Sunday, March 15, 2015

Indians, Indo-Europeans, languages and civilisations; Aryans and Others

Indians, Indo-Europeans, proto-Indo-European languages and civilisations

Aryans and Others


And at the end is an interesting article on Aryans and others by Prof Figueira on the subject, which becomes very relevant in India today when in the wake of majority in the parliament, with only 31% of votes, right-wing BJP leaders and their fanatic fringe outfits are trying to subordinate every other way of thinking, culture and language to their yoke. But for a crushing defeat in Delhi state  elections by Aam Adami party(Aap) led by Arvind Kejriwal, PM Modi and his party, especially its lunatic fringe would have made life miserable for many Indians, especially from minorities.


In the evolutionary ladder of governance, societies have moved up from the tribal model when the warrior chief, sometimes the head priest too, was the ruler. Security of the tribe and wars was their major preoccupation.


Then perhaps emerged city-states, kingdoms and after the tyranny of the elected and electable, real Democracy! This unfortunately is like the problem of a moving object. Never solved .In present times there are really no true democracies. The USA which Pres Obama claims as the oldest democracy is nothing but oligopoly in which, the corporate interests, led by military-industry complex decide who will be the next president, finance his election and then he is at their call whether it is Bush or Obama.


In India we do not even have a representative democracy because with percentage of votes of 31% only ,BJP has got a majority in the central Parliament .In India's largest state of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh rules with a majority after getting only 29% of the votes caste. I call them tyrannies because once a party gets elected; it keeps on using all unfair and fair means to get re-elected. Let that pass.


After the kingdoms and religion-based empires emerged, in Europe nation states based on some kind of common denominator, language, ethnicity, religion of people, etc came up .It was based on a common denominator. Never mind. It still persists. In creating language and common ancestry based nation states lots of myths have been created. To please the Turks, Kemal Ataturk, father of the secular Turkish republic had claimed that all languages emerged out of Turkish and Anatolia was the land of origin of the human race. Or something to this effect. Similar claims have been made by all nation states , beginning with Europe and elsewhere.


I made some study about the origin of Aryans, Indo-Europeans, proto-Indo-Europeans and their  languages, especially after my retirement from Turkey in 1996 and my stay there for more than year and half, where I found ample material at the British Institute of archaeology in Ankara. I have come to the conclusion that the terms, proto-Indo-European of proto-Indo-European languages from which all races and all similar languages have emerged is like finding a common denominator  ie taking bits and pieces from all tribes ,languages and cultures. A bit like defining the most fundamental particles in physics, mostly pure mathematics and speculation.


As for civilisations and culture, let me quote from my article on Eastern foundations of Western civilization, on Alexander, origins of western civilisation, Iliad and Odyssey etc                         

'How Alexander "the Great "has been glorified as a Western conqueror of the East.  He was a small town homosexual boy who was taught the intricacies of state protocol, running of an empire and the divinity of the emperor by older civilisations of Asia Minor, Egypt and Persia. If he had followed the advice of his teacher Aristotle and not learnt from the so called barbarians, his vision would have remained limited and shallow.  The desert Arab tribes were civilized by the Byzantine courtiers and princesses in Damascus and Sasanians from Persia in Iraq after being conquered by Muslim Arabs.  So were the nomad Central Asian Turks and Mongols (also by Chinese) by the Persians.   

As there was little comparable civilisation in Western Europe and certainly USA in pre Christian era, they claim that there civilisation, culture and thought originates from the Greeks of Aegean and Asia Minor (Turkey).  According to them, Greek civilisation and culture evolved and flourished in Crete and evolved when Greeks (pirates) coming from the Aegean islands settled on the west coast of Asia Minor (called Ionia-Yunani) .Therefore Minoan civilisation of Crete forms the basis of Greek and hence Western civilisation.  

 It is too simplistic and illogical, if not downright absurd. Why not Cyprus, Malta, Sicily?  At that time, there were flourishing civilisations in Egypt, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Persia, Sogdiana and India. Persian Empire extended up to western Turkish coast with Sardis as its outpost. Most Greek city states in Asia Minor were under the Persians, who could cross over the Dardanelles or the Bosporus at will or occupy Greek lands.  The first Greek victory over Persians is celebrated as Marathon race in sports.  The first victory of the West over East!  

Cretian civilisation is derived from Egyptian and Phoenician.  Both are indebted to Mesopotamian, verily the mother of all civilisations, which evolved mostly between Tigris in Euphrates in Iraq and southeast Turkey.  The evolution in human progress took off six millennia ago.  But fourth millennia BC was remarkable, not only in Mesopotamia but in the Nile valley and the Indus Valley. From family unit's polity developed into villages and cities, kingdoms and empires.  The cities were ruled by a god and in his name by the king.  To begin with, the first deity was Earth, Mother Goddess. Civilisations in Mesopotamia were created by Sumerians, Babylonians, Akkadians, Assyrians and others. Nile got cylindrical seals from Mesopotamia and the beginnings of writing.  The Nile civilisation is magnificent, well preserved but unidirectional and flourished in isolation, without the stimulus of exchange.  

If one studies the Egyptian or Pharoanic civilisation, much has been contributed to it by the Nubians of Upper Egypt.  Many Pharaoh's had thick lips and crinky hair.  Or La, Egyptians are bad enough and now to claim that the Sudanese might have influenced the Greek and hence the Western Judo-Hellenic Christian civilisation. Yes, after the development of civilisations in Mesopotamia and the Nile valley, it filtered to eastern Mediterranean, which became a cradle of civilisations, with exchange of ideas through trade and people. That is how the island of Crete acquired civilisation. 

The achievement of a civilization may be expressed in terms of its best points—moral and ethical, aesthetic, scientific, and, not least, literary. Legal theory flourished and was sophisticated. Early on, it was expressed in several collections of legal decisions, the so-called codes, of which the best-known and the earliest is the Code of Hammurabi.  Throughout these codes recurs the concern of the ruler for the weak, the widow, and the orphan.

There are 25 firsts achieved by Sumerians.  These include wheels, the plough, the loom, the potter's wheels, the brick, and the sail, working with metals and finally writing. Technical accomplishments were perfected in the building of amazingly accurate Ziggurats (temple towers resembling pyramids), with their huge bulk, and in irrigation, both in practical execution and in theoretical calculations.  At the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, an artificial stone often regarded as a forerunner of concrete was in use at Uruk (160 miles south-southeast of modern Baghdad); The ultimate weapon to spread civilisations remains systematic writing.  

Judaism, mother of all revealed Abrahmic religions in West Asia is claimed to be the first monotheistic religion.  But it could have been perhaps influenced by Avestan/Zoroastrian/ pre-Vedic religions in Mesopotamia. In 14th century BC it was an Aryan Mitanni (a kingdom at the borders of Turkey and Syria) princess Gilukhepa, perhaps the well known and famous Nefertiti, who fully supported her husband Pharaoh Akhenaton's (AmonhotepIV) efforts to bring in (and perhaps inspire) monotheism, for single God Aton (Sun or Mithra like!). This concept was too sudden and undermined the vested powers of the priests.  It was dislodged and soon after Akhenaton was removed from power.  New work in Egypt is moving in that direction.  It was from Egypt that Moses led the Hebrews out to lay the foundations of Judaism.  

Now let us take the story of Iliad and Odyssey. For Western culture and civilization, they are almost like Mahabharata and Ramayana are for India, making its author Homer one of the most influential authors in the widest sense. The two epics provided the basis for Greek education and culture throughout the classical age and formed the backbone of humane education down to the time of the Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity.  The Homeric epics had a profound impact on the Renaissance culture of Italy.  Since then the proliferation of translations has helped to make them the most important poems of the classical European tradition. 

Iliad was finalized probably around 750 BC and Odyssey 650 BC (Greek writing started around 650 BC).  It is felt that Odyssey, so different from Iliad was not composed by Homer, the blind bard born in Asia Minor, but probably by a young lady (a Jane Austin) somewhere on the Sicilian coast with time to spare.  Let that pass. But there certainly is historical basis for the story of abduction of Spartan King Manaus's wife Helen by Trojan Prince Paris.  Manaus's brother King Agamemnon of Achaeans, then decided on a voyage of punishment and retrieval. This is when strangely an artificial line, straits of Dardanelles, has been introduced by the Europeans to divide the world into East and West and the victory over Trojans is taken as of the west over East.  Why?  Later Alexander made offerings at Troy (also at Egyptian oasis Siva) before embarking on his conquest of Asia. Ottoman Sultan Fethi after conquering Constantinople also visited Troy.   

We need not go into the details of the two epics and Troy.  But in the search to find the exact place and the time of the events, credit might be given to Heinrich Schliemann.  Inspired by Iliad's description, he started digging at Troy site but damaged the real Troy.  He was a mythomaniac and big liar.  Paris's father King Priam King of Troy is an hour's walk on the Asian side from the Dardanelles.  This strategic site, controlling the sea borne trade from the Mediterranean and Aegean to the Black Sea and beyond has been inhabited since fourth millennium BC. Troy 6, site of Homer's Iliad has been dated to about 1260 BC.  

At the same time, there was the majestic and magnificent Asian Hittite Empire (1800 BC to 1200 BC) in central Turkey, whose capital Bogazkoy's citadel has a circumference of five kilometersThe Troy fortress measures 200 yards by 150 yards.  Excavations show that Troy perhaps fell as a result of weakening by an earthquake.  It was assaulted and set on fire, women and children taken as slaves.  Evidence from Hittite archives indicates that Troy was a small state in alliance or subordinate to it. It was attacked when the Hittite empire was in decline and fighting its new enemy the Assyrians in the East.  So all this 10 year long Great Trojan war drama was a storm in a tea cup in the ocean of Hittite Empire, which extended from north of Turkey to Syria and up to Babylon (Iraq.)  Hittites were contenders for the control of Syria with the Egyptian Pharaohs and local Aryan kingdom of Mitannis in Turkey and Syria.   

The regions linking the river basins of Euphrates and Tigris, Oxus and Jaxartes, Indus and Ganges have contributed more to religion, culture and civilisation than the rest of the world put together. Comprising of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and the Indian sub-continent, there has always been natural interaction in the area through travel, trade, migration and conquest for over five millennia, with many civilisations having also evolved and flourished in desert oasis.  The more civilized areas were dominated first by Indo-Europeans charioteers and then the horse riders from Asian Steppes who shaped the Eurasian history.  Aryans of India migrated from the steppes of north of the Black and Caspian Seas and Kazakhstan from 3rd to 1st millennia BC.  Later Turks and Mongols migrated from the eastern Asian steppes to the Indian sub-continent, Iran and Turkey then known as Asia Minor, where as mentioned earlier had evolved and flowered ancient Greek and Hellenic thought, culture and polity as a result of interaction of incoming Greeks with the existing Asian civilisations of Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, and India beyond.  Turkey has more Greek sites than Greece and more Roman monuments than Italy. 

With a continuous history this area has been the cradle of most civilizations, thought, philosophy and religions; pre-Vedic to Vedic religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Avestan, Zoroasterism, Manichaeism, Judaism, Christianity with its various strands and schisms, Islam and such bye-lanes as Alevis, Alawaites, Yezidis, Druzes and many others.  Indo-Iranian, Ural- Altaic and Semitic languages have mingled with each other and local languages to produce such a mosaic of languages and tongues.  Culturally, linguistically, ethnically and spiritually there is no region in the world which is so rich and diverse but also has so much in common. 

Let us now take western (hence Greek) philosophy, which begins with Thales (who predicted 585 BC solar eclipse). Thales who established the Miletian school (near Smyrna-Izmir, Turkey) speculated that everything consisted of liquid, his disciples Anaximander said there was unity behind multiplicity and Anaximanes that everything was vapour. They are considered spiritual forefathers of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.  By 6th century BC schools of Jain and Buddhist philosophy were well established apart from Upanishads, Yoga, Charakva and Sankhya, which have an even older tradition perhaps going back to 8th century BC.  While religion and philosophy in India are fused; Buddhism, Jainism and some other schools started as philosophy of life without creating or relying on Gods.  Socrates with his inner (intuitive) voice and trances with Plato made a team like Ramakrishna Paramhansa with Swami Vivekananda i.e. intuitive speculator and philosopher with his eloquent spokesman. We know about Socrates only from Plato' writings. 

The Orphic and Pythagorean and later Parmenides philosophy or cults are similar to Indian philosophy.  Perhaps the ideas had traveled via Alexandria, hub of eastern Mediterranean, then held in high regard as a place for learning and wisdom , where  Greeks and others used to congregate and learn. Ugarit port on the Syrian coast was another meeting place for traders, travelers and wise men from the west i.e. Cyprus, Crete etc and east i.e. Iraq, Persia and India beyond.  Greeks and Indians were employed in Susa, capital of the Persian Empire, which also ruled north India.  So exchange of ideas and philosophy was normal. Scylax, a Greek origin Persian subject from Asia minor was commanded by Emperor Darius to navigate river Indus from Kabul to its delta on the Arabian Sea, from whose records Herodotus and West learnt about India. 

Earlier Greek writings and thought had everything; logic, speculation, myths, mystery and beliefs.  It's a difficult to say when the divergence between East and West commenced.  And why? European rationalism and renaissance! Does it have something to do with the colder climate of Europe, which made them think more rationally and did not lend to development of intuitive powers.  We can see the divergence even in the evolution of Christianity, Western and Orthodox.  Western theology turns towards dualism making a distinction between the spirit and the matter. Eastern theology maintains that spirit and matter are the two interdependent manifestations of the same ultimate reality.  Christianity has been influenced by Mithraism (from pre-Vedic cult ), then very popular with Roman legions, senators and even Emperors who built Mithra temples all over central and east Europe and Asia Minor. Christmas is celebrated on 24 December eve, time of  Mithra's birth ( when the Sun starts waxing ).   

The divergence between conscious intuition of the East and rational thought of the West was perhaps complete after de la Carte announced  "I think therefore I am. ' Of course there's no place for intuition in this.  But many western scientists have declared that only intuition had led them to the discoveries of science.  Zen masters use Kaons, apparently illogical riddles, to unlock intuitive powers. West then took as faith Darwin's theory of evolution that mutations cause species to change at random and the fittest survives and not Lamarck's theory that species change because they make determined effort to change.  It has played havoc with human history. Survival of the fittest theory brought in colonialism, imperialism and cultural orientalism. West also evolved divisive nationalism, Marxism, capitalism, ideological totalitarianism.  For these causes and ideologies many scores of millions were butchered in, so far the most violent of all , the 20th century.  

As for Mahabharata and Bhagvad Geeta they could not have been composed in India before 1500 BC , because horses skeletons are found first in Frontier province of Pakistan of the subcontinent . Horses' natural and original habitat was the Eurasian steppes where they were first domesticated around 2500 BC and then used with chariots , evolved  perhaps in Khorasan area ie central Asia, Persia, Afghanistan etc.( More above)


 Let me also quote from my other articles on Indo Aryans or Indo-Iranians and cultural assimilation of Iran from which India has borrowed and which India refuses to acknowledge.


Old linkages between India and Iran
India's linkages and relations with Iran are ancient and almost umbilical. Not far from Iran's western border, around the junction of Turkey, Syria and Iraq in the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates, a chariot-riding Indian-Iranian military aristocracy, embedded among indigenous Hurrians, ruled its Mitanni kingdom between 1500 BC to 1200 BC. It used pre-Vedic Sanskrit phrases, worshipped common Daivya and Assura gods like Indira, Nasatya and Varuna, Mithra. The Mitannis had apparently separated from the main Aryan body, which after many centuries in the region of Amu and Syr Darya had moved on to Iran. Then after some acrimony there was a split into factions: Vedic with Daivya gods and Avestan with Assura gods, with the Vedic stream going on to the land of Sapt Sindhu, ie northwest India and beyond. On a theory based on linguistic, cultural, religious and other similarities, Iranian and Indian Aryans are, if not racial cousins, at least linguistic and cultural ones.

During the Muslim rule, Persians came as bureaucrats with the Turkish rulers in India and left a deep influence on Indian culture, civilization and languages; Hindustani, Urdu and Hindi. From Akbar's time, the Persians formed the majority of the Muslim Amir ul Umra, that is, courtiers and civil servants. To get in with Persian and its derivative Urdu as the language of the court and administration (even during the British era), even the Hindus took on some of their traits, like Moghului cuisine (Persian cuisine is the mother of most cuisines, except French and Chinese) and meat eating. Also adopted were a love of music and dance. Kayastahs dominated the civil services during the British rule.

Iran: A cradle of civilizations
Situated at the crossroads and itself a cradle of many great civilizations, Iran has exercised great civilizing influence since ancient times. Whosoever (King of Kings, Sahanshah in Darius's words, its Hindu equivalent being Maharajdhiraj) ruled what now constitutes Iran, they exercised great political and cultural influence not only in the neighborhood but also in far-off places.

During the classical Greek political and social evolution in western Asia Minor which Turkey was then called, the Persian Achaemenid dynasty had its satrapies and outposts on the Aegean coast, known as Ionia, from which the word Yunan for Greece entered the eastern lexicon. In 517 BC it was Persian Emperor Darius who ordered Scylax, his Greek subject from Caria (western Turkey) to survey the river Indus from Peshawar to its exit into the sea, part of his empire. And for the first time, the West became acquainted with India. Herodotus's chapters on Indian history were based on records of that exploration.

But Islam did not liberate the sophisticated and evolved Persians, deeply influenced by spiritual and speculative Avestan, its excessive rituals and love for the intoxicant soma having been curbed earlier by Zoroaster's reforms (Buddhism was a similar attempt against Brahmanical rituals and excesses in India around the same time). Then the Persians lost their language, Pehlavi, which emerged a few centuries later as Persian in modified Arabic script. Having been ruled by Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Tartars for eight-and-half centuries, there emerged the Sufi-origin Persian Safavids, who became finally masters of their own land, which more or less comprises present-day Iran. At the same time, to preserve their sect and survive, Iranians after centuries of foreign rule developed an uncanny ability not to bring to their lips what is on their minds, and have institutionalized it as takiyya, ie dissimulation.

They had modified simple Arab Islam into a more sophisticated and innovative Shi'ite branch, with the direct descent of Imam Ali's progeny from Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, echoing their deeply ingrained sense of the divinity of rulers. They strengthened (against the Arab caliphs and Turkish sultans) the status of the imams, who among more egalitarian Sunnis are no more than prayer leaders, in line with the Indian-Iranian tradition of placing priests higher than rulers (as are Brahmins in the Indian caste system). By tradition, Azeri (Turkish) speaking Iranians become chiefs of the armed forces. Ayatollah Ali Khameini is an Azeri speaking Iranian.

The status of the imam evolved into the doctrines of intercession and infallibility, ie, of the faqih/mutjahid. (Somewhat like Hindu shankracharyas and the fraternity of learned pandits). The speculative Aryan mind fused the mystic traditions into Sufi Islam, bringing out the best in Islamic mysticism and softening the rigors of austere and crusading Islam which had emerged from the barren sands of Arabia. There were unparalleled contributions by Rumi, Hafij, Attar, El-Ghazali, Firdaus, Nizami, El-Beruni, Omar Khayyam and others to Islamic philosophy and civilization. Their answer to interminable Islamic theological arguments on free will vs predetermination was that the opposites were the obverse and reverse sides of the divine mind, similar to the concepts in Hindu philosophy. Hindustani poetry, music, painting and architecture owe much to their Iranian cousins. Sufis played more than an equal role in the conversion to Islam of India as did the sword or material inducements. Sufi pirs are still as revered as Hindu or Sikh holy men in India.

Given below is the article by Prof Figuiera.


K.Gajendra Singh ,15 March, 2015,Delhi.

Aryans and Others

Written by Dorothy M Figueira | Updated: March 13, 2015 3:08 pm


The figure of the Aryan has captivated literary imagination in both India and the West since the classical era and provides a fitting subject of inquiry for comparatists who wish to examine its cross-cultural emplotment. However, from a solely literary perspective, identifying the Aryan is a challenging task, since the texts used to delineate this figure are elusive; they function as absent authorities, often evoked but rarely cited. Moreover, the Aryan is not just the figure that historians and linguists have sought to isolate, situate and follow in its migrations, but has also been the subject of myth-making. Myths regarding the Aryan have been wielded to deconstruct identity and construct new social forms. In my book, Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorising Authority through Myths of Identity, I examine how the Aryan myth is a shared myth in Europe and in India from the Enlightenment to the modern era.


My study begins by charting the initial discussions regarding the Aryan in the work of Voltaire and his quest for an Aryan urtext in the Ezour Vedam. Voltaire sought in Indiaa sophisticated culture as far removed as possible from that of the ancient Hebrews. In this respect, ancient India provided him with an alibi in the true sense of the term, an elsewhere upon which he could superimpose his critique of the Judeo-Christian tradition.


As canonical Sanskrit texts were gradually translated into European languages and disseminated, 19th-century mythographers sought to read the history of the Aryans through their myths. Aryan India was cut to fit the Romantic ideals of a revealed monotheism and the development of a people's unique character, and their gradual degeneration. With the appearance of Max Mueller's edition of the Rig Veda and his voluminous commentary, the Aryans were no longer merely Europe's distant cousins. Their textual presence finally confirmed the existence of a tradition as old as (if not older) than that of the Bible. In the West, this "discovery" of the Aryans through the Veda effectively displaced the Jews from their central position on the world stage. The Jews could now be assigned a subaltern role in history. For the remainder of the 19th century, this myth of the Aryan was employed to construct an ideal imaginary past for Europe. It fostered nationalism and, in the process, identified a mythic scapegoat in the figure of the Jew. The Jew and the Aryan would now become the operative dyad, as seen in the work of Nietzsche, Gobineau, H.S. Chamberlain, and finally in the ravings of Nazi ideologues.


At roughly the same time that the European Romantics were speculating about their imaginary Aryan ancestors, the Hindu reformer Raja Rammohan Roy was laying the foundation for the Brahmo Samaj with translations of Sanskrit scriptures into vernacular languages. In order to affect his reform, Rammohan Roy felt that this literature needed to be liberated from 

its Brahmin custodians. Toward this end, the raja sometimes even rewrote texts to depict an ideal Aryan past in which certain religious practices (such as idolatry and sati) did not exist. With his translations, he established rules for textual validity and corrected the excrescences that he felt had led to extreme practices. The raja's reform strategy was subsequently emulated by Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, who also sought to make Sanskrit canonical sources available to a wider rangeof believers by developing a series of interpretive strategies to extricate Vedic revelation from its hermeticism and ritualism. In order to portray the Aryans as sophisticated, Dayananda "translated" the Veda to show that they had knowledge of telegraphy and chemistry. The myth of the Aryan Golden Age promulgated by both these Hindu reform movements set the stage for the development of Hindu nationalism.


By the time of Tilak, an ideal portrait of the Aryan had been activated to foster nationalself-esteem. Like Dayananda, Tilak attributed to the Aryans knowledge of science and technology. As valiant survivors of an ice-age glacial catastrophe in the Arctic, the Aryans travelled from the North Pole to civilise the world. Tilak's Aryans were so advanced that they survived this migration and brought their considerable skills (and their scriptures) to the lands they invaded. Vivekananda would further develop this theme of racial and cultural superiority. Unlike other Indian reformers, Vivekananda did not limit his campaign to the domestic front but exported it abroad. It was before Californian and Chicagoan society matrons that he detailed his vision of an Aryan future grounded in a racialist argument. In this glorification, it was clear that the Brahmin descendants of the Aryans would be the only true beneficiaries of this myth-making.


Jyotirao Phule and B.R. Ambedkar, however, recognised that these various theories needed reinterpretation in order to locate the struggles of the oppressed castes within the historical perspective of the Aryan conquest of India. Phule began by revising the Aryan invasion theory to define culture by its subculture. He turned the myth of the Aryan back upon the elite, by taking just those strengths and virtues attributed to the Aryan by Western Orientalists and Brahmin reformers and transferring them to the lower castes. Instead of appealing to an Aryan Golden Age, Phule called for the reestablishment of an alternative mythical age — a non-Aryan Golden Age during the reign of King Bali. More importantly, by challenging the myth of a utopian Indian past, he introduced the new category of reason into the discussion.


Ambedkar began his mission where Phule left off. Ambedkar started by challenging the authority of the Veda as the source of Aryan identity. He called into question its canonicity and infallibility and rejected its racial portrayal of the Aryans. He also questioned textually based social reform that clearly served the needs of the privileged, lettered castes. Ambedkar concluded that all privileged-caste Hindu speculation regarding the Aryans was nothing but a strategy devised to support Brahmin superiority, justify their overlordship over non-Brahmins and satisfy Brahmin

arrogance. In their anti-Aryan polemics, both Phule and Ambedkar launched a radical attack on Hindu revivalism, codified as it was in the elite myth of the past.


Valorising the irrational in myth was (and is) symptomatic of the same disease that enables the irrational to flourish in politics. It is this "underside" of myth that my book examines: how Europeans and Indians deployed myths regarding the ancient Aryans in their various reform and nationalist projects. In both the East and the West, the resulting conclusions were, unfortunately, the same. If you did not possess Aryan blood, you could not be civilised and those peoples identified as non-Aryan "others" needed to be neutralised or even destroyed. Phule and Ambedkar saw the danger inherent in the Aryan myth, challenged it, and sought to debunk it.


If someone had told me when I was writing this book that its thesis would be relevanttoday, I would have been surprised. But as I assess the present situation, I am astonished by the degree to which its thesis resonates today. I never envisioned that the Aryan myth could be resuscitated so easily, as in those instances when the elected leader of a secular India discusses the genius of the ancient Indians having knowledge of plastic surgery, aeronautics and reproductive technology; or when, on a recent visit to New York, he praises the superiority of modern diasporic professional Indians. Are such recent claims to past and present Indian exceptionalism any different from those of Dayananda, Tilak, or Vivekananda? The myth of Indians inhabiting a Golden Age of technological and moral advancement is the same. It has its believers, as recent events have demonstrated. In light of this ongoing deployment of the Aryan myth, our task becomes clear. We must remember the work of Phule and Ambedkar, and look to their legatees to challenge this mythmaking and offer a counter-narrative.


Excerpted from the preface to 'Aryans, Jews ,Brahmins' (2015) published by Navayana. Figueira is professor of comparative literature at the University of Georgia, US.

First Published on: March 13, 201512:00 am


And India was never the cradle of Civilization, it was probably Mesopotamia. Harappa and Mohenjadaro were first major large civilizations. India was home to the first largest organized civilization. It was one of the first - not the first, never the only one. It is an ancient civilization, one of the older ones - not the first, never the only one. Please steer clear from such nationalistic views - look at it purely through a scientific lens.

about 15 hours ago ·   (0) ·   (0) ·  reply (0) · 


And even in languages, the classification is obsolete. Everyone these days speaks English, an Indo-European language. So really, the classifications are purely for identifying the origins, which in itself is also questionable because of the ease of how such languages may be adopted by other, so-called, outsiders. The hypotheses are extremely difficult to prove in a lab - look at English, are we all Anglo-Saxons? Or are the Anglo Saxons really Germans in disguise? And the Germans are East Europeans or Eurasians? So the origin is difficult to prove. Best stick to out of Africa theory - we're all Africans. Fact of life, deal with it. This includes the modern Europeans (also African origins).