Indo-Aryan migration vs Indigenous origin - scholarly debate

Bijoy Misra bmisra at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sat Mar 14 14:03:32 UTC 1998

Dear Indology list members,
I have been following various discussions on this topic and
can understand the rudeness of the colonial researchers and
opinions of the natioalist scholars.  For persons from the
subcontinent, the topic does get emotional.

I seem to agree with Ed Bryant's views to create a scholarly
debate on the topic such that the evidences are presented
and defended.  A set of books/papers on a particular evidence
may be recommended for people to refer and express opinions.
As has been suggested one can take up a particular topic
for a couple of months, move on and revisit later.  The
material on the debate can be indexed and archived.

If this is agreeable, let the first ball roll..
We may begin with the evidence of outside origin on language.
Let a proponent enumerate and present.


- Bijoy Misra

On Thu, 12 Mar 1998, Edwin Bryant wrote:

> On Tue, 10 Mar 1998, Jan E.M. Houben wrote:
> > No answer was received on an earlier question by me whether there is a good
> > statement of the Aryans out of India view. I found references to a certain
> > Dhar, but I don't know the bibliographical details.
> There is no good comprehensive statement on the Indig. Aryan point of view
> (a distinction needs to be made between an out-of-India view, and an
> Indig. Aryan view as I noted in a previous posting).  Challenges to the
> theory go back at least to Dayananda, Vivekanada and Aurobindo (and I
> am sure that there is a plethora of reactions even earlier in Bengali
> and other non-English sources).  Statements may be in the form of passages
> inserted here and there in literature dedicated to other topics,
> or of articles or complete books focused on some aspect of this specific
> problem.
> The standard of these materials varies considerably and ranges
> from what most critical scholars would consider (and have often stated) to
> be blatantly biased and poor scholarship, to quite brilliant and
> penetrating insights that really do impel one to reconsider certain of
> one's own assumptions (in my opinion).  For example, Aurobindo's witty and
> scathing critique in "The Secret of the Veda" so many decades ago of the
> philological attempt to find racial references to the Aryan invasion in
> the Rigveda, (a theme which has been taken up by many Indian scholars over
> the years), has only very  recently been echoed in mainstream Western
> academic circles (see Trautman's 1997 book on the Aryans and British
> India, and also Hock's forthcoming paper "Through a Glass Darkly..." in
> the Michigan volume).
> In short, one has to plough through a lot of material to put a
> comprehensive Indigenous Aryan case together.  In my experience, one gains
> much if one is prepared to cull and extract useful and insightful comments
> even from the more blatantly biased or uncritical or 'unscholarly'
> publications rather than just rejecting them out of hand. I suggest that
> it is important to also bear in mind that many of these scholars in India
> do not have access to the same academic facilities and publications that
> we take so much for granted here in the West.  So most of these critiques
> lack the state-of-the-art minutiae in terms of details, but are still very
> relevant in questioning the basic assumptions and broad picture that some
> of us take so much for granted.
> > Any more suggestions for basic topics to be discussed (not to be solved)
> in the
> > month to be selected for a virtual sattra on Indo-Aryan Invasion, for instance
> > in May,  and for important relevant literature to be studied?
> Well, I'll try to think of some Indig. Aryan stuff that is of better
> quality as well as easily available if you all feel that this would be
> useful to this discussion.   You requested the biblio of
> L. Dhar's book "The Home of the Aryas",  Delhi  U. Pub, 1930 (not 1950 as
> I stated before) but the only copy of this in the US is in the NY public
> library, as I recall.  Anyway, for a decent start, K.D.Sethna's critique
> of Parpola's "The Coming of the Aryans to Iran and India and the Cultural
> and Ethnic Identity of the Dasas" in Supplement five of the
> second part of the *second* edition of his book "The Problem of Aryan
> Origins"  Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 1992 (not the 1980 first edition
> version) is a pretty good example of an Indig. Aryan critique of a
> particular interpretation of the evidence, albeit an outdated
> one--Parpola's article was published in Studia Orientalia, vol 64 1988:
> 195-265 (but bear in mind the time lag between much Western scholarship
> and it's arrival in, and the response to it from, parts of India).  Other
> parts of Sethna's book are much less convincing, of course, such as his
> attempt to identify a Harappan wheel in an iconographic symbol, but this
> does not negate all of his arguments (and that is part of the point I am
> making above). And the book is not polemical or political in tone.
> Regards,  Edwin Bryant

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