The Aryans (again); 19th century discourse.

Edwin Bryant ebryant at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Mon Dec 21 14:22:51 UTC 1998

On Wed, 16 Dec 1998, J. E. Llewellyn wrote:

> But then the idea of Aryan in Dayanand's usage still has something to do
> with migratory groups.  In the eighth chapter of _Satyarth Prakash_ Dayanand
> writes that humans first appeared in Tibet at the beginning of history.
> Then an argument developed between the good people (the Aryans) and the bad
> people (the Dasyus), and the Aryans were forced to migrate south into India.
This statement is the only comment I have encountered from Dayananda where
he engages directly with western scholarship, however vaguely, on the
Aryan issue.

> Lest you think that this is just the standard European scholarly theory
> about Aryan migration, but with a little bad geography thrown in, I should
> add that Dayanand goes on to bring up the theory that the Aryans migrated
> into India from Iran (a theory whose source he does not explicitly
> identify), but he responds, "This idea is entirely false."

I wonder if he is referring to William Jones, who held this view.  Muller
simply held "somewhere in Asia."  Before a 'European homeland' was
promoted by Gordon Latham around 1860, most scholars held that the
'homeland' was in the Pamir/Bactria area.

> In another place in _Satyarth Prakash_ at the beginning of the eleventh
> chapter, the term "Arya" occurs again, to refer to the people of India, who
> were the universal rulers of the ancient world, at least according to
> Dayanand.  Here again Dayanand insists that Aryans are just good people, but
> it is clear enough that he has a specific people in mind.  So, to make a
> long story short, the term "Arya" both is and is not a racial designation in
> the early discourse of the Arya Samaj.  How do you like them apples?

You are right. Dayananda seems to use the term culturally, and racially.
But there is no reference to Western Indologists. He seems to be operating
and engaging in a context exclusively composed of Sanskrit texts with no
reference of other types of pramANa (except for the comment on Iran, that
you noted above).  Even his comment that the Aryans once ruled the world
doesn't attempt to coopt the implication of the IE language connection or
reverse the logic of the IE linguistic argument, so to speak.  It is
simply based on a literal reading of Mahabharata statements.  Vivekananda
and Aurobindo, on the other hand, seem much more up on what Western
critical scholars were doing.

The question I have, accordingly, is why did Dayananda use the word 'Arya'
for his Samaj?  Was it a term that came spontaneously to him from his own
reading of Sanskrit texts, or was he picking up on the Aryan debates
raging in Europe (to which I can find no reference in his works)?  Best,
Edwin Bryant

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