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


The Aryan/Dravidian Divide

The languages of South India are Dravidian, which is a different linguistic group than the Indo-European languages of the North of the subcontinent. The two groups of languages have many different root words (though a number in common we might add), and above all a different grammatical structure, the Dravidian being agglutinative and the Indo-European being inflected. Dravidian languages possess a very old history of their own, which their legends, the Tamil Sangha literature, show a history in South India and Sri Lanka dating back over five thousand years.

Along with the difference of language there is a difference of skin color from north to south of India, with the southerners being darker in skin color (though northerners are hardly light in color by Western standards, with the exception of some people of the far northwest). Though a less pronounced difference than that of language it has been lumped together along with it again assuming that race and language must be the same.

The Aryan invasion theory has been used to explain both the linguistic and racial differences between the peoples of North and South India, and such differences have been put forth as "proof" of the invasion (as if no other explanation were possible). As the Aryans were made into a race, so were the Dravidians and the Aryan/Dravidian divide was turned into a racial war, the Aryan invaders versus the indigenous Dravidians of Harappa and Mohenjodaro. By this view the Vedic people promoted the superiority of their race and language and simply drove away those of different races or languages. We have already discussed how Sanskrit Aryan is never a racial term but a title of respect. Even the Dravidian kings called themselves Aryan. Nor is there anything in Vedic literature that places the Dravidians outside of the greater Vedic culture and ancestry. Hence to place Aryan against Dravidian as terms is itself a misuse of language. Be that as it may, the Aryan and Dravidian divide has also failed to prove itself.

Now it has been determined that there is no such thing scientifically speaking as Aryan and Dravidian races. The so-called Aryans and Dravidian races of India are members of the same Mediterranean branch of the Caucasian race, which prevailed in the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Sumeria and is still the main group in the Mediterranean area, North Africa, and the Middle East. The Caucasian race is not simply white but also contains dark skinned types. Skin color and race is another nineteenth century idea that has been recently discarded.

Darker skin color is commonly found in peoples living in more southern regions and appears as an adjustment mechanism to hotter climates and greater sunshine. For example southern Europeans are darker in skin color than northern Europeans, though they are not a different race because of this. This suggests that the Dravidian branch of the Mediterranean race must have lived in South India for some thousands of years to make this adjustment, and the same thing could be said of the people of North India as well if we would make them originally light-skinned invaders from the north.

The issue of language is similarly more complex. It is now known that Dravidian languages, with their agglutinative patterns, share common traits and are of the same broad linguistic group as such Asian and East European languages as Finnish, Hungarian, old Bulgarian, Turkish, Mongolian and Japanese, the Finno-Ugric and Ural-Altaic branches of languages. As the common point between these groups lies in Central Asia some scholars have recently proposed that the Dravidian peoples originally came from this region.

The same linguistic speculation that led to the Aryan invasion theory has following the same logic required a "Dravidian invasion." Not only are the Dravidians like the Aryans styled invaders into India, they took the same route as the Aryans. The city-state of Elam in southwest Iran, east of Sumeria, which had a high civilization throughout the ancient period, shows an agglutinative structure like the Dravidian, as does possibly the Sumerian itself. This would place Dravidian type languages in Iran as well. Thereby the Dravidians, just like the Aryans, would have migrated (again the reason for which is not clear) from Central Asia and into Iran, with one group moving west to Mesopotamia and the other, apparently larger group, going east into India. Later the invading Aryans are said to have forced the Dravidians to move to the south of the country from their original homeland on the Indus and Sarasvati rivers. (However, we have already noted that there is no evidence of such migrations, nor of any Dravidian references to the Sarasvati like those of the Vedas.)

The Dravidian and Aryan invasion theories turns the migration of particular language/racial groups from Central Asia into a kind of panacea to explain the developments of race and language for much of humanity, particularly for India. However both invasion theories appear far too simplistic given the complex ways in which cultures, languages and races move and interact.

The Dravidian claim to be indigenous to India has, like the Aryan, been discredited by linguistic argument. Yet the argument brings the Aryans and Dravidians back into contact with each other and derives them from the same region, suggesting a long term association between them outside of India. However if we give up the invasion model such association can be better explained by contact within India which we know was an historical fact.

Certainly the present population of India - which even the ancient Greeks and Persians regarded as dark-skinned - was not produced by light-skinned people from Central Asia (whether Aryan or Dravidian). Moreover, there cannot be a Dravidian invasion changing the language but not the population of India just like the Aryan invasion, as the idea is far-fetched to happen once but to happen twice in a row in the same region and by the same route is ridiculous.

If both the Aryan and Dravidian languages of India have affinities with those of Central Asia, and to peoples of different ethnic groups (the Indo-Aryan with the lighter skinned European and the Dravidians with both light-skinned Finns and Hungarians, and Mongolian race Turks) a phenomenon is created that is too complex to be explained by mere migration alone. It takes languages across the racial boundaries that migration theories uphold and places them on par with other cultural affinities (like art or religion), which are not limited by race.

The linguistic divide between Aryan and Dravidian, as that between the Indo-European and other language groups is also now being questioned. A greater Nostratic family of languages has been proposed that includes Indo-European, Dravidian and Semitic languages and looks for a common ancestor for all three. This requires a greater degree of contact between these groups which remote Central Asia cannot afford. Moreover, there are affinities between Sanskrit and the Munda or aboriginal languages of India, as S. Kalyanaraman has noted, that indicate a long and early contact, if not common evolution, which could have only happened in India. Such Vedic scholars as Sri Aurobindo have stated that the Dravidian and Sanskritic languages have much more in common than has yet been admitted and appear to have a common ancestor.

Dravidian history does not contradict Vedic history either. It credits the invention of the Tamil language, the oldest Dravidian tongue, to the rishi Agastya, one of the most prominent sages in the Rig Veda. Dravidian kings historically have called themselves Aryans and trace their descent through Manu (who in the Matsya Purana is regarded as originally a south Indian king). Apart from language, moreover, both north and south India share a common religion and culture. Prior to Vedic Sanskrit there may have been a language that was the basis of both the Dravidian and Sanskritic languages in India.

The idea that the same culture cannot produce two different language systems may itself be questionable. It may have been the very power of Vedic culture and its sages, with their mastery of the word, that they could have produced not only Indo-European like languages but also Dravidian.

In any case the Aryan/Dravidian divide is no longer sufficient to uphold the Aryan invasion theory. It leads to a more difficult to maintain Dravidian invasion theory. The Dravidian invasion theory is just a shadow cast by the Aryan invasion theory and reveals the erroneous nature of the latter.

Other aspects of the Aryan-Dravidian divide are predicated upon the invasion theory. For example the idea that South India represents a pre-Vedic Shaivite culture as opposed to the Brahmanical culture of the north follows only from this. Otherwise we see Shaivism in the North, in Kailas, Benares and Kashmir, and Shiva as Rudra of the Vedas. What have thereby been proposed as radical cultural differences between the North and South of India are merely regional variations in the vast cultural complex of the subcontinent and its interrelated spiritual traditions.

Dravidian pride or nationalism need not depend upon the Aryan invasion theory or denigrating the culture of North India. The Dravidians have long been one of the most important peoples of India and, perhaps ironically, have been the best preservers of Vedic culture itself. The best Vedic Sanskrit, rituals and traditions can be found only in the south of India. That South India was able to do this suggests the importance and antiquity of Vedic culture to this region.