The Vedic Civilization – Part I

The efflorescence of human mind first occurred in the Indian sub-continent with the beginning of the Vedic age on the banks of river Saraswathi which has now dried up. Though the exact date of this civilization is rather difficult to determine we can roughly say that it flourished around 5000 B.C. But one thing is sure; the Vedic age preceded other ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamian and Egyptian. But in History textbooks prescribed as syllabus in schools, colleges and universities it is mentioned that Vedic civilization is posterior to the so called Harappa civilization, which in fact was the urban representation of the Vedic culture. For answers why such distortion of historical facts is being taught to our students even though several decades have passed after India obtained her political sovereignty, we have to go back to history.

In India rewriting of history began during the British rule. As we know the decline of Mughal empire had led to stagnation in all cultural and intellectual activities and many historical personalities of yore had gone into oblivion in the minds of the people. Monuments had fallen into ruins and even literate Indians failed to grasp or recognize the importance of historical artifacts and inscriptions especially copper plate inscription which in many homes found their way to attic. With regards to stone inscriptions, they laid at the mercy of elements. It was the English officials working in the East India Company who took interest in the study of these inscriptions, monuments and other literary works of India and were responsible for bringing new light on Indian history especially of the ancient period. The prime cause for the officials working in the E.I.C. to explore the history and culture of India was due to their belief that an effective control over Indians requires knowledge of their history. Similarly the Christian missionaries studied Vedas, Upanishads and began to translate them as they believed that the knowledge of Hinduism would help them in their evangelistic activities.

Establishment of the Asiatic Society: Sir William Jones, the Judge of Calcutta Supreme Court formed the Asiatic Society on January 15th 1784 with a view to study Indian history and culture. A journal Asiatick Researches was started in 1788 and in 1814 a museum was also set up. Charles Wilkins, a close associate of Jones laid the foundation of epigraphical studies in India by unlocking the mystery of the Gupta and Kutila scripts. The recovery of the ancient history of India from inscriptions and coins began with the publication in 1785 by Wilkins of a copper plate inscription found in Monghyr and a pillar inscription from Dinajpur in Bengal. He was the first Englishman to publish a Sanskrit grammar in 1779. F.E.Pargiter, a civil servant in Bengal wrote Dynasties of the Kali Age (1913) and Ancient Indian Historical Tradition (1922). James Princep an assay master of Calcutta mint deciphered the Ashoka’s inscriptions written in Brahmi and Kharoshthi scripts in between 1834-1837 A.D.

Establishment of Archeological Survey of India: In 1861 Alexander Cunningham, an army engineer, renown by his antiquarian activities impressed the then Viceroy, Lord Canning to establish the Archeological Survey of India and in 1862 Cunningham was appointed as the Archeological Surveyor of North India, a post he held till 1885. The reports compiled by him and his assistants was full of descriptions of ancient sites and buildings, facsimiles of inscriptions and coins and their interpretations and sketches of the history of many rulers. In 1871 he published his work Ancient Geography of India. Cunningham’s survey covered only north and east India and to cover west India Archeological Survey of West India was constituted in 1873 with James Burgess in charge. In 1881 he was also given the charge of surveying south India. In 1883 John Faithful Fleet was appointed Government Epigraphist for a period of three years and in 1886 E. Hultzsch was appointed Epigraphist for South Indian Inscriptions. In 1888 after the retirement of James Burgess as Director of Archeological Survey of India, a post which he held after the retirement of Cunningham in 1885, the department Archeological Survey of India was abolished and its work devolved on local governments. The ASI department was revived in 1902 by Lord Curzon who appointed John Marshall as the Director General of ASI. In 1904 the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act was passed by which the government got powers to safeguard building in private possession which were not used for religious purposes. He also allotted money for repair, restoration and protection of historical monuments.  With regards to the money to be allotted for preserving the ancient monuments, he is said to have told “Were Germany the ruling power in India, I do not hesitate to say that she would be spending many lakhs a year on a task to what we have hitherto rather plumed over selves on our generosity in devoting Rs 61,000 raised only a year ago to 88,000”. It was under John Marshall the urban sites of Vedic civilization like Harappa and Mohenjodaro were discovered in 1922. Thus it was mostly the Europeans who were in the forefront of rewriting Indian history and naturally their views and opinions carried weight. Indians who took up historical studies was trained under them and followed their (European) method in comprehending Indian history.

Vedic age fixed based on biblical myth: Till 1922 all historians agreed to the fact that the dawn of Indian civilization began with the Vedic age, the date of which was fixed around 1500 B.C. This dating was made not on scientific lines but based on religious beliefs. In 1654 Archbishop Usher of Ireland declared that his study of Scripture had proved that creation took place in the year 4004 B.C. on 23rd October 23. From the end of the seventeenth century this chronology was accepted by the Europeans. This resulted in the Europeans hard to reconcile themselves to the view that any race or civilization could be older than the date of 4004 B.C. Himself being a Christian missionary Max Muller who studied the Vedas assigned 1500 B.C. for the beginning of Aryan invasion and 1200-1000 B.C. as the date for the composition of the Rig-Veda hymns. But Max Muller himself adds: “Whether the hymns of the Rig-Veda were composed 1000, 1500, 2000 or 3000 years before Christ, no power on earth will ever determine.

Reason for giving non-indigenous authorship: With regards to the authors of this civilization the Europeans gave a foreign authorship based on their study of similarities which they found between Sanskrit and other European languages. Filippo Sassetti a merchant of Florence stayed in Goa for five years (1583-88 A.D.) and studied certain languages and declared that there is a definite relation between Sanskrit and some of the main European languages. In 1786 Sir William Jones claimed that this similarity between the languages was on account of their common origin. He held that Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, Latin, etc., had common origin and named them as Indo-European languages. It was presumed that people speaking these languages had a common fore-father and they lived at one place in Europe and were given the name Aryans. These Aryans is said to have later migrated from Europe to other countries and one branch of these Aryans entered India from north-west region. It was these Aryans who were the authors of the Vedic civilization. The first European to use the word Aryan for a race was Lassen. He used it in 1847 in his book History of Ancient India. In 1856 a British physician Norman Chevers wrote Aryan Race which highlighted the racial unity between Indian and European Aryans. In 1921-22 A.D. several urban settlements were discovered in places like Harappa, Mohenjodaro and other places in present day Pakistan and its date was fixed around 2500-1500 B.C. and the end of this civilization was ascribed to the supposed Aryan invasion.

Flaws in connecting language with race: The above theory based on philology has many flaws. First of all Sanskrit possesses the greatest number of roots and words and variety of grammatical forms which other Indo-European languages lack.  Secondly if speakers of a particular language leave home for foreign lands they gradually lose their language as they are cut off from the mainstream of their languages. For instance the Kashmiri speaking Hindus have lost touch with their language and the Parsis of Persia speak Gujarati in their homes. If the Aryans had come from outside India, Sanskrit must have received a thorough shrinking of numerous grammatical forms by the time it reached India. But this had not happened. Thirdly none of the literatures of Europe has works as ancient and rich as the Rig-Veda. Fourthly it would be too unreasonable to believe that a semi-barbarian tribe who destroyed an advanced civilization such as the Harappa would be able to philosophically speculate and write works such as Vedas and Upanishads. Fifthly just because there are similarities in certain words it does not mean that people speaking these languages belong to same race. For instance many Arabic words have similarity with Persian and Turkish words. But this does not mean that Iranians and Turks are Arabs. Many people today speak English. This does not mean that they belong to the English race.

Absence of Horse: Another reason given for supporting the Aryan Invasion Theory was the supposed absence of horse in Harappan cities and hence a hypothesis was made wherein the invading Aryans, riding horses and horse driven chariots subdued the Harappans. Criticizing the above hypothesis Navaratna Rajaram argues that while the Harappan seals have picture of bull, the cow is never represented. From this we cannot conclude that the Harappans raised bulls but were ignorant of the cow. Just because if certain objects are not found during excavation or references to certain entities are not mentioned in the Rig-Veda it does not mean the absence of it or that the Vedic people were unaware of it. For instance salt is not mentioned in the Rig-Veda and therefore one cannot conclude that the Vedic people were ignorant of salt. Probably when the above hypothesis was made the Harappan sites were not fully excavated. But now archeologists have found the evidence of horse in various Harappan sites. In Surkotda Jagat Pati Joshi found the skeletal remains of not one but several domesticated horses spread over a very long period. Bones of horses have also been found at Banawali and Kuntasi. Also terracotta figures of horse have been discovered at Mohenjodaro and Lothal. At Banawali, Kuntasi and Mitathal terracotta wheels of toy carts with spokes have been found.

The Boghaz-Koi documents: Yet another reason for ascribing the non-indigenous authorship for the Vedic civilization was the discovery of two important documents at Boghaz-Koi in Asia Minor in 1907 by Hugo Winckler. In one of the records, a treaty signed between the Mittanis and Hitties in 1360 B.C. the names of four Vedic gods Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatya are mentioned. Similarly Kassite documents dating 1760-1600 B.C record Indo Aryan deities like Surias (Surya), Maruttas (Marut the wind god), Dakas (Daksa) and Simalia (Himalaya). The Kassites who ruled for several centuries introduced into Babylonia the horse for drawing chariots and the late Babylonian name for horse Susa is derived from the Sanskrit Asva. The kings of Mittani on the upper Euphrates of the 15th or 16th century B.C. bore Aryan names as Artatama, Sutarna and Dusratta. They worshipped Vedic gods like Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Nastya (the alternate name for Aswini twins). These names were found in their Cuneiform inscriptions. Also a fragmentary handbook on chariot racing composed in the Hittite language by a Mitannian author named Kikkuli and found at Boghaz Koi, the Hittie capital in Asia Minor, has technical terms used for tracks of the course which are very close to Sanskrit. For example Aikavartanna, teravartana, panzavartana, shattavartana are used for one, three, five and seven laps of the race. On the basis of these documents it was assumed that the original homeland of the so called ‘Aryans’ was Central Asia.

Westward Migration of Hindus: But how come there is close affinity between several European languages with Sanskrit and why Sanskrit words are found in the documents discovered at Boghaz-Koi? The answer is provided by Shrikant Talageri in his works- Aryan Invasion Theory: A Reappraisal and Rig-Veda- A Historical Analysis. The dynasties of the Vedic period are grouped into those belonging to the solar race of the Iksvakus and those belonging to the lunar race of the Ailas. The Ailas are further divided into five main branches- Yadus, Turvasas, Druhyus, Anus and Purus. In the Puranas the geography of the five Aila or lunar tribes was given. Accordingly the Purus were located in Haryana-UP, Anus in Kashmir, Druhyus to the west of Punjab, Yadus to South-West (Rajasthan and Western M.P.) and Turvasas to the South-East of the Yadus. To the North-East of the Purus were the tribes of Iksvaku or solar race.

The eastward march of the Druhyus and their conquests seems to have brought them into conflict with all the other tribes and people like the Purus, Anus, Yadus and even the Ikshvakus. This led Mandhatri of the Trksi dynasty, identified as a branch of the Ikshvakus (Mandhatri’s father was an Ikshvaku king and mother was a Puru) to confront the Druhyus and after defeating them drove them out into Afghanistan and beyond. This happened in 5409 B.C. / 6027 B.C.  when Mandhatri killed their king Angara. The place vacated by them was occupied by the Anus. After a time, being overpopulated the Druhyus crossed the borders of their territory and founded many principalities beyond the frontiers of India. This first historical emigration represents an outflow of the Druhyus into the areas to the north of Afghanistan (i.e. into Central Asia and beyond). From Central Asia many Druhyu tribes in the course of time migrated westwards reaching as far as Western Europe and they may have included the ancestors of Hitties, Tocharian, Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavonic. According to Talageri these Druhyus came to be known as the Druids in ancient Europe and the Druids themselves trace their origins to Asia. This migration probably saw the influence of Sanskrit on some of the European languages.

The second historical emigration recorded is that of the Anus and the residual Druhyus which took place after the battle of 10 kings (Dasarajna) in 4329 B.C. / 4947 B.C. In this battle Sudas defeated the Anus and conquered their territory and this led to their migration to Afghanistan and beyond. Later they migrated further westwards as far as west Asia and southwestern Europe. They included the ancestors of Iranians, Thraco-Phrygian (Armenian), Illyrian (Albanian) and Hellenic. Hence influence of Sanskrit and Vedic religion was found among the Kassites, Hittites and Mitannis who lived in Central Asia.

From time immemorial, Hindus have been moving to distant lands for the purpose of trade and commerce. While we have proof for their migration to south-east Asian countries in the form of artifacts, we don’t find the same in west Asia and Europe mainly due to the iconoclastic attitude of the Semitic religions like Christianity and Islam which destroyed whatever traces the migrating Hindus had left. According to the Syrian writer Zenob, in about 304 A.D. St. Gregory attacked and destroyed images of gods in two Hindu temples in the Canton of Taron situated in upper Euphrates, west of Lack Van. St. Gregory must have been instrumental in wiping out to a large extent the trace of Indian religion in the west.  Moreover common sense tells us that the risk and hardship involved while travelling to south-east Asian countries by crossing the ocean was relatively more than travelling to Asia Minor through land routes. Hence if the Hindus could had travelled to far off lands in south-east Asia, their migration to Asia Minor and from there to Europe would not have been an impossible feat.

As per the hypothesis of Navaratna Rajaram, about 65,000 years ago a small group of our African ancestors made their way to South Asia and settled in South-Central India. From here in about 45,000 years ago small groups left India and made their way to Eurasia and Europe. They were the first Indo-Europeans. Then about 10,000 years ago a second wave of people left India for Europe taking with them the language Sanskrit and agricultural skills. This accounts for the closeness of Sanskrit to European languages in vocabulary if not grammar.

Meaning of the word Arya: The meaning of the word Arya in Sanskrit is noble or civilized. This has nothing to do with race. So also the word Dravida does not denote a race but is the general name of southern Brahmins which is divided into five sections namely Dravida (Tamil Brahmins), Karnata (Kannada Brahmins), Tailanga (Telugu Brahmins), Gurjara (Gujarati Brahmins) and Maharashtra Brahmins. These groups are collectively called pancha dravida. It should be remembered that the Brahmins of the north are not called Arya but as Gauda which also consists of five sections namely Sarasvata (associated with the valley of Sarasvati in Punjab), Kanyakubj (Uttar Pradesh), Gauda (Bengal), Maithila (North Bihar) and Utkala (Odisha).

Arguments against the Aryan invasion:

  1. People even now speak of Alexander’s invasion, the attack of Mohammad bin Qasim, Mohammad Ghazni, Babur, Nadir Shah, etc. If any Aryan invasion had taken place they would have referred to it at least in folklore. Even the Vedas and Puranas are silent on it.
  2. The Greeks who were present in third century B.C. do not speak of Aryan invasion.
  3. The geographic limits mentioned in Rig-Veda are all within India. All rivers except few are still flowing. The geographical data of the Rig-Veda clearly indicate that the Punjab and its neighbouring region constituted the homeland of the Vedic people which was known as the Sapta-Sindhu region and which the Vedic people called as Devakrita Yoni or Devanirmita Desha.
  4. Races migrating to other countries look back to their homeland and cherish its memories for centuries together. Parsis of India remember Iran as their original homeland even after 1000 years. But nowhere in their literature have we found the Vedic people making reference about their original homeland located outside India. The Europeans who migrated to America, Australia and New Zealand have named some of the towns and rivers there after the names of their original country. If at all the so called Aryans had come to India from outside they would also had named some of the rivers or towns in India of places of their home country. But we do not find such thing having taken place in India.

Political reason for promoting the Aryan invasion theory: As there was a demand for self-government, the Aryan invasion theory came handy for the British to tell the Indian that like them (British) even they (Indians) had come from outside and also the ancestors of both of them were Aryans and hence they were like distant cousins. The British claimed that they have a mission to fulfill and that mission was the upliftment the Indian masses morally and materially. On one hand they wanted to deny Indians taking pride of their past by making them feel as one among the several invaders who came to India and on the other hand accept their (British) rule not as an alien rule but of their long distanced cousins who had morally and materially advanced and by following them and collaborating with them, they (Indians) could also make progress.

Religious motive for promoting Aryan invasion theory: The Christian missionaries in course of their evangelization found it difficult to convert the Brahmins and also found that they had moral and intellectual hold over other castes in India. In order to loosen this grip the British sowed the seed of discord by labeling the Brahmin as Aryan and the non-Brahmin majority as Sudras/Dravidians. The former was depicted as an invader having destroyed the latter’s culture and enslaved him. Robert Caldwell the Bishop of Tirunelveli in Tamilnadu coined the word ‘Dravidians’ for the people living in Tamilnadu and argued that they were kept in chains by the Aryans through the Hindu religion from which he proposed they should be liberated. Refuting this absurd theory, Swami Vivekananda in his lecture on ‘The Future of India’ said – “the theory that the Sudra caste were all non-Aryans and they were a multitude is equally illogical and equally irrational. It could not been possible in those days that a few Aryans settled and lived there (in Tamilnadu) with a hundred thousand slaves at their command. These slaves would have eaten them up, made ‘chutney’ of them in five minutes”. “The only explanation (to the existence of different castes) is to be found in the Mahabharatha, which says that in the beginning of the Satya Yuga there was one caste, the Brahmanas, and then by difference of occupation they went on dividing themselves into different castes and that is the only true and rational explanation that has been given” the Swami added.

Voices against invasion theory: According to noted Indologist Michel Danino, passages from the Rig-Veda were twisted and sometimes mistranslated to show that the semi barbarian Aryans invaded India and destroyed the Harappa civilization and drove the authors of that civilization namely the Dravidians to south India. But now even respected archaeologists of the old school of thought such as Raymond and Bridget Allchin admit that the arrival of Indo-Aryans in North-West India is scarcely attested in the archeological record. Another noted scholar Jim Shaffer said in 1984 that the current archeological data do not support the existence of any Indo Aryan or European invasion in South Asia any time in pre or proto history period. In India a number of noted archaeologists like S.R.Rao, B.B.Lal, S.P.Gupta, Dilip Chakrabarty, M.K.Dhavalikar, R.S.Bisht do not support the Aryan invasion or migration. Even earlier when the Aryan invasion theory was unquestioned European scholars like Pargiter, Winternitz and Hermann Jacobi refused to subscribe to it. Swami Vivekananda in his work- The East and the West (Chapter VII- Progress of Civilization) said that it was bizarre to consider the authorship of the Vedas to the invading Aryan. He said that the theory of the Aryans swooping down from some foreign land, snatching away the lands of the natives and settling in India by exterminating them is all pure nonsense, foolish talk. It is strange that our Indian scholars say the same thing and all these monstrous lies are being taught to our boys. According to Swami Vivekananda wherever the Europeans find an opportunity they exterminate the aborigines and settle down in ease and comfort on their land and therefore they conclude that the Aryans must have done the same. “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 natives? What do you gain by talking such nonsense,” he questioned.

Why falsehood and distorted History still being taught? But it is puzzling why in spite of so many evidence to support the indigenous authorship for the Vedic civilization, its date being prior to other civilizations like Egyptian, Mesopotamian and the Harappa culture being its urban representation, we in India are still teaching all rubbish things like the Aryan race destroying the Harappa culture and presenting the Vedic civilization as posterior to the Harappa not only in schools and colleges but also at university levels. The answer is not far to seek. According to Greek scholar Nicolas Kazanas an idea/view becomes ‘established’ as the mainstream orthodoxy if people who hold key positions accept it and promote it. Such a view may be utterly wrong yet it may hold sway for decades and centuries.

Domination of Marxist historians in Universities/academic bodies: In India it is the Marxist ideology which is strongly entrenched in academic centers, both at Universities and research organizations. Nationalism is anathema for the Marxists as their ideology is pan universe. Nationalism promotes love for one’s nation, pride in one’s culture, language, religion and way of life, all of which acts as a hindrance for the Marxists to market their ideology. The Aryan invasion theory undermines the development of pride in our past as this theory credits outsiders as the authors of the Vedas held sacred by all Hindus. This theory also sows dissension among south Indians and north Indians by portraying north Indians as Aryans and south Indians as Dravidians and also portraying the Brahmin community as an Aryan and an intruder to the south. The successive governments which ruled India were under the ideological grip of the communists and hence did not show interest to remove the flaws in history books. Moreover in India almost 99 percent of politicians are crooks who have made politics their profession in order to loot the state and its people. They are least bothered about history, culture or development. Another aspect to be noted is that in India it is fashionable to degrade everything related to Hindu culture and religion in the name of progressiveness. Those who do this attract the attention of the media. Even intellectuals to grab the attention of media or seek positions in academies/institutions propagate their anti-Hindu view. Hence even for a non-political, objective and unbiased historians who have to work in Universities telling the truth means labeled as communal, losing promotions, research grants and other benefits like sponsorship to attend international seminars or positions in academic bodies like I.C.H.R. (Indian Council for Historical Research). In the present situation taking pride in one’s nation, culture, religion and language is termed as communal and anti-secular. Hence it takes much courage to speak the truth. Noted American scholar David Frawley writes- “It is sad to note how intellectuals in India are quick to denigrate the extent and antiquity of their history even when evidence are so clear”. ”I don’t think there is any other nation on earth that would be so negative if such ancient glories were found in their lands”, he adds.

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