The Myth of the Aryan Invasion (Part II)

A second genetic study focused on the genetic inheritance of the early Indians through examination of the Y-M17 chromosome haplogroup, which was also considered to be the genetic mark of the Aryans. Kivisilid discovered these chromosomes among two tribes of South India, one of which the Chenchus, was genetically close to several high castes. “There is no striking genetic disparity between Indian castes and tribes,” the researchers concluded. In 2010, geneticist Underhill led a study on the relations between the Y chromosomes of South Asian populations, within the same RLA haplogroup, also supposed to be specific to Indo-Europeans. These studies came to the same conclusion as the previous ones…

It is important to insert a word here about those tribes called in India the Adivasis (the first residents), which many historians claim to be the original inhabitants of India. Anthropologists have often speculated that today’s tribes are descendants of the original inhabitants of India. This concept, which originated in nineteenth-century anthropology, shaped Indian thought as well as social, political and economic relations. There is still a latent conflict between the North and the South, between Sanskrit and Tamil, the Brahmans and the Untouchables, and an obsession with white skin which makes millions of Indian women buy cheap creams, thinking that it will help them attain lighter skin. However, all the great ancient texts of India (such as the Mahabharata, an epic poem comparable to the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer), which gives us a glimpse of the customs of ancient India, do not differentiate between the tribes of the time and the populations of other castes. Contemporary anthropologist Michel Boivin notes that “firstly, many of these ancient tribes climbed the social ladder of castes and became, for example, Kshatriyas”.

Other genetic studies, on the Adivasis (Untouchable and Indian aboriginals), show that they too possess Y chromosomes, similar to those of other Indian castes and that for example, high castes of the North and South are not particularly genetically related, whereas the southern castes and the southern tribes are very similar in Y chromosome terms. This, once again, challenges the theory that Adivasis and low castes are descendants of the original inhabitants of India. Moreover, an even more recent study by M. Reddy (2014) shows “that there is no significant difference in terms of DNA between Indian castes and tribal populations”.

One of the pillars of the theory of the Aryan invasion is that the people speaking the Dravidian languages today (Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu) would be the descendants of the indigenous Indians who fled the North and settled in the South following the Indo-Aryan invasion, which is to say that the Harappans spoke a Dravidian language. Unfortunately, quite a few genetic studies have refuted this theory, as noted by geneticist Noah A. Rosenberg, who compared several groups speaking Indo-European languages with those using Dravidian languages. Another geneticist, Sanghamitra Sengupta, on the basis of studies of thirty-six Indian castes and groups, claimed that the genetic landscape of the Indian subcontinent was formed long before the period of the so-called Aryan invasion.

A team of genome experts and archaeologists further broke in the myth of the Aryan invasion. The team was comprised of scientists from Harvard Medical School, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology under the CSIR (Hyderabad), Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany and University of California,USA & Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune.

The research which focussed on DNA samples collected from a the skeleton of a 4,500-year-old female genome collected from a Harappan site in Rakhigarhi, Haryana, showed that there is no trace of any foreign genetic presence in them « which proves that people belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization had distinct genetic lineage,” stated Prof Thangaraj of CCMB, Hyderabad.

Prof Vasant Shinde, director, Deccan College further says: « we discovered that there was no detectable ancestry from Steppe pastoralists or from Anatolian and Iranian farmers, suggesting farming in South Asia arose from local foragers rather than from large-scale migration from the West ».

The Aryans going west?

In the ancient Indian tradition, the word ‘Aryan’ does not denote a skin colour, but a state of mind. The Vedic era is also the Aryan era, governed by a code of life that ranged from the highest spirituality to rituals, cooking manuals, or codified sexuality. Could it be the Aryans, the original inhabitants of India, who would have gone West? Several studies, including those of Sengupta in 2006 and Underhill in 2010, have concluded a radical reversal of migration theories.

In France, we view India as a distant, mysterious country, very different from ours. Yet, many Frenchmen have an irresistible attraction for India, as if some secret kinship invited them to make a “pilgrimage to the source” in India. “They are not entirely wrong,” wrote the Indianist Guy Deleury, in The Indian Model: “Part of the ancestors of today’s Hindus came down from the Iranian plateau, and they were brothers or cousins of our own ancestors. There was a time and a place, which we cannot yet determine with precision, where they lived together and shared the same religious traditions, according to a model of society that we begin to discern better and whose traces we find in Greece and in Rome, certainly, but even more clearly, at the two extremes of this astonishing diaspora: in Celtie in the West and in Iran in the East”. And to add: “If our Druid ancestors resembled those Aryan Brahmans who composed the hymns of the Rig-Veda, we would have descended from great poets!” The similarities are striking. Take for example the war chariot, which plays an extremely important role among the Aryans, because it is not only a martial instrument, but also an occult symbol that represents spiritual progress, as sung by a poem of the Atharva Veda:

The four directions are the horses of the gods’ chariot

Heaven and earth both his flanks;

The seasons, the reins; the intermediate space, the harnesses,

The year is the chariot; the cycle its frame.

Indra is the warrior, the moon the charioteer.

“But this poem might give us,” writes Guy Deleury, “the interpretation of many Gallic currencies, especially those of the Redon people. For where prudent historians will see only a horse, a rider, a wheel, it had for the Redons, the Namnetes, the Carnutes or the Parisians a deeper symbolism, because one does not mint its money lightly.” Indeed, the war chariot is the year rolling from season to season, the cycle of years and the revolution of planets; he goes through the four directions of the universe and the three dimensions of space: it is the cosmic order and the vital breath that animates it as well as all that maintains the movement, as taught by the Indian sacred texts:

Like the spokes of the chariot’s wheel,

Everything is planted in the Breath;

Hymns, melodies, rituals,

The power of the priest and the strength of the warrior.

According to many historians, the Celts arrived in Gaul on the same chariot as the Aryans, when they emigrated from India to the West. “Can we doubt,” supposes Guy Deleury, “that they carried the same culture in their luggage and the same gods in their skies?” In Sanskrit the war chariot is called ratha; fortunately, we know the Gallic name used: Reda. Obviously, it’s the same term. And Guy Deleury concludes: “We can go further with Guyonvarc’h who writes that Reda, name of a kind of war chariot, is found in the name of the Redon people, bestowing the name Rennes to the French city. In Welsh rhed, Breton red; it is also the radical of a horse’s name: paraveredus; French palefroi, German Pferd. It is still present in the surname Eporedorix, ‘king of the chariot race’, name of a famous Gaulish leader of the Eduens who allied with Caesar, then fought him.”

Diodorus also evokes certain hymns that the Gallic warriors sang on the evening of a victory and which were composed by their bards and druids; how then not to think that they might have been similar to the hymns inspired by the Brahmans as exploits of the Kshatriyas, their own warriors? “All the history textbooks of France,” says Deleury, “should, therefore, in the chapters on our ancestors the Gauls, quote some of those Vedic songs of which we know several thousands, and which are of an admirable poetry.”

We have lost everything the Druids composed, except for a few fragments of old Irish, such as The Ballad of the Four Sons, which are laudatory poems composed to be recited during the enthronement of the king, as was done in India in Vedic times. The linguist Calvert Watkins has tried to prove that the ancient Irish heroic versification has the same origin as the Vedic metric and that it constitutes an Indo-European legacy. Guy Deleury concludes: “If, then, the metric itself reveals that the Celtic poets shared with the Hindu poets the same versification techniques, if they fulfilled the same functions in the same rituals (for example that of the enthronement of kings), everything suggests that the original Hindu type of society should not be so far removed from the Celtic type. Unfortunately, the documents on the first abound, while those concerning the second are rare and discontinuous.” Finally, remember that ‘Ann’ is one of the old names of Shiva and that, according to the French historian Alain Daniélou, the cult and legends of Saint Ann in Brittany would have derived from the Shaivite legends.

The Horse Controversy

It was also argued that the Aryans were superior because of their mastery of the horse, whereas the Harappans did not have horses. However, bones and horse teeth have been unearthed during the last twenty years in many sites in the Indian subcontinent: Surkotada, in Gujarat, for example, which led the Hungarian paleo-     zoologist Sándor Bökönyi to say that “the horse had been domesticated in India during the third millennium BC”. It must be understood that in Indian mythology the horse is not an important figure. Unlike the cow, a sign of wisdom, the bull, which symbolizes strength, the elephant, for its peaceful mass… In fact, until the Mauryan age in the 4th century BC, the horse does not fulfil a major military function in India, unlike the elephant.

The presence or absence of the horse in the Indus-Saraswati civilization has divided scholars and historians, especially when it comes to the theory of the Aryan invasion. In the Rig-Veda the word ashva (horse) is mentioned two hundred times, implying that the Vedic society had many horses. Therefore, the Harappan civilization, which gave little place to this noble conquest of man, would be thus proven pre-Vedic and non-Aryan. The horse, some historians conclude, must have been imported to India around 1,500 BC by the “Aryan invaders”, who put horses to good use to subjugate the indigenous populations who, with their ox carts and their elephants, would have been outweighed by the “Aryan” horsemen.

However, on closer inspection, there are several flaws in this theory: the first is that, contrary to the claims of the pro-Aryans, archaeologists have found numerous remains of horses on Indian prehistoric sites. For example, A. Ghosh, author of the very serious Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology, states that “in India remains of horses have been dug up in Neolithic sites in Kodaikanal, Hallur, Mohenjo Daro, Ropar, Harappa, Lothal and many others. Recently, moreover, bones of Equus caballus have been found in the Proto-Harappan site of Malwan, Gujarat. Mortimer Wheeler, one of the first advocates of the “Aryan invasion,” had himself admitted that “it is very likely that the horse, the camel, and the donkey were familiar to the people of the Indus.” B. B. Lal in 1998, reports in his book, New Light on the Indus Civilization, that a significant number of bones and horse teeth had been found in Ropar and Lothal. Paleo-zoologist Sándor Bökönyi, recognized as an authority in his field, has confirmed that remains of horses, and even domesticated horses, have been found on Harappan sites. The Indian archaeologist Dhavalikar states that in layers of rocks dated about 2450 BC, small statues of terracotta mares were discovered.

Pottery has recently been excavated, with representations of horses and of a saddle, among other animals. Horse representations are often featured in cave art, for example in Bhimbetka or Morahana Pahar in the Narmada Valley – but unfortunately these caves have not been dated yet. All these discoveries show that the horse already existed in the Harappan era, well before the arrival of the supposed Aryans. While it is true that the horse does not appear on the Harappan seals, many experts have argued that the unicorn is often depicted on seals with a horse’s head.

It is important to note again that for a very long time, Indians did not consider the horse as a mount of war: even in the 10th century, when the Mughal invader Ghori confronted King Prithviraj Chauhan, the latter was still fighting with elephants. Ghori’s cavalry was quick to encircle Chauhan and defeat him.

 

François Gautier

 

 

 

 

 

 

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