A look back why we are what we are today
The Aryan route to India
India’s Aryans were originally immigrants and to judge by their exploits as recorded in the Vedas, highly combative ones. Aided and encouraged by deities like fire-breathing Agni and the thunderbolt throwing Indra, the Aryan conquistadors were seen as having hurtled down the passes from Afghanistan to career across the plains of the Punjab. There is no archaeological evidence to support the Aryan invasion theory. It can be safely inferred from Vedic scripts, that the Arya were originally pastoralists and, assuming a migration into India, plus the herdsman’s need to be forever seeking new pastures, they must have been semi-nomadic. They may have entered India sometime between 1500BC and 1300BC. Most authorities now suppose several waves of migration rather than a single mass movement These waves consisted of different ethnic groups and on linguistic evidence, may have been spread over centuries. So possibly the entire period was one of Aryan incursion.
We may infer that, like pastoralists the world over, they lived and itinerant outdoor life. Much exposed to the elements, they may have been inclined to discover divine power in the forces of nature and to assume a ready communion with these powers. The names fo their gods predate the arrival in India, many e.g.Indra, Agni, Varuna being almost synonymous with their counterparts in Persian, Greek and Latin mythology; but their attributes and achievements relate to their Indian environment.
That they initially settled in the Punjab and astride what is now the Indo-Pakistan frontier is clear from the references in the Rig Veda to the Sapta-Sindhu, ‘the Land of the Seven Rivers’.
The compositions of the ancient Arya are not just history, they are nearest thing to revelation. The Arya themselves, though, are not revered and never have been. In no sense are they seen as divinely ‘chosen people’. Individual priests, heroes, sages & deities are cherished but their ethnic affinity is neither emphasised nor invariable. This in not surprising since in Sanskrit the word Arya is usually adjectival. Certain peoples or classes once used to distinguish themselves from others, it was clearly a good thing to be. But like many words its meaning changed over the centuries and the original is now hard to pin down. ‘Aryans’ on the other hand as, as the generic title of a distinct race of people to which this arya adjective exclusively applied, nowhere features in Sanskrit literature.
Interestingly, the ancient Persians had used their Arya word in an ethnic sense; they called themselves the ‘Ariana’ (whence derive the modern ‘Iran’). Given the vast spread of Indo-Aryan languages, any aryan homeland was thought to have been somewhere in the European landmass. Most scholars favoured the steppes of southern Russia and the Ukraine, or the shores of Caspian. Nomadic pastoralists, the Aryans needed plenty of room. Thence, in a series of sweeping migrations spread over many centuries, they supposedly took their language, plus their gods, their horse and their herds, to Iran & Syria, Anatolia and Greece, eastern Europe and northern India.
The Darks (Tribals) of India
The country was wild and inhospitable, the climate and weather inclement, the beasts strong, swift and ferocious. They made themselves at home in the hills and jungles, adjusted themselves meticulously to the climate, and literally dug up happiness as they do water in the sands of their streams. The aboriginals, Sabaras as they are called in Sanskrit, of India had happiness in the blood, and in their free state neither would nor could be cured of it. They faced implacable enmity of the Aryans who hated them as fair people hate dark as civilized men hate savages. This holds as true of our society today as it did of the Aryan say, of 1000 B.C. From the beginning the Aryans were both frightened and fascinated by the aboriginals. Naturally, until they were established in the country in the unchallenged power, they felt the hatred more than the attraction. Yet the aboriginals or Sabaras have survived, which seems incredible achievement. This, the aboriginals have to their credit and not only have they survived, they have even been able to continue their way of life, keep it largely intact and unimpaired, and maintain themselves in social and cultural health. What could have contributed this? The first reason in obvious and elemental: the Aryan pastoral and agricultural order was not interested in the aboriginal’s hills and jungles. Secondly they showed an amazing adaptability within the framework of their hunting economy. They borrowed techniques from their civilized neighbours, just to the point needed to ensure survival, for holding their own, without abandoning their primitive way of life, its spirit, and its social organization in any essential respect. They certainly adopted metals, also animal husbandry,and partially,agriculture. They even borrowed myths and legends from civilized Hindus and transformed them into their own in a recast form. But they remained they.
The Aryan settlement in India in both its aspect, that is to say, in the Aryanization of the Indo Gangetic plain and the establishment of colonists in the south, was completed in all its essential features most probably by the ned of the seventh century B.C. with it the basic ethnic pattern of India, whose most outstanding feature is the opposition between the civilized community of Aryan descent and the primitive Darks, was firmly established. By that time, it would seem, the Aryans had added a new class to their original social organization in three classes, and become the four-class society which the hindu community has remained ever since, at least in theory. To this class, Hindu sacred law gave the legal status of Sudra, the fourth caste. It is however extremely difficult to discover the real ethnic affiliations of the Sudras. On the one hand, they are not to be confused with the Darks, free or unfree. The servile darks were untouchables, the Sudras though theoretically servile in function, were not so. They were part of hindu society, not outside it. On the other hand, within that society, they were to be distinguished from the main mass of the true Aryans, the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and the Vaisyas.
The eruption of the invasions from the first century B.C. by the barbarous nomads and semi-nomads from Central Asia left a permanent impress on the Hindu mind nad outlook, confirming the self-consciousness which even before these invasions were aggressive. Previously, face to face with the aboriginals, the Hindu had already formed themselves into a closed society based on birth, but they had done so as migrators ,who were superior to the natives in race and civilization. On the contrary, the barbarians from Central Asia came as conquerors, and when not beaten back by an Aryan hero behaved as conquerors. Their domination intolerably humiliated the proud Hindu order, and it was in dealing with them that it added to its intense pride of race and culture, that violent xenophobia which henceforward became a fixed trait of the Hindu outlook. The compound of fear,hatred,contempt and humiliation was embodied in the notion of Mlecchchha meaning , the unclean uncivilized foreigner.
It was also on account of the barbarian invasion that the Hindu lost their readiness and faculty of learning from foreign nations. The extreme of this development was noted in the eleventh century by the great muslim scholar Alberuni, who wrote: “Their haughtiness is such that, if you tell them of any science or scholar in Khurasan and Persis, they will think you to be both an ignoramus and a liar”.
Strange as it might seem, the epoch of the barbarian invasions was the only period in their historical existence in which the Hindus showed any inclination or capacity to absorb non-Hindu in their society, and it is this exceptional phenomenon which has lent some plausibility to the idea that they possessed an extraordinary capacity to assimilate foreigners and bring about a racial synthesis. Actually, the historical situation left them with no choice, and the barbarians must also have been very, very willing-he wanted a rise in the cultural scale, and was granted it.