Indo-Aryan migration vs Indigenous origin - scholarly debate

Charles cponcet at IPROLINK.CH
Mon Mar 16 04:41:59 UTC 1998

Bijoy Misra wrote:
> 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.
> Regards
> - 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
> >
Talking about scholarship and the sometimes inevitable overlap with
"political" issues, what do you guys make of the contention, recently
expressed in a book by David Frawley and Georg Feuerstein, that the
whole idea of an Aryan invasion is a western invention and that the
Indus civilization essentially disappeared because of a change in the
course of the Sarasvati river ? I found the book entertaining and well
argued, if at times a little manichean, because they too seem to discard
anything that won't fit with the point they want to make, but the
debunking of the "invasion" I found convincing because it does seem that
the alledged "invasion" was never proved by much, if anything.
Am I wrong ?
If Indology taught the Arian invasion for more than a century and if
that was wrong, shouldn't authoritative scholars in the field publish
papers acknowledging the mistake of their predecessors ?
Charles Poncet

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