Indigenous Aryans

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The notion of Indigenous Aryans posits that speakers of Indo-Aryan languages are "indigenous" to the Indian subcontinent.

The "Indigenous Aryans" position may entail an Indian origin of Indo-European languages,[1] and in recent years, the concept has been increasingly conflated with an "Out of India" origin of the Indo-European language family. This contrasts with the accepted, mainstream model of Indo-Aryan migration which posits that Indo-Aryan tribes migrated to India from Central Asia—the Kurgan hypothesis.

Witzel (2006, p. 217) identifies three major types of revisionist scenario:

  1. a "mild" version that insists on the indigeneity of the Rigvedic Aryans to the North-Western region of Indian subcontinent in the tradition of Aurobindo and Dayananda;
  2. the "out of India" school that posits India as the Proto-Indo-European homeland, an idea revived by the Hindutva sympathizer Koenraad Elst (1999), and further popularized within Hindu nationalism by Shrikant Talageri (2000);
  3. the position that all the world's languages and civilizations derive from India, represented e.g. by the astrologist David Frawley.

Historiographical context

Indigenous Aryans is usually taken to imply that the people of the Harappan civilization were linguistically Indo-Aryans.[1] In any "Indigenous Aryan" scenario, speakers of Indo-European languages must have left India at some point prior to the 10th century BC, when first mention of Iranian peoples is made in Assyrian records, but likely before the 16th century BC, before the emergence of the Yaz culture which is often identified as a Proto-Iranian culture.[2]

Proponents of "indigenous Aryan" scenarios typically base their understanding on interpretations of the Rigveda, the oldest surviving Indo-Aryan text, which they date to the 3rd millennium BC (in some cases much earlier), in particular based on arguments in involving identifying the Sarasvati River with the Ghaggar-Hakra River and Harappan civilization, the supposed lack of genetic and archaeological evidence present to support invasion by "Indo-Aryan invaders" as postulated by the Aryan invasion theory, and sometimes archaeoastronomy.[3]

Political significance

Further information: Nationalism and ancient history

Repercussions of these divisions have reached Californian courts with the Californian Hindu textbook case, where according to the Times of India[4] historian and president of the Indian History Congress, Dwijendra Narayan Jha in a "crucial affidavit" to the Superior Court of California, "[g]iving a hint of the Aryan origin debate in India, [...] asked the court not to fall for the 'indigenous Aryan' claim since it has led to 'demonisation of Muslims and Christians as foreigners and to the near denial of the contributions of non-Hindus to Indian culture'".

Genetic studies

Further information: Indo-Aryan migration

Most genetic studies indicate that there are clear genetic differences between Indian castes and tribal populations. They support the notion that there was a massive influx of Indo-European migrants into the Indian subcontinent around 3,500 years before present.[5]

A recent study published in 2009 has provided substantial evidence that the North Indian gene pool also includes numerous Central Asian Y-chromosomal lineages, which include both R1 and R2: "The results revealed that a substantial part of today's North Indian paternal gene pool was contributed by Central Asian lineages who are Indo-European speakers, suggesting that extant Indian caste groups are primarily the descendants of Indo-European migrants."[6]

In another 2009 study, it was found that the modern Indian population is a result of admixture between Indo-European-speaking groups (ANI) and Dravidian-speaking groups (ASI). According to Reich et al. (2009): "It is tempting to assume that the population ancestral to ANI and CEU spoke 'Proto-Indo-European', which has been reconstructed as ancestral to both Sanskrit and European languages, although we cannot be certain without a date for ANI–ASI mixture."[7] Recent research indicates a massive admixture event between ANI-ASI populations 3500 to 1200 years ago.[8]

These conclusions are contested by a study headed by geneticists S. Sharma and E. Rai and colleagues from the group of R. N. K. Bamezai, National Centre of Applied Human Genetics of the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Claiming that the results showed "no consistent pattern of the exclusive presence and distribution of Y-haplogroups to distinguish the higher-most caste, Brahmins, from the lower-most ones, schedule castes and tribals," the study proposed "the autochthonous origin and tribal links of Indian Brahmins" as well as the origin of R1a1* in the Indian subcontinent.[9]

However, all the above studies were performed prior to the discovery of further defining sub-haplogroups within R1a1. Subsequent studies (e.g. Pamjav et al 2012) appear to suggest that Indian/ South Asian (Z-93) and European / West Eurasian (M-458 & Z-280) R1a1 groups are collateral "sister" branches rather having derived from one or another.[10] Moreover, all Indian samples fell within Z-93, whilst ~ 5% of the European samples bore the more ancient M-198*. However, the Indian groups were represented by Roma and Malaysian Indians; thus this was not an exchaustive sampling of Indian populations. Indeed, an overall Indian / south Asian origin for the R1a1 macro-haplogroup still appears probable given the diversity of related haplogroups found there - including R1a*, R2 and possibly P* (Sengupta 2006). Further population sampling, utilizing the new SNPs, will be able to further clarify the situation.

Pseudoscience and postmodernism

Further information: Hindutva and Integral humanism (India)

Nanda (2003) argues that the pseudoscience at the core of Hindu nationalism was unwittingly helped into being in the 1980s by the postmodernism embraced by Indian leftist "postcolonial theories" like Ashis Nandy and Vandana Shiva who rejected the universality of "Western" science and called for the "indigenous science" (Sokal 2006, p. 32). Nanda (2003, p. 72) explains how this relativization of "science" was employed by Hindutva ideologues during the 1998 to 2004 reign of the Bharatiya Janata Party:

"any traditional Hindu idea or practice, however obscure and irrational it might have been through its history, gets the honoric of "science" if it bears any resemblance at all, however remote, to an idea that is valued (even for the wrong reasons) in the West."

Criticism of the irrationality of such "Vedic science" is brushed aside by the notion that

"The idea of 'contradiction' is an imported one from the West in recent times by the Western-educated, since ‘Modern Science’ arbitrarily imagines that it only has the true knowledge and its methods are the only methods to gain knowledge, smacking of Semitic dogmatism in religion."(Mukhyananda 1997, pp. 94)

Witzel (2006, p. 204) traces the "indigenous Aryan" idea to the writings of Golwalkar and Savarkar. Golwalkar (1939) denied any immigration of "Aryans" to the subcontinent, stressing that all Hindus have always been "children of the soil", a notion Witzel compares to the blood and soil mysticism of Golwalkar's Nazi contemporaries. Since these ideas emerged on the brink of the internationalist and socially oriented Nehru-Gandhi government, they lay dormant for several decades, and only rose to prominence in the 1980s in conjunction with the relativist revisionism, most of the revisionist literature being published by the firms Voice of Dharma and Aditya Prakashan.

Bergunder (2004) likewise identifies Golwalkar as the originator of the "Indigenous Aryans" notion, and Goel's Voice of India as the instrument of its rise to notability:

The Aryan migration theory at first played no particular argumentative role in Hindu nationalism. [...] This impression of indifference changed, however, with Madhev Sadashiv Golwalkar (1906–1973), who from 1940 until his death was leader of the extremist paramilitary organization the Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh (RSS). [...] In contrast to many other of their openly offensive teachings, the Hindu nationalists did not seek to keep the question of the Aryan migration out of public discourses or to modify it; rather, efforts were made to help the theory of the indigenousness of the Hindus achieve public recognition. For this the initiative of the publisher Sita Ram Goel (b. 1921) was decisive. Goel may be considered one of the most radical, but at the same time also one of the most intellectual, of the Hindu nationalist ideologues. [...] Since 1981 Goel has run a publishing house named ‘Voice of India’ that is one of the few which publishes Hindu nationalist literature in English which at the same time makes a 'scientific' claim. Although no official connections exist, the books of 'Voice of India' — which are of outstanding typographical quality and are sold at a subsidized price — are widespread among the ranks of the leaders of the Sangh Parivar. [...] The increasing political influence of Hindu nationalism in the 1990s resulted in attempts to revise the Aryan migration theory also becoming known to the academic public.

See also


  1. ^ a b Bryant, Edwin (2001), The quest for the origins of Vedic culture: the Indo-Aryan migration debate, Oxford University Press, p. 6, ISBN 0-19-513777-9, "It must be stated immediately that there is an unavoidable corollary of an Indigenist position. If the Indo-Aryan languages did not come from outside South Asia, this necessarily entails that India was the original homeland of all the other Indo-European languages." 
  2. ^ See, e.g., Roman Ghirshman, L'Iran et la migration des Indo-aryens et des Iraniens (Leiden 1977). Cited by Carl .C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, Archeology and language: the case of the Bronze Age Indo-Iranians, in Laurie L. Patton & Edwin Bryant, Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History (Routledge 2005), p.162.
  3. ^ B.B. Lal (7 January 2002), The Homeland of Indo-European Languages and Culture: Some Thoughts, Delhi: Indian Council for Historical Research, archived from the original on 2004-12-29, "The shift of the “original homeland” from Sogdiana to a few hundred miles to the south - i.e. to the region now comprising eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-west India should not upset anyone, since the archaeological-cum-literary evidence from this area is more positive than that from Sogdiana." 
  4. ^ Mukul, Akshaya (9 September 2006). "US text row resolved by Indian". Times of India. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Zhao, Z.; Khan, F.; Borkar, M.; Herrera, R.; Agrawal, S. (2009). "Presence of three different paternal lineages among North Indians: A study of 560 Y chromosomes". Annals of Human Biology 36 (1): 46–59. doi:10.1080/03014460802558522. PMC 2755252. PMID 19058044.  edit
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Abstract/Presentation Search and Itinerary Planner". ICHG 2011. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  9. ^ Sharma, S.; Rai, E.; Sharma, P.; Jena, M.; Singh, S.; Darvishi, K.; Bhat, A. K.; Bhanwer, A. J. S.; Tiwari, P. K.; Bamezai, R. N. K. (2009). "The Indian origin of paternal haplogroup R1a1* substantiates the autochthonous origin of Brahmins and the caste system". Journal of Human Genetics 54 (1): 47–55. doi:10.1038/jhg.2008.2. PMID 19158816.  edit
  10. ^ Brief Communication: New Y-Chromosome Binary Markers Improve Phylogenetic Resolution Within Haplogroup R1a1. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 000:000–000 (2012).Horolma Pamjav,1
    • Tibor Fehe´ r,1
    Endre Ne´ meth,1 and Zsolt Pa´ da´ r


Literature discussing the "Indigenous Aryans" ideology
  • Bergunder, Michael Contested Past: Anti-Brahmanical and Hindu nationalist reconstructions of Indian prehistory, Historiographia Linguistica, Volume 31, Number 1, 2004, 59-104.
  • Bryant, Edwin (2001), The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture, Oxford University Press 
  • Bryant, Edwin, The indigenous Aryan debate, diss. Columbia University (1997). (abstract)
  • D. N. Jha, Against Communalising History, Social Scientist (1998).
  • S. Guha, Negotiating Evidence: History, Archaeology, and the Indus Civilization, Modern Asian Studies 39.2, Cambridge University Press (2005), 399-426.
  • Mallory, J.P. (1998), "A European Perspective on Indo-Europeans in Asia", in Mair, The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Peoples of Eastern and Central Asia, Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Study of Man 
  • Nanda, Meera (2003), Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India, Rutgers University Press, ISBN 0-8135-3358-9 
  • Nanda, Meera (January–March 2005), Response to my critics (PDF), Social Epistemology 19 (1): 147–191, doi:10.1080/02691720500084358. 
  • Parpola, Asko (1998), "Aryan Languages, Archaeological Cultures, and Sinkiang: Where Did Proto-Iranian Come into Being and How Did It Spread?", in Mair, The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Peoples of Eastern and Central Asia, Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Study of Man 
  • Sokal, Alan (2006), "Pseudoscience and Postmodernism: Antagonists or Fellow-Travelers?", in Fagan, Garrett, Archaeological Fantasies: How pseudoarchaeology misrepresents the past and misleads the public, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-30592-6 
  • Stephanie Jamison, Review of Laurie L. Patton & Edwin Bryant, The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History. (2005), Journal of Indo-European Studies, Vol. 34 (2006) copy courtesy of editor of JIES
  • Trautmann, Thomas (ed.), The Aryan Debate in India (2005) ISBN 0-19-566908-8.
  • S. Srikanta Sastri, "India - The Original Home of the Aryans" (1951) - Published in "The History and Culture of Indian People - Vol I" edited by R. C. Majumdar and brought out by Sri K. M. Munshi
  • Witzel, Michael (2006), "Rama's realm: Indocentric rewritings of early South Asian History", in Fagan, Garrett, Archaeological Fantasies: How pseudoarchaeology misrepresents the past and misleads the public, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-30592-6 
Literature by "Indigenous Aryans" proponents
Further information: Voice of India

External links