Sunday, 12 December 2010

An Indian origin for Western Law and Civilization?

Recently I received a message from Robin Bradley Kar (here on the right), Professor of Law and Philosophy at the University of Illinois, about an article written by him “On the Origins of Western Law and Western Civilization (in the Indus Valley)” (see here the abstract with free download of the full paper).
I have read it, and I find it really rich and stimulating, including philosophy of law, history, linguistics, anthropology, Indo-European studies and also interesting references to the ‘Oriental Renaissance’ of Schwab and the practice of meditation as a part of the Indo-European heritage which should be recovered. The basic thesis of Prof. Kar is expressed in the following sentences (pp.2-3):

“The basic story that Western Civilization finds its origins in ancient Greek, Roman and Hebrew culture […] has rarely—until recently—been questioned in the West. […] There is nevertheless a deep sense in which this story is incomplete, and even potentially misleading. This article—along with its sequels—argues that if we are genuinely interested in understanding our origins, in a way that will shed light on why the West has exhibited such distinctive capacities for large-scale human civilization and the rule of law, then the story we commonly tell ourselves starts abruptly in the middle, and leaves out some of the most formative (and potentially transformative) dimensions of the truth. Western Law and Western Civilization are not just the outgrowths of three particularly creative cultures, which straddled the transition from human prehistory into human history, and developed in either Southeastern Europe or the Near East. Rather, the West is descended from a much deeper cultural tradition, which extends all the way back to some of our first human forays out of hunter-gatherer modes of subsistence and into settled agricultural living. The tradition in question began not in Greece, Rome, or Israel, however, but rather in the Indus Valley—which is a region that spans the Northwestern portions of the Indian subcontinent. Our failure to know this about ourselves has limited our self-understanding in critical respects, and has prevented us from realizing useful aspects of our traditions—including, in some cases, aspects that make them work so well for large-scale human civilization.”
The historical basis of these theories lies in this fundamental idea (p.74):
“Of particular importance will be the following core proposition: from some time before 4500 BC until approximately 1900 BC, the Indus Valley river system played the most central, the most significant, and the most enduring focal point for the prehistoric expansion of the Indo-European linguistic family, and also for the prehistoric development of several key Indo-European cultural innovations, which have made these groups particularly well adapted to transitioning into and sustaining large-scale societies with the rule of law.”
It seems that Prof. Kar will support this proposition with archaeological and linguistic data in the next article, but already in this article he proposes a model about the genesis of the language families from the major river systems, which is quite convincing. In this model, the Indo-European family has been developed around the Indus river system (including the Sarasvatī river), during the Harappan civilization (p.25 and p.28):
“although some dialects of Proto-Indo-European were probably already spoken in a number of adjacent areas, the socio-cultural developments in the Indus Valley further stabilized these dialects and helped them to spread even further over several millennia.
In the process of becoming one of the very first major world civilizations, the Harappans also developed a range of important cultural innovations that were specifically adapted to the maintenance of large-scale human civilization. […] the Harappan Civilization did not vanish without a trace. To the contrary, its cultural effects are everywhere present, and indeed even dominant, in the modern world, due to the distinctive traditions that it passed on to the various branches of the Indo-European language family.”
We should wait for the next article in order to judge the validity of this thesis, but I am already convinced that we should support the idea of the Harappan civilization as an ‘Indo-European’ creation. And that we should look with deep interest at a theory which sees in the ancient Indian civilization a source of the European civilization.

Friday, 4 June 2010

More on genetics: a possible proof of migration from India to Europe

I have found online the already cited article of the American geneticist P.A. Underhill (et alia) on the genetic group R1a at the site

The little map in red colour here presented shows the calculated age of the haplogroup R1a1a-M17 in different Eurasian regions. It appears clearly that the most ancient area comprehends Sind and Gujarat. In the article, it is said: “Analysis of associated STR diversity profiles revealed that among the R1a1a*(xM458) chromosomes the highest diversity is observed among populations of the Indus Valley yielding coalescent times above 14 KYA (thousands of years ago), whereas the R1a1a* diversity declines toward Europe where its maximum diversity and coalescent times of 11.2 KYA are observed in Poland, Slovakia and Crete.” Moreover: “Also noteworthy is the drop in R1a1a* diversity away from the Indus Valley toward central Asia (Kyrgyzstan 5.6 KYA) and the Altai region (8.1 KYA) that marks the eastern boundary of significant R1a1a* spread”.

So, on the basis of this calculations we arrive at the conclusion that a South Asian population spread first towards Europe and later towards Central Asia. Then, there is not an ancient migration from Europe to South Asia, or from Central Asia to South Asia, but the opposite.

If we want to connect R1a1a with the Indo-Europeans, and this is always tempting, because this haplogroup seems to be the only one which associates together with significant frequencies Indo-Aryans, Iranians, Anatolians, Greeks, Slavs, and Germanic peoples (less Romance and Celtic speakers), we should admit that the origin of Indo-Europeans is in South Asia, and not in Eastern Europe. Here, we find a mutation of the haplogroup, called R1a1a7:

“In Europe a large proportion of the R1a1a variation is represented by its presently identified subclade R1a1a7-M458 that is virtually absent in Asia. Its major frequency and relatively low diversity in Europe can be explained thus by a founder effect that according to our coalescent time estimation falls into the early Holocene period, 7.9±2.6 KYA. The highest regional date of 10.7±4.1 KYA among Polish R1a1a7 carriers falls into the period of recolonization of this region by Mesolithic (Swiderian and subsequent cultures) settlers. […] It should be noted, though, that the inevitably large error margins of our coalescent time estimates do not allow us to exclude its association with the establishment of the mainstream Neolithic cultures, including the Linearbandkeramik (LBK), that flourished ca. 7.5-6.5 KYA BP in the Middle Danube (Hungary) and was spread further along the Rhine, Elbe, Oder, Vistula river valleys and beyond the Carpathian Basin.” Then, the R1a1a people in Eastern Europe could be connected with the Neolithic revolution in this area.

The antiquity of this subclade and its absence in Asia shows also that there was no migration from Europe to Central Asia in recent times: “Although the R1a1a* frequency and diversity is highest among Indo-Aryan and Dravidian speakers, the subhaplogroup R1a1a7-M458 frequency peaks among Slavic and Finno-Ugric peoples. Although this distinction by geography is not directly informative about the internal divisions of these separate language families, it might bear some significance for assessing dispersal models that have been proposed to explain the spread of Indo-Aryan languages in South Asia as it would exclude any significant patrilineal gene flow from East Europe to Asia, at least since the mid-Holocene period.”

The mid-Holocene period is around 6000 years BP, that means that after 4000 BC we cannot suppose a migration from Europe to Central Asia and South Asia, and this refutes all the theories supposing that the Kurgan people of the Pontic region went to Afghanistan during the Bactria-Margiana civilization (III-II mill. BC) and then to India (II mill. BC).

On the other hand, the migration of R1a1a people from South Asia to Europe appears as much earlier than the supposed spread of Indo-European languages, before the Bronze Age, during the Mesolithic or Neolithic period. Then, if we connect R1a1a with the Indo-European speakers, we have to antedate this spread, and we have also to see much of the Neolithic Europe as already Indo-European, reversing Gimbutas’ theory of Old Europe but keeping the concept of a Paleolithic non-Indo-European presence, differently from the Continuity theory of Alinei and Costa. However, not all the R1a1a in Europe is R1a1a7, then maybe we cannot rule out later migrations of people with haplogroup R1a1a from Asia to Europe, bringing a new language: we have examples of migrations into Europe of Iranian peoples like Scythians, Sarmatians and Alans, and of the Indian Gypsies, also in historical times.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The wonder that was Dholavira

This image is one of the beautiful products of computer graphics found in the Japanese website, under the supervision of R.S. Bisht, the director of the excavations of Dholavira, Harappan site in Gujarat. An interview of him can be seen on:
And here is a beautiful Indian documentary on Dholavira and its environment:

I remember the long way to Dholavira, through the Great Rann of Kacch, the grey-white salt wastes, and finally the arrival to the island of Khadir, the walk through the fields, the generous hospitality of the peasants. The day after, I saw the site in the early morning, impressed by the magnificent reservoirs, by the stone columns, by the dimensions of the town. It is certainly the most spectacular Harappan site in India, and it deserves the long and difficult travel. But beyond the impression, there is something concealed in the mathematical measures of Dholavira: already R.S. Bisht noticed that the ratio 5:4 of the castle and the city walls corresponded to that of Vedic altars in the Śulbasūtras. And Michel Danino has deepened the question, revealing complex mathematical relations and finding correspondences also in the Vāstu Śāstras: you can see the paper at:

He also remarks that the unit of measure of Dholavira is equivalent to 108 units of Lothal, as in Kautilya’s Arthaśāstra we read: “108 angulas make a dhanus (meaning a bow), a measure [used] for roads and city-walls....” We can also observe that in the description of the ideal cities in the Vāyu Purāṇa it is said that measures like aṅguli and dhanu were introduced in the Tretā Yuga when cities were built for the first time. Moreover, those cities had to be rectangular, oriented East-West or North-South, like the Harappan towns.

Such a continuity between Harappan and historic India is confirmed also by a study by two Italians: the indologist Prof. G.G. Filippi and the geo-archaeologist Dr. B.Marcolongo, who have studied the archaeological Early Historic site of Kāmpilya, observing that its plan coincided with that of Dholavira (Filippi (G.G.), Marcolongo (B.): 1999, Kāmpilya, Quest for a Mahābhārata City, New Delhi, see article on On the continuity of the concept of city between Harappan and Early Historic periods, there is also the beautiful recent work (2008) of the Russian scholar P.A. Eltsov: From Harappa to Hastinapura. A Study of the Earliest South Asian City and Civilization. Eltsov does not take a definite position in the debate about the Vedic-Harappan relationship, but he acknowledges a common cultural tradition between the two periods, like in Kenoyer's concept of Indo-Gangetic tradition.

Monday, 12 April 2010

A voice from Greece for a New Indology

There is one interesting site, made by an interesting Greek institute, Omilos Meleton (,
where are collected articles and letters by Kazanas (the director of the institute), Michel Danino and others. Particularly interesting for me are the paper about the "Mainstream Model", which suggests "that “fresh thinking” on all matters of Indian proto-history is absolutely necessary", and the letters of Steve Farmer and Aklujkar about the conference in California on 'Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization' which I mentioned in a previous post.
Farmer's letter seems to show that there is a sort of academic league centered on Michael Witzel against the critics of the Aryan Invasion Theory, who are heavily ridiculed with the typical American 'bon ton', or easily demonized as followers of political 'Hindutva' agendas. Quo usque tandem, we would say quoting Cicero's oration against Catilina: "till when" the supporters of AIT will go on with these tactics and prejudices and superiority complex?   

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

What is an 'Aryan'?

The explorer A.C.L. Carlleyle wrote in 1879:
We British Europeans are Aryans, and far more pure and genuine Aryans than the Hindus, and no talk of the Hindus can alter our race [...] It is the Hindus who have altered and deteriorated, and not we! The Hindu has become the coffee dregs, while we have remained the cream of the Aryan race. [...] The Hindu has become a sooty, dingy-coloured earthen pot, by rubbing against black aborigines rather too freely; and he consequently pretends to despise the white porcelain bowl.
(cited by D.K. Chakrabarti in The Battle for Ancient India. An Essay in the Sociopolitics of Indian Archaeology, New Delhi 2008)

It is really paradoxical that many European thinkers, after having adopted the concept of ‘Aryan’ from the Sanskrit and Avestan traditions, came to believe that Europeans (British, Germans, Italians, French) were the real Aryans, certainly more than the Indians, because the Aryans are white and blonde, and Indians are evidently mixed with a dark race…

But all this speaking of an Aryan race appears as an obsession of the modern Europeans, substantially ignored by those who actually used the term ārya-, which in India meant ‘noble’, indicating Brahmins, Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas, the educated people who had access to the Vedas, to Sanskrit language, and were consecrated by the Vedic rites. The birth in a certain lineage was important, but that ‘nobility’ was certainly also a cultural fact, and it was not a matter of skin colour. We have two great ‘Āryas’ of the tradition which are called ‘Kr̥ṣṇa’, which means ‘black’: the famous king of the Yādavas and divine teacher of the Gīta, and Vyāsa, the Brahmin who collected the Vedas, named Kr̥ṣṇa Dvaipāyana. In the Vedas, Āryas are opposed to Dāsas, which means ‘servants’, or to Dasyus, which is more specifically used for ‘barbarians’; in the Purāṇas we find them opposed to Śūdras, wich means, again, ‘servants, labourers’. This opposition was also ethnic, as many tribes outside the confines of the ‘Āryāvarta’ (situated in North India between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas), were considered Dasyus or Śūdras, but without distinction about the skin colour: also Iranians (Pahlavas) and Greeks (Yavanas) were considered as degenerated Kṣatriyas. I do not know, but I imagine that a similar conception was applied to the Englishmen, provoking the reaction of Carlleyle…

Outside of the Vedic tradition, in Buddhism, ārya was even applied to the ‘four noble Truths’ taught by the Buddha, and to those ‘Noble ones’ who could see them, irrespective of their social origin. In the Mahāyāna teachings, the same qualification is given to those who can see directly the ultimate reality, the profound ‘emptiness’ of phenomena. In those contexts, really the race was not taken into consideration, because ārya is there a spiritual status to be attained.

A bit different is the situation in the Avesta of Iranians, because there ‘Airya’ indicates clearly a people different from ‘Tuiryas’ and others, and was used as a name of the Iranians. The Vendidad, an Avestan text which has an important geographical introduction, also speaks of the ‘Airyanəm Vaējō’, which can mean ‘land of the swift rivers of the Aryans’, but which has been interpreted by Darmesteter (1898) as the ‘seed of the Aryans’ (

It is described as an ideal land where the progenitor Yima collected the creatures, included the best specimens of the humans, to save them from a terrible winter (cp. also the interesting page This myth seems to have suggested a new myth in the first Europeans discovering this literature…

In fact, when the Europeans, in the nineteenth century, began to familiarize with the Sanskrit and Avestan traditions, they were in a colonialist and positivistic frame of mind, they were inclined to see all in terms of biological races, and of the superiority of the white race… Previously, ethnic, social and religious differences were more important, and the East was seen as the origin of civilization and wisdom (also the Christian religion came from Asia), but in the nineteenth century they saw everywhere the supremacy of the white Europeans, and they were induced to think that this was due to a racial, intrinsic superiority. Moreover, they had to justify somehow their dominion. The concept of ‘Aryan’, with its meaning of ‘noble’, attracted their minds, it became an enticing title of nobility, which they interpreted in a racial sense, because that apparently was the only way in which they could conceive it. Not only, the new great powers, after the initial colonial supremacy of Spaniards and Portuguese, were Great Britain, France and Germany, whose peoples were characterized by more Nordic features, and by a descent from Germans and Celts. Such ancient peoples were traditionally considered as uncivilized barbarians (from the Greek and Latin point of view), but through the identification of Aryans with Nordic Europeans, they could become the best and original specimens of the ‘Aryan race’. Since they could not claim an ancient civilization, they had to justify their supremacy on the base of the mere racial identity.

The first important theorist of this Aryan race was the French aristocrat Arthur de Gobineau (here on the left), who, at the middle of the XIX century asserted that the "master race" were the Northern European "Aryans", who had remained "racially pure". Southern Europeans (including Spaniards and Southern Frenchmen), Eastern Europeans, North Africans, Middle Easterners, Iranians, Central Asians, Indians, he all considered racially mixed, degenerated through the miscegenation, and thus less than ideal (
He was a Catholic, but evidently influenced by the Positivistic biological attitude, which deeply influenced also the theorists of esotericism, like the founder of theosophy, Blavatsky, who saw the Aryans as the Fifth Race, coming from Atlantis and superior to the Semites, or Edouard Schuré (here on the right), who in his Les grands initiés (1899) displays a history of mankind based on four races: red, black, yellow and white, coming from four different continents. The white race came from Europe, developed the Aryan civilization in Iran, and went to invade India, where the “pure conquering race of the Aryans found itself between other races very mixed and much inferior, strange crossbreeding of yellow and red types, which for a thousand subtle gradations descended to black.” The French esotericist compares the Hindu civilization to a mountain with, at the base, the ‘melanic’ race, source of ardent passions, on the top the ‘pure Aryans’, with their moral sense and sublime metaphysical aspirations. So, we find the race connected with moral and spiritual values, without explaining the reason for such a connection.

After these simplistic racist speculations, the theories of an Indian Pandit, Lachhmi Dhar Kalla, expounded in 1930 (when in Germany the Nazi ideology was spreading) in his The Home of the Aryas, appear as much more enlightened. He sustained that the original homeland of the ‘Aryas’ (meant mainly in a linguistic sense), for various reasons (the most original being that of the unity of Vedic and Proto-Indoeuropean accent) was the Northwestern Himalaya. In the conclusion (pp.106-7) he states that the Aryas in the past have always supported a synthesis with the races they met: in India they gave us the concept of Bharata Varsha, the united India of all races (also Dravidians and Mundas) and in the West they united with non-Aryan races (the European natives) and they elevated them to the level of their culture. For the future of India, he prospects a union also with the ‘Semitic cultural groups’ (represented by Muslims and apparently also by Christians), union which he calls Neo-Hindustan. At the end, he embarks on a panegyric of the unifying action of the Aryas:
After centuries of work, the Aryas have now prepared the world for such a larger unity of mankind by creating a common mentality in different races through the diffusion of the Aryan language in distant parts of the world. [...] We must thank the ancient Arya, the 'Indo-European' man, who thus long ago laid the foundations of the unity of the East and the West, and took the fire of his civilization to every home he could find.

We see here how the concept of ‘Arya’, indicating the Indo-European but carrying an idea of nobility, could be used in a non-racist sense, affirming a cultural superiority which does not bring to self-segregation, but to union with other races and cultures. Today even such a cultural exaltation of Indo-Europeans appears as dangerous and inacceptable (besides, Kalla himself states that he does not want to ignore the cultural value of Semites and Chinese), but the call for a culture shared by the Indo-European speakers can still be valid, as an ancient bridge between some peoples of the East (Indians and Iranians) and many peoples of the West.

Particularly valid seems to me the idea that Indo-Europeans melted in the West with non-Indo-European local peoples (why natives should always be black or red?), including the Brits, who genetically are very far from the genetic scenery of Indians, Iranians, Slavs and Balts.
So, since these peoples, on a linguistic basis, are the nearest to Proto-Indo-Europeans, the Brits, also from Carlleyle’s racial point of view, do not result exactly as "far more pure and genuine Aryans than the Hindus". On the other hand, how could the imperialists grant the colonized and ‘Easterners’ the honour of representing the people of the ‘Noble Ones’?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Archaeological discoveries and Vedic traditions

The last March, an important archaeological discovery has been divulged: near the village of Farmana, Haryana, India, where excavations were already carried out in 2008 by an Indo-Japanese team (I was there in March 2008 thanks to my friend Shungo Kameyama), it has been discovered a burial site with 70 graves, of the Mature Harappan Period
( ).

The typical traits of these burials are a rectangular form and a NW-SE orientation. The director of the excavations, Prof. Vasant Shinde of Deccan College, Pune, asserts in an interview: "All the graves are rectangular - different from other Harappan burials sites, which usually have oblong graves", but, according to S.P. Gupta, in Disposal of the Dead and Physical Types in Ancient India (Delhi 1972), p.75, in Harappan cemeteries the body was buried in 'oblong pits' which, when more carefully dug, "assumed rectangular shapes". Apparently, the graves of Farmana belong to this category. Shinde adds: "The site shows evidence of primary (full skeleton), secondary (only some bones) and symbolic burials, with most graves oriented northwest-southeast, though there are some with north-south and northeast-southwest orientations as well. The variations in burial orientation suggests different groups in the same community".

Now, I would like to make a comparison with what Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa XIII.8.1.5 says (I use here Julius Eggeling’s translation given on the excellent site :

Four-cornered (is the sepulchral mound). Now the gods and the Asuras, both of them sprung from Pragâpati, were contending in the (four) regions (quarters). The gods drove out the Asuras, their rivals and enemies, from the regions, and, being regionless, they were overcome. Wherefore the people who are godly make their burial-places four-cornered, whilst those who are of the Asura nature, the Easterns and others, (make them) round, for they (the gods) drove them out from the regions. He arranges it so as to lie between the two regions, the eastern and the southern, for in that region assuredly is the door to the world of the Fathers: through the above he thus causes him to enter the world of the Fathers; and by means of the (four) corners he (the deceased) establishes himself in the regions, and by means of the other body (of the tomb) in the intermediate regions: he thus establishes him in all the regions.
As it can be seen, the burial is oriented towards south-east like the greatest part of the graves in Farmana. S.P. Gupta (ibidem) speaks generically of a north-south orientation for the Harappan burials, with the head northwards, but here in Farmana we have something even more specific, coinciding with the Vedic conceptions expressed in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa. This text should be placed, according to my chronology, after 1300 B.C., but it can surely preserve unchanged traditional conceptions, like that of the association of the south-eastern region with the world of the Fathers (which in other Vedic passages is more simply associated with the southern region). Not only: according to ŚBr.XIII.8.1.9, the north-western region is the direction of ‘the living ones’ (jīvānām).

It is not finished here: when I visited the site of Farmana in 2008, I also went to a flat field in the near countryside, where the archaeologists had found some traces of burials (I imagine that that was the place of the subsequent discovery): through a local student who knew English, I asked the peasants if the ground was salty, and they said that it was actually so. I made this question because a study on the cemetery of the Harappan site of Kalibangan, by A.K. Sharma, The Departed Harappans of Kalibangan (New Delhi, 1999), p.104, observed that the ground of the cemetery has a high percentage of salt, and that this corresponded to what the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa said, in XIII.8.1.14:
He makes it on salt (barren) soil, for salt means seed; the productive thus makes him partake in productiveness, and in that respect, indeed, the Fathers partake in productiveness that they have offspring: his offspring assuredly will be more prosperous.

Then, it seems that there are strong elements to prove the uniformity with the Vedic tradition of these ancient Indians of 2600-2200 B.C. Now we wait with interest the results of the analysis of the DNA of the bones, carried out in Kyoto: it should belong mainly to the Ancentral North Indian type, and if the chromosome Y showed a R1a1a haplogroup, that would exclude the opinions attributing this haplogroup to external Indo-Aryans coming in the II mill. B.C., and would make more acceptable the identification of the Harappans with an 'Indo-European' people.

P.S.: there is a recent publication about the Farmana burial site (as you can see in  or  ).

An interesting document of the importance of the Farmana site not only for the cemetery is given by Steve Farmer in this message after a conference in Japan:  This opens the question of the regional characters of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, which - I find - harmonize with the traditional division of the five tribes… but this is another story…

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Signs of the Transition

One of the signs of the advent of a ‘new Indology’ is a recent international conference held on 21-22 February 2009, at the Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles) entitled “The Sindhu-Sarasvati Valley Civilizations: A Reappraisal” (link and image above), with some of the most important names of the Indian archaeology from India and the USA: S.R. Rao, R.S. Bisht, Kenoyer and Shaffer. Moreover, there was an expert of the question of the Aryan invasion like E. Bryant and also a Greek scholar, Kazanas, one of the few Westerners criticizing the invasion theory and the official chronology of the Vedas.

What is particularly interesting in this conference is its opening to positions regarded as heretical by the academic establishment (also in the US); then it gives some hope for an authentic debate and for the Great Transition which various hints suggest as being underway: from the old paradigm to a new one, no more based on the aprioristic theory of the Aryan invasion or migration into India.

(On the base of this conference a volume is going to be published on the Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization, where also a contribution of mine - dealing with a new chronology of the Rigveda and a comparison between archaeology and Indian historical tradition - has been unexpectedly invited; it is already completed and accepted, now waiting for the editing)

One of the driving forces of the Transition is surely Koenraad Elst, Belgian scholar who has written, inter alia, Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate, a book which I found in the library of the “Scuola Normale Superiore” of Pisa six years ago, and which opened to me a new world in the field of South Asia, leading to a real conversion from the ‘invasionism’ to a new perspective. He has a blog where I found also the recension of the last book of Talageri, ( one of the most militant authors of the new Indian wave of ‘indigenism’ or OIT (Out of India Theory, in the synthetic label dear to Elst), that is the theory supporting the Indian origin of all the Indo-European peoples. I bought the book and read it (almost totally…) and it is really more sophisticate than the previous ones, but similar to his The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis (Delhi 2000). One of the pros of Talageri is his systematic method, and his results in the comparison of Rigveda and Avesta are quite remarkable, but I do not agree with all his views (particularly the identity Anu-Iranians and Druhyu-Europeans). Anyway, his engagement in the research of the historical truth as an outsider (he has no academic training) should be taken into account by a new Indology.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The contribution of recent genetic research to the reconstruction of Indian past and identity

A new genetic study, made by scientists based in India and the United States, has revealed that the Indian population descends from two main components: Ancestral South Indians, arrived in the subcontinent around 65000 years ago, and Ancestral North Indians, arrived around 45000 years ago. The northern component is akin to Central Asian, Middle Eastern and European populations, whereas the southern one appears originally very different from Ancestral North Indians ("is as distinct from ancestral north Indians and East Asians as they are from each other"), even if during the millennia it has widely mingled with their descendants, creating the present Indians.
The presumed Aryan invasion of the II millennium B.C. is eclipsed by these data, and the origin of castes is identified in endogamous usages emerged from local tribes, and not from foreign invasions:
Another finding is that the castes and tribes in the country are not systematically different. "(The study) supports the view that castes grew directly out of tribal-like organisations during the formation of Indian society," said Kumarasamy Thangaraj, another CCMB scientist. Singh said the castes grew directly out of tribal set-ups during the formation of Indian society.
Some historians had argued that caste in modern India was an invention of colonialism in the sense that it became more rigid under colonial rule, but the "results indicate that many current distinctions among groups are ancient and that strong endogamy (matrimony within one's own isolated group) must have shaped marriage patterns in India for thousands of years".

In an article on the Times of India ( we find some other interesting assertions made by Prof. Singh in a conference in Varanasi at the beginning of December:
Saying that Indian population was made up of many populations that have varied genetic compositions, he also added recent studies on DNA linkage indicated an invisible thread (trait) that bounded the Indian population comprising populations of other countries in the sub-continent including Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, believed to have originated almost 33,000 years ago.
"The study is on to trace the ancestors of Ancestor North Indian (ANI) population, while the ancestors of Ancestor South Indian (ASI) population has been already traced," he said. "Ongee and Jarva species have been established to be the ancestors of ASI population while DNA matching has found resemblance of East African population with Kurumbha species in Kerala and Raghuvanshi of West Bengal," he added.
"We are looking for DNA from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir to trace the origin of ANI population and once that is established, we would be in a position to indicate the movement of ANI population towards European countries that would change the face of world history," he said.
Here you can read another popular article about the same research:

Here is the page of the scientific article with the abstract:

And here you can find freely available supplementary information:

Another recent study, by Sharma et al., published exactly one year ago on the Journal of Human Genetics (, is also concerned with the origin of castes and particularly of Brahmins. It says:

"The observation of R1a* in high frequency for the first time in the literature, as well as analyses using different phylogenetic methods, resolved the controversy of the origin of R1a1*, supporting its origin in the Indian subcontinent. Simultaneously, the presence of R1a1* in very high frequency in Brahmins, irrespective of linguistic and geographic affiliations, suggested it as the founder haplogroup for the population. The co-presence of this haplogroup in many of the tribal populations of India, its existence in high frequency in Saharia (present study) and Chenchu tribes, the high frequency of R1a* in Kashmiri Pandits (KPs—Brahmins) as well as Saharia (tribe) and associated phylogenetic ages supported the autochthonous origin and tribal links of Indian Brahmins, confronting the concepts of recent Central Asian introduction and rank-related Eurasian contribution of the Indian caste system."

That means that the traditional theory of the external origin of Indo-Aryans with their priests, the Brahmins, holders of the sacred Vedic language, is not supported by the genetic research. The haplogroup R1a1 (R1a1a in Underhill's classification, see, characterized by the mutation M17, has been associated to the Indo-Europeans, and an outdated theory placed its origin in Ukraine, that is in the Kurgan area, apparently supporting Gimbutas' theory. But in India not only we find this haplogroup exceptionally frequent in Brahmins (72.22 % in West Bengal Brahmins), but also quite frequent in tribals like Saharia (Munda speakers, 28.07%) and Chenchu (Dravidian speakers, 26.82%). The highest known variance of R1a1* among Kashmiri Pandits (0.52), is a sign that in this population it is older than in the other ones object of study.

In this image you can see the frequency of R1a1a (old R1a1) according to Underhill et al., showing the high concentration of this haplogroup in South Asia and in Eastern Europe, which appears as a second source of diffusion of this haplogroup, and possibly of the related Indo-European languages.

Here is the map (from the cited Sharma's study) of the diversity within the R1a1* haplogroup, clearly showing the maximum in Kashmir and Northern India, thus suggesting the origin of the haplogroup from this area. Here is possible to compare the data about the variance and connected age of the haplogroup in different populations:

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Why a new Indology?

Because Indology is in a period when a change of paradigm is required. The traditional theory of the Aryan invasion and the related chronology are challenged by the new archaeological picture of South Asia, by the discoveries in the field of genetics, and by the new Indian school of indigenism applied to the Vedic literature. Instead of defending the old paradigm, it would be better to elaborate a new one, open to continual revision, but based on the following points:

1) The theory of an Aryan invasion of South Asia has no definite grounds in literature, archaeology, anthropology and genetics.
2) The traditional chronology of the Vedas is not justified, but purely hypothetical, and we should try to reconstruct a new chronology on a valid basis.
3) The Harappan civilisation is to be considered as related to the Vedic civilisation, since the area, and partly the period, are the same.
4) The recent studies in the field of archaeology and anthropology reveal continuity in the Indian prehistory and protohistory.
5) We should give more attention to the Indian historical tradition, following in F.E. Pargiter's footsteps.

That means that we must rethink many ideas about Aryan and pre-Aryan, all the connected racist myths as well as the simplistic division between cultural elements derived from the Aryans and from the pre-Aryans. That also means that we must rethink the relationship between the Indian culture and the other Indo-European cultures and we must investigate if South Asia can be the cradle of the Indo-European languages.

This ‘new Indology’ which rises obviously does not claim to cancel the ‘old Indology’, based on the ‘invasionist’ scenario, because certainly it does not lose all its validity, since fortunately it was not only dealing with the Aryan invasion. But we should accept that we cannot continue to affirm and spread the old paradigm as if it were a natural truth, as if nothing had happened in the knowledge of the Indian past. Change requires effort and maybe correction of what we have stated in the past, but it is the law of the world, of science, and a fascinating challenge.