My article in Mint: Genetic data refutes theory

In “A battle about history” (Mint,23 May), T.R. Ramaswami said certain dates for the Mahabharat war were suppressed and the Pandavs and Kauravs were outsiders, and even suggested that the Mahabharat and Ramayan took place outside India. Mint has published an article by me which uses genetic evidence to claim that the Aryan Invasion, which even historians like Romila Thapar reject, did not happen.
The article is an edited version of a previous piece published here at varnam.

On the ancestry of Indian populations, research says there is no need to look beyond the borders of South Asia for the paternal heritage of a majority of Indians since the time agriculture began. Also, there is no evidence of people coming through the north-west corridor in massive numbers, indicating a South Asian origin for the Indian caste communities (and not a Central Asian one). And, there is recent shared ancestry between Central Asians and Indians, but it is explained by diffusion of Indian lineages northwards, which means some Indians went to Central Asia and got lucky.[Genetic data refutes theory]

Here are the two papers mentioned in the article

  1. A prehistory of Indian Y chromosomes: Evaluating demic diffusion scenarios by Sanghamitra Sahoo, Anamika Singh et. al.
  2. Deep common ancestry of Indian and western-Eurasian mitochondrial DNA lineages by T. Kivisild et al.

25 thoughts on “My article in Mint: Genetic data refutes theory

  1. Ramaswami is good 🙂
    “History says…” and goes on a tangent. The historical authority of History is stunning. While I am glad you wrote a response, it’s hard to criticize Ramaswami for his thoughts because most history books, including standard text books, have the same “History says….” idea…he just took it a little further!

  2. The Editor
    Live Mint
    Dear Sir,
    I write with reference to the article “Genetic data refutes theory” by Jayakrishnan Nair (Live Mint 30 May 2008). In attempting to refute my theory, Nair has waxed eloquent about DNA, linguistic history etc but does not have the courage, for obvious reasons, to state with conviction the central question raised in my article – what is the date? Look at the facts. The entire Mahabharatha main story from Shanthanu to Parikshit is just six generations. That is about 200 years. The war, which took place sometime during the end of the dynasty, and chronicled like no war of that antiquity, is of 18 days duration. Great. It took place in India? Let us assume that. But look at the absurdity of the range of dates given by historians as “eminent” as Romila Thapar – more than 2200 years!! An 18-day war relating to a dynasty of 200 years has a 2000 year range? Every time I select one date I have to shift the entire dynasty forward or backward?! Is this history? Or fiction? Let’s take some facts about wars in general. The first accurately recorded war is the Battle of Meggido in 1469 BCE. The largest chariot battle in history is the battle of Kadesh in 1294 BCE. The Mahabharatha states that on each day every general on both sides had an army equal to one akshouini. Compare this number with the armies put up in all the battles in history upto the US Civil War. How was such a big army mobilized? Easy – only possible in 3000 BCE if there was a migration-cum-invasion.
    Compare this absurdity with the certainty and the evidence found in other civilisations/events of equal antiquity – the Egyptian and the Mesopotamian. Next – we are told that the Indus Valley civilization was excavated sometime in 1920s. What effort has been made to excavate Kurukshetra and Ayodhya to validate these epics? After all we have found evidence relating to the dinosaurs going back to the Jurassic period about 100 million years back. Are the Ramayana and Mahabharatha older than the dinosaurs? If you were the Indian government would you not dig up these places like the Mumbai Municipal Corporation right down to the centre of the earth if necessary? What we done and what have we found? Let me tell you the answers. If at all they have dug they have found nothing or found something to the contrary. After all if there was any evidence it would have made headlines all over the world. The correct answer is that no excavation has been done because everyone knows that nothing will be found because it did not happen. The status quo is preferable because these epics are no longer just stories – they are a powerful tool for spiritual, temporal, political and social control. That is why today we hear in legislatures that this was said or happened in the Ramayana or Mahabharatha etc – ie if you question it then you are not a true desh vasi.
    So Jayakrishnan Nair and all other experts should answer just one question – the date, please?
    Yours faithfully,

  3. Ramaswami, Thanks for your comments. Simple answer: I don’t know the date. Nor does anyone.I have, like you, seen various dates being proposed and so far have not seen a consensus on a particular one. In fact there is one date which is between 2500 – 1500 BCE.
    Please give me some time to write a detailed reponse.

    1. dear Ramaswami I would like to get in touch with you.I have been reading your letters in economic Times ( Ahmd edn) and find them interesting.(I presume you are the same person) Bala

  4. Mr. Ramaswami,
    I have a doubt. You say that the Tamils and Dravidians of today were the original people of to the Indus Valley and were pushed southwards after the mythical “Aryan invasion” took place. These people who were pushed southwards are now the inhabitants of south India or more specifically, the Tamil Nadu.
    Does it not follow then that:
    1. The claim that Tamils are indigenous to India/Tamil Nadu is false?
    Here are the relevant lines from your article:
    “…the Aryans who displaced the then flourishing Indus Valley civilization and pushed it south to become the Dravidian culture.”
    According to the Aryan Invasion Hypothesis, shouldnt Dravidians be foreigners to Tamil Nadu as their original land was the Indus Valley? Shouldnt Dravidian culture also be foreign to Tamil Nadu as it originated in the Indus Valley and not somewhere on the Kaveri?
    2. So, if Dravidians and Dravidian culture are not indigenous to India, then what is the big difference between Dravidians and Aryans, who are also – supposedly – outsiders according to the Aryan Invasion Hypothesis?
    What do you say?

  5. I have no problems with the fact that Dravidians could be “foreign” to Tamilnadu so long as you accept that they came from within India whereas the Aryans came from outside India. You also have to answer the question as to what civilisation existed in then South India before they were pushed down. If none and they were the first then there is nothing foreign. The first civilisations anywhere were always ‘foreign’ – if you want to call it so since homo sapiens everywhere came out of Africa.

  6. Ramaswami,
    You yourself said “homo sapiens everywhere came out of Africa”. Then how can you say “I have no problems with the fact that Dravidians could be “foreign” to Tamilnadu so long as you accept that they came from within India whereas the Aryans came from outside India.”
    So did Dravidians alone originate in India while rest of the world descent from Africans?

  7. Ramaswamy,
    Atlantean’s question was this

    2. So, if Dravidians and Dravidian culture are not indigenous to India, then what is the big difference between Dravidians and Aryans, who are also – supposedly – outsiders according to the Aryan Invasion Hypothesis?

    And you replied

    I have no problems with the fact that Dravidians could be “foreign” to Tamilnadu so long as you accept that they came from within India whereas the Aryans came from outside India.

    You conveniently gave an Indian origin to Dravidians without answering his question.

  8. It depends on what you mean by Indian, Aryan, Indus-Valley, Vedic etc. India was generally that mass of land that collided with Asia about 40 million years ago. The earliest settlements in the Indus Valley go back to about 7000 BC. These were the first people who settled down in what was generally regarded as India. In fact the Indus Valley is no longer in political India of today but geographically, historically and culturally it was regarded as Indian. Next, when and from where did the Dravidian civilization come from? Was it established before the Indus-Valley civilization collapsed or after? There is no evidence of people having come from the north-east or even by sea from Africa. The Dravidians were evidently from amongst those who had already settled in the Indus Valley or (very improbable) an entirely new set of people who by-passed the Indus Valley and settled in the south. Since at the start itself the Dravidian civilization exhibited aspects of civilization that normally is representative of a mature civilization, the balance of probability is that it was formed by those who were already part of another civilization and the nearest was the Indus-Valley. These people were already in India and logically entitled to be labelled as Indians and consequently the Dravidians also. The question is – when would you call anyone as “foreign” to India? My opinion is that anyone who came after the Indus Valley civilization was established were the first foreigners – ie the Aryans, who also became Indians, just as you can still become Indian today even if you were an Italian.
    One must also note the difference in the languages – the south is predominantly Dravidian whereas the north Indian languages belong to the Indo-European family though the Vedic culture is present in both the areas. Paradoxically, today those speak Dravidian languages have shown themselves to be more adept in picking up Indo-European languages.
    The important point to note is that the sequence of all the above pivots on the correct date of the Mahabharatha war. There were two cataclysmic events between 2500-1500 BC – the Mahabharatha war and the collapse of the Indus Valley civilization. It is highly improbable, given the rarity of cataclysmic events, as also borne out by the principle of parsimony, that these two events occurred separately. And this was my contention. My only aim to fix the date of the war – assuming it happened and also happened in the way the epic states. The rest will automatically follow. In fact the wide variance of the dates and a general reluctance to get it fixed indicates that there is a vested interest in keeping the whole affair ambiguous and also there is something that needs to be kept hidden.
    So let’s fix the date with logic and all yours and my questions will be answered.

  9. Ramaswami,
    First of all, as JK points out, it is found that, genetically, north Indians are more close to dravidians than to Europeans or Russians. Isn’t this against your theory ?
    You ask :

    … when and from where did the Dravidian civilization come from? Was it established before the Indus-Valley civilization collapsed or after? There is no evidence of people having come from the north-east or even by sea from Africa.

    India was populated at least about fifty thousand years ago and there is evidence suggesting a peninsular origin of Dravidian speakers. For example see this paper :
    To quote from that paper:
    “Our data are also more consistent with a peninsular origin of Dravidian speakers than a source with proximity to the Indus…”
    Scientifically (archaeologically, or genetically) there is no evidence whatsoever to prove an Indus valley origin of Dravidian civilization.

  10. All of you are experts in side-stepping the main issue and beating around the bush on peripherals. Can you come out with a definite date and reasons why you feel that date is correct? So let us confine the debate on the date. The rest as I have already stated will follow. I care two hoots whether Dravidians are descended from Aryans, or Russians – in any case all of us including Ram, Lakshman, Arjun and Duryodhana (assuming they existed) came from monkeys or if you want to go further back, from reptiles.

  11. Ramaswami,
    It seems to me like you are the one who is sidesteppping various points raised by people. Each point in your article, Aryan Invasion, Valimki as Russian, Dravidians from Indus valley, have been refuted by papers published in peer reviewed journals. You have conveniently ignored all of them.
    Here is my take: The date when MB happened has nothing to do with anything. It was a war between two groups of Indians who descended from reptiles. There have been many battles before (Battle of Ten Kings) and many battles after (Mauryas attacking Nandas), and there is nothing special about MB.
    Regarding the date, I don’t care if it was in Ice age, or 1000 BCE and honestly I don’t know when it happened.

  12. Here is one more nail in the coffin
    “I STICK TO MY STAND – WHETHER THERE WAS A MAHABHARATHA OR NOT THERE WAS AN ARYAN INVASION. ” – This is what you wrote on Eroteme’s blog. So it does not matter to you if MB happened or not and so nor does it matter which date it happened. So why are you so worried about it?
    Your main theory is that Valmiki is Russian. So let’s say Mahabharata did not happen. Looking at the genetic evidence in JK’s and Michael Danino’s article, will you agree that there was no Aryan Invasion and you were wrong.?

  13. All my statements are in response to your side-stepping comments. My contention, if you know how to read, was that the gap in the MB dates coincided with the Aryan invasion and they are both the same events. If you have a separate date for the MB war then state it.
    The Aryan invasion has not been refuted – because we don’t have a date for the MB war. As regards Valmiki being a Russian, this will also be established when we get a date. In any case could you tell me why no one has dug deep down in Ayodhya and Kurukshetra. Because we know that nothing will be found. If the Ram Rajya and the MB dynasties were as great as the epics make them to be, then how come they have not left any remnants? Perhaps they never happened.
    Incidentally google “Dravidian vs Aryan” or “Dravidian Civilisation” and you will find enough articles to refute JK’s theories. So let us leave the theories aside and zero in on the date. You seem to be scared to do so. That will tell us which theory is correct. Only problem no one has the guts to give the correct date as you cannot connect all the dots that are convenient to your theories. My contention ties in all the dots.
    Responses welcome.

  14. Ramaswami,
    MB is an imaginary story made up by a bunch of poets and so it is foolish to lookup for a date for it and since it is an imaginary story, what revelance has it to Aryans?

  15. Ramaswami,
    When asked a direct question, you really know how to side step it. I saw this point in JK’s article too. In your article you mentioned Mahabharata happened in Russia and it was adopted in India.
    Here are your own words “If we don’t accept the invasion theory, then the only other explanation is that both Mahabharat and Ramayan took place outside India, on the Russian steppes, and their stories have come down to us as oral histories through the horse-people, which were then refined to suit cultural and later ethnic, social and political agendas.”
    Here is my question: Why is no one along the path from Russia to India telling any stories about it? Did they all forget?
    Note: I am going along with your hypothesis that it all happened in Russia, so don’t repeat again and again, what the date is. Can you please give a simple answer to that question: How come no Russian remembers this story?

  16. Thread reminds me of a few words that must be put up here for Ramaswami.
    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

  17. Absence of effort to search for evidence is evidence of absence. No one has the guts to dig or if they have they have kept their mouth shut because nothing was found.

  18. Because all the Russians came to India
    Not according to your own words. Here is what you wrote.
    “History reveals that around 2000-1800 BC, all along the Euro-Asian west-east axis, a horde of invaders, from above the 50N latitudes called the horse-people, pushed down. Every civilization — China, India, Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Greece — was overcome as they had the most powerful weapon known then — the horse chariot.”
    So once again: How come there is no MB in China, Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Greece, but only in India. If they went to all these countries, closing down Russia as you suggest, why is there no trace of MB or Ramayana elsewhere?

  19. Just stumbled upon this blog and I just had to comment on this lunatic
    @T Ramaswami
    “If the Ram Rajya and the MB dynasties were as great as the epics make them to be, then how come they have not left any remnants? Perhaps they never happened.”
    Perhaps you haven’t heard of Google’s sat images of the Ram Setu linking India and Sri Lanka? Or that after the recent Ram Setu row by the UPA govt and it’s subsequent withdrawal of an affidavit denying Lord Ram’s existence, tourism has increased to Sri Lanka where Sita was held captive by
    Ravan? There is extensive proof that the Ram Setu is a man made bridge made of coral rocks in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Go look it up before making any more irrational comments.
    If you have heard of Wikipedia, then look up this bit too. There have been recent excavations to reveal the ancient city of Dwaraka.
    What I have noticed from your posts is that Mahabharat and Ramayan alternate from being either extremely relevant or completely irrelevant depending on whether it suits your current argument.Your response that all that the Russians came to India was hilarious! They all came and didn’t leave even one man behind? What happened? An earthquake? or the bubonic plague? How do you explain their migration to the last man, woman, and child?
    It’s also very funny how to keep claiming that archelogists don’t dare excavate the sites in Ayodhya or Mathura because they are afraid they might not find anything. Which rock have you been
    living under? The threat of incurring the mulsim wrath from any such undertaking is very real and we have to tread very carefully so as not to incite communal violence. We are still reaping the
    horrors of every terrorist attack that claims retribution for the Babri masjid being demolished.
    My humble take on why you keep harping on the AIT even in the face of so much proof against it, is because you are probably a Brahmin yourself and desperately want to identify with the White
    race. By hook or crook.

  20. The Mahabharata war took place in 3138 BC. This can easily
    be proven by the fact that the Sarasvati river in Northern India
    dried up completely by 2000 BC. The Mahabharatha states
    that the Sarasvati river had stopped being an ocean going river.
    The recent excavations of this river show that indeed, it had
    stopped going to the ocean by 3000 BC! In Mahabharath,
    when Balarama goes on the pilgrimage, he notes that the
    Sarasvati is dying (no longer ocean going). That means from
    this piece of literary and geological evidence that Mahabharatha
    is before 3000 BC! The dating is very easy now due to discovery
    of Sarasvati river.

  21. Rajesh,
    In 3138 BC, (a) there were no horses in India and (b) Iron age had not started in India.
    So if there were no horses, which animal pulled Arjuna’s ratha? If there was no iron, what weapons did they fight with?

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