1. Political aspects of the Aryan
1.4. A CASE STUDY IN AIT
1.4.1. A primer in AIT
a case study in anti-AIT polemic, I have chosen the article “An obscurantist
argument” by the Dutch-Canadian scholar Robert J. Zydenbos.106
His bona fades is unquestionable, and he represents the majority
of AIT-believing scholars in that he merely accepts the predominant opinion
without having a political axe to grind, though this makes him susceptible
to being influenced by AIT defenders who do have political motives. He
is emphatically not a representative of the anti-Brahminism so prevalent
among Western India-watchers, being in fact the author of an informed critique
of this ideological distortion of much contemporary scholarship.107
Some of the rhetoric in this article typifies the way in which certain
AIT defenders in positions of authority tend to over-awe the public with
references to overrated evidence, and to vilify spokesmen of the dissident
piece is an attack on N.S. Rajaram, a scientist from Karnataka (in AIT
parlance: a Dravidian, not an Aryan) working in the USA, who has contributed
decisive insights to the AIT debate.108 I
disagree on some important points with Prof. Rajaram, most of all with
his rejection of the linguistic reconstruction of an IE protolanguage;
but that is no reason to dismiss his work as “a textbook example of the
quasi-religious-cum-political obscurantism that is so popular among alienated
Non-Resident Indians”, which is moreover “out of touch with what serious
scholars both in India and abroad hold at present”, as Zydenbos alleges.
linguistic evidence for the Indo-European origin of Sanskrit outside India
is Overwhelming”, he claims, in almost verbatim agreement with Prof. Romila
Thapar, whom he defends against Rajaram’s critique of her article “The
Perennial Aryans”.109 Neither in his nor
in Prof. Thapar’s much lengthier article is even one item of this “overwhelming
evidence” mentioned. However, Dr. Zydenbos can claim the merit of
being one of the first (to my knowledge, the very first) among the defenders
of the AIT to actually respond to the rising tide of anti-AIT argumentation.
1.4.2. Ethnically pure
starts his crescendo of allegations by stating something Rajaram never
disputed: “No scholar seriously believes that there are any ‘ethnically
pure’ Aryans in India today (and perhaps anywhere else, either).
And why should anyone care?” Actually, Rajaram himself is among those who
reject the notion of ‘ethnically pure Aryans’, not because of the obvious
fact that countless inter-ethnic marriages have taken place, but because
he rejects the use of “Aryan” as an ethnic term in the first place.
As he and many others have argued time and again, the Sanskrit word Arya
was not an ethnic term, it is Western scholars who have turned it into
is the Western participant in this duel, Dr. Zydenbos, who, even after
reading Prof. Rajaram, just continues to use “Aryan” as an ethnic and even
as a racial term: “Those who called themselves ‘Aryan’ 1000 years ago were
already very different from the various Aryan tribes that came over 3500
years ago (…) This too is historical fact. One only needs to learn
Sanskrit to find this out.” I fear that there is something very wrong with
Sanskrit courses if accomplished indologists can read Arya in a
racial sense unattested in the whole of Sanskrit literature.
authors may nonetheless be wrong in denying an ethnic meaning to Arya
altogether. While Arya was definitely never a racial or linguistic
concept, it may have had a precise ethnic usage at least in some circles
in one specific period. As Shrikant Talageri has shown, in the Rg-Veda,
the term Arya is exclusively applied to the Puru tribe, including
the Bharata clan, the community which generated the Rg-Vedic texts. Thus,
when something negative is said about “Arya” people, these turn
out to be non-Bharata Purus; and when the merits of a non-Puru king or
sage are extolled, he may be called any term of praise but never Arya.110 Likewise,
it seems that the Iranian Avesta uses Airya in referring to a specific
community, the cultivators in the Oxus river basin, contrasting it with
nomadic barbarians who were similar in race and equally Iranian-speaking
(generically known as Shakas/Scythians), but who were not part of
the sedentary Mazdean “Airya” world.111
must be studied more closely, after freeing ourselves from the AIT-related
misconceptions. For now, I speculate that the term Arya spread
over the Hindu world, which included many non-Vedic Indo-Aryan-speaking
tribes (Aikshvaku, Yadava, Pramshava, etc.), along with the Vedic tradition
which was originally the exclusively local tradition of the Paurava tribe
and Bharata clan settled on the banks of the Saraswati river. And
that it originally had an ethnic connotation, something like “the Puru
tradition”, even when used as the name of a religious tradition and civilizational
standard, viz. the Vedic culture, somewhat like the ethno-geographical
term Roman came to mean “Catholic”. At any rate, in classical
Sanskrit, Arya means “civilized”, specifically “following the norms
of Vedic civilization”, and this might imply a reference to the ancient
situation when Vedic culture typified the metropolis, the Saraswati region
(well-attested as being the centre of both the Rg-Vedic world and Harappan
civilization), which the provinces tried to emulate. In the ShAstras
and in literary works, the term Arya typically takes the place which
would nowadays be filled by the term Hindu, or of “the Hindu ideal”,
Hindu in a normative rather than in a descriptive sense.
in this (by that time definitely the usual) sense that the Buddha used
the term Arya, as in the catvAri-Arya-satyAni, “the four
noble truths”, and the Arya-ashtANgika-mArga, “the noble eightfold
path”, meaning that his way (more than the petty magic with which many
Veda-reciting priests made a living) fulfilled the old ideals of Vedic
civilization. It is with a similar intention that the modern Veda
revivalists of the Arya Samaj chose the name of their organization.
While conceptions may differ concerning what the real essence of the Vedic
worldview was, there has been a wide pan-Indian agreement for at least
3,000 years that Arya means a standard of civilization, regardless
of language, race or even ethnicity.
1.4.3. Rajaram vs. Hitler
Zydenbos attacks Rajaram’s reading of Romila Thapar’s article, esp. her
insinuation (uttered much more explicitly elsewhere by other Marxist authors
in India)112 that the anti-AIT case is motivated
by some kind of Hitlerian vision of Aryanism: “Romila Thapar does not ‘obviously
refer to Nazi Germany’ when she speaks of the fantasy of an ‘Aryan nation’,
but to the new Indian tendency among obscurantists towards creating something
parallel.” So, alleging that someone wants to “create something parallel
to Nazi Germany” does not imply a reference to Nazi Germany? In that
case, we might perhaps focus on the implied allegation that those Indians
who question the AIT are entertaining a fantasy of creating an “Aryan nation”.
Prof. Thapar and Dr. Zydenbos to produce any publication of any Indian
scholar presently questioning the AIT which contains even a hint of this
“fantasy”. And I reprimand them both for using the term Arya(n)
uncritically, i.e. without explicitating that it has two distinct meanings,
viz. “Hindu” for Hindus, and “of Nordic race” for the Nazis. If that
distinction is made, the alleged connection between Rajaram and Hitler
(through the “common” term Aryan) vanishes, and this seems to go
against the AIT defenders’ intentions. In the current opinion climate,
accusing someone of Nazi connections is the single gravest allegation possible.
I don’t think that in an academic forum, one can simply get away with such
extremely serious allegations; one has to offer evidence, - or apologies.
scholars of Zydenbos’s rank entertain the confusion between Aryan/Nordic-racist
and Arya/Hindu, it is no surprise that this confusion vitiates much journalistic
reporting on Hinduism and Hindu nationalism. Thus, the French monthly
Le Choc du Mois once commented that the “sulphurous” BJP takes inspiration
from “Bharat, the first Aryan prince in North India”. By all accounts,
Bharata, patriarch of the Vedic Bharata clan, came later than many other
Aryans in North India: Manu, Ikshvaku, Mandhata, Yayati, Bharat’s own ancestor
Puru, et al. Anyway, here is the key to Hindu
political thought: “The basis of the ‘Hindu nation’ will therefore be Aryanity,
a warlike and conquering Aryanity which owes its imperial territory only
to an unceasing struggle on the side of the gods.”113
This mixes a projection of stereotypes concerning Islamic fundamentalism
onto its Hindu “counterpart” with the AIT-based Aryan lore.
are Hindu scholars, if only just a few of them, thinking along the
lines of “Aryan” racism? Apart from reading the works of the Indian scholars
concerned, I have also privately talked with most of them, and I feel certain
that no such “fantasy” is at the back of the anti-AIT polemic. In
fact, what they reject in Western scholarship is precisely the creation
of the conceptual framework which has made the racialist misuse of the
term “Aryan” possible: “Indian Marxists in particular
are singularly touchy about the whole thing and hate to be reminded that
their pet dogma of the non-indigenous origin of the Vedic Aryan civilization
is an offshoot of the same race theories that gave rise to Nazism.”114
1.4.4. The importance
of being white
continues: “This includes the endorsement of blatant racism by certain
Indian scholarly personalities. Thus, the archaeologist S.R. Rao,
who also figures in Rajaram’s article, said at a recent seminar in Mysore
in response to a student’s question about the Aryans that we should not
listen to what ‘white people’ say.” I don’t know how Hitler would have
felt about this slur on white people, but Zydenbos is quite mistaken when
he infers that there is any “racism” behind Prof. Rao’s remark. Rao obviously
did not mean that whiteness makes one unfit for researching the question
of the “Aryans”. What he meant was, of course, that at present, Westerners
in general are still basing their opinions about this question on theories
rendered outdated by the recent findings of Indian scholars like himself,
and of some paleface scholars as well, - but the latter have so far not
carried Western or “white” opinion in general with them.
Zydenbos, who is described editorially as a European indological scholar
living in Mysore, must have found out for himself that being “white” still
connotes authority and reliability for most Indians.115
In heated debates like the one on the Aryan question, reference to Western
opinion is still treated as a trump card. Often, this reference is
used as a “circular argument of authority”: first Western India-watchers
borrow their opinions from the Times of India or the Economic
and Political Weekly, then they express these opinions in the New
York Times or the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African
Studies, and finally, these same opinions are quoted in the same Indian
media as authoritative endorsements by “independent” Westerners of their
own positions. If a student has been over-awed by the apparent Western
consensus in favour of the AIT, Prof. Rao was right to break the spell
and to put the student with his feet back on the solid ground of self-reliance,
esp. in a field where. Western indological opinion happens to be
out of touch with the latest research.
in his article, Dr. Zydenbos himself unwittingly plays the same game of
over-awing the Indians with references to Western indologists, viz. to
K.V. Zvelebil, H. Kulke and D. Rothermund, as sheer arguments of authority.116
Zydenbos refers to Zvelebil to support this statement: “That the Indus
Valley people were Dravidians is an unproven hypothesis; but the real,
as yet undeciphered writings of that civilization give more support to
this hypothesis than to any other.”
the scholars working from the Dravidian hypothesis have, after decades
of intensive labour, not conclusively deciphered a single line of the Indus
writings, and Zvelebil admits as much: “[The Soviet
scholars] have not convincingly deciphered even one single short Harappan
description, and they have not been able to offer a verifiable reading
of any Harappan text.”117 Of the other teams
working on the decipherment, Zvelebil has no hard results to quote either,
though he praises their (and the Soviet scholars’) merits in structural
analysis, preparing concordances etc. He does not mention a single
definite and positive (non-circular) indication that the language on the
Harappan seals is Dravidian.
and Rothermund’s book A History of India “can be found in detail
the up-to-date view concerning the Aryan migration, and confirming it”,
according to Zydenbos. in fact, their book does not confirm (with
independent research findings) but merely restates the AIT, without
refuting or even taking into account the research findings on which Prof.
Rajaram and Prof. Rao base their case.
1.4.5. Nehru’s testimony
sums up “a few interesting questions”, starting with: “Why should leading,
respected Indian scholars (and even Nehru, who can hardly be accused of
being politically naive or a colonial collaborator) accept the idea of
the migration, if it is as patently false as our author claims it is?”
We forego the occasion of preparing a list of factual reasons why “leading,
respected scholars” have been found to defend the wrong position on numerous
occasions in history. The interesting term in the question is “colonial
collaborator”, which Nehru is claimed not to have been. In fact,
while politically an anti-colonial campaigner, Jawaharlal Nehru was culturally
the archetypal “collaborator” with colonialism and with the colonial view
first Prime Minister never properly mastered his native Hindustani language
and like his father, he demanded from his relatives that they speak only
English at the dinner table. He was in most cultural respects a typical
colonial Englishman (“India’s last Viceroy”), fully equipped with the concomitant
disdain for Indian and particularly Hindu culture, of which he was 100%
ignorant. About the Sanskrit traditions which provide the information
relevant to the Aryan question, he knew strictly nothing (in spite of his
hereditary caste title Pandit), and he could not possibly have written
anything about it except what he had read in the standard English textbooks. This
can easily be verified in his book The Discovery of India, which
reads like the history chapter of a tourist guidebook, but which according
to Dr. Zydenbos “in essence still holds good” in its picturesque description
of the Aryan invasion.118
shared with many contemporary establishment academics an ideological reason
to welcome the AIT. Just as the British liked to flatter themselves with
the idea that they had “created” India as a political unit, so Congress
politicians liked to see Nehru as the “maker of India”.119
in this view, prior to Queen Victoria and Jawaharlal Nehru, no such cultural
entity as “India” ever existed, merely a hunting-ground for ever new waves
of invaders, starting with the Aryans. Nehru didn’t mind such a past
for India, because as a Leftist utopianist, he believed that a great future
could be built on any national past, even a very depressing one.
It must be said to his credit that from a vision of a fragmented and invasion-ridden
India of the past, he did not deduce the impossibility of creating a united
and prosperous India in the future, unlike contemporary casteists and separatists.
also be admitted that other Indian leaders have accepted the idea of an
Aryan invasion without being any the less patriotic for it. Congress
leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak (Arctic Home in the Vedas, 1903) and
Hindu Mahasabha ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (Hindutva, 1923)
had also interiorized the AIT, simply because it seemed hard to refute.
To most English-educated Indians of their time, the prestige of Western
scholarship was so overwhelming that it seemed quixotic to go against it.
But it was not hard for them to combine patriotism with a belief in a fragmented
and conflictual origin of their nation, 3,500 years ago. After all,
most nations in the world are younger than that. The USA was built
on broken treaties, slavery and genocide, only a few centuries ago, yet
there exists a heartfelt and legitimate American patriotism. The strange
thing is not that Tilak, Nehru and Savarkar could be Indian patriots all
while believing in the AIT, but that Marxists and missionaries question
the legitimacy of Indian nationhood on the basis of a theory pertaining
to events thousands of years in the past.
1.4.6. From Harappa to
summons Prof. Rajaram to own up some responsibility for India’s communal
conflict: “Does he really not see the parallel between Nazi attacks on
synagogues in the 1930s and what happened in Ayodhya on December 6th?”
We would not have believed it, but it is there in cold print: an academic
tries to score against a fellow academic by arbitrarily linking him with
an event which had not yet taken place when the latter’s paper was published,
and with which he had strictly nothing to do, viz. the demolition of the
Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992.
In a later
paper, Prof. Rajaram has accepted the challenge: From Harappa to Ayodhya,
read at the Indian institute of World Culture in Bangalore (4 September
1997), discusses the parallels between the historians’ debates on the Indus-Saraswati
civilization and on the temple/mosque in Ayodhya. He
argues that “what the history establishment has done through the models
it has proposed for both the ancient and the medieval periods is to exactly
reverse the historical picture”.120 Most
importantly, for the ancient period, Indian Marxist and other anti-Hindu
historians posit a massive conflict (between Aryan invaders and natives)
in spite of the total absence of either textual or archaeological evidence
for such conflict; while for the medieval period, they wax eloquent about
an idyllic “composite culture” and deny a massive conflict spanning centuries
(viz. between Muslim invaders and Hindu natives), against the copiously
available evidence for this conflict, both textual and archaeological.
is entirely correct: both ancient and medieval history have been rewritten
in the sense of belittling and blackening Hindu civilization and extolling
its enemies. As a Westerner I may add that in both cases, there has
been a wholesale, painfully naive endorsement of the Indian Marxist line
by Western India-watchers in academe as well as journalism. There
are exceptions, mostly in the past, e.g. Fernand Braudel who described
Muslim India as a “colonial experiment” which was “extremely violent”.121
explained: “India survived only by virtue of its patience, its superhuman
power and its immense size. The levies it had to pay were so crushing that
one catastrophic harvest was enough to unleash famines and epidemics capable
of killing a million people at a time. Appalling poverty was the constant
counterpart of the conquerors’ opulence. (…) The Muslims (…) could not
rule the country except by systematic terror. Cruelty was the norm
burnings, summary executions, crucifixions or impalements, inventive tortures.
Hindu temples were destroyed to make way for mosques. On
occasion there were forced conversions. If ever there were an uprising,
it was instantly and savagely repressed: houses were burned, the countryside
was laid waste, men were slaughtered and women were taken as slaves.”122
Braudel was not a Hindu chauvinist, just a scholarly observer, but in today’s
climate, he would be blacklisted.
there is solid evidence that the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya had been built
in forcible replacement of a Hindu temple, rubble of which was used in
the Masjid’s construction, this fact has been denounced as “Hindu
chauvinist propaganda”, and an entirely fictional claim was upheld that
the Masjid had been built on an uncontroversial site, so that there was
of course no trace of evidence for a preceding temple demolition.123
Indian Marxists could reasonably have taken the position that while the
temple demolition was a historical fact, this was no reason for a counter-demolition
today. However, inebriated by their power position, they went farther
and denied the temple destruction altogether, against the evidence, thinking
they could get away with it.
they could count on their Western contacts to cover them: to my knowledge,
not a single Western academic has critically examined the Indian Marxist
claim that the historical temple demolition at the Babri Masjid site was
Hindu chauvinist fiction. All of those who have actually written
about the Ayodhya affair, have acted as amplifiers to the Indian Marxist
propaganda, explicitly or implicitly defaming those Indian colleagues who
stuck to the evidence that a Hindu temple at the controversial site had
indeed been destroyed.
of these was Prof. B.B. Lal, one of the greatest living archaeologists,
who has been attacked for his expert testimony about the demolished temple
at the Babri Masjid site (e.g. in an editorial in the Marxist-controlled
paper The Hindu)124
as well as for his progressively more determined support to the identity
or close kinship of Vedic and Harappan culture.125
Indeed, on both sides in the Ayodhya debate and in the AIT debate, both
in academic and journalistic platforms, we find the same names. Without
conspicuous exception, those who fight for the AIT have also fought for
the Ayodhya no-temple thesis (and more generally for the view that the
Islamic occupation of India was benign), and those who fought for the demolished-temple
thesis are now fighting for the Vedic-Harappan kinship. So, Dr. Zydenbos
is right in positing a parallel between the Ayodhya and AIT debates, though
perhaps it is not the parallel he intended.
1.4.7. The denial of history
an Indian counterpart to the Nazi attacks on synagogues, any Hindu worth
his salt will definitely welcome the simile. The demolition of literally
hundreds of thousands of Hindu places of worship (often along with their
personnel and customers) by Muslims, from the first Arab invasion in AD
636 to the destruction of hundreds of temples in Pakistan and Bangladesh
and the vandalization of twenty-odd Hindu temples in Britain in “retaliation”
for the demolition of the Babri Masjid, is often described in Hindu pamphlets
as a “Holocaust”. I disapprove of the ease with which every crime
is nowadays likened with the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes; but in the
present debate, it is Dr. Zydenbos who has uninvitedly introduced Nazi
the erratic and violent manner in which the Babri Masjid was disposed of
is certainly deplorable, there is something badly disproportionate in the
holy indignation of so many India-watchers about the Ayodhya demolition,
when you notice how it is combined with a stark indifference to the vastly
larger and longer record of Islamic destruction m India (including a million
Hindus killed by the Pakistani Army in East Bengal as late as 1971), often
even with a negationist denial of that very record of Islam in India.
Here again there is a parallel: informed Hindus are pained by the denial
of their centuries of suffering at the hands of Islam, and are likewise
pained by the denial of their millennia of civilization-building, a denial
which goes by the name of Aryan Invasion Theory.
may yet be another point to Zydenbos’s comparison between Nazi attacks
on synagogues and the attacks on places of worship in India. The
Islamic swordsmen considered Pagan temples as monuments of Jahiliyya,
the Age of Ignorance, and they wanted to destroy them in order to stamp
out this evil superstition of Paganism and all reminders of its history.
In Islamic countries with a great pre-Islamic past, history courses in
schools start with Mohammed, and pay minimal (if at all any) attention
to the long and fascinating history of the Pharaohs, the Achaemenids or
Mohenjo Daro; the intention is to deny an unwanted, “impure” part of history.
As recently as 1992, this rejection of history led to raids to the ruins
of Buddhist temples in Afghanistan to deface any remaining Buddha statues;
and in 1992 and 1997, bomb attacks were committed against the pharaonic
temples of Karnak. One could arguably hold it against the demolishers
of the Babri mosque that they too have tried to wipe out an unwanted chapter
of Indian history embodied in the Islamic architecture of the temple building.
Bad enough, but its relevance for our topic is this: for Indians, the AIT
likewise implies the denial of a long stretch of Indian history.
denies principally the history of the Solar and Lunar dynasties and other
tribes living in Aryavarta (the area from Sindh to Bihar and from the Vindhyas
to Kashmir), as covered in the Flu for a period from the dawn of proto-history
to the 1st millennium BC. The major motifs (epics, artistic standards,
schools of philosophy) of Indian civilization are embedded in that history,
which is simply denied in its long pre-1500 BC phase, and vilified as merely
the cultural superstructure of an ethnic subjugation of pre-Aryans by Aryans
in its post-1500 BC phase.
1.4.8. Blood and soil
continues: “Why should it be so important that the Aryans, or the extremely
remote ancestors of anyone in India for that matter, have been in the subcontinent
since all eternity? That would come close to the Blut und Boden
[blood and sod] ideology of Nazism, with its Aryan rhetoric. Why
Prof. Rajaram of something “close to” Nazi ideology looks like an old trick
to associate someone with Nazism without taking the responsibility for
calling him a Nazi outright and risking a frontal rebuttal if not a court
case. I wonder: how would he fare if he accused a Western colleague in
the same vein in a Western paper, considering the extreme importance which
academics attach to reputation? There, slurs against a colleague’s scholarly
integrity are normally made to backfire on the slanderer himself.
At any rate, AIT defenders display a tendency to exceed the topic of debate
and launch unwarranted attacks ad hominem.
the idea that the “Aryan” ancestors of the contemporary Indians have lived
in the subcontinent “since all eternity” is what Zydenbos dubs “xenophobic”
and “close to the Blut und Boden ideology of Nazism with its Aryan
rhetoric”. Actually, the historians in the SS research department
were inclined to embrace the theory that the Nordic Aryans originated in
Atlantis, whence they had fled to northern Europe after the inundation
of their homeland. Hitler’s attachment was not to the German territory
but to the German race, which was free to wander and colonize other lands.
Then again, most ordinary Nazis who cared, tended to accept some variation
of the European Urheimat Theory, locating their own Aryan ancestors in
Germany itself or nearby, “just as” Hindus nowadays locate their Urheimat
in or near India itself.
it is not Rajaram’s school of thought which has given political implications
to the question of the geographical provenance of India’s population.
As we have seen, it is precisely the AIT which has been used systematically
as a xenophobic political argument against those groups considered as the
progeny of the “Aryan invaders”. Even most AIT opponents subscribe
to the prevalent theory that mankind probably originated in Africa, so
that all Indians, like all Europeans, are ultimately immigrants.
The ridiculous argument of doubting the legitimacy of a community’s presence
in India on the basis of an ancestral immigration of 3500 years ago has
been launched in all seriousness by interest groups wielding the AIT as
their major intellectual weapon, not by the critics of the AIT.
1.4.9. Nazis in India
the Nazi connection, let us at any rate be clear about an easily verifiable
fact: in so far as the Nazis cared about Indian history, they favoured
the AIT. On the AIT, not Rajaram but Zydenbos is in the same camp with
Hitler. The only avowed Nazis in India, the Bengali
scholar Dr. Asit Krishna Mukherji (ca.1898-1977) and his French-Greek wife
Dr. Maximiani Portas (Lyon 1905-Sible Hedingham, Essex, 1982) alias Savitri
Devi Mukherji, had made the AIT itself the alpha and omega of their philosophy.126
The one Indian who interpreted the AIT explanation of the Hindu caste system
in Hitlerian terms, i.e. as a positive realization
of the natural hierarchy between the races achieved by the conquering Nordic
Aryans and imposed on the dark-skinned natives, was Asit Krishna Mukherji, “Brahmin
conscious of his distant Nordic roots”127
who published a pro-Hitler paper, the New Mercury, “the only truly
Hitlerian paper ever to have appeared in India”128,
from 1935 until the British closed it down in 1937. He was instrumental
in establishing the links between the Axis representatives and the leftist
Congress leader Subhas Chandra Bose, who formed an Indian National Army
(1943-45) under Japanese tutelage.
Savitri Devi cited with approval B.G. Tilak’s version of the AIT, viz.
that the Aryan tribes had come from the Arctic where they had composed
the Rg-Veda. This erratic theory is inordinately
popular among Western racists for providing “independent” Indian confirmation
to a North-European Homeland Theory (in reality, Tilak had tried to bend
the Vedic evidence, often ludicrously, to bring it in conformity with fashionable
Western theories).129 She
also repeated the usual AIT annexe that the upper castes are Aryan immigrants,
that the lower castes are largely and the tribals purely “aboriginals”,
a theory implicitly endorsed (see next para) by Dr. Zydenbos in this very
article.130 In fact, after reading her autobiography,
“Memories and Reflexions of an Aryan Lady”, there is not the slightest
doubt left that for her and her husband, their belief in the AIT, along
with their distortive reinterpretation of Hindu tradition in terms of the
AIT, was the direct cause of their enthusiasm for Hitler. If Zydenbos
shuns theories with Hitlerian connotations, he should drop the AIT at once.
the AIT happens to have the same historical roots as the race theories
centred on white superiority which culminated in Nazi racism. in the 19th-century
race theories, Indian civilization had to be the work of white people,
who, like the modern Europeans, had colonized India by subjugating the
dark natives; later, the mixing of the white Aryans (in spite of a belated
attempt to preserve their purity through the caste system) with the dark
natives caused the decline and “feminization” of the conquering Aryan culture,
which invited a new conquest by Europeans taking up the “white man’s burden”
of bringing order and enlightenment to the dark-skinned people living in
social, intellectual and spiritual darkness. The AIT was an essential
part of this view, and Nazism a slight radicalization.
we let the topic of Nazism rest, we have to mention another “blood and
soil” movement which has emerged in India, and again its basis was not
Rajaram’s denial of the AIT, but Zydenbos’s AIT itself. The Dravidian
movement, started with colonial and missionary funding and aid in 1916
(founding of the Justice Party in Madras, later renamed as Dravida
Kazhagam) to counter the Freedom Movement, was based precisely on the
AIT notion that the North Indians as well as the South Indian Brahmins
were “Aryan invaders” who had stolen the land from the Dravidian natives.
Militants of this movement roughed up Brahmins and Hindi-speaking people,
and its leader Ramaswamy Naicker gained notoriety with statements like:
“We will do with the Brahmins what Hitler did with the Jews.” When the
Chinese invasion of 1962 made Indians aware of the need for national unity,
the demand for a separate Dravidian state was abandoned, and the anti-Brahmin
drive lost its edge as Brahmin predominance in public office diminished.
the AIT-related doctrines of this movement have started a second life in
a section of the Dalit (ex-Untouchable) movement, which attacks upper-caste
people as “Aryan invaders”, a notion which they could have borrowed directly
from Dr. Zydenbos’s article. Here again, slurs of “Nazism” against
the supposed “Aryans” mask a vision of Indian society directly rooted in
the very views which generated Nazism itself.
1.4.10. Aryans vs. Indians
paragraph of “An obscurantist argument” reiterates the outdated notion
that India’s upper castes are the progeny of the “Aryan invaders” and pride
themselves on it: “We can briefly sum up the ‘Aryan problem’ and the interest
it creates among certain people as follows. Whatever problem is there,
will not be solved by constructing a new bit of mythology on the theme
of the evil foreign hand and the Indian academic community that is supposed
to have no mind of its own. This has no basis in fact. Only
certain people in certain castes who identify themselves strongly with
the Aryans and pride themselves on being ‘Aryan’ rather than Indian, and
thereby stress their difference from (and assume superiority to) other
Indians, have a problem. As soon as the author [= N.S. Rajaram],
and people of his ilk, make up their minds as to whether they are Indian
or not, and whether they want to identify themselves with India and other
Indians or not, the problem is solved.”
Indian academic community “has no mind of its own” has the following basis
in fact: India has only just begun to decolonize at the intellectual level,
and the view of Indian history instilled in the pupils of India’s elite
schools is still strictly the view inherited from colonial historiography.
In another sense, however, the anglicized academic establishment certainly
has a mind of its own: while the colonial British still had a condescending
sympathy for native culture, the new elite is waging a war against it as
a matter of cultural self-exorcism and of political class interest.
It knows its own mind very well and has concluded that the AIT serves its
interests better than a version of history which would boost native Indian
self-respect. Of course, India is not the Soviet Union of Stalin’s
and Lysenko’s days, so when the international academic opinion shifts away
from the AIT, the Indian establishment will have to follow suit; but as
long as the matter is in the balance, it throws its entire weight on the
side of the AIT.
people in certain castes “pride themselves on being ‘Aryan’ rather than
Indian”, it means they have accepted the AIT, which posits the initial
non-Indianness of the “Aryans” and identifies them with the upper castes.
Of course, this view has no takers among traditionalist upper-caste Hindus,
who pride themselves on being the progeny of the Vedic poets and epic heroes
revered as the sources of Indian civilization. For them, it is not
“Aryan rather than Indian”, but “Arya, or Indian par excellence”.
Rajaram “and people of his ilk” have long made up their minds about whether
they are Indian or not. That is why they feel strongly about the
divisive effect to which the AIT has been used, first by interested outside
forces (Zydenbos’s sarcastic “evil foreign hand”) who have tried to stress
the difference- of the “Aryans” from other Indians as a weapon against
native self-reassertion, and subsequently by sectional interest groups
in India. Their first motive for arguing against the AIT is the sound
academic consideration that it seems to bit contradicted by the evidence.
And this evidence is not nullified at all by their secondary, political
motive: the desire to stop the pernicious influence of the AIT on India’s
unity and integrity.
Express, 12-12-1993, in reply to a piece on a lecture by Prof. N.S.
Rajaram, Indian Express, 14-11-1993, of which an expanded version
constitutes the first chapter of Rajaram’s book: Aryan Invasion of India,
the Myth and the Truth, Voice of India, Delhi 1994.
J. Zydenbos: “Virashaivism, caste, revolution, etc.”, Journal of the
American Oriental Society, 1997, p.525-535, a review of the very Christian
(and anti-Brahminical) look at the Virashaiva sect by Rev. J.P. Schouten:
Revolution of the Mystics: On the Social Aspects of Virashaivism,
Kok/Pharos, Kampen (Netherlands) 1991.
from other works by Rajaram mentioned elsewhere, note also N.S. Rajaram:
From Saraswati River to Indus Script, Diganta Sahitya, Mangalore
1998, an elaboration on the Sanskrit-based decipherment of the Indus script
by N. Jha: Vedic Glossary on Indus Seals, Ganga Kaveri Publ., Varanasi
Thapar: “The Perennial Aryans”, Seminar# 400 (1992).
Talageri: The Rg-Veda, a Historical Analysis, Aditya Prakashan,
is as yet unclear whether in this consideration we should include the self-description
of the Kalash Kafirs, the last semi-Vedic Pagans in the Hindu Kush
mountains (unaffected by all the later developments in the Indian plains
which now constitute Hinduism), as Arya-e-Koh, “Aryas of the mountains”.
Rather than authentic testimony, this could be the result of interiorizing
theories learned from Western visitors.
Yoginder Sikand: “Exploding the Aryan myth”, Observer of Business and
Politics, 30-10-1993, discussed below.
Tramond: “Inde: le réveil identitaire de la droite”, Le Choc
du Mois, Sep. 1992.
Rajaram: The Politics of History, p.98.
is one of Mahatma Gandhi’s achievements that “he made India safe for the
white man”, as the Indian Communists used to say around the time of Independence.
Fact is that he must take credit for the friendly character of the decolonization
of India, which led to the situation that Westerners who feel a strong
hostility in countries like China and Malaysia, feel like honoured guests
Zvelebil: Dravidian Linguistics: An Introduction, Pondicherry Institute
of Linguistics and Culture, 1990; and H. Kulke and D. Rothermund: A
History of India, Rupa, Delhi 1991.
Zvelebil: Dravidian Linguistics, p.90.
Zydenbos’s use of Nehru as an argument of authority, along with his use
of Indian English, has raised questions. A source inside the Indian
Express office suspected that he had merely lent his name to an article
by an Indian author. Zydenbos denied this when I asked him personally about
e.g. M.J. Akbar: Nehru, the Making of India, Penguin 1992.
Rajaram: From Harappa to Ayodhya, Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana, Bangalore
1997, p.6; emphasis in the original.
Braudel: A History of Civilizations, Penguin 1988 (1963), p.236.
Braudel: A History of Civilizations, p.232.
K. Elst: “The Ayodhya debate”, in G. Pollet, ed.: Indian Epic Values,
Peeters, Leuven 1995, p-21-42; and K. Elst: “The Ayodhya demolition: an
evaluation”, in Swapan Dasgupta et al.: The Ayodhya Reference, Voice
of India, Delhi 1995, p.123-154.
with history”, editorial in The Hindu, 12-6-1998. B.B. Lal wrote
a reply: “Facts of history cannot be altered”, The Hindu, 1-7-1998.
Lal: New Light on the Indus Civilization, Aryan Books International,
Savitri Devi and her husband, see Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke: Hitler’s
Priestess. Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism, New
York University Press, 1998, a book full of details but suffering from
the same basic misconceptions as Dr. Zydenbos’ article and most Western
writing on the “Hindu-Aryan” connection. Also see K. Elst: The
Saffron Swastika, Voice of India, Delhi 1999.
Devi Mukherji: Souvenirs et Réflexions d’une Arjenne, Delhi
Devi Mukherji: Souvenirs et Réflexions, p.41.
Devi Mukherji: Souvenirs et Réflexions, p.27 and p.272, with
reference to B.G. Tilak & Hermann Jacobi: Arctic Home in the Vedas,
Pune 1903. Tilak and Jacobi had met after separately concluding that
astronomical data in the Rg-Veda indicated its time of composition as ca.
4000 BC, see B.G. Tilak: Orion, or Researches into the Antiquity of
the Vedas, Pune 1893. A detailed and convincing refutation of
Tilak’s arguments for the polar homeland is given by N.R. Waradpande: “The
Home of the Aryans: an Astronomical Approach”, in S.B. Deo & Suryanath
Kamath: The Aryan Problem, Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Samiti, Pune
1993, p. 123-134, and in Shrikant Talageri: The Rg-Veda, a Historical
Analysis, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, forthcoming.
Devi Mukherji: Souvenirs et Réflexions, p.157.
Back to Contents Page Back
to VOD Books Back to Home