Aryan invasion theory(AIT) is a hot topic for discussion in academia as well as politics and is a major source of conflict and identity theft in modern India. So it did not come as a surprise when Mallikarjun Kharge, one of the Congress MPs, used this argument in the parliament. It is not only used as a means to justify conversions out of Hinduism by Abrahamic missionaries but is also one of the prime driver of conflict between North and South India.
But what is AIT? It is a theory on the origin of Indians and Hindu religion outside India and was first propounded by the British in the 19th and 20th century. To study the AIT, it is important to understand the historical background and origin behind it. In the 18th century, there was a major drive in Europe to study India, Indian culture and its philosophy, following the discovery of sea route to India and the beginning of colonisation of India. The early 18th century was filled with Indophiles, who were astounded by the Indian philosophical and cultural richness. During this time, the study of Sanskrit became prominent in Europe, specially in UK and Germany. At that time, the linguists were amazed by the similarities between North Indian and European languages. The western works during this time were full of praises for India and its culture and as a civilisation.
However, by the end of the 19th century, India had fallen to the British rule due to infighting and lack of organised resistance to the invaders and the traitors who were more than willing to work with the British. This period then marks the departure from Indophilia towards Indophobia among the western intellectuals, who wanted to downplay all the achievements of Indian civilisation as any praise of such achievements would have resulted in kindling of nationalism among Indians. Also, such downplaying of Indian achievements meant that Indians could be convinced that India had nothing great to produce. It was under these circumstances and in the late 19th century that the Aryan Invasion Theory was propounded by the British by exploiting the similarities between Sanskrit and other European languages.
According to this theory, Indus valley civilisation(IVC) which existed from 3500 BC to 1500 BC ended by 1500 BC because of the invasion by a group of Nomads/Barbarians called Aryans, who came from Central Asia/Europe. The theory also claimed that the IVC was Dravidian and that the Dravidians were driven out of the Indus valley by Aryan nomads, who became the new rulers. The religion of Aryans (which consisted of worshipping Indra, Varuna, Vayu, Agni etc) and the religion of Dravidians (which involved worshipping of Shiva/Rudra and other deities in Hinduism) was born as a result of this mixture. It is worth noting that this whole premise was based on mere linguistic similarity between Sanskrit/North Indian Languages and the Europeans Languages. Linguistic similarity could have been possible with the North Indians migrating to Europe via Central Asia, but the western intellectuals, specially the British dismissed that possibility on the grounds that inferior Indians could not have been the migrants into Europe/Central Asia and could not have been the forefathers of Europeans. So the linguistic similarity between Sanskrit and the European languages was used as a point to posit that invasion of India took place from from Central Asia/Europe and not the other way round and the invaders i.e. Aryans brought their language/culture and religion to India. This should come as no surprise as 19th century was dominated by race based theories.
The politics of the British
1) Using this theory, British successfully sold the idea that the Indians had no say in their own culture and that their civilisation owes its origin to the invading Aryans who gave them the Vedas written in Sanskrit. This also was used as an excuse by the British to justify their invasion and colonisation of India on the grounds that Indians (Aryans) were themselves migrants/invaders into India and hence Britain can also invade India given that its inhabitants are not natives of India either. Also, it allowed British to convince gullible Indians that British and Indians were from the same race stock, except for the fact that the Aryan blood was impure in India due to inter-mixing with the Dravidians.
2) British also successfully convinced both the upper castes and lower castes on the validity of Aryan Invasion theory by playing them against each other. The upper castes, who by now were the predominant occupants of the Civil service posts under the British, were taught that they were related to British and Europeans since they are Aryans (unfortunately many upper castes and North Indians still hold this view) and are better than the lower caste Dravidians who got defeated. This also was an acceptable theory for the lower castes, who the British claimed were Dravidians, because the Dravidians saw themselves as the victim of the Upper caste Aryan Invasion and how their once glorious position as rulers of India was destroyed by the invading Aryans.
3) Note that this theory also served the British purpose of creating a divide among Indians along the North-South identity as the British claimed that North Indians were descendants of Aryans while the South Indians were Dravidians who were driven down south from the Indus valley. Beginning Max Muller, the original proponent of AIT, a lot of scholars tried but could not come up with any archaeological evidence that could prove such invasion or Aryans killing Dravidians. Since the western intellectuals controlled the narrative and scholarship on Sanskrit at that time, they interpreted verses on Rig Veda to support their AIT hypothesis, by quoting its verses on wars and conflicts, though there is no explicit mention of Aryans fighting Dravidians. In fact, the word Dravidian itself is derived from Sanskrit meaning South.
Since British were the masters of the divide and rule policy, they also came up with other race theories to suit their agenda, the most prominent being Martial Race Theory (MRT). The regions/races which supported British imperialism were awarded the high title of “Martial Race” to win their loyalty by creating false sense of superiority in certain races. It would take another complete article to show the political convenience behind MRT and debunk it but it is important to understand the similarities with AIT and depth of British imperial design to colonize Indian minds.
The current politics
Post departure of British the same theory has been used by the Indian politicians backed by the Marxist intelligentsia to discredit Hinduism and widen the fault lines existing in India. The direct impact of this politics can be seen in the following ways:
1) AIT has a direct impact on fuelling language antagonism which happens between north and south Indians on Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil and other south Indian languages. This Dravidian nationalism was stoked by the British in the late 19th century and was used to weaken the Indian nationalism as a whole. Many Dravidian parties of today were actually against independence and were active collaborators against Indian freedom movement. This trend continues even today with many Dravidian leaders covertly stoking separatist tendency in South India. The overt display of linguistic identities is only used to weaken the Hindu identity by invoking the politically convenient theory of AIT to back it.
2) AIT is used as a means for conversion in South India by the missionaries, who first de-linked South Indian Hindus from Hindusim by claiming that they are following the religion of their invaders and that they should convert to the one true faith from South India of Mr. Jesus, since Jesus was a South Indian who got stranded in Middle east. Even now, the Dravidian politicians of South India try to secularise Tamil, which as per Hindu myth was created by Agasthya under the auspices of Lord Shiva, by trying to change the Tamil new year from Chittirai 1, which is the Hindu new year, to Pongal- another Hindu festival but successfully secularised by the Dravidian politicians. This is one of the reasons behind Christians being 10% of Tamil Nadu and other southern states and growing at an alarming rate. Also, since Hinduism was seen as a religion of North Indians/Aryans, Dravidian politicians used it to justify their anti Hindu policies and politics like giving grants for missionaries, tax breaks for Christians and Churches while simultaneously trying to destroy Hindu temples through wanton neglect. The Christian missionaries now use it for further stroking division and disenfranchisement among South Indians and use it as a tool for conversion and breaking India. These Breaking India forces are working together to divide and balkanise India into a separate Christian country in the south in the name of Dravidistan.
3) The north is also reeling under the caste divide created and sustained by this theory. Many North Indians and upper castes from South India think that they are direct descendants of superior European Aryans as opposed to the lower castes who were defeated by these Aryans. This strange pride and loyalty towards invaders is only a result of their colonised minds. As the saying goes, the colonised people try to mimic the culture of their colonisers and would try to associate themselves with the colonisers instead of their native culture. This identity crisis is similar to Indian muslims, who in 90% of the cases have Indian ancestory and converted out of Hinduism but prefer to identify themselves with the likes of Abdali, Babur and other Muslim invaders responsible for converting their ancestors by sword and rape. Seen in this context AIT provides a pseudo-scientific explanation and another reason to upper caste bigots to justify their caste based superiority.
To summarize, AIT was used by the British as a convenient tool to create and sustain fault lines among Indians. The same theory is now used by Indian politicians; sometimes for creating rift among Hindus or for creating the North-South divide. Not only that, it is also used as a tool by the forces inimical to India to convert Hindus out of Hinduism by first de-linking them from Hinduism and then using them as a tool for balkanizing India. So, if there is any theory that can win the award for causing maximum damage to Indian interests, it will be AIT. Given the above political benefits and dominance of Marxist intelligentsia, this theory still finds many supporters and has not been rejected on the basis of new evidence in this field. The new evidences have only resulted in the change of goalposts and exposition of a milder version of the Aryan Invasion Theory called Aryan Migration Theory. Since this article has presented the politics behind this theory, it sets the stage for the next few articles in this series that will deal with providing evidence and debunking this theory in detail.