Aryan Invasion Theory and Ambedkar

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Wed Nov 18 06:19:25 UTC 1998

On Thu, 12 Mar 1998 Edwin Bryant wrote:

<<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particular interpretation of the evidence, albeit an outdated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).>>

Those interested in the history of the Aryan invasion theory seem not to be
aware of the contribution  Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's views on the Aryan invasion
theory of the 1940s.   In his book, Who Were the Shudras? (1946), he has at
least three chapters directly related to the discussion of this issue. Not
being a Vedic scholar himself, he had studied available materials in English
and presented arguments against the version of the Aryan race/invasion theory
prevailing at that time. Here are some excerpts.

"What is however of particular importance is the opinion of Prof. Max Muller
on the question of the Aryan race. This is what he says on the subject:

        There is no Aryan race in blood; Aryan, in scientific language, is utterly
                inapplicable to race. It means language and nothing but language; and if we
        speak of Aryan race at all, we should know that it means no more than ...
Aryan   speech.

        I have declared again and again that if I say Aryas, I mean neither blood nor
        bones, nor hair nor skull; I meansimply those who speak an Aryan   that sense, and in that sense only, do I say that even the
blackest Hindus         represent an earlier stage of Aryan speech and thought than
the fairest     Scandinavians...To me, an ethnologist who speaks of Aryan race,
Aryan blood,    Aryan eyes and hair, is as great a sinner as a linguist who
speaks of a     dolichocephalic dictionary or a brachycephalic grammar....

The value of this view of Prof. Max Muller will be appreciated by those who
know that he was at one time a believer in the theory of Aryan race and was
largely responsible for the propagation of it."

In discussing the original home of Aryans, this is what he says of Mr. Tilak's
theory of Arctic origins of Aryans, "This is of course a very original theory.
There is only one point which seems to have been overlooked. The horse is a
favourite animal of the Vedic Aryans. It was most intimately connected with
their life and their religion. That the queens vied with one another to
copulate with the horse in the Ashvamedha Yajna shows what place the horse had
acquired in the life of the Vedic Aryans. Question is: was the horse to be
found in the Arctic region? If the answer is in the negative, the Arctic home
theory becomes very precarious."

"Take the premise about the Aryan race. The theory does not take account of
the possibility that the Aryan race in the physiological sense is one thing
and anAryan race in the philological sense quite different, and that it is
perfectly possible that the Aryan race, if there is one, in the physiological
sense may have its habitat in one place and that the Aryan race, in the
philological sense, in quite a different place."

Being a scholar on the phenomenon of caste and a fighter for its annihilation,
he sheds important light on the role played by caste in this issue. He says,
"The Aryan race theory is so absurd that it ought to have been dead long ago.
But far from being dead, the theory has a considerable hold upon the people.
There are two explanations which account for this phenomenon. The first
explanation is to be found in the support which the theory receives from
Brahmin scholars. This is a very strange phenomenon. As Hindus, they should
ordinarily show a dislike for the Aryan theory with its express avowal of the
superiority of the European races over the Asiatic races. But the Brahmin
scholar has not only no such aversion but he most willingly hails it. The
reasons are obvious. The Brahmin believes in the two-nation theory. He claims
to be the representative of the Aryan race and he regards the rest of the
Hindus as the descendants of the non-Aryans. The theory helps him to establish
his kinship with the European races and share their arrogance and their
superiority. He likes particularly that part of the theory which makes the
Aryan an invader and a conqueror of the non-Aryan native races. For it helps
him to maintain and justify his overlordship over the non-Brahmins."

This view may seem harsh towards Brahmins. But, that there is some truth in
what Ambedkar says seems to be supported by what Prof. M. M.  Deshpande said
as part of a lecture delivered in September at SMU in Dallas. Deshpande
narrated an anecdote in which when a Maharashtrian brahmin boy was enrolled in
the primary school, his father wrote in the application form  "Aryan" as the
racial affiliation of the boy.

Many of the arguments put forward by the present day proponents of Indigenous
Aryan thoery have been argued by Ambedkar in 1946. He discusses in separate
chapters, Shudras versus Aryans, Aryans against Aryans, and Shudras and Dasas.

I think it will be good if the Vedic scholars on the list review his findings
in light of the present interest in the topic.

S. Palaniappan

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