I come from the viewpoint that the racial division in India between the “fairer” Aryan north and “darker” Dravidian south is a glorified imagination of western vedic scholars and historians. The western vedic scholars did in the intellectual sphere what British army did in the political realm – discredit, divide and conquer Indians. The whole idea was to prove the “white man’s burden” and justify imperialism.
Probably it gained currency in the northern part of India because it brought northerners close to the white races of Europe. Unfortunately we have been reading and honoring translations of our vedic scriptures by western christian scholars as Max Muller, Griffith, Monier-Williams and H. H. Wilson. This is also true that much of these books are being studied in our universities. Many of our scholars like Dayanand Saraswati, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Arubindo Ghosh had rejected this long back but we Indians have accepted the foreign view.
Here are some theories from Romila Thapar’s book The Past As Present’s chapter “Which of us are Aryans”, throws some light on the topic. I want to take a evidence based historical view rather than a nationalistic Hindu rightist view. I don’t believe that everything good or of some importance has happened from the glorious past of India but I do believe that there are some misconceptions that needs a better investigation and representation. This is a attempt to bring out some of these observations one more time.
- Indus Valley Civilization is considered to be pre-vedic and to prove this point it was stated that since no horses, chariots or iron were discovered in Harappan sites whereas all this find mention in the Vedas making these two races different. Archaeological evidence has not been conclusive enough to support or reject this theory. And it was concluded during the British Raj that Harappan people were indigenous Dravidian people who were invaded by Aryan people and forced to go towards the southern peninsula of India. Apparently the theory of invasion has been discounted because the decline of the cities cannot be attributed to a single cause as the decline cities were not simultaneous and those in Gujarat have declined much later. So the likely cause of decline in the Indus valley civilization is ecological and environmental compounded by decline in the trade.
- Origins of languages and comparative study called “Philology” has been used extensively as a method to arrive at a common ancestry or the roots of European culture. When Mr William Jones suggested that there was a similarity in the structure and vocabulary of Sanskrit and Greek, this became the basis of number of theories regarding the origins of European and Indian culture. Language became a major evidence of race. But with better understanding of history it has been found there is no basis for such a equation and there is no support for the argument that those who speak an Indo-European language must belong to same Aryan race. Max Mueller who was well aware of this difference also occasionally confused between the two. It has been observed from examples from all over the world and from many periods of history that it is perfectly feasible for people of different racial origins brought together through migration, trade, conquest or persecution, to find themselves using the same language.
- The use of term Arya in Vedic and Buddhist texts have been confused with Aryan race. The term arya has been used frequently to refer to a person who is respected and regarded as an honored person. The western historians gave the word arya a racial connotation and the term arya was used to refer to those of Aryan race and dasa to those of indigenous race
We have to be very careful with origins of races and its political implications. History can be distorted to represent the view that supports the political ideologies. It is all the more important to make an informed decision in today’s time which is very much possible in today’s internet age.
Hopefully there is more study on this topic archaeologically and hopefully someday Harappan writings will be deciphered that may further help in our understanding. It is possible that with new evidence the theory again changes but we have to remember that all this we are talking about is, has happened more than 3500 years ago.
Update: 7th May 2016
Iravatham Mahadevan says (Link) “According to my view the Vedic people were the descendants of both Sanskrit speaking Aryans and Dravidian speaking Harappans who had merged into a composite Indian society centuries before the Rig Veda was composed”
I think this is something I would like to believe and hopefully it gets proven through anthropological and historical facts.