We have been told that Aryans were living in the Indian subcontinent and that they started the caste and creed system.
Is it true that they started the Hindu belief system?
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Preface: this answer is hugely lacking in details, which I hope to add later. For more detailed and evidence-based views on the matter, consider consulting the following discussions:
This is obviously an issue that will provoke some heated feelings, so let me just provide a brief overview of what science has to say about the migration of peoples into northern India during the Vedic period. I will update this in more detail later, but for now, this should serve as a reasonable summary.
Much research has been done since the 19th century to firmly establish the classification of Indo-European languages. We now know that Vedic Sanskrit (the language of the Rig Veda) is part of the Indo-European family of languages, and, in particular, part of the Indo-Aryan subfamily. We have strong reason to believe that the Indo-European homeland (the "urheimat") lies near the Black Sea. This, along with other evidence, strongly suggests that the Indo-Aryan languages were brought to northern India by a migration of peoples from the northwest.
I am not well-acquainted with the archaeological evidence here, but it is known that there are archaeological traces of a migration towards the Indus Valley, and that at around this same time, the Indus Valley civilization collapsed. This is taken as evidence that the Indus Valley peoples were displaced by a migration of peoples from the northwest.
The genetic evidence is less clear than the linguistic evidence. There is some Y-chromosomal evidence that the "North Indians" and the "South Indians" (Dravidians) represent two substantially different populations. This, too, suggests a migration from somewhere into northern India.
This evidence generally favors a scenario in which an "Aryan" population migrated into northern India c. 1500 BC. It is clear that when they migrated, they brought with them religious texts - the Vedas. In this sense, the Aryans "started" Hinduism. However, even Vedic Hinduism was not purely the creation of the Aryans - there is some evidence that some practices of the Indus Valley peoples were incorporated into what we know now as the Vedic religion.
Alternates to the Aryan migration scenario exist, but I don't know much about them, and they don't appear to have much evidence supporting them.
This is something I blogged a couple of months ago in Quora. I'm producing it verbatim.
Since this is such a long read, TL;DR, No, Aryans are not the forefathers of Hindus, rather the word 'Aryan' as it's known today is an abused and prostituted word. The meaning of which has been high-jacked by racial supremacists in the 20th century Europe.
I wanted to title this post as Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) and the Saraswati Valley Civilization (SVC to distinguish it from Indus Valley Civilization, IVC), but I chose the former because of its popularity. The reasons will be described in the article.
Indians for a long time have been given misinformation about their own origin and custom. We have been fed falsified information from both foreign media as well as local media including school text books.
There is a misconception even among various Indian about the word Aryan. Aryan, which is derived from the word Arya (आर्य) in Sanskrit from which it was later hijacked by German Nationalists for their ulterior motives means 'Noble', and the place where Aryan live Āryāvarta (आर्यावर्त). It was neither a racial word nor a demonym. It was simply a word which the Sanskrit speaking people in ancient India used to call themselves.
It's alleged that lighter skinned, horse riding, barbaric Aryan tribes from Central Asia (around Caucus mountain) invaded the Indus Valley Civilization in the late Harappan Period, which resulted in the Harappan people (Dravidian) to relocate deeper into the sub-continent. The nomads brought their culture (Vedic culture), their language (Sanskrit) into the subcontinent and to socially segregate native Dravidian developed caste system and put the dark skinned Dravidian into lowest Shudra caste.
Let us remember that the idea that the Vedic Aryans came from outside of ancient India and entered the region to start what became the Vedic civilization is a foreign idea. There was never any record, either historical, textual or archeological, that supports this premise for an Aryan invasion. There also is no record of who would have been the invaders. The fact is that it is a theory that came from mere linguistic speculation which happened during the nineteenth century when very little archeological excavation had yet been done around India. Under the aegis of Lord Macaulay, who later laid the founding stone for modern Indian education system, it was Max Müller who first came up with the AIT. In 1988 after much persuasion he finally stated,
"I have declared again and again that if I say Aryan, I mean neither blood nor bones, nor skull nor hair; I mean simply those who speak the Aryan language... To me, an ethnologist who speaks of Aryan blood, Aryan race, Aryan eyes and hair is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or of brachycephalic grammar.1
This was the same Max Muller, who used to praise Indian culture such as,
If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India.2
But, if we look closely with the above premise of AIT one can see the astuteness in this statement that by linking European Caucasians with Aryan, he was praising himself. Attitude of Max Muller towards Hinduism can be judged from other quotes,
The worship of Shiva, Vishnu, and other popular deities was of the same and in many cases of a more degraded and savage character than the worship of Jupiter, Apollo or Minerva.2
History seems to teach that the whole human race required a gradual education before, in the fullness of time, it could be admitted to the truths of Christianity.2
It is disheartening to see North and South Indians quarreling over this day in and day out. North Indians claiming themselves to be the fair skinned North Indians while the South Indians claiming to be victims of the foreigner Aryans and their caste discrimination. This has taken a toll in Indian politics we well. Tamilnadu politics is strictly anti-Hindu and anti-Brahmanic since DMK set its foot in the state politics. So let me try to clear this once and for all.
I will try to enumerate why Aryan Invasion theory is a myth. Most of the items have been borrowed (copied) from various sources on the internet, and I will try to give references wherever possible.
- The key evidence in favor of this alleged invasion stems from the discovery of skeletons in the Indus valley towns of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro. However, recent studies have proved that this skeleton had not resulted from death during the war with invading Aryans and that they likely died a natural death due to the drying up of the Saraswati river that caused widespread famine. This is the reason why IVC should be called more aptly Saraswati Valley Civilization. Even the Vedas give much importance to River Saraswati rather than Indus. Further, the very dating of these skeletons has been questioned (i.e. if the skeletons didn't belong to the late Indus valley period, their death, even if due to war doesn't imply an "invasion" of any sort) David Feuerstein in his book "In Search of the Cradle of Civilization" argues there was likely a period of "immigration" of lighter skinned people from the area around Southern Turkey (the speculated homeland of Aryans) but that this immigration happened during the pre-ice age period and that the so called Dravidian and Aryans coexisted in the Indian subcontinent since before the dawn of the Indus-Saraswati Civilization.
- Various Dravidian Gods have made their way into Vedic literature and mainstream Hinduism since its very beginnings. Aryans, if they were "invaders" would likely have discarded local Dravidian gods or at the very least have denigrated/given them lower status. Shiva, known as Pashupati by Dravidians is a "Dravidian" god - he is however given the highest status by Vedic "Aryans" and he signifies Shakti (i.e. the energy that keeps the Universe running). The picture below is a clay table from Harappa. Krishna, one of the avatars of Vishnu (as allegedly Aryan god) is well documented as being dark skinned.
- There is no evidence yet that the Dravidian scripts evolved from the as yet undecipherable Indus valley script. In fact, recent studies have identified similarities between the Brahmi script and the Indus valley script. The Brahmi script was used to write Sanskrit before the Devnagri script came into being. This would, in fact, imply that the Indus valley script was a precursor to the Brahmi script Call Of The Lost Ages: A Study Of The Indus Valley Script or Sanskrit Indus Script Dictionary.
- Occam's Razor Argument. By not using the AIT, one could bridge one big logical gap in the history of Indic Civilization. On one hand there is the magnificent IVC which boasted of town and urban planning and trade commerce at a level significantly more advanced than any other contemporary civilization - but which left behind no literary works of any sort. On the other hand, one has the Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads - the most ancient texts and surviving body of knowledge which make references to events that occurred over 7000 years ago - and yet there is no known urban Aryan civilization that existed around India that far back in history. The only logical way to fix this gap is to accept that Vedic literature is the product of the Indus-Saraswati civilization and that this very civilization has been the only common ancestor to all modern day Indians. Another point is that before the Vedas were written, it had been an oral tradition. However, an oral tradition of this kind of philosophy and culture cannot be maintained by a people in constant movement for decades if not centuries over many thousands of miles, which is what the AIT proposes. Such a tradition as the Vedic culture could be preserved only by a sedentary people where the older generation would have the necessary time to pass the communal lore to the younger generation.
- Further, recent DNA studies have proved that North Indian "Aryans" and South Indian "Dravidians" are more genetically similar than North Indian "Aryans" are to modern day Europeans. This bolsters the final sentences of argument 1 since it implies that the waves of Aryan migration into India occurred in the very distant past (very likely before the Indus valley civilization began) and that these "Aryans" and "Dravidians" likely coexisted in the Indian subcontinent for the last 7000 years or more. This study also identifies that the Indian population has been generally stable for a very long time and that there has been no major injection of Central Asian Genes for over 10000 years at least. So, if any migration did happen, it was long before settlements emerged, before the domestication of the horse, before the Iron or Bronze ages. We are talking about hunter-gatherers, small bands of nomads etc. The latest dating of the Indus Saraswati Civilization is 9000 years - as per Radio Metric Dating; the genetic evidence is older by this than 1000+ years at least.
- Literature: The Rigveda. The geographical area of the Rig Veda (RigVed) is clearly delineated as North West India; there is no room for any doubt. It specifically mentions the Saraswati as between the Yamuna and the Sutlej, That can only be the Ghaggar river bed. Satellite imagery has established that this used to be a massive river system in the old days. The Rigveda does not mention a drying Saraswati, clearly meaning that it must have been written well before 1900 - 2600 BC. There is no mention of either invasion or Migration in the Rigveda; if any migration occurred, it happened before 3000 BC - if at all. There is also no mention of a Central Asian landscape in the RigVed; it is specific in that it mentions the Kabul river to the west and the Ganga to the east. There is awareness of the Himalayas.
- Radiometric Dating of the Indus-Saraswati places the real age of this civilization to somewhere around 7200 BC. This was announced by the ASI in an international conference on 5th November 2012. This also suggests that migration did not happen 3500 years ago, or even 9000 years ago.
- The R1a1a gene mutation is found in North India and East Europeans, South Siberia, Tajikistan and North Eastern Iran, A study on this conducted in 2010 found that the oldest strain of the R1a1a branch was concentrated in the Gujarat-Sindh-Western Rajasthan region of India, suggesting that this was close to the origin of the genetic group. A mutation M458 is found in Europeans but is not found at all in Asians. This M458 mutation is at least 8000 years old, thus lending credence to the observations above.
- Another civilization at that time was the Avestan Civilization often known as Mesopotamian Civilization. The later formed their own religion Zoroastrianism, which was wiped out by the Caliphate. There are striking similarities in Zoroastrianism and the Hinduism. Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism which is a force of Good is an Asura in Hinduism and analogically, Devas in Hinduism were Ahirman forces of Evil in Zoroaster Religion. So, it corroborates the claim that IVC had the proto-concepts of Hinduism and it was not a concept brought by the invading Aryan hoards.
So, in my opinion, this nine-point argument against the AIT (Aryan Invasion Theory) should be sufficient to clarify any misconception about AIT and IVC. But, the question still remains as to why this insane idea was developed in the first place, that too without any proper scientific data to validate it? The only thing which it took into account was the superficial skin color variations between south and north Indians. What motives did it serve to the Europeans?
The Aryan "Invasion" Theory is disputed.
As much as there is proof Aryan invasion, there is as much against it. See The Aryan Invasion Theory: The Final Nail in its Coffin.
The people known as Aryans could as well been sister civilization of the Indus valley people and lived around the Saraswati river, thus many collectively call it Sindhu-Saraswati civilization(above article deals with it).
If at all Aryans came from somewhere else, it could been a "Migration" and not an Invasion" since there is no evidence for a war or conquest. There is evidence that Indus civilization collapsed due to droughts: 200-Year Drought Doomed Indus Valley Civilization. The dates of Aryan arrival is after this drought. This makes it possible that Saraswati river also suffered drought and thus the Harappan people of the Saraswati moved into Indian mainland.
It is not easy to trace Hindu practices to one person or a group. Indus Valley Civilization which is supposed to be pre-Aryan(considering Aryans arrived into India from somewhere) worshiped Pashupati(Shiva) and used Swastika symbols indicating indigenous origins of Hindu practices.
There is also a "Out of India" theory/Indigenous Aryans theory which states that, Indo-Europeans languages originated out of India & did not flow into India. Prof.Nicholas Kanzanas did a lot of research on this.
The Aryan theory is trusted by Westerners on Indians. One may keep quoting un-endingly on this, the fact remains, Aryans do not exist. If Aryans were a superior race or civilization, there should exist a civilization older than Hinduism, the truth is - none exists better than Hindu civilization.
Request the readers to read "Holy Science" of Sri Yukteswar Giriji who is an exalted saint & yogi with divine knowledge, who explicitly denounced the Aryan theory. So do Sri Aurobindo in "In defense of Hindu Civilization".