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Saturday 23 January 2016

Neither Aryans migrated into north-west India, nor did Tamils migrate into South India: Michel Danino

Its not that i'm in 100 % agreement with him, but what he says mostly is correct IMO .

Neither Aryans migrated into north-west India, nor did Tamils migrate into South India: Michel Danino

By Nithin Sridhar
 The Aryan Question: Part 5
The Aryan question continues to remain highly controversial and multidimensional in nature. In order to unravel the nitty-gritty of the issue, NewsGram interviewed various scholars who have researched various aspects of the issue in depth.

In this ‘fifth installment’ of ‘The Aryan Question’, NewsGram brings an exclusive interview of Michel Danino, independent scholar, educationist, and guest professor at IIT Gandhinagar, who has authored books and papers on the issue, including The Lost River: On The Trail of the Sarasvati (Penguin India, 2010). He is also a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research.

Interview with Michel Danino

Nithin Sridhar: You have been researching the origins of River Sarasvati for many years. Can you share with us why River Sarasvati is so important for understanding ancient Indian history? What is its relevance in the debate on the Aryan issue?

Michel Danino: The Sarasvati River is important at two levels. One, as a river, since it is praised as such in the Rig-Veda, India’s oldest text; it is clear that a number of the Rig-Vedic hymns were composed in the region where the river flowed. It was part of the Vedic landscape, just like Sindhu (the Indus) or its tributaries; together they formed the Saptasidhava (the “seven rivers”). However, the Sarasvati is the only one of those rivers that disappeared, hence the search not only for the river’s location but for the causes of its disappearance. Secondly, the river was so revered that it was turned into a goddess with the additional symbolic meaning of inspiration, then speech, therefore, knowledge, therefore, education, the arts, etc. Sarasvati is thus an important symbol in Indian culture.
 If the river’s identification has become controversial, it is only since the 1980s, when it became clear from the archaeological evidence that the river dried up in its central basin around 1900 BCE. In that case, how could Aryans supposedly arriving about 400 years later describe the river as of “mighty waters”, flowing “unbroken” “from the mountain to the sea”? There is a chronological impossibility. The Rig-Veda was composed while the river was in full flow, and on the basis of current archaeological evidence, this would take us before 2600 BCE (when the river first broke up near what is today the international border in western Rajasthan). Of course, proponents of the Aryan invasion/migration theory will not accept this.

NS: You have identified the River Sarasvati mentioned in the Vedas with the dried bed of the Ghaggar-Hakra River. Can you briefly explain the evidence that has helped you to arrive at this identity? What bearing does this identification have on the whole debate surrounding Aryan migration?

M Danino: The Sarasvati’s identification with the dry bed of the Ghaggar-Hakra of Haryana, Punjab, northern Rajasthan and the Cholistan is not mine at all. It was first made by the French geographer Louis Vivien de Saint-Martin way back in 1855! It was soon endorsed by almost all European Indologists (such as HH Wilson, F Max Müller, Marc Aurel Stein, Louis Renou), geographers and geologists (such as RD Oldham), and later archaeologists (Stuart Piggott, Mortimer Wheeler, and Aurel Stein again, not to speak of recent ones like RAllchin or GL Possehl and numerous Indian archaeologists). Today’s critics of this identification conceal this longstanding consensus as they dishonestly want to create an impression that the identification is a recent “Hindutva” theory. It is no such thing.

The reasons for the identification are very simple: 1) In its tenth and final mandala, the Rig-Veda has a hymn “in praise of rivers” (the famous Nadistuti Sukta) which lists Sarasvati between the Yamuna and the Sutlej; 2) later literature, from the Brahmanas to the Mahabharata not only confirms the river’s location but records its gradual retreat; 3) there is in Haryana a small “Sarsuti”, a tributary to the Ghaggar, and also an old tradition that the Sarasvati’s source is nearby in the Shivalik Hills. These are precisely the points that the nineteenth-century scholars used to reach their conclusion.

NS: Some Aryan migration proponents argue that the Rigveda refers to two different Sarasvati rivers. They identify the one referred to as “Naditama” in older portions of Rigveda with Helmand in Afghanistan, and the Sarasvati mentioned in Nadisukta and other later portions of Rigveda with the Ghaggar. Another argument forwarded to support Helmand hypothesis is that ‘Samudra’ refers to ‘lake’ and not ‘ocean’. What is your view on this?

M Danino: The linguistic argument that the Helmand had an ancient Avestan name, “Harahvaiti”, which is cognate with “Sarasvati”, proves nothing, since we might just as well turn it around and propose that this is evidence of a migration out of India. Or, if we get a little less obsessed with migrations, we could see it as a sign of cultural interaction. In any case, there is nothing to show that the Rig-Veda refers to one river in its older hymns and to another in the Nadistuti Sukta — this is an artificial device imposed on the text to get away from the chronological implications I referred to above. The absurdity becomes clear if you consider that the Ghaggar had long dried up by the time (1500 to 1200 BCE) the Aryans are supposed to have reached it: why should they transfer the name “Sarasvati”, a river they extolled, to what had by then become a puny seasonal stream?

As regards “Samudra”, the word can indeed be used in principle for any sizeable water body, but in many passages, it clearly refers to the ocean. Thus the legend of Bhujyu, rescued from a storm in the “billowy Samudra” by the Ashvins. There are many mentions of seven rivers meeting the Samudra, of waves, ships, storms, etc. In fact, HH Wilson plainly stated in 1866 that the Rig-Veda’s hymns were “familiar with the ocean and its phenomena”; Max Müller agreed, writing in 1882 that “the word Samudra shows in by far the larger number of passages the clear meaning of ocean.” It is silly to deny this simply to portray Aryans as freshly arrived from landlocked Afghanistan!
Ghaggar river flowing in Haryana. Photo:
Ghaggar river flowing in Haryana.

NS: Can you briefly explain the salient features of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization? Also, share about the time period, urbanization, and the eventual decline of it.

M Danino: It was the first urban civilization of the Indian subcontinent. After a few millennia of slow and gradual developments, by 2600 BCE cities came up over much of the Northwest. They did not boast pyramids, imposing temples or colossal statues, but displayed planning to an unprecedented degree in the Bronze Age; Mohenjo-daro also had a remarkable drainage system. Harappans were primarily manufacturers, craftsmen and traders (of course agriculturists too). The cities appear wealthy enough, though not ostentatiously so. It is now clear that by 1900 BCE (a little earlier or later depending on the region) the whole civilization disintegrated and cities were either abandoned or reverted to semi-rural settlements. The current consensus is that climatic and environmental changes (including the drying up of the Sarasvati at about the same time) played a major role in this.

NS: Contrary to the assertions of AMT proponents that Indus civilization was a non-Vedic, non-Aryan civilization, you have argued that there is continuity between Indus civilization and the later Vedic civilization in the Gangetic plains. Can you shed more light on this? What similarities can be observed between the two civilizations?

M Danino: I never speak of “Vedic civilization”, only of “Vedic culture”, and there is no proof that it is “later” — that is no more than an opinion, albeit the dominant one. What I have done is to add my bit to the body of evidence of numerous bridges and commonalities between Harappan and Vedic cultures, many of which have been pointed out for decades, and to the enormous Harappan legacy to the Gangetic civilization of the first millennium BCE. For instance, fire altars are unmistakable at sites like Kalibangan, Lothal and Banawali; Harappan figurines point to some practice of yoga and meditation; Harappan units of weight and length, as well as auspicious proportions, survive, as do several important symbols, concepts of iconography and craft techniques. And much more. The so-called break between the two cultures is, again, an artificial device imposed by the Aryan scenario.

NS: The absence of horses and chariots in Harappan sites has been pointed out as being definite evidence of the Indus civilization being Non-Aryan, Non-Vedic civilization. You have extensively written refuting it. Can you summarize your observations?

M Danino: This is a poorly constructed argument as it misrepresents the evidence at every step. Very briefly, it is incorrect to state that the horse was unknown to Harappans: horse bones or teeth have been identified at over a dozen sites (even at a couple of pre-Harappan sites) by the best archaeozoologists so that even conservative archaeologists like Piggott or Wheeler accepted the animal’s presence. The argument also incorrectly implies that with the supposed coming of the Aryans, evidence of the horse should become widespread — quite the contrary, relics of the animal remain few and far between. The horse is also rarely depicted in art until the Mauryan Empire. Finally, 25 years ago, the respected British anthropologist Edmund Leach protested at the misreading of the Rig-Veda that would have a Vedic society full of horses; he pointed out that the animal was, on the contrary, used as a “prestige animal” that would rather point to its rarity. In fact, a century ago, Sri Aurobindo had warned that just as ‘go’ in the Rig-Veda means both a cow and light, ‘ashva’ refers both to the horse and to speed or energy, and many passages were misread by taking the word at its literal meaning. Of course, our Aryan proponents have no use for such nuanced points and continue to bludgeon their “no horse” argument.

NS: The presence of speakers of Brahui (which belongs to Dravidian family of languages) in Balochistan has been used to point out that Dravidian speakers were in North-West India and after the influx of Aryan speakers, they migrated into South India. What is your view on this?

M Danino: One more methodologically flawed argument. Way back in the 1920s, the French linguist Jules Bloch demonstrated that Brahui reached Baluchistan recently, perhaps at the time of the Islamic invasions and probably from central India. This thesis was more recently endorsed by the noted linguist Murray Emeneau, and still more recently by H.H. Hock. Finally, the linguist and mathematician Josef Elfenbein confirmed it using a different approach. It is completely illegitimate to see the language as a “relic” from the Harappan times; the argument, still misused today to establish that the authors of the Indus Valley civilization were “Dravidians,” has no linguistic validity.

NS: Do we find any archaeological pieces of evidence in South India or any literary pieces of evidence in old Tamil Sangam literature that speak about a migration of Dravidians into South India or the interaction between Aryan and Dravidian speakers?

M Danino: There are no references to a northern origin of Tamil speakers in the Sangam literature and no animosity against northern Indians. On the other hand, its earliest layers are already quite familiar with the Vedas and important themes of Hindu mythology, for example, Ganga or the Himalayas are objects of reverence. As regards the archaeological record, just as it has failed in the North to document the supposed arrival of the so-called Aryans, it is completely silent in the South about a migration from the north. Archaeology has no need and no use for the invisible Aryans, which is why most archaeologists have quietly shown them the door.
NS: The invasion/migration theory was first hypothesized to explain the commonalities between Sanskrit and certain European languages. In the case of non-invasion, non-migration scenario, how would these commonalities be explained?

M Danino: There are quite a few alternative scenarios, which surprisingly have received very little attention. “Surprisingly” because the failure to trace Aryans — let us now call them Indo-European speakers, a better term anyway — in north India is repeated in central Asia and also Europe; bioanthropology (the study of skeletal remains) and most recent genetic studies have also failed to discern the arrival of a new people in the 2nd millennium BCE.

Alternative linguistic models include (1) models of language propagation that do not require population movement but only contact (such models have been in place since the 19th century); (2) models of a “broad homeland” for Indo-European languages, in which they evolved by convergence rather than divergence from a proto-language (which, in this case, need not have existed at all); (3) models that do accept such a proto-language but put it at a much more remote period, 7000 BCE or beyond, which allows time for more complex interactions; (4) Out-of-India models, in which the proto-language originated from the subcontinent. Let us also note that a few professional linguists go further: “The very idea of an ‘Indo-European’ language family on which Indology is based is scientifically indefensible. IE linguists ignore vast amounts of data that do not fit with their classification. Sanskrit shares some features with Greek and Latin but it also shares equally important features with Afro-Asiatic. Indology as a discipline can be useful if it frees itself from the yoke of IEL [Indo-European linguistics]” (A. & R. McMahon, 2005). Clearly we are far from a linguistic consensus.

NS: Can you briefly summarize the protohistory of India, in the light of currently available archaeological, literary, linguistic, and genetic evidence?

M Danino: We should honestly acknowledge that current data remains insufficient for a complete picture; for instance, only about 10% of the Mature (or urban) Harappan settlements have been excavated. However, there is no reason to assume a discontinuity between the Harappan or Indus civilization and the later Gangetic civilization, as the Aryan model demands: cultural and biological continuities between the two are now numerous and well-documented. The archaeological continuity goes back to 7000 BCE or so at Mehrgarh (Baluchistan) and possibly Bhirrana in Haryana (though much more work needs to be done there).

The literary evidence is more difficult. Since the Rig-Veda does not mention rice, cotton, bricks, cities or ruins, and refers to the Sarasvati as flowing “from the mountain to the sea”, some scholars have been tempted to place its most ancient hymns at a period prior to the Mature Harappan phase (2600-1900 BCE), that is, about 3000 BCE or earlier. That is also what scholars like Tilak and Jacobi had suggested (going back to 4000 BCE, in fact) on astronomical grounds, and we have more such astronomical arguments by now. Of course, the mainstream view remains that the Rig-Veda cannot be older than 1500 BCE, but it has no convincing replies to the many paradoxes that this late date raises.


andrew said...

The Sarasvati’s identification with the dry bed of the Ghaggar-Hakra and the approximate date that it dried out and the fact that this had a negative effect on the vitality of Harappan culture are all well established.

The case that the Brahui language migrated there from South India ca. 1000 CE, with substantial language shift of the indigenous population is likewise very solid.

There is a pretty decent case for putting the earliest Aryan influence in NW India at around 1900 BCE in the vicinity of Cemetery H which also coincides with the earliest appearance of certain kinds of metallurgy in NW India (at which point there was migration to the Ganges basin). A 1500 BCE date for first Aryan contact is too late. And, the genetic case for some sort of major introgression of new West Eurasian stock into South Asia at about the right time is very strong too.

There are some legacies of Harappan civilization that can be established, e.g. the consumption of curry, and a game similar to chess. It isn't implausible to attribute the distinctive aspects of Vedic religion relative to other Indo-European cultures to the Harappans as well. And, it could be that the Aryans had a pretty easy time taking the reigns without much of a fight simply because the Harappan civilization had collapsed and its leaders had probably lost all credibility.

But, the case against an Aryan migration into India sometime in the 2nd millenium BCE is ultimately very weak.

Nirjhar007 said...

Andrew ,
There is nothing that can show that there were any Aryan migration to India in 2nd millennium BC. Cemetery H show a slight change in tradition but its ultimately from the local origin, it don't have any trail from outside except that it may reflect an arrival of some Afghan and near by related population.
The effect of the 4.2 kyo event was massive it collapsed the SSC, Sarasvati started to dry around the same period because of the lack of rain, though others have shown other possibilities -
For the relation of Vedic traditions with Harappan archaeology you can read for example the book by Bhagwan Singh The Vedic Harappans or you can take a look of detailed archaeological descriptions from this veteran archaeologist here -
About the intrusion of ''west eurasian specific'' genes to India around 2000 BC, the only way that can be established is by taking the aDNA of harappans.
Y-DNA Z-93 can be a crucial indicator, i totally agree, but we should also remember that vast areas of Asia is yet to be sampled! . So, who knows if the marker which seems to be the best candidate so far for success of Kurgan model in case of S Asia turns out to be an Asian marker!, many agree with that possibility and of course there are also some who suggest that the Indo-Europeanization of S Asia didn't have any Genetic or Archaeological impact! i.e. Elite Dominance, but IMO that can't be, you need some significant intrusion with at least some indications from Archaeology. Anyway, you can read this too, which has a given a nice summary of relation between SSC and IE people in S Asia.
and of course welcome :) .

Aniketana said...

When one mentions that Indus civilazation could not boast of imposing structures like pyramids, one also need to take into account, those structures were built out of slave labour, (where many died during its construction). In my knowledge, Indus civilization do not show any evidence for the practice of slavery.

If Dravidians did not come from North, why no early settlements are found in South India? I have visited many historical places, where tour guides say the paintings on rocks are from Stone Age. Still we have not come across large early settlements (which we can call as a city).
Is there any explanation, why we cannot find? Or is it something one might explore in future?

Nirjhar007 said...

Welcome Aniketana :) ,
About the slavery question in SSC , i think what you say is quite obvious, though i must tell you that i have not studied deeply on the subject and it is indeed an interesting topic.

I think its not necessary for Dravidians to have settlements, the transition from Stone age to Neolithic to Chalcolithic in South was relatively late. And importantly the idea itself that Dravidians were urban agarian type came from the idea that IE's reached India only around 1500 BC , so SSC/IVC Can't be Indo-European but Dravidian since it was from a period before.
My idea though just an Idea is that Dravidians were mostly hunter gatherers of South who were later to involve in farming and pastoral from IE influence from the North and Perhaps with Munda type of influence coming from the east.
We must also take into consideration that if IE came here very anciently, say from around 4500-3800 BC , a period marked by another climatic event of 5.9 kyo event and records do show coming of new people , then we must accept that there was a population which spoke an Non-IE language. Judging by the substratum structure one possibility is that it was a para-Munda type but the case of Dravidian is weak and sometimes can be considered exaggerated -
Another possibility is that it was language X because there are some unidentifiable words in Indic.
So where the Dravidians came from ? Archaeology don't help and certainly don't speak of migrations from north. Where they indigenous of south? not impossible . Did the come from Elam? not very sure as there is no trail from there. Also we must take into account if they were the bearers of SSC, why we don't see the archaeological artifacts of the civilization in the south?. My bet at the moment is that they were indigenous of South .

bmdriver said...

Please give feedback. My assumption is there was ancesteral Indian group, that settled South India, then separate migration took place back to North East and North west India, over time these populations become isolated. With changing climate North India becomes the ideal place for the onset of farming, with flat wet lands, over the mountainous regions of South India. North becomes the area of farming and in with India they remain hunter gatherers for longer. With development of farming, cultivation, domestication, technology migration takes place into Central Asia and beyond, then massive admixture in India merging the three ancestral groups back into one. Around 1500 years ago development of planned cities and city states means society has become more planned and orchestrated with permanent settlements over wandering tribal hunter gatherers, which means less admixture, with the rise of trade, guilds and occupations which is classed as the caste system or varna system. So all Indians come from two maybe three ancestral groups, which In turn come from the first ancestral group to settle India. Then with Islamic and Christian invasion during the times of colonialism and imperialism, society became very rigid as it became in Africa, America, Australia with such things as the slave system of American and African society. And then during colonial times this white Aryan's and black Dravidian concept created by racist and predjucial imperialist became the established view point of the Indian intellectual elite, who have continued this distortion. And today this distortion has become political and generates wealth.


“We have conclusively proved that there never existed any aryans or dravidians in the indian sub continent. the aryan-dravidian classification was nothing but a misinformation campaign carried out by people with vested interests,” Prof Lalji Singh, Vice-chancellor, Banaras Hindu University, told DNA.

The findings of a three-year research by a team of scientists, including Prof Singh and others from various countries, has been published by American Journal of Human Genetics in its issue dated december 9.

“The study effectively puts to rest the argument that south indians are dravidians and were driven to the peninsula by aryans who invaded north india,” said Prof Singh, a molecular biologist and former chief of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.

According to Dr Gyaneshwer chaubey, Estonian Biocentre, Tartu, Estonia, who was another indian member of the team, the leaders of dravidian political parties may have to find another answer for their raison d'être. “we have proved that people all over india have common genetic traits and origin. all indians have the same dna structure. no foreign genes or dna has entered the indian mainstream in the last 60,000 years,” dr chaubey said.

Dr Chaubey had proved in 2009 itself that the aryan invasion theory is bunkum. “that was based on low resolution genetic markers. this time we have used autosomes, which means all major 23 chromosomes, for our studies. the decoding of human genome and other advances in this area help us in unraveling the ancestry in 60,000 years,” he explained.

Nirjhar007 said...

Dear bmdriver,
Long time after :). Before answering, i must tell you that we first need the aDNA from S Asia to really know what happened.
As you know, there is a recent study on Indian population based on modern dna, the study has failed to provide something really new and also continued the dogma of AIT!. Anyway,if we seek some positives the paper speaks that there is a specific Austro-Asiatic component, and that ASI is essentially Dravidian.
Negritos of the islands belong to a very different type, closer to Melanesian folks.

About Ancestral North Indians (ANI), it shows that they are very close to Pathans and Burusho and obviously Sindhi (idiotically excluded from ANI because they are in Pakistan, I guess), less to Balochi, which is not surprising, since Balochis should come partly from NW Iran, as the languages shows. It is also to note that Europeans and Middle Easterners cluster together, quite far from SC Asians.

Unfortunately, I have not found a mention about who are these Middle Easterners, but this shows that ANI have no close links with Europeans. Kalash are closer to Middle Easterners compared to ANI.

It is difficult to say if Ancestral North Indians are purely Neolithic or were already here from well before, but they are clearly connected with Indo-Europeans!, also Dravidian Iyers are Brahmins of Indo-Aryan origin. The sharp difference with South Indian tribes with their ASI component is impressive and confirms what we can notice in Kerala observing Brahmins and other local people.

Instead, ASI from this study appears to be strongly Southern, and connected with Dravidians. My idea is that Dravidian speakers are the most ancient people of the Deccan, who developed there their own Neolithic culture with influence from IE from North and AA's from East, and that Indo-Aryans migrating there had to adopt their language, though bringing many loanwords from Sanskrit
or Prakrit.

bmdriver said...

Let me ask you a question, if there was only one migration out of Africa, and South Asia was of the first places to be settled, why is it not possible that ANI derives from ASI, with these two ancesteral groups becoming isolated over time, then four thousand years ago massive admixture takes place.

The whole argument about India is ANI because Europeans share similarities with it now I have read studies which shows ANI diversity to be older that in India indicating a migration westward. So my question is it not more likely that both ANI and ASI have common origins, let's say Ancesteral Indians or AI. Or that ANI itself is a group separated from ASI?

''Outside Africa, the earliest and fastest growth is inferred in Southern Asia India -52 kya. Comparisons of relative regional population sizes through time suggest that between approximately 45,000 years and 20,000 years most of humanity lived in Southern Asia India.
-mtDNA Variation Predicts Population Size in Humans and Reveals a Major Southern Asian Chapter in Human Prehistory.......

Nirjhar007 said...

What you say certainly has merit, the only way we can know about it is by ancient dna taken from India. Modern components are superficial and often misleading, so we need the collaboration of ancient genomes. Luckily we are going to have some aDNA before the 2000 BC period through Rakhigarhi, it will be fascinating to see how much ASI-ANI the samples show, or it is also possible we will see a whole new ancestral component which may change many ideas that we have now.
ASI is indeed a great mystery, no one really knows even after 7 years of discovery what it means. One possibility indeed is that its extremely basal.