II. The Aryan Invasion Theory
The Vedas come to us “…in a language we have ceased to understand, a vocabulary which often, by the change of meaning to ancient terms, misleads most where it seems most easy & familiar, a scheme of symbols of which the key has been taken from us. Indians do not understand the Vedas at all; Europeans have systematised a gross misunderstanding of them.”1
One form – dangerous and harmful to the integrity and well-being of India – of this gross misunderstanding is the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) which has been imposed on the enslaved Indian mentality by motivated European scholarship. Behind this framing of the AIT the European scholarship had colonial, racial and Christian missionary motives. The AIT (with its accompanying trivialisation of the Veda) is still held sacred and revered by the Indian historical establishment and continues to be taught even today to Indian students in the officially prescribed history textbooks. Here, it is instructive and revealing to contrast the present continuing opacity of the Indian intellect with the penetrating and soul-stirring insight into the whole approach and motive of European scholarship powerfully expressed by Swami Vivekananda writing more than hundred years ago, “…what your European Pundits say about the Aryan’s swooping down from some foreign land, snatching away the lands of the aborigines and settling in India by exterminating them, is all pure nonsense, foolish talk! Strange, that our Indian scholars, too, say amen to them; and all these monstrous lies are being taught to our boys! This is very bad indeed.
I am an ignoramus myself; I do not pretend to any scholarship; but with the little that I understand, I strongly protested against these ideas at the Paris Congress. I have been talking with the Indian and European savants on the subject, and hope to raise many objections to this theory in detail, when time permits. And this I say to you – to our Pundits – also, ‘You are learned men, hunt up your old books and scriptures, please, and draw your own conclusions.’
Whenever the Europeans find an opportunity, they exterminate the aborigines and settle down in ease and comfort on their lands; and therefore they think the Aryans must have done the same! The Westerners would be considered wretched vagabonds if they lived in their native homes depending wholly on their own internal resources, and so they have to run wildly about the world seeking how they can feed upon the fat of the land of others by spoliation and slaughter; and therefore they conclude the Aryans must have done the same! But where is your proof? Guess-work? Then keep your fanciful guesses to yourselves!
In what Veda, in what Sukta, do you find that the Aryans came into India from a foreign country? Where do you get the idea that they slaughtered the wild aborigines? What do you gain by talking such nonsense?”2
Unfortunately, in India, the nonsense continues even after a hundred years and even in the present condition of humanity when “A genuinely global community of nations can and should only proceed on the basis of honest scholarship. Unmasking self-serving dishonesty in some areas of western or eastern scholarship is a service towards expediting the irreversible evolutionary process towards a genuinely united humanity.
To give one illuminating illustration, we might mention the nearly universal and quite uncritical acceptance by both Indian politicians and the generality of national and international academics, of the 19th Century myth of the ‘Aryan invasion of Dravidian India’ and of the arbitrary classification of the population into Aryan and Dravidian ethnic types. The damage inflicted on the political perceptions of the population poses a threat to the very integrity of India as a unique political and cultural entity. Witness the two most dominant political parties of Tamil Nadu, the DMK and the ANNA DMK (the ‘D’ standing for ‘Dravida’). They swallowed hook, line and sinker the shallow, ill-researched “findings” of 19th Century European indologists.”*
Footnote 1* A passage from a message entitled “Neo-Colonial Captive Minds” by Devan Nair, the former President of Singapore, posted to the egroup of the Educational Council on Indic Traditions (ECIT), http://www.infinityfoundation.com/ECITneocolonialframe.htm
In the light of these attacks on the very unity and integrity of the country, Swami Vivekananda’s call to our learned men to hunt up our old books and scriptures and draw their own conclusions assumes critical importance. It has not, however, been possible for Indian Pundits to do so because we have lost, nationally, the capacity to go behind the outer symbols and phrases to the real purport of the Vedic and Vedantic seers. Even those Indian Pundits – and they are still a minority – who have been able – as result of their own and other sympathetic occidental investigations and research in this field – to see the truth of all that constituted and was behind the AIT and free themselves from the hold of this pernicious doctrine are still not able at all to penetrate into the deeper meaning of the Veda and remain stuck into the grooves created by the European Vedic scholarship. This spiritual opacity of the Indian Intelligence is a great national loss as it has practically shut us off from the perennial source of the great vitality and creativity of our spiritual culture. According to Sri Aurobindo, “…the increasing intellectualisation of the Indian mind has been responsible for this great national loss. Our forefathers who discovered or received Vedic truth, did not arrive at it either by intellectual speculation or by logical reasoning. They attained it by actual & tangible experience in the spirit, – by spiritual & psychological observation, as we may say, & what they thus experienced, they understood by the instrumentality of the intuitive reason. But a time came when men felt an imperative need to give an account to themselves & to others of this supreme & immemorial Vedic truth in the terms of logic, in the language of intellectual ratiocination. For the maintenance of the intuitive reason as the ordinary instrument of knowledge demands as its basis an iron moral & intellectual discipline, a colossal disinterestedness of thinking, – otherwise the imagination and the wishes pollute the purity of its action, replace, dethrone it and wear flamboyantly its name & mask; Vedic knowledge begins to be lost & the practice of life & symbol based upon it are soon replaced by formalised action & unintelligent rite & ceremony. Without tapasya there can be no Veda. This was the course that the stream of thought followed among us, according to the sense of our Indian tradition. The capacity for tapasya belongs to the Golden Age of man’s fresh virility; it fades as humanity ages & the cycle takes its way towards the years that are of Iron, and with tapasya, the basis, divine knowledge, the superstructure, also collapses or dwindles. The place of truth is then taken by superstition, irrational error that takes its stand upon the place where truth lies buried builds its tawdry & fantastic palace of pleasure upon those concealed & consecrated foundations, & even uses the ruins of old truth as stones for its irregular building. But such an usurpation can never endure.”3
And yet – although, hopefully it is in its last phase before passing into oblivion – it still endures and all the discussion on the meaning of the Veda and the derivation of fantastic historical and other conclusions with flimsy support in certain passages in the Rigveda – which have nothing much to do with the history of even the outer forms of society and have been shown by Sri Aurobindo to have a much deeper spiritual import – is still common to most ancient Indian history books and even the classical and most prestigious eleven volume series edited by R.C. Majumdar entitled “The History and Culture of the Indian People”, which is considered to be the first history of India written exclusively by her own people, is not free from this taint. It is well therefore to get the ghost of the AIT off our back before making a serious attempt at the discovery of the secret truth of the Veda – and based on that the nature of the Vedic age – as it has found expression in the extensive writings of Sri Aurobindo on the Veda.
Fortunately, it is no longer a smooth sailing for such disastrous approaches at present, for, an opposition to such injurious handling of our past is increasing among the learned Indologists working in various branches of knowledge. For example, Sri K.Ramsubramanian of the IIT, Mumbai speaking on “The origin and Development of Mathematics in India”, at the Physics Colloquium of the BARC, Mumbai, on June 7, 2013, after describing in detail the sound Indian mathematical tradition starting from the period of Sulbasutras (800 B.C.), had the following to say in his concluding remarks, “…I would like to conclude with the words of Claude Alvares,a
All History is elaborate efforts in myth-making… If we must continue to live with myths, however, it is far better we choose to live with those of our own making rather than by those invented by others for their own purposes.
Making the students aware of the major achievements of their own civilization – particularly in their impressionable age – is likely to boost their self-confidence and self-esteem which are important ingredients in building nation.
That much at least we owe as an independent Society and Nation !!”
We cannot expect any good to come out of the myths about our past invented by those who show a lack of sympathy for Indian spiritual culture because they have no capacity for understanding it.
(To be continued…)
1. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo 17, pages 361-362
2. Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Mayawati Memorial Edition, Vol.5, pages 534-35
3. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo 17, pages 308-309