Web         Gaudiya Discussions
Gaudiya Discussions Archive » MISCELLANEOUS
Copy-pastes that don't fit well into any of the other categories.

Aryans: race or culture? -

anAdi - Mon, 21 Mar 2005 15:52:33 +0530
by N.S. Rajaram

Part 1

The evidence of science now points to two basic conclusions: first, there was no Aryan invasion, and second, the Rigvedic people were already established in India no later than 4000 BC. How are we then to account for the continued presence of the Aryan invasion version of history in history books and encyclopedias even today? Some of the results - like Jha's decipherment of the Indus script - are relatively recent, and it is probably unrealistic to expect history books to reflect all the latest findings. But unfortunately, influential Indian historians and educators continue to resist all revisions and hold on to this racist creation - the Aryan invasion theory. Though there is now a tendency to treat the Aryan-Dravidian division as a linguistic phenomenon, its roots are decidedly racial and political, as we shall soon discover.

Speaking of the Aryan invasion theory, it would probably be an oversimplification to say: "Germans invented it, British used it," but not by much. The concept of the Aryans as a race and the associated idea of the 'Aryan nation' were very much a part of the ideology of German nationalism. For reasons known only to them, Indian educational authorities have continued to propagate this obsolete fiction that degrades and divides her people. They have allowed their political biases and career interests to take precedence over the education of children. They continue to propagate a version that has no scientific basis.

Before getting to the role played by German nationalism, it is useful first to take a brief look at what the word Arya does mean. After Hitler and the Nazi atrocities, most people, especially Europeans, are understandably reluctant to be reminded of the word. But that was a European crime; Indians had no part in it. The real Aryans have lived in India for thousands of years without committing anything remotely resembling the Nazi horrors. So there is no need to be diffident in examining the origins of the European misuse of the word. In any event, history demands it.

The first point to note is that the idea of the Aryans as foreigners who invaded India and destroyed the existing Harappan Civilization is a modern European invention; it receives no support whatsoever from Indian records - literary or archaeological. The same is true of the notion of the Aryans as a race; it finds no support in Indian literature or tradition. The word 'Arya' in Sanskrit means noble and never a race. In fact, the authoritative Sanskrit lexicon (c. 450 AD), the famous Amarakosa gives the following definition:

mahakula kulinarya sabhya sajjana sadhavah

An Arya is one who hails from a noble family, of gentle behavior and demeanor, good-natured and of righteous conduct
And the great epic Ramayana has a singularly eloquent expression describing Rama as: arya sarva samascaiva sadaiva priyadarsanah

Arya, who worked for the equality of all and was dear to everyone

The Rigveda also uses the word Arya something like thirty six times, but never to mean a race. The nearest to a definition that one can find in the Rigveda is probably:

praja arya jyotiragrah ... (Children of Arya are led by light)

RV, VII. 33.17

The word 'light' should be taken in the spiritual sense to mean enlightenment. The word Arya, according to those who originated the term, is to be used to describe those people who observed a code of conduct; people were Aryans or non-Aryans depending on whether or not they followed this code. This is made entirely clear in the Manudharma Shastra or the Manusmriti (X.43-45):

But in consequence of the omission of sacred rites, and of their not heeding the sages, the following people of the noble class [Arya Kshatriyas] have gradually sunk to the state of servants - the Paundrakas, Chodas, Dravidas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Shakhas, Paradhas, Pahlavas, Chinas, Kiratas and Daradas.

Two points about this list are worth noting: first, their fall from the Aryan fold had nothing to do with race, birth or nationality; it was due entirely to their failure to follow certain sacred rites. Second, the list includes people from all parts of India as well as a few neighboring countries like China and Persia (Pahlavas). Kambojas are from West Punjab, Yavanas from Afghanistan and beyond (not necessarily the Greeks) while Dravidas refers probably to people from the southwest of India and the South. Thus, the modern notion of an Aryan-Dravidian racial divide is contradicted by ancient records. We have it on the authority of Manu that the Dravidians were also part of the Aryan fold. Interestingly, so were the Chinese. Race never had anything to do with it until the Europeans adopted the ancient word to give expression to their nationalistic and other aspirations.
anAdi - Fri, 22 Apr 2005 18:52:09 +0530
Part 2

Julian Huxley, one of the leading biologists of the century, wrote as far back as 1939:

In 1848 the young German scholar Friedrich Max Müller (1823-1900) settled in Oxford, where he remained for the rest of his life. ... About 1853 he introduced into the English language the unlucky term Aryan as applied to a large group of languages. ...

Moreover, Max Müller threw another apple of discord. He introduced a proposition that is demonstrably false. He spoke not only of a definite Aryan language and its descendents, but also of a corresponding 'Aryan race'. The idea was rapidly taken up both in Germany and in England. It affected to some extent a certain number of the nationalistic and romantic writers, none of whom had any ethnological training. ...

In England and America the phrase 'Aryan race' has quite ceased to be used by writers with scientific knowledge, though it appears occasionally in political and propagandist literature. In Germany the idea of the 'Aryan' race found no more scientific support than in England. Nonetheless, it found able and very persistent literary advocates who made it very flattering to local vanity. It therefore spread, fostered by special conditions.

This should help settle the issue as far as its modern misuse is concerned. As far as ancient India is concerned, one may safely say that the word Arya denoted certain spiritual and humanistic values that defined her civilization. The entire Aryan civilization - the civilization of Vedic India - was driven and sustained by these values. The whole of ancient Indian literature: from the Vedas, the Brahmanas to the Puranas to the epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana can be seen as a record of the struggles of an ancient people to live up to the ideals defined by these values. Anyone regardless of birth, race or national origin could become Aryan by following this code of conduct. It was not something to be imposed upon others by the sword or by proseleytization. Viewed in this light, the whole notion of any 'Aryan invasion' is an absurdity. It is like talking about an 'invasion of scientific thinking'.