Aryan Invasion Theory – Origins, Problems and Consequences

by Chaitanya Charan dasMay 1, 2014

Lecture Podcast

Problems with the Aryan invasion theory

(Adapted from A Survey of Hinduism by Klaus Klostermaier)

1. Unsubstantiated Linguistic Conjecture: The Aryan invasion theory is based purely on linguistic conjectures, which are unsubstantiated.

  1. 2.  Other kingdoms already in place: The supposed large-scale migrations of Aryan people in the second millennium bce first into western Asia and then into northern India (by 1500 bce) cannot be maintained in view of the established fact that the Hittites were in Anatolia already by 2200 bce and the Kassites and Mitanni had kings and dynasties by 1600 bce.

3. No reference in relevant literature: There is no hint of an invasion or of large-scale migration in the records of ancient India: neither in the Vedas, in Buddhist or Jain writings, nor in Tamil literature. The fauna and flora, the geography, and the climate described in the Ṛgveda are those of northern India.

4. Cultural continuity: There is a striking cultural continuity between the archaeological artifacts of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization and later phases of Indian culture: a continuity of religious ideas, arts, crafts, architecture, and system of weights and measures.

5. Archaeological similarity before and after the supposed invasion: The archaeological finds of Mehrgarh dated ca. 7000 bce (copper, cattle, barley) reveal a culture similar to that of the Vedic Indians. Contrary to former interpretations, the Ṛgveda reflects not a nomadic but an urban culture.

6. The missing horse is no longer missing: The Aryan invasion theory was based on the assumption that a nomadic people in possession of horses and chariots defeated an urban civilization that did not know horses and that horses are depicted only from the middle of the second millennium onward. Meanwhile archaeological remains of horses have been discovered in Harappan and pre-Harappan sites; drawings of horses have been found in Paleolithic caves in central India. Horse drawn war chariots are not typical for nomadic breeders but for urban civilizations.

7. Similar racial diversity in skeletons: The racial diversity found in skeletons in the cities of the Indus civilization is the same as in today’s India; there is no evidence of the coming of a new race.

8. Advanced astronomy: The astronomical references in the Ṛgveda are based on a Pleiades- Kṛttika calendar of ca. 2500 bce. Vedic astronomy and mathematics were well-developed sciences: these are not features of the culture of a nomadic people.

9. Destruction due to desertification, not invasion: The Indus cities were not destroyed by invaders but deserted by their inhabitants because of desertification of the area. Strabo (Geography XV.1.19) reports that Aristobulos had seen thousands of villages and towns deserted because the Indus had changed its course.

10. Advanced architecture prior to supposed invasion: Excavations in Dvaraka have led to the discovery of a site larger than Mohenjo Daro, dated ca. 1500 bce with architectural structures, use of iron, and a script halfway between Harappan and Brahmi. Dvaraka has been associated with Kṛishna and the end of the Vedic period.

11. Continuity in scripts: There is a continuity in the morphology of scripts: Harappan— Brahmi—Devanagari.

12. Long Puranic dynastic lists: The Puranic dynastic lists, with over 120 kings in one Vedic dynasty alone, date back to the third millennium bce. Greek accounts tell of Indian royal lists going back to the seventh millennium bce.

13. Vedic culture too advanced for nomads: The Ṛgveda shows an advanced and sophisticated culture, the product of a long development, “a civilization that could not have been delivered to India on horseback.”

14. Idea of a nationwide historical amnesia absurd: It would be strange indeed if the Vedic Indians had lost all recollection of such a momentous event as the Aryan invasion in supposedly relatively recent times—much more recent, for instance, than the migration of Abraham and his people, which is well attested and frequently referred to in the Hebrew Bible.


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Chaitanya Charan das

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