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The notion of Indigenous Aryans posits that speakers of Indo-Aryan languages are "indigenous" to the Indian subcontinent. It is widespread in Hindu nationalism, and can take various forms, all of them emphasizing that Vedic Sanskrit and Vedism are native to Northern India.

The "Indigenous Aryans" position may entail an Indian origin of Indo-European languages,[1] and in recent years, the concept has been increasingly conflated with an "Out of India" origin of the Indo-European language family. This contrasts with the mainstream model of Indo-Aryan migration which posits that Indo-Aryan tribes migrated to India from Central Asia.

Witzel (2006, p. 217) identifies three major types of revisionist scenario:

  1. a "mild" version that insists on the indigeneity of the Rigvedic Aryans to the North-Western region of Indian subcontinent in the tradition of Aurobindo and Dayananda;
  2. the "out of India" school that posits India as the Proto-Indo-European homeland, an idea revived by Flemish freelance Indologist Koenraad Elst (1999), and further popularized within Hindu nationalism by Shrikant Talageri (2000);
  3. the position that all the world's languages and civilizations derive from India, represented e.g. by David Frawley.


Historiographical context

Indigenous Aryans is usually taken to imply that the people of the Harappan civilization were linguistically Indo-Aryans.[1] In any "Indigenous Aryan" scenario, speakers of Indo-European languages must have left India at some point prior to the 10th century BC, when first mention of Iranian peoples is made in Assyrian records, but likely before the 16th century BC, before the emergence of the Yaz culture which is often identified as a Proto-Iranian culture.[2]

Proponents of "indigenous Aryan" scenarios typically base their understanding on interpretations of the Rigveda, the oldest surviving Indo-Aryan text, which they date to the 3rd millennium BC (in some cases much earlier), in particular based on arguments in involving identifying the Sarasvati River with the Ghaggar-Hakra river and Harappan civilization, the lack of genetic and archaeological evidence present to support invasion by "Indo-Aryan invaders" as postulated by the Aryan invasion theory, and sometimes archaeoastronomy.[3]

Political significance

Repercussions of these divisions have reached Californian courts with the Californian Hindu textbook case, where according to the Times of India[4] historian and president of the Indian History Congress, D. N. Jha in a "crucial affidavit" to the superior court of the state of California, "[g]iving a hint of the Aryan origin debate in India, [...] asked the court not to fall for the 'indigenous Aryan' claim since it has led to 'demonisation of Muslims and Christians as foreigners and to the near denial of the contributions of non-Hindus to Indian culture'".

Pseudoscience and postmodernism

Nanda (2003) argues that the pseudoscience at the core of Hindu nationalism was unwittingly helped into being in the 1980s by the postmodernism embraced by Indian leftist "postcolonial theories" like Ashis Nandy and Vandana Shiva who rejected the universality of "Western" science and called for the "indigenous science" (Sokal 2006, p. 32). Nanda (2003, p. 72) explains how this relativization of "science" was employed by Hindutva ideologues during the 1998 to 2004 reign of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP):

"any traditional Hindu idea or practice, however obscure and irrational it might have been through its history, gets the honoric of "science" if it bears any resemblance at all, however remote, to an idea that is valued (even for the wrong reasons) in the West."

Criticism of the irrationality of such "Vedic science" is brushed aside by the notion that

"The idea of 'contradiction' is an imported one from the West in recent times by the Western-educated, since ‘Modern Science’ arbitrarily imagines that it only has the true knowledge and its methods are the only methods to gain knowledge, smacking of Semitic dogmatism in religion."(Mukhyananda 1997, pp. 94)

Witzel (2006, p. 204) traces the "indigenous Aryan" idea to the writings of Golwalkar and Savarkar. Golwalkar (1939) denied any immigration of "Aryans" to the subcontinent, stressing that all Hindus have always been "children of the soil", a notion Witzel compares to the Nazi blood and soil mysticism contemporary to Golwalkar. Since these ideas emerged on the brink of the internationalist and socially oriented Nehru-Gandhi government, they lay dormant for several decades, and only rose to prominence in the 1980s in conjunction with the relativist revisionism, most of the revisionist literature being published by the firms Voice of Dharma and Aditya Prakasha.

Bergunder (2004) likewise identifies Golwalkar as the originator of the "Indigenous Aryans" meme, and Goel's Voice of India as the instrument of its rise to notability:

The Aryan migration theory at first played no particular argumentative role in Hindu nationalism. [...] This impression of indifference changed, however, with Madhev Sadashiv Golwalkar (1906–1973), who from 1940 until his death was leader of the extremist paramilitary organization the Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh (RSS). [...] In contrast to many other of their openly offensive teachings, the Hindu nationalists did not seek to keep the question of the Aryan migration out of public discourses or to modify it; rather, efforts were made to help the theory of the indigenousness of the Hindus achieve public recognition. For this the initiative of the publisher Sita Ram Goel (b.1921) was decisive. Goel may be considered one of the most radical, but at the same time also one of the most intellectual, of the Hindu nationalist ideologues. [...] Since 1981 Goel has run a publishing house named ‘Voice of India’ that is one of the few which publishes Hindu nationalist literature in English which at the same time makes a 'scientific' claim. Although no official connections exist, the books of 'Voice of India' — which are of outstanding typographical quality and are sold at a subsidized price — are widespread among the ranks of the leaders of the Sangh Parivar. [...] The increasing political influence of Hindu nationalism in the 1990s resulted in attempts to revise the Aryan migration theory also becoming known to the academic public.


  1. ^ a b Bryant, Edwin (2001). The quest for the origins of Vedic culture: the Indo-Aryan migration debate. Oxford University Press. pp. 6. ISBN 0195137779. "It must be stated immediately that there is an unavoidable corollary of an Indigenist position. If the Indo-Aryan languages did not come from outside South Asia, this necessarily entails that India was the original homeland of all the other Indo-European languages.".  
  2. ^ See, e.g., Roman Ghirshman, L'Iran et la migration des Indo-aryens et des Iraniens (Leiden 1977). Cited by Carl .C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, Archeology and language: the case of the Bronze Age Indo-Iranians, in Laurie L. Patton & Edwin Bryant, Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History (Routledge 2005), p.162.
  3. ^ B.B. Lal (7 January 2002). The Homeland of Indo-European Languages and Culture: Some Thoughts. Delhi: Indian Council for Historical Research. "The shift of the “original homeland” from Sogdiana to a few hundred miles to the south - i.e. to the region now comprising eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-west India should not upset anyone, since the archaeological-cum-literary evidence from this area is more positive than that from Sogdiana.".  
  4. ^ Mukul, Akshaya (9 September 2006). "US text row resolved by Indian". Times of India.,curpg-2.cms.  


literature discussing the "Indigenous Aryans" ideology
  • Bergunder, Michael Contested Past: Anti-Brahmanical and Hindu nationalist reconstructions of Indian prehistory, Historiographia Linguistica, Volume 31, Number 1, 2004, 59-104.
  • Bryant, Edwin (2001), The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture, Oxford University Press
  • Bryant, Edwin, The indigenous Aryan debate, diss. Columbia University (1997). (abstract)
  • D. N. Jha, Against Communalising History, Social Scientist (1998).
  • S. Guha, Negotiating Evidence: History, Archaeology, and the Indus Civilization, Modern Asian Studies 39.2, Cambridge University Press (2005), 399-426.
  • Mallory, J.P. (1998), "A European Perspective on Indo-Europeans in Asia", written at Washington, D.C., in Mair, The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Peoples of Eastern and Central Asia, Institute for the Study of Man
  • Nanda, Meera (2003), Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India, Rutgers University Press, ISBN 0813533589  
  • Nanda, Meera (January - March, 2005). "Response to my critics" (PDF). Social Epistemology 19 (1): 147–191. doi:10.1080/02691720500084358.  
  • Parpola, Asko (1998), "Aryan Languages, Archaeological Cultures, and Sinkiang: Where Did Proto-Iranian Come into Being and How Did It Spread?", written at Washington, D.C., in Mair, The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Peoples of Eastern and Central Asia, Institute for the Study of Man
  • Sokal, Alan (2006), "Pseudoscience and Postmodernism: Antagonists or Fellow-Travelers?", in Fagan, Garrett, Archaeolological Fantasies: How pseudoarchaeology misrepresents the past and misleads the public, Routledge, ISBN 0415305926  
  • Stephanie Jamison, Review of Laurie L. Patton & Edwin Bryant, The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History. (2005), Journal of Indo-European Studies, Vol. 34 (2006) copy courtesy of editor of JIES
  • Trautmann, Thomas (ed.), The Aryan Debate in India (2005) ISBN 0-19-566908-8.
  • Witzel, Michael (2006), "Rama's realm: Indocentric rewritings of early South Asian History", in Fagan, Garrett, Archaeolological Fantasies: How pseudoarchaeology misrepresents the past and misleads the public, Routledge, ISBN 0415305926  
literature by "Indigenous Aryans" proponents
  • Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak, David Frawley, In Search of the Cradle of Civilization: New Light on Ancient India Quest Books (IL) (October, 1995) ISBN 0-8356-0720-8
  • Kazanas, Nicholas (2002). "Indigenous Indo-Aryans and the Rigveda". Journal of Indo-European Studies 30: 275–334.  
  • Lal, B. B., The Sarasvati flows on: The continuity of Indian culture, Aryan Books International (2002), ISBN 8173052026.
  • Mukhyananda (1997), Vedanta: In the context of modern science : a comparative study, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, ASIN: B0000CPAAF  
  • N. S. Rajaram, The politics of history : Aryan invasion theory and the subversion of scholarship (New Delhi : Voice of India, 1995) ISBN 81-85990-28-X.
  • Talageri, S. G., The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi in 2000 ISBN 81-7742-010-0 [1]

See also

External links



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