My three books present a complete case for the OIT theory, which is impossible to refute.
In this wide-ranging interview, leading Indic scholar Shrikant Talageri talks about Aryan Invasion Theory, Out of India Theory and the Indo European Migration, as well as what motivates him to write.
Q1: Before delving into the details of your extensive works, I would like to know a little about your personal life. Where did you live and study? What were your interests as a child, as a teenager and as a youth?
I was born and brought up in Mumbai, and so was my father (my mother was born and brought up in Mangalore), so, although my (paternal) "native place" is Sagar in Shimoga district of Karnataka, we have been continuously staying in this same house in Mumbai since at least 1916. I studied in St Xavier's School, and did BCom in Sydenham College, both in South Mumbai.
My main interests in all the periods of my life have been reading and music. I was a voracious reader of (I admit mainly) story books and novels (my still favourite ones being Enid Blytons, Billy Bunters, Williams, P G Wodehouses, Agatha Christies, Perry Masons, etc, apart from children’s classics and classics like Jane Austens, and books like Gone With the Wind, etc) and also comics (from Phantom and Superman/Superboy comics to Harvey comics and Little Lulu, etc), besides magazines of every kind. I was also an avid listener of the radio (film and folk songs, Hindustani and Carnatic classical and semi-classical music, etc): I particularly love listening to old Hindi and Marathi film songs, Marathi natyasangeet and bhavgeets, traditional Gujarati folk songs, the pancharatna kritis of the Tyagaraja festival at Tiruvaiyuru, Yakshagana music, and umpteen other varieties. Today, I have a huge collection of music in my hard disc, and three cupboards overflowing with books (including many of the above as well as books on history, religion, etc).
Q2: How did you get interested in the study of Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT), Out of India Theory (OIT) and the Indo European Migration? When did you first write about it?
I always wanted to be a writer, and wrote stories in notebooks even when I was in the fifth standard; I remember the fifth standard teacher making me read out one of them in front of the class. When someone asked me why I didn't write in my mother-tongue, Konkani, I decided to take up the challenge. But writing in Konkani made me aware of the many linguistic problems involved, and I developed a strong interest in linguistics (learning different alphabets, reading about the languages of the world, etc: I even invented an alphabet for Konkani, which now functions as a secret code in which I note down things which no-one can read but myself) which is when I came up against the AIT, which I, instinctively as well as on the basis of the stated evidence, found extremely dubious. I had also developed (when faced with the Catholic atmosphere in my school), on my own and without any external inspiration, a kind of Hindutva attitude. The combination made me want to go deeper into this "Aryan" or "Indo-European' question.
I prepared a short (and very primitive and primary) paper on the subject at first, but then, somewhere in 1989 or so (having become acquainted with Voice of India books since at least 1983), I decided to go deeply into the subject, and wrote to Sita Ram Goel, asking him whether he would consider publishing it. He was at first extremely sceptical of my ability to deal with the subject, but after I sent him the first three chapters (which dealt with the political corollaries of the AIT in India), he immediately wrote to me expressing his confidence that I would be able to deal with the subject. In fact, many times during the writing of the book, I developed doubts about whether I would really be able to handle the subject, but it was only Goel's confidence in me that enabled me to complete my first book, which was published in early 1993.
Q3. Your books – The AIT: A Reappraisal, The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis and The Rigveda and the Avesta: The Final Evidence – created quite a flutter in the academic community, but I see there is a lot of inertia in the academia in studying and responding to your books intellectually. How did established AIT veterans react to your books, from the first book to the latest one?
My three books present a complete and irrefutable case for the OIT theory, which is impossible to refute. I know my use of such adjectives for my own books and case may seem to be a little immodest, but it is a fact and is proved by the dogged refusal of AIT proponents to even pretend to try to address the facts, data and evidence presented by me. The OIT presented in my books proves beyond any doubt, on the basis of the textual, archaeological and linguistic evidence that the Indo-European (formerly "Aryan") family of languages originated in India. It answers every single answerable problem.
The established AIT veterans (as you put it) generally prefer soft targets (Hindu writers who write easily disprovable or untenable things, or things which can easily be ridiculed), and they choose to avoid directly dealing with the facts, data and evidence, and the inevitable conclusions thereof, presented by me. Their criticism is generally restricted to:
- Branding me as a politically motivated writer.
- Branding me as a "bank employee" who has no right to challenge established academicians.
- Listing out things that I "do not know" (Vedic, Greek, Latin, etc) or "have not read" (mostly German writers who have written only in German, etc), or academic qualifications that I do not have.
- Listing out what they claim are failures in my books and writings to follow various alleged etiquettes and conventions of academic writing (even when most of the academic writers they quote also do not follow those etiquettes and conventions) and treating all the facts, data and evidence presented by me as automatically invalidated by this.
Most of those who tried to take me on (Witzel, Fournet and Hock) have been silenced by my detailed replies to their flawed and faulty criticisms, and, after my third book (2008), they wisely avoid trying to deal with the evidence presented by me. Now their battle is carried on by internet bloggers and trolls (who include not only leftists and "secularists" but even many so-called "Hindu" writers with their own sectarian agendas and biases). To all of them, polemics and politics take precedence over the examination or discussion of the relevant facts, data and evidence.
Q4: Can you describe in brief, your first book, Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism which you have later republished as Aryan Invasion Theory: A Reappraisal? I guess your focus primarily was on the data against AIT available in the Puranas then?
In my first book (published 1993), the first section dealt with the three political corollaries of the AIT. It contained three chapters, named after the three corollaries:
- India as a "Nation in the Making".
- Hinduism as a "Foreign Religion".
- Hinduism as an "Aryan Religion" and the "Aryans" as "Foreigners".
In these three chapters, I dealt with and disproved these three corollaries in great detail and demonstrated that, regardless of whether there was an Aryan invasion of India or not, Hindu Nationalism is Indian Nationalism. For my full definition of Hindu Nationalism, see my blog.
I ended the first section as follows: "Did, indeed, any 'Aryans' ever invade or even immigrate into India from outside? Shorn of its leftist and anti-Hindu corollaries, this becomes a purely academic question with no present-day political implications. This academic question will be dealt with in the next two sections of this book." [Hence I find it very strange when many Hindus, who have clearly not read these chapters, try to tell me that the AIT is irrelevant to them since, AIT or not, Indian Nationalism is identical with Hindu Nationalism, as if to suggest that the OIT/AIT debate is unnecessary].
As Goel felt that these three political chapters (which stood apart from the next two purely academic sections of the book) were too important to remain unpublished, but could interfere with the willingness of academic readers to appreciate the academic chapters, he chose to publish the book (almost simultaneously) in two versions in 1993 itself: The Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism (published by Voice of India, with the three political chapters), and The Aryan Invasion Theory: A Reappraisal (published by Aditya Prakashan, without the first section, with sections 2 and 3 renamed as sections 1 and 2, and with a preface by Dr S R Rao).
The second section gave the full history, background and arguments of the AIT, and the third section demolished each set of AIT arguments in one chapter each, and presented the first basic outline of the OIT hypothesis (which I was to develop fully in my two latter books in 2000 and 2008). Goel told me that Girilal Jain, the very eminent ex-editor of the Times of India was thrilled with my book and wanted to immediately write a review of it in the newspaper. It was Jain's strongly favourable review of my book on the central editorial page of the Times of India (17th June 1993, later included in his book The Hindu Phenomenon), which in a sense brought my book into prominence.
Q5: In your second book The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis, your focus has shifted to the data against AIT found in the Rigveda. Is this book part of the intellectual dialogue you maintained with the AIT school of scholars? Did any scholar who could not accept the data present in the Puranas against AIT, see the irrefutable data present in the Rigveda against their pet postulates and propositions?
When I wrote my first book in 1993, I had never in my life actually even seen a copy of the Rigveda, or read the Puranas. My chapters in the first book, on the Puranas and the Rigveda, were critical analyses of the analyses of other writers (mainly Pargiter and Malati Shendge). However, after completing the book, I decided to study the Rigveda itself in great detail. As I delved into the Rigvedic evidence, I realised that the data in the Puranas and epics, although they provided the basic structural skeleton of Indian history, was often jumbled, contained many interpolations, and often contradicted or obfuscated the relatively pure evidence in the Rigveda. Hence I decided that a detailed analysis of the Rigveda, with help from the Puranas wherever they did not contradict the data in the Rigveda, could solve the whole mystery of Indo-European origins.
While writing this book, when I sent preliminary versions of my chapters to Koenraad Elst for his opinion, he told me that there were certain papers by Harvard Professor Michael Witzel which claimed (as I was doing) to be examining the historical data in the Rigveda, but which reached exactly the opposite conclusions: while I proved that this data showed an east-to-west movement of the Indo-Europeans from within India, Witzel claimed it showed a west-to-east "Aryan" movement into India. What shocked me more was that Witzel, without even having seen a copy of my first (1993) book, referred to that book as being "devoid of scholarly value", as representing "a lunatic fringe", and as an example of "exegetical or apologetic religious writing".
I immediately took up the challenge, and, in this second book, I devoted a full chapter to Michael Witzel's papers exposing their shoddy scholarship, faulty data and internal contradictions. I got the publishers to send him a copy of the book. Within a week, another Harvard lecturer (on behalf of Witzel), contacted Shri Ashok Chowgule in Mumbai, practically offering me a chance for a fully paid scholarship at Harvard under Witzel if I were willing to modify my views. I naturally declined the offer. Later there was a full-fledged internet war of arguments between myself and Witzel (and one of his companions, named Steve Farmer).
I must admit, though, that I am honestly and genuinely grateful to Witzel because, whatever his intentions and his unscrupulous battle-style and tactics, he was solely responsible for raising some important technical points which I would not otherwise have taken up, and which led me to a deeper study of the evidence, and resulted in my third book which drives the last nails in the coffin of the AIT and which provides the final irrefutable evidence for the OIT. Unfortunately for me, Witzel chose to cold-shoulder my third book, only contenting himself with snide remarks on the internet and in some of his articles, or else I am sure he would have unwittingly (I have no clue how) led me to newer and even more startling evidence for an even more powerful fourth book.
Q6: In your third book, Rigveda and Avesta: The Final Evidence, you have gone beyond what any OIT scholar has done previously, viz. beautifully combining the data present in the Rigveda with the data present in the Avestan literature and by this dismissing any lingering doubts in the minds of scholars about the validity of OIT and demonstrating the impossibility of many propositions of the AIT school of thought. Can you elaborate more on this last published book of yours?
In my third book, I compared the common data in the Rigveda, Avesta and the Mitanni records, and conclusively proved that the Mitanni people (who appeared in recorded West Asian history in the early second millennium BCE) were migrants from India who (as well as the proto-Iranians) left the Vedic territory, stretching from western UP to the southeastern border-areas of Afghanistan, at some point between 2500 and 2200 BCE during the period of composition of the new books of the Rigveda (books 1, 5, 8, 9 and 10). The geographical area of the Vedic Aryans in the earlier period of composition of the old books of the Rigveda (2, 3, 4, 6, 7) was exclusively to the east of the Sarasvati river, in Haryana and western UP. I have recently summarised this evidence in my blog article (the second of four intended parts, of which I have as yet only completed and uploaded two parts on my blogsite):
In this third book, I have summarised all the unchallengeable textual, linguistic and archaeological evidence for the OIT, while examining the untenable linguistic arguments for the AIT.
Q7: Can you briefly describe the five Vedic tribes viz. the Yadus, Turvasas, Anus, Drahyus and the Purus and their correlation with the IE Migration scenario, based on your books? Where does the Ikshwakus stand in this analysis?
Indian scholars examining or opposed to the AIT have not been able to provide a logical OIT model before this, because they also chose to fall into the trap set by the faulty AIT model which treats the "Vedic Aryans" of the Rigveda as an amorphous, anonymous and faceless group of alien invaders who were the linguistic and cultural ancestors of most of northern India. The only difference in approach was that the Indian opponents of the AIT treated the Vedic people, composers of the Rigveda, as native people who were the linguistic and cultural ancestors of most of northern India (or even of the whole of India, of all Indo-European people, or even of the whole world).
The fact is that the Rigveda represents not the roots of Indian culture but the oldest and best recorded and the most luxuriant branch of the banyan tree of Indian culture and civilisation. The Puranas record the ancient population of India as consisting of many tribes, the most prominent among them being the five Aila or "Lunar" tribes of most of northern India (Druhyus, Anus, Purus, Yadus and Turvasus) and the Ikshvakus or the "Solar" tribes to their east.
The Purus and the Purus alone, were the "Vedic Aryans" centered in the Haryana area, among whom the Rigveda was composed. The Ikshvakus, Yadus and Turvasus were other Indo-European language speaking groups to their east and south. The Anus to their west, and the Druhyus further west, were the ancestral speakers of the Indo-European language branches which migrated out of India: the Anus were the speakers of the Iranian, Armenian, Greek and Albanian ancestral languages, and the Druhyus were the speakers of the Anatolian, Tocharian, Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic ancestral languages. In my third book, I have given the recorded evidence for the migrations of these people out of India, as well as the linguistic evidence for it.
The first thing to understand is that the Purus were the Vedic Aryans of the Rigveda. The Ikshvakus were the eastern people of north-eastern UP and Bihar.
Q8: How much is the Rigvedic situation of the Purus and the Bharatas as residing in the Ganga-Yamuna-Sarasvati region, aligned with the situation of the Kurus inhabiting the same territory as revealed through the Itihasas and the Puranas? Can we safely say that OIT, as posited by you, makes more sense to what we understand by reading our Vedas, Itihasas and Puranas than the AIT/AMT scenarios?
The Purus consisted of many related tribes. The Bharatas were the Puru sub-tribe who were the heroes (and composers) of the Old Books of the Rigveda, while the Vedic culture rapidly became the common culture of all the Puru tribes and sub-tribes during the period of the New Books. The Kurus, Panchalas, and others were post-Rigvedic tribes and sub-tribes of the Purus.
We will understand not only Indo-European history, but also our own Puranic history better if we understand this mosaic of tribes in ancient India.
Q9: Is it possible for you to talk a little bit about your interactions with Dr Michael Witzel?
Well, I think I answered this question already in reply to your Q5. I don't think I have much to add to it. Cetainly, Witzel himself has given me nothing to add to it in recent times.
Q10: There are a lot of discussions in the academia about your differences with Dr Nicholas Kazanas. I understand that these are minor differences, as both of you are working on the side of OIT. Is it possible for you to speak a few words about it?
As you said, we are both working "on the side of OIT". You can read first-hand about the full course of our "differences" by reading the full text of our (Talageri-Kazanas) correspondence, which Kazanas himself has put up on his site. And you can draw your own opinions and conclusions on it.
Because we are both on the same "side", I chose to keep this unnecessary tiff to myself. However, in his article “The Rigveda Date and Indigenism”, June 2006, on p. 10, Kazanas wrote as follows: “Indeed, in recent years also many publications advocated indigenism: Sethna 1992; Elst 1993; Frawley 1994 and with Rajaram 1997; Feuerstein et al 1995; and others”. In the footnote to this, he wrote: “S Talageri should perhaps be included but despite having some good ideas, this author knows no Sanskrit and has no training in archaeology or other related disciplines and so goes astray constantly”. I responded to this provocation in the preface of my third book. But I have nothing more to say.
Kazanas is on the same "side" as me, and he is a good linguist and has raised many interesting linguistic points (I credited him with one of them in my third book itself, on page 102). However, he has been consistently using original material from my books without giving me any credit for it, and elaborating on my ideas (of course, admittedly adding many new details). However, I wish him well in his work, and would like to be on friendly terms with everyone, whether on the side of OIT or of AIT.
Q11: Dr Koenraad Elst is seen as your well-wisher and a companion in your academic works. The readers would love to hear about your interactions with Dr Elst!
I first met Goel on a historical day (6th December 1992), when I went to Delhi for the proof-reading of my first book. Dr Elst arrived the next day in the immediate aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition. I was there for a week, and, although I spoke to Dr Elst about my forthcoming book, there was little immediate interaction in the few days I was in Delhi. However, in the following few years, Dr Elst came to Mumbai twice on the invitation of Ashok Chowgule, and during those visits (and two more in more recent years) and through subsequent telephone conversations and mail and later e-mail contact, we have maintained a very lively friendship. He is one of the persons to whom I always send my writings for his comments, and he always contacts me for any information on any Indian topics. His review (on his blogsite) "A Great Book about the Great Book", about my third book, and his frequent references to my works in his blogs and articles, have been the best testimonials to my work.
Q12: Can you elaborate on your intellectual works in the form of blogs, presentations, speeches and events that you are currently involved?
My first book was published in 1993, the second in 2000 and the third in 2008. In the middle there was my article in Voice of India's Commemoration volume to Goel, in 2005 (part of which I have put on my blog as an article on Hindutva or Hindu Nationalism: see in my reply to Q 4 above). Apart from that, I have written shorter articles in many other published volumes, and my replies to Witzel, Fournet and Hock are somewhere on the internet (and in my computer as well).
However, certain events last year led me to accept that my own blogspot is the best place to write on any topic I want without any censorship and without having to be politically correct (as per anyone else's criteria). My blog contains articles on a variety of topics (including, for example, lists of Hindi and Marathi film songs in Roopak and Jhaptaals). After retiring from my bank job in around two years, I intend to write blogs on a vast variety of topics. As I have no particular desire for any kind of financial gains or popularity-ratings, I think I will be free to write what I want without any hindrance.
Q13: Are you writing any new books on the OIT scholarship? If yes, when is it scheduled to be ready for release?
There is nothing on the line, although the idea of a textbook on Ancient Indian History (for example) has been hanging fire since the last few years. As the number of years between my three books should make clear, I usually write best when inspired or provoked.
At the moment, I have written two parts of an intended four-part piece on the OIT on my blog (see my replies above to Q6 and Q7), and I am also in the middle of an article entitled "The Elephant and the Proto-Indo-European Homeland".
Q14: What can we do to eliminate political posturing from the Indo European Studies?
I think honesty and open mindedness should be the only policy. Unfortunately, today, there is too much politics in any discussion on the AIT/OIT. As I realised a few months ago from the herd reactions of Hindu writers and groups, when I was attacked by certain "Hindu" writers who claim "genetic evidence" for the AIT, "political correctness" (of different varieties) is the order of the day, not Truth. I don't think we can eliminate political posturing from Indo-European studies, or indeed from any studies or discussions.
For the record, let me reiterate: Indo-European Studies should be based primarily or only on three fields of study: linguistics, textual/inscriptional studies and archaeology. When we are researching the geographical origins of anything – whether of some plant or animal species, some musical modes, styles or instruments, of culinary dishes, of religious or philosophical concepts, of martial systems or games (like chess and ludo), of mathematical and scientific discoveries, or anything else – there are only three fields of study involved: textual/inscriptional evidence, archaeological evidence, and the third field in every case will be evidence derived from the particular scientific field associated with that particular thing (eg botany in respect of plants, etc). The "Aryan" or Indo-European question is a linguistic question, and the third field of study in this case is linguistics. The study of genetics has absolutely nothing to do with the question of Indo-European origins, neither to prove the AIT nor to prove the OIT.
Q15: How can we bring back the glory of Bharatiya Samskriti or the Indic Civilisation-Culture back to the world stage, at its rightful and deserving position?
This is a question which will require a long answer. I have given most of the answers to this question in my article on "Hindutva and Hindu Nationalism" published in the Sita Ram Goel Commemoration Volume 2005 (please see the URL to this article in my reply to Q4 above).
Q16: In the current clash of civilisations, as Dr David Frawley puts it, where do you stand? How do you see 'Dharma' (Sanatana Dharma) positioned with respect to Abrahamism and Western Thought?
I am sorry to say, I am not very optimistic. I see the world moving towards the situation in Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty Four", where there is little place for much "thought" of any kind, and only place for unabashed and ruthless materialism, mind-control and power-politics. According to me, true Dharma should be based on the principles of truth, justice and compassionate humanitarianism.
Q17: What is the message you have to give to the new generation of Indic scholars?
As I said above, honest and unbiased scholarship is the only policy. For a more detailed reply, please (whoever is interested) see my article on "Parameters for the Writing of Indian History".