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Director General (Retd.) Archaeological Survey of India
By B. B. LAL
• In 19th Cent. Max Muller dated Vedas to 1200 BCE on an ad hoc basis • Objections by scholars • Max Muller surrenders (Physical Religion, 1890): “Whether the Vedic hymns were composed in 1000 or 1500 or 2000 or 3000 BC, no power on earth will ever determine.” • Pity, some scholars still cling to 1200 BCE and dare not cross this Lakshamana 2 Rekha
TH E BAC KG ROUND OF TH E MYTH
• In 1920s Harappan Civilization was discovered and dated to 3rd mill. BCE on the basis of its contacts with West Asian civilization • Since the Vedas had already been dated, be it wrongly, to 1200 BCE, the Hara ppan C iv ili za tio n was decla re d to be Non-V edic . A nd s in ce th e only other ma jo r la nguage-g roup wa s th e Dravidian, it wa s readily ass umed that the Ha ra ppans we re a Dravid ianspeaking p eople . • In 1946 Wheeler discovered a fort at Harappa; and since the Aryan god Indra is mentioned in the Rigveda as puramdara, i.e. ‘destroyer of forts’, he declared that 3 Aryan In vaders dest royed Ha rappan
FALLACY IN WHEELER’S ARGUMENT
• In support of his ‘Invasion’ theory, Wheeler cited human skeletons at Mohenjo-daro (ibid.) • His interpretation is wrong; since the skeletons were found at diffe rent stratigraphic levels and could not, therefore, be related to an invasion. • No evidence whatsoever of invasion at any of the hundreds of Harappan sites. On the other hand, there is ample evidence of continuity of habitation, though marked by gradual cultural devolution. 4
• That no new peo ple at all arrived between 4500- 800 B CE , is duly established by a detailed study of human skeletal remains by Hemphill (in Harappa Excavations, 1991). • Thus, if there is no evidence of warfare nor of an alien people and their material culture, where is the case for any ‘invasi on ’, much less by A ryans?
CLA IM THAT HAR APP ANS WERE DRA VI DI ANSP EAKERS I S W RONG
• According to the ‘Aryan Invasion’ thesis, the Invading Aryans drove away the Dravidian-speaking Harappans to South India. • If there was any truth in it, one would find settlements of Harappan refugees in South India, but the re is not even a sin gle Harappan or e ven Harappa- rela ted setl lement i n 6 any of the Dravi di an -speaki ng
• Further , it is seen that even when new people occupy a land, the names of at least some places and rivers given by earlier people do continue. For example, in USA names of rivers like Missouri and Mississippi or of places like Chicago and Massachusetts given by earlier inhabitants do continue even after the European occupation. • But there is no Dravi di an ri ver/ pl ace- name in the enti re area once occupied by the Harappans, vi z. from the Indus to upper reaches of the Yamuna. • Al l tol d, ther ef ore, t here is no evi dence whatsoever for hol ding that Harappans were a Dr av idi an- speaking peopl e.
A BACK-DOOR ENTRY
• Having failed to establish ‘Aryan Invasion’, Romila Thapar (1988-91: 259-60) invokes mechanism of migration of ‘pastoral cattlebreeders’. • Toeing her line, R. S. Sharma (1999: 77) says: ‘the pastoralist came from Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex which saw the genesis of the culture of the Rigveda’.
• But can Sharma cite even a single site in India, east of the Indus – which was the main scene of the activity of the Rigvedic people – where remains of BMAC have been found ? • He cannot, since there i s none • Then why indul ge i n basel ess specul ati ons ?
ANOTHER BACK-DOOR ENTRY
• Possehl (1996:65) holds: ‘the speakers of Vedic Sanskrit came from elsewhere. This conclusion comes from .. Indo-European words for trees such as birch, Scotch pine, linden, alder and oak. These are plants from a temperate environment and the fact that their names are shared among the early languages of the family suggests a homeland in this environment.’ 10
• The Rigveda does not menti on any of the cold-climate trees referred to by Possehl. • On the contrary, al l tre es menti oned in the Ri gveda , e. g. Asvattha ( Fi cus Rel igi osa ), Nyagrodha ( Fi cus benghal ensi s ), etc. bel ong to tropi cal cl imate. 11
WITZEL’S ABORTIVE ATTEMPT
• In order to give a prop to the ‘Aryan Invasion’ theory, Witzel (1995: 320-21) deliberately mis-translates a part of Baudhayana Srautasutra (18.44) as follows: “ Ayu went eastwards. His people are the Kuru-Panchala and KasiVideha. This is the Ayava (migration). (His other people) st ayed a t home in the we st. His people are the Gandhari, Parsu and Aratta. This is the Amavasu group.”
• The correct translation would, therefore, be: ‘Ayu migrated eastwards. His people are the KuruPanchalas and Kasi-Videhas. Amavasu mig rated we stw ard s (a nd not s taye d b ack, as Witze l says) . His people are Gandhari, Parsu and Aratta.’ • In other words, the part ing took pla ce fr om an in terme diary regio n, betwe en Ga ndhara o n the we st and Kurukshetra on the e ast. T here is no questio n o f any k in d o f mig ratio n e astwa rds in to In dia fr om the we st.
WERE THEN HAR AP PA NS THE MS ELVES VEDI C AR YA NS ?
• If there was no ‘Aryan Invasion’ nor were the Harappans Dravidian-speaking people, could they themselves have been the Vedic Aryans ? • Against such an equation four objections have been raised, namely: - (i) Whereas the Vedic people were nomads, the Harappans were urbanites; - (ii) The Vedic people knew the horse, while the Harappans did not;
- (iii) Whereas the Vedic people used spoked wheels, the Harappans did not; - (iv) Finally, since according to Max Muller the Vedas were only as old as 1200 BCE and Harappan Civilization was of the 3rd mill. BCE, how can the two be equated, chronologically? • All t hese o bje ctions a re b asele ss. Briefl y: • Noma ds ? Vedic people lived settled life and constructed forts. In RV 10.101.8 the prayer is: “Oh g ods, make s tro ng fo rt s a s o f me tal. ” RV 4.30.20 mentions “hundred fo rt re ss es o f stone”. 23
• Trade was carried on even on seas …. RV 9.33.6: “O So ma, p our th ou fo rth fo ur se as fill ed wit h a thousand-fo ld riches.” The ships had sometimes as many as ‘a hundred o ars (s ataritra ) ’. • Vedic people had sabha s and samiti s and even a hierarchy of rulers: Sa mr at, Raja n and Raja ka s (RV 6.27.8 & 8.21.8). That these gradations were real is confirmed by Satapatha Brahmana (V.1.1.12-13): “By offering Rajasuya he becomes Raja and by Vajapeya, Samrat; the o ffic e of Raja is lo we r and of Samra t, hig her.” • Can we still call the Rigvedic people 24 ‘Noma ds’ ?
• The Horse. In his Mohenjo-daro Report, Mackay states: “The most interesting of model animals is one that I pe rsonal ly take to represent the horse. ” • Wheeler confirmed Mackay’s view. • Now a lot of new material has come to light: from Lothal, Surkotada, Kalibangan, etc. • Lothal has yielded a te rracotta 25 figure as we ll as faun al
• Reporting on the faunal remains from Sur kotada , the renowned international authority on horsebones, Sandor Bokonyi of Hungary, emphasized: “The occurrence of true horse ( Equus Cabal lu s L. ) w as evi denced by the enamel patter n of the up per and lower cheek an d teeth and b y the si ze and for m of the
• Spoked wheel . Though the hot and humid climate of India does not let wooden specimens survive, there are enough terrac otta model s of spoked wheel s, e. g. from Kal ib an gan , Rakhi garhi , Banawal i, etc.
Chro no logi cal Hori zon of the Vedas
• It is most crucial to ascertain the exact chronological horizon of the Vedas, since the 1200-BCE fatwa of Max Muller is at the root of the ‘Aryan Invasion’ theory • The mention of a shift of vernal equinox from Mrigasiras to Rohini in the Aitareya Brahmana has led many astronomers to assign this text to ca. 3500 BCE and thus the Vedas to 4th mill. BCE. I am incompetent to offer any comments, but would suggest that an international seminar be held on this topic to thrash it 31 out
• However, of immense help is the combined evidence of archaeology, geology, hydrology and radiocarbon-dating • In this context, the role of Rigvedic Sarasvati is vital. According to RV 10.75.5, it lay between Yamuna and Sutlej; and flowed from mountains to the sea (RV 7.95.2). It is identifiable with the GhaggarSarasvati combine which is now dry downstream from Sirsa.
• On Sarasvati’s bank stands Kalibangan, an important site of Harappan Civilization. • Hydrological investigations reveal that the site had to be abandoned because of the drying up of the Sarasvati – an event that took place because of rise of BataMarkanda Terrace in the Himalayas (Puri and Verma 1998). • It is interesting to note that the Panchavimsa Brahmana (XXV.10.16) too refers to the drying up of the Sarasvati. • Radiocarbon dates show that Kalibangan was abandoned around 2000 BCE. • Since the Sarasvati was a mighty flowing river during the Rigvedic times and it dried up around 2000 BCE, the Rig veda has to be dated t o a perio d prior to 200036 BCE.
• Since the Rigveda must be dated prior to 2000 BCE and, according to RV 10.75.5-6, the Rigvedic people occupied the area from the Ganga in the east to the Indus on the west, a question may straightaway be asked: ‘Archaeologically, which civilization flourished in this very area prior to 2000 BCE?’ The in escapable answer wil l have to b e: “t he Ha rappan”. • Hence a Vedic=Harappan equation. This would be further reinforced by a satisfactory decipherment of the Harappan script, which, however, still awaited.
• Now, even if Vedic people and Harappans were the same, were they indi genous ? The answer is “Y es”. • There is ampl e ar chaeol ogical evi dence to demonstr ate t hat the Har appan Ci vi liz ati on, whi ch at tai ned maturi ty in 3 rd mi ll. BCE , had its roots in 6 th mi ll . BCE. Some of the Carbon- 14 dat es from recent excavati ons at B hi rrana in t he Sarasv at i vall ey in m odern Haryana are: • 4536, 5041 & 6439 BC E. In other words, the Harappans w ere the ‘sons of t he soi l’. • Hence Vedi c peopl e too were “ indi genous ”.
THE EVIDENCE OF GENETICS
• A great deal of genetic research is being carried out which throws light on this issue and I quote here Sanghamitra Sahoo et al. (2006: 84348): “ The sharing of some Ychromosomal haplogroups between Indian and Central Asian populations is most parsimoniously explained by a deep, common ancestry between the two regions, with diffusion of some In dian-specific l in eages 41 nort hwa rd. ….
• … The Y-chromosomal data consistently suggest a largely South Asian origin for Indian caste communities and therefore argue against any major influx, from regions north and west of India, of people associated either with the development of agriculture or the spread of the Indo-Aryan language family.”
OSTRI CH-L IKE ATT IT UDE
• Seeing thou seeth not; knowing thou ignoreth. How long wouldst thou continue with this ostrichlike attitude ? Shouldn’t thou re-think and give the ‘Aryan Invasion’ theory a ceremonial burial ?
Overall Cultural Mosaic
• As would be seen from the map that follows, the Vedic Aryans occupied only the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent. • There were other cultural entities in other parts in 3rd mill. BCE. All these got intermingled later on in course of time and brought into being the composite Civilization.
• • • • • • • • • Hemphill, B. E., J. R. Lukacs and K. A. R. Kennedy. 1991. Biological Adaptations and Affinities of Bronze Age Harappans. In R. H. Meadow (ed.), Harappa Excavations 1986-1990, pp.137-82. Madison. Wisconsin: Prehistory Press. Muller, F. Max. 1890, reprint 1979. Physical Religion. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. Possehl, Gregory L. 1996. Indus Age: The Writing System. New Delhi: Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. Puri, V. M. K. and B. C. Verma. 1998. Glaciological and Geological Source of Vedic Sarasvati in the Himalayas, Itihas Darpan, Vol. IV, No. 2: 7-36. Sahoo, Sanghamitra, et al. 2006. A prehistory of Indian Y chromosomes: Evaluating demic diffusion scenarios. PNAS, Jan. 24, vol.103,no.4,843-848. Sharma, R. S. 1999. Advent of the Aryans in India. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers. Thapar, Romila. 1988-91. In Journal Asiatic Society of Bombay, vol. 64-66, pp. 259-60. Wheeler, R. E. M. 1947. Harappa 1946: The Defences and Cemetery R 37. Ancient India, 3;58-130. Witzel, Michael. 1995. Rigvedic History: poets, chieftains and polities. In George Erdosy (ed.). The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, pp. 307-52. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
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