India, my Love|May 11, 2008 7:26 AM| by:

The Beginnings of Indian Civilisation – IV

Recent Discoveries and Evidence

We have discussed some of the arguments against the Aryan invasion model. Let us now look at some of the more recent evidences against the model. The first important discovery was regarding the Sarasvati river. The Rig Veda mentions seven rivers of which Sarasvati seems to be the largest and the most important of the Vedic people. Sarasvati seems to be the major river which sustained the Vedic civilization. However, most scholars considered Sarasvati as a mystical river. But recent archaeological and hydrological surveys supported by satellite photography indicate that such a great, ancient river flowed through Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, emptying into the Arabian sea near Bhrigukucha, the modern Broach. Interestingly, archaeological survey conducted by American archaeologist Mark Kenoyer in 1991 showed the greatest concentration of Indus-valley sites were located not near the Indus river, but along the course of the ancient river Sarasvati. According to the emerging scientific opinion, this Sarasvati river dried up completely somewhere around 1900 BC, long before the supposed Aryan invasion around 1500 BC. Thus after the discovery of the Sarasvati river, scholarly opinion is veering around to the view that Harappan civilization ended not by Aryan invasion as it was believed by European scholars, but as a result of an ecological catastrophe which dried up the Sarasvati river. As a result, the Harappan population, abandoned their cities and migrated to the Gangetic plains. In the words of scientist- turned-historian, Navarathna S.Rajaram:

“The verdict of science therefore is clear and unambiguous: the Rig Veda describes the geography of North India as it was before the Sarasvati dried up. The Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley was a continuation of the Vedic; its ending coincided roughly with the final drying up of the Sarasvati in 2000BCE. So the idea of the Aryan invasion in1500BCE and the composition of the Rig Veda in 1200BCE are pure fiction. Since there was no invasion of any kind—all talk of Aryan-Dravidian wars is also a figment of imagination.”(1)

The second evidence from science comes from the research of American mathematician Seidenberg. Most of the historians still believe that Indian mathematics came later than Babylonia, Greek and Egyptian mathematics. But Seidenberg after extensive research on ancient mathematics has come to the following conclusion:

“Hence we do not hesitate to place the Vedic altar rituals or more exactly like them, far back of 1700 BC. To summarise the argument: the elements of ancient geometry found in Egypt and Babylonia stem from a ritual system of the kind observed in Sulabasutra.”(2)

Based on Seidenberg’s research some scholars like Navarathnam S.Rajaram, have come to the following conclusions:

i) The Vedic people possessed a fairly advanced mathematical knowledge needed for planning and building big cities of the Harappan civilization. This was confirmed by further studies on Harappan archaeology, and Vedic literature which show that Vedic mathematics texts were used in the design of the cities of Harappan civilization.

ii) Harappan civilization corresponds to the Sutra period in Vedic literature.

In the Vedic literature, the Sutras and Brahamnas belong to the post Rig Vedic period. Sutras contain mostly practical instructions on conduct and ritual. And Sulabasutra gives the mathematical formula for building ritual altars According to Seidenberg, old Babylonians of 1700 BC and the Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom of 2000 to 1800 BC derived their mathematics from the Sulabasutra.

As we have mentioned elsewhere, Sethna approaching from a different angle came to the same conclusion as Rajaram. When we link together the evidence or conclusion of Sethna, Seidenberg, Rajaram and other archeological evidences like the yoga-seal and five altars, it strongly reinforces the indigenous continuity of ancient Indian Civilization and very much undermines the theory of an alien invasion.

Interestingly, the mounting evidence and criticism against the invasion theory have made some of the supporters of the theory shift their position from the scenario of aggressive invasion to a milder migration. For example, a well-known Indian historian and a strong supporter of the invasion theory writes:

“It is now generally agreed that the decline of Harappan urbanism was due to environmental changes of various kinds, to political pressures and possible breaks 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 culture. If invasion is discarded then the mechanism of migration and occasional contact come into sharper focus. The migration appear to have been of pastoral cattle-breeders who are prominent in Avesta and Rig Veda.”(3)

But this new version of the theory does not solve the cultural anomalies of the older version. As David Frawley, commenting on this migration theory, points out:

“How can small groups of pastoral migrants accomplish changing the language of a country as big as a subcontinent—which already has given birth to its own great civilization—and imposing their own culture and social system upon it? It is highly improbable and almost absurd. An existent complex cultural order—such as ancient Indian indicates—can assimilate easily a few cattle breeders moving in, but such groups cannot be given the credit to assimilate the whole culture of a big country.”(4)

So if we are willing to drop the idea of an alien intrusion, then all the archaeological and literary evidence fits together into a simple and coherent picture of ancient India. All this new thinking, research and evidence have left a dent on the established opinion. A recent Publication on Indian History by Encyclopedia Britannica, says:

“The decline of Mohenjodaro is no longer attributed to Indo-Aryan invasion, migrations, disease or flood as proposed by earlier scholars, but rather to a combination of factors that include the changing river system, the disruption of the subsistence base, and a breakdown in the important integrative factors of trade and religion.”(5)

The New Model

But what is precisely this new picture of ancient India? In the previous section we have discussed mainly the arguments, facts and evidences against the Aryan invasion theory. But what are the positive conclusion and alternative view points emerging from this debate on Aryan invasion theory? To answer this question, we present here the conclusions of one of the leading exponents of the new school of History.

“The New model of ancient India that has emerged from the collapse of the Aryan invasion theory is that of an indigenous development of civilization in ancient India from the Mehrgarh site of 6500BC.The people in this tradition are the same basic ethnic groups as in India today, with their same basic types of languages –Indo-European and Dravidian. There is a progressive process of the domestication of animals, particularly cattle, the development of agriculture, beginning with barley and then later wheat and rice and the use of metal, beginning with copper and culminating in iron, along with the development of villages and towns. Later Harappan (Saravati) civilization 3100-1900 BC show massive cities, complex agriculture and metallurgy, sophistication of arts and crafts and precision in weights and measures. This Sarasvati civilization was a center of trading and for the diffusion of civilization throughout South and West Asia, which often dominated the Mesopotamian region.

Post-Harappan civilization 1900-1000BC shows the abandonment of the Harrapan towns owing to ecological and river changes but without a real break in the continuity of the culture. There is a decentralization and relocation in which the same basic agricultural and artistic traditions continue, along with a few significant urban sites like Dwaraka. This gradually develops into the Gangetic civilization of the first millennium BC, which is the classical civilization of ancient India, which retains its memory of its origin in the Sarasvati region through the Vedas.”(6)


          The Beginnings of Indian Civilisation 

                       Part I   |   Part II   |   Part III   |   Part IV   |   Part V      :   


References :

[1] Navarathnam R. Rajaram “Politics of History”
[2] Navarathnam R. Rajaram “Aryan invasion of India”.pp.49
[3] David Frawley,  “The Myth of the Aryan Invasion Of India”, pp.21
[4] ibid, pp. 22
[5] “Indian History”, pub. Encylopedia Brittanica, pp.341
[6] David Frawley, “The Myth of Aryan Invasion”, p.


Tags: ,