Demolishing 19th Century Paradigms

It was a long speech, but he was very clear about the message. Delivering the inaugural address at the 19th International Conference on South Asian Archeology in Italy, Prof B.B.Lal told the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists that they have to abandon the 19th century biases. Then with the clinical precision of a surgeon administering electric shocks to revive Dick Cheney’s heart, Prof. B.B.Lal demolished the Aryan Invasion Theory and tore apart some of the eminent historians and their guru Harvard University, Professor Witzel.

Professor Witzel and I happened to participate in a seminar organized by UMASS, Dartmouth in June 2006. When I referred, during the course of my presentation, to this wrong translation by the learned Professor, he, instead of providing evidence in support of his own stand, shot at me by saying that I did not know the difference between Vedic and Classical Sanskrit. Should that be the level of an academic debate? (Anyway, he had to be told that I had the privilege of obtaining in 1943 my Master’s Degree in Sanskrit (with the Vedas included), with a First Class First, from a first class university of India, namely Allahabad.)

When the Aryan Invasion Theory was demolished, a migration theory was adopted by Prof. Romila Thapar and the lines and the homeland of the Aryans was shifted to the region of Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex. Prof Lal shows that the BMAC people were not nomads and the characteristic features of BMAC never reached the Indus region.

Both Thapar and Sharma are even now laboring under the 19th century belief that the Vedic Aryans were nomads. But have they even once cast a glance at the make-up of the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex. As would have been absolutely clear by now, the BMAC is a fully developed civilization with all the trappings of urbanism. How can then Thapar and Sharma devalue the Bactria-Margiana people and call them ‘pastoral cattle-breeders’? Just to fit into their preconceived notion that the Rigvedic Aryans were ‘nomads’?

But more strange is the argument that the occurrence of a single antennae-hilted sword in Bactria would entitle that region to be the ‘motherland’ of the Gangetic Copper Hoard people who produced these copper weapons and other associated objects in hundreds, if not thousands.

If, following the footsteps of Parpola, I were to say that the find of the well known seal of the ‘Persian Gulf’ style at Lothal in Gujarat establishes that the Persian Gulf Culture (which abounds in such seals) originated in Gujarat or, again, if I said that the occurrence of a cylinder seal at Kalibangan in Rajasthan entitles Rajasthan to be the ‘motherland’ of the Mesopotamian Culture (wherein cylinder seals are found in large numbers), I am sure my learned colleagues present here would at once get me admitted to the nearest lunatic asylum.

Migration theorists claim that the BMAC people were the ancestors of the Iranians and Indo-Aryans because they had fire-worship, homa rituals, evidence of asvamedha and some cult motifs. He takes the case of fire worship and proves that the direction of movement of that was from India to Central Asia and not the other way. He also shows that there was no soma/homa in BMAC, the skeleton of the horse was not one from an asvamedha, and that the motifs found on the cylindrical seal could be anything depending on your imagination.

He then brings in genetic studies

“As for the question of biological continuity within the Indus Valley, two discontinuities appear to exist. The first occurs between 6000 and 4500 BC … and the second occurs at some point after 800 BC.” In other words, there was no entry of a new set of people between 4500 and 800 BCE, much less of Aryan invaders / immigrants !

The Y-chromosomal data consistently suggest a largely South Asian origin for Indian caste communities and therefore argue against any major influx, from regions north and west of India, of people associated either with the development of agriculture or the spread of the Indo-Aryan language family.”

Will this right-on-the-face lecture change the European mindset.? It probably will not, but at least the lecture makes it crystal clear that some people don’t take the Eurocentric world view seriously any more.

5 thoughts on “Demolishing 19th Century Paradigms

  1. JK, I was hoping you’d write about this speech 🙂 Good highlights. But, as you say, the tide has, probably, hardly turned because it’s undermined on religious terms.

  2. Chandra, Actually Prof. Lal left the religious angle out of the lecture and if he had added that, then he would have been branded a Hindu fundamentalist and the message would have been lost. But as you said, the truth is that all that arbitary dating is not really arbitary.

  3. “whether they too would like to accompany Parpola in crossing this 4000-year-old and 4000-kilometre-long bridge along with Parpola.”
    Wooohooo! This is what’s called Pwnage! Brilliant, brilliant sarcasm!

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