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Not to be outdone by Müller, Tilak proposed that Aryans descended from the north pole.

I had come across Tilak's theory about the origin of Aryans earlier, but didn't know that Max Muller was a great supporter of Tilak. The combination of these two people's work is hilarious.

The following extract re: Tilak's hypothesis truly stretches human imagination to the limits. (But that was not all. I'll come to Golwalkar's hypothesis next.)

Tilak was deeply interested in the edition of the Rigveda which he received from Max Mueller. He was highly impressed by the statement `suryodayat prak bahuni ahani asan' meaning `many days have passed before the sunrise'. It was this statement that led him to trace the original home of the Aryans in the Arctic region.14 He wrote this book when he was involved in the Jagannath Maharaj adoption case. In the Orion, he had shown, on astronomical grounds, that the antiquity of the Vedas can be stretched back to 4500 B.C. Tilak says in the Preface to the Arctic Home, that it is a sequel to the Orion in which it was unmistakably pointed out that the vernal equinox was in the constellation of Mriga or Orion during the period when the Vedic hymns were composed, and that it had receded to the constellation of the Krittikas or the Pleiades (about 2500 B.C.) in the days of the Brahmanas. The next logical step was to trace the original home of the Aryans. [See more details here]


Extract from Tony Ballantyne's Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire:

Balwantrao Gangadhar Tilak … offered the most striking reinterpretation of Indo-Aryan history. Tilak published two works, Orion, or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas (1892) and The Arctic Home of Vedas (1903), which set out his argument. Tilak, drawing on a Hindu cosmogony with a vast temporal scope, had no trouble accepting the ‘latest and most approved geological facts and opinions’, which greatly extended the timescale of history. He suggested that the ancient home of the Aryas was not central Asia but rather in the Arctic during the ‘Tertiary period’. Originally, the Arctic was temperate, but the advent of an ice age between 10 000 BCE and 8000 BCE transformed it into an ‘icebound land unfit for the habitation of man’.  [Sanjeev: The last ice age lasted from approximately 110,000 to 10,000 years ago, with most of the arctic region – and Europe – covered with ice, a mile thick. There was NO temperate climate in the Arctic just 12000 years ago. Indeed, today is about the warmest the Arctic has been in 100,000 years.] From 8000 BCE the Aryas left their Arctic home moving south into Europe and central Asia and by 6000 BCE had settled in the southern tracts of the central Asian steppes, displacing pre-existing communities and carrying with them an advanced culture: this was the Vedic culture carried south into India in the final southern push of the great migration. [Sanjeev: This contradicts Dayanand Saraswati's and Swami Vivevakananda's assertion that there was no migration of Aryans into India]

These Indo-Aryans retained their cultural sophistication and military superiority, but those Aryas who settled in northern Europe began to slide into barbarism. The sophistication of the Indo-Aryans was enshrined in the Vedas that were transmitted ‘accent for accent’ for maybe as long as six millennia. Therefore the Indo-Aryans, Tilak argued, were precociously civilized, attaining a level of civilization that was commensurable with the glories of Egypt at the height of its power, but predating the peak of Nile civilization by several thousand years. [Sanjeev: This civilisation had a unique characteristic: it did not leave any evidence of its existence!]

Thus Tilak extended and reinterpreted the work of European Indologists, rebutting arguments that European culture developed earlier and more quickly than Indian culture, and asserting the sophistication of Vedic culture. The Arctic Home of the Vedas opened with a discussion of his debts to Max Müller. Max Müller’s work on the Rig Veda and the history of Sanskrit literature was not only a key reference point for Tilak, but Max Müller also provided him with material and personal assistance. Tilak wrote much of The Arctic Home of the Vedas while imprisoned for sedition. Max Müller sent Tilak a copy of his edition of the Rig Veda to read in prison and led the press campaign for Tilak’s release. Tilak made good use of the latest Orientalist research, supplementing Max Müller with Rhys and Taylor’s works on Aryan origins and Warren’s research on ancient languages. Most importantly, Tilak extended the image of a Vedic Golden Age created by Jones, Colebrooke and Max Müller, using it to assert the primacy, vigour and superiority of Indo-Aryan culture.


Aurobindo noted that Tilak had agreed to the general conclusions of Muller but modified in his own way through a new hypothesis:

i) Mr. Tilak in his Arctic Home in the Vedas has accepted the general conclusions of European scholarship, but by a fresh examination of the Vedic Dawn, the figure of the Vedic cows and the astronomical data of the hymns, has established at least a strong probability that the Aryan races descended originally from the Arctic regions in the glacial period.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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2 thoughts on “Not to be outdone by Müller, Tilak proposed that Aryans descended from the north pole.
  1. Suresh Bhave

    My dear Mr. Sabhlok. You find the Arctic Home in the Vedas ‘hilarious’, but I have reason to believe that you have not read it carefully. If you had, you have found some reasonable way to refute Lokamanya Tilak’s thesis. In fact, not you alone, but none of the critics of the book whose writings I read refute anything in it. They merely say that one cannot rely on mythology or that the interpretations are wrong or that it is ridiculous or that he had an ulterior motive in placing the origin of Vedas outside the boundaries of India. They have no alternative interpretation of the Vedic evidence that Tilak has adduced in support of his theory.
    Vedic people, a term I prefer to use instead of Aryans because the latter is not now in vogue, Tilak averred, inhabited the arctic regions during the inter-glacial period. He has gone into the causes of the ice-age in detail and quoted many authorities to show that the severity of the ice age was not always the same, there were less severe periods. For this, you may read the recent interview of eminent Russian archaeologist Vladimir Putilko. He says that the topography and other factors cause some places in the Arctic to be habitable. Please note that he is our contemporary, not Tilak’s.
    As for the archaeological evidence of Vedic civilization take a search on Russian Arctic archaeology and you will find the recent evidence of the presence of modern humans in the Arctic circle 40000 years ago and the existence of at least one ancient city, since abandoned, which the Russian archaeologists think was inhabited by Vedic people.
    I am not a scholar of such matters and it seems that you are, therefore, I humbly request you to research thoroughly before you express an opinion. Also, research today is simple on account of the internet. Lokamanya Tilak wrote the book based on extensive research through books laboriously and patiently gathered from across the world and he travelled all over India to discuss his idea with the scholars of his time. It was a task of Herculean proportions and needed the patience of Atlas. He waited for at least six years before publishing the book to confirm the tenability of his theory. How does that compare with your off the cuff criticism?


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