One of the most defining theories and at the same time, the most unscientific and divisive theories which was produced post Industrial Revolution is that of Aryan Invasion Theory. There were two aspects of it – Rig Vedic people invaded India from whatever location they are from(this place shuffled from Germany and Finland in the West to Kazakhstan in the east but it is decided that they were not from India. How did this theory help? It legitimized the British subjugation of India – after all, we followed our Aryan forefathers into India!! The second one is sample size. This needs no elaboration. Yesterday’s news of Indus Valley people eating cows and pigs is but one of the many in a chain of observations which were made with too little data to make any observable impact. In this case, the inference is made from 172 pot shards from 7 locations when Indus Valley has more than a 1000 inhabited sites and the largest of them having population as high as 50,000. For all it means, those shards can be from foreign quarters and there is no way for us to prove or disprove the statement.

When Indus Valley Civilization was discovered, one would expect that AIT would have been dealt a death blow. But, no!! The theory was twisted to prove that Indus Valley Civilization was actually destroyed by these barbarian Aryan hordes who crashed into India from across Khyber like the Turks and Huns after them. What’s the basis for this? Two isolated words – Purandara(destroyer of cities), an epithet of Indra and five bodies found on the roads of Mohenjodaro.

As time went by, in spite of the fact that proofs started emerging that Aryan Invasion is a fantasy, it took root in the minds of people and academics for two specific reasons – By declaring a section of India as subjugated and giving a name to the subjugated, it became a politically correct thing for vote bank politics – we are the original inhabitants of India who were subdued by the Aryan hordes represented by the Brahmin. On the other hand, Aryan Invasion discussion has outsourced the discussion of pre-history of India to Western Universities – a lucrative lifestyle indeed, and who would want to lose that source of easy money?

Now, there are a few fundamental issues in the way the theory is conceptualized, the most primary being – How does Aryan Invasion Theory fit into the grander picture.

While it is argued that Aryans marched from somewhere and came to India, and after coming to India, they destroyed everything here – it makes much sense for one to question what did they do till they reached India. Many questions arise when you expand the scope to outside India.

If Aryans are known to be brutal and barbaric enough to destroy one of the most advanced civilizations, what other civilizations do we know, that they destroyed? In fact, no proofs of wholesale slaughter are noticed in the areas inhabited by Botai culture which became extinct approximately the time Aryans reached there.

The general consensus is that these Aryans came from somewhere in Northern Caucasus. If so, why did they avoid the nearer Mesopotamian Civilizations and choose the distant Indus Valley? Or do we know they tried to fight the Mesopotamians but were badly defeated, the fleeing dregs entered India through an alternate route? If that’s the case, the Mesopotamians would have mentioned them, right?

Now, historically, we know that there are at least three kingdoms which took shape in Caucasus approximately at the same time when Aryans invaded India – Hittites, Mittani and Hykso. If Aryans were able to impose their language and culture over a distant India, why did the Hittite, Hykso and Mittani fare badly, even though they have the advantage of being close to their homelands? In fact, we would see that the ruling dynasty of Mittani spoke Sanskrit but wasn’t able to impose it’s culture on the local population, Hittites spoke a language nearer to Sanskrit and wasn’t even able to impose it’s culture(the only historic legacy of Hittites relevant to the modern world are some passages in Deuteronomy which are modelled upon Hittite military and vassal treaties), and Hykso is an even messed up case. They invaded a civilization as advanced as Indus Valley but were booted out in less than a century. They neither spoke Sanksrit nor an allied language to Sanskrit, they weren’t able to maintain their position and they disappeared into history like the other two. Under these observations, it makes one wonder how Aryans were able to do something which, in fact, no steppe nomad in all world history was able to do – subdue a superior civilization and impose their inferior and barbaric culture on vast swathes of land.

This further raises a question how Sanskrit or to be correct, it’s unknown ancestor Proto Indo European was able to spread over the whole of Eurasia West of Hexi Corridor but Hykso wasn’t able to replicate the same in Egypt and Africa.

This grander picture always raises some pertinent and unexpected questions. Another such is, when did the Silk Road form. Herodotus(c. 500 BC) wrote that there is a Silk Road and Silk is seen as far as Germany(Sapalli Tepe, Uzbekistan – 1700 BC and Halsatt, Germany – 800 BC). Now, what proof do we have of a new culture in that area? There is a difference in the technology and style of fabric used in two sites in Tarim basin – Qawrughul and Zaghunluq. Qawrughul is dated to 1800 BC and Zaghunluq to 1200 BC. There is another parameter involving Silk Road – the Indus Valley trade outpust of Shortugai in extreme North of Afghanistan. Now, if we consider that Khotanese jade made it’s appearance in China around 1700 BC and Afghan lapis lazuli not later than 800 BC and piece everything together, we would notice that by the time these Aryans came crashing through, there is already a well knit trade network linking lands as far as Harappa and Yangtze Valley, linking them with multiple population and industrial centres in the area. The advanced nature of the trade network can be simply established from the location of Shortugai. Now, if this is the case, two questions arise.

  1. All those who were dependent on trade in Central Asia, why did they not resist the invading Aryans? Logic says people migrate towards places with better opportunities. What will you get, destroying a trade network not dependent on a single node and stretching millions of sq km? Did they have the resources to clinically destroy that trade network? And then, why did they leave the Chinese branch of Silk Road and attack India?
  2. When Shortugai and other posts were breached and troops overwhelmed, one would be seeing BMAC and Indus Valley troops fleeing Afghanistan for safer territory. Bare minimum, you would have seen Khyber and other passes blocked and Indus Valley ready for a pitched battle. Where did the battles happen?

Now, one looking at this, one may want to ask, when we know Indus Valley traders are known to frequent Mesopotamia and Egypt all the time, and we even know of at least one Indus Valley village from Iraq(Guabba), why didn’t these traders or residents alert their home territories of a massive invasion which is wiping out civilizations everywhere? Weren’t they just north of Mesopotamia and didn’t they put an aggressive posture? Alternately, one may say it was the Mesopotamians who unleashed the Aryans on Indus Valley as we know of at least one invasion. If so, to achieve what?

On the other hand, we know that Elam, which bounded Indus Valley Civilization on the West was subdued by Mesopotamia(2100 BC) and there is at least one fight between Mesopotamia and Meluhha. Meluhha seems to have supported Elam in it’s fight with Rimush of Akkad. The closeness of the interaction between Elam and Meluhha can be noted from the fact that Linear Elamite, an undeciphered script contains Indus Valley characters.

In such a close knit polity where wars and trade is all too common, it begs one to question why Indus Valley didn’t receive information of an invasion starting from the Northern borders of these Mesopotamian kingdoms.

The etymology of the word Ustra(camel) is another interesting aspect which proves that Indus Valley studies are not in tune with contemporary global studies. In the Indus Valley studies, the word camel is not Indo-Aryan in origin. PIE studies call it to be derived from the unknown language of BMAC(uštra – ‘camel’) while Proto-Iranian studies derive it from ues meaning wet. This word transmorphed into ukṣan(bull), vṛṣan(male/human/animal) etc. If Aryans are Indians, it would mean that they would know about camel, however sparse the references are, right? But, using an unknown and unattested word from an unknown language when there is a valid alternate available, how correct would that be?

Another is the word for tiger. Tiger is not referred to in Rg Veda. Some proposed that the word Simha was originally used for tiger and some say, while Vyaghra or some other word relating to tiger is not there in Rg Veda, we have a Vyaghrapada in Rg Veda. And the absence of tiger is seen as a proof that Rg Veda is not compiled in India. Now, if I say, all paths to India are blocked by the areas which are inhabited by the Caspian Tiger(from Northern Turkey to Afghanistan), why didn’t Aryans mention about an animal which attacked them and which they hunted? The reference to tiger need not be for Royal Bengal Tiger. It can be a reference to Caspian Tiger or Siberian Tiger as well!! On the other hand, when we see Aryan gods having elephants as mounts, why don’t we know of any Aryan god riding a Bactrian Camel, the greatest animal in their homelands besides the Caspian Tiger?

May be, we need to look at Sanskrit itself? When we know that barbarian Aryans with their Sanskrit interacted heavily with their southern neighbours in Mesopotamia, you will see a considerable amount of lexical dependence between both the languages – either Sumerian or Akkadian on that of Sanskrit. In fact, it should be as similar as the differences between Telugu and Gondi or Savara, with Sanskrit being the equivalent to Gondi.

All these glaring gaps become visible only when you expand your area of research from the narrow territory on both the banks of Indus to a wider area. If you confine yourself to Indus Valley and not the surrounding territories, you wouldn’t know that Zebu cattle migrated out of India approximately at the same time the Aryans invaded Indus Valley. Are we saying Aryans invaded Indus Valley but Indus Valley cattle invaded Aryan lands? In fact, the presence of Zebu in that area can be looked upon as a compelling evidence over Indian origins of Mittani and Hittite. When we have Indian villages there, why not Indian adventurers carving out their kingdoms in the middle of nowhere?

Now, let’s turn our view towards India. Even here, things don’t stack up when we say there is an Aryan Invasion. Was Ahar-Banas culture also destroyed by the Aryans? If so, where are the ruins? Instead, we see a continuum between Indus Valley and Gangetic Plains based civilizations through Cemetery-H and other transitions.

Kasyapa Buddha is dated to 1800 BC according to Tibetan Culture. He is dated identical to Tonpa Shenrab, the founder of Bon – clearly indicating appropriation. Now, Olmo Lung Ring is where Tonpa Shenrab came from and some theorize that Olmo Lung Ring is actually Meluhha. The carnelian beads famous in Tibet and Indus Valley is another proof which points to that direction. Now, medieval Tibetan scholars wrote of their origins, a prince Rupati who fled Mahabharata with his men founded his kingdom there. Under the remote chance that Mahabharata is a romanticized version of Aryan Invasion, we can assume that the fleeing Indus Valley people established a retreat in Zhang Zhung. If so, what explains Zhang Zhung’s closeness with Tantrik Hinduism? How can carnelian beads and Aryan religion coexist?

These are all the questions which come to one’s mind if one expands his vision to include an area much wider than Indus Valley. Even if you don’t want to go deep into the topic, the fundamental principles defining geographical centre of gravity of a civilization itself should raise alarm.

  1. Temporal Plausibility: Homeland must be located in time consistent with broad dating of proto language.
  2. Exclusion principle: Homeland is unlikely to be located in area which is demonstrably non-Indo-European about the time of early Indo-European expansions.
  3. Relationship principle: The proposed dispersal of the Indo-Europeans must be broadly consistent with the essential elements of IndoEuropean phylogeny
  4. Total distribution principle: A homeland solution must address the dispersal of all the Indo-European stocks.
  5. Archaeological plausibility: There must be some form of visible cultural trajectory that offers some verification of any proposed solution.
    1. Archaeological evidence
    2. Physical anthropological evidence
    3. Genetic evidence

Looking at the principles, what do we have here?

  1. Let’s assume that Aryans are not from India.
  2. Let’s create an artificial proto language.
  3. Let’s build a model based on the distance between Harappa and some supposed centre of gravity of Aryan culture.
  4. Let’s fine-tune the model in such a way that all other migration waves fit into the model
  5. How do we substantiate our model? There is neither archaeological nor anthropological proofs. Let’s go for genetic proofs. Anyways, how many contemporary DNA samples can we get? If it fits our model, let’s accept it. Else, let’s reject it as an outlier.

In synopsis, this is the situation of Aryan Invasion Theory. It operates on the pre-condition that Aryans are not from India. When the outcome itself is considered as an assumption, what exactly are we inferring from the model except changing the location from Armenia to Anatolia to Pontic Steppes to anywhere else.

One would notice that you don’t need proofs to dismantle Aryan Invasion Theory. All you need is to identify gaps in the theory and question them – the wider your geographical area of consideration, the more the gaps you would get.

It’s not about whether a theory is correct or wrong. It’s more about whether a theory is plausible or not. And 3500 years hence, it makes zero sense for one to argue whether Aryans and Meluhhans are same or different – there is no one left in the world to claim the legacy of the Aryans in the contemporary world. However, the divisiveness using the unscientific Aryan Invasion Theory still continues.

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