I would like to add fuel to the raging fire over the origins of Indian civilisation and the question of an assumed Aryan migration from Central Asia around 1500 BC. This theory, and it is nothing more than that, has never been proven. Indeed, the only written source scholars have had to rely on for evidence is the Rigveda wherein there is no mention of any such migration. We have the words of a prominent western scholar to substantiate this fact. I quote from A Cultural History of India, by A. L. Basham, in which he includes a paper by Prof. T. Burrow, Sanskrit scholar and Fellow of Bailliol College, Oxford. Prof. Burrow writes,
‘The Aryans, whose presence in north-western India is documented by the Rigveda, had reached the territory they occupied through a migration, or rather, a succession of migrations, from outside the Indian subcontinent. The final stage of this migration cannot have been very far removed from the beginning of the composition of the Rigveda, but, at the same time, a sufficient period of time must have elapsed for any recollection of it to have disappeared, since the hymns contain no certain references to such an event. The Aryan invasion of India is recorded in no written document, and it cannot yet be traced archaeologically, but it is nonetheless firmly established as a historical fact on the basis of comparative philology.’ (p. 20. emphasis mine.)
Every Indian has the right to seriously question how it is that this unproven ‘theory’ with nothing but a fragile philological foundation to sustain it, dubious in the extreme, has come to displace any other concept of the origins of this ancient civilisation. And that this displacement is largely the work of a clutch of Indologists from abroad who were, it cannot be denied, a product of their age – i.e., the colonial period and the epoch which saw the rise of perverse brands of nationalism.
The recent article of a latter-day Indologist of this same school of thought, Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos (‘Feedback’, ‘An obscurantist argument’, Indian Express, 12.1.21993), forces us to re-examine the validity of this ‘theory’ and its consequences. This becomes necessary because of the disturbing challenges Zydenbos’ article throws up. It is an emotional outburst caused by an earlier piece carried in the same paper on 14 November 1992, by Navaratna S. Rajaram, entitled The Aryan Invasion is a European Myth. Interestingly, rather than disprove the points Rajaram makes regarding the European influences which helped fashion this ‘theory’, such as colonial compulsions and German nationalism, Dr Zydenbos’ outburst is an example of the very point made by Rajaram: namely, the theory is ‘circular argument’ which ends by being its own proof.
I have been studying this particular ‘theory’ in depth for a number of years, amazed at the ease with which so many bright Indian minds have accepted it unquestioningly. My approach is cosmological, an aspect of the Rigveda which has now taken its place in the debate. Dr Zydenbos appears singularly unscholarly and far too politically opinionated to successfully demolish Rajaram’s sober argument. On the other hand, he has done the public debate a great service by demonstrating that indeed the theory has become its own proof. This is also substantiated by Prof. Burrow when he states that there is no written or archaeological evidence of the migration.
In this vein, Zydenbos writes, ‘The linguistic evidence for the Indo-European origin of Sanskrit outside India is overwhelming. And it should be clear that languages do not migrate by themselves: people migrate and bring languages with them.’ Similarly, Prof. Burrow wrote, ‘The Indo-European languages, of which Sanskrit in its Vedic form is one of the oldest members, originated in Europe, and the only possible way by which a language belonging to this family could be carried all the way to India was a migration of the people speaking it…’ (Ibid, page 21, emphasis mine).
We learn from both these scholars that it is an indisputable ‘fact’ that Sanskrit arose in Europe and the Aryans brought it to the subcontinent in a series of migrations. At the same time, the oldest extant Sanskrit text does not help us one iota to confirm this ‘fact’. One is forced to question why Zydenbos is so incensed by this issue which has come to grip the Indian mind when the ‘overwhelming evidence’ he writes about is, in effect, a flimsy circular argument, to quote Rajaram: the theory serving as its own proof. With nothing but linguistics as ‘proof’, Indian and western scholars have the right and the duty to begin seriously questioning the premises of the origins of the civilisation. True, there is ample evidence of Sanskrit roots in European languages, but this is no proof that it was imported into India in 1500 BC. For who can determine the direction of the movement? Was it eastward from Europe, or westward from India? This, it seems obvious, is the only point to establish. And it is here that we encounter the most serious transgression of western-inspired scholarship. The nature of the problem not only involves oriental civilisations but western as well, as I shall demonstrate further on.
The only way that the European origin of Sanskrit can be ‘proven’ – and by consequence stand as ‘proof’ of an Aryan invasion which no ancient text in India upholds – is by establishing which civilisation was older. Hence, in order to support the Euro-centric model, it has been essential to fix the date of the Rigveda within a period which could accommodate a European historical time-frame. This has been done in spite of considerable proof to the contrary – namely, the astronomical content found in the Rigveda and which scholars prefer to ignore.
Recently, an article on this very subject appeared in the same paper, by the scientist B.G. Sidharth of the Birla Science Centre of Hyderabad. Sidharth’s astronomical discoveries in the Rigveda point to its composition around 7300 BC, rather than 1500 BC. He also cites archaeological evidence in support of his findings. Though Sidharth’s work does not establish the truth or falsehood of the ‘theory’, it is one more step in the direction of a valid understanding of the quality of that ancient civilisation, its advances in astronomy and cosmology, and its antiquity. Naturally, if Sidharth’s discoveries come to be accepted, the Indologists Eurocentrism is dealt a fatal blow.
In view of the new work being carried out by many scholars, including my own in cosmology which has also contributed to the debate, a reappraisal of the subject is imperative. But it is lamentable that anyone who steps out of the mainstream – i.e., the accepted circular argument – is labelled a ‘pseudo-scientist’; or else, to quote Zydenbos, an ‘obscurantist’, a ‘xenophobist’, and a ‘blatant racist’. And yet, these ‘authorities’ never cease to accuse the anti-establishment of a lack of traditional Hindu tolerance, while they themselves demonstrate nothing but biased, opinionated and motivated ‘scholarship’. Indeed, it hurts, and it hurts badly that India is finally waking up to this motivated scholastic hoax which the likes of Zydenbos have been inflicting on this nation for over a century.
Zydenbos goes even further. The concluding paragraphs of his article disclose a decided communal mentality, for he attempts to cram the healthy debate into the narrow confines of caste by stating, ‘…Only certain people in certain castes who identify themselves strongly with the Aryans and pride themselves on being “Aryan” more than on being Indian, and thereby stress their difference from (and assume superiority to) other Indians, have a problem (accepting the Aryan invasion theory).’
I am no Brahmin or even a native-born Indian. Yet I do indeed ‘have a problem’ with the theory, and I consider that it has done immense harm to the national psyche. I can also name a number of colleagues and enthusiasts over the debate, here and abroad, who are also non-Brahmins. Some belong to that suspect new class, the NRI’s (non-resident Indians, or Indians living abroad) which, as Zydenbos reveals in his jaundiced view, has become something of a dirty word (‘alienated NRI’s), perhaps after their enthusiastic participation in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad celebration in the USA of the Swami Vivekananda centenary. Zydenbos’ insidious attempt to categorise this healthy questioning as caste-inspired is to be deplored and condemned by all, and it certainly disqualifies Zydenbos from being considered a competent Indologist.
The need to establish the indigenous origins of Vedic civilisation is pertinent to all castes and all sections of contemporary Indian society. If I recall correctly, Rajaram in his article does not state that the Aryans were here ‘from the very beginning (they came from nowhere)’, as Zydenbos sarcastically imputes. What is debated is the roots of a civilisation rather than a race. Vedic civilisation, we are justified in assuming since there is no substantial evidence to the contrary, arose in what is known as Bharat Mata, an outcome of the vision and wisdom of the early Rishis, regardless where the original inhabitants many thousands of years ago may have come from. The important factor is the unbroken link with those origins, which India alone among all the nations in the world can boast of. And it is entirely reasonable that many Indians wish to have the misconception rectified because it is obvious that the notion of a total and complete import of the culture greatly facilitated the fragmentation of the nation by undermining the element that held it together in spirit throughout the ages. Its effects are ever-present and contributed earlier to produce Partition based on religious concepts which date back a mere millennium or so. What is sought to be reaffirmed is precisely that unbroken line which is truly secular and predates the combative and exclusivist religions and ideologies which are not as comfortable as Hinduism with an all-inclusive philosophy. If we wish to establish a secular culture in harmony with the spirit of the people, as that spirit truly is, true to itself and not a mimicry of others, we cannot continue to do violence to the Vedic origins of that spirit in the holy name of secularism and anti-communalism.
But our ideas of what divides and what unites are often bizarre. Indeed, so important was it to drill into the Indian mind this notion of invasion and migration, in the effort to divide and rule and to justify new invasions, that we have Prof. Burrow’s memorable statement, ‘…The culture which we find in the Rigveda was not developed in India, but in most essentials, imported already formed from outside.’ (Ibid, p.24.)
Can there be a better example of an insidious attempt to undermine the psychic foundations of a people? For if nothing is native to the land, then all are welcome to a piece of the pie; and indeed this has been the state of affairs for the past millennium. Zydenbos follows suit, by which we may safely conclude that the undermining continues unabated and even more virulently, perhaps as a last gasp before a definitive demise: ‘For a fundamentalist, however, history and time do not exist, and he accepts as real only the particular myth that serves his (usually political) goals. This myth can be constructed around a few pages ripped from the Bible or the Quran, or around a still more nebulous idea, like the Vedas as the “wellspring of our existence” on which Indian identity supposedly depends.’ (Emphasis mine)
And further, after equating the attempts to establish truth in place of falsehood with ‘the Blut and Boden ideology of Nazism, with its Aryan rhetoric’, he not only equates the Ayodhya demolition with Nazi attacks on synagogues (why not with the Moghul destruction of temples, or the Pakistani and Bangladeshi demolitions in the present?), he also throws venom-laced questions at the reader: ‘Why does he want to believe that the Indian identity is based on the Vedas, and that nobody ever questioned this?’
Naturally, prior to colonialism in India no one questioned this because it was a fact of the civilisation which did not require manipulation in the people’s minds until divide-and-rule became an imperative and Euro-centrism a persistent rampant disease. But interestingly, even in Europe and the USA the assumption of the Graeco-European supremacy is being ruthlessly attacked and will soon disintegrate. And scholars there are having as hard a time as their Indian counterparts in holding afloat an entire historical framework which is fast sinking due to the overwhelming weight of new discoveries disproving the old assumptions. I refer specifically to the recent evidence which has come to light, in spite of all attempts to disparage its discoverers and gloss over its import, on the age of the Sphinx at Giza. Recent discoveries involving weathering and erosion of the limestone used in its construction, compared to other monuments in the area known to be of more recent construction, suggest that the true age of the Sphinx is over 10,000 years, rather than the accepted estimate of four to five thousand years. The problem this discovery poses is that scholars cannot accept that a civilisation existed in such remote times capable of constructing such a colossus.
Naturally these scientific findings have been blasted by the academic establishment, often with the same degree of derision with which Zydenbos treats the Indian who enquires into the age and origin of his own pre-historic civilisation. Indeed, the problem the new date of the Sphinx throws up is precisely what I have alluded to regarding the necessity to place Vedic civilisation in a period which could accommodate Graeco-Roman-European civilisation. If these weathering/erosion data are accurate, the entire western historical framework is turned on its head.
No scholar who has built up a life’s work on a particular assumption can sit back idly and witness its demolition. Zydenbos is as susceptible to this despair as the rest of his colleagues, here and abroad. Indeed, perhaps this explains the highly emotional and unscholarly tone of his article when we consider that at risk is a life’s work threatened to be rendered meaningless.
It is important to mention Zydenbos’ reference to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as one of the ‘leading, respected Indian scholars’ who accept the idea of migration. Surely Zydenbos must be aware that Nehru cannot be considered an authority in the matter, nor would he himself have accepted the burden, and of the nature of Nehru’s educational background and that of most of India’s intellectual elite of the time, and even today. His mind was fashioned in England and prior to that in British colonial establishment. Hardly an Indian of the day escaped that fate. Even Sri Aurobindo, who dismantled the theory in his profound treatment of the Veda and emphasised the true ‘language’ of the Rigveda as initiatic, psycho-spiritual and not a historical account, did not escape this early conditioning. Indeed, it was such an indisputable fact of Indian intellectual life until a few years ago that Sri Aurobindo, though a non-believer in the theory, while not versed in the cosmology of the Veda, acceded that B. G. Tilak had a point when he concluded that the Aryans may have descended from the Arctic region, insofar as there are references in the hymns to a ‘six-month-day and six-month-night year’, which appears to describe the Arctic phenomenon.
The bewildering part is that none of the sages who know what that reference truly means spoke out on the matter but rather allowed this pointless debate to continue. The reference is to the ecliptic circle of 12 zodiacal signs which can be taken as one day of 24 hours, or a year of the same division, – i.e., six months of day and six months of night. It has nothing to do with an earthly phenomenon but a cosmological equation still used in astrological calculations throughout the world: one day equals one year. Our legitimate question is why did those knowledgeable of the meaning remain silent and leave the way open for types like Zydenbos to distort those truths so essential to the cultural integrity of the civilisation?
Perhaps the answer lies in the Vedic tradition of ‘not throwing pearls to swine’. These were ‘secrets’, rhasyam. They were reserved not to the Brahmin of birth but the Brahmin of realisation. Even today it is so. Anyone can access the hidden teachings, even those of low caste, and even foreigners; provided one has the realisation which liberates one from any such restrictions. Realised souls of the Vedic school – the only ones qualified to even attempt ‘interpretation’ of the Rigveda – are indeed ruthless in such matters. There is no pretence, no secular and temporal law which can force upon them acceptance of a person as one of ‘knowledge’ (in the true Vedic meaning), who does not possess this knowledge, Brahmin or otherwise. In this light, Zydenbos would perforce have to be slotted in the lowest rung of the scale simply because he demonstrates in his work that he has not undergone the rigours of Vedic disciplines which would grant him access to a knowledge contained in the Rigveda. He is trapped in the physical dimensions solely, and has no access to the more rarefied atmosphere of the spirit where one encounters the true keys of the innermost essence of the Veda. But to Europeans of the colonial age and their contemporary offspring, the hymns are simply a historical documentation of nature worshiping, war-mongering pagans. None have broken the code of the Veda and discovered its unsurpassable cosmic, philosophic and yogic content. If such a highly sophisticated and evolved consciousness existed in Europe and Central Asia in 1500 BC and earlier and was transported to the subcontinent whole and entire, I would be most interested in hearing about it. But we find no evidence there of this highest metaphysical and cosmological wisdom.
And as for Max Mueller, tenaciously defended by Zydenbos, who never visited India but nevertheless became the leading light of the movement, he was either a victim of his environment or a collaborator in the hoax. Either way, his work has not been entirely positive, in the wider perspective of the issues involved.
One can only breathe a sigh of relief that at last a new wave sweeps across Bharat Mata, carrying away the ruins of ideologies completely out of tune with the Indian soul and spirit. That such ideologies became rooted in Indian soil would not pose a problem provided the population had free access to other views. As it is, students must still be conditioned by Marxist/Leninist rhetoric and a strange mix of secular-liberal ideas which none are clear about, and which demand for their survival the sort of ‘theories’ the European Indologist advocates. An example is the work of the historian, Romila Thapur, whom Zydenbos holds in the highest esteem. Recently a leading magazine reprinted an essay Thapur published in 1985, entitled ‘Syndicated Hinduism’ in which she presents the view that the Bhakti movement arose as a result of the serf’s devotion to his feudal lord and was used to subjugate the lower classes! Thapur writes,
‘The emergence of Bhakti has been linked by some scholars to what have been described as the feudalising tendencies of the time and parallels have been drawn between the loyalty of the peasant to the feudal lord being comparable to the devotion of worshippers to the deity. The Bhakti emphasis on salvation through devotion to a deity and through the idea of karma and samsara was a convenient ideology for keeping subordinate groups under control.’
Thus the whole of history, ancient and new, is cast into the mould of a Marxist/Leninist framework and everything is assessed on the basis of this class struggle yardstick. No wonder the sages of yesterday and today keep silent. For when they do dare to speak, they are labelled communalists or fundamentalists, as Zydenbos has freely done. Veritably, the kaliyug is upon us!
Why must the Indian be made to feel inferior or out of step with the ‘civilised’ world if he wishes to discover the truth about the origins of his civilisation and refuses to go along with the hoax any longer? Why must he or she accept unquestioningly ‘theories’ which even those who propound them must admit are not sufficiently substantiated by adequate evidence to make them ‘indisputable’? The Euro-centric brainwashing has to end. Only then will the colonial age be buried, once and for all. But that is a prospect many fear and most combat. In the prophetic lines of Yeats, ‘…The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ are full of passionate intensity.’
Aeon Centre of Cosmology