designs being used. When we look at the late Harappan sites in Punjab it becomes more evident. In the earlier layers there are coffin burials with pottery characteristics of Harappan cities. Later we find that adults were being cremated, but children were still buried in urns. (Incidentally, even in 18th century, in many parts of India, a new-born child or below two years old would not be cremated but would be buried, on the grounds that such a young child is free of sin and so would not need the purifying flames). Fire altars, which are mentioned so many times in the Vedas have also been found in many of the cities. Here I would like to refute those who think that Aryans and Dravidians had separate funeral customs. I have heard it said that Harappan people buried their dead but Vedic people burnt theirs. However they are wrong. The RigVeda mentions both funeral pyres and burials. In Harappan cities we find both elaborate burials complete with potteries, ornaments and toys (in case of children), as well as urns containing the ashes of the dead.

One major stumbling block to the theory that the composers of RigVeda are also the authors of Harappan citivlization is the disparity of the age between them. However the problem disappears if we assume that RigVeda is older than its assumed date. What is forgotten is that the Vedas are a part of ‘Sruti’ (texts that are passed down orally). The Orinetalists thought that the language of Vedas was the colloquial language of their times. However these hymns were sacred texts and it is a common experience that liturgical language is kept intact long after the common language has changed. We therefore cannot really know when the first hymns were composed. Moreover only the Sakala recension of the RigVeda has come down complete. Valakhilya and Bashkala recensions are in fragments. There could have been others as well, even more ancient. The prevalent theory is that the RigVeda was written in 1000 B.C, or at most 1500 B.C. However again, there is no solid evidence for this, except that it fits the invasion hypothesis. It is actually based on the Biblical timeline of creation of the world at 4000 B.C, and the flood at 2500 B.C. On the other hand when we look at the astronomical evidence inside the Vedas we realize that it is older. In 1790 John Playfair demonstrated that according to the observations recorded in Hindu astronomical tables, Hindu astronomy got its start around 4300 B.C. This had not been scientifically refuted. The only objection is by Bentley who argued that it cannot be accepted because “he endeavours to overturn the Mosaic account, and sap the very foundation of our religion: for if we are to believe in the antiquity of Hindu books, as he would wish us, then the Mosaic account is all a fable, or a fiction”. This is not science, but irrational religious objection. The earliest solar and lunar positions accord with what would have been observed from Punjab 6000 years earlier. (for details on astronomy please look up ). Thus there is no difficulty in realizing that the Vedic tribes can also be the founders of Harappan civilization.

Newer discoveries in archaeology has made everything more exciting as the antiquity of Indian civilization gets pushed further and further back: An ancient city has been found in the Gulf of Cambay, where according to legend Dwarka, the city of Krishna was situated. It is actually situated on the delta of the now dry Sarawsati river which was a major location for Harappan cities in 3300-1900 B.C. More accurate dating is awaited More recent diggings at Harappa have exposed a pre-Indus phase; it is therefore being called Ravi Phase. More Indus scripts were discovered at Harappa in 2002 only, which might be as old as 3500 B.C. (Note: Indus Valley scripts have not yet been deciphered). An underwater settlement has been discovered in Mahabalipuram in South India which at first tentative dating seems to be as old as the Harappan site. The most exciting action is perhaps occurring in Poompuhar in South India. Man made objects had been discovered underwater. In 2001, Graham Hancock, sponsored by Channel 4 in Britain and the Learning Channel in US (none of which organizations have anything to do with the Hindu nationalist organizations in India) explored and videographed the submerged city. Hancock, and Glenn Milne a geologist at University of Durham, UK confirmed that the ruins were at least 7000 years old, if not more. Its layout is also different from Harappan cities. It is speculated that it might be a civilization more antique than that of Sumer.

Even recent genetic research has debunked the later Aryan invasion theory. Eurasian genes have been found in Indian ancestry, but they are of low frequency and they are found equally in North and South India. In Mitochondrial DNA lineages , T. Kivisild et. al, Current Biology, Vol 9, No 22, pp 1331-134. the researchers found that the divergence from the common pool of Eurasian genes took place about 50000 years ago. During this period people were migrating all over Europe and Asia. That is when India received the first ‘Aryan’ people. There are occurrences of ‘newer’ genes, but no more than to be expected of a few people — like traders and travellers — settling down. There had been no significant genetic splash since 50000 years ago. In the Indus valley cities too we find skeletons of various racial types — ProtoAustreloid, Alpine, Mediterrenean, Mongoloid. As befits a cosmopolitan city and big port several races mingled together and lived here. However there are no new type of skeletons which are different from the previous ones, no new ‘Aryan’ skeletons. Thus there is no proof of new population. In this way both genes and fossils demonstrate that there had been no ‘invasions’ by white skinned people in the (comparatively) recent past.

Whereas the Aryan Invasion Theory is based on linguistic affinity which is speculative regarding its origin and spread, the anti-invasion theory is validated by hard data from archaeology and genetics. Therefore it is proper to conclude that the invasion never happened, and the antiquity of Indian civilization is far greater than thought of previously. If AIT is to be sustained, then more solid evidence than presented hitherto is required.


For graphics of Indus valley seals, scripts, figurines go to:

For a more detailed and technical knowledge of Indus valley civilization, please read, Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Oxford University Press, Karachi/American Institute of Pakistan Studies, 1998.

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