Mukteshwar-Siddheshwar temple After Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro declined the political center of India shifted from the Indus to Ganges valley. The population increased from about 87 million to 225 million between 4000 B.C. and the time of Christ, when four fifth of the world's population lived under the Roman, Chinese Han and Indian Gupta empires. The population of India grew only slightly between 300 B.C. and the 18th century.
A series of migrations by Indo-European-speaking seminomads took place during the second millennium B.C. Known as Aryans, these preliterate pastoralists spoke an early form of Sanskrit, which has close philological similarities to other Indo-European languages, such as Avestan in Iran and ancient Greek and Latin. The term Aryan meant pure and implied the invaders' conscious attempts at retaining their tribal identity and roots while maintaining a social distance from earlier inhabitants. [Source: Library of Congress]
The people speaking Indo-European (Aryan) languages settled in North-West India around 1500 B.C. that is after the periods of Harappan civilations. They Aryans flourished in the fertile province of today's Punjab, which they called the Region of Seven Rivers or "Sapta-Sindhu". Then in some course of time Aryans have moved from Saptasindhu Region to the river valleys of river Ganga and Yamuna, where several tiny kingdoms were etablished. [Source: Glorious India ]
Around 1000 B.C. the Ganges plain was still covered with virgin forests. By 300 B.C. there were barely any trees left. Around 300 B.C., the Ganges valley was perhaps the most populated region on earth, with an estimated population of between 25 and 50 million people.
Little is known about India's early history. Some scholars believe that ancient Sanskrit historical may have been destroyed completely on purpose for some unknown reason. Others believe that they were never written down because of the Hindu belief in reincarnation and the cyclical rhythms of nature. Why record history if the events are only going to happen again, perhaps the reasoning went. The Aryans left behind little physical evidence of their existence. They didn’t build great buildings or leave significant archeological sites, What we know about ancient Hindu-Aryan civilization is based largely on the holy Vedic texts, heroic myths written in second half of first millennium B.C.
Book: “Encyclopedia of Ancient Asian Cultures” By Charles Higham
Sanskrit Atashgah Siva-inscription Around 1500 B.C. to 1200 B.C., pastoral, Indo-European-speaking tribes migrated from the northwest into the subcontinent, arriving via Afghanistan and settled in the middle Ganges River valley, and adapted to and influenced cultures living in that area at that time. These people have been called Aryans. They spoke Vedic Sanskrit, an Indo-European language.
Over the next 2,000 years the Indo-Aryans developed a Brahmanic civilization, out of which Hinduism evolved. From Punjab they spread east over the Gangetic plain and by c.800 B.C. were established in Bihar, Jharkhand, and Bengal. The first important Aryan kingdom was Magadha, with its capital near present-day Patna; it was there, during the reign of Bimbisara (540–490 B.C.), that the founders of Jainism and Buddhism preached. Kosala was another kingdom of the period.
The Aryans were a loosely federated, semi-nomadic, chariot-riding, herdsmen people who spread both east and west from Central Asia, taking their sky gods with them. The Aryans first settled in the Punjab and later moved on to the Ganges Valley. They are also ancestors of Persians, pre-Homeric Greeks, Teutons and Celts. Aryans are defined as early speakers of Vedic Sanskrit, an Indo-European language that provided the basis for all the languages in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as the majority those in Europe.
Based on linguistic evidence Aryans are believed to have originated from the steppes of Central Asia. They were led by a warrior aristocracy whose legendary deeds are recorded in the Rig Veda. The term “arya” in Sanskrit means “noble.” The Aryans introduced the horse-drawn chariot, the Hindu religion and sacred books known as the Vedas to present-day India.
The Term "Aryan"
The term “Aryan” has been used by European writers since 1835 but fell into disfavor in the mid 20th century because of its association with Nazi propaganda, which described the people of northern and central Europe as being the purest representatives of an “Aryan race.” Today, historians and ethnologist who discuss Aryans make it very clear they are taking about speakers of Aryan languages and are not taking about Aryan blood, hair, eyes or other features.
According to the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “The term, arya in Sanskrit, means "noble," no doubt in reference to their dominant position in the society they invaded so long ago. Their descendants today form the great bulk of the population in Nepal, Pakistan, northern India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, though they do not identify themselves primarily as Aryans. [Source: “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1992 |~|]
“Although the term "Aryan" has been used by European writers since 1835, it has fallen into disfavor among recent scholars because of its abuse by Nazi propagandists half a century ago, who imagined that northern and central Europeans were the purest representatives of an "Aryan race." Today the term "Aryan" is still used in discussion of early Indian History and in relation to the Subfamily of Indo-Aryan Languages.
The last word on usage was in fact written over a Century ago by Max Müller: "I have declared again and again that if I say Aryans, I mean neither blood nor bones, nor hair nor skull; I mean simply those who speak an Aryan language. . . . To me an ethnologist who speaks of the Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary, or a brachycephalic grammar." |~|
Around a 3000 B.C., during the early Bronze Age, Indo-European people began migrating into Europe, Iran and India and mixed with local people who eventually adopted their language. In Greece, these people were divided into fledgling city states from which the Mycenaeans and later the Greeks evolved. These Indo European people are believed to have been relatives of the Aryans, who migrated or invaded India and Asia Minor. The Hittites, and later the Greeks, Romans, Celts and nearly all Europeans and North Americans descended from Indo-European people.
Indo-Europeans is the general name for the people speaking Indo-European languages. They are the linguistic descendants of the people of the Yamnaya culture (c.3600-2300 B.C. in Ukraine and southern Russia who settled in the area from Western Europe to India in various migrations in the third, second, and early first millenniums B.C.. They are the ancestors of Persians, pre-Homeric Greeks, Teutons and Celts. [Source: Livius.com]
Indo-European intrusions into Iran and Asia Minor (Anatolia, Turkey) began about 3000 B.C.. The Indo-European tribes originated in the great central Eurasian Plains and spread into the Danube River valley possibly as early as 4500 B.C., where they may have been the destroyers of the Vinca Culture. Iranian tribes entered the plateau which now bears their name in the middle around 2500 B.C. and reached the Zagros Mountains which border Mesopotamia to the east by about 2250 B.C...
Aryan (Indo-European) Invasions (Migrations)
The Aryans, some have argued, arrived in Pakistan in two major waves: one around 2000 B.C. and a large one around 1400 B.C. after they were displaced by people from Iran. In Pakistan, they were based mostly in the Punjab. Over time they migrated eastwards and displaced the people in the Indus Valley. The Aryans established a few significant principalities including Gandhara, but were never strong or unified enough to form a great kingdom.
There is considerable disagreement about this date the Aryans arrived, how many migrations occurred and if the migrations was an invasion or gradual movement of people. . There have been two major theories about the early development of early south Asian traditions: 1)The Aryan migration thesis: that the Indus Valley groups calling themselves 'Aryans' (noble ones) migrated into the sub-continent and became the dominant cultural force; and 2)The cultural transformation thesis: that Aryan culture is a development of the Indus Valley culture. According to the The Aryan migration thesis there were no Aryan migrations (or invasion) and the Indus valley culture was an Aryan or Vedic culture. According to the cultural transformation thesis Hinduism derives from their religion recorded in the Veda along with elements of the indigenous traditions they encountered. [Source: Professor Gavin Flood, BBC, August 24, 2009 |::|]
Until the entry of the Europeans by sea in the late fifteenth century, and with the exception of the Arab conquests of Muhammad bin Qasim in the early eighth century, the route taken by peoples who migrated to India has been through the mountain passes, most notably the Khyber Pass, in northwestern Pakistan. Although unrecorded migrations may have taken place earlier, it is certain that migrations increased in the second millennium B.C. The records of these people — who spoke an Indo-European language — are literary, not archaeological, and were preserved in the Vedas, collections of orally transmitted hymns. In the greatest of these, the "Rig Veda," the Aryan speakers appear as a tribally organized, pastoral, and pantheistic people. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]
The later Vedas and other Sanskritic sources, such as the Puranas (literally, "old writings" — an encyclopedic collection of Hindu legends, myths, and genealogy), indicate an eastward movement from the Indus Valley into the Ganges Valley (called Ganga in Asia) and southward at least as far as the Vindhya Range, in central India. A social and political system evolved in which the Aryans dominated, but various indigenous peoples and ideas were accommodated and absorbed. The caste system that remained characteristic of Hinduism also evolved. One theory is that the three highest castes — Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas — were composed of Aryans, while a lower caste — the Sudras — came from the indigenous peoples.
By the sixth century B.C., knowledge of Indian history becomes more focused because of the available Buddhist and Jain sources of a later period. Northern India was populated by a number of small princely states that rose and fell in the sixth century B.C. In this milieu, a phenomenon arose that affected the history of the region for several centuries — Buddhism. Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, the "Enlightened One" (ca. 563-483 B.C.), was born in the Ganges Valley. His teachings were spread in all directions by monks, missionaries, and merchants. The Buddha's teachings proved enormously popular when considered against the more obscure and highly complicated rituals and philosophy of Vedic Hinduism. The original doctrines of the Buddha also constituted a protest against the inequities of the caste system, attracting large numbers of followers.
Impact of Aryans
Paul Hockings wrote in the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: Aryans “introduced to the Indo-Gangetic Plain the horse-drawn chariot and the Brahmanic religion still known to us from the four sacred books called Vedas. The earlier Indus Valley civilization, in all probability not Aryan in its language, was already destroyed or moribund by the time of their arrival. Archeologically, their early presence in India is marked by the distribution of Painted Gray Ware. The lands they occupied were called Aryavarta and are dealt with in the oldest Sanskrit literature, which is our chief source on the early Aryans. [Source:“Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1992 |~|]
“For many centuries after their arrival in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the Aryans lived as horsemen and cattle herders, clearing patches in the forests and inhabiting small villages, rather than living in the ancient towns that their ancestors had probably helped bring to ruin. Only with the start of the Indian Iron Age (about 700 B.C.) did Aryan towns begin to emerge; this development presumes a background of settled farming in the plains by that era. |~|
“There has been much speculation about the subsequent development of northern Indian society and the Aryans' further colonization of the subcontinent; about relations Between them and the conquered "Dasas" or "Dasyu" (names meaning "slaves" and probably referring to remnants of the earlier Indus Valley population); and about the rise of the caste system. During the Vedic period (about 1500 to 800 B.C.) the Aryans developed the enormously elaborate rituals of Brahmanism, the forerunner of Hinduism; and they formed a stratified society in which the rudiments of the caste system were already apparent. Thus there was a priestly caste (Brahmana), a ruling noble caste (Rajanya), a warrior caste (Kshatriya), and the menial caste (Sudra). Prior to the Mauryan Empire (321 to 185 B.C.) there was no organized Aryan government with a class of bureaucrats to administer the land throughout India. Instead, there were numerous ruling chieftains (rajan ) who commanded their armies and were assisted by purohitas, men who counseled and protected the rulers with their magical skills. As larger kingdoms emerged the purohita became like a combined archbishop and prime minister, consecrating the king, giving him political counsel, and performing major sacrifices for him. The introduction of iron technology led to urbanization, and by 500 B.C. many of these kingdoms had an important merchant class in the towns who were already using copper and silver coins. Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha, came from the ruling family of one such kingdom (Kosala, now in Bihar State). |~|
When the Aryans arrived in India, they found people with an advanced civilization living there. These people, called the Dravidians, lived in towns and grew crops. The Aryans gradually conquered the Dravidians and drove some of them southward. Eventually, the Aryans extended their rule over all of India except the south.
Dravidian is the name given to a linguistically related group of people in India. They are said to be the first original settlers of ancient India. Dravidian culture is very diverse, with some groups maintaining more traditional customs such as totemism and matralinealism, while others have developed the lifestyles of a modern technological society. Dravidians are thought of as the descendants of the earliest known inhabitants on India. They include the primitives Bhil and Gond tribes of the central and western hill forests and the Tamils of the south. The earliest Dravidians were hunters and cattle herders. It is not known what language they spoke.
Some scholars believe the Indus people of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, an ancient civilization that lasted from 3300 B.C. to 1500 B.C., spoke a language that belongs the Dravidian family. This language is believed to have diffused through Maraashtra to the south, especially after 1000 B.C. along with the horse, and iron. Dravidian language has remained relatively intact despite a considerable amount of contact and intermarriage with other people in the Indian subcontinent. Today with more than one hundred seventy million speakers, the Dravidians make up the fourth largest linguistic group in the world.
It is often presumed that Dravidians were the creators of the Indus River Valley Civilization and that they were occupying all of the Indian subcontinent when the Indo-Aryans invaded from Afghanistan (ca2000 B.C.). The Dravidians were probably subjected by the Indo-Aryans and are the dasus of Vedic scriptures. Other Dravidians remained in a tribal state in central and southern India. Dravidians in general were gradually Hinduized, but retained their languages. The Tamil language is the first of the Dravidian languages to reflect the influence of Hinduism.
Dravidians have traditionally been regarded as dark-skinned while the Aryans of the north were light-skinned. Around 1500 B.C., according to some historians, the Aryans conquered the Indus River civilizations of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro and the Dravidian people in South Asia. The caste system is believed to have been introduced as a way for light-skinned Aryan invaders to keep the indigenous Dravidian people in their place. Higher castes are usually associated with whiter skin and purer Aryan descent. Aryan conquerors gave the conquered dark-skin Dravidians dirtier, lower status tasks. “Varna”, the Hindu word for caste means "color." Perhaps it evolved from something other than color of skin but many think it is reference to skin color. The Vedas refer to conquered “Dasas” or “Dasyi” (names meaning “slaves” and probably referring to the early Dravidian-speaking Indus people),
Early Indo-European charioteers
in this case, the Hittites Between 2000 and 1000 B.C. successive waves of Aryans migrated to India from Central Asia (as well as eastern Europe, western Russia and Persia) . The Aryans invaded India between 1500 and 1200 B.C., around the same time they moved into the Mediterranean and western Europe. At this time the Indus civilization had already been destroyed or was moribund.
There is some evidence these people originated in Central Asia near the Caucasus Mountains. They called themselves "arya" (kinsmen or nobles), the source of the word "Aryan." The Aryans are said to have entered India through the fabled Khyber pass, around 1500 B.C. They intermingled with the local populace, and assimilated themselves into the social framework. They adopted the settled agricultural lifestyle of their predecessors, and established small agrarian communities across the state of Punjab. [Source: Glorious India ]
The Aryans success can partly be attributed to the superiority of their technology, particularly weapon technology, over the people they conquered, namely the Dravidian people in South Asia. The Aryans had advanced bronze weapons, later iron weapons and horse drawn chariots with light spoked wheels. The native people the conquered at best had oxcarts and often only stone-age weapons.
"Charioteers were the first great aggressors in human history," the historian Jack Keegan wrote. About 1700 BC, Semitic tribes known as the Hykos, invaded the Nile Valley, and mountain people infiltrated Mesopotamia. Both invaders had chariots. Around 1500 BC, Aryan charioteers from the steppes of northern Iran conquered India and the founders of the Shang Dynasty (the first Chinese ruling authority) arrived in China on chariots and set up the world's first state. [Source: "History of Warfare" by John Keegan, Vintage Books]
The light-skinned Aryans drove many of the original dark-skinned Dravidian inhabitants of northern India south and are believed to have conquered the Indus River civilizations of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
Earliest Evidence of Chariots
John Noble Wilford wrote in the New York Times, “In ancient graves on the steppes of Russia and Kazakhstan, archeologists have uncovered skulls and bones of sacrificed horses and, perhaps most significantly, traces of spoked wheels. These appear to be the wheels of chariots, the earliest direct evidence for the existence of the two-wheeled high-performance vehicles that transformed the technology of transport and warfare.[Source: John Noble Wilford, New York Times, February 22, 1994]
“The discovery sheds new light on the contributions to world history by the vigorous pastoral people who lived in the broad northern grasslands, dismissed as barbarians by their southern neighbors. From these burial customs, archeologists surmise that this culture bore a remarkable resemblance to the people who a few hundred years later called themselves Aryans and would spread their power, religion and language, with everlasting consequence, into the region of present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India. The discovery could also lead to some revision in the history of the wheel, the quintessential invention, and shake the confidence of scholars in their assumption that the chariot, like so many other cultural and mechanical innovations, had its origin among the more advanced urban societies of the ancient Middle East.
New analysis of material from the graves shows that these chariots were built more than 4,000 years ago, strengthening the case for their origin in the steppes rather than in the Middle East. If the ages of the burial sites are correct, said Dr. David W. Anthony, who directed the dating research, chariots from the steppes were at least contemporary with and perhaps even earlier than the earliest Middle East chariots. The first hint of them in the Middle East is on clay seals, dated a century or two later. The seal impressions, from Anatolia, depict a light, two-wheel vehicle pulled by two animals, carrying a single figure brandishing an ax or hammer.
"Scholarly caution tells me the matter is not resolved," said Dr. Anthony, an anthropologist at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. "But my gut feeling is, there's a good chance the chariot was invented first in the north." While praising Dr. Anthony's work, Mary Littauer, an independent archeologist and co-author of "Wheeled Vehicles and Ridden Animals in the Ancient Near East" (Brill, 1979), was not ready to concede the point. "It's still debatable," she said. "A spoked wheel is not necessarily a chariot, only a light cart on the way to becoming chariots."
Other archeologists and historians said they would not be surprised to learn that the chariot had originated in the steppes. After all, pastoralists there were probably the first to tame and ride horses; as Dr. Anthony determined in other research reported four years ago, this may have occurred at least 6,000 years ago. Then they developed wagons with solid disk wheels, and many centuries later learned to make the lighter spoked wheels, the breakthrough invention leading to the fast, maneuverable chariot. The results of Dr. Anthony's dating research was presented at a meeting of the American Anthropological Association and an interpretation of the results was published in Archaeology, the magazine of the Archeological Institute of America.
Linga from Shivalaya Devipuram The Aryans settled in the Punjab and wrote hymns to natural deities of which 1028 were recorded in the Vedic verses. The “Brahmanas” were written between 800 and 600 B.C. to explain the hymns and speculate about their meaning. Archeologists mark the arrival of the Aryan by the presence and distribution of their distinctive Painted Gray Ware pottery. The lands they occupied were called Aryavarta and they are described in some detail in the oldest Sanskrit literature, the chief source of information about them.
Aryan settlers cultivated some wheat and barely but they were primarily horsemen and cattle herders. They cleared small patches of forest and set up villages and small towns. They didn’t occupy large towns or cites and didn’t leave any great ruined cities behind.. They didn’t really establish any towns of any size or practice settled farming until the Indian Iron Age beginning about 700 B.C.
The Aryans were led by a hereditary king and were divided into five major tribes. They remained warriors. They fought against non-Aryans and fought one another. They even persuaded non-Aryans to help fight against other Aryan tribes. War itself was described as the “search for cows.”The Aryans were able to unite a wide variety of ethnic and linguistic groups under their integrated high culture but did not eliminate the rich diversity and variety that is still found in India today.
A settled lifestyle brought in its wake more complex forms of government and social patterns. This period saw the evolution of the caste system, and the emergence of kingdoms and republics. The events described in the two great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, are thought to have occurred around this period. (1000 to 800 B.C.). [Source: Glorious India ]
The Aryans were divided into tribes which had settled in different regions of northwestern India. Tribal chiefmanship gradually became hereditary, though the chief usually operated with the help of advice from either a committee or the entire tribe. With work specialisation, the internal division of the Aryan society developed along caste lines. Their social framework was composed mainly of the following groups : the Brahmana (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaishya (agriculturists) and Shudra (workers). It was, in the beginning, a division of occupations; as such it was open and flexible. Much later, caste status and the corresponding occupation came to depend on birth, and change from one caste or occupation to another became far more difficult.
Aryans and Hittites
Around the second millennia B.C. the Indo Europeans tribes from north of India similar to the Aryans invaded Asia Minor. The Hittites, and later the Greeks, Romans, Celts and nearly all Europeans and North Americans descended from these tribes. They carried bronze daggers.
The Hittite Empire dominated Asia Minor and parts of the Middle East from 1750 B.C. to 1200 B.C. Once regarded as a magical people, the Hittites were known for their military skill, the of development of an advanced chariot, and as one of the first cultures to smelt iron and forge it weapons and tools. They fought with spears from chariots and did not possess more advanced composite bow. The ancient Indians had recipes for toxic smoke that could be used in warfare.
The Hittites were an Indo-European people that served as a conduit and bridge for the cultures of Asia, the Middle East and Europe. They created a society with a government and laws, similar to those in Sumer. The Hittites fought against Kings of Babylonians and the Pharaohs of Egypt for possession what is now Israel, Lebanon and Syria. In the 12th century their empire fell to the Assyrians.
The Hittites were charioteers who wrote manuals on horsemanship. Ninth century B.C. stone reliefs show Hittite warriors in chariots. "Charioteers were the first great aggressors in human history," writes historian Jack Keegan. They had an easy time conquering the nomads and farmers that inhabited the region. Donkeys were their fastest animal.
Aryan Invasion A Myth?
Niraj Mohanka, an amateur historian and Indologist, wrote: “We now have genetic data showing the 'Aryan Invasion' never happened and was in fact a historical misunderstanding driven out of a linguistic theory between India and Europe. The genetic/archaeo evidence points to a continuity of Indian civilization from 8000 B.C. to present in northwest India with no major external genetic input until around 300 B.C. - and even then, very minor. Aryans is simply an English word for 'Arya' which is a very ancient Sanskrit word meaning 'Noble' and implying 'civilized' - i.e., those people settled along rivers in towns and cities - in contradistinction to people still residing in jungles/forests and outsiders who were Mleccha ('barbarians'). [Source: Niraj Mohanka, Amateur Historian and Indologist, June 14, 2013]
The archaeology shows a continuity from Mehrgarh (c8000 B.C.) to today which is attested by archaeologists such as R. Mughal, SR Rao, BB Lal, etc. The only change occurred around 1900 B.C. when the Sarasvati River dried up (due to earthquakes) and then those cities were abandoned and people forced to move elsewhere (such as the Ganga River to east and Sindhu River, Central Asia and further) to the West.
The "Indus Valley" is an old term that is now more commonly called Harrapan Civilization and that is slowly being replaced with 'SSC' (Sapta-Sindu Civilization; '7-Rivers' Civilization) which is the exact words used in the local ancient literature (Rg Veda) for Bharat's (India's) ancient geographical history (NW India). The Dharma ("religion") of Sanathana Dharma ("Hindu-ism" or Hindu Dharma) is also continuous from the pre-Civ period (pre-4000 B.C.) through the SSC period (4000 to 1900 B.C.) to the present and this is also attested through reading the scriptures from the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads, through Epics, Buddhist scriptures to later Puranas and Shastras.
Genetic Study on the Origins of Ancient Indians
A paper posted online in April 2018 titled “The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia” used genetics to examine the ancestry of the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent. Rohan Venkataramakrishnan wrote in Quartz:“There are 92 named authors on the study, including scholars from Harvard, MIT, the Russian Academy of Science, the Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences in Lucknow, the Deccan College, the Max Planck Institute, the Institute for Archaeological Research in Uzbekistan and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad. Among the co-directors of the study is Harvard geneticist David Reich, whose new book has inspired much recent discussion about ancient human history and racial theory. [Source: Rohan Venkataramakrishnan, Quartz, April 3, 2018]
“The researchers looked at genome-wide data from 612 ancient individuals, meaning DNA samples of people that lived millennia ago. These included samples from eastern Iran, an area called Turan that now covers Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and South Asia. Of the 612, the DNA of 362 ancient individuals was being examined for the first time. They then compared this data with that taken from present-day individuals, including 246 distinct groups in South Asia.
The paper builds on the genetic understanding that there were two separate groups in ancient India: Ancestral North Indians and Ancestral South Indians, or ANI and ASI. These two groups were, as Reich explains in his new book, “as different from each other as Europeans and East Asians are today.” But where do these two populations, which solidify in around 2000 BCE, come from?
There are three potential groupings that, when mixed in various combinations, could be responsible for the creation of the Ancestral North Indian and Ancestral South Indian populations. 1) The first are South Asian hunter-gatherers, described in this study as Ancient Ancestral South Indians or AASI, the oldest people of the subcontinent, related to modern-day Andaman islanders. 2) Then there are Iranian agriculturists, who were known to have come to the subcontinent, possibly bringing certain forms of cultivation of wheat and barley with them. 3) And finally, there are the Steppe pastoralists, the inhabitants of the vast Central Asian grasslands to the north of Afghanistan, who were previously known as “Aryans.”
How Does the Indus Valley Fit In?
Rohan Venkataramakrishnan wrote in Quartz: “There is another important population with South Asian connections that sits somewhere amidst these three: the Indus Valley population. In Turan, the area north of modern-day Iran also known as the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, there was a huge community of ancient people who seem to have little genetic connection with the inhabitants of the subcontinent. Yet the authors found three individuals from this ancient complex that did have some connection to India, specifically an ancestry mix of Iranian agriculturists and South Asian hunter-gatherers or Ancient Ancestral South Indians. This matched individuals from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, another Indus Valley site. Because the researchers didn’t have direct access to ancient DNA from India’s Indus Valley sites, the paper prefers to call them Indus Valley periphery individuals. These three individuals are key to the findings. [Source: Rohan Venkataramakrishnan, Quartz, April 3, 2018]
The reason the researchers call them Indus Valley periphery individuals is because they cannot be sure that their genetic makeup is the same as most of those who lived in the Indus Valley, because they did not have access to ancient DNA from Indian sites. But for the most part they seem to use these individuals as proxies for the people of that civilisation.
The make-up of Indus Valley periphery individuals is straightforward: a mixture of Iranian agriculturists and the South Asian hunter-gatherers, or Ancient Ancestral South Indians. The study finds that these two ancestries are also there in both of the subsequent populations, of Ancestral North Indians and Ancestral South Indians, except for a couple of key differences.
First Ancestral South Indians have the same basic mix: South Asian hunter-gatherers and Iranian agriculturists, with a higher amount of the former. And second, importantly, Ancestral North Indians have one more ancestry mixed in that is not to be found in Ancestral South Indians: the Steppe pastoralists or, to use the old term, Aryans.
Conclusions of Study on the Origins of Ancient Indians
Rohan Venkataramakrishnan wrote in Quartz: In simple terms, the mixing of Iranian agriculturists and South Asian hunter-gatherers first created the Indus Valley population. Then around the 2nd millennium BCE, Steppe pastoralists moved south towards the subcontinent encountering the Indus Valley population in a manner that was likely to have caused some amount of upheaval.What appears to happen afterwards is that some of the Indus Valley population moves further south, mixing more with South Asian hunter-gatherers to create the Ancestral South Indian population. [Source: Rohan Venkataramakrishnan, Quartz, April 3, 2018]
Meanwhile, in the north, the Steppe pastoralists are mixing with the Indus Valley population to create the Ancestral North Indian grouping. Most subsequent South Asian populations are then a result of further mixing between Ancestral North Indians and Ancestral South Indians. This also means that the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation are the bridge to most extant Indian populations. “By co-analyzing ancient DNA and genomic data from diverse present-day South Asians, we show that Indus Periphery related people are the single most important source of ancestry in South Asia.”
Some form of “Aryan” migration did take place, even if that term is not used. The introduction of Steppe pastoralists into the subcontinent might have been the way what we know as Indo-European language and culture spread, since it was the same lot of Steppe peoples that also moved West into Europe. Moreover, there may be connection between the Steppe migration and priestly caste and culture. The researchers say they found 10 out of 140 Indian groups with a higher amount of Steppe ancestry compared to Indus Valley ancestry. These two were titled “Brahmin_Tiwari” and “Brahmin_UP”. More generally groups of priestly status seem to have higher Steppe ancestry, suggesting those with this mixture may have had a central role in spreading Vedic culture.
The Out-of-India theory is now even more unlikely, at least at the genetic level. The researchers say early Iranian agriculturists did not have any significant mixture of South Asian hunter-gatherer ancestry, “and thus the patterns we observe are driven by gene flow into South Asia and not the reverse”.
That said, there is some evidence of movement of the Indus Valley people out towards the Turan area, based on data from the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex. Ancestries of people there suggest some very small amount of South Asian hunter-gatherer mixture, and the presence of the three outlier individuals is believed to possibly be proof of Indus Valley inhabitants migrating to Turan.
DNA Study Debunks Aryan Invasion Theory
A study published in September 2019 claimed that Indus Valley people (Harappans) and Vedic people are same, which appears to debunk the Aryan Invasion Theory. Pratul Sharma wrote in The Week: “In a major finding that could impact the understanding of Indian ancestry, the DNA study of a 4500-year-old skeleton found in Rakhigarhi, in Haryana, suggests that modern people in India are likely to have descended from the same population.” This finding “came to light after scientists were able to sequence genome from the skeleton of a woman and study the archaeological evidence found in Rakhigarhi, a village located some 150 kilometers from Delhi. Rakhigarhi is the largest Harappan site in India. [Source: Pratul Sharma, The Week, September 6, 2019]
“The ancient-DNA results completely reject the theory of steppe pastoral or ancient Iranian farmers as source of ancestry to the Harappan population. This research also demolishes the hypothesis about mass human migration during the Harappan time from outside South Asia,” Prof Vasant Shinde, director of the Rakhigarhi project, said. Shinde said the new breakthrough completely sets aside the Aryan migration or invasion theory. “The skeletal remains found in the upper part of the citadel area of Mohenjodaro belonged to those who died due to floods and not (of those) massacred by the Aryans as hypothesised by Sir Mortimer Wheeler. The Aryan invasion theory is based on very flimsy ground,” Shinde said, adding that the history being taught to us in text books should now be changed.
The DNA revealed that there was no migration or inclusion of any Iran or Central Asian gene into Harappan people. "There is a continuity till the modern times. We are descendants of the Harappans. Even the Vedic culture and (that of) Harappans are same,” Shinde said.
“This research, for the first time, has established the fact that people of Harappan civilisation are the ancestors of most population of South Asia. For the first time, the research indicates movement of people from east to west. The Harappan people's presence is evident at sites like Gonur in Turkmenistan and Shahr-i-Sokhta in Iran. As the Harappans traded with Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persian Gulf and all over South Asia, there are bound to be movements of people resulting into mixed genetic history,” he added.
These revelations assume political significance as there have been demands to rewrite the history books to say that Vedic people were the original inhabitants of the country and they did not come from Central Asia. “Our premise that the Harappans were Vedic people thus received strong corroborative scientific evidence based on ancient DNA studies,” he added.
Another significant claim in the study published in the scientific journal Cell, titled "An Ancient Harappan Genome Lacks Ancestry from Steppe Pastoralists or Iranian Farmers”, is that farming was not brought to South Asia by large-scale movement of people from the Fertile Crescent where farming first arose. Instead, farming started in South Asia by local hunter-gatherers.
As the study results were published, separate statements were issued by Harvard Medical School which had collaborated in the study. "Even though there has been success with studies of ancient-DNA from many other places, the difficult preservation conditions mean that studies in South Asia have been a challenge," says senior author David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, the Broad Institute, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
In this study, Reich, along with post-doctoral scientist Vagheesh Narasimhan and Niraj Rai, who established a new ancient-DNA laboratory at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow, led the preparation of the samples. They screened 61 skeletal samples from a site in Rakhigarhi, the largest city of the Indus valley Civilisation. A single sample showed promise: it contained a very small amount of authentic ancient DNA. The team made over 100 attempts to sequence the sample. Reich says: "While each of the individual data sets did not produce enough DNA, pooling them resulted in sufficient genetic data to learn about population history."
"Ancestry like that in the Indus Valley Civilisation individuals is the primary ancestry source in South Asia today," says Reich. "This finding ties people in South Asia today directly to the Indus Valley Civilisation." The authors of the study, however, have a word of caution. “Analyzing the genome of only one individual limits the conclusions that can be drawn about the entire population of the Indus Valley Civilization.”
Niraj Mohanka’s websites: 1) IndiaHistoryOnline.com; 2) EpicTrilogy.com; 3) DharmicScriptures.org; 4) NewDharma.org; 5) DharmaVeda.org; Related articles: cycleoftime.com ; Aryan-Invasion-Myth-Lal; Koenraad Elst regarding linguistics: koenraadelst.bharatvani.org; newdharma.org; hinduismtoday.com; hinduamericanfoundation.org;
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, The Louvre, The British Museum
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2020