Indo-Aryan migration

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Models of the Indo-Aryan migration discuss scenarios of prehistoric migrations of the early Indo-Aryans to their historically attested areas of settlement (North India). Evidence for Indo-Aryan migration is primarily linguistic but it includes a multitude of data stemming from Vedic religion, rituals, poetics as well as some aspects of social organisation and chariot technology.

Quotes about Indo-Aryan migration[edit]

  • “There is not a particle of evidence suggesting the invasion of India by the Aryans from outside India… The theory of the Aryan race set up by Western writers falls to the ground at every point… the theory is based on nothing but pleasing assumptions and inferences based on such assumptions… Not one of these assumptions is borne out by facts… The assertion that the Aryans came from outside and invaded India is not proved and the premise that the Dasas and Dasyus are aboriginal tribes of India is demonstrably false… The originators of the Aryan race theory are so eager to establish their case that they have no patience to see what absurdities they land themselves in… The Aryan race theory is so absurd that it ought to have been dead long ago.”
    • Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Volume 7 edited by Vasant Moon, Education Department, Govt. of Maharashtra Publications, Mumbai, 1990. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “the support which this theory receives from Brahmin scholars”.... “ is a very strange phenomenon. As Hindus they should ordinarily show a dislike for the Aryan theory with its expressed avowal of the superiority of the Aryan races over the Asiatic races. but the Brahmin scholar has not only no such aversion, but he most willingly hails it. The reasons are obvious. The Brahmin… claims to be a representative of the Aryan race and he regards the rest of the Hindus as descendants of the non-Aryans. The theory helps him to establish his kinship with the European races and share their arrogance and their superiority. He likes particularly that part of the theory which makes the Aryan an invader and a conqueror of the non-Aryan races. For it helps him to maintain his overlordship over the non-Brahmins.”
    • Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Volume 7 edited by Vasant Moon, Education Department, Govt. of Maharashtra Publications, Mumbai, 1990. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “The theory of invasion is an invention. This invention is necessary because of a gratuitous assumption which underlies the Western theory. The assumption is that the Indo-Germanic (sic) people are the purest of the modem representatives of the original Aryan race. Its first home is assumed to have been somewhere in Europe. These assumptions raise a question: how could the Aryan speech have come to India? This question can be answered only by the supposition that the Aryans must have come into India from outside. Hence the necessity for inventing the theory of invasion.”
    • Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Volume 7 edited by Vasant Moon, Education Department, Govt. of Maharashtra Publications, Mumbai, 1990. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Several people who have examined Indo-European scholarship have drawn parallels between research about the Proto-Indo-European world and myths, in the sense of narratives aobut origin. Indo-European research has, in many ways, been an attempt to write the origin narrative of the bourgeois class - a narrative that, by talking about how things originally were, has sanctioned a certain kind of behavior, idealized a certain type of person, and affirmed certain feelings. Certainly, there have been some scholars who have not identified themselves with the Proto-Indo-Europeans, but they are few.
    • Arvidsson, S. (2006). Aryan idols: Indo-European mythology as ideology and science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.319-320
  • “whether the whole story of an Aryan invasion through the Punjab is not a myth of the philologists.”
    • Sri Aurobindo. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “the bulk of the peoples now inhabiting India may have been the descendants of a new race from more northern latitudes, even perhaps, as argued by Mr. Tilak, from the Arctic regions; but there is nothing in the Veda, as there is nothing in the present ethnological features of the country, to prove that this descent took place near to the time of the Vedic hymns or was the slow penetration of a small body of fair-skinned barbarians into a civilized Dravidian peninsula.”
    • Sri Aurobindo. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Nevertheless 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, discover that the imposing fabric of Vedic theory is based upon nothing more sound or true than a foundation of loosely massed conjectures. We shall 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; the strange dogma of a “henotheistic” Vedic naturalism; the ingenious and brilliant extravagances of the modern sun and star myth weavers. (...) Western Philology has converted it [the word arya] into a racial term, an unknown ethnological quantity on which different speculations fix different values....
    • Sri Aurobindo,1910-1914, quoted from Sri Aurobindo, ., Nahar, S., Aurobindo, ., & Institut de recherches évolutives (Paris). India's rebirth: A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writing, talks and speeches. Paris: Institut de Recherches Evolutives. 3rd Edition (2000). [1]
  • During the 1935 Parliament debates on the Government of India Act, Sir Winston Churchill opposed any policy tending towards decolonization on the following ground: 'We have as much right to be in India as anyone there, except perhaps for the Depressed Classes [= the SC/ STs], who are the native stock.'
    • Winston Churchill. (According to some interpretations of the Aryan Invasion Theory, the upper castes in India are not of the native stock) Reproduced in C.H. Philips ed.: Select Documents on the History of India and Pakistan, part IV, p.315. , and quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • In the Third Reich, even schoolchildren knew from their textbooks that this [= the Aryan] race had spread from the north to the south and east, and not the other way around.
    • Savitri Devi, Souvernirs et Réflexions d'une Aryenne, p 273, quoted in Koenraad Elst: The Saffron Swastika, p. 561
  • By the time I was a junior in high school, I was convinced that racial differences are real and inherent and that the forced integration of our schools and society would have dire consequences. It seemed obvious that America would undergo a slow transformation to a racially mixed society with a corresponding demographic change similar to that of ancient Egypt and ancient India. Perhaps there was time, I thought - even if it took a few generations - to rally the EuropeanAmerican to the truth and thus prevent the looming tragedy. ... Aryans, or Indo-Europeans (Caucasians) created the great Indian, or Hindu civilization. Aryans swept over the Himalayas to the Indian sub-continent and conquered the aboriginal people... The word Aryan has an etymological origin in the word Arya from Sanskrit, meaning noble. The word also has been associated with gold, the noble metal and denoted the golden skinned invaders (as compared to the brown skinned aboriginals) from the West. Composed in about 1500 B.C., the Hindu religious texts of the Rig Veta tell the story of the long struggles between the Aryans and the aboriginal people of the Indian subcontinent. Sixteen Aryan states were partitioned by the sixth century A.D., and Brahmanism became the chief religion of India. The conquering race initiated a caste system to preserve their status and their racial identity. The Hindu word for caste is Varna, which directly translated into English, means color. Today the word is usually associated with occupation or trade; but that is because occupations evolved on the basis of skin color and ethnicity. The most pale skinned were called the Brahmin. These were the warrior-priest class, the top of the social ladder. The Untouchables (or Pariahs) were the racially mixed in the bottom caste. ... As I walked over the ancient road and through the patches of dry weeds toward the temple, I reviewed all that I had read about India and all that I had seen firsthand. I recalled the fact that the highest classes were the lightest-skinned, that nothing was more insulting to an Indian than calling him "black," that "Varna" {caste) is the Indian word for color.The original language of the ancient Aryan invaders, Sanskrit, is an ancient Indo-European language with direct links to every other European language. Ancient Sanskrit literature even has descriptions of Aryan leaders as having light eyes and hair. As I neared the temple, I thought about the splendor that once was and about the dreadful squalor I had witnessed since my arrival in the India of today. ... I noticed that the temple's dome had partially caved-in. Only two walls remained standing. Still closer, I saw thousands of pockmarks eroding the structure. Each of them had once housed a precious stone, but these had long ago been pried loose and picked clean. I wondered if all the monuments of Europe and America would eventually endure the same fate as this one. ... It was at that point that I realized who I am. I am an Aryan — a word that has evolved through the centuries to denote those of our race who are racially aware and racially committed. Before I saw that half-breed little girl in the ruins, I was a racially conscious White person. Afterward I was a White person who had become completely committed to the preservation and evolutionary advancement of his people. Not only was I awakened to the truths of race, I was awakened to the sacred purpose of all those who came before us, and those who will follow us in the unbroken spiral toward the heavens. I had become an Aryan.
    • David Duke, My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding, 1998.
  • At some time in the second millennium BC, probably comparatively early in the millennium, a band or bands of speakers of Indo-European language, later to be called Sanskrit, entered India over the northwest passes. This is our linguistic doctrine which has been held now for more than a century and a half.
    • Emeneau, M.B., 1980, Language and linguistic area: essays by Murray B. Emeneau selected and introduced by Anwar S. Dil, Stanford University Press, p.85.
  • [the idea of an Aryan invasion of India in the second millennium BCE] has recently been challenged by archaeologists, who ― along with linguists ― are best qualified to evaluate its validity. Lack of convincing material (or osteological) traces left behind by the incoming Indo-Aryan speakers, the possibility of explaining cultural change without reference to external factors and ― above all ― an altered world-view (Shaffer 1984) have all contributed to a questioning of assumptions long taken for granted and buttressed by the accumulated weight of two centuries of scholarship.
    • ERDOSY 1995: Preface to ―The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: language, material Culture and Ethnicity‖, edited George Erdosy, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin-NY, 1995.
  • We reiterate that there is no indication in the Rigveda of the Arya‘s memory of any ancestral home, and by extension, of migrations. Given the pains taken to create a distinct identity for themselves, it would be surprising if the Aryas neglected such an obvious emotive bond in reinforcing their group cohesion. Thus their silence on the subject of migrations is taken here to indicate that by the time of composition of the Rigveda, any memory of migrations, should they have taken place at all, had been erased from their consciousness.
    • ERDOSY 1989: Ethnicity in the Rigveda and its Bearing on the Question of Indo- European Origins. Erdosy, George. pp. 35-47 in ―South Asian Studies vol. 5. London 40-41 Quoted in Talageri, S. G. (2008). The Rigveda and the Avesta. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Archaeologists and anthropologists... [like] Jim G. Shaffer and Diane A. Lichtenstein, who “stress the indigenous development of South Asian civilization from the Neolithic onwards, and downplay the role of language in the formation of (pre-modern) ethnic identities”; J. Mark Kenoyer, who “stresses that the cultural history of South Asia in the 2nd millinnium B.C. may be explained without reference to external agents”, and Kenneth A.R. Kennedy, who concludes “that while discontinuities in physical types have certainly been found in South Asia, they are dated to the 5th/4th, and to the 1st millennium BC, respectively, too early and too late to have any connection with ‘Aryans’.”
    • George Erdosy, Preface, The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity edited by George Erdosy (Papers by Michael Witzel and P. Oktor Skjærvø), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin-New York, 1995.
  • One thing which keeps on astonishing me in the present debate is the complete lack of doubt in both camps. Personally, I don’t think that either theory, of Aryan invasion and of Aryan indigenousness, can claim to have been "proven" by prevalent standards of proof; even though one of the contenders is getting closer. Indeed, while I have enjoyed pointing out the flaws in the AIT statements of the politicized Indian academic establishment and its American amplifiers, I cannot rule out the possibility that the theory which they are defending may still have its merits."
  • The invading Aryans were more advanced and referred to the conquered Indians as “Dasyu” — the “dark ones” or slaves. Indo-Aryan poetry (the Rigveda ) is full of stories of war against the Dasyu, and reflects the stark racial divisions between the conquering Aryans and the conquered Indians. The Rigveda, the original holy book of the Aryan conquerors of India, contains a great many references to the race of the conquerors and the conquered. According to this book, the leader of the Aryan invasion was one Indra, and his role in “slaying the Dasyus” (the Negroids in India) is a prominent theme.
    • Arthur Kemp, March of the Titans: A History of the White Race, 1999.
  • Although the overall socioeconomic organization changed, continuities in technology, subsistence practices, settlement organization, and some regional symbols show that the indigenous population was not displaced by invading hordes of Indo-Aryan speaking people. For many years, the ‘invasions’ or ‘migrations’ of these Indo-Aryan-speaking Vedic/Aryan tribes explained the decline of the Indus civilization and the sudden rise of urbanization in the Ganga-Yamuna valley. This was based on simplistic models of culture change and an uncritical reading of Vedic texts...
    • JM Kenoyer, quoted In The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate, Edwin Bryant, 2001,p.190
  • To be sure, neither Jones nor anyone else was wrong to perceive strong and systematic similarities among Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, and the rest. The question is what one makes of these similarities, and one steps onto a slippery slope whenever analysis moves from the descriptive to the historic plane of linguistics. In specific, reconstructing a "protolanguage" is an exercise that invites one to imagine speakers of that protolanguage, a community of such people, then a place for that community, a time in history, distinguishing characteristics, and a set of contrastive relations with other protocommunities where other protolanguages were spoken. For all of this, need it be said, there is no sound evidentiary warrant.
    • Lincoln, B. (1999). Theorizing myth: Narrative, ideology, and scholarship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.95
  • 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. The origin myth of British colonial imperialism helped the elite administrators in the Indian Civil Service to see themselves as bringing `pure' civilization to a country in which civilization of the most sophisticated (but `morally corrupt') kind was already nearly 6,000 years old. Here I will only remark that the hold of this myth on the British middle-class imagination is so strong that even today, 44 years after the death of Hitler and 43 years after the creation of an independent India and independent Pakistan, the Aryan invasions of the second millennium BC are still treated as if they were an established fact of history. (...) Common sense might suggest that here was a striking example of a refutable hypothesis that had in fact been refuted. Indo-European scholars should have scrapped all their historical reconstructions and started again from scratch. But that is not what happened. Vested interests and academic posts were involved. Almost without exception the scholars in question managed to persuade themselves that despite appearances, the theories of the philologists and the hard evidence could be made to fit together. The trick was to think of the horse-riding Aryans as conquerors of the cities of the Indus civilization in the same way that the Spanish conquistadors were conquerors of the cities of Mexico and Peru or the Israelites of the Exodus were conquerors of Jericho.
    • Sir Edmund Leach. "Aryan invasions over four millennia. In Culture through Time, Anthropological Approaches, edited by E. Ohnuki-Tierney, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1990, pp. 227-245.
  • Indian tradition knows nothing of any Aila or Aryan invasion of India from Afghanistan, nor of any gradual advance from thence eastwards.
    • Ancient Indian Historical Tradition by F.E. Pargiter, Motilal Banarsidas, Delhi-Varanasi-Patna, 1962. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • The Indo-Aryan invasion(s) as an academic concept in 18th- and 19th-century Europe reflected the cultural milieu of that period. Linguistic data were used to validate the concept that in turn was used to interpret archaeological and anthropological data.What was theory became unquestioned fact that was used to interpret and organise subsequent data. It is time to end the "linguistic tyranny" that has prescribed interpretative frameworks of pre- and proto-historic cultural development in South Asia.
    • Jim Shaffer, 1984, ‘The Indo-Aryan Invasions: Cultural Myth and Archaeological Reality’ in Lukacs JR (ed) The People of South Asia: the Biological Anthropology of India, Pakistan and Nepal, Phenum, NY. p.88.
  • ‘A diffusion or migration of a culturally complex ‘Indo-Aryan‘ people into South Asia is not described by the archaeological record.‘
    • Shaffer (1999:245), quoted in The Languages of Harappa. Witzel, Michael. Feb. 17, 2000.
  • “no tradition of an early home beyond the frontier survives in India.”
    • The Oxford History of India by Vincent A. Smith, edited by Percival Spear, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 3rd edition 1970. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “The Americans, English, Dutch and the Portuguese got hold of the poor Africans, and made them work hard while they lived, and their children of mixed birth were born in slavery and kept in that condition for a long period. From that wonderful example, the mind jumps back several thousand years, and fancies that the same thing happened here, and our archaeologist dreams of India being full of dark-eyed aborigines, and the bright Aryans came from - the Lord knows where. According to some, they came from Central Thibet, others will have it that they came from Central Asia… Of late, there was an attempt being made to prove that the Aryans lived on the Swiss lakes. I should not be sorry if they had been all drowned there, theory and all. Some say now that they lived at the North Pole. Lord bless the Aryans and their habitations! As for the truth of these theories, there is not one word in our Scriptures, not one, to prove that the Aryans came from anywhere outside of India, and in ancient India was included Afghanistan. There it ends.”
    • Swami Vivekananda. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “And what your European Pandits say about the Aryans swooping down from some foreign land, snatching away the lands of the aborigines and settling in India by exterminating them, is all pure nonsense, foolish talk! Strange, that our Indian scholars, too, say amen to them: and all these monstrous lies are being taught to our boys! This is very bad indeed… In what Veda, in what Sukta, do you find that the Aryans came into India from a foreign country? Where do you get the idea that they slaughtered the wild aborigines? What do you gain by talking such wild nonsense?”
    • Swami Vivekananda Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “it really cannot be proved that the Vedic Aryans retained any memory of their extra-Indian associations”.
    • The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. I: The Vedic Age edited by R.C. Majumdar, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Publications, Mumbai, 6th edition 1996. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.

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