Aryans in India : Origin, History, Spread and Expansion of Aryans in India

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Aryans in India: Origin, History, Spread and Expansion of Aryans in India

1. Origin and original home of Aryans (original Aryans)

There has been a lot of controversy among the historians over the original homeland of the Aryans. The question as regards the original Aryans being Indians or foreigners is linked up with that of their original home.

Where did Aryans came from? There are two possibilities. Firstly, Indo-Aryans either came from outside India and penetrated deep into the Indian sub-continent, particularly the modern day India, Pakistan, and Nepal.

Secondly, there is another possibility that India is the primary homeland of Aryans and they went to foreign countries to settle there. We will get a better picture in the next sub-heading titled ‘Origin of the Aryans”.

Origin of the Aryans: There are two theories regarding the original home of the Aryans can be discussed in two ways:

  • 1.1 Foreign origin of Aryans, and
  • 1.2 Theory of Indian origin of the Aryans,

In early times, the Sanskrit term ‘Arya‘ denoted a free man of noble birth belonging to a respectable family. Sir William Jones discovered a close relationship between Sanskrit and other ancient languages such as Greek, Latin, ancient Persian, Greek, Latin, Teutonic, etc. The term ‘Aryan‘ was used by William Jones as a linguistic expression.

The question naturally arises as to the original homeland or the origin of the people using Aryan language. The theory of both the foreign origin and Indian origin of Aryans have been discussed in this article.

1.1 Theory of Foreign origin of Aryans

According to the migration theory of the ‘Foreign origin of Aryans”, the Aryans were foreigners and they migrated to India during the Ancient times.

Some historians and scholars believe that the Aryans originated from West Asia i.e., West Asia was the original homeland of the Aryans. They found various linguistic evidences in the said region. A group of people from west Asia migrated through Asia Minor, to Europe, while another group came to India after crossing its north-western frontier.

Central Asia: Several arguments are available in support of the Central Asian origin of the Aryans. It was in Central Asia that the ancient civilizations grew up. In this connection, firstly, scholars refers to the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations. Secondly, history of the later period makes us know that a mammoth racial migration from Central Asia to India occurred. The Mongols, the Mughals and other foreign invaders came from this region. Thirdly, in the Vedic literature, no reference to any word relating to sea has been found, and that is why it can be surmised that it is the land-route that was used by the Aryans in their movement for migration to India. They entered the Punjab, defeated the Dravidians, and began to settle in the country.

Arguments in support of foreign origin of Aryans

There are many reliable arguments in support of the view that the Aryans were outsiders and came to India from some foreign countries. These arguments are discussed below:

Archaeological evidence: As yet, we could not find sufficient archaeological evidence to firmly locate the original home of the Aryans. Two rock inscriptions such as Boghazkoi and Tel-el-Amarna were discovered in Asia Minor and in Egypt respectively. The date of the rock inscriptions at Boghazkoi belonged to 1400 B.C. The Hittite kings mentioned such Vedic gods as Indra, Mitra, and Varuna, etc. in this inscription. Ancient Syria was under the Pharaonic rule. Tel-el-Amarna inscription refers to the names of the Syrian kings which were similar to the Aryan names. That is why it is assumed that the Aryans came to India from foreign land. Prior to their coming to India they used to live here.

Lack of details about non-Aryans in Vedic Literature: Had the Aryans been the original settlers in India, the Vedic literature should have mentioned about the date and manner of the Dravidian infiltration into India. The Dravidian race didn’t find its place in the Vedic literature, indicating that the vedic aryans knew little about the Dravidians. Naturally, scholars are prone to believe that the Dravidians lived in India before the coming of the Aryans. However, no foolproof explanation has been given either about how the non-Aryan ethnic groups come to settle in north India.

Linguistic relationships between Sanskrit and European languages: The Harappan and Indus Valley civilization that flourished in India prior to the advent of Aryans was of urban nature. It was more advanced than the Vedic civilization. The ancient Aryan language has a close relationship with that of some of the east European countries. In Europe, Greek, Latin, German etc. are called Aryan languages. They are closely assembled with one another.

Close linguistic relation is not found among the languages of Aryans and its neighboring regions. The prevalence of no other languages other than the Sanskrit and the Persian is seen here.

1.2 Theory of Indian origin of Aryans

The theory of Indian origin of Aryans has received support from many historians.

Seven Indus (Sapta Sindhu): According to some historians, the basin regions of the seven Indus (Sapta Sindhu) constituted the original homeland of the Aryans. India, in prehistoric times, had overland contact with West Asia. The original cradle of the Aryans was, therefore, Sapta Sindhu which included the beautiful valley of Kashmir in the North and Gandhara in West.

Himalayan Footland: According to Pandit Lakshmidhar Sastri, the Himalayan foot-land was the original place of settlement of the Aryans. To support his argument, he pointed that there is similarity between the floras mentioned in the Vedic literature and those found at the Himalayan region.

Arguments in favor of Indian origin of Aryans

The geographical account of foreign land is not mentioned in the Vedic literature. The Parsee community in India remembers, still, its ancient land, its glory and tradition. There are some historians who maintain that the Aryans entered India from the northern frontier. But in the Vedic literature, there is no reference to it.

Some scholars have undoubtedly accepted the contents of the Puranas and believe that the Aryans are not foreigners and that they are the original inhabitants of India. According to them, the original homeland of the Aryans was the basin region of the river, Devaki, passing through Multan. The arguments in support of this theory are that the Aryans have described no other lands than Sapta Sindhu, as their homeland.

Another argument in defense of the theory that India is the original homeland of the Aryans is that, in the Vedic literature, there is reference to lion and elephant. There are references to numerous lions and elephants in the Punjab and tigers in Bengal. This establishes the view that the Punjab was the original home of the Aryans. In Vedic literature, there is no reference to rice, but wheat is referred to, and the chief agricultural product of the Punjab is wheat.

Sanskrit is the language of the Aryans. It has got a rich vocabulary. No other language is so rich as Sanskrit. So, the scholars say that traces of Aryan language found outside India mean that one of the branches of the Aryans emigrated from India for settlement in West Asia and other places. They were not the main branch of the Aryans.

Conclusion: It cannot be definitely said when the Aryans began to migrate over to different lands after having left their original homeland. Nor can it be asserted when they appeared first in India. We are aware of the long evolution of the Vedic civilization and its relations with Indian history of the later periods. Perhaps, the Vedic age began in a period which was about two thousand or two thousand five hundred years before the birth of Christ. Nothing more than this can be ascertained.

2. Spread, expansion and penetration of Aryans in India

The geographical references indicate that the Aryans spread gradually over to north India. The Aryan expansion proceeded from Sapta-Sindhu (seven rivers) to Brahmavarta (eastern region of the Punjab), and thence gradually penetrated to eastern India.

The Aryan power began to be established in Delhi, Meerut, Kosala, Kashi, North Bihar, etc.

The Aryan civilisation spread to Bengal towards the end of or  immediately after the Vedic age. Dharmasutra is a part of Vedic literature. Its study creates the impression that Bengal was outside the Aryavarta.

Aryan expansion began in the south also. The Aryans undertook an expedition to the south in some un-ascertainable past. The existence of several Large kingdom of Sattwata in Vidarbha, the Dandaka Kingdom near Nasik, Mulaka and Ashmaka Kingdoms on the Godavari bank were clear demonstration of the expansion of Aryan power in the south by the end of the Vedic age.

It is not the fact that everywhere in north India and the Deccan the Aryan Kingdoms were established. There are references to the facts that some of the kingdoms were under Non-Aryans. Over and above this, in regions of dense forests, there lived such non-Aryan tribes as Pulindas, Nishadas, Savaras, Kalingas, and Andhras. etc.

In the south, unchallenged supremacy of the Aryans had never been established. Even in the north, co-existence and mutual influence of the Aryan and non-Aryan civilization are matters of deep observation. The Aryans and non-Aryans could not avoid contact with each other. It led to an unexpected synthesis of twin cultures.

The contributions of the both Aryans and non-Aryans to the establishment of Aryan power over the Gangetic valley are invaluable. Indeed, it can be said that what happened in India in the Vedic Age is not to be called the triumph of the Aryans only. It is proper to describe it as one of the Aryan movement and expansion.

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