Myth of Aryan Invasion of India - Dr. David Frawley.

The Post-Colonial World

The Aryan Invasion Theory

Basis of the Aryan Invasion Theory

Aryan as Race or Language

The Development of the Aryan Invasion Idea

Mechanics of the Aryan Invasion

Harappan Civilization

Migration Rather than Invasion

The Rediscovery of the Sarasvati River

The Vedic Image of the Ocean

Horses, Chariots and Iron

Destroyers of Cities

Vedic and Indus Religions

The So-called Racial War in the Vedas

Vedic Peoples

The Aryan/Dravidian Divide

Vedic Kings and Empires

Vedic Astronomical Lore

Painted Grey Ware

Aryans in the Ancient Middle East

Indus Writing


Indian Civilization, an Indigenous Development

The New Model

Ancient History Revised

Political and Social Ramifications


Migration Rather than Invasion

Coming to the present time, given the facts that there was no destruction of Harappa and no evidence of any large scale migrations of people, the latest form of "the Aryans coming from the outside" (as for example, represented by Romila Thapar, who is a well-known Marxist historian generally opposed to Vedic culture) is of a gradual migration of small groups pastoral peoples during the same period of the second millennium BC.

It is now generally agreed that the decline of Harappan urbanism was due to environmental changes of various kinds, to political pressures and possible break in trading activities, and not to any invasion. Nor does the archaeological evidence register the likelihood of a massive migration from Iran into north-western India on such a scale as to overwhelm the existing cultures.

If invasion is discarded then the mechanisms of migrations and occasional contacts come into sharper focus. The migrations appear to have been of pastoral cattle-herders who are prominent in the Avesta and the Rig Veda.(*7)

From the ferocious Aryan hordes we have come down to mild pastoral migrants coming not with iron and chariots but only herds of cattle. This Aryan migration theory I call the "fourth birth of the Aryan invasion theory."

How small groups of pastoral migrants can accomplish changing the language of a subcontinent - which already had given birth to its own great civilization - and imposing their own culture and social system upon it, is highly improbable and almost absurd. An existent complex cultural order - such as ancient India indicates - can easily assimilate a few cattle herders moving in, but such groups cannot be given the credit to assimilate the whole culture of a subcontinent. Cattle-herders only expand their territory gradually, and are not hard for existent populations to resist. Nor were the Harappans without their own cattle. They had a long tradition of cattle-rearing and could hardly be overwhelmed by an outside entrance of new cattle-breeders, particularly of a more primitive nature.

The Aryan migration explanation is even weaker than the invasion theory. If such a migration was small and did not have any great impact on existing populations or leave any archeological record, as is the case, it could not have changed the region on the level of language either, which to reiterate is the hardest and slowest part of culture to change. If the culture and population of a region did not change, it is ridiculous to think that the language changed independently of these. The migration theory is merely the invasion theory on its death bed, but even it is a great improvement over the usual Aryans smashing Harappa scenario which has captured the imagination of so many people.

The propositions of time, place and people for the Aryan invasion has continually shifted as it has always been a theory in search of facts, not one based on anything solid. The only logical conclusion of the continual retreat of the Aryan invasion theory from a destructive invasion to a pastoral migration is the complete abandonment of it. The continual changes in the theory relative to the data which disproves it only shows the invalidity at its core. The Aryan invasion has gone from a bang to whimper and will soon fade out altogether.

Many things thought to have been Vedic and not Harappan, are now found to have existed in the Harappan culture. To preserve the Aryan invasion in the face of this evidence there are even a few scholars who would give credit to the pre-Aryans for most of what has been regarded as Vedic culture (like Shendge *8), including the Vedic Gods, the Brahmanical ritual, and most of the Vedic hymns, as well as all the Puranas - which are all claimed to have been stolen and retranslated from the indigenous people - even the caste system itself has been said to be pre-Aryan! In this instance the pre-Vedic people practiced the same rituals, chanted the same hymns as the Vedas, and were ruled by their own priestly class, except in a non-Indo-European language. This leads us to another absurdity. How could the Vedic people translate the entire pre-Vedic culture into their own massive and etymologically consistent corpus of literature and ritual when they themselves are said to have been illiterate, while the group whose culture they assumed in total could not preserve any literary record of their own!

For such scholars even the Vedas themselves are the invention of pre-Vedic people! While this radical fringe may not be taken seriously by other proponents of the invasion, such thinkers do have their point. Almost everything thought to be Harappan can be found in the Vedas. If there was an Aryan invasion it would have had to have taken over the existent culture in its entirety to account for this. Yet a more logical conclusion is there was no invasion and Vedic and Harappan culture were never really different. Such absurdities are unnecessary when we accept that the Vedic people were present in India from an early period and represent the civilization of the subcontinent going back to the pre-Harappan era.

Another recent view, which is also on the radical fringe that other invasion proponents may not accept either, that of Asko Parpola,(*9) claims that the struggles mentioned in the Vedas were not in India at all, but in Afghanistan between two different groups of Indo-Iranian peoples. Even if we accept this view, which contradicts all the others, it totally fails to explain how the Vedic culture ever came to India, which is left a total blank. If the Vedas show the conquest of an early Indo-Iranian culture in Afghanistan, what shows the conquest of India? Certainly the Puranas do not. Moreover Parpola's view is refuted by the many references to places and rivers in India, like Sarasvati, Indus and Yamuna, which are common in the Rig Veda. Yet his view is also based upon a valid point. The conflicts represented in the Vedas are between people of the same basic cultural group or inter-Aryan battles, including the Iranians. As Parpola has assumed the invasion theory to be true, the only place for such an inter-Aryan conflict is Afghanistan, not in non-Aryan India. However, if we give up the invasion theory there is no need for such far fetched views.