Critical Podium Dewanand India
Hindu itihaasa revised, aryan invasion theory was
dangerous, racist, political: BBC
Sacrifice code wfor0353
Sacrifice date 25 march 2009
Hindu itihaasa revised, aryan invasion theory was dangerous,
racist, political: BBC
This is history of hindu civilization as BBC sees it now (2005). Some
progress, this, thanks to the magnificent efforts made by scholars in
search of satyam. We have miles to go in undoing the mischief by the likes
of William Jones frauds now shown wearing skull-caps on marble panel in
a chapel of Oxford College. The next step should be to have this insulting
panel humiliating the hindu, removed from the chapel which is no place
for such duplicity. Thanks to Arindam Chakrabarti and Rajiv Malhotra for
unravelling this fraud.
Hinduism has a long and complex history. It is a blend of ancient legends,
beliefs and customs which has adapted, blended with, and spawned numerous
creeds and practices.
The 'traditional' view of Hindu history, as described in this section,
has been challenged by modern scholars.
In particular, various scholars have advanced the following theories:
Hindu religion pre-dated 3000BCE
'Aryan', a Sanskrit word meaning 'noble', does not refer to an invading
race at all
The Aryans did not invade but migrated gradually
The Aryans were native to the area, or found there long before the alleged
Hinduism originated solely in India
There is ongoing controversy over which version of Hindu history is the
Find out why the Aryan Invasion Theory is so controversial.
Prehistoric religion: (3000-1000 BCE)
The earliest evidence for elements of the Hindu faith dates back as far
as 3000 BCE.
Archaeological excavations in the Punjab and Indus valleys (right) have
revealed the existence of urban cultures at Harappa, the prehistoric capital
of the Punjab (located in modern Pakistan); and Mohenjo-daro on the banks
of the River Indus.
Archaeological work continues on other sites at Kalibangan, Lothal and
The excavations have revealed signs of early rituals and worship.
In Mohenjodaro, for example, a large bath has been found, with side rooms
and statues which could be evidence of early purification rites.
Elsewhere, phallic symbols and a large number statues of goddesses have
been discovered which could suggest the practice of early fertility rites.
This early Indian culture is sometimes called the Indus Valley civilisation.
Pre-classical (Vedic) (2000 BCE - 1000)
Some time in the second millennium BCE the Aryan people arrived in north-west
The Aryans (Aryan means noble) were a nomadic people who may have come
to India from the areas around southern Russia and the Baltic.
They brought with them their language and their religious traditions.
These both influenced and were influenced by the religious practices of
the peoples who were already living in India.
The Indus valley communities used to gather at rivers for their religious
The Aryans gathered around fire for their rituals.
The Indus valley communities regarded rivers as sacred, and had both male
and female gods.
The Aryan gods represented the forces of nature; the sun, the moon, fire,
storm and so on.
Over time, the different religious practices tended to blend together.
Sacrifices were made to gods such as Agni, the God of Fire, and Indra,
the God of storms.
Aspects of the Aryan faith began to be written down around 800 BCE in
literature known as the Vedas. These developed from their oral and poetic
You can see some of the Vedic tradition in Hindu worship today.
The Caste System
The Aryans also introduced the varna system (varna = estates or classes)
to India, which may have contributed to the caste system we see today.
Some think that it developed from a simpler two-tier structure consisting
of nobles at the top, and everyone else below.
Others say that it was established and practised by the priests who divided
society into three parts:
The priests (or Brahmins).
The warriors (the Kshatriyas).
The ordinary people.
The rise of Jainism and Buddhism
Buddhism and Jainism emerged from India around 800-600 BCE, a period
of great cultural, intellectual and spiritual development, and both had
an enormous influence on Hinduism.
Some of the previously accepted truths of the religion were beginning
to be questioned and the religious leaders were being asked to defend
their views and teachings.
Furthermore, the old tribal structure of society was diminishing.
The result was an increasing number of breakaway sects, of which Buddhism
and Jainism were probably the most successful.
Buddha was born in the sixth century BCE as Gautama Siddhartha. He was
a member of the powerful warrior class.
He renounced the pleasures and materialism of this world to search for
the truth. Through this quest he developed his basic principles for living.
Buddhism became the state religion of India in the third century BCE.
Buddhism had a great influence on Hinduism, from the way it used parables
and stories as a means of religious instruction, to its influence on Indian
art, sculpture and education.
The founder of the Jains, Mahavira ("the great hero"), was
a near contemporary of the Buddha's and he rejected the caste system,
along with the Hindu belief in the cycle of births.
Mahavira was the twenty fourth of the Tirthankaras, the "Path-makers",
or great teachers of Jainism.
They developed the concept of three ways, or "jewels" - right
faith, right knowledge and right conduct.
The Jains were never a numerically large group but their influence was
out of all proportion to their size and distribution.
Mahatma Gandhi, whilst himself not a Jain, embraced their doctrine of
non-violence to living things.
The End of the Era
During the last centuries of the previous era, the Mauryan empire ruled
much of India. The most famous ruler, Asoka, although a Buddhist himself,
thought that the Brahman religion was worthy of respect.
Brahmanism revived with the end of Mauryan rule, and at the same time
devotion to individual gods, such as Vishnu and Siva, began to grow.
Some of the early Hindu images date from this period.
The Start of the Current Era
The first 400 years CE were a time of upheaval in the Hindu heartland.
A variety of invaders ruled the area, bringing injections of their own
cultures and beliefs.
Hinduism strengthened, and the cults of individual gods grew stronger.
Goddesses, too, began to attract followers.
The Rise of "Hinduism"
The years to 1000 CE saw Hinduism gaining strength at the expense of
Some Hindu rulers took military action to suppress Buddhism. However it
was probably developments in Hinduism itself that helped the faith to
Hinduism now included not only the appeal of devotion to a personal god,
but had seen the development of its emotional side with the composition
and singing of poems and songs. This made Hinduism an intelligible and
satisfying road to faith to many ordinary worshippers.
The Arrival of Islam
Islam arrived in the Ganges basin in the 7th century, but its influence
was not really felt until the Turks arrived in the 11th and 12th centuries
Islam and Hinduism were in conflict because, although the mystical traditions
of both religions had some common ground, Muslim rulers sought to conquer
Hindu territories and, from the 17th century, to assert the superiority
Islam was established - and flourished - chiefly in areas where Buddhism
was in a process of slow decline, that is mainly around modern-day Pakistan,
Bangladesh and Kashmir.
Hinduism remained strongest in the south of India.
Hinduism as it is known and recognised today has been greatly affected
by the influence of western thought and practices.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, missionaries from Europe attempted to
convert Hindus to Christianity with varying degrees of success.
This challenged Hindu leaders to reform many practices and in some cases,
revive old practices.
This period has been recognised as a period of Hindu revivalism.
An early leader in this field was Rammohan Roy (1772-1833), a scholar
who spoke Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Sanskrit alongside
his native Bengali.
He read most of the religious scriptures from around the world and discovered
that there was little difference between them.
In 1828, he founded the Brahmo Samaj, based on the teachings of the Upanishads.
Whilst he based much of his work on the teachings of the Upanishads,
his social outlook was progressive and he was keen to develop education
and particularly the establishment of western sciences into Indian culture.
Rammohan Roy died in Bristol of meningitis while on a visit to Europe.
There is a statue of him at College Green in Bristol.
Another school of Hinduism developed under the influence of Ramakrishna
Paramahamsa (1836-86) who put much greater emphasis on devotion to God.
He combined the trend of popular Hinduism with its many images with a
belief in a loveable Almighty God, for he could see God in many forms.
He preached without a complicated theology and without an over-reliance
on the scriptures.
It was a pluralist approach to Hinduism which helped it to find its feet
in the modern world.
The work of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was continued and extended by Swami
Vivekananda (1863-1902) who, after 12 years of ascetic study and discipline,
was responsible for promoting the Hindu tradition and thought in the west.
He taught that the divine is in everything and promoted the Ramakrishna
Mission which is well known for its social work as well as being a focus
for Hindu religious thought.
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
More often known as the Hare Krishnas, the movement is often recognised
as the western face of Hinduism.
Its origins can be traced back to Chaitanya, a fifteenth century devotee
of Krishna, who chanted devotional songs to Krishna.
His teachings were promoted in the 20th century by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati,
who had a vision of taking the message of Chaitanya to the west shortly
before his death in 1936.
This work was taken up by Prabhupada who took that message to the United
States and eventually established bases around the world to promote those
The Aryan Invasion Theory
One of the most controversial ideas about Hindu history is the Aryan
This theory, originally devised by F. Max Muller in 1848, traces the
history of Hinduism to the invasion of India's indigenous people by lighter
skinned Aryans around 1500 BCE.
The theory was reinforced by other research over the next 120 years,
and became the accepted history of Hinduism, not only in the West but
There is now ample evidence to show that Muller, and those who followed
him, were wrong.
Why is the theory no longer accepted?
The Aryan invasion theory was based on archaeological, linguistic and
Later research has either discredited this evidence, or provided new
evidence that combined with the earlier evidence makes other explanations
Modern historians of the area no longer believe that such invasions had
such great influence on Indian history. It's now generally accepted that
Indian history shows a continuity of progress from the earliest times
The changes brought to India by other cultures are not denied by modern
historians, but they are no longer thought to be a major ingredient in
the development of Hinduism.
Dangers of the theory
The Aryan invasion theory denies the Indian origin of India's predominant
culture, but gives the credit for Indian culture to invaders from elsewhere.
It even teaches that some of the most revered books of Hindu scripture
are not actually Indian, and it devalues India's culture by portraying
it as less ancient than it actually is.
The theory was not just wrong, it included unacceptably racist ideas:
it suggested that Indian culture was not a culture in its own right, but
a synthesis of elements from other cultures
it implied that Hinduism was not an authentically Indian religion but
the result of cultural imperialism
it suggested that Indian culture was static, and only changed under outside
it suggested that the dark-skinned Dravidian people of the South of India
had got their faith from light-skinned Aryan invaders
it implied that indigenous people were incapable of creatively developing
it suggested that indigenous peoples could only acquire new religious
and cultural ideas from other races, by invasion or other processes
it accepted that race was a biologically based concept (rather than, at
least in part, a social construct) that provided a sensible way of ranking
people in a hierarchy, which provided a partial basis for the caste system
it provided a basis for racism in the Imperial context by suggesting that
the peoples of Northern India were descended from invaders from Europe
and so racially closer to the British Raj
it gave a historical precedent to justify the role and status of the British
Raj, who could argue that they were transforming India for the better
in the same way that the Aryans had done thousands of years earlier
it downgraded the intellectual status of India and its people by giving
a falsely late date to elements of Indian science and culture
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