The Origin and the Original Home of the Aryans is a Matter of Controversy.
The main strands of the Hindu civilization are the gifts of the Aryan mind. The most striking feature of the Aryan culture is its stability and continuity even up to the present day. It is therefore interesting to know whether the Aryans were indigenous people of India or they came from outside. This leads us to the problem of the origin and the original home of the Aryans.
The word ‘Aryan’ has been used in different sense. In India the word Aryan denote a race. The ancient Iranians also used the word in the same sense. In an inscription of the Persian Emperor Darius, 486 B.C. he claims himself to be “an Aryan of Aryan descent”.
But modern scholars like Sir William Jones and Maxmuller suggest that the term Aryan or Arya is a purely linguistic conception applied to an Indo-European language from which springs Sanskrit, Persian, Celtic, German, Greek, Latin and Gothic language.
Striking Similarities among Several Languages Pointing to Common Origin
The affinity between Sanskrit and some principal European languages was first discovered by a Florentine merchant Filippo Susseti, of the 16nth century. In 1786, Sir William Jones pointed out in his famous address to the Asiatic Society of Bengal that the similarities among the languages like Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, Roman etc. can be accounted by the fact that they originated from some parent language called the Indo-European.
Further researches by eminent scholars have shown that languages belonging to Indo-European family are found in an area extending from the Gangetic valley of India to the Atlantic basin in Europe. Maxmuller lent further support to the above theory by stressing that Aryan was a linguistic term and the word did not denote a race.
Theory of Indian Origin of the Aryan
For a long time it was believed that India was the original home land of the Aryans. This belief was almost universal in India up to the British conquest. Now this belief was challenged. It was pointed out that there were seven languages belonging to Indo-Aryan group, out of this seven sister languages only Sanskrit and Persian exist outside Europe. The remaining five languages like Greek, Latin, German, Gothic and Celtic are European. Since the majority of the Indo-European languages are European, the original home land of the Aryans was in Europe.
The above theory was naturally challenged by a number of Indian scholars and Indologist. They put forward the theory that India was the original homeland of the Aryans. Among the outstanding scholars who advocate the Indian homeland theory we may mention the names of M. M. Gananath Jha, D. S. Triveda, L. D. Kalla, A. C. Dass and Pargiter. M. M. Gananath ha has suggested that the Aryans originally lived in Brahmarshi Desa situated in the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna. L. D. Kalla has advocated the theory that Kashmir and the Himalayan region was the original place of living of the Aryans. D. S. Triveda claims that Multan was the original homeland of the Aryans. A. C. Dass has put the claim of Punjab. They have put forward the following arguments in support of their theory:
No Evidence of Foreign Origin of the Aryans
It is said that there is no definite evidence to prove that the Vedic Aryans came to India from outside. On the contrary, there are definite literary evidences in the Vedas that the Aryans regarded Sapta Sindhu (Punjab?) as their original home. It is generally found that migrating races lovingly cherish the memories of their land of origin in their literatures and legends. But the Vedic Aryans never mentioned the name of any land outside India in their literature.
Largest Number of Vocables in Vedic Sanskrit
Sanskrit, more than any other European language contains largest number of original Indo-European vocables. It had greater contact with the parent language of the Aryans than any other European language. This proves that India was the original home of the Aryans.
The Relative Absence of Aryan Literature outside India
While the Aryans in India left traces of their culture in the Vedic literature the Aryans in other countries did not leave any such literature like the Vedas of India. This strange absence of Aryan literary records in other countries and its existence in India lends support to the theory that India was original homeland of the Aryans.
The sacrificial rituals of the Vedic Aryans point to their Indian origin.
Sacrificial Rituals: Vedic Geographical Data
The geographical data found in the Rigveda fit in with the geography of Punjab and the neighbouring regions. There are ample geographical evidences to show that Afghanistan and Punjab were original living land of the Aryans. The River hymns in the Rig Veda mention the names of the rivers of the region. The flora and fauna mentioned the willow, the birch trees abound in the
Himalayan region. The objection raised by some scholars that the Rig Vedic Aryans were not familiar with animals like tigers and elephants, though they had knowledge of lions, has been turned down by competent Vedic scholars, in 6.54.7. Sloka of the Rig Veda tiger has been mentioned. Further it has been pointed out that the absence of the name of tiger does not prove anything. Salt is not mentioned in the Rig Veda. Does it mean that the Vedic Aryans did not eat salt? Elephant has been mentioned in Slokas 4.4.1, 8.45.5.etc. The use of the term “Mriga-hastin” meaning an elephant does not prove anything. So it is suggested by some scholars that India is the original home of the people who are called Aryans. They were distinct from the Indo-Europeans and Aryans of Asia. The similarity of languages is superficial one and should not be taken too far. The theory that the Lithuanian language is most archaic and nearest to the parent Indo-European languages may be explained that the Lithuanians lived in an isolated way without much external contact.
Criticism of the Theory of Indian Origin of the Aryans and the Theory of European Homeland
The above theory of the original home of the Aryans in India is full of many defects. Many scholars criticize the theory on the following grounds. It is not known why the Aryans migrated outside India before they could fully establish Aryan settlements over the whole country. Why large parts of South India lay outside the pale of Aryan culture for a long time? The existence of non-Aryan culture languages in parts of North India, and among the Brahui people of Afghanistan and in the whole of South India strongly points to the non-Indian origin of the Aryans. How could these non-Aryan people and language come to India, if the Aryans lived in the country from time immemorial? The cerebral sound of Sanskrit points to a mixture of Indo-European language of the Aryans with Dravidian and Austric dialect. How could such a mixture take place, if India was the original home of the Aryans? The Indo-European languages in Europe are not affected by such cerebral letters and sounds. The only indication is that the Aryans who migrated to India adopted these cerebral notes from the Dravidians. It is almost proved that the Indus culture was older than that of the Vedic Aryan and also different from it. The non-Aryan character of the Harappan civilization and its anteriority go against the theory of the Indian origin of the Aryans. If the Aryans lived in India from time immemorial, then how could the Harappan culture with a non-Aryan character flourish before it? Moreover, many scholars believe that the Harappan civilization was destroyed by the Indra worshipping Aryans. It is further pointed out that out of the seven existing Indo-European languages only Sanskrit and Persian are spoken outside Europe. The rest, i.e., five Indo-European languages are spoken in Europe. The existence of large number of Indo-European languages in Europe and the archaic character of Lithuanian language and its nearness to the parent Indo-European language definitely point to the European home-land of the Aryans.
The flora and fauna known to the early Aryans point to their original home in Europe. The early Aryans did not know animals like the camels, tigers, elephants, asses which are generally found in the East; but they were familiar with trees like oak, willow, birch and beech and animals like dog, pig, ox, cow, horse etc., which are common in Europe. The Aryans also did not know the sea. This has led Prof. Giles and many other scholars to suggest the European origin of the Aryans. It is believed that they migrated to India and other parts of Asia from Europe.
Different Theories about Original Home of the Aryans in Europe
If the Aryans originally lived in Europe, it is difficult to ascertain place where they originally lived in Europe, before they migrated elsewhere. In the early Indo-European languages the absence of any equivalent word for the sea has led scholars to suggest that the original homeland of the Aryans was situated in a region far from the sea. The flora and fauna mentioned in the Vedic literature indicate that they lived in a temperate region where they could till lands and tend cattle in the steppe. This has led Prof. Giles to suggest that the early Aryans originally lived in the Balkan Peninsula and in the region of Bohemia, Austria Hungary. The trees like oak, beech and willow and the animals like horse and cow, with which the early Aryans were familiar could be found in this region only at that time.
According to Prof. Hirt the Aryans migrated from Lithuania to Caucasus. From the Caucasian lands they entered Iran. From Iran they migrated to Punjab. According to Prof. Hirt, his theory of Caucasian origin of the Aryans is further supported by the discovery of Boghaz Koi terracotta inscription found in Asia Minor and Tel-El-Amarna Letters of Egypt.
Refutation of Hirt’s Theory
But Prof. Hirt’s theory has been rejected by Eduard Meyer. He holds that the Aryans did not come to India from West Asia or Iran. The Aryans originally lived in a place between India and Iran. They spread eastward and westward from this place simultaneously. The place where the Aryans are believed to have originally lived is identified with the Pamir plateau. The central position theory of Eduard Meyer has been supported by Brandenstein. But he has pointed out that the central place where-from the Aryans migrated to India was not the Pamir plateau but the Kirghitz steppe of Russia lying to the south of the Ural mountain. The Aryans migrated to India and Iran from the Kirghitz regions. Brandenstein has rested his conclusion on a number of philological data. In the early Indo-European languages mention of dry steppe region is found which was situated at the foot of a mountain. This region was no other than the Kirghitz steppe at the foot of the Urals. In later day Indo-European languages mention of swampy, marshy lands indicates that the Aryans migrated from the Kirghitz steppe. Schrader, the great philologist on the other hand regarded South Russia to be the cradle land of the early Aryans wherefrom they migrated to different areas. However Brandenstein theory is most acceptable among the scholars of present day. At the present state of our knowledge we cannot know definitely where the Aryans originally lived.