Indo-Aryan im/e-migration (scholarly debate)

Charles cponcet at IPROLINK.CH
Sat Mar 21 05:26:19 UTC 1998

Jan E.M. Houben wrote:
> I thank S Krishna <mahadevasiva at HOTMAIL.COM> for his discussion of the recent
> book by David Frawley and Georg Feuerstein which I could not yet see for
> myself; and Charles <cponcet at IPROLINK.CH> for asking some pertinent questions
> which force indologists to come out of their ivory tower.
> To quote from the latter's posting:
> >In other words, the somewhat "new age" or "let's all go to Kathmandu"
> style of the book should not disguise the value and the strenghth of
> their main point : the West may have been wrong - and stubbornly so - on
> a crucial part of the history of the sub continent, for more than a
> century.
>         The REAL questions are therefore :
>                 a) Are Frawley and Co right about this ?
>                 b) If they are, this should be spread all over the planet and
> people -
> scholars particularly - should junk the "Aryan invasion" fairy tale for
> ever.
> As an interested indologist NOT specializing in im/e-migration theories I would
> answer:
> the Aryan-Invasion theory in the strong sense of the term is not any more
> seriously defended by Indologists for the last so many decades (Edwin Bryant,
> am I right?). See for instance some remarks by Romila Thapar in "Archeological
> Background of the Agnicayana" in Agni (edited by F. Staal, Berkeley Univ.
> Press, 1983), vol. II p. 11. More recent statements questioning an Aryan
> Invasion in the strong sense of the term can be found in, for instance, The
> Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia (ed. by George Erdosy), Berlin/New York: de
> Gruyter, 1995. Elsewhere I wrote: "Earlier ideas associating the authors of the
> Rgvedic hymns with hordes of invading Aryas destroying the earlier Indus-
> civilisation have become obsolete, and scholars are searching for entirely
> different models to account for the linguistic shifts which must have taken
> place in these periods (e.g. Kuiper 1967a, 1991; Renfrew 1987). Rather, the
> Rgvedic Aryas should be seen as "a multitude of ethnic groups subscribing to a
> newly emerging ideology" (Erdosy 1995), for which Allchin proposed to use the
> term "acculturated Aryan" (Allchin 1995:43)."
> The last reference is to Allchin's Archeology of Early Historic South Asia: the
> emergence of cities and states, Cambridge Univ. Press 1995.
> In other words, my answer to Charles' REAL question (a) "Are Frawley and Co
> right about this ?" would be:
> They are combating an outdated theory which modern scholars do not take serious
> any more. They are positively wrong in suggesting that modern Indologists are
> still defending the very theories which Max Mueller and others suggested more
> than a century ago. The implication for REAL question (b) is clear.
> So what kind of view is current among modern scholars dealing with the problem?
> Allchin, as referred to above (p. 43), seems to make a reasonable statement:
> "we envisage a situation in which groups of Indo-Aryan speakers arrived in an
> area where another language or languages were prevalent, and living there for a
> period of interaction with the existing population, became involved in a
> process of acculturation."
> Now, what kind of argument can be presented to support the view that somehow
> Indo-Aryan speakers arrived in the Indian subcontinent? It is possible to
> demonstrate Galileo's and Copernicus's theories with three oranges representing
> sun, earth and moon. Is it possible to come with a simple formula to represent
> the arguments for insights as those of Allchin in an accessible way? To find
> such a formula would in my view be one of the purposes of a scholarly debate on
> the Indology list. Such formula would be helpful for "both parties" in the
> debate, as those arguing for Indo-Aryans originating in and moving out of India
> will know where to direct their attempts for refutation.
> And with proper discussions the good result for all would be that, in our
> attempt to understand what is utterly apratyakSa (coming or going of Aryans
> thousands of years ago), we have to look better at the numerous pieces of
> pratyakSa evidence (archeological, linguistic data) which have been
> insufficiently studied so far.
> JH
Dear JH,
It took me a while to read all the postings my questions generated.
I found your answer of March 17th particularly enlightening for a non
specialist in this field.
Thank you

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