Superficially, it may appear that the Aryan or Indo-European language speaker’s migration theory, whether correct or incorrect, is a serious attempt to understand our roots. We also can expect from such attempts that they are not prejudiced and marred with hidden agenda to prove some group of the people, speaking certain proto-languages, were superior over others. However, if we look at the history of last 200 years on this ever-boiling ‘homeland’ issue, we will eventually come to the conclusion that the motives of all the sides of this debate are racially and hence, politically motivated. The racial aspects those were prominent during the 19th century and early 20th century, now are changed to PIE language origins and the subsequent dispersals of its speakers, but underlying meaning clearly seems to be unchanged. The issue of Proto-Indo-European’s (PIE) homeland has been controversial since beginning, with no consensus on any as it simply is based on the artificial reconstruction of the so called IE languages.
It is not that all scholars agree with the linguistic reconstruction theories. Shaffer et al observed, “Historical linguistic scholars still assiduously attempting to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European language and attempting to link that language to a specific homeland, in order to define population migration away from the seminal geographical base.” 1
The problem with the scholars seems to be they have preconceived the necessity of the “single location origin” and have been building their theories eversince. To anyhow find the ‘original homeland’ of the PIE language speakers thus became basis of their quest to solve the assumed linguistic mysteries. Several original homelands have been proposed, migration maps have been drawn, and yet there is no agreement because they have not taken into the consideration that to cause ‘Net of the Languages’ original homeland of any particular people and their dispersals were not required. I have focused on this issue and after giving due consideration to the present homeland theories, have challenged “Single Location Origin” theories, based on the pre-history of the humanities and the languages.
Let us not forget that the history of languages begins minimum of 70,000 years ago. It is not as young as PIE theorists tend to believe. The history of human settlements, too, goes back many millenniums prior to the assumed dates of so called migrations of PIE language speakers. For history of the so called PIE languages, we cannot limit our search just as back as 2,000 BC to 7,000 BC but we need to go beyond that to the era when the faculty of the languages emerged in the remote ancestor of the modern human being. For millenniums, the ancestors, while on constant move in search of the food, with independent innovations and constant interactions, painfully, have developed the basic structures of the languages. Languages, even proto, were not independent, isolated innovations. Human being, with the invention of the agriculture, started settling down about 15,000 BC to 10,000 BC. Then, onwards, the people mostly have independently developed their languages and cultures, based on the accumulated wealth from the past, in different regions, wherever they had settled. The pastoral nomadic life, too, the scholars forget, was limited to the known territories, unless, some drastic circumstances forced some tribe/s to look for new habitats. Foragers long since had limited their roaming in the known territories, interacting with the almost same tribes, either as enemies or as friends. The roaming was intelligent and not aimless. He communicated, exchanged and learnt the innovations, whether linguistic or technologicsl. Rather, most of the settlements occurred in the known regions thus creating a net of the languages and cultures within the horizons of the earlier known regions. During this course inter-breeding within the tribes coming across most frequently were obvious. Thus using archeo-genetics to prove the “expansions” of some groups of the people occurred about 10,000 to 14,000 years ago, also cannot become the foundation of expansion/migration theories as well. The genetics, too, it would appear, to have been used to prove expansionist theories, but not to any avail.
If agreed to their suppositions, no matter which data they use to prove their theories, the vital question remains unanswered that why as yet they are unable to find the original homeland? Why so heated debates, sometimes reaching to undignified levels? In fact, Biblically motivated, supremacist European scholars, in an attempt to search their own idenitity in the hypothetical ancestors, located at some imaginary place, speaking the same language in its earliest form and their invasions/migrations to cause cultural and language spread after subjugating the natives, have given birth to this unending crazy quest of the original homeland!
Recently, taking a clue from the possible repercussions of the theory, Indian Vedicists, too, came forward with a big claim that India was the homeland of the Vedic Aryans. They do not stop here. They claim that the IE languages (and culture) did spread to the West with their outward movements! We can call this a kind of supremacist euphoric and half-baked counter attack on the European theorists of the same genre!
With the same purpose, while trying to prove the progenitors of the cultures across the regions wherever so called IE languages are spoken; these so called indigenous Aryan theorists have staked the big claim on IGC (Indus-Ghaggar Civilization) as well.2 Vedicists may not be far advanced in their own remote culture, but, it clearly seems, they are well advanced in their spurious attempts to steal heritages of the others!
The claims from both the sides, unbiased being a few, no matter how scholarly they twist the facts, no matter how they misinterpret the same evidence deriving opposite meanings sometimes, have only a problem that they are heavily influenced by the misconception of the single location origin. Linguistic science is often called as pseudo-science because it does not work like a mathematical model. It has lots of parametres as to how it would evolve and what many other unpredictable factors would affect its course.
Also, the debate overwhelmingly is centered on the horse-chariots, being a major basis of the debate, claimed to be an invention of PIE people. The migration route maps are drawn on that hypothesis based on early and late findings. Using the same data, surprisingly, indigenous Aryan theorists are now claiming that Vedic Aryans did not know spoke wheeled chariots, rather by ‘Ratha’, they could have been referring to wagons with solid wheels!3 The sole objective behind this somersault is to stretch back the timeline of the Rig Veda, pre-Harappan, to prove migrations of indigenous Vedic Aryans to adjust timeframes of other rich civilization, including IGC, and stake a claim on them as their authors.4 Otherwise, there cannot be any explanation to why the Vedicist scholars, previously waging a war to prove that IGC knew the spoke wheels and that horse too, was known to them, should change dramatically their stance? Similarly, we find how the geological explorations conducted at the Ghaggar channels and their findings have grossly been either neglected or shrewdly misrepresented to claim Ghaggar being lost river Saraswati of Rig Veda. This is the ridiculous way our modern Vedicist scholars are overworking, but not scientifically and honestly!
I have seriously challenged single location origin theories of languages, with new scientific proof in support, which clearly indicates that they do not fit into the picture of the history of humanities. Though the invasionists or migrationists have been claiming the Indo-European movement to India which, they assert, caused substantial impact on the Indian civilisation and languages, there simply are no archeological or literary proof to support such movements.
Kenoyer remarks from the archeological evidence that the genetic data derived from the burials of early and let Harappa indicates very limited biological discontinuities and can be attributed to the movement of the traders travelling from Iranian plateau and Indus Settlements. Such trade interactions are recorded from the earliest Neolithic period (+7,000 BC) through Harappan period. It does not at all indicate massive movement of the people. Scull measurement data, too, indicates that the burials of the Harappan period, too, have closest biological affinity with those of the late Harappan period. The archaeologists confirm, from the beads found in a bead pot in 1996, the technological innovations and change in trade networks and socioeconomic hierarchies in the late Harappan period. The glass industry was becoming prominent in this era (1,900 and 1,700 BC). There is conclusive proof that during this era, there was no interaction of Indus-Ghaggar people with Mesopotamia and Egypt, may be the trade with these civilisations had come to a halt because of the political upheavals. But the agreement is the Indus glass technology was an indigenous development. From the beads made of agate in late Harappan period till the early historic sites of Gangetic plains, it is suggested that this raw material (agate) could have been sourced from Central Deccan plateau or the Vindhya Mountain, thus suggesting a wider trade network within the subcontinent. In short, the continuity in the basic features of architectural traditions as well as in many technologies has been proven. The discontinuities reported by the archaeologists are the use of seals, weights and writing which only prove the changes in key technological and cultural features that were associated with the early Harappan period. Also, the biological evidence from Harappa does not indicate a significant change in population. 5
Senior archaeologist, B.B. Lal, who earlier was in favour of the Migration Theory, later changed his stance and started propagating the Indigenous Aryan Theory using the same proofs, though with some misinterpretations, that there was never any massive movement in India.6 Jim G. Shaffer and Diane A Lichtenstein, too, are not in favor of migration and call it a ‘myth’.7 Yes, we have to agree, in the absence of any archeological evidence, that there was no migration to India of so-called PIE speakers. But on the same grounds, with utmost certainty, we can state that there was no migration to the west from India as well! The way AIT/AMT theory is loaded with serious faults, Out of India theory too is not an exception, rather is more idiocratic!
Then, naturally, few questions will be raised, such as, where Rig Veda was composed? What relation they had with IGC or rather whether the culture reflected in Rig Veda can be compared with the culture of IGC? Can Rig Veda be pre-Harappan as some scholars tend to believe? Were the composers of Rig Veda part of IGC or was it composed elsewhere? If Rig Veda was composed elsewhere, how come that the Vedic religion found space in northern India, in the absence of migrating hoards of Aryans or branch of Indo-Iranians? Is the Ghaggar river Rig Vedic Saraswati? What relationship, geographical, linguistic as well religious, we can notice between Rig Veda and Avesta? And finally, were the Vedic Aryans indigenous? Well, I have tried to answer these and related questions in this book, as diligently as possible, based on the available proof and facts.
This book is not aimed at creating any controversy, but to bring reality to the notice of the readers and how the debate of origin has been fought ceaselessly to just prove a hypothesis which has no supportive strong evidence. Out of India or from Eurasia to India…both the theories have their vital shortcomings and sometimes loaded with deliberate misinterpretations which have made the comparatively simple issue very complicated. From central to south Asia, various civilisations have evolved, prospered till the time was favorable and collapsed because of the technological shifts, climate changes, political upheavals or cultural revolutions. “It is into the cultural area of Greater Iran that the mobile pastoralist speakers of early Indo-Iranian and Indo-Aryan entered. The sudden decline of all cultures of the area, from Mesopotamia to the Indus and from Bactria to Bahrain and Oman, at the beginning of the second millennium is suggestive, but it cannot simply be explained by an "invasion of Aryan hordes”. The situations in all areas concerned are to disparate and they also are geographically too distant (e.g. in Oman) as to allow such a simple, mono-causal explanation." 8 Thus states Michael Witzel. It will indicate that the migrationist scholars, too, are hesitant to attribute fall of the civilisations to the migrating nomadic, comparatively less civilized people. Rather, I have shown with the archeological proofs that BMAC culture was contemporary to the Zoroaster and composers of the Rig Veda. They weren’t new foreign cultural elements encroaching on an established civilisation but apparently were contemporary to it. They spoke the same dialects with regional variances and by and large its descendent languages are still spoken in these regions. There was no need of so called Proto-Indo-European speaker’s migrations to linguistically and culturally influence the already established civilisations. Rather, the development of the languages becomes complex and yet polished in the settled societies for want of their over grown socio commercial needs, rather than in nomadic society for their limited needs of expressions.
However, we can clearly see that the homeland quest was emerged out of racial egotisms. Trautmann had rightly remarked, “This is the theory that Indian civilization was formed by a big bang, caused by the light-skinned, Aryan, civilized invaders over dark skinned savage aboriginal Indians, and the formation of the caste system which bound two in a single society, at once mixed and segregated. If this theory were true, there aught to be evidence in the earliest Vedic texts.” 9 However, we shall see further in the book that there was no migration of Indo-Europeans in India or out of India, but what came to India was Vedic religion by way of the missionary activities.
Vedicist scholars have fallen to the supremacist notions of the European scholars this is why they too have jumped into the band-wagon of the homeland issue, just to prove their superiority over large Indian masses and even over the westerners! The identity crisis of the Vedicists is thus has become a serious issue. While searching for their roots, Vedicists are attempting to discredit non-Vedic masses from their glorious heritage on flimsy and sometimes fabricated grounds. Such attempts demands serious condemnation!
However, we can see from the opinions of various scholars that the migrations of the people from any direction are gradually being doubted, but still due to the psychological rigidity they possess, they do not want to abandon the outdated and unproven theory. This is why, though their observations and findings are almost correct, their conclusions and counter suggestions and unending arguments to find alternative explanations have become the main hurdle in concluding Aryan or PIE language controversy!
The supremacist views of the scholars thus have marred the spirit of honest cultural debate and search of the roots of civilisations. With all due respect to the scholars of the present and past, I have tried to throw light on the stark realities of the civilisations debated over so far to present new insights about our roots.
References and notes
1. “South Asian Archeology and the Myth of Indo-Aryan Invasions” by Jim G. Shaffer and Diane A. Lichtenstein in “The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History”, edited by Edwin Bryant, Laurie Patton, Pub. Routledge, 2005, page 93.
2. For this see “Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate” by Koenraad Elst, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1999. Also see “Rigveda: A Historical Analysis” by Shrikant G. Talageri, Aditya Prakashan, 2000 and “The Rigveda and the Avesta: The final Evidence” by same author, Aditya Prakashan, 2008.
3. “A Reply to Michael Witzel’s ‘Ein Fremdling im Rgveda’”, by Vishal Agarwal, published online on 11 August 2003. You will find many interesting aspects of the Vedicist views those even deny Vedic Aryans during Satapatha Brahmana era knew iron. The magical play with the term “syamaayasa”, (black metal, i.e. Iron.) has been made here to discard Witzel’s assumption that the Satapatha Brahmana being creation of the full-blown iron age. It is clear Agarwal wants to stretch back the period of this text to bronze age.
4. For example see, “Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate” by Koenraad Elst, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1999
5. “Culture changes during the Late Harappan period at Harappa: new insights on Vedic Aryan issue”, by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer in “The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History”, edited by Edwin Bryant, Laurie Patton, Pub. Routledge, 2005, page 31-40.
6. “Aryan Invasion of India- Perpetuation of a myth” by B. B. Lal, in “The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History”, edited by Edwin Bryant, Laurie Patton, Pub. Routledge, 2005, page 50-72.
7. “South Asian Archeology and the Myth of Indo-Aryan Invasions” by Jim G. Shaffer and Diane A. Lichtenstein in “The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History”, edited by Edwin Bryant, Laurie Patton, Pub. Routledge, 2005.
8. “The home of the Aryans” by Michael Witzel, available on line on http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/AryanHome.pdf, page 8.
9. ‘The Aryan Debate’ by Thomas R. Trautmann, pub.: Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 100.