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Aryan Invasion: N.S. Rajaram




                                ARYAN INVASION
                                       
   
   
   From, The Hindustan Times, By N.S. Rajaram
   
   Until quite recently, the famous Harappan civilization of the Indus
   valley has been an enigma. Many questions still remain about the
   identity of the people who created this great ancient civilization.
   Stretching over a million and a half square kilometers, from the
   borders of Iran to east UP and with some sites as far south as the
   Godavari valley, it was larger than ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia
   combined. What is perhaps most puzzling about it is the fact that all
   major sites spread over this immense belt went into sudden decline and
   disappeared more or less simultaneously. The renowned archeologist,
   S.R. Rao, probably the foremost authority on Harappan archeology
   recently wrote:
   
   "In circa 1900 B.C., most of the mature Harappan sites were wiped out
   forcing the inhabitants to seek new lands for settlement. They seem to
   have left in a great hurry and in small groups, seeking shelter
   initially on the eastern flank of the Ghaggar and gradually moving
   towards the Yamuna. The refugees from Mohen-jo-daro and southern sites
   in Sind fled to Saurashtra and later occupied the interior of the
   peninsula."
   
   From this it is apparent that the Harappans, though inhabiting a vast
   area, fell victim to a sudden calamity which forced them to seek
   shelter in other parts of ancient India. The usual explanation found
   in history books is that the inhabitants of the Harappan cities were
   driven out by the invading Aryans. However it is now recignised by
   scholars that the Aryan invasion theory of India is a myth that owes
   more to European politics than anything in Indian records or
   archaeology. (The politics of History, The Hindustan Times, Nov. 28
   1993). The evidence against any such invasion is now far too strong to
   be taken seriously. To begin with, sites spread over such a vast
   stretch, measuring well over a thousand miles across would not have
   been all abandoned simultaneously due to the incursion of nomadic
   bands at one extremity. Further, there is profuse archaeological
   evidence including the presence of sacrificial altars that go to show
   that the Harappans were part of the Vedic aryan fold. As a result, it
   can safely by said that the Vedic age also ended with the Harappan
   civilisation.
   
   From all this it is clear that the loss of these sites must have been
   associated with some natural catastrophe. A few scholars have pointed
   to evidence of frequent floods to account for the abandonement. But,
   floods are invariably local in nature and do not cause the collapse of
   a civilisation over a vast belt. People adapt. Floods bring death but
   they also sustain life. Some of the most flood prone areas of the
   world - like the Nile valley, Bengal and the Yangtse valley, in
   China,- area also among the most densely populated. It is the loss of
   water or dessication that causes massive disruptions on the scale
   witnessed at the end of the Harappan civilization. Thanks to the
   latest data from two major archaeological and satellite based studies,
   we now know that this is exactly what happened. It was ecological
   change that ended the great civilization not only in India but over a
   vast belt that included Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Aegean.
   
   On the basis of extensive explorations carried out in Northern
   Mesopotamia, a joint French-American team led by H. Weiss of Yale
   University has determined that most of the old world civilization were
   severely affected by a prolonged drought that began about 2200 B.C.
   and persisted for about 300 years. The most drastically hit region
   seems to have been the Akkadian civilization neighbouring India. The
   drought may have been triggered by massive volcanic eruptions.
   According to the findings of this historic study concluded only
   recently:
   
   "At approximately 2200 B.C., occupations of Tell Leilan and Tell Brak
   (in Northern Mesopotamia) were suddenly abandoned...a marked increase
   in aridity and wind circulation, subsequent to a volcanic eruption,
   induced considerable degradation in land use conditions.... this
   abrupt climatic change caused abandonement of Tell Leilan, regional
   desertion, and collapse of the Akkadian empire based in southern
   Mesopotamia. Synchronous collapse in adjacent regions suggests the
   impact of abrupt climatic change was excessive.
   
   An end uncannily like that of the Harappans. The authors of this
   momentous study note that the collapse of the Akkdians more or less
   coincided with similar climate change, land degradation and collapse
   noted in the Aegean, Palestine, Egypt, and India. The date of 1900 BC
   given by S.R. Rao for the collapse of the Harappans should be seen as
   approximate. More accurate methods are now available that show this
   date to have been sometime before 2000 BC, and they are well within
   the calibration error of radiocation and other scientific dating
   techniques. The basic point is: as a result of several independent
   explorations conducted over a vast belt from southern Europe to India,
   it is now clear that civilizations over a large part of the ancient
   world were brought to a calamitous end by an abrupt climate change on
   a global scale. To attribute a global calamity of such colossal
   magnitude to nomadic 'Aryan' tribes is simplistic in the extreme.
   
   These discoveries should help put an end to all speculation regarding
   the Aryan invasion as the cause of breakup of the Harappan
   civilisation. On the other hand we now know that the Vedic
   civilization far from coming into existance after the Harappan, in
   fact ended with it; the mature Harappan civilization was the last glow
   of the Vedic age. This recognition has brought about a fundamental
   change in perpective in the history and chronology of not only ancient
   India, but also nearly all ancient civilizations. It helps answer
   several fundamental questions about the source of the Harappans - they
   should now be called the Vedic Harappans - and the age of the Rig
   Veda. Thanks to recent discoveries about the mathematics and geography
   of Vedic India, we are now in a position to answer both questions.
   
   This shift in perspective,that the Harappan civilization came at the
   end of the Vedic age also helps explain a major puzzle; the
   technological basis for this great civilisation. Even a superficial
   study of Harappan sites suggests that its builders were extremely
   capable town planners and engineers. And this requires a sophisticated
   knowledge of mathematics especially geometry. Elaborate structures
   like the Great Bath of Mohen-jo-daro, the Lothal harbour or the
   citadel at Harappa are inconcievable without a detailed knowldge of
   geometry. The world had to wait 2000 years more, till the rise of the
   Roman civilisation for sanitation and town planning to reach a
   comparable level. The question is: where did the Harappans get the
   necessary mathematical and engineering knowledge? History books tell
   us that Indians borrowed their geometry from the Greeks. This is
   absurd. The Harappans must have had the neccessary technical knowledge
   at least 2000 years before the Greeks. Without it the civilization
   would never have seen the light of day. It is as simple as that.
   
   But once we recognise that Harappan archaeology belongs to the closing
   centuries of the Vedic age, the mystery vanishes. The late Vedic
   literature includes mathematical texts known as the Sulba-sutras which
   contain detailed instruction for the building of sacrificial altars.
   After a monumental study spanning more than 20 years, the
   distinguished American mathematician and historian of science, A.
   Seidenberg showed that the Sulba-sutras are the source of both
   Egyptian and old Babylonian mathematics. The Egyptian texts based on
   the Sulba-sutras go back to before 2000 BC. This provides independent
   cofirmation that Indian mathematical knowledge existed long before
   that date, ie, during the height of the Harappan era.
   
   The sulba-sutras are part of the vedic religious literature known as
   the Kalpasutras. They were created originally to serve as technical
   manuals for the design and construction of Vedic altars. As previously
   noted, Harappan sites contain many such altars, a fact that supplies a
   link between Vedic literature and Harappan archaeology. It serves also
   to show that the vedic literature could not have been brought in by
   any invaders - they were needed for building the altars that are very
   much part of the Harappan archaeology! The sulba-sutra are the oldest
   mathematical texts known. A careful comparison of the sulba-sutras
   with the mathematics of Egypt and old Babylonia led Seidenberg to
   conclude:
   
   "... the elements of ancient geometry found in Egypt and old Babylonia
   stem from a ritual system of the kind found in the Sulba-sutras."
   
   What is interesting is that the origins of ancient mathematics are to
   be found in religion and ritual. So the great engineering feats of the
   Harappans can be seen as secular off-shoots of the religious
   mathemtics found in vedic literature. This can in a way be compared to
   the history of books and publishing, The first books printed were
   Bibles, like the Gutenberg bible; but the technique of printing soon
   transcended its original niche adn led to an explosion of knowledge
   that made possible the European renaissance. similarly, the 'ritual
   mathematics' in the sulba-sutras led eventually to the purely secular
   achievements of the Harappans like city planning and the design of
   harbours.
   
   So the vedic civilisaion ended well before 2000 BC, with the ending of
   the Harappans following the Great Drought. The next question is, when
   did it actually begin. Here we cannot be certain although some experts
   on Vedic astronomy claim to be able to find statements in the Rig Veda
   that point to dates like 6500 BC and beyond. I feel it safer at this
   time to be consevative and stick to reliable archaeological evidence.
   Although some sites dating to almost 7000 BC have been found, I
   believe that a lot more supporting data must be found before such
   dates can be accepted. But thanks to new data made available by the
   French SPOT satellite and the Indo-French field study, we can
   definitely conclude that the Rig-Veda describes the geography of North
   India as it was long before 3000 BC. The clinching evidence is
   provided by the fate of the Saraswati river.
   
   It is well known that in the Rig Veda, the greatest and the holiest of
   rivers was not the Ganga, but the now dry Saraswati. The Ganga is
   mentioned only once while the Saraswati is mentioned some 50 tomes.
   There is a whole hymn devoted to her. Extensive research by the late
   Dr. Wakankar has shown that the Saraswati changed her course several
   times, going completely dry around 1900 BC. This date may now have to
   be moved back by a few centuries in light of what we now know about
   the disappearence of the neighbouring Akkadians. In any event we know
   now ehich Dr. Wakankar did not, that the Saraswati described in the
   Rig Veda belongs to a date long before 3000 BC. The Rig Veda calls the
   Saraswati the greatest of rivers (Naditame) that flowed from "the
   mountain to the sea". The latest satellite data combined with field
   archaeological studies have shown that the Rig Vedic Saraswati had
   stopped being a perrenial river long before 3000 BC.
   
   As Paul-Henri Francfort of CNRS, Paris recently observed, "...we now
   know, thanks to the field work of the Indo-French expedition that when
   the protohistoric people settled in this area, no large river had
   flowed there for a long time."
   
   The protohistoric people he refers to are the early Harappans of 3000
   BC. But satellite 'photos show that a great prehistoric river that was
   over 7 kilometers wide did indeed flow through the area at one time.
   This was the Saraswati described in the Rig Veda. Numerous
   archaeological sites have also been located along the course of this
   great prehistoric river thereby confirming Vedic accounts. The great
   Saraswati that flowed "from the mountain to the sea" is now seen to
   belong to a date long anterior to 3000 BC. This means that the Rig
   Veda describes the geography of North India long before 3000 BC. This
   is further supported by the fact that the Drishadvati river, also
   described in the Rig Veda, had itself gone dry long before 3000 BC.
   All this shows that the Rig Veda must have been in existece no later
   than 3500 BC. There is other evidence from metallurgy and astronomy
   that lend further support for this date.
   
   What does this all mean? In our book, Vedic Aryans and the Origins of
   Civilisation, David Frawley and I have shown that the Rig Veda belongs
   to an earlier layer of civilisation before the rise of the
   civilisation of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley (Harappa).
   This calls for a fundamental change in our idea of Mesopotamia as the
   cradle of civilisation. In the same book, on the basis of ecology and
   ancient literature, it is also suggested that the Rig Vedic aryans
   were the beneficiary of an age of abundance in north India, brought
   about by the melting of the ice caps at the end of the last Ice Age.
   The last Ice age ended in about 8000 BC. For the next several thousand
   years, many areas that are now arid, like Rajasthan, Sind, Baluchistan
   - were fertile and supported agriculture. This of course was due to
   the discharge of waters in the form of numerous streams from melting
   ice caps. This is apparent from the French satellite study. In the
   course of time, the ice caps accumulated during the long ice age came
   to be depleted and aridity began to dpread across the sub continent.
   This ofcourse culminated in the great drought of 2200 BC that wrought
   havoc with the civilisations of the ancient world.
   
   In summary, all this new evidence, when examined in the light of
   science, gives a totally different picture of the ancient world. The
   rise and fall of the Vedic civilisation of which the Harappan was a
   part can be seen to have resulted from the vagaries of nature,
   inseparably bound to the boom and bust ecological cycle that followed
   the last ice age. The vedic age and more specifically the Rig Veda
   were the beneficiaries of nature's bounties - a unique age in water
   abundance in the wake of the last ice age. Its end was also brought
   about by nature in the form of a killing drought. The Harappan
   civilisation was its twilight. And this is the verdict of science -
   what nature giveth, nature also taketh away.