It is ironic that racist European scholars invented history to claim Sanskrit and created two fake races called Aryans and Dravidians as part of that story.
It is more tragic than ironic that Indians have believed this bluff to the extent that political parties have been formed based on a race name cooked up by racist Europeans.
Almost no one in India knows that Sanskrit language documents dating back to 1500 BCE (3,500 years ago) were found in Syria. These “documents” were actually tablets etched in a language called ‘Hurrian’. The documents refer to a treaty signed by the kings of the ‘Mitanni’ Kingdom that lasted for just 200 years in Syria around 1500 BCE.
The Mitanni kings had Sanskrit-based names like ‘Birasena’ (Virasena) - a name present in the Mahabharata), ‘Birya’ (Virya), ‘Subandhu’ (with good kinsmen) etc. The treaty document mentions 35 gods of Hurrian origin and along with that are mentioned the Vedic gods Mitra, Varuna, Indra and the Nasatyas (twin gods). Only in the Rig Veda are the Nasatyas referred to as twins. How this dynasty ruled in Syria around 1500 BCE, 4,000 km from India remains a mystery to this day, but no historian or linguist has any doubt about the links that these documents have with Sanskrit and the Rig Veda.
Here the tale gets more curious, best explained using an example. I will briefly digress at this point and tell a completely imaginary story. Imagine that an explorer finds an old tomb in Egypt, and opens it and finds documents in the French language. France is thousands of kilometers from Egypt and the presence of French documents in an Egyptian tomb would be a mystery.
What should the explorer conclude?
Should he conclude that the French language was first brought to Egypt by people from places like South Africa and after stopping briefly in Egypt, the French speaking people took their language to France? Or should the conclusion be that some visitor from France had brought the French language to Egypt? It would seem logical to conclude that the French language came to Egypt from France and not from South Africa.
What is astounding is that linguists and ‘orientalists’ who examined the Sanskrit Mitanni treaty documents did not link them with India, where Sanskrit was known all over, but instead, claimed that the language had come to Syria with people from Europe, before vanishing completely from Syria and going to India and spreading all over India. Preposterous as this story may sound, there is documentary evidence that this is exactly what was done, and perfectly good explanations as to why this bluff was propagated. I will explain this in some detail, providing the sources.
In 2006, Professor Eckhart Frahm of Yale University in the US published a paper called “Orientalism Assyriology and the Bible”. In this paper, he noted that that for European scholars in the Nineteenth century, history came from two sources. One was the Bible and the other was classical Greece with names like Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and other names considered iconic in European history. These cozy visions of European history were badly shattered by the archaeological findings in Assyria (Turkey and Northern Iraq) which indicated a very old Assyrian empire, older than Greece and the Bible, with tremendous cities and statues as well as inscriptions in languages that were later deciphered to reveal stories older than the Bible, calling into question many assumptions based on the Bible. There was even an Assyrian inscription that spoke of an ancient flood, a story that struck at the heart of biblical mythology by being reminiscent of the story of Noah and the flood.
The biblical character Noah had an important role in the way Europeans saw themselves. Noah was said to have had three sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth. Ham was cursed by his father Noah when he saw his father naked. Ham’s children were cursed to be slaves. Nineteenth century Europeans assumed that black Africans were ‘Hamites’ or descendants of the accursed Ham, destined to be an inferior race of slaves. The descendants of Shem became the ‘Semites’ (or Shemites), who included the Jews, hated in Europe and who spoke the Semitic languages of the Bible. That left the white Europeans as the descendants of Japheth. It had been assumed that European languages had somehow descended from the biblical languages. Anti-Semitism in Europe demanded that the people of Europe were the race favoured by god as the leading race of people. These illusions were destroyed by the archaeological findings of the Assyrian empire. Europe needed something to reclaim its superior position in history.
The “discovery” of Sanskrit in India and its obvious antiquity that extended to a period earlier than Assyria could not have come at a better time for European scholars and historians. The great development of Sanskrit as a language, and its brilliant grammar combined with its surprising links to European languages came as a breath of fresh air that blew away the despondency of Europeans finding Assyrian history and archaeology that had threatened to topple them from their exalted position as god's favoured people. No longer did the European descendants of Japheth have to remain beholden to the speakers of Semitic languages. Indo-European languages were a separate superior family of languages with the impressive credentials that Sanskrit had provided as the most ancient and most developed language.
Eckhart Frahm writes of how the discovery of the Vedic words, gods and references in the Mitanni texts of Assyria caused European scholars who were searching for European superiority over the
Semites to declare the findings as proof that Semitic Assyrian greatness could only have come about because of an infusion of superior Aryans from Europe speaking an Aryan language.
One problem remained. If the Aryans were a superior European race, how was their language to be found in its most perfect and developed form in India, and how was it that dark skinned people who were racially thought to be Hamites or other inferior races could be found speaking the tongue of the superior race with a shiny new name “Aryan race”? These troubling questions were addressed by linguists and scholars from Nineteenth and Twentieth century Europe.
In 1853, a man called Arthur de Gobineau wrote an essay entitled “An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races”. Gobineau believed in the inherent superiority of light skinned people. He wrote “..the peoples who are not of white blood approach beauty, but do not attain it. Those who are most akin to us come nearest to beauty ; such are the degenerate Aryan stocks of India and Persia, and the Semitic peoples who are least infected by contact with the black race. As these races recede from the white type, their features and limbs become incorrect in form…”
The British, who cultivated a reputation among Indians of being wise and just as removers of prejudice were no less racist in their attitudes as they too joined the European bandwagon. A H Sayce, a British linguist and Assyriologist in 1889 endorsed the views of the racist scholar Dr Penka. Dr Penka said: “the purest blood is found in Scandinavia among the fair-haired, blue-eyed, dolichocephalic Swedes. The pure Aryans, he maintains, are represented only by the North Germans and Scandinavians, a most prolific race, of great stature, muscular strength, energy, and courage, whose splendid natural endowments enabled it to conquer the feebler races to the East, the South, and the West, and to impose its language on the subject peoples”.
Thomas Huxley, a British biologist wrote in 1890: “So far as India is concerned, the internal evidence of the old literature sufficiently proves that the Aryan invaders were "white" men. It is hardly to be doubted that they intermixed with the dark Dravidian aborigines; and that the high-caste Hindoos are what they are in virtue of the Aryan blood which they have inherited, and of the selective influence of their surroundings operating on the mixture.”
In other words, Huxley was using scientific journals of his day to propagate a racist theory in which white people could lay claim to Sanskrit and the knowledge of the Vedas by three clever, but fake arguments. The first was that there was “internal evidence” in Sanskrit literature that there were Aryan invaders who were white men. Sanskrit texts have no such references. The second lie is that 'high-caste Hindoos’ had Aryan blood. The third lie propagated as science was that “Aryan blood” in India got intermixed with that of dark, Dravidian aborigines and this admixture along with the effects of sunshine and the hot weather in India made Aryans dark skinned in India. This racist theory was widely accepted and digested among Europeans long before the name Nazi was invented. There is in fact, no such thing as “Aryan blood” or even Aryan genes although a large number of people now believe both to be true. Such is the effect of a century and a half of racist theories passed off as scholarship.
The Europeans found it necessary to invent a dark skinned race called Dravidians to explain why speakers of Sanskrit, an “Aryan language” of white skinned invaders were found to have dark skin in India. It was because the Aryans mixed with the dark-skinned people who were different, and of a lower sub-human type according to the racial theories of that age.
No one bothered to study the deep links between Sanskrit and the so called Dravidian languages of South India because the “Dravidians” and their language was the language of the inferior people defeated by white man and unconnected (it was imagined) with the “Aryans” and their language. These racist European scholars were willing to admit fair-complexioned Indians into their club of Aryans because that would allow them to claim the origins of Sanskrit, which was the oldest and best developed Indo-European language. However, dark-skinned Indians were inconvenient for this theory. They had to be explained away by some means. So, dark-skinned Indians became Dravidians, a race invented by racist scholars to classify Indians who spoke languages that could not be linked with Indo-European languages. As for those dark-skinned Indians who spoke Indo-European languages such as Bengali, they were explained away as corrupted Aryans caused by admixture with “inferior races”.
Because it had to be proven that the “Aryans” and their superior “Aryan language” came from Europe, the Mitanni documents proved to be a convenient find. A well-known German Assyriologist, Wolfram von Soden noted that the Semitic people of Assyria could never have achieved greatness in those remote early days if they had not been influenced by Aryans coming from the north. Soden is quoted as writing: “...without assuming some Indo-Aryan background. The Semitic Assyrians alone could not have possessed the creative capacity and heroic character necessary to create such a text.” (as the Rig Veda)
In other words the greatness of the history of Assyria would not have been possible if Aryans from Europe have not previously been there as they moved from Europe to India taking their language with them, and finally depositing their language in India as the highly refined and developed Sanskrit language. The Mitanni kingdom was portrayed as a kingdom that was set up along the way by conquering “Aryans” as they moved eastwards from Europe, conquering and subjugating all who came in their path in Syria, Iran and India, leaving behind their superior Indo-European language.
It is ironic that racist European scholars invented history for themselves to claim Sanskrit and created two fake races called Aryans and Dravidians as part of that story. It is more tragic than ironic that Indians have internalised and believed this bluff to the extent that political parties have been formed based on a race name cooked up by racist Europeans. Indians now argue and vigorously dispute the origins, identities and characteristics of Aryans and Dravidians – completely ignorant and blind to the racism of Nineteenth century Europe that created these races to claim Europe as the origin of Indo-European languages.