Thoughts on economics and liberty

The Aryan invasion theory that I was taught in school – Rawlinson’s text

I’ve broadly checked a couple of sections of the OCRd version of Rawlinson that I had cited here, and these are published below. This book of 1908 remained unchanged till my time in school (I was taught this in 1972, but I also read this book in detail for my IAS exams in 1981).

Since the 1980s – possibly the 1990s, India’s historical interpretations have changed dramatically. No “invasions” took place. Instead, Sanjay Sonawani’s research persuades me of an Aryan REFUGEE theory – in which a very few followers of the Vedic religion (which was a branch of the Zoroastrian religion) came to India, locating initially just south of Afghanistan.

The British played a superb role in methodically documenting India’s records and history but they made many, many fatal mistakes – which Sanjay is working to fix.


The Indus civilization. The most important discovery in connexion with the early inhabitants of India was that of an advanced chalcolithic culture stretching along the course of the river Indus, from Harappa in the Montgomery District of the Panjab to its mouth. In 1922, Mr R. D. Banerji of the Indian Archaeological Department found at Mohenjodaro, near Larkhana in Sind, a great prehistoric city which has now been excavated. It is well laid out, with wide streets running at right angles. The houses are built of brick, often several storeys high, with flat roofs, drains and bathrooms. The chief feature is a large public bath, with promenades and chambers for the bathers.

The Indus river folk were highly artistic, and left behind a large number of steatite seals or amulets, beautifully engraved with figures of crocodiles, tigers, antelopes, Brahminy bulls, and various religious emblems. From these seals we may infer that the climate of Sind was then moist and fertile. Wheat and cotton were in use. The horse, if we may judge from its absence, was unknown, and ploughing must have been done by oxen, as in India today. A number of figures have been found, one of a man who seems to be a priest, together with children’s toys of burnt clay, and fine glazed pottery. These people were skilled metal workers. They made copper images, axe-heads, swords and spears. They were fond of jewellery, especially of bangles and necklaces made of gold and silver and various precious stones.

The objects found throw a good deal of light on their religion. On one of the seals is a horned, three-headed god who has been identified with Siva. They also worshipped the lingam, the sacred pipal tree, and the Mother Goddess. The dead were usually cremated, and the ashes buried in urns.

Mohenjo-daro flourished about 2500 B.C., and was apparently sacked by an invading tribe from the hills, as groups of skeletons of men, women and children are found at various places, who seem to have met with a violent death. Bid the civilization lingered on for some time at Chanhu-daro and other localities. We shall not know for certain who the Indus river folk were until we find a clue to the writing on the seals, but apparently they were invaders from Iraq, probably akin to the ancient Sumerians, who settled down and intermarried with the earlier inhabitants. They may be of the same stock as the Dravidians now inhabiting Southern India. Others have identified them with the Dasyus who were opponents of the Indo-Aryans, as the Vedas inform us.

Variety of races in India. How far the existing peoples of India are descended from the ancient men who used stone and copper tools nobody can tell. The most casual observer cannot fail to perceive that the present population of nearly four hundred millions is made up of the descendants of many diverse races, some of which have been settled in the country since the most remote times, while others are known to have entered it at various periods. In the course of ages those diverse races have ‘now become so intermixed and confounded that it is impossible to say where one variety of man ends and another begins’.

Two main types. But, notwithstanding infinite crossing, two main types are clearly discernible. The short, dark, snub-nosed, and often ugly type is represented by the Kols, Bhils, and countless other jungle tribes, as well as by an immense mass of low-caste folk in Northern India. The Southern races also, with certain exceptions, are more akin to this type than to the second, which is tall, fair, long-nosed, and often handsome, as represented by the Kashmiris and many high-caste people in the north and some in the south. [Sanjeev: there can hardly any statement more racist than this!]

Aryans and ‘aborigines’. The people of the short, dark type undoubtedly are the descendants of the older races who occupied the country before the tall, fair people came in. They are, therefore, often called aborigines to indicate that they represent the earliest or original inhabitants, so far as can be ascertained. Attempts, based chiefly upon philology, or the science of language, are sometimes made to distinguish races—Kolarian, Dravidian, and so forth—among these aborigines but with little success. The tall, fair people certainly came in from the north-west, and the earliest invaders of whom we know anything, the people of the Rigveda hymns, called themselves Arya, or kinsmen. Their blood may be assumed to flow in the veins of certain Brahmins and other classes at the present day, but it is mixed with strains derived from later invaders of similar physical type. The question of the original seat of the Aryan stock, one branch of which entered India from about 1500 B.C. or earlier, has given rise to many theories, which agree only in not being proved. It is, however, safe to say that the Aryan settlers in India were akin to the Persians or Iranians, and probably to many other races of Asia and Europe.

Indo-Aryans. These Aryan settlers in India are conveniently called Indo-Aryans to distinguish them from the continental Aryans on the other side of the passes. The Parsi or Persian colonies, whose ancestors, fleeing from Mohammedan persecution, reached Western India in the eighth century, may be regarded as Aryans of pure blood. The earliest settlements of the Vedic Indo-Aryans apparently were made in the Panjab, the ‘land of the five rivers’, or ‘of the seven rivers’, according to an ancient reckoning. Thence the strangers spread slowly over Northern India, advancing chiefly along the Ganges and Jumna, but making use also of the Indus route. One section seems to have moved eastwards along the base of the mountains into Mithili or Tirhut.

The distinctive Brahminical system was evolved, not in the Panjab, but in the upper Ganges valley in the Delhi region, between the Sutlaj and Jumna. Manu honours the small tract between the Sarasvati and Drishadvati rivers by the title of Brahmavarta, ‘the land of the gods’, giving the name of Brahmarshidesa, or ‘the land of divine sages’, to the larger region comprising Brahmavarta or Kurukehetra (Thanesar), with the addition of Matsya (Eastern Rajputana), Panchala (between the Ganges and Jumna), and Surasena (Mathura). When the treatise ascribed to Manu assumed its present shape, perhaps about 200 or earlier, the whole space between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas from sea to sea was acknowledged to be Aryvarta, the Aryan territory. The Indo-Aryan advance thus indicated must have been spread over many centuries. As they advanced the Aryans subdued, more or less completely, the ‘aborigines’, whom they called Dasyus or Dasas (slaves).

Southern expansion of the Indo-Aryans checked. The central forest barrier, or Mahakantara (ante, p. 4), long checked the Aryan advance towards the south, and, indeed, no large body of Aryan settlers can be proved to have passed it. But, in course of time, the ideas and customs of the Aryans spread all over India, even into lands where the people have little or no Aryan blood in their veins. Tradition credits the rishi Agastya with the introduction of Aryan Hindu institutions into the South.

Aryan languages. The Indo-Aryans spoke a language which in a later literary form became known as Sanskrit, and belonged to the same family as Persian, Latin, Greek, English, and many other Asiatic and European languages. From the early Indo-Aryan speech, Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, and other languages of Northern India have been evolved during the course of ages. But multitudes of people who are not Aryan by descent now speak Aryan languages. Community of language is no proof of community of blood.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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