By Roar Bjonnes (PNA)
In the fields of yoga and ayurvedic medicine, I have a great deal of respect for the scholarship of David Frawley and Georg Feuerstein. However, in their book In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, co-authored with Subash Kak, they may have ventured too far from the rigors of science. Their usual erudite research appears to be creating what they claim to debunk: another myth.
In attempting to expose the Indian Aryan Invasion Theory, they have instead created a new, bogus theory based on overzealous and often inaccurate interpretations of Vedic philosophy, history, rites and (oh yes!) myth.
But, who can blame them! It is not an easy task to make sense of Indian history, especially its prehistory.
The first and main mistake these authors make (and they are not alone in doing so!) is to lump most all of Indian history and spirituality into the omnipresence of the Vedas. In reality, India is composed of two distinct, yet often co-mingling rivers of rites and spiritual practice: the Vedic and the Tantric.
Unlike Frawley and Feuerstein, Tantric historians, such as N. N. Bahttacharya, and Tantric masters, such as P. R. Sarkar, draw a clear distinction between Aryan and Dravidyan culture and history. The Aryans were predominantly Vedic and the Dravidyans Tantric. Although over thousands of years, these two cultural rivers joined and became what we now call Hindu culture.
And, yes, these scholars also claim that indeed there was an Aryan invasion. Not always violent, and not a sudden one either. The Aryans arrived from central Asia, Iran and Afganistan over thousands of years and settled first in what is today Kashmir. It was here, claims Sarkar, that the Vedas were first written down in the Sarada script.
There are four Vedas, and according to tantric historians, the Rigveda is the oldest and was mostly composed outside of India. Frawley et al, however, maintains it was composed in India, of course. That the Rigveda contains material seemingly indigenous to India is likely because it was never written down before thousands of years later, after many linguistic and cultural changes throughout its long, oral history on Indian soil!
One example of such indigenous Indian influence on the Aryan Vedas can be seen especially in the fourth and often neglected Atharvaveda. As Frawley et al writes: “…many Vedic thinkers have had an ambivalent attitude toward the Atharvaveda.” Yes, indeed. And part of the reason for that is that this Veda was greatly influenced by Tantra. P. R. Sarkar points out, for example, that the Nrsimha Tapaniiya Shruti of the Atharvaveda has been far more influenced by the non-Aryan Tantra than by the Aryan Veda.
One important archeological fact mentioned in the book is the pashupati seal, found in the ancient Harappan valley civilization, and which depict God Shiva, the Lord of the Beasts. Sarkar points out that this seal is an example of the indigenous tantric symbolism of the Harappan culture. The esoteric Tantric meaning of this seal is that Shiva is the controller of the pashus, the animal desires of man.
Contrary to Vedic scholars, Shiva was not just a mythological God, he was, according to the Tantric tradition, an historical person. Like Buddha and Krishna, he was a great spiritual leader who systematized yogic practices, invented the octave, Indian classical dance (thus he was called Nataraja, the great dancer) and systematized ayurvedic medicine. Shiva lived in India around 5000 BCE, the time when Aryans already had settled in the north of India.
So, the great limitation of this book and all other scholars who claim there was never an Aryan Invasion of India, is that they completely discount this “other” aspect of Indian history. Indeed, they often claim that the historical struggle between Tantric and Vedic peoples, and their gradual co-mingling, never really took place at all.
But, if the rich tantric history and tradition of India is unable to sway these scholars, maybe Western genetic science will.
Recent genetic discoveries by Dr. Spencer Wells (well documented in his book Journey of Man) shows that there were at least two large migrations into India, one by dark skinned people from Africa via the coastal areas and then into Australia, and another much later migration by lighter skinned people from central Asia.
By sampling DNA of people in a village close to Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Dr Wells spotted a genetic mutation that had been passed on to aboriginal people in Australia – thus offering the first biological proof that African ancestors of the Australian natives passed through India on the way to their new home. He also proved that later the people who moved into India indeed were of Aryan stock.
There is also now some historical and archaeological evidence which suggests that as the Aryans came in, they intermarried with indigenous people and also absorbed many of them into their system of ranking.
Frawley et al dismiss this theory as a myth, claiming it “devalues” India’s history. Now, however, another genetic study has produced strong evidence supporting the Aryan Invasion Theory. A team led by Michael Bamshad of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City compared the DNA of 265 Indian men from different castes with DNA from nearly 750 African, European, Asian and other Indian men.
The researchers first analyzed mitochondrial DNA, which people only inherit from their mothers. When they looked at specific sets of genes that tend to be inherited as a unit, they found about 20 to 30 percent of the Indian sets resembled those in Europeans. The percentage was highest in upper caste males, which supports the theory of Aryans being upper castes. Overall, though, each caste resembled other Asians most.
So, the proof of the Aryan Invasion Theory, as they say, is to be found in the genetic pudding.