Sunday, August 14, 2011
Aryan Invasion - A History or Story?
A fellow blogger asked my opinion on the Aryan invasion theory. For the last few days, for everything she asked me, I was asking her to refer to one or the other post of mine for the answer. Looks like she was fed-up with the mechanical answer she was getting for all her questions. This time, she asked me about something that I have not talked about before, not knowing that I have another type of mechanical answer for such questions. The answer is either – “Yes, I have been thinking of writing a post on this!” or “Yeah, I already have it in my pending list for a long time!”. So, I gave one of these answers to her as well. With this, she may stop asking me any more questions. J
Yeah. Now let’s jump into the subject. What do I think about Aryan invasion theory? Those of you who know me very well may know this already. I am not a guy who has an opinion on everything. Opinion formation is still “work-in-progress” on many areas. I think it’s absolutely okay to be like that. I know that I may become brainless when I am not able to call one of the parties brainless. But, I still consider myself to be a learner so I am not able to judge which of the two groups is more intelligent than the other. As of now it looks like both the groups are more intelligent than me. That’s it. Aryan-Dravidian issue is something on which I do not have any strong opinion. When you hear two straight opposite views on something, each as loud as the other, the best thing to do is to take a mid-path or stay wherever you are. It’s the most productive thing one can do. It saves a lot of time.
In any issue, you can easily predict most people’s stand by their background. We generally tend to get inclined towards the theory that is good for us than what seems more sensible. There are some internal parts of our brain which work in lightning speed to decide whether something would be good for me or the group that I belong to in the long run before taking sides. There is another factor which usually influences our views is our surrounding. Generally, people from certain background are supposed to be viewing things in a specific way because that is how everyone from that background views that specific thing. For example, if you say someone, “You are this and this land belongs to you from time immemorial!”, they would generally accept that theory. On the other hand, if you say someone, “You are this and you came from elsewhere to occupy our land in so and so century!”, they would generally ridicule that theory. Why? It questions a very basic right of theirs. So, I don’t get influenced by such theorists as well. If it is so true, it has to be accepted by the people in opposite camps as well. Even the issue that we are talking about now does not have such consensus. So, that makes my decision making all the more difficult.
I generally don’t like any theory that tries to single out a specific community or the ones that try to prove that they are outsiders. I don’t believe in secondary treatment for any human being based on their caste, religion, language, race or nativity. Be it the Dravidians calling Aryans outsiders or Hindus calling the Muslims outsiders or the Tamils in Tamil Nadu calling the Telugus outsiders or the locals in Bangalore calling the Tamils outsiders. Anyone that has moved to another place should be treated like a human being and shouldn’t be reminded about their origin unnecessarily on daily basis. At the same time, such things become a problem only when those who came from elsewhere do things that disturb the harmony of the people who lived there peacefully all along.
So, before even talking about whether I accept Aryan invasion theory or not, let’s try to understand what it is. What is it? Alas, there is no one version. There are multiple versions around it. By virtue of being a Tamilian, I could hear and read about many such completely contradicting versions from childhood till date, some of which I am sure you wouldn’t even have heard of before. I am planning to use this post to bring to you as many versions possible than to talk about my version. To tell you upfront, I am still confused on this and I actually don’t care too much about it. I have no version of mine. But, that need not restrict us from discussing about it.
As I have always been saying, a blogger need not help his readers get clearer on issues always. He/she can feel fulfilled even if they could leave their readers more confused at the end of the article than the beginning.
Version 1 is a simple one. All South Indians are Dravidians and all North Indians Aryans. Aryans came from elsewhere and chased the Dravidians down south. According to this theory (there is actually no theory, it’s only a notion by common people who haven’t read any theory!), all those who speak the Dravidian languages are the Dravidians. The rest are Aryans. Which are the Dravidian languages? Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Tulu and few more unknown ones! It includes the Brahmins from South India as well because they also speak one of the above languages at home and not Sanskrit. This is sensible in a way. Language has been one of the major deciding factors in identifying ethnicities from the day languages were born (if not from the day the human race was born!). If they are speaking Tamil or Kannada today, their forefathers could not have spoken something else some centuries ago. But, there are no many advocates of this version.
Version 2 says that this entire nation (what is currently being called India) was occupied by Dravidians who were the people of the land; even Indus valley civilization was Dravidians’; the Aryans who came from Central Asia captured mostly the northern part of the country, chased away the locals down south and started ruling most part of the country. Some even say that the Dravidians were driven out to even the eastern side of the country. As per this theory, the Brahmins are the Aryans and the rest all are Dravidians. Does it mean a Brahmin in South India is an Aryan and a non-Brahmin in UP is a Dravidian? Yes. But, I haven’t seen a single North Indian non-Brahmin guy who proudly identifies himself as a Dravidian. It’s only the South Indian non-Brahmins who talk too much about this.
Some people say, since it has been many centuries since they came in, there have been a lot of cross-breeding as well so you can’t really say who is an Aryan and who is a Dravidian in clear terms. Someone gives a clarification there – “Irrespective of where you are from if you look dark you are a Dravidian and if you look fair you are an Aryan!”, It sounds funny but it does make sense in a way. Going by the theory of Brahmins being the Aryans and others being the Dravidians, if things have got mixed up later, that is the only way to make out, because Brahmins are generally fairer than others. But, if a Brahmin family works in field for multiple generations their descendants would be darker than them sometime down the line. Likewise, if a non-Brahmin family does some indoor job for generations their descendants would be fairer than them. But, all these are exceptions. Generally, an average Brahmin is fairer than an average non-Brahmin so we may accept it half-heartedly.
This theory also says that the Dravidians were not as intelligent as Aryans so they lost all their land to the invaders and ended up getting ruled by Aryans. They also say that there was nothing called religion in this land then and the language spoken at that time was called Dravidian; only the Aryans brought Hinduism and Sanskrit from elsewhere; they introduced a new concept called caste, which would ensure their supremacy forever.
My only question for the advocates of this version is, if they were so powerful and able to impose anything that they wanted to, they could have very easily imposed their language also to native Dravidians, right? Why did they adopt the languages of the Dravidians as theirs? Generally, people can change their native place from one place to another or convert from one religion to another but nobody changes their mother tongue. So, the Brahmins could not have changed their mother tongue from Sanskrit to Tamil or Kannada or any Dravidian language.
At the same time, I should also accept that there are exceptions. All invaders attack everything except the language. Even the Muslims that claim to have come from Cairo in some parts of Tamil Nadu speak Tamil at home today. The Christians that came from Portuguese speak Malayalam at their home in Kerala. That means it is still possible that the Brahmins came from outside speaking some other language while coming in and changed their language to the local ones. Another reason to believe that this is possible is, it is easier for the more intelligent outsiders to pick up the local language than to expect the less intelligent locals to learn their language.
Another supporting argument for this is, the European languages have a lot of Sanskrit influence. So? Sanskrit came from Central Asia. OK. It came from Central Asia to India. But why is it alive only in India and doesn’t have any trace in Europe or Central Asia? Does it mean that all Aryans vacated Central Asia and migrated to India? It doesn’t sound logical to me. But, I am also aware that the history has seen plenty of illogical events. So, All I can say is I am not qualified enough to judge anything yet.
There is another related question – If Aryans came from Central Asia to India, why is their culture alive only in India and there is no trace of it anywhere in Central Asia now? Does it also mean that all Aryans left Central Asia and migrated to India? It is possible if there was a persecution like what happened to Jews or Tamils in Sri Lanka. But, I haven’t heard of any such persecution in this case yet. Even then I have a question - If they are so clever and could be so powerful in a foreign land after migration, why were they not able to handle the other locals in their own land? So, this whole thing sounds fishy to me.
Version 3 says there was no such thing called Aryan-Dravidian divide in the beginning. It was only after the British came in, they wanted to divide and rule us so it was their mischief to introduce us to these theories. This also makes sense. They did it in different forms. It was them who created the Hindu-Muslim conflict also. The same people who blame the British for dividing us in the name of race and want to be united ignoring it, don’t want to do that when it comes to Hindu-Muslim divide. They try to prove that Muslims are outsiders. Some sections of Dravidian theorists even say that the Aryans exaggerate the Hindu-Muslim conflicts just to remove Aryan-Dravidian conflict from people’s mind. Sounds logical too…
And, if British were able to create a rift between two groups of people, any two groups, then there was some room for it. There was something that separated one from the other. It could be the culture… or belief… or something else. That means they ‘might’ have been from different parts of the world. Not sure though!
For example, the ones that are being called Aryans are all vegetarians whereas most Dravidians are non-vegetarians. That means that they may be from different parts of the world. But, there are also vegetarian communities in Dravidians, who prove this wrong. Nobody calls them Aryans. So, this proves more similarity between Dravidians and Aryans than between Central Asians and Aryans. So, what does it prove?
I have even heard that the person who introduced this invasion theory himself (Max Muller) backtracked later. Then, how do we prove him right?
Version 4 is the most surprising one that I am hearing of late. I should call them the neo-Dravidian theorists. These people say that both the terms Aryan and Dravidian refer to the same community, i.e. Brahmins. They say that the North Indian Brahmins were called Aryans and the South Indian Brahmins were called Dravidians. This whole nomenclature was introduced by Brahmins to identify their own people based on the region they belong to. They also ask, “Why then does a South Indian Brahmin Rahul Dravid have a surname like Dravid when no other non-Brahmin has any such surname?”. I don’t know what these people say about the invasion theory. Both Aryans and Dravidians invaded this part of the world or there was no invasion at all??? J
OK. This is theory. How was it applied in practice?
Mr. E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker (who is fondly called ‘Periyar’ by his followers in Tamil Nadu) flagged off this politics by naming his party “Dravidar Kazhagam”, which just meant Dravidian Party. His politics mostly revolved around issues related to Tamil Nadu. All he tried to say was that Tamil Nadu will not get its due share as long as it expected things from its Delhi rulers. By allowing Hindi to be the official language, we would be guilty of killing Tamil, and our kids would have no advantage over the ones that speak Hindi as their mother tongue. So, he could have named his party “Tamilar Kazhagam” as well. Why didn’t he do it? He had developed a kind of uncontrollable hatred towards Brahmins. He thought all problems that the backward and scheduled castes were going through were because of the caste system introduced by the Brahmins; they would do anything to keep it alive; if he kept them in his side, he would never be able to achieve social justice; the only way to achieve social justice was to remove their dominance. So, he wanted to have a party for the non-Brahmin Tamils. Since there was already a theory that said all non-Brahmins were Dravidians, he just named his party Dravidian party. Today’s DMK and ADMK have their roots in DK that was started by Periyar. Today, DMK doesn’t do too much anti-Brahmin politics and ADMK doesn’t do it at all. Ironically, ADMK is being headed by a Brahmin lady today who defies all principles of Dravidian politics.
Is it worth spending our time on it? My answer is a strong No. I don’t get attracted by any kind of divisive politics. Let me repeat again – Any. Any could mean caste, language, religion, region, race, nativity, nationality… any! You may just observe it to understand their point of view but not worth following them.
But, every such divisive move has a social significance in the current environment than a historical significance. As far as I see it was just a move towards removing Brahmin dominance in politics and other important fields. It just got named as Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu because of which the whole state had to go after the researches on Aryan-Dravidian history and revive the forgotten theories of Max Muller. Otherwise, it’s just like the Gowda politics in Karnataka, Reddy/Naidu politics in AP, Yadav/Dalit politics in UP and Bihar and so on. Now the political power has shifted from the hands of Brahmins to majority communities few decades ago. But, most of them who came in using the anti-Brahmin card have failed in almost all the above states now. It’s time they prove their mettle instead of relying on this single agenda however valid it is. So, do I think they are valid? It’s another major controversial subject – Merit Vs. Social Justice. Isn’t ironic to see merit standing against justice? It does, but it has its reasons. Let’s not get into it now. That would result in another few dozen paragraphs. Let’s keep it for sometime later.
Conclusion: I am not interested in looking at someone’s history to decide as to whom to vote for or whom to work with. That someone should be clean, maintain probity in public life and work for the upliftment of people more than anything else. I don’t get blinded by their history or background instead of performance or quality. I have already seen many debacles because of such blindness.