Chapter 8 (Appendix 1)
Misinterpretations of Rigvedic History
The Rigveda, as we have seen in this book, contains a veritable treasury of information which sheds light on the early history of the Vedic Aryans, and of the Indo-Europeans as a whole.
But why, inspite of the fact that the Rigveda has been a subject of historical study for nearly two centuries, was this wealth of information left untapped? Why did the scholars fail to discover all this evidence?
The answer is that scholars engaged in the historical interpretation of the Rigveda have never really found it necessary to examine the actual information in the Rigveda. All interpretations have been based on purely extraneous factors, and the Rigveda itself has never been required to play more than an incidental, and dispensable, role in these exercises.
To be specific, one extraneous factor has been responsible for all the misinterpretations of Rigvedic history to date: the erroneous belief that linguists have established, on the basis of comparative philology, that the original homeland of the Indo-European or Aryan family of languages was located in and around South Russia, or, at any rate, that it was located outside India.
This belief has influenced the interpretations not only of those scholars who claim to subscribe to it, but, as we shall see, also of those who claim not to subscribe to it.
It will be necessary to examine why exactly scholars, belonging to different schools of interpretation, failed to tap the basic information in the Rigveda. We will not go into details about everything said and written by these scholars: given the facility with which many of these scholars have written out pages and pages, even tomes and tomes, of pure drivel, based only on an active imagination and an evident contempt both for facts and logic, as well as for the source-material, it would be an impossible as well as a fruitless task to go into all their writings in detail here. That can always be a subject for deeper analysis elsewhere.
But it will be in order to examine generally the beliefs, the concerns, the aims and motives, and the obsessions, as well as the methods, which led the scholars into analyses and conclusions so completely divorced from the facts.
But, first and foremost, we must understand why exactly the history of the Rigveda is so inextricably bound up with the history of the Indo-Europeans as a whole.
The fact is that the Rigveda represents a very pristine state of Indo-European language and religion. Griffith describes it as follows in his preface to his translation: “As in its original language we see the roots and shoots of the languages of Greek and Latin, of Kelt, Teuton and Slavonian, so the deities, the myths and the religious beliefs and practices of the Veda throw a flood of light upon the religions of all European countries before the introduction of Christianity. As the science of comparative philology could hardly have existed without the study of Sanskrit, so the comparative history of the religions of the world would have been impossible without the study of the Veda.”
It would not be possible to say this of any other Indo-European text anywhere else in the world. And the implications of this for the history of the Rigvedic era are momentous: it means that the Rigvedic people were, in a manner of speaking, hot out of the Indo-European oven.
This presents us with two very specific alternatives about the geographical habitat indicated in the Rigveda: either this habitat was itself the original habitat of the Indo-European people as a whole, with the Vedic Aryans remaining in it after the departure of the other Indo-European groups; or else this habitat was not really the habitat even of the Vedic Aryans themselves, they having just arrived into it from outside.
The facts do not allow any other alternative: it is either one or the other.
But the linguists are supposed to have come out with a host of arguments based on comparative philology which apparently rule out the first alternative, that the original homeland of the Indo-Europeans could be located anywhere in India.
Hence, if the linguists are not to be challenged, the second alternative has to be accepted. This, at any rate, has been the general understanding of the situation.
And if, as per this second alternative, the Vedic Aryans are newly arrived from outside India into the geographical area indicated in the Rigveda, then this must be demonstrable from the hymns. In fact, if the linguists are to be vindicated, it must be demonstrated from the hymns!
Hence, the major, and official, school of interpretation of the history of the Rigveda holds that the Vedic Aryans entered India somewhere around 1500 BC, and the text of the Rigveda was composed by them during the early stages of their presence in India, when they were still busy invading, conquering and establishing settlements all over the Punjab and the northwest, later to spread out all over northern India.
The historical interpretation of the Rigveda, for scholars belonging to this school, is therefore a one-point programme: to find evidence for this theory in the Rigveda.
Needless to say, this is not exactly calculated to facilitate an honest and objective interpretation or analysis of the text.
Scholars belonging to the other schools of interpretation react emotionally, rather than objectively, to this theory; and, what is more, even when ostensibly opposed to the theory, they often labour under a sub-conscious impression that the linguists have somehow “proved” the external (to India) origin of the Indo-Europeans on the basis of linguistics, and this sub-conscious impression influences their various reactions to it.
Needless to say, this attitude is also not calculated to facilitate an honest and objective interpretation of the text.
We will examine the concerns and methods, in brief, of the four major schools of interpretation of the Rigveda, as follows:
The invasionist school is the main school of interpretation of the Rigveda.
It also houses the widest range of scholars: from purely academic scholars to racist and casteist fringe lunatics, and every shade in between. And from scholars who genuinely do believe that linguistics has “proved” that the Indo-European languages originated in and around South Russia, or, at any rate, somewhere outside India, to scholars for whom there is no question of any genuine belief in anything, and to whom it is all a matter of politics.
We will not concern ourselves here with the writings of the casteist and racist lunatics whose prolific writings on the subject contain neither logic, nor facts, nor analysis, nor even any pretence to objectivity: these are clearly cynical political writings whose only aim is to provide propaganda material for casteist and racist politics.
As to the rest, the main concern of scholars belonging to this school of interpretation is to find evidence in the Rigveda for the Aryan invasion in the form of:
1. References indicating
a. foreign lands;
b. migrations from these foreign lands, or, generally, movements from
west to east;
2. References to non-Aryan aboriginal inhabitants of the land.
3. References to conflicts between Aryan invaders and non-Aryan aboriginals.
But the stark fact is that the Rigveda itself does not contain one single reference which provides any actual evidence in respect of any of these points. All the “evidence” lies in extraneous, inferential comments made by the invasionist scholars on words and phrases, in the text, which are basically innocent of invasionist connotations.
Nothing illustrates this better than Griffith’s translation of the Rigveda, which, inspite of its archaic language and style, is the best, most complete, and most reasonably honest English translation to this day.
Griffith is both, an honest scholar as well as a genuine and staunch believer in the Aryan invasion theory. Consequently, an examination of his complete translation of the Rigveda brings out the following facts:
1. Not a single invasionist meaning appears in his translation of any of the 10552 verses in the Rigveda: only invasionist suggestions appear in his comments in the footnotes.
2. Although Griffith provides footnotes to around four thousand or so verses, it is only in around forty or so of them that we find these invasionist comments.
3. These invasionist comments, as even a layman can see, are purely gratuitous and subjective, and have no basis whatsoever in anything said in the actual verses to which they refer.
4. Many of these invasionist comments are contradicted by other comments in Griffith’s own footnotes.
The following is an almost exhaustive list of the verses in the text where Griffith’s translations of specific words and phrases are innocent, while his comments on them in the footnotes are loaded:
1. I.7.9: the five fold race: “the expression seems to mean the Aryan settlements or tribes only, and not the indigenous inhabitants of the country.”
2. 1.32.11: DAsa: “DAsa is a general term applied in the Veda to certain evil beings or demons… It means, also, a savage, a barbarian, one of the non-Aryan inhabitants of India.”
3. I.33.4: the ancient riteless ones: “indigenous races who had not adopted, or were hostile to, the ritual of the Veda.”
4. 1.33.4: Dasyu: “The Dasyus are also a class of demons, enemies of Gods and men, and sometimes the word means a savage, a barbarian.”
5. 1.51.8: Arya: “The Aryans are, first, the people who speak the language of the Veda, and the Dasyus are the original and hostile peoples of India.”
6. I.100.18: Dasyus and Simyus: “men of indigenous hostile races.”
7. I.100.18: his fair-complexioned friends: “explained by SAyaNa as the glittering Maruts, means probably the Aryan invaders as opposed to the dark-skinned races of the country.”
8. I.101.1: the dusky brood: “the dark aborigines who opposed the Aryans.”
9. I. 101.11: guards of the camp: “the guardians of the camp or new settlement.”
10. I.102.2: the seven rivers: “the chief rivers in the neighbourhood of the earliest settlements.”
11. I.103.3: DAsas: “or Dasyus, the non-Aryan inhabitants of the land.”
12. I.104.2: The DAsa: “a chief of non-Aryan race.”
13. I.104.3: Kuyava: “perhaps a name given by the Aryans to one of the non-Aryan chieftains.”
But contradiction I.103.8: Kuyava: “meaning, probably, ‘causing bad harvests’, is the name of another of the demons of drought.”
14. I.112.5: Rebha and Vandana: “Rebha and Vandana are said to have been thrown into wells by Asuras or demons… ‘In these and similar instances’, says Wilson, ‘we may probably have allusions to the dangers undergone by the first teachers of Hinduism among the people whom they sought to civilize’.”
15. I.112.12: RasA: “The RasA, known to the Zoroastrians as the RaNhA, was originally the name of a real river, but when the Aryas moved away from it into the PanjAb, it assumed a mythical character, and became a kind of Okeanos, surrounding the extreme limits of the earth.”
But contradiction X.108.1: RasA: “In I.112.12 and V. 53.9, RasA appears to be a river of the PanjAb, probably an affluent of the Indus.”
16. I.132.4: the lawless man: “The lawless man is the non-Aryan inhabitant of the country, the natural enemy of the new settlers.”
17. I.175.6: who give not: “who offer no oblations; barbarians who do not worship the Gods of the Aryans.”
18. II.11.18: The Dasyu: “the barbarian, the original inhabitant of the land.”
19. II.20.6: DAsa: “The word is frequently applied to the foes of the Aryas, to the malignant demons of the air as well as to the barbarians and hostile inhabitants of the land.”
20. II.20.7: The DAsa hosts who dwell in darkness: “the words thus rendered are variously explained. It is uncertain whether the aborigines of the country are meant, or the demons of air who dwell in the dark clouds.”
21. III.12.6: ninety forts: “ninety is used indefinitely for a large number. The forts are the strongholds of the non-Aryan inhabitants of the country.”
But contradiction V.29.6: his nine-and-ninety castles: “the aerial castles of Sambara, the demon of drought.”
22. III.14.4: spreading them: “causing Aryan men to spread as the Sun spreads his rays.”
23. III.23.4: ApayA: “a little stream… near the earlier settlements of the Aryan immigrants.”
24. II.33: “The hymn is a dialogue between ViSvAmitra and the rivers VipAS and SutudrI… interesting as a relic of the traditions of the Aryans regarding their progress eastward in the land of the Five Rivers.”
25. III.34.1 fort-render: “breaker down of the cloud castles of the demons who withhold the rains as well as of the hostile non-Aryan tribes.”
26. III.53.14: the KIkaTas: “the non-Aryan inhabitants of a country (probably Kosala or Oudh) usually identified with South Bihar.”
27. IV.4: “This hymn is said by SAyaNa to be addressed to Agni as slayer of the RakSasas… that is, as God of the fire with which the immigrant Aryans burnt the jungle, drove back the hostile aborigines, and cleared the ground for encampment or permanent settlement.”
28. V.54.15: a hundred winters: “a frequently occuring expression, ‘from which we might infer’, says J. Muir, ‘that the Indians still retained some recollection of their having at one time occupied a colder country’.”
29. V.29.10: noseless: “that is, the flat-nosed barbarians.”
30. VI.20.10: autumn forts: “probably strong places on elevated ground occupied by the DAsas or original inhabitants during the rain and autumn.”
But contradiction I.131.4: autumnal forts: “the brilliant battlemonted cloud-castles, which are so often visible in the Indian sky at this period of the year.”
31. VI.47.21: those darksome creatures: “the dark aborigines.”
32. VII.6.1: fort-destroyer: “demolisher of the cloud-castles of the demon of drought or of the strongholds of the non-Aryan tribes.”
33. VII.18.7: Pakthas: “the Pakthas and the rest mentioned in the first line of the stanza appear to have been non-Aryan tribes.”
34. VIII.71.12: Agni to win the land for us: “the fierce and rapid fire that clears the jungle for the advance of the Aryan settlers. “
35. IX.41.1: the black skin: “meaning apparently both the black pall or covering of night and the RAkSasas, or dark-skinned Dasyus or hostile aboriginals.”
36. X.43.8: the dames of worthy lords: “that is, subjected them to the Aryans, whereas they had been the thralls of DAsas.”
The purpose of giving this almost exhaustive list of Griffith’s invasionist comments is to demonstrate that even a verse-by-verse examination of the Rigveda (which is what Griffith’s translation amounts to) fails to conjure up even the faintest picture of Aryans pouring into India from outside, and invading, conquering and occupying the land. This picture has to be produced by way of a sustained exercise in circular reasoning: words and phrases in the Rigveda are interpreted on the basis of extraneous ideas, and these extraneous ideas are “proved” on the basis of these interpretations.
This invasionist interpretation of the Rigveda forms a minor and almost incidental part of Griffith’s vast, and extremely valuable, work. But, in the case of most other invasionist scholars, it constitutes the very raison d’être of their work.
The interpretations cover three aspects:
A. Movements and Migrations from the West.
I. A. Movements and Migrations from the West.
The Rigveda contains no reference to any foreign place west of Afghanistan, and certainly no reference to any migration from west to east.
Some academic scholars have sought to prove such a migration by asserting that the Rigveda itself was composed in the west: “Brunnhofer, Hertel, Hüsing and others, argue that the scene of the Rgveda is laid. not in the Punjab, but in AfghAnistAn and IrAn.”1
However, this view is so absurd, and so clearly contrary to the geographical facts in the Rigveda, that it can be dismissed with a bored yawn. By and large, academic scholars have been more rational: “Max Müller, Weber, Muir, and others held that the Punjab was the main scene of the activity of the Rgveda, whereas the more recent view put forth by Hopkins and Keith is that it was composed in the country round the SarasvatI river south of modem AmbAla.”2
And most academic scholars are also agreed on the fact that “it really cannot be proved that the Vedic Aryans retained any memory of their extra-Indian associations”3, and “no tradition of an early home beyond the frontier survives in India.”4
Hence, the effort of most academic scholars is to show a movement from west to east within the accepted geographical horizon of the Rigveda, ie. from Afghanistan in the west to the GaNgA in the east, by the following methods:
1. By stressing that, in the west, the Rigveda refers frequently to many of the rivers of Afghanistan (i.e. the western tributaries of the Indus): the RasA, the Krumu, the KubhA, the GomatI, the GaurI, the Sveti, the TRSTAmA, the Susartu, the SvetyAvarI, the SuvAstu, the Mehatnu, the Sarayu, etc. But, in the east, it refers only to the GaNgA (twice) and the YamunA (thrice).
2. By interpreting various references as indicating an eastward movement, as in the case of hymn III.33, where the crossing of the SutudrI and the VipAS is interpreted as “a relic of the traditions of the Aryans regarding their progress eastwards.”
3. By interpreting common river-names in Afghanistan and India (the SarasvatI, the Sarayu, the GomatI) as evidence of a transfer of river-names by Aryans migrating from Afghanistan to India.
The first two points, as we have seen in the course of our analysis, are totally out of line with the evidence in the Rigveda.
The third point is again clearly a case of circular reasoning: if there are common river-names in two different places, it certainly indicates a geographical transfer of river-names from one place to the other. But, the fact itself does not indicate the direction of this transfer. As our analysis of the geographical data, not only in the Rigveda but also in the Avesta, shows, the direction of migration was from east to west. Hence this was also the direction of transfer of the river-names.
As there is really no evidence of any kind in the Rigveda indicating a migration from west to east, the scholars often end up resorting to arguments and interpretations which border on the desperate and the ridiculous:
V.G. Rahurkar interprets the fact that the GayatrI mantra (III.62.10) is “regarded as the holiest mantra in the Rigveda”5 as evidence that this verse (which he himself correctly translates in the religious sense in which it is composed: “We meditate upon that most illuminating lustre of God SavitR so that he may stir our intellects”6) is actually “a slogan given by ViSvAmitra to the advancing Aryans, who must have been expanding towards the east ie. the direction of the rising sun.”7
I.B. Aryans and Non-Aryans
The Rigveda contains no references whatsoever to people speaking non-Indo-European languages (which is what “non-Aryans” basically means).
If the Rigveda is to be interpreted as a text composed by the Vedic Aryans during their period of invasion, conquest and settlement of a land originally occupied by non-Aryans, then this constitutes a very serious and fundamental setback to that interpretation.
This compels the scholars to resort to desperate methods of interpretation in order to produce evidence of the presence of such non-Aryan aboriginals of the land, hostile to the Vedic Aryans. And the most desperate, and most pathetic, of these methods, and one which most of the invasionist scholars ultimately fall back on, is the interpretation of mythology as history: of mythical entities as historical entities, and of mythical events as historical events.
For this, the scholars follow a two-tier interpretation:
At one level, the Aryans are represented as being more or less settled in the Saptasindhu region, and now engaged as much in conflict with each other as with the indigenous non-Aryans. The references to “Arya and DAsa enemies” are cited as proof of this state of affairs.
And, at a deeper, higher and more fundamental level, the earlier conflicts of the invading Aryans with the non-Aryan natives are represented as being already converted into religious myths: “When the Aryans created a religion out of these events, they deified their leaders and arrogated to themselves the title of cosmic good… (by a) transformation of historical events into mythopoeic and symbolic.”8
The myths which are treated as transformed historical events are inevitably those involving Indra and the celestial demons of drought and darkness. Thus, Indra comes to be the sole symbol of the “Aryan invaders”, and the celestial demons become symbols of the conquered “non-Aryan natives”:
1. Indra is generally accepted by even the most conservative of invasionist scholars as a symbol of the invading Aryans: at the very least as a God invoked by them in their battles against the non-Aryans.
However, to many of the scholars, Indra is much more: he is an actual personification of the invading Aryan chieftains, or even a deification of the most prominent one among them.
For example, R.N. Dandekar devotes a large number of pages in his Vedic Mythological Tracts9 to prove “that Indra was not originally a god, but that he was a human hero, who attained godhood by virtue of his miraculous exploits. Not only that, but he soon superseded the other gods (VII.21.7) and came to be regarded as the foremost among them (II.12.1).”10
Again, “Indra, the young, blond, bearded, handsome, well-shaped, mighty, heroic leader of the Aryans... protected the Aryans from the attacks of the Dasyus… Many were the hostile leaders conquered by Indra. Many again were the Aryan chiefs and tribes to whom Indra is said to have rendered timely succour in several ways… It is therefore no wonder that such a leader should have soon become a national hero and then a national god of the Vedic Indians. A warring people would naturally glorify a warlike god.”11
Dandekar provides plenty of “evidence” to prove that Indra was a human being:
Firstly: “the human features in Indra’s personality… Indra’s body, head, arms and hands are very often referred to (II.16.2; VIII.96.3). He is said to be golden in colour (I.7.2; VIII.66.3). His body is gigantic, his neck mighty, and his back brawny. His arms are sleek and his hands thick and firm - both right and left - being particularly well-shaped (I.102.6: IV.21.9; VI.19.3; VIII.81.1). He has handsome cheeks (or lips) and is, therefore, often called suSipra (II.12.6; 33.5), Siprin (I.29.2; III.36.10) and tawny-bearded (X.23.4). These and several other similar descriptions of Indra’s person unmistakably produce before our mind’s eye a very life-like picture of a tall, strong, well-formed, handsome, blond Aryan.”12
Secondly: “Far more lifelike, however, are the descriptions of some peculiar physical mannerisms of that god. He agitates his jaws (VIII.76.10) or puffs out his beautiful lips (III.32.1), in a characteristic fashion, in anticipation of or after the Soma-drought. Once he is described – very realistically indeed – as shaking off the drops of Soma from his moustache (II.11.17)…”13
Thirdly: “Another peculiarity… is the fact that he is frequently referred to as having been born. Two entire hymns, namely III.48 and IV.18, deal with the subject of his birth.”14
Fourthly: “by far the most convincing proof of the essentially human character of Indra is the fact that the Vedic poets have often referred to what may be called the ‘weaknesses’ of that god. One such oft-mentioned weakness is Indra’s proverbial fondness for Soma. His immoderate indulgence in the intoxicating beverage is a favourite theme of the Vedic poets… Similarly Indra is represented as an expert in female lore (VIII.33.17)… Though Indra’s amorous adventures are nowhere clearly mentioned in the RV, there are, in it, a few indications of that trait of his character. The latter have, indeed, been the basis of Indra’s representation, in later mythology, as a romantic figure - a ‘gay Lothario’.”15
Fifthly: “the Vedic poets have never unnecessarily over-idealised the character of Indra which they would have done had he been primarily thought of as a god… he did not disdain deceiving his enemies or cleverly circumscribing the conditions of an agreement whenever circumstances so demanded… In I.32.14, mighty Indra is said to have been overcome with fear when, after killing VRtra, he thought that some avenger of the enemy was following him. Such a reference would be hardly understandable in relation to a god who had been conceived as a god from the beginning.”16
All this reads like the naive, and even imbecile, analysis of a schoolboy who knows nothing whatsoever about mythologies in general. The Greek Gods (for example. Zeus, the Greek equivalent of Indra) are similarly described in great physical detail, their mannerisms are similarly detailed, they are also “born”, they also indulge in drink and have tempestuous affairs, they also have fears and jealousies, they also cheat and quarrel among themselves.
As we shall see, an examination of other Indo-European mythologies is the one thing that the invasionist scholars dread and avoid like the plague, since it can be fatal to their childish identifications of “history” in the Vedic myths.
2. Almost the sole criterion in classifying any entity in the Rigveda as “non-Aryan” is the criterion of conflict: the necessity of identifying “non-Aryans” in conflict with “Aryans” is so vital to the very survival of the Aryan invasion theory that the scholars go overboard in identifying “non-Aryans” on the basis of some “conflict” or the other.
In setting out on this exercise, the scholars virtually set out on a path of no-return: it is like jumping off a cliff - there is no going back, or stepping off, halfway. Starting with the classes of supernatural beings and the individual demons, the scholars end up identifying nearly every entity in the Rigveda as “non-Aryan” on the basis of the sole criterion of conflict, right from the Vedic tribes to the Vedic Gods to the Vedic RSis:
a. The Supernatural beings: The scholars accept all the classes of supernatural beings (Asuras, DAsas, Dasyus, PaNis, Daityas, DAnavas, RAkSasas, YakSas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, PiSAcas, etc.) as non-Aryan races, and the individual demons (VRtra, SuSNa, Sambara, Vala, Pipru, NamUci, Cumuri, Dhuni, Varcin, AurNavAbha, AhISuva, Arbuda, IlIbiSa, Kuyava, MRgaya, UraNa, PadgRbhi, SRbinda, DRbhIka, RauhiNa, RudhikrAs, SvaSna, etc.) as non-Aryan chieftains or heroes, defeated, conquered or killed by Indra.
This is basically like identifying the fairies, pixies, gnomes, elves, trolls, ogres, giants, goblins, hobgoblins, leprechauns, and the like, in the fairy tales and myths of Britain as the original non-Indo-European inhabitants of the British Isles.
b. The Vedic tribes: All tribes depicted as enemies of the Vedic Aryans are classified as non-Aryan tribes.
Thus, A.D. Pusalker refers to the Ajas, Sigrus and YakSas, who fight, under the leadership of Bheda, against SudAs, as “three non-Aryan tribes.”17
Likewise, Griffith, as we saw, identifies “the Pakthas and the rest”, ranged against SudAs in VII.18.7, as “non-Aryan tribes”. Rahurkar also describes the Pakthas and others as “tribes of obviously non-Aryan origin.”18
F.E. Pargiter19 (who, strictly speaking, is not an invasionist scholar proper, but belongs to the quasi-invasionist school, which we will examine later) classifies the Aila tribes (the Yadus, TurvaSas, Anus, Druhyus and PUrus) alone as Aryan, and all the rest (particularly the IkSvAkus, whom he classifies as Dravidians) as non-Aryan. Thus, prominent Vedic kings like Purukutsa and Trasadasyu, and prominent Puranic kings like MandhAtA, Sagara, HariScandra, BhagIratha, DaSaratha and RAma, are non-Aryans according to him.
Malati Shendge20 classifies all tribes whose names end in u (and she specifies the PUrus among them) as non-Aryan: this includes the five Aila tribes whom alone Pargiter classifies as Aryan!
c. The Vedic Gods: An overwhelming majority of the scholars hold that Rudra is a non-Aryan God borrowed by the Aryans, on the ground that Rudra “is regarded in Vedic cult and religion as an apotropaeic God of aversion – to be feared but not adored.”21
Many hold VaruNa also to be non-Aryan on the ground that many verses in the Rigveda depict a rivalry between Indra and VaruNa, and hymn X.124 shows Indra abducting the leadership of the Gods from VaruNa. According to Malati Shendge, “Indra represents the conquering Aryans, VaruNa as his powerful equal represents the non-Aryans”,22 and, according to R.N. Dandekar, “the mythological rivalry between asura VaruNa and Indra… (represents the rivalry) between the Assyrians of the Indus Valley and Indra of the Vedic Aryans.”23
Other Gods, also, qualify as non-Aryans: according to D.D. Kosambi, USas is a Goddess “adopted from the non-Aryans” since she “had a famous brush with Indra on the BeAs river which ended in her ox-cart being smashed.”24
Malati Shendge, in fact, decides that all the Vedic Gods, except Indra and ViSNu, are non-Aryans; and not even non-Aryan Gods, but non-Aryan human beings: “The so-called Vedic pantheon, with the exception of Indra and ViSNu, is composed of the functionaries of the government of the Asura empire having its capital in the Indus Valley.”25 The various Gods were “the cabinet-members of the non-Aryan government,”26 Mitra being “the exchequer-general of contracts”27 Rudra “the commander of the Asura army”,28 SUrya “the head of the intelligence department”,29 SavitR “the head of the system of redistribution”,30 PUSan “the inspector and builder of roads”,31 and so on.
But, according to S.K. Chatterji, ViSNu is “partly at least… of Dravidian affinity as a sky-God whose colour was of the blue sky (cf. Tamil viN, ‘sky’…).”34 D.D. Kosambi, perhaps on the basis of ViSNu’s dark skin, goes further: among the Gods “adopted from the pre-Aryans”, according to him, is “the obscure Vishnu, who was later to find a great future in India.”35
So Indra, alone is a purely Aryan God. Or is he? According to R.N. Dandekar, Indra (inspite of being a “tall, strong, well-formed, handsome, blond Aryan”36), was half a non-Aryan, and, moreover, from his father’s side: “Indra belonged to the DAsas on the father’s side, and to the Gods (Aryans) on the mother’s side.”37
The reasoning behind this conclusion is as follows: there is conflict between Indra and his father, and Indra is depicted as “having killed his father in order to snatch away Soma from him”;38 hence his father must have been a DAsa or non-Aryan!
d. The Vedic RSis: V.G. Rahurkar, in his Seers of the Rigveda, classifies the KaNvas and the Agastyas and VasiSThas as being partly at least of non-Aryan origin: according to him, the names of the RSis belonging to the KaNva family clearly show “some non-Aryan influence”;39 and Agastya and VasiSTha are born “from a non-Aryan mother-goddess”,40 whatever that means.
Three different scholars, D.D. Kosambi,41 l F.E. Pargiter,42 and Malati Shendge43, classify all the families of Vedic RSis, with the sole exception of the ViSvAmitras, as non-Aryans (Malati Shendge, among them, does not specifically except the ViSvAmitras by name, but she does name all the other families as non-Aryan). The sole criterion behind this appears to be the fact that there was conflict between ViSvAmitra and VasiSTha, and that ViSvAmitra was originally a king belonging to a Bharata dynasty.
The implications of this do not escape the attention of these scholars, since the majority of the hymns of the Rigveda, it must be remembered, are composed by these very RSis:
According to Malati Shendge, most of the hymns “were composed by the ancient sages in their own language”,44 and “were probably, at a later stage, either translated into Sanskrit, or, on the basis of earlier material, new hymns were composed.”45
Pargiter also assures us that the fact that they “appear in Sanskrit” does not disprove their non-Aryan origin, since “they would naturally have been Sanskritized in the course of time.”46
This whole exercise of identifying various entities in the Rigveda as “non-Aryan” ones, quite apart from the intrinsic fatuousness of most of the arguments and conclusions, suffers from two very vital flaws:
1. Firstly, “non-Aryan” can only, and only, mean non-Indo-European in the linguistic sense; and the fact is that all the entities which the scholars identify as non-Aryan, whether classes of supernatural beings, or individual demons, or tribes, or Gods, or RSis, have purely Indo-European names.
This is the most fundamental obstacle to identifying these entities as non-Aryan: their names not only do not have Dravidian or Austric etymologies, but they actually have purely Indo-European etymologies, so that they cannot even be identified with hypothetical, unrecorded and extinct non-Indo-European groups.
Some invasionist scholars have tried hard to discover non-Indo-European elements in the Rigveda, but without success. John Muir, after one such exercise, admits: “I have gone over the names of the Dasyus or Asuras, mentioned in the Rigveda, with the view of discovering whether any of them could be regarded as being of non-Aryan or indigenous origin, but I have not observed any to be of that character.”47
Likewise, Sarat Chandra Roy, in the census report of 1911, tried to identify some names in the Rigveda with Mundari (Austric) names, but even so staunch a supporter of the Aryan invasion theory as S.K. Chatterji admits: “Mr. Roy’s attempts to identify non-Aryan chiefs in the Rigveda with Munda names… are rather fanciful.”48
However, the necessity of identifying “non-Aryans” in the Rigveda is so vital to the very survival of the invasion theory that the scholars have to find means of overcoming this obstacle:
a. The first, and safest, method is to simply ignore the linguistic aspect altogether, and to continue classifying entities as “Aryan” and “non-Aryan” whenever occasion and convenience demands or permits.
b. The second method is to merely make vague statements to the effect that the names “seem” non-Aryan, without bothering to specify what exactly is intended to be meant by the term.
V.M. Macdonell, in his Vedic Mythology, derives the Sanskrit etymologies of the names of most of the demons of drought and darkness; but in respect of the names SRbinda and IlIbiSa, he suggests that they have “an un-Aryan appearance.”49
D.D. Kosambi, in speaking of the PaNis, suggests that “the name PaNi does not seem to be Aryan.”50
V.G. Rahurkar, in suggesting that the KaNvas were influenced by non-Aryans, tells us that the names of many of the RSis belonging to this family “appear to be strange names… (which) can be accounted for by assuming some non-Aryan influence.”51
Among the names specified by Rahurkar are names like ASvasUktin and GoSUktin!
c. The third method is to attribute specific linguistic identities to clearly non-linguistic entities.
F.E. Pargiter,52 in speaking of the different tribal groups, tells us that the Ailas (the Yadus, TurvaSas, Anus, Druhyus and PUrus) were Aryans, the IkSvAkus were Dravidians, and the eastern Saudyumna groups (named in the PurANas) were Austrics.
Malati Shendge53 classifies the classes of atmospheric demons as follows: the DAsas and Dasyus were Austric, the RAkSasas were Dravidians, and the Asuras were Semites.
d. The fourth method is to allege linguistic camouflage: ie. the names were originally non-Indo-European, but they were “Sanskritized”, so they appear to be Indo-European.
Malati Shendge, who classifies the Asuras as Semites, and VaruNa as their king, tells us that VaruNa is “a Sanskritized form of a Semitic name.”54
F.E. Pargiter, clearly uncomfortable with having to classify entities with purely Indo-European names as non-Aryans, tells us that “the fact that many of the names… have a Sanskrit appearance does not necessarily militate against their non-Aila origin, because they would naturally have been Sanskritized in the course of time.”55 In fact, he suggests two methods of linguistic conversion: “Non-Aryan names appear to have been (either) Sanskritized or translated into Sanskrit.”56
Thus, to illustrate a hypothetical example, a person named RAjA in an ancient Sanskrit text can be classified as a Semite: his name can be claimed to originally have been either RazA (Sanskritized into RAjA) or Malik (translated into the Sanskrit equivalent word for “King”).
Needless to say, this kind of logic saves the scholars the trouble of trying to adhere to linguistic principles in classifying anyone or anything as “non-Aryan”.
2. Secondly, “non-Aryan” entities encountered by Aryan invaders in India must be found only in India; but the fact is that many of the most important names classified by the scholars as refering to “non-Aryan natives” of India, are found in the farthest Indo-European mythologies:
Thus, Asura is found in the Iranian Ahura, and the Teutonic Aesir.
PaNi is found in Greek Pan and the Teutonic Vanir (see Chapter 10 = Appendix 3 of this book for further details).
DAsa is found in Iranian Daha and Slavonic DaZ.
VaruNa is found in Greek Ouranos and Teutonic Woden.
This obstacle is also basically an insurmountable one, but the scholars surmount it by four simple methods:
a. The first method is to simply ignore the inconvenient correspondences with other Indo-European mythologies altogether.
In some cases, this is easy because the correspondences have apparently not been noticed by any scholar so far: a case in point is the unmistakable correspondence between the PaNis of the Vedas, Pan of Greek mythology, and the Vanir of Teutonic mythology (see Chapter 10 of this book).
In other cases, even well-known and well established correspondences are firmly ignored by the scholars.
b. The second method is to note the correspondence but to argue against it.
Thus, the correspondence between VaruNa, Ouranos and Woden is clear not only from the similarity of the names but from the identity of many or most of the mythical traits and characteristics of the three Gods. Yet many scholars argue against the correspondence by suggesting different etymologies for the three names.
c. The third method is to note, and accept, the correspondence; but to disdain to accept it as an objection to branding the entity of that name, in the Rigveda, as “non-Aryan”, by arguing that there was a transfer of meaning of the word from its original Indo-European context to a new context of conflicts with non-Aryans in India.
Thus, most scholars are aware that the words Asura, DAsa and Dasyu pertain to Indo-Iranian contexts; but that does not prevent them from interpreting these words as refering also to the non-Aryan natives of India.
Emile Benveniste notes that “the Avestan word for ‘country’, dahyu (anc-dasyu) has as its Sanskrit correspondent dasyu… (and) the connection between the sense of dahyu/dasyu reflects conflicts between the Indian and Iranian peoples.”57 However, he suggests that although “the word at first referred to Iranian society, the name by which this enemy people called themselves collectively took on a hostile connotation and became for the Aryas of India the term for an inferior and barbarous people.”58 Hence: “In Indic, dasyu may be taken as an ethnic”59 (ie. a native of India).
d. The fourth method, the most brazen of them all, is to note and accept the correspondence; and then, in the very same breath, to go on classifying the entity in question as non-Aryan.
Thus, D.D. Kosambi, in one and the same breath, or at least, on the same page of his book, tells us that the Goddess USas “is related to the Greek Eos”, and also that USas belongs to a group of “peculiar Vedic gods not known elsewhere (who) had been adopted from the pre-Aryans.”60
It is clear that the whole exercise of identifying “non-Aryans” in the Rigveda is more a case of ignoring, or arguing against, facts, than a case of citing facts as evidence.
I.C. Conflicts between Aryans and Non-Aryans
As we have seen, rather than linguistic principles, it is “conflicts” in the Rigveda which are made the criteria for locating “non-Aryans” in the text.
And, as we have also seen, it is not so much the conflicts between the Vedic Aryans and their human enemies (who, in any case, have purely Indo-European names and tribal identities), which engage the attention of the scholars, as the conflicts between the elements of nature: between the thunder-God and the demons of drought, or the forces of light and the forces of darkness.
The early Western scholars who analysed the hymns of the Rigveda very clearly accepted that the conflicts between Indra and the various anthropomorphised demons were basically nature-myths pertaining to the elemental battles between light and darkness, or between the benign nature-Gods of plenty and the malignant demons of drought.
And, although these scholars tried to introduce a parallel scheme of interpretation whereby the nature-myths also functioned, on a secondary level, as allegorical depictions of actual terrestrial conflicts between Aryans and non-Aryans, they rarely lost sight of the fact that this second scheme of interpretation was secondary, and basically speculative. Griffith, for example, interprets the nature-myths as nature-myths throughout his work; and, whenever he also introduces the invasionist motif, there is an element of dilemma in his comments: commenting on “the DAsa hosts who dwell in darkness” in II.20.7, for example, he notes that it is “uncertain whether the aborigines of the country are meant, or the demons of air who dwell in dark clouds.”
But, later invasionist scholars became more and more impatient with the naturalistic scheme of interpretation. D.D. Kosambi is extremely critical of the early Western scholars for interpreting the battles of Indra as the battles between a thunder-God and the demons of drought or darkness, and attributes these interpretations to the scholars having flourished “during the nineteenth century, when nature-myths were made to account for everything, including the Homeric destruction of Troy…”61
These later invasionist scholars, therefore, interpret the two major categories of “conflicts” in the nature-myths as two categories of historical conflicts:
1. The first category of “conflicts” is the one represented by the great battle, between Indra and VRtra (or the VRtras).
Griffith, in his footnote to 1.4.8, notes: “The VRtras, the enemies, the oppressors, or obstructors, are ‘the hostile powers in the atmosphere who malevolently shut up the watery treasures in the clouds. These demons of drought, called by a variety of names, as VRtra, Ahi, SuSNa, Namuci, Pipru, Sambara, UraNa, etc. etc., armed on their side, also, with every variety of celestial artillery, attempt, but in vain, to resist the onset of the gods’ - Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, V, p.95.”
Further, in his footnote to 1.31.1, he quotes Wilson: “the legend of Indra’s slaying VRtra… in the Vedas is merely an allegorical narrative of the production of rain. VRtra, sometimes also named Ahi, is nothing more than the accumulation of vapour condensed or figuratively shut up in, or obstructed by, a cloud. Indra, with his thunderbolt, or atmospheric or electrical influence, divides the aggregate mass, and vent is given to the rain which then descends upon the earth.”
VRtra is regularly depicted as a dragon or Great Serpent, and Indra as a dragon-slayer.
However, the later invasionist scholars reason otherwise: according to D.D. Kosambi, Indra represents the Aryan invaders, and the VRtras represent the non-Aryans of the Indus Valley, who had built dams across the rivers. The Aryans destroyed these dams, thereby flooding out the non-Aryans: “the myth and metaphors give a clear account of the methods whereby the Indus agriculture was ultimately ruined.”62
According to Malati Shendge, VRtra was “an official, who, alongwith his men, referred to as VRtrANi, was guarding the dam.”63 Indra, “by killing VRtra, the guard of the dam across the seven rivers, brought under his control the sluice gates which he opened in order to flood the downstream settlements, thus causing panic and damage to life and property.”64
R.N. Dandekar also reasons as above, and includes the killing of the non-Aryan VRtra or VRtras among the exploits of his blond, Aryan hero, Indra. He reasons as follows: “Indra, the national hero, was deified by the Vedic poets… And, still later, when naturalistic elements came to be superimposed upon Indra’s personality, as a result of which Indra came to be regarded as the rain-god, there was a corresponding naturalistic transformation in VRtra’s personality so that he came to be looked upon as the cloud-demon.”65
As usual, the scholars firmly avoid examining the mythologies of other Indo-European peoples. Every major Indo-European mythology records the killing of a mighty serpent by the thunder-God: the Greek Zeus kills the Great Serpent Typhoeus, and the Teutonic Thor kills the Great Serpent of Midgard.
The scholars would, of course, claim that an original nature-myth, of a thunder-God killing the serpent who withholds the rain-clouds, has merely been superimposed on the historical exploits of a human, Aryan hero, Indra, who killed the VRtras of the Indus Valley.
But Hittite mythology gives the lie to this forced interpretation. The Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology relates the following prominent Hittite myth: “The Great Serpent had dared to attack the weather-God. The God demanded that he be brought to justice. Inar, (another) God,… prepared a great feast and invited the serpent with his family to eat and drink. The serpent and his children, having drunk to satiety, were unable to go back into their hole, and were exterminated.”66 This weather-God “presided over tempests and beneficial rainfall.”67
Here, in this much-transformed myth, the name of the God, who kills the Great Serpent who is interfering with the rainfall, is Inar, clearly cognate to Indra. So there has clearly been no “superimposition” of any historical events onto any nature-myth: Indra’s exploits are indeed the exploits of a thunder-God fighting the demons of drought.
2. The second category of “conflicts” is the one represented by the hostilities between Indra and the PaNis, particularly described in hymn X.108.
As Griffith points out in his footnote to this hymn: “The hymn is a colloquy between SaramA, the messenger of the Gods or of Indra (see I.62.3, note; 72.8; III.31.6, V.45.8), and the PaNis or envious demons who have carried off the rays of light which Indra wishes to recover.”
Elsewhere, in his footnote to 1.62.3, Griffith adds: “SaramA, the hound of Indra… is said to have pursued and recovered the cows stolen by the PaNis; which has been supposed to mean that SaramA is the Dawn who recovers the rays of the Sun that have been carried away by night.”
Again, later invasionist scholars refuse to accept this naturalistic interpretation: D.D. Kosambi points out that “the hymn says nothing about stolen cattle, but is a direct blunt demand for tribute in cattle, which the PaNis scornfully reject. They are then warned of dire consequences.”68 Kosambi therefore interprets the hymn as an illustration of the terror tactics by which the invading Aryans attacked small communities of the native non-Aryan populace: first they demanded tribute, and, when denied this tribute, they attacked and conquered the hapless community. Kosambi calls this “the standard Aryan procedure for invasion.”69
A majority of the invasionist scholars identify the PaNis as non-Aryans.
However, in this case, also, an examination of other Indo-European mythologies shows that the PaNis, as well as the particular “conflict” in which they are involved, are represented in at least two other mythologies: Greek and Teutonic. We will not go into this subject in greater detail at this point, as we will be examining it in full in a later chapter (Chapter 10 = Appendix 3).
The long and short of the whole thing is that there is no such thing as a conflict between Indo-Europeans and non-Indo-Europeans depicted anywhere in the Rigveda.
And it is because scholars belonging to the invasionist school of interpretation have expended all their energies and efforts in trying to discover history in the mythology of the Rigveda, that the wealth of historical information, which is actually present in the Rigveda, has remained totally untouched by them.
The Hindu invasionist school is a distinctly different school of interpretation from the standard invasionist one: it also fully accepts the idea that the Aryans invaded, or migrated into, India from outside in the distant past; but that, perhaps, is the only point on which it agrees with the standard invasionist school. On every other point, this school represents a particularly bizarre variety of staunch Hindu reaction to the invasion theory, and the sole aim of this school is to present the Vedic Aryans and their civilization in as glorified a manner as possible.
The basic postulates of the standard invasion theory with which the Hindu invasionist school differs sharply, are:
1. The Rigveda was composed around 1200 BC, and it represents a culture and civilization which commenced and flourished after 1500 BC.
2. The Aryans invaded India around 1500 BC.
3. Vedic civilization is different from the original Aryan civilization, and both represent semi-civilized and semi-nomadic cultures.
We will examine what the Hindu invasionist scholars have to say, from the point of view of:
A. The Date of the Rigveda and of
II.A. The Date of the Rigveda and of Vedic Civilization
B.G. (Lokmanya) Tilak, the earliest scholar belonging to this school of interpretation, proved on the basis of astronomical references in the Rigveda, that the composition of the Rigveda commenced around 4500 BC or so, and the bulk of the hymns were composed between 3500 BC and 2500 BC.
However, he was not satisfied with these dates, and he tried to find earlier astronomical references, but without success: “I have, in my later researches, tried to push back this limit by searching for the older zodiacal positions of the vernal equinox in the Vedic literature, but I have not found any evidence of the same.”70
Tilak, therefore, tried to “push back” the date of the civilization represented in the Rigveda, if not of the actual Rigveda itself, by formulating his Arctic homeland theory, according to which Vedic civilization “did not originate with the Vedic bards, but was derived by them from their interglacial forefathers”71 who lived in the Arctic region in the interglacial period which ended around “10000-8000 BC” with “the destruction of the original Arctic home by the last Ice Age.”72
Going even further back: “Aryans and their culture and religion cannot be supposed to have developed all of a sudden at the close of the last interglacial period, and the ultimate origin of both must, therefore, be placed in remote geological times… though Aryan race or religion can be traced back to last interglacial period, yet the ultimate origin of both is still lost in geological antiquity.”73
Latter-day scholars of this school, however, are less discreet about these dates “lost in geological antiquity”. S.D. Kulkarni tells us that “our civilization, Vedic or Hindu, has a continuity of more than 31092 years before present.”74 and he pinpoints “21788 BC as the period, at least, of the origin of the Rigveda.”75
For sceptics, Kulkarni adds: “It appears that the scholars simply get awe-struck if any date for any event in the past is fixed to such remote antiquity. They forget that the creation of this universe is some 200 crores of years old if not more, and the first man has set his foot on this mother earth at least some 60 lac years ago.”76
II.B. The Aryan Invasion.
Tilak had nothing particular to say about the date of the Aryan invasion of India, or about the actual invasion itself.
The Indus civilization had not been excavated in his time, and hence it formed no part of his considerations.
However, later scholars of this school are very careful to bring the Aryans into India before the period of the Indus civilization, unwilling to allow this civilization to be attributed to anyone other than the Aryans themselves. And they are strongly critical of suggestions or claims to the contrary.
Kulkarni, for example, holds “the British imperialist circles” responsible for “hatching a plot to perpetuate their rule in India by adopting the doctrine of ‘divide and rule’……”.77 They “spread the canard that the Dravidians who peopled India, from north to south, were conquered by the Aryan barbarians sometime in 1500 BC… as a natural corollary, when the Indus Valley Civilization was discovered and its date was adjudged to be around 3000 BC, this thesis was further developed and conclusion drawn that the Aryan barbarians came from the Northwest and destroyed the locally developed civilization.”78
Kulkarni alleges that by identifying “the Indus Valley people as the Dravidians… they have sowed the seeds of schism between the North Indians and their southern counterparts”,79 and he firmly insists that “the Harappa civilization was a part and parcel of the Aryan achievements.”80
It is clear that Kulkarni’s objection is not to the idea that Aryans, coming from outside, conquered the local Dravidians: he accepts the idea of this invasion and conquest, but insists that it “occured prior to 4500 BC.”81 His objection is to the Aryans being considered “barbarians” and the Dravidians “civilized”.
The Hindu invasionist interpretation, in fact, contains the seeds of even greater “schism”: while the standard invasionist theory, after the discovery of the Indus civilization, at least gives the Dravidians the credit of cultural and civilizational superiority alongwith the military inferiority which led to their alleged defeat at the hands of the invading Aryans, the Hindu invasionist theory wants the Dravidians to be considered inferior in terms of both military strength and culture.
The standard invasionist school treats the latter-day Indian or Hindu culture and civilization as an amalgam of the cultures and civilizations of the invading Aryans and the indigenous Dravidians, with more Dravidian elements than Aryan, but the Hindu invasionist school treats this culture and civilization as a wholly Aryan one imposed by a superior race on an inferior one.
This is not merely an inference drawn from their theory; it is actually stated in so many words by Tilak, who asserts that “the very fact that… (the Aryans) were able to establish their supremacy over the races they came across in their migrations from the original home, and that they succeeded, by conquest or assimilation, in Aryanising the latter in language, thought and religion under circumstances which could not be expected to be favourable to them, is enough to prove that the original Aryan civilization most have been of a type far higher than that of the non-Aryan races.”82
Tilak is very evidently proud of “the vitality and superiority of the Aryan races, as disclosed by their conquest, by ex-termination or assimilation, of the non-Aryan races with whom they came into contact in their migrations in search of new lands from the North Pole to the Equator.”83
Moreover, Tilak, and other scholars of this school, are quite certain that they themselves are descendants of these “Aryan races” who conquered India, rather than of the “non-Aryan races” of India who were conquered: Tilak repeatedly refers to the Aryans as “the ancient worshippers and sacrificers of our race.”84
V.D. (Veer) Savarkar, who more or less accepted Tilak’s hypothesis, takes equal pride in the “achievements” of the Aryans, but is less inclined to stress the “extermination” of the inferior races, and, in fact, tries to suggest that the non-Aryans were relatively few in number, and that most of them welcomed the Aryan invaders with open arms.
According to Savarkar, the history of the Aryan conquest began in the westernmost part of the Saptasindhu region when “the foremost band of the intrepid Aryans made it their home and lighted the first sacrificial fire on the banks of the Sindhu… BY the time they had cut themselves aloof from their cognate and neighbouring people, especially the Persians, the Aryans had spread out to the farthest of the seven rivers, Sapta Sindhus…”85
Now, “the region of the Sapta Sindhus was, though very thinly, populated by scattered tribes. Some of them seem to have been friendly towards the newcomers, and it is almost certain that many an individual had served the Aryans as guides and introduced them to the names and nature of the new scenes to which the Aryans could not be but local strangers. The Vidyadharas, Apsaras, Yakshas, Rakshas, Gandharvas and Kinnaras were not all or altogether inimical to the Aryans as at times they are mentioned as being benevolent and good-natured folks. Thus it is probable that many names given to the great rivers by the original inhabitants of the soil may have been Sanskritised and adopted by the Aryans…”86
“The activities of so intrepid a people as the Sindhus or Hindus could no longer be kept cooped or cabined within the narrow compass of the Panchanad or the Punjab. The vast and fertile plains farther off stood out inviting the efforts of some strong and vigorous race. Tribe after tribe of the Hindus issued forth from the land of their nursery, and, led by the consciousness of a great mission and their Sacrificial Fire that was a symbol thereof, they soon reclaimed the vast, waste and but very thinly populated lands. Forests were felled, agriculture flourished, cities rose, kingdoms thrived… As time passed on, the distances of their new colonies increased, and different peoples of other highly developed types began to be incorporated into their culture…”87
“At last the great mission which the Sindhus had undertaken of founding a nation and a country, found and reached its geographical limit when the valorous Prince of Ayodhya made a triumphant entry in Ceylon and actually brought the whole land from the Himalayas to the Seas under one sovereign sway. The day when the Horse of Victory returned unchallenged and unchallengeable, the great white Umbrella of Sovereignty was unfurled over that Imperial throne of Ramchandra, the brave, Ramchandra the good, and a loving allegiance to him was sworn, not only by the Princes of Aryan blood, but Hanuman, Sugriva, Bibhishana from the south – that day was the real birth-day of our Hindu people. It was truly our national day: for Aryans and Anaryans knitting themselves into a people were born as a nation.”88
Besides accepting that “Yakshas. Rakshas, Gandharvas”, and “Hanuman, Sugriva, Bibhishana” were not “of Aryan blood”, Savarkar also accepts the linguistic and sociological (caste) implications of the invasion theory: “Further on, as the Vedic Sanskrit began to give birth to the Indian Prakrits which became the spoken tongues of the majority of the descendants of these very Sindhus as well as the assimilated and the cross-born castes, these too might have called themselves as Hindus.”89
Kulkarni is much more graphic in his description of the Aryan invasion of India. He converts the whole thing into a veritable saga, ostensibly on the basis of the Rigveda:
According to him, the Vedic empire, which lay mainly to the west of the Indus, was ruled by the PRthu emperor CAyamAna, with his capital in Abhivarta, “now identified as a village near the city of Khorasan in Eastern Iran.”90
The Bharatas were one of the groups of Vedic people living within this empire. A rift developed between the Bharatas and the PRthus, and “DivodAsa, the chief of the Bharatas, was captured by VadhryaSva, the commander of the CAyamAnas.”91
Later, DivodAsa was released: “After his release, he crossed the Sindhu and the other rivers of the Punjab and settled in the region between the rivers Satudri and the GangA.”92
DivodAsa’s “son SudAs was very ambitious. He wanted to be independent of the CAyamAnas of the PRthus ruling from far-off Abhivarta in Eastern Iran”,93 VasiSTha agreed to help him in his ambition, and “crossed the Sindhu and other rivers and joined SudAs”.94 Together, they “gained supremacy over the region between the Sindhu and the GangA.”95
However: “The emperor CAyamAna could not tolerate this. He gave a call to all his chieftains to gather together under his command. Ten very powerful kings including Yadu, Turvasu, Anu, Druhyu - the Arya chiefs, and Sambar the Dasyu chief, joined CAyamAna. They crossed the Sindhu…”.96 The resulting DASarAjña war was decisively won by SudAs: “This was the turning point in the relationship of the Vedics who stayed behind in the western region beyond the Sindhu, and those who crossed over the rivers of the Punjab and came to settle permanently in the region east of the river Sindhu.”97
“The exodus of the Bharatas to the east of the Sindhu had started. And it gained momentum with the sage ViSvAmitra crossing the Sindhu and the other rivers of the Punjab… when ViSvAmitra left his original habitat west of the Sindhu, alongwith his followers, he is stated to be requesting the rivers Vipat and Satudri to allow passage for his people, the Bharatas (RV 3.33.11).”98
“After ViSvAmitra became the priest of SudAs, he inspired SudAs to perform a horse-sacrifice to proclaim to the Kings here that they should hereafter pay homage to him as their King Emperor (RV 3.53.11)… The horse was escorted to the east, the west and the north. It appears that SudAs had not yet penetrated the Vindhyas and established his sway there in the South. But the Bharatas triumphed over all the regions north of the Vindhyas. For it is stated that SudAsa’s army had humbled the Kikatas, ie. modem Bihar and the regions around it.”99
There is clearly a sleight of hand in Kulkarni’s description of the exploits of SudAs: since the geographical landmark associated with VasiSTha (ie. the ParuSNI) is to the west of the geographical landmarks associated with ViSvAmitra (ie. the VipAS and SutudrI, and KIkaTa), Kulkarni places VasiSTha before ViSvAmitra, although the unanimous verdict of both tradition as well as modern scholarship is that ViSvAmitra preceded VasiSTha as the priest of SudAs. His only explanation for this reverse order, significantly, is that “the sequence of events appears to be queer”100 (from the point of view of the invasion), if ViSvAmitra is placed before VasiSTha!
And finally, Kulkarni does what he accuses the Western scholars of doing: he sows “the seeds of schism between the North Indians and their southern counterparts.”101 He takes the invasion right into southern territory: “the expansion of the Vedic Aryans towards the south of the Vindhyas clearly belongs to the later Vedic and early post-Vedic periods. It must have been during these periods that the family of Agastya led the colonising Aryan missionaries to the south… He is the first Aryan explorer and the originator of the art of colonization… the Aryanizer of the south.”102
II.C. Vedic Civilization vis-a-vis the Original Aryan Civilization.
Tilak sees the religion and culture preserved in the Rigveda as “the anti-diluvian religion and culture”103 of the Aryans in their original Arctic homeland, “preserved in the form of traditions by the disciplined memory of the Rishis until it was incorporated first into crude, as contrasted with the polished, hymns (su-uktas) of the Rig-Veda in the Orion Period, to be collected later on in MaNDalas and finally into Samhitas; and… the subject matter of these hymns is interglacial.”104
It was “those who survived the catastrophe or their immediate descendants” who first “incorporated into hymns the religious knowledge they had inherited as a sacred trust from their forefathers”.105
If this anti-diluvian religion and culture is found preserved only in India, and to some extent in Iran, it is because “the civilization of the Aryan races that are found to have inhabited the northern parts of Europe in the beginning of the Neolithic age” suffered “a natural relapse into barbarism after the great catastrophe”;106 while “the religious zeal and industry of the bards or priests of the Iranian and the Indian Aryas”107 preserved this religion and culture “to be scrupulously guarded and transmitted to future generations”.108
About the language of the hymns, and therefore, indirectly, of the original Aryans, Tilak at first tries to appear non-commital: “How far the language of the hymns, as we have them at present, resembled the anti-diluvial forms of speech is a different question… we are not concerned here with the words or the syllables of the hymns, which, it is admitted, have not remained permanent.”109
But he immediately abandons this ambiguity: “the hymns have been preserved, accent for accent, according to the lowest estimate, for the last 3000 or 4000 years; and what is achieved in more recent times can certainly be held to have been done by the older bards in times when the traditions about the Arctic home and religion were still fresh in their mind.”110
In short, Tilak sees little difference between the language, religion and culture of the original Aryans, and that of the Vedic Aryans.
Kulkarni is more categorical: “the Vedas are the heritage of mankind. Even though the credit for preservation of these without adding a syllable here or a dot there is that of the Indians, the verses in these have come down to us from remotest antiquity when forefathers of all the peoples of this wide world were living together”111 in the original homeland.
“Unfortunately, those who migrated from their original homeland almost totally lost their links with the ancient culture while only the Indians could preserve the Vedas and their links with their ancient Vedic civilization, making such modifications as the climes and times demanded.”112
About the language of the original Aryans, Kulkarni is even more categorical: he objects to “the language from which all these languages including Sanskrit and Zend have been derived (being) designated as Indo-European”,113 and he tells the scholars that they “should not feel shy and should consider this original language as Sanskrit itself, instead of Indo-European.”114
The Hindu invasionist scholars thus clearly see the language, religion and culture of the Rigveda as almost identical with the language, religion and culture of the Aryans in their original homeland outside India, and, in the process, they make this Vedic culture totally alien to India. It may be noted that even the standard invasionist scholars, except for the lunatic fringe among them, accept that while the Aryans came from outside, “the Indo-Aryans had become completely Indianized when the Rigvedic culture started on its course as a distinct product of the Indian soil about 1500 BC.”115 The Hindu invasionist theory is thus far more inimical to the Indian ethos than the standard invasionist one.
The only thing with which these scholars are concerned is the glorification of the Aryan civilization in its original homeland:
Tilak insists that the Aryans had attained “a high degree of civilization in their original Arctic home,” and “there is no reason why the primitive Aryans should not be placed on an equal footing with the prehistoric inhabitants of Egypt in point of culture and civilization”.116
This, of course, means more than it actually says: the Aryan civilization apparently flourished in the Arctic region before 10000-8000 BC, while the Egyptian civilization flourished much later; so naturally the Aryan civilization must be treated as much more than merely “equal” with the Egyptian civilization!
Kulkarni, as usual, is much more reckless in his pronouncements. He starts out by asserting that “the Vedas are the compositions of a highly civilized people”,117 and ends up with deriving all the civilizations of the world from the civilization of the Vedic Aryans: “the Rigvedic people were the civilizers of the world in the post-glacial epoch”118 since “the Aryans dispersed to different lands in Europe, North Africa, the rest of Asia, and America, and developed the ancient world civilizations in their respective regions.”119
II.D. The Original Homeland
After examining the main concerns of the Hindu invasionist scholars, we now come to the main point: the location of the original homeland according to these scholars, their real reasons behind locating the homeland in these far-off regions, and the arguments by which they try to prove these locations on the basis of the Rigveda.
Tilak locates the original homeland in the Arctic region from “remote geological times” till “the destruction of the original Arctic home by the last Ice Age”120 in “10000-8000 BC”. The period from “8000-5000 BC” was the “age of migration from the original home. The survivors of the Aryan race roamed over the northern parts of Europe and Asia in search of new lands.”121
By 5000 BC, according to Tilak, the Aryans were divided into two groups. One group consisted of “the primitive Aryans in Europe… as represented by Swiss Lake Dwellers”, and the other group consisted of the “Asiatic Aryans… probably settled on the Jaxartes”,122 still in Central Asia, on their way towards India.
Thus, the Aryan colonisation of India took place long after the colonisation of Europe. Far from being the original Aryan homeland, India, according to Tilak, was practically the last land to be colonised by the Aryans.
Kulkarni’s idea of the original homeland is even more peculiar than Tilak’s:
Letting his imagination run riot, Kulkarni tells us that “the Vedic civilization covered a wide area including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Sindha, Punjab and Kashmira”,123 and “the Vedic influence was all-pervasive and it spread right from modem Turkey and Egypt, covered the region between the Caucasus mountain and the Caspian Sea down to Syria and Palestine and the Persian Gulf kingdoms of Ancient Babylon, Asur, Sumer, Akkad, Ur, Kassite, and including the modern Iran-Afghanistan, the Russian Azerbaijan, and the Southern regions of the Russian Republics, Tadjikistan, Uzbek, Turkmen and Kirghis. It extended further east to Hindukush Mountains and covered the region around Varasakh river and included the Sindhu region of modem Sindha, the Punjab and the Kashmira.”124
Now, it may appear from the above that Kulkarni includes three northwestern parts of India in the original homeland. But he is quick to disclaim this. He immediately clarifies that “this was the position in about 5000 BC. About 2000 or so years earlier, the Dasarajnya battle was fought and the Vedics… began to spread eastwards and southwards to the present day India”;125 and, even after that, “these people had their settlements mostly in the regions West of the river Sindhu, and only the Punjab, Sindha and Kashmir were the regions known to them.”126 Needless to say, “southern India of present day was unknown”127 to them.
Now the question arises: why are these staunch Hindu scholars so determined to locate the original Aryan homeland far outside India?
There are two main reasons:
1. Firstly, these scholars are not concerned with the narrow national boundaries of India: their main concern is to portray Vedic civilization as the most ancient civilization in the world, and as the most likely source-point for all the other civilizations of the ancient world.
At the time Tilak wrote The Arctic Home in the Vedas, the Indus civilization had not yet been excavated, and the oldest archaeological remains of any highly developed civilization in India did not go beyond the first millennium BC.
Hence Tilak was compelled to look elsewhere for an ancient and highly developed civilization which could be projected as the original Aryan and Vedic civilization. However, all civilizations excavated till then were already booked and accounted for. The only option left for Tilak was to postulate a hypothetical Aryan, and Vedic, civilization in the remote geological past, in an almost inexcavable part of the world like the Arctic region.
Later scholars belonging to this school have an option within India in the Indus civilization, but this option has very limited utility: it is difficult to suggest that this civilization could have been the source or inspiration for the other civilizations like the Egyptian or Mesopotamian. Hence, even though careful to suggest that the Aryans entered India before the period of the Indus civilization, they still find it necessary to look outside India for the original Aryan or Vedic civilization.
Many scholars (for example B.G. Siddharth,128 Director-General of the B.M. Birla Science Centre in Hyderabad) accept Colin Renfrew’s view that the original homeland was in Anatolia (Turkey), and try to identify 10,000 year old epipaleolithic agricultural and proto-agricultural sites excavated in Turkey, such as Nevali Cori in southeastern Turkey, as Rigvedic sites. Anatolia is conveniently close to the later centres of development of civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Kulkarni, as we have seen, sweepingly includes almost the whole of Asia to the west of the Indus in the original homeland. Consequently, he feels free to identify any and every archaeological site in West Asia, which shows signs of economic or technological advancement, as a Vedic site: referring, among others, to Jarmo, Tell-es-Sawwan and Maghzatiyah in Iraq, Beidha in Jordan, and Jericho in Israel, Kulkarni tells us that “they fit in with our picture of the developed administration in the Vedic days.”129
2. Secondly, these scholars are irked by the fact that their Hindu ancestors are portrayed, by historians in general, as a race of mild, stay-at-home namby-pambies who bowed down before every new race of invaders.
Their answer to this is to portray their Hindu ancestors, or at least a section of Hindu ancestors whom they can claim to be their own, as a glorious, vibrant race of daredevils who swept a large part of the world, including India, with their military prowess and civilizational greatness.
Their attitude is somewhat like that of a large section of Indian Muslims, who, themselves descendants of native Hindus, identify themselves with the Islamic invaders from the west, claim them as their own ancestors, and glorify the Islamic invasion of India. The difference is that there was an Islamic invasion of India, recorded in great detail by the invaders themselves, while the “Aryan invasion of India” is a comparatively recent, and purely hypothetical, proposition.
If the Aryan invasion theory places a question mark on the status of the ancestors of other sections of Hindus, it is a matter of little consequence to these scholars.
However, it is of consequence to other scholars. Dr. Ambedkar reacts sharply and critically to “the support which this theory receives from Brahmin scholars”: as he points out, “this 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.”130
Finally, we come to the question of the methods by which these scholars try to find evidence in the Rigveda for their homeland theories. We will not go into details, but we will examine, in general, the trend of the “evidence” presented by them:
Tilak completely ignores the actual geographical data in the Rigveda, and concentrates instead on finding “memories” of the Arctic astronomy embedded in the phrases, myths and rituals in the Rigveda, and even in later texts.
According to Tilak, “the North Pole and the Arctic region possess certain astronomical characteristics which are peculiar to them,”131 and these characteristics form the basis of the phrases, myths and rituals in the Rigveda. This can only mean that “the ancestors of the Vedic Rishis must have become acquainted with these characteristics when they lived in these regions”,132 and, therefore, that “the home of the ancestors of the Vedic people was somewhere near the North Pole before the last Glacial epoch.”133
These astronomical characteristics are:
a. “The spinning round of the heavenly dome over the head.”134
b. “A Dawn continuously lasting for many days.”135
c. “The long day, the long night, the number of months of sunshine and of darkness, and the character of the year”136 peculiar to the Arctic region.
Tilak finds references to these characteristics in:
1. Words and phrases in the Rigveda: Thus, for example, he translates II.28.9 as: “Remove far the debts (sins) incurred by me. May I not, o King! be affected by others’ doings. Verily, many dawns (have) not fully (vi) flashed forth. O Varuna! direct that we may be alive during them.”137 After a long and involved discussion on the meaning of the phrase “many dawns”, Tilak “proves” that the phrase does not mean “many days”, but that it means “many day-long portions of time during which the dawn lasted”.138
2. Myths and legends in the Rigveda: This includes the myths of Aditi and the seven Adityas, MArtaNDa the eighth Aditya, the seven sages, the Navagvas and DaSagvas, the blind DIrghatamas, Trita Aptya, Satakratu Indra, VRtrahan Indra, RjrASva and the hundred sheep, Sambara and his hundred forts, ViSNu and his three steps, the ASvins and their rescue-missions at sea, etc. etc.
An examination of Tilak’s voluminous book, and the single-minded way in which he interprets anything and everything in the Rigveda on the basis of the “astronomical characteristics” of the Arctic region, is a depressing experience; and it is made worse by his naive assertions, repeatedly made, that the traditions and myths in the Vedic texts “can be better explained on the Arctic theory than at present”,139 and that all difficulties of Vedic interpretation vanish “when we explain the legends on the Arctic theory.”140
In fact, the Arctic theory apparently explains all kinds of inexplicable myths even in respect of late texts like the RAmAyana. The following representative examples of such myths, and their Arctic explanations according to Tilak, will illustrate how this method of interpretation apparently solves all kinds of problems:
a. Problem: The fact that “RAma's adversary was conceived of as a ten-headed monster.”141
Solution: This represents “the annual fight between light and darkness as conceived by the inhabitants of a place where a summer of ten months was followed by a long winter night of two months.”142
b. Problem: The myth that “the brother of this ten-headed monster slept continuously for six months in a year.”143
Solution: This “indicates his Arctic origin.”144
c. Problem: The myth that “all the Gods were said to be thrown into prison by RAvana until they were released by RAma.”145
Solution: This indicates “the temporary ascendancy of the powers of darkness over the powers of light during the continuous night of the Arctic region.”146
d. Problem: The myth of “the birth of SItA from the earth and her final disappearance into it.”147
Solution: This represents "the story of the restoration of the dawn… to man”148 in the Arctic region.
3. Vedic rituals and sacrificial sessions (sattras): This includes the Pravargya, GavAmayanam, AtirAtra, etc.
Thus, for example, according to Tilak,149 the TaittirIya SaMhitA, the Aitareya BrAhmaNa, the ASvalAyana and Apastambha Srauta S5tras, and even the Nirukta, describe a procedure to be followed in respect of the GavAmayana sacrifice, which shows that a very long time (so long that “all the ten MaNDalas of the Rigveda” could be comfortably recited without the sun appearing above the horizon) elapsed between the first appearance of morning light on the horizon, and the rising of the sun above the horizon, clearly indicating the long dawn of the Arctic region.
It may be noted here that according to Tilak’s own chronology,150 the Arctic home was destroyed in 10,000-8000 BC, the “survivors of the Aryan race roamed over the northern parts of Europe and Asia in search of lands” between “8000-5000 BC”, and the Asiatic Aryans were settled in Central Asia by 5000 BC. “The TaittirIya SamhitA and the BrAhmaNas” were produced in “3000-1400 BC”, when “the sacrificial system and the numerous details thereof found in the BrAhmaNas seem to have been developed.” And “the SUtras... made their appearance” in “1400-500 BC”.
Is it at all within the realms of possibility that the composers of the BrAhmanas who developed the sacrifices after 3000 BC, and the writers of the SUtras, who wrote after 1400 BC, could be seriously giving detailed instructions to sacrificers about the procedures to be followed when performing a sacrifice in the Arctic region which their remote ancestors had left around 8000 BC?
Rational thinking clearly has no role to play in Tilak’s scheme of interpretation. Anything and everything in the Rig-veda, howsoever commonplace or howsoever esoteric, somehow refers to the “astronomical characteristics” of the Arctic region: the mere fact that the Vedic texts describe a “series of night sacrifices from two to a hundred nights”151 indicates to Tilak that “a hundred continuous nights marked the maximum duration of darkness experienced by the ancient sacrificers of the race”,152 and that “the duration of the long night in the ancient home varied from one night (of 24 hours) to a hundred continuous nights (of 2400 hours) according to latitude, and… the hundred nightly Soma sacrifices corresponded to the different durations of the night at different places in the ancient home.”153 Tilak complacently notes that any number can be given a special Arctic connotation, “for the sun may then be supposed to be below the horizon for any period varying from one to a hundred nights, or even for six months.”154
But Tilak knows where to draw the line: he takes poetical or ritualistic exaggerations in the texts literally, whenever he can interpret them on the basis of the “astronomical characteristics” of the Arctic region (which, as we have seen, can mean anything); but, elsewhere, when he refers to some annual sacrifices which “are described as extending over 1000 years”, he decides that “we may pass it over as unnecessary for our purpose.”155 He does not, in this case, take it as evidence of the “astronomical characteristics” of some other planet where the Aryans may have lived before migrating (by space-ship) to the Arctic region!
Kulkarni’s procedure for finding evidence in the Rigveda for his homeland theory is different: he merely goes on making geographical statements and assertions on a take-it-from-me basis, and these statements and assertions, apparently, constitute sufficient evidence in themselves.
Thus, Kulkarni assigns the following geographical locations to the different families of RSis:
a. The Atris: near “Susa, the ancient Iranian capital.”156
b. The KaNvas: “somewhere in the regions of modern Persia and Afghanistan.”157
c. The GRtsamadas: in the “Tadzhak and Kazakh republics of the U.S.S.R.”158
d. The KaSyapas: in the area of the “Caspian Sea and to its north… (in) the Caucasus mountains”.159
e. The ANgirases and BhRgus: “somewhere in Iran”.160
f. The ViSvAmitras and VasiSThas: “somewhere in Iran”.161
Likewise, he tells us that the Saptasindhu region is not the Punjab, but “the land watered by SarasvatI, Sindhu, Sharayu, Rasa, Oxus, Helmand, and one more river somewhere in the region West of the river Sindhu.”162
The SarasvatI is “the modem river Syr Darya which now disappears in the Aral Sea.”163 Kulkarni is critical of scholars for “trying to locate the river SarasvatI within the present day boundaries of India.”164
AbhyAvartin CAyamAna is from “Abhivarta… a village near the city of Khorasan in Eastern Iran.”167
Likewise, “Sushna’s clan was from South Azerbaijan and Sambara was the chief of the clan operating in North Iran along the banks of Samber, a small river.”168
Arbuda is not Mount Abu, but “the present-day Alburz mountain of North Iran.”169
To cut a long story short, the Hindu invasionist scholars are so busy internationalising the Rigveda, and transporting it into the remote past, that they really cannot be bothered with the actual historical information so richly present in the Rigveda.
The quasi-invasionist school, strictly speaking, is not exactly a school of interpretation in itself, but, for want of a better name, and because the two scholars whose interpretations we will examine here cannot be properly included in any of the three other schools, we must examine it separately.
The two scholars who can be classified as quasi-invasionist scholars are F.E. Pargiter and Dr. B.R. (Babasaheb) Ambedkar, and what makes them different from other scholars is that both invasionists and anti-invasionists can try to claim them as their own on the basis of select quotations from their writings.
But what makes their writings particularly important is that they best illustrate the phenomenon which has been at the root of all the misinterpretations of Vedic and Aryan history: the phenomenon of the blind belief in the fallacy that linguists have established that the original homeland of the Indo-European family of languages was located outside India.
Both Pargiter and Ambedkar, after their detailed examination of the ancient texts, find that there is absolutely no basis to the invasion theory. And they make their conclusions in this regard clear in no uncertain terms.
But, after making their views loud and clear, they suddenly seem to be assailed by apprehensions about having exceeded their brief in challenging the conclusions of established scholars belonging to a field in which they themselves cannot lay claims to any special scholarship, viz. linguistics.
So they try to backtrack by trying to give respectability to their literary analysis by somehow introducing the concept of an Aryan invasion through the back door (literally so in the case of Pargiter, as we shall see); and the ways in which they do so are so illogical, so contradictory to their own analyses, and so incongruous even with the linguistic theory itself, that the effect is ludicrous.
We will examine their writings as follows:
A. The Anti-invasionist Conclusions.
F.E. Pargiter examines traditional Indian history as recorded in the PurANas, and he finds that this history gives absolutely no indications of any Aryan invasion of India from the northwest: “Indian tradition knows nothing of any Aila or Aryan invasion of India from Afghanistan, nor of any gradual advance from thence eastwards.”172
In fact, he finds quite the opposite: “the Aryans began at Allahabad, conquered and spread out northwest, west and south, and had by YayAti’s time occupied precisely the region known as MadhyadeSa… They expanded afterwards into the Punjab and East Afghanistan, into West India and the northwest Dekhan…”173
And then, “Indian tradition distinctly asserts that there was an Aila outflow of the Druhyus through the northwest into the countries beyond where they founded various kingdoms.”174
Pargiter’s examination of traditional history produces a picture which tallies perfectly with our theory. He describes175 the expansion of the Aryans from the region around Allahabad into the northwest and beyond in great detail.
Other scholars, when they deign to notice the evidence in the PurANas in respect of the indigenous origin of the Aryans and their expansion outside India, tend to dismiss this evidence as irrelevant on the ground that it is allegedly contradictory to the evidence of the Rigveda.
However, Pargiter does not do that. On the contrary, he asserts about the Puranic accounts that “there is nothing in them, as far as I am aware, really inconsistent with the most ancient book we possess, namely, the Rigveda, and they throw much light thereon, and on all problems concerning ancient India.”176
He notes that “the bulk of the Rigveda was composed in the great development of Brahmanism that arose under the succesors of king Bharata who reigned in the upper Ganges-Jumna doab and plain;”177 and, while referring to the founders of the kingdom of N. PaNcAla, who come far down in the list of kings in his detailed description of the expansion of the Aryans from an original region around Allahabad, he points out that “they and their successors play a prominent part in the Rigveda.”178
All in all, he notes that “tradition… makes the earliest connexion of the Veda to be with the eastern region and not with the Punjab.”179
Pargiter’s analysis of the ancient texts thus makes him reject the two most fundamental aspects of the “evidence” for an Aryan invasion of India:
a. The fact that there are Indo-European languages outside India: Pargiter clearly attributes the presence of these languages to the “Aila outflow of the Druhyus through the northwest into the countries beyond where they founded various kingdoms.”180
b. The contention that the Rigveda depicts a “gradual advance from Afghanistan eastwards”: Pargiter rejects this contention, and points out that the movement is in the opposite direction.
Thus, Pargiter’s analysis of the ancient texts would appear to make him an anti-invasionist scholar.
Ambedkar is even more forthright and categorical in his rejection of the Aryan invasion theory: “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.”181
He analyses the logic behind the theory as follows: “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.”182
Ambedkar likewise rejects the invasionist interpretation of the Rigveda as “a perversion of scientific investigation.”183
According to him, the Western scholars “proceeded to invent the story of the invasion of India by the Aryans and the conquest by them of the Dasas and Dasyus”,184 and, in the process, “they start on a mission to prove what they want to prove, and do not hesitate to pick such evidence from the Vedas as they think is good for them.”185
These scholars assume “that the Aryans are a European race.”186 But, “the European races were white and had a colour prejudice against the dark races” ;187 hence these scholars try “to find evidence for colour prejudice in the Aryans who came into India.”188
But Ambedkar proves with references from the Rigveda that “the Vedic Aryans had no colour prejudice. How could they have? The Vedic Aryans were not of one colour. Their complexion varied; some were of copper complexion, some white and some black.”189 He examines the word varNa, which is treated as evidence that the caste-system was originally based on colour, and proves that “it originally meant a class belonging to a particular faith and it had nothing to do with colour or complexion.”190
He also examines the words mRdhravAka, anAs, KRSNayoni, etc. in the Rigveda, which are construed as evidence of a dark, flat-nosed, aboriginal race of India, and concludes that “it would be childish to rely upon (them) as a basis of consciousness of race difference.”191
He further examines the word DAsa (or Dasyu) and concludes that “there is no evidence to show that the term is used in a racial sense indicative of a non-Aryan people”,192 but, in fact, “it was the word of abuse used by the Indo-Aryans for the Indo-Iranians (sic)”.193 He further concludes that the battles in the Rigveda Were not between Aryans and non-Aryans but between “different communities of Aryas who were not only different but opposed and inimical to each other.”194
In sum, Ambedkar arrives at the following conclusions, “(1) The Vedas do not know any such race as the Aryan race. (2) There is no evidence in the Vedas of any invasion of India by the Aryan race and its having conquered the Dasas and Dasyus supposed to be the natives of India. (3) There is no evidence to show that the distinction between Aryas, Dasas and Dasyus was a racial distinction. (4) The Vedas do not support the contention that the Aryas were different in colour from the Dasas and Dasyus.”195
Even more than Pargiter, Ambedkar’s analysis of the ancient texts would appear to make him an emphatically anti-invasionist scholar.
III.B. The Invasionist Second Thoughts
Their examination of the ancient texts leaves both Pargiter and Ambedkar, separately, with no doubts whatsoever about the untenability of the Aryan invasion theory and the invasionist interpretation of the Rigveda.
But, the moment they turn from their examination of the ancient texts, and are confronted by the claim that linguistics is supposed to have conclusively established that the Indo-European languages originated outside India, they are assailed by self-doubts, and take up a contrary position.
According to Pargiter: “We know from the evidence of language that the Aryans entered India very early, and established themselves ultimately throughout North India, and in the north-west of the Dekhan, so that the history of those times is bound up closely with the Aryan conquest.”196
“The Aryans could not have established themselves in India without long and arduous warfare. Among the hostile races who possessed the country before them were not only rude tribes but also communities in a higher state of civilization… Their wars, their conquests and the founding of new kingdoms all implied that there were victorious kings, whose lineage and exploits would have been sung in many a KSatriya ballad… Their victorious career must have given rise to abundant tradition of all kinds, warlike, religious and peaceful…”197
Hence, “if we wish to discover and estimate what their position and achievements were, it is essential to study their traditions, for, as will be shown, the Puranic genealogies, and they alone, give an account how the Aila race dominated all the regions to which we assign the Aryan occupation.”198
Pargiter tells us that “the genealogies give an account, how the Aryans dominated North India, and the north-west of the Dekhan, and it is the only account to be found in the whole of Sanskrit literature of that great ethnological fact”.199
But this is totally at variance with Pargiter’s own analysis, which shows that the “Aryans began at Allahabad… (and) expanded afterwards into the Punjab and east Afghanistan”;200 and his conclusions that, rather than an immigration, “there was an outflow of people from India before the fifteenth century BC”,BC”,201 and that “the arguments used to prove the advance of the Aryans from Afghanistan into the Punjab might simply be reversed.”BC”,202
How does Pargiter harmonize his childlike faith in the pronouncements of the linguists with his own analysis of traditional Indian history?
Simply by deciding that tradition “makes the Aila power begin at Allahabad and yet distinctly suggests that they came from outside India.”203!
Now this “outside” cannot be from the northwest, since Pargiter does not want to challenge the results of his own analysis of traditional history either. So Pargiter comes up with the theory that “tradition or myth… directly indicates that the Ailas (or Aryans) entered India from the mid-Himalayan region.”204
And what is this tradition? According to Pargiter: “All ancient Indian belief and veneration were directed to the mid-Himalayan region, the only original sacred outside land, and it was thither that rishis and kings turned their steps in devotion, never to the northwest.”205
Incredible as it may seem, Pargiter seems to feel that the linguistic evidence simply shows that the Aryans came from “outside”, period. Any “outside”, apparently, will fit the bill, and harmonise his analysis of traditional history with the linguistic theory!
The notion that the Aryans came from outside India is supposed to be based on a comparative study of Sanskrit with other Indo-European languages outside India; and it is supposed to be reinforced by the evidence in the Rigveda which allegedly shows the movement of the Aryans from the northwest into the interior of India.
But Pargiter rejects both these claims, by accepting that the Indo-Europeans outside India were emigrants from India, and that the movement was from the interior of India to the northwest.
Clearly no linguist will accept that the linguistic evidence can be interpreted as showing that the Indo-Europeans originated in the mid-Himalayan region “outside” India (ie. in Tibet?), and that the speakers of these languages then passed through the whole of North India before migrating to their present habitats!
Having fallen into the trap, Pargiter now finds it necessary, like any other invasionist scholar, to discover “non-Aryans”, and “Aryan-vs-non-Aryan” conflicts, in the ancient texts: “India contained many folk of rude culture or aboriginal stock such as NiSAdas, DAsas and Pulindas. Powerful races of hostile character are often mentioned, such as DAnavas, Daityas, RAkSasas, NAgas, and Dasyus. Some of these were partly civilized, while others were rude and savage…”206
We have already seen,
during our examination of the invasionist school of
interpretation, Pargiter’s identification of tribes like the IkSvAkus, and of
all the families of RSis (other than the ViSvAmitras), as non-Aryans; and his
assertion that the names of all the non-Aryans were “Sanskritized in the
Here, therefore, we have a perfect example of blind belief, without proper understanding, in the pronouncements of scholars belonging to an unfamiliar discipline, leading an otherwise brilliant scholar to doubt the evidence of his own research, and to make a mess of his otherwise brilliant thesis by trying to harmonise his conclusions with diametrically opposite theories.
Ambedkar’s case is even stranger than Pargiter’s.
To begin with, even when he is rejecting the Aryan invasion theory in sharp terms, Ambedkar is well aware of the linguistic nature of the origin of the theory: “The theory of the Aryan race is just an assumption… based on a philological proposition… that a greater number of languages of Europe and some languages of Asia must be referred to a common ancestral speech… (From this) are drawn two inferences: (1) unity of race, and (2) that race being the Aryan race. The argument is that if the languages are descended from a common ancestral speech, then there must have existed a race whose mother tongue it was... From this inference is drawn another inference, which is that of a common original habitat. It is argued that there could be no community of language unless people had a common habitat, permitting close communion.”208
But, he, rather peremptorily, dismisses the logic of the idea that the Aryan languages must originally have been spoken in a common homeland as “an inference from an inference.”209
Ambedkar’s study of the Aryan problem is merely incidental to his study of the caste-system. And hence he is not linguistically equipped to study a matter which basically originated from a linguistic problem.
And then, after dismissing the idea of an Aryan race, he contradicts himself and complicates things by introducing a confusing distinction between racial Aryans and linguistic Aryans: “the Aryan race in the physiological sense is one thing and an Aryan race in the philological sense quite different, and it is perfectly possible that the Aryan race, if there is one, in the physiological sense, may have its habitat in one place, and the Aryan race, in the philological sense, in quite a different place.”212
Clearly, for all his criticism of the Aryan theory, Ambedkar has a lurking apprehension that there may be truth, after all, in the assertions of the linguists.
And he capitulates to this apprehension at a most unlikely point, when he is discussing and dismissing the idea of an earlier Dravidian invasion of India mooted by another scholar in order to explain the origin of the Untouchables:
“The racial theory of Mr. Rice contains two elements: (1) That the Untouchables are non-Aryan, non-Dravidian aboriginals. (2) That they were conquered and subjugated by the Dravidians. This raises the whole question of the invasion of India by foreign invaders, the conquests made by them, and the social and cultural institutions that have resulted therefrom. According to Mr. Rice, there have been two invasions of India. First is the invasion of India by the Dravidians. They conquered the non-Dravidian aborigines, the ancestors of the Untouchables, and made them Untouchables. The second invasion is the invasion of India by the Aryans. The Aryans conquered the Dravidians. He does not say how the conquering Aryans treated the conquered Dravidians. If pressed for an answer he might say they made them Shudras. So that we get a chain. The Dravidians invaded India and conquered the aborigines and made them Untouchables. After Dravidians came the Aryans. The Aryans conquered the Dravidians and made them Shudras. The theory is too mechanical, a mere speculation, and too simple to explain a complicated set of facts relating to the origin of the Shudras and the Untouchables.”213
In order, apparently, to counter the above theory, Ambedkar sets out to invent a new racial theory of his own with only two races: “What we can say about the races of India is that there have been at the most only two races in the field, the Aryans and the Nagas… The Dravidians and the Nagas are the one and the same people… Naga was a racial or cultural name and Dravida was their linguistic name.”214
Once the ball is set rolling, it is virtually unstoppable: “Tamil or Dravida was not merely the language of South India, but before the Aryans came it was the language of the whole of India, and was spoken from Kashmere to Cape Comorin. In fact it was the language of the Nagas throughout India… The Nagas in North India gave up Tamil which was their mother tongue and adopted Sanskrit in its place. The Nagas in South India retained Tamil as their mother tongue and did not adopt Sanskrit the language of the Aryans… The name Dravidian came to be applied only for the people of South India… in view of their being the only people speaking the Dravida language after the Nagas of the North had ceased to use it.”215
This incredible theory is nothing but the very Aryan invasion theory elsewhere rejected by Ambedkar in such strong terms, but in different words. And what makes the whole thing totally inexplicable and pointless in the particular context in which he postulates this racial theory - the question of the origin of the Untouchable - is that it does nothing whatsoever to explain that origin, since he immediately declares, after a detailed description of Dr. Ghurye’s anthropometric study of the different castes, that this study establishes “that the Brahmin and the Untouchable belong to the same race. From this it follows that if the Brahmins are Aryans, the Untouchables are also Aryans. If the Brahmins are Dravidians, the Untouchables are also Dravidians. If the Brahmins are Nagas, the Untouchables are also Nagas.”216
Clearly, therefore, the question of invasions and racial conflicts has nothing to do with the question of the origins of Untouchability; and the only reason why Ambedkar suddenly capitulates to the Aryan invasion theory at this point is because he is assailed by doubts about the correctness of his own rejection, elsewhere, of this theory. He is seized by apprehensions of having erred in questioning the sacrosanct pronouncements of linguistic scientists, and he takes this first opportunity to redeem himself.
And now, having invented a racial theory of his own, Ambedkar is compelled to imitate the Western scholars who “do not hesitate to pick such evidence from the Vedas as they think is good for them”,217 and who “are so eager to establish their case that they have no patience to see what absurdities they land themselves in.”218
And so, he suddenly discovers that “a careful study of the Vedic literature reveals a spirit of conflict, of a dualism, and a race for superiority between two distinct types of culture and thought. In the Rigveda we are first introduced to the Snake-god in the form of Ahi Vritra, the enemy of the Aryan god Indra… It is also evident, from the hymns that refer to Ahi Vritra, that he received no worship from the Aryan tribes and was only regarded as an evil Spirit of considerable power who must be fought down.”219
Further, he approvingly quotes the views of a Western scholar C.F. Oldham,220 identifying not only the term Naga but also the terms Asura and Dasyu as epithets applied to the Dravidian natives of India. And, in sharp contradiction to his own strongly expressed views elsewhere, Ambedkar now insists that “the Dasas are the same as Nagas... undoubtedly they were non-Aryans,”221 and that “the Dasas are the same as the Nagas and the Nagas are the same as the Dravidians.”222
Ambedkar faces difficulties when he tries to find evidence for his Naga theory in the Vedas. He admits that the name Naga “does not appear in early Vedic literature. Even when it does for the first time in the Shatapatha Brahmana (XI. 2, 7, 12), it is not clear whether a great snake or a great elephant is meant.”223
His explanation is that the Vedic texts prefer to use the word DAsa: “The Nagas came to be called Dasa in the Vedic literature. Dasa is a Sanskritized form of the Indo-Iranian word Dahaka. Dahaka was the name of the king of the Nagas. Consequently, the Aryans called the Nagas after the name of their king Dahaka, which in its Sanskrit form became Dasa, a generic name applied to all the Nagas.”224
Thus Ambedkar contradicts his own logical analysis, of the Aryan invasion theory and the evidence of the Vedic texts, on every count (except on the matter of the alleged racial basis of the caste system).
If the quasi-invasionist scholars, after starting out sensibly and logically, fail to take their interpretations to their logical conclusions, and end up with a confused and confusing picture of Vedic history, it is because of their failure to have faith in their own analyses, and their misguided attempts to try to effect clumsy compromises with theories which they do not understand.
The anti-invasionist school is a school which outright rejects the Aryan invasion theory.
One reason why many scholars, particularly Hindus or Indians, may be impelled to reject the theory is because it goes against their grain. As Ambedkar puts it, Hindus, “as Hindus should ordinarily show a dislike for the Aryan theory”, and the fact that some staunch Hindus actually support it strikes him as a very strange phenomenon.”225
The political misuse of the theory by leftists and casteists, in order to question the Indianness of Hinduism or to stir up caste hatreds and conflicts, a process which started with Jyotiba Phule, is the primary cause of this “dislike”.
But mere dislike for any theory, howsoever much it may be provoked by the gross misuse of that theory, is no argument against the validity of the theory.
What we are examining here is misinterpretations of Rig-vedic history, and it is a fact that scholars who reject the Aryan invasion theory have also been responsible for gross misinterpretations of the Rigveda.
Strictly speaking, our own book is classifiable as an anti-invasionist one, since we have also rejected the Aryan invasion theory, and conclusively proved that India was the original homeland of the Indo-European family of languages; and, what is more, our research was also born out of a “dislike” for a theory which has been made a primary source for divisive and anti-national politics in India.
But the difference is that our research has fully tapped the historical, information in the Rigveda and arrived at clear conclusions which other scholars will find extremely difficult, if not impossible, to challenge.
Anti-invasionist scholars, in general, have failed to tap the historical information in the Rigveda, and their examinations, if any, of the text, have resulted in gross misinterpretations, for two simple reasons:
a. Most of these scholars resort to negative and evasive methods of analysis, in respect of both the Aryan invasion theory as a whole as well as the Rigveda in particular.
b. Most of them are unable to shake off dogmatic notions regarding the Sanskrit language, Vedic culture, and Vedic literature in general.
In fact, an examination of the misinterpretations of the anti-invasionist scholars brings to the fore two points:
a. The scholars belonging to this school, like the scholars belonging to the other schools already examined by us, labour under a secret belief (or, in the case of these scholars, dread) that the external (to India) origin of the Indo-European family of languages has, perhaps, indeed been “proved” by the linguists.
b. In their eagerness to reject ideas and notions which they feel are supportive of the Aryan invasion theory, and due to a failure or refusal to understand the logic of the debate, these scholars often end up accepting notions which basically go against them, and rejecting notions which are really in their favour.
We will examine the methods of the scholars under the four following heads:
A. The Rhetorical
IV.A. The Rhetorical Approach
Many of the scholars adopt a purely rhetorical approach towards the whole problem of the Aryan invasion theory and the invasionist interpretation of the Rigveda.
The Aryan invasion theory is dismissed, often with little or no examination, as a Western imposition; and various motives are attributed to the western scholars, who first mooted and developed the theory, ranging from imperialism to evangelism to anti-Semitism.
One of the earliest opponents of the Aryan invasion theory was Swami Vivekananda, who rejected the theory in strong terms:
“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.”226
“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?”227
Vivekananda’s opposition was strong and unambiguous, but restricted to rhetoric. That he intended to go deeper into the matter is on record: “I have been talking with the Indian and European savants on the subject, and hope to raise many objections to this theory in detail, when time permits.”228
No-one will deny that Vivekananda’s life was too short, and his activities too multifarious, to permit him time to devote to this particular subject. But what is worthy of note is that, despite his strong rhetorical rejection of the Aryan invasion theory, a survey of his writings appears to indicate that he had actually internalised many of the basic tenets of the theory.
At one point, he tells us that “the problems in India are more complicated… Here have been the Aryan, the Dravidian, the Tartar, the Turk, the Mogul, the European - all the nations of the world, as it were, pouring their blood into this land.”229
Vivekananda clearly appears to see the Aryans as a racial group which was originally a stranger to India: “(The) Aryan race… (was) a comparatively small and compact race, of the same blood and speech and the same social and religious aspirations”,230 and “many forms of religion and society must have been left behind in the onward march, before we find the race as depicted in the Scriptures, the Vedas… Many modem scholars are agreed that surroundings as to climate and conditions purely Indian were not yet working on the race… onward through several centuries… we catch a glimpse of different races - Dravidians, Tartars and Aboriginals, pouring in their quota of blood, of speech, of manners and religions - and at last a great nation emerges to our view, still keeping the type of the Aryan; stranger, broader and more organised by the assimilation… We find the central, assimilative core giving its type and character to the whole mass, clinging on with pride to its name of ‘Aryan’, and though willing to give other races the benefit of its civilization, it was by no means willing to admit them within the ‘Aryan’ pale. The Indian climate again gave a higher direction to the genius of the race.”231
As if the above rhetoric is not confusing enough, here is Vivekananda’s theory about the origin of caste: “A veritable ethnological museum!… The cavemen and leaf-wearers still persist. The primitive hunters living in forests are in evidence in various parts of the country. Then there are the core historical varieties - the Negrito Kolarian, the Dravidian and the Aryan. To these have been added from time to time dashes of nearly all the known races, and a great many yet unknown - various breeds of Mongoloids, Moguls, Tartars, and the so-called Aryans of the Philologists… In the midst of this madness of nature, one of the contending factions discovered a method, and through the force of its superior culture, succeeded in bringing the largest number of the Indian humanity under its sway. The superior race styled themselves the Aryans or Nobles, and their method was the VarndshramAchAra - the so-called caste.”232
Vivekananda even seems to find it necessary to defend the imperialistic activities of his “superior race” by comparing them with those of the Europeans: “It was quite possible, however, that in a few places, there were occasional fights between the Aryans and the aborigines… But how long could the aborigines fight with their sticks and stones? So they were killed or chased away, and the kings returned to their capital. Well, all this may have been, but how does this prove that their lands were taken away by the Aryans?”233
“And may I ask you, Europeans, what country you have ever raised to better conditions? Wherever you have found weaker races, you have exterminated them by the roots, as it were. You have settled on their lands and they are gone forever. What is the history of your America, your Australia and New Zealand, your Pacific Islands and South Africa? Where are those aboriginal races there today? They are all exterminated, you have killed them outright, as if they were wild beasts. It is only where you have not the power to do so, and there only, that other nations are still alive.”234
“But India has never done that. The Aryans were kind and generous, and in their hearts which were large and unbounded as the ocean, and in their brains gifted with superhuman genius, all these… beastly processes never found a place. And I ask you, fools of my own country, would there have been this institution of Varnashrama if the Aryans had exterminated the aborigines in order to settle on their lands? The object of the peoples of Europe is to exterminate all in order to live themselves. The aim of the Aryans is to raise all up to their own level, nay, even to a higher level than themselves. The means of European civilization is the sword; of the Aryans, the division into Varnas.”235
Swami Vivekananda was one of the first prominent Indian thinkers to voice his opposition to the Aryan invasion theory. However, it is difficult to know what exactly he wanted to say, and whether, in the final analysis, he actually accepted or rejected the idea of the external origins of the Aryans and of their conquest of India.
However his writings, on this subject, represent certain tendencies which dominate Indian anti-invasionist scholarship to this day, and which have effectively prevented any logical and objective analysis, or even understanding, of the problem:
a. A tendency to depend on rhetoric rather than on analytical study.
b. A tendency to concentrate on criticism of the early Western scholars and their motives.
c. A tendency to evade the issues when dealing with invasionist arguments.
d. A tendency to indulge in vague and fuzzy thinking, and to fail to understand the exact nature of the issues involved.
e. A tendency to insist on lavish glorification and idealisation of the Vedic Aryans and their culture.
So far as the criticism of the motives of early Western scholars. who first mooted and developed the theory, is concerned, it may be noted that:
a. Mere motives by themselves do not invalidate any theory or interpretation.
b. The basic origin of the theory lay in the linguistic fact of the Indo-European family of languages, and not in any motives.
c. Even though the early Western scholars may have had their motives, their interpretations were, by and large, reasonably honest; and although they were often wrong, they were usually naturally wrong and not deliberately so.
Hence, while motives may be, and even must be noted, any approach which concentrates only on criticism of these motives is self-defeating.
But the main problem in the interpretations of the anti-invasionist Indian scholars is that they adopt a partisan, rather than objective, attitude in their analysis of Vedic history.
Thus, Swami Vivekananda talks about the Aryan kings killing or chasing away primitive aborigines who fought with sticks and stones; and about the Aryans bringing the Indian non-Aryans under their sway by the force of their superior culture, but refusing to admit them within the Aryan pale, and, in fact, creating the caste-system in order to keep them in check.
And yet, from all this, he concludes that the Aryans were “kind and generous”, that their hearts were “large and unbounded as the ocean” and their brains “gifted with superhuman genius”, and that their only aim was “to raise all up to their own level, nay, even to a higher level than themselves”! The logic is indeed incomprehensible.
Later scholars, however, take this attitude even further: they idealise the Vedic Aryans as a highly cultured, refined, civilized and spiritual people, and condemn those with whom they fought, as uncultured, crude, uncivilized or materialistic people. The battles between the Vedic Aryans and their enemies are depicted, in a variety of ways, as struggles between Good and Evil.
It must be noted that, apart from the fact that the Aryas of the Rigveda (the PUrus) and the DAsas (the Yadus, TurvaSas, Anus Druhyus and others) were all equally Indian, there is nothing to indicate that the Aryas were more civilized and cultured than the DAsas, or that the Arya kings were more noble and idealistic than the DAsa kings, or that the priests of the Aryas were more spiritual or righteous than the priests of the DAsas. Nor that the struggles between the Aryas and DAsas involved any noble social, moral or ethical issues.
Rigvedic history, which forms the backdrop of the Rigveda, is like the history of any ancient civilization: in ancient China (not coterminous with modem China), during the Period of the Warring States (403-221 BC), the land was divided into seven kingdoms (Chu, Chin, Chi, Yen, Chao, Han and Wei) which were constantly at war with each other. Likewise, ancient India was divided into various kingdoms, not necessarily constantly at war with each other, but certainly with often sharp political differences, rivalries and enmities.
In Chinese tradition, the soul-stirring poems of Chu Yuan, a poet, thinker and statesman of the kingdom of Chu, have survived to this day. In India, a collection of hymns composed among the PUrus has survived to this day. But this does not render all the kingdoms other than the kingdom of Chu, or all tribes other than the PUrus, as the villains of the piece.
The PUru text, of course, later became the primary text of a Pan-Indian religion which came to encompass and incorporate the religious traditions of all parts of India; and some of the non-PUru tribes, in the course of time, emigrated from India. But neither of these facts justifies a partisan attitude in the study of Rigvedic history.
Unfortunately, most Indian scholars, in their study of Rigvedic history, seem to find it necessary to concentrate all their energies on rhetoric glorifying the Vedic Aryans, and their culture, and defending them from all kinds of perceived slurs.
Naturally, therefore, they can neither afford, nor spare the time, to look too closely and objectively at the actual historical source-material in the Rigveda.
IV.B. The Evasionist Approach.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, was also one of the earliest prominent Indians to reject the Aryan invasion theory.
The Arya Samaj was in the forefront of a great many activities which took Hindu society forward, but, unfortunately, it was also strongly influenced by some of the dogmas of the very ideology, and the very forces, which it sought to counter.
The Christian missionaries treated Hinduism as inferior to Christianity on various counts: namely, idol-worship, polytheism, etc.
Instead of countering these religious prejudices and pointing out that there was nothing superior to polytheism in monotheism, or superior to idol-worship in Christian forms of worship, the Arya Samaj adopted these prejudices, and sought to counter the Christian propaganda by insisting that Hinduism, in its pristine and “pure” form, as represented in the Vedas, was more monotheistic and non-idol-worshiping than Christianity itself.
This was rather like accepting and adopting the European prejudice which treats white-skinned people as superior to dark-skinned people, and then trying to show that Indian skins are whiter than European skins!
Another point of Christian superiority to Hinduism, in the eyes of the Christian missionaries, was the claim that Christianity had One Divine Book which was the revealed word of God, while the Hindus had a large and miscellaneous assortment of religious books.
The Arya Samaj sought to counter this by raising the Vedas to that status: the Vedas thus became the one and only Divine Book (the four SaMhitAs being treated as parts of one indivisible whole) revealed by God.
However, the cosmology of Hinduism, with its eternal cycle of creation and dissolution of the Universe, was different from that of Christianity with its concept of a one-time Creation by a whimsical God. Hence, the concept of Revelation envisaged by the Arya Samaj was also different from the Biblical concept of Revelation. According to the Arya Samaj, the Vedas are eternal, without beginning and without end, and are revealed anew to the first RSis, apparently Aditya, Agni, VAyu and ANgiras, at the beginning of each round of Creation.
Therefore, the Arya Samaj rejected the idea that the Vedas could contain anything so petty and temporal as historical events. As Devi Chand, an Arya Samaj scholar, puts it in his introduction to his translation of the Yajurveda: “Swami Dayanand does not believe in history in the Vedas. Western scholars like Griffith, Max Müller, Monier-Williams, Mac-donell, Bloomfield, and Eastern scholars like SAyaNa, MahIdhara, Ubbat and Damodar Satavalekar believe in history in the Vedas. History in the Vedas militates against its eternity and revelation from God, and reduces it to a man-made composition… Scholars, by believing in history in the Vedas, have undermined their grandeur and put a stain upon them. Rishi Dayanand, by refuting the doctrine of history in the Vedas, has established their eternity and enhanced their excellence.”236
Thus, instead of refuting the invasion theory, or at least the invasionist interpretation of the Rigveda, by presenting a rational and authentic historical analysis of the Rigveda, the Arya Samaj scholars chose to adopt an evasive and fundamentalist outlook. They rejected any and every factor, which could have helped them in an analysis of Rigvedic history, on the ground that these factors “reduced” the Rigveda to a “man-made composition”; such factors being:
a. The names of the individual composers of the hymns given in the AnukramaNIs.
b. Any chronological classification of the Vedic hymns, placing the Rigveda prior to the other Vedas, or certain MaNDalas and hymns of the Rigveda prior to others.
c. Any names of historical persons mentioned within the hymns.
d. Any specific geographical landmark (rivers, etc.) named in the hymns.
Therefore, in translating the hymns into any other language, the Arya Samaj scholars do not treat the names of persons and places as names. They instead translate each name into its literal meaning and try to interpret it accordingly: “Pururava is not the name of a person. It is the name of a cloud which roars, thunders, and makes noise. … Bharata is he who wants to advance and progress, being well-fed… Bharatas are disciples who are reared and looked after by their teacher…”237
But interpreting any name by its literal meaning may not yield a coherent meaning in every context where that name occurs in the text. Hence the Arya Samaj scholars are compelled to resort to arbitrary techniques of symbolic interpretation.
Thus Devi Chand tells us that the names of RSis occuring in the hymns of the Rigveda are not really the names of RSis at all. They are the names of different parts of the body: “Rishi Yajnavalkya speaks of the right ear as Gautama and the left ear as Bharadvaja. He describes the right eye as Vishwamitra and the left as Kashyap. Speech is described as Attri as food is taken by the tongue.”238
Symbolic interpretation allows these scholars to assign a hundred different “meanings” to the same word in a hundred different contexts, depending on the exigencies of the verse and the whims of the translator. Devi Chand ingenuously tells us that “Sarasvati is not the name of a river in the Veda. In the Brahman Granthas, Sarasvati has got thirteen meanings.”239
About the names of the different rivers in the Rigveda, he reiterates that “in the Veda, the names of so-called rivers do not denote any historical, temporary or transient objects. These names have got spiritual significance. Sarasvati is speech. The smell-carrying current flowing out of the nostril is the Ganges. The current flowing out of the ear is Yamuna, the organ of touch is Shatadru…240
But, on the very next page, he gives totally different meanings: “Ganga… (is) an artery instrumental in the circulation of blood. Yamuna is the artery which guides the motion of all parts of the body. The weakening of this artery results in paralysis. Sarasvati is that artery which brings knowledge… Parushni is an artery which maintains heat in all parts of the body… Marudvridha is Pran (breath)…”241
While Arya Samaj scholarship has been responsible for some fundamental research work on the Vedas, like the Vedic Word Concordance, their research work pertaining to translations and interpretations of the Vedic texts are misleading rather than helpful.
The Arya Samaj school of interpretation produced an off-shoot in the writings of Sri Aurobindo. Following the lead given by the Arya Samaj, Aurobindo gives primacy to the Vedas over the later Sanskrit texts, and he also makes a liberal use of symbolic interpretations. The difference lies in his emphasis on spiritualism and mysticism, and in his less dogmatic attitude.
According to Aurobindo, the Rigveda is “the one considerable document that remains to us from the early period of human thought… when the spiritual and psychological knowledge of the race was concealed, for reasons now difficult to determine, in a veil of concrete and material figures and symbols which protected the sense from the profane and revealed it to the initiated. One of the leading principles of the mystics was the sacredness and secrecy of self-knowledge and the true knowledge of the Gods… Hence… (the mystics) clothed their language in words and images which had, equally, a spiritual sense for the elect, and a concrete sense for the mass of ordinary worshippers.”242
There is no doubt that there are a great many mystical hymns in the Rigveda; and, in any case, no-one can object to the mystically-inclined discovering mystic secrets hidden and encoded in the Vedas, or in any other ancient texts of the world, so long as they do not preclude other less mystical analyses of the texts. And Aurobindo, it appears, was willing to allow other systems of interpretations as being also valid: “The ritual system recognised by SAyaNa may, in its, externalities, stand; the naturalistic sense discovered by European scholarship may, in its general conception, be accepted; but behind them there is always the true and still hidden secret of the Veda - the secret words, niNyA vacAMsi, which were spoken for the purified in soul and the awakened in knowledge. To disengage this less obvious but more important sense by fixing the import of Vedic terms, the sense of Vedic symbols, and the psychological function of the Gods is thus a difficult but a necessary task.”243
But while he is willing to allow the ritualistic and naturalistic interpretations, he is less liberal towards the historical interpretation of the hymns: “the whole struggle is between the Light and the Darkness, the Truth and the Falsehood, the divine… and the undivine… historical interpretation will not do at all here.”244
About the Aryan invasion of India, Aurobindo starts out by doubting “whether the whole story of an Aryan invasion through the Punjab is not a myth of the philologists.”245 And after an interesting dissertation on the subject of the Aryan and Dravidian language-families, he goes so far as to doubt the linguistic validity of the concept of these being two distinct families: “Can we positively say that Tamil is a non-Aryan, or Greek, Latin and German Aryan tongues?”246, and to suggest that “rather than to form a conclusion by such a principle, it is better to abstain from all conclusions and turn to a more thorough and profitable initial labour.”247
However, he is willing to concede that “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.”248
Thus, he rejects the literary and the racial-casteist implications of the Aryan invasion theory, but does not deny that the Aryans may originally have come from outside India.
Strangely enough, the arguments in this respect which he seems to find most convincing or difficult to refute are those of his friend and colleague Lokmanya Tilak: “Mr. Tilak in his Arctic Home in the Vedas… has established at least a strong probability that the Aryan races descended originally from the Arctic regions in the glacial period.”249
In fact, Tilak’s interpretation strikes him as the only valid one when it comes to naturalistic interpretations: “If… we are to give a naturalistic explanation and no other to Vedic hymns, it is quite clear that the Vedic Dawn and Night cannot be the Night and Dawn of India. It is only in the Arctic regions that the attitudes of the Rishis towards these natural circumstances, and the statements about the Angirasas, become at all intelligible.”250
And so he neatly divides up the interpretation of the Vedas between Tilak and himself: “The memories of the -Arctic home enter into the external sense of the Veda; the Arctic theory does not exclude an inner sense behind the ancient images drawn from Nature.”251
The insistence on symbolic interpretation and the avoidance of historical interpretation are, thus, only a cover-up for a lurking apprehension that the Aryans may indeed have come from outside and that a historical study of the Rigveda may indeed confirm this fact. In the case of the Arya Samaj, one strongly suspects this to be the case; in the case of Sri Aurobindo, this suspicion becomes a certainty.
IV.C. The Anti-Linguistic Approach
Linguistics, for some inexplicable reason, has been the bane of Indian anti-invasionist scholars. Most of the scholars, to whatever school they belong, as we have seen, overtly, covertly or subconsciously, seem to accept that linguists have proved that the Indo-European family of languages originated outside India. Most anti-invasionist scholars, therefore, choose to evade the linguistic debate altogether in their examination of the Aryan problem.
Many others, however, try to tackle the issue in a different way, by summarily rejecting the arguments of linguists; some of them even going so far as to question the validity of linguistics itself as a science. They reject not only the arguments, allegedly based on linguistics, which are supposed to show that the Indo-European languages originated outside India, but even some of the basic postulates of the linguistic case itself.
The two main points which they find most irksome are:
a. The idea that the languages of North India and the languages of Europe belong to one family, while the languages of South India belong to a different one.
b. The idea that the original Proto-Indo-European language was different from Vedic Sanskrit.
Thus, according to N.R. Waradpande, “the linguists have not been able to establish that the similarities in the Aryan or Indo-European languages are genetic, ie. due to their having a common ancestry. The similarities are mostly those of roots and formations which could be due to borrowing… The contention that the similarity of basic vocabulary for family relations and numbers cannot be due to borrowing is falsified by the modem Indian languages borrowing such vocabulary from English.”252 At the same time, “the view that the South Indian languages have an origin different from that of the North Indian languages is based on (the) irresponsible, ignorant and motivated utterances of a missionary.”253
Elsewhere, he provides us with a linguistic criterion to test the case. Apropos his point that words for family relations and numbers are easily borrowed, as is done by the modem Indian languages from English, he admits that “there is some difficulty about pronouns. Pronouns have not been borrowed from English, and expressions like ‘he gaya’ and ‘she gayi’ are not yet heard. But then the so-called Indo-European languages also do not have the same pronouns. What are the analogues for he, she, it and they in Sanskrit? The corresponding Sanskrit pronouns are sah, saa, tat and te. The similarity of they and te is notable. Other English and Sanskrit pronouns are unconnected.”254
Waradpande is clearly determined to show that the languages of North India and South India belong to one family, while the languages of Europe do not belong to the same family as the languages of North India.
But Waradpande also provides us with a linguistic criterion: according to him, pronouns are not easily borrowed, and similar pronouns could indicate genetic relationship. And his contention is that English and Sanskrit, for example, do not have similar pronouns.
But, when we examine the pronouns of the relevant languages, we find that the case is exactly the opposite: there is a close similarity between the pronouns of English and Sanskrit, but none between the pronouns of Sanskrit and Tamil. Thus, English I, thou and she correspond to Sanskrit ah-am, tv-am and sA (Tamil nAn, nI and avaL). English we, you and they correspond to Sanskrit vay-am, yUy-am and te (Tamil nAngaL, nIngaL, and avargaL). English me and thee correspond to Sanskrit me and te (Tamil yennai and unnai). Therefore, Waradpande’s own criterion proves him wrong.
The reason why Indian anti-invasionist scholars refuse to accept the language-family situation is because they feel it creates a division between the people of North India and South India, while connecting the people of North India with the people of Europe.
However, this apprehension is groundless: there is no connection between the people of North India and the people of Europe. If the languages of Europe are related to the languages of North India, it is only because there were emigrations of groups of speakers of Indo-European dialects from North India in ancient times, very much like the later emigrations of Gypsies. And the present-day speakers of these Indo-European languages are not the descendants of those ancient emigrants: they are the descendants of the natives of their respective areas, who adopted the languages brought by those emigrants in ancient times.
On the other hand, the people of North India and South India share a common race, culture, history, religion, philosophy and way of life which is uniquely Indian. And, even from the linguistic point of view, though the languages of India belong to different families, they have developed a common phonology, syntax and grammatical structure, and have a vast mutually borrowed vocabulary in common. Even in respect of pronouns, the languages have developed a similarity of semantic form, although the words are different.
Both the Indoaryan and Dravidian languages, as well as the Austric, Sino-Tibetan, Andamanese and Burushaski languages native to India, are part of the rich linguistic heritage of the country, and any division exists only in the minds of leftist and casteist politicians and ideologues whose aim is to create that division. It certainly does not warrant irrational or desperate reactions.
About the position of Sanskrit, Waradpande tells us: “Even if the Indo-European languages are supposed to have a common ancestry, no sensible reason has been advanced to show why Sanskrit cannot be regarded as the common ancestor: If, at all, the Indo-European languages have a common origin, that origin is obviously in Sanskrit, because Sanskrit is the most ancient of the ‘Indo-European’ languages… There is no justification for postulating an imaginary language as the origin.”255
Apart, perhaps, from a religious or traditional bias in favour of Sanskrit, one reason why these scholars take this position is because they feel that accepting another, hypothetical, language as the ancestral language is tantamount to accepting the extra-Indian origin of the Aryans.
But this apprehension is also groundless: if the hypothetical Proto-Indo-European language is different from Sanskrit, it is also different from every other ancient, or modem, Indo-European language known from anywhere else in the world. And there is nothing in the basic concept of a hypothetical Proto-Indo-European language, different from Sanskrit, which, in itself, rules out the likelihood of India being the original homeland where this language was spoken in the extremely remote past.
The sooner these anti-invasionist scholars realize that linguistics is a science which cannot, and indeed need not, be wished away, and the sooner they decided to expend their energies in the study, rather than the dismissal, of this science, the better they will be able to serve their own cause.
IV.D. The Indus-Valley Centred Approach
The major preoccupation of anti-invasionist scholars today is the establishment of the Aryan (Indo-European) linguistic identity of the Indus Valley civilization.
The identification of this civilization as Aryan can go a long way in countering the invasion theory, and even a staunch invasionist scholar like B.K. Ghosh admits: “Could it be proved that the language of the prehistoric Mohenjo-daro was Sanskrit or Proto-Sanskrit, then indeed it might have been possible to argue that in spite of all evidence to the contrary India was the original home of the Aryans; for there is no evidence of any Aryan race or language previous to the age of the Mohenjo-daro culture.”256
And the work done by many of these scholars in identifying the Aryan character of the Indus civilization, as well as in identifying the Indus civilization as a post-Rigvedic phenomenon, has been extremely valuable.
But the question remains: how far is this approach effective in proving that there was no Aryan invasion of India?
Strictly speaking, what this approach achieves is that it shows that the Aryans could not have entered India from outside in the second millennium BC, but it does not in itself rule out the possibility that they may have entered India from outside in the third or fourth millennium BC or earlier. As we have seen, there are scholars, for example those belonging to the Hindu invasionist school, who postulate that the Aryans did enter India from outside in the Pre-Indus Civilization period.
Therefore, this approach shows that the Aryans were in India - or, more precisely, in northwestern India, more or less in the territory of present-day Pakistan - at least as far back as the third millennium BC. But, in itself, it neither rules out an Aryan movement into the northwest from outside in an earlier period, nor an Aryan movement from the northwest into the rest of India in a later period.
Even when these scholars specifically rule out the first possibility, and treat the Indus region as the original homeland of the Aryans, and identify the Indus Valley civilization with the civilization of the Rigveda, it still amounts to an invasion theory: an invasion of mainland India, presumably occupied by non-Aryans, by Aryans from the northwest - which is just one step away from the full-fledged Aryan invasion theory.
All this may appear to be a case of hair-splitting: if the Aryan homeland was in northwestern India, is that area, the Indus region, a foreign land, that any movement from the northwest into India should be treated as a foreign invasion? After all, the Mauryas, the Guptas, the Marathas, etc. at various points of time in our later history, started out from one corner of our country and established empires covering large parts of India.
We will not enter into a contentious debate on this point: we will only note that the northwest is not just any part of India, it is the entry-point to India, or the exit-point from India, for migratory movements and expansions. And acceptance of an invasion from the northwest is just one step away from acceptance of an invasion from outside, especially if that invasion is assumed to have brought a completely new language, religion and culture which later engulfed the rest of India.
And this is what the anti-invasionist scholars do when they accept the idea that the northwest was the original homeland of the Aryans, that Vedic Sanskrit was the language of the Indus civilization, and that Vedic Sanskrit was the mother of all our Indoaryan languages.
This last is a particular obsession with most anti-invasionist scholars. Apart from those who advocate the irrational idea that Sanskrit was the mother of all the languages of the world, or the idea that Sanskrit was at least the original Proto-Indo-European language, nearly all the anti-invasionist scholars accept the idea that Vedic Sanskrit was the mother of all the Indoaryan languages.
And it is not only the first two ideas which are wrong, the third is also wrong, as we have seen in our discussion of Proto-linguistics in the earlier chapters.
What is most relevant to our subject here is the fact that an Indus-Valley centred approach is incompatible with any rational historical interpretation of the Vedic and other later Sanskrit texts:
The invasionist scholars in general treat the Rigveda as a collection of hymns composed by the Vedic Aryans during the period of their conquest and settlement of the Punjab and the northwest. But the more sensible among them admit that the Rigveda contains no memories of any external homeland or of any invasion, and that the Vedic Aryans appear to be more or less settled in the area (which they identify as the Punjab).
They, therefore, postulate that some time had elapsed since the actual invasion and conquest, and it was the close ancestors of the composers of the hymns who had come from outside, and the composers themselves were already settled in the area. The invasion and conquest, they conclude, is not recorded in the Rigveda, since the composition of the hymns of the Rigveda commenced after the period of the actual invasion and conquest.
But the same argument cannot hold for a post-Rigvedic movement from the northwest into the rest of India: it is clear that a full-fledged literary tradition had certainly started with the Rigveda at least; and any post-Rigvedic movements should be reflected in the later texts.
But the post-Rigvedic texts contain no reference whatsoever to the migration of the Aryans from the Punjab to the plains and plateaus of North and Central India, or to their interaction, or conflicts, with the non-Aryan inhabitants of these areas, or to the en masse adoption by these non-Aryans of completely new and unfamiliar Aryan speech-forms.
While the idea of an Aryan influx into northwestern India from outside can be sought to be maintained (on extraneous grounds) in the absence of any evidence to this effect in the Rigveda, the idea of an Aryan influx into the rest of North India cannot be accepted in the face of the total absence of any evidence to this effect in the post-Rigvedic texts.
It is clear, therefore, that there have been no major migrations of Aryan-language speakers from the northwest of India into the interior of North India, and all the major migrations, as we have pointed out, were by groups of Aryan-language speakers from the interior of North India into the northwest.
The area of the Rigveda was not primarily the Punjab or the Indus Valley but Haryana and Uttar Pradesh; and the Vedic Aryans were one of many groups of Aryan-language speakers who were spread out over most of northern India, and who were part of a greater Indian milieu which included speakers of languages belonging to other families, in the south and east, all of whom were equally part of a more ancient Indian heritage.
The Vedic Aryans, the PUrus, as we have seen from our analysis of the Rigveda, moved out towards the northwest; but the people of the Punjab and the northwest, the Anus, although large sections of them migrated out of India in the course of time, continued to be the inhabitants of the area.
The Indus Valley Civilization, now more correctly designated by some as the Indus-Sarasvati Civilization, cannot therefore be characterized as the civilization of the Rigveda either: it was a joint civilization of the Anus (Aryans belonging to the same linguistic stock as the latter-day Iranians and some other Indo-European groups, as we have seen in the earlier chapter) and the PUrus (the post-Rigvedic Vedic Aryans), even perhaps more Anu than PUru, at least in the case of the more well-known western sites.
An acceptance of these
facts may help in a more rational and objective analysis of the history of
the Indus Civilization, as well as of Vedic literature.
We have examined the four major schools of interpretation of the Rigveda. In the course of this examination, we have had occasion to examine the writings of many scholars who were giants in their respective fields, and whom (with the express exclusion of scholars belonging to the invasionist school) this writer holds in the very highest respect and esteem.
If, therefore, we have found it necessary to point out why their writings and interpretations, on the subject which is the topic of our present book, were wrong, it is because these writings and interpretations have exerted, and continue to exert, a strong influence on large numbers of other scholars, and, as a result they have added to the general confusion and disorientation in the study of Rigvedic history.
We will illustrate this by concluding our examination with examples of the peculiar interpretations, by various scholars, of what we may consider the most important, and definitely the most historical, of the events recorded in the Rigveda, the DASarAjña battle between SudAs and his enemies.
Some of the invasionist scholars treat this battle principally as a conflict between the Aryan invaders (led by SudAs) and the non-Aryan natives.
Some others treat it (on the basis of VII.83.1) as a conflict between a section of Aryans led by SudAs, on the one hand, and a confederation of both Aryan and non-Aryan tribes, on the other.
Yet others treat it primarily as a conflict between two sections of Aryans: the Bharatas (led by SudAs) versus the Five Tribes (the Yadus, TurvaSas, Druhyus, Anus and PUrus). This is then further interpreted in terms of the so-called two waves of Aryan invasion: some, like V.G. Rahurkar,257 treat the Five Tribes as representing the earlier wave, and the Bharatas as representing the later wave; and others, like S.D. Kulkarni,258 reverse the order.
But so far, though biased and incorrect, these interpretations at least treat the event as a historical battle. On the other hand, many other scholars, in keeping with their own particular obsessions or particular fields of study, interpret this historical event in a wide variety of peculiar ways which completely transform the character of the event:
1. Lokmanya Tilak, as we have seen, tries to interpret every tradition, myth and ritual in the Rigveda in terms of the meteorological or astronomical characteristics of the Arctic region.
According to him, therefore, the event is not a historical battle at all. The ten kings or tribes ranged against SudAs “represent the ten monthly sun-gods… and Indra’s helping SudAs in his fight with the ten non-worshipping kings is nothing more than the old story of the annual fight between light and darkness as conceived by the inhabitants of a place where a summer of ten months was followed by a long winter night of two months.”259
2. To Dr. Ambedkar, the study of Vedic history is incidental to his larger study of the origins, and the socio-historic dimensions, of untouchability and of the caste system.
According to him,260 therefore, although the DASarAjña was indeed a historical battle, its historical importance lay solely in the fact that it represented the culmination of a struggle between “Shudra” kings and “Kshatriya” kings. SudAs and the Bharatas, according to him, were “Shudras”.
3. To the Arya Samaj scholars, as we have seen, the very idea of history in the Rigveda is sacrilegious. It is unthinkable, to them, that a historical event featuring a battle between two groups of transient human beings could possibly be recorded in divine hymns which have been in existence since the very beginnings of time.
Therefore, by a miracle of translation, they manage to convert the battle hymns (VII.18, 33, 83), which refer to the DASarAjña battle, into divine sermons on the qualities and the duties of an ideal king.
4. Bhagwan Singh is a scholar who identifies the Vedic civilization with the Indus Valley civilization on the basis of an analysis of the evidence with regard to trade, commerce and industry in the Rigveda. He rejects “the general belief that the Vedic society was pastoral and nomadic”,261 and insists that it was a highly commercialized mercantile society where the merchants enjoyed “social hegemony” and “were the chief patrons of the poets and priests.”262 The Rigveda, according to him, “is agog with mercantile activities undertaken by its traders against all conceivable odds.”263
His interpretation of anything and everything in the Rigveda in terms of mercantile activity is so thorough that even the Gods are not spared: “Indra, the supreme Vedic deity was cast in the image of the leader of the caravans and convoys, and his allies, the Maruts in those of the small traders joining the caravan or convoy.”264
He, therefore, rejects the idea that the DASarAjña battle “was a great war of the Vedic times”,265 and concludes that “if we read the hymn with an unprejudiced mind, we come to the simple conclusion that it was an encounter with a contending rival in trade who had become jealous of SudAs’ hegemony in trade and conspired to ruin him with the help of a few others, but, thanks to Indra, he was saved…”266
5. K.D. Sethna is a staunch disciple of Sri Aurobindo, and also a scholar (as we have noted in our earlier book) who has done valuable work in proving the contemporaneity of the Indus Civilization with the period of the SUtras. He, however, accepts Aurobindo’s view that, in the Rigveda, “the whole struggle is between the Light and the Darkness, the Truth and the Falsehood, the divine… and the undivine”.267
He, therefore, concludes that “the true nature of the campaign in which SudAs is engaged… (is the) conquest over supernatural agents who… stand inwardly antagonistic to the Divine light.”268
The DAsas ranged against SudAs, according to Sethna, were “supernatural deniers and destroyers of the inner and spiritual progress of spiritual initiates,”269 and the Aryas ranged against him were “the lords of higher states of being and consciousness in the inner world, beyond whom the Aryan man would go and who therefore resent his progress and join hands with the DAsas/Dasyus, the obstructors in that occult dimension.”270
Clearly, all these are purely subjective interpretations of the Rigveda, in which the scholars do not find it at all necessary to examine the actual sources of historical material, such as the AnukramaNIs or the internal references within the hymns, and rely only on their predetermined biases and theories in analysing, or even denying the historicity of, historical aspects of the Rigveda.
Our own analysis of
Rigvedic history, on the other hand, is based wholly on the actual sources of
historical material. But no research on any subject can be carried on
in a vacuum: it is necessary to know, analyse and evaluate the earlier
research on the subject. And that is what we have attempted to do in
43CDHR, pp.351-355, 375.
74BHISHMA, Vol.2, p. 14.
75BHISHMA, Vol.1., p.128
90BHISHMA, Vol. 1, p.111.
111BHISHMA, Vol.1, p.155.
112ibid., front inner cover
117BHISHMA, Vol.1, p.156.
119ibid, front inner cover.
123BHISHMA, Vol. 1, introduction, p.ix.
128New Findings on ‘Rigveda’, Article in The Times of India, Mumbai, 2/8/93.
129BHISHMA, Vol. 1. introduction, p.ix.
130BAWS, Volume 7, p.80.
156BHISHMA, Vol.1, p.187.
181BAWS, Vol.7, pp.74-80.
199ibid., p. 124.
202ibid., p. 298, footnote.
207ibid., p.295, footnote.
208BAWS, Volume 7, p.78.
226CWSV, Vol.3, The Future of India, pp.292-293.
227CWSV, Vol.5, The East and the West, pp.534-535,
229CWSV, Vol.3, The Future of India, p.286.
230CWSV, Vol.6, Historical Evolution of India, p.163.
232CWSV, Vol.4, Aryans and Tamilians, p.296.
233CWSV, Vol.5, The East and the West, p.536.
258BHISHMA, Vol.1, p.114.
260BAWS, Vol.7, p.114-131.