Book Summary: Western Foundations of the Caste System- V
The Aryans are the most ubiquitous beings existing in all studies related to India. They are widely responsible for many important things in our country; amongst them, driving away the original Dravidian inhabitants to the south of Vindhyas. Unfortunately, the evidence for the Aryans exists only in the minds of the propagating scholars. It is amazing that seven decades after independence, most of the Indians assume the Aryan-Dravidian theory as a given. We have internalised the story despite a complete lack of evidence. This must surely be the most stunning example of our collectively colonised minds.
Amongst the various theories explaining the caste system, Aryans and Dravidians have a great place. This chapter undertakes to understand the flawed discourses mapping these racial theories on to the Indian caste system. The evidence then was weak, and it stays weak now. Yet, academicians and scholars persist with propagating this myth under various garbs: the exploiter and the exploited; the ruler and the slave; the forward caste and the shudra. A single flawed paper of genetics is a great support today for a theory which needed disbanding a long time back.
THE ARYANS AND THE ANCIENT SYSTEM OF CASTE
Over the last century or two, the dominant accounts of the caste system have looked for its roots in the ancient history of India. The standard version of this history tells us that people called “the Aryans” invaded India around 1500 BC, conquered the indigenous Dravidians and imposed their culture, language, and religion on the latter. They brought the Vedic religion, which later developed into Hinduism and instituted the religiously founded caste system.
The account about the Aryan invasion originated in the nineteenth century European descriptions of India and persisted for the last 200 years. Likewise, standard descriptions of the caste system still include the idea of a segregation between the Aryans and the Dravidians.
Given the centrality of the Aryans in the descriptions of the caste system, one would expect a vast amount of literature on how they invaded India, how they conquered the indigenous population, how they established their authority, how the acculturation process took place, how they managed to keep the caste system in place and how they managed to convert the existing population to their religion. The most intriguing question today is: what makes the Aryan invasion appear plausible enough to exist for more than 200 years, despite no evidence?
THE ARYAN IMPACT ON INDIA-FLIGHTS OF FANCY BY INDOLOGISTS
In the most recent edition of his book ‘India’, Stanley Wolpert says that “between about 1500 and 1000 BC, Aryan tribes conquered the remaining pre-Aryan dasas throughout the Indus Valley and Punjab”. The conclusions from his book are:
(a) Ancient India knew of at least three groups of people: conquering Aryan tribes, pre-Aryan dasas and even “more primitive” peoples. (b) Aryans enslaved the dasas. (c) The contemporary shudras are the descendants of the dasa-serfs of the Aryan conquerors. (d) At the time of the conquest, the Aryans had a three-class system, which was the bearer of a civilization. (e) The ancestors of the shudras did not belong to this Aryan civilization.
Further, the Aryans had horses, chariots, and their archery (and axes) which helped them defeat the weak dasas. The low level of their civilization was another kind of weakness that allowed the Aryans to sustain their position without military intervention for millennia.
Hence, the newly arrived Aryans could form the first three orders of the newly composed society because they had a civilization; the dasas were less developed (the Indus civilization) and could hence be relegated into an inferior social position; and there were still more primitive people with no civilization to speak of who did not even get a place in the social system.
The fact that contemporary shudras are still at the lowest rung of the varna hierarchy (being only slightly better than the outcasts) shows that they have retained this inferiority until today. It becomes more blatant in view of the constitutional abolishment of the caste system and the ever-growing number of government policies to improve the position of those groups considered to be at the lowest rung of society.
RAMAYANA AS AN ALLEGORY OF ARYAN CONQUEST, BUT WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE?
Wolpert claims: “The Ramayana may be read as an allegory of what Aryans saw as the conquest of ‘uncivilized demons’ who inhabited southern forests and disturbed the meditations of sadhus seeking enlightenment through yogic concentration.” Wolpert uses the Ramayana to depict the pre-Aryan dasas as uncivilized demons who disturbed the spiritual work of the sadhus, probably Aryan.
Wolpert says: “All that we know about the early Aryans was preserved through oral tradition by their priestly bards, Brahmans, whose heirs painstakingly memorized thousands of Sanskrit poetic hymns considered sacred, eventually recording their scripture in ‘Books of Knowledge’ called Vedas, most important of which is the Rig”
But then “all that we know” turns out to be not very much as he adds that the Vedas“report nothing about the pre-Indian history of the Aryans, nor do they say anything specific concerning the Aryan conquests or Indus Valley civilization, except for a few references to ‘dark’ (dasa) peoples who lived in ‘fortified cities’ (pur) and had to be ‘subdued’”.
Hence, the only source based on which Wolpert makes these claims are texts that do not contain any references to the things he reads in them! None of the claims of Wolpert has any textual or historical ground.
WENDY DONIGER- EVEN HIGHER FLIGHTS OF FANCY
Wendy Doniger is one of the most influential American Indologists having a whole army of sepoys supporting her. She is most instrumental in constructing alternative narratives of Hinduism, with eroticism and sexual imagery playing a major role.
Her book on the Hindus carries a similar account but speaks of the “Vedic people”, instead of the Aryan. She also concludes the Vedic people as the conquerors that relegated the indigenous inhabitants, the dasas, to the lowest social position in the caste system. She further says that the Vedic people at first distinguished just two classes (varnas), their own (which they called Arya) and that of the people they conquered, whom they called Dasas (or Dasyus). The early Veda expresses envy for the Dasas’ wealth, which is to say their cattle, but later, ‘Dasa’ came to be used to denote a slave or subordinate, someone who worked outside the family. Dasas are the ancestors of the shudras.
Doniger’s confusing depiction of the shudras tells that they are an ‘outside class.’ This means they are outside of society, while being a part of the society at the same time. The question then is what they are outside of? In the absence of further clarifications, the only way we can understand this is that the shudras are part of society in the sense that they live in it; and are outside of it in the sense that they do not play a role in society, other than being servants.
This exclusion goes back a few thousands of years ago, when they added to the society of the conquering Vedic people. Here is how she knows this: “That the Shudras were an afterthought is evident from the fact that the third class, Vaishyas, is sometimes said to be derived from the word for ‘all’ and therefore to mean ‘everyone,’ leaving no room for anyone below them – until someone added a class below them”.
The conclusion is that the Vedic people were more successful in establishing their social system in India than the people who had lived there. Not only were the Vedic people strong enough to make their social system prevalent but they also imposed it on others and reduced them to an inferior position. The authority of the Vedic people was such that they could subordinate and subjugate the original dasas to such an extent that they and today their descendants, the shudras, accepted an inferior position in society.
PROBLEMS GALORE IN THE STORY-SHOULD WE NOT REJECT THE BLUFF?
The foundation of her theory traces to the Vedic account of the sacrifice of the Primeval Man (in the all-time favourite of Indologists- Purushasukta). According to her interpretation of this hymn, the feet of the primeval man, which she considers to be “the lowest and dirtiest part of the body”, became “the servants (Shudras), the outside class within society that defines the other classes”.
Of course, feet are not necessarily dirty and if a body is lying down – as it is during a sacrifice – it is not the lowest part of the body either. In other words, the verse itself does not claim nor imply a low position of the shudras.
A strange argument of her says that the term “Vaishya” meant “everyone” and if it did refer to one of the groups in the social structure of the Vedic people, then “everyone” would also have left no room for those above them, not only for those below. In that case the brahmanas and the kshatriyas would also have been an “afterthought” or classes that added later. This is unlikely given the central role of the brahmanas as originators of the caste system.
WHO WERE THE SHUDRAS?
Doniger speculates: “The fourth social class may have consisted of the people new to the early Vedic system; perhaps the people already in India when the Vedic people entered, the Dasas; or simply the sorts of people who were always outside the system”.
In each case, the shudras consist of people newly introduced to the Vedic system. As she says, these people were the dasas, who either entered the Vedic system leaving their own system behind, or entered without being a part of any system before. In both cases, an explanation is necessary as to why the newly encountered people either “joined” a system for the first time or abandoned their own system. In the absence of such an explanation, why should we assume that they forcibly entered it and stayed there?
Doniger does not refer to the use of any force in this regard. This leads us to assume further that there was no need for using force because the dasas were simply too weak to resist the Vedic people and their system. Another possibility is that the Vedic system had a dynamic of its own that automatically drew in new people and provided them an inferior position.
Nobody so far has indicated such a dynamic and again, one would need to explain why many other newcomers, such as for instance the Mughals, did not automatically draw in and reduced themselves to an inferior position. If one relies on the strength of the Mughals to account for why they did not become part of the Vedic system, then the appeal is once again to the relative weakness of the dasas to explain why the system attracted them selectively. A third possibility is that there was something extremely attractive to the Vedic system, attractive enough to draw people in despite awarding them a low position, and making them idiotic in the process.
The only ground that Doniger provides for this thesis is a weak consideration, on a possible interpretation of the meaning of the term “Vaishya”. In the absence of further explanations, we are to assume a relative weakness of the shudras vis-à-vis the Vedic people. If we accept that people in India today still live according to the Vedic system of caste division, we conclude forcefully again that this weakness has been handed down over generations along with their inferior social position.
ARYAN MIGRATION THEORY- A FANCY TO EXPLAIN ANOTHER FANCY
A last example of the Aryans in the contemporary literature on the Indian culture is ‘A History of India’ written by Kulke and Rothermund. These authors speak about the “immigration and settlement of the Indo-Aryan (IA)” and call it a “major historical event” that occurred in the second millennium BC, the early history of the South Asian subcontinent, “after the rise and fall of the Indus civilization”.
The Aryans, they say, were a “semi-nomadic people which called itself Arya in its sacred hymns came down to the north-western plains through the mountain passes of Afghanistan”. Aware of the controversy about the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT), these authors mention that there are several standpoints about the Aryan arrival into India: either it was an immigration, or a conquest, or it happened through waves of immigration. They even suggest that the Aryans could have been indigenous to India.
Their own position includes two waves of Aryan immigrations and a conquest. The first wave of Aryan immigrations, they say, consisted of IA groups, some of whom might have come in earlier periods and thus account for the IA elements in the Harappan civilization. The IA groups are said to have been absorbed into the Indus civilization and: “may have become the upholder of an Indo-Aryan cultural synthesis, combining Indo-Harappan (and therefore perhaps also Dravidian) elements with their central Asian Aryan heritage. It is quite likely that this population was responsible for the continuity of certain traits of Harappan civilisation like the worship of animals and trees which changed and enriched the Vedic culture during the subsequent two millennia”.
The second wave, was the (later) Rigvedic people of whom the former might or might not be the ancestors. This Vedic people invaded the indigenous people of India slowly and gradually using horses and chariots, of course. They extended their area of settlement only very slowly. This may have been due to environmental conditions as well as to the resistance of the indigenous people. Moreover, the Vedic Aryans were not the disciplined army of one great conqueror. They consisted of several tribes which frequently fought each other”.
The sources about these Vedic victories are the Vedas themselves. Vedic hymns in which Indra or Agni fight the dasas, for instance, are a proof of fights between the Vedic people and the indigenous Indians. Based on such hymns, these authors say that “the dark-skinned indigenous people who are referred to as Dasas or Dasyus in the Vedic texts were depicted as the ubiquitous foes of the Aryans”.
In the final stage of the composition of the Rigveda, Kulke and Rothermund tell us, the Vedic Aryans moved deeper into India to the region of the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. This brought about a change from semi-nomadic life to settled agriculture along with constant fights. This period is the Late Vedic Age.
Settled life produced a great deal of social change, of intensified conflict with the indigenous population and of internal stratification of the Aryan society, which brings us to the “social differentiation and the emergence of the caste system”. Accordingly, internal stratification had already existed among the early Vedic tribes, between the ordinary free members of the tribe and the warrior nobility. Kulke and Rothermund say, “Varna soon assumed the meaning of ‘caste’ and was applied to the Aryans themselves to classify the strata of priests, warriors, free peasants, and the subjugated people. A late hymn of the Rigveda contains the first evidence of this new system.”
Again, the original social stratification of the four varnas is in terms of a free group and a subjugated group. Here too the only ground in support is the Rigvedic Purushasukta verse.
A CONQUEST WITHOUT AN INVASION?
Indological literature, linguistics, archaeology and more recently, genetics do not show any evidence of how the Aryans succeeded in establishing a system that reduced the indigenous population of India to a lower position in society. Funnily, instead the focus of all studies is: where did the Aryans come from? Aryans are an a priori assumption, not requiring any proof!
Archaeologists and studies into the genetic structure of the Indian population have shown that an invasion could not have taken place in India. Other criticisms apply to the notion of “the Aryans” and the difficulty in identifying them in the historical record. So, on the one hand, there is an account, the Aryan invasion or immigration theory, which is self-evident and self-illuminating. On the other hand, there is a controversial debate about only one aspect of this account, viz the origin of the Aryans. Refutation of one of the core elements of a theory creates a problem for that whole theory, but scholars are persistent.
DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM OF THE NON-OCCURRENCE OF AN INVASION
The first alternative, the Aryan Migration Theory (AMT), solves the problem by claiming that the Aryans came to India and did the same things claimed by the AIT but through peaceful immigration: they imported the Indo-Aryan languages, Vedic religion and the hierarchical social structure and imposed these on the local population. A system that put the Aryans on top of society and the original population at the lowest rung of the system.
The second alternative is the ‘Out of India Theory’, which claims that an invasion never occurred because the Aryans originated in India itself and moved out from there to other parts of the world. Even though this alternative appears to be a radical opposite to the AIT, it does not differ much from the AMT.
Studies in support of the ‘Out of India’ Theory are mostly concerned with disproving the foreign origin of the Aryans and proving that the Vedic tradition is indigenous to India. Aryans are still the people who gave India its religion, language, and caste system. The main difference between the ‘Out of India’ theories and the AIT/AMT is that, in the former, the existence of another indigenous population or their subjugation. The focus in this essay is only on the AIT/AMT. The accounts of the origin of the caste system are absent in the Out of India theory.
Both the AIT/AMT say that the Aryans subordinated the dasas, converted them and imposed their language in a peaceful way. How were they able to do this? Only two scholars have addressed this question.
He answers the question negatively by saying Aryans could not have managed to impose their culture, language, religion, and social structure on the indigenous population without conquest. Even though the different versions of the Aryan migration theories speak of an immigration, he argues, they nevertheless imply an invasion or at least the use of military force.
In order to acquire a position in which they could impose their language and culture on an existing population, they would first need to become the ruling class and if they had to do this peacefully they would first have needed to become proficient in the existing languages in India, which did not happen according to the AMT.
“So how”, he asks, “could these Aryan immigrants first peacefully integrate into Harappan or post-Harappan society yet preserve their language and later even impose it on their host society? Neither their numbers, relative to the very numerous natives, nor their cultural level, as illiterate cowherds relative to a literate civilization, gave them much of an edge over the natives.” According to him, “the only plausible way for them to wrest power from the natives must have been through their military superiority, tried and tested in the process of an actual conquest”. But then, scholars have shown that an invasion could not have taken place. For him, this inconsistency is one of the reasons to reject both the AIT and the AMT and to argue that it is more plausible that the Aryans were indigenous to India.
He suggests that the migrating Aryans, one of the tribes mentioned in the Vedas, must have been much smaller in number than the indigenous population. His hypothesis is this: the indigenous population of India took over an alien religion, language and culture because of two things: (a) the disintegration of the Indus Valley had left behind a “gap into which anything could fall and disappear” and (b) the “power of mantra” of the Vedas.
If there was a “large gap into which anything could fall and disappear”, why did the Vedas not suffer from the same fate? If the Vedas were the new foundation of society by a people that had never heard of these texts before, there must have been something very convincing about these Vedas.
This was indeed the case, Staal suggests: the “power of mantra”. What made the Vedic mantra so powerful? Staal does not answer this question. But we have a circular reasoning: the Vedic mantra was powerful because the Vedas had an acceptance; and the Vedas had an acceptance because of the power of the Vedic mantra.
Unless Staal wants to attribute magical powers to the Vedic mantra there is a problem: unless the people that adopted the Vedic tradition were familiar with traditions similar to the Vedic tradition or some aspects of it, they would not have been able to recognize the “power” of the Vedic mantra. In other words, there must have already been a shared culture that allowed the Vedas to have such a huge impact. In that case, the influence of the Aryans disappears. If none of the aspects of the Vedic tradition were familiar in India at that time, why would people spontaneously take over the tradition of a handful of people? The Vedic mantra, after all, is not agriculture.
If people from the Western culture have not recognized “the power of the mantra” after three hundred years of studying it, what enabled the people living in India to do so? Agreed, the Vedas might have been new and composed by a small number of people, but the culture of which they were a part, could not have been new. If that is the case, the Vedas cannot represent the culture of a separate people.
Some like Witzel almost conclude that the pre-Aryan population of India was simply waiting for the Aryans to arrive and bring them civilization, willing to accept everything that came their way. This is highly unlikely. It becomes even more unlikely when we consider that the only scientific evidence, we have is about the presence of horse bones, spoke wheeled chariots, certain kinds of pottery linked to the Vedas or related to the original home of the IE languages.
None of these facts allows us to postulate that the shudras of today owe their unchangeable inferior position in society to their ancestors who accepted this place a few thousand years ago from a people that brought them a civilization in return.
Not only is the available evidence inadequate to make this claim, it is also inadequate to claim that the Vedas formed the foundation of a culture or civilization. On the basis of what we know about ancient India, it is far more likely that the Vedic tradition came into being as part of, or within, a culture that was taking shape in India among and across many different peoples, coming from different parts of the world, speaking different languages, using different utensils and having different arts and practices.
The next question then is: how can we explain the persistence of the notion of the Aryans and their impact on the Indian culture?
ARYANS AND DRAVIDIANS-CONCLUSIONS FROM BIBLICAL THEMES
Several scholars have argued that biblical chronology was the conceptual framework for the postulation of the Aryans as a people. Scholars argue that the idea of an Aryan people goes back to the biblical notion that each language links to a nation or a people’s past.This idea played a central role in the Christian project of locating the people of the world within the biblical family tree of the children of Noah.
One scholar says, ‘the common source for all languages related to one original people embeds in the biblical version of history, in which Noah’s three sons, Japhet, Shem and Ham, were the progenitors of the whole of humanity. This theme, even when stripped of its biblical trappings, was to remain thoroughly imprinted in European consciousness until well into the twentieth century”.
As a scholar convincingly shows, this project placed the study of Indian languages within its scope. The main concern of the linguists who compared languages at the end of the eighteenth century was to trace the dispersal of the sons of Noah in time and space. Thus, when William Jones disclosed the link between Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek in 1786, he also postulated a connection between these languages and a lineage of nations. Jones was unambiguous about the project of tracing “all the nations” of the world back to the three sons of Noah. He approached the linguistic discoveries as evidence for a common ancestry for Indians and Europeans, whom he considered to be descendants of Ham.
The Biblical notion of a link between nations and languages also included a link of both with religion. Later, the direct link between a nation and a language had a rejection; however, there was no rejection of the link between a religion and a nation; neither was the link between a religion and a sacred language. As such, the Vedas could form the glue between Sanskrit and the Hindu nation or Aryan people. None of this, however, explains the idea of an original people of India and even less why the Aryans allegedly invaded and subjugated these people.
Surprisingly, whereas the idea of a Hindu, Vedic or Brahminical people goes back at least to the early eighteenth century, the Dravidians and the AIT are products of the first half of the nineteenth century. Scholars discovered the existence of a language family different from the IE one and concluded that these were the languages of a different people, again based on the idea that all languages are directly linked to a people.
But there are two problems with this explanation: the first formulations of the hypothesis of an invasion of the Brahminical people did not refer to the discovery of the Dravidian or another language family; and secondly, even though the discovery of the Dravidian languages played an important role in the establishment of the idea of a Dravidian people, it is still inadequate to explain the development of the invasion hypothesis.
THE ARYAN INVASION FORMULATED IN THE BEST MINDS OF PARIS AND MADRAS
The hypothesis of a “Hindu conquest of India” crystallized in two different locations in the early nineteenth century- at the Société Asiatique de Paris and at the College of Fort St. George in Madras. Soon scholars all over Europe, including Germany, took over the idea.
Colonel Mark Wilks (1810), based on his readings of the “Laws of Manu” introduced the notion of a “Hindoo conquest”, which he saw as the cause behind the formation of the caste system. Early nineteenth century scholars understood the caste system as a ‘hierarchical social system established in religious laws that divides people into superior and inferior groups. This hierarchy is evident in their social position and their privileges.’
Wilks mentioned two nations or peoples, the Hindus as opposed to the aboriginal people they were supposed to have conquered; he identified the Hindus as the superior castes of the caste system and imagined that the establishment of the caste system was the result of the Hindu conquest. Wilks did not refer to any facts and failed to mention the “many circumstances” supporting his conjecture.
Some of the French Orientalists had come to similar conclusions in the first half of the nineteenth century in Paris, “the hub of oriental scholarship” during this period. Without giving evidence, one scholar called Langlès described the Pariahs as the descendants of an indigenous population conquered by Hindu invaders; he never defended this claim about the Hindu conquest of an aboriginal people in terms of linguistic differences.
Another author mentioned the hypothesis of a foreign invasion as an idea “of little importance”, but noted that the hypothesis at least deserved some elaboration, “if only for the sake of its novelty and the high degree of its probability”. Alexandre Langlois (1833, 142–155) another member of the Société Asiatique, wondered whether the laws of Manu and the caste system was an import or indigenous to the soil. Idle speculations and conjectures made way for scholarship based on empirical research and data.
In a lecture on the Sanskrit language and literature, one scholar presented the hypothesis that the Indians had once been “foreigners” to their own country. It is probable that there had been original inhabitants of India, conquered by the currently dominant people. The most important and self-evident factual evidence for this claim was the caste system. According to him, India’s “apparent unity” rests on a variety of diverse cultural elements. The unity, he said, is by the religious and civil institutions that spread by an enlightened race. The variety of cultural elements, on the other hand, reflected the remains of the native tribes and nations of India, which “had been forced to submit themselves to” the unity. The hypothesis he intended to defend is not the existence of two distinct races in India as such, but the claim that the lower and higher castes had originally belonged to two different races.
One author gave the following explanation of the sequence of events: When the barbaric indigenous princes, who had, sword in hand, opposed themselves to the new doctrine, had been annihilated or subjugated, large numbers of Brahmin colonies coming from the north arrived in the south; new families of rulers came up, and the whole population seems to have been consigned to the last two castes of the Indian society, or to the class of laborers and servants.
ELPHINSTONE STRENGTHENS THE DISCOURSE FURTHER
Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, most European scholars of Indian religion had accepted the hypothesis of the Aryan invasion. Only occasionally did the lack of evidence bring scholars to doubt its truth. But even where they did so, they nevertheless failed to reject the hypothesis.
One of the influential scholars was Elphinstone, the Governor of Bombay. In his influential work, ‘The History of India,’ Elphinstone (1841) considered the lack of evidence for the attribution of a foreign origin to the Indians. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to acknowledge that the idea of an invasion was a very plausible explanation for the existence of the caste system. Based on his readings of the Vedas and the Laws of Manu, Elphinstone observed that “the three twice-born classes forming the whole community” were “embraced by the law”, while the shudras were “in a servile and degraded condition”. Yet, he pointed out, “it appears that there are cities governed by Súdra Kings, in which Bramins are advised not to reside” and that, as the code of Manu stated, “there are whole territories inhabited by Súdras, overwhelmed with atheists and deprived of Bramins”.
He considered it “impossible not to conclude from all this, that the twice-born men were a conquering people; that the servile class were the subdued aborigines; and that the independent Súdra towns were in such of the small territories, into which Hindostan was divided, as still retained their independence”.
WHAT DO ALL THESE CITATIONS HAVE IN COMMON?
- All these citations speak of the caste system as a social hierarchy, a system that determines a person’s position in society in terms of the higher and the lower: the brahmanas are higher than the kshatriyas, after whom come the vaishyas, followed by the shudras who in turn are followed by the outcastes or the Pariahs. The latter are so low that they are out of the system altogether.
- They make another division at a higher level of description: the first group consists of the first two or three castes, which they also call the “twice-born castes”. The second group consists of the shudras and the outcastes. The first group is superior to the second group. It is this distinction that they attempt at explaining. It is only the extreme social inequality between the first and the second group that comes out as a problem needing explanation.
- The second group has “extreme degradation”; are allegedly in a “state of slavery”; having a “servile and degraded position”; and face “rejection”. Elphinstone describes the first group as forming the “community as a whole” and “embraced by the law”. Based on the readings of the Laws of Manu, Europeans thought that the shudras and the outcastes had no right to undergo this ritual and were, as such, excluded from participation in the Vedic community. That is why one scholar says that the religious and civil institutions of the “enlightened race” provided a unity to Indian society that was only apparent but not real.
- In other words, the first group forms the community organized according to the religious and civil institutions of that society. The second group consists of slaves rejected from this community.
- One group is ‘civilized’ because they have religious and civil institutions that organize their lives, the second are inferior because they have no access to these institutions. It is this situation, and not the existence of social inequalities in a society as such, that draws the attention of these nineteenth century Europeans as something in need of an explanation. This social inequality is of a different kind than the inequalities between the first three castes.
- This brings us to their explanation: the two groups represent two different races and the first group has conquered the second one.
- The existence of social inequality, then, can point to the existence of two races or peoples. The fact that one race becomes superior and the other inferior is due to the respective strength of the civilizations of these two peoples. Scholars after scholars of that period speak of the conquered aborigines as savage and uncivilized.
- The descendants of the aboriginal population have an identification based on their absence of civilization, for which the only mentioned criterion is the religion, viz., Hinduism, as found in the Sanskrit literature, of the “foreign colonists”.
REPEATED CONJECTURES AND LIES BECOME FACTS FINALLY
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the conjecture or hypothesis about the invasion of an aboriginal people had gradually acquired the status of fact. Thus, Max Müller, one of the most important Indologists of this period and regarded by some as the father of the AIT,suggests that the Rigveda and “Ramayana, Manu and Mahabharata” reveal the whole account of how the “Brahminical tribes” conquered India step by step and established and spread their rule. The “Arian tribes”, he says, “remained united by their common origin, by the ties of religion and of their sacred language”. The aboriginal inhabitants on the other hand, either fled to the refuge of the “thick forests of the mountainous districts, and in the south of the Vindhya range”, or “remained in a state of slavery, constituting the class of Sudras.”
With the focus on the caste system and the idea that the first three castes belonged to a different race than the shudras and the outcasts, a range of other differences could now go along to the same racial lines: difference in language use; difference in religion; and difference in appearance and skin colour.
All of these were now signalling the existence of two peoples that formed the upper and lower castes of the caste system. The conceptual framework of European scholars at the beginning of the nineteenth century included the idea that a difference in language not only implied two peoples, but also two religions (in different stages of degeneration), two systems of law, and a difference in general “value” or state of civilization reflected in the social position of the respective peoples. If two peoples lived together it meant that the superior one had conquered the inferior people and subdued the latter to their own system of laws and religion. Today, these same ideas of the caste system as an Aryan system of racial discrimination appear plausible enough for constant reproduction in the absence of any evidence. The hypothesis is that these notions are dependent on a set of Christian theological ideas from which they derive their intelligibility. SN Balagangadhara shows that Vedas as a sacred text of Hinduism given by God; and the idea of Sanskrit as a sacred language of a specific people is dependent on the Christian idea that each nation has its own language with which it transmits its religion.
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