This article explains and analyzes the impact of the arrival of Aryans in India.
Who were Aryans and where did they come from?
According to a mid-19th-century theory, the Aryans were fair-skinned people who settled in ancient Iran and northern India around 1500 BC. They entered the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent through Iran from Central Asia. From the northwest, they moved eastward into Decan Plateau through plains around the Ganges River. Their literature, belief system, and lifestyle had a profound impact on cultural life in India.
The Aryans spoke Sanskrit, an Indo-Greek language. They brought with them their religious beliefs and social system. Like that of other ancient people, the Aryas practiced polytheism and believed in Gods and deities.
Who were the people living in India at the time of the Aryan invasion?
Deshpande (2010) notes when the Aryans arrived, there were already people called Dravidians India. Another scholar Oppert (1988) argues that in the light of the available historical traces the Dravidians were the earliest people to live in India. The Aryas in utter disregard of the local cultures carried on their conquests in the northwest Indian subcontinent and pushed the locals towards the South.
What was the impact of the arrival of Aryans on India?
The impact of the arrival of Aryans in India is as follows:
1. Birth of Hinduism
Scholars argue Hinduism did not exist before the arrival of Aryans in India. With their advent, the religious thoughts of Aryans and indigenous people of Indus valley (the Dravidians) blended together to form the earliest form of Hinduism. This earliest form of Hinduism contained more of the Aryan religious traits which evolved over the course of time to make what we today know as Hinduism.
Thus, the migration of Aryans to India led to blended and hybrid religion and culture in later India. There is a scholarly debate over who influenced who more at that time. However, the majority of the scholars argue it was Aryans whose cultural, social, and religious values and lifestyles overshadowed that of the indigenous people.
2. Indo-Aryan languages (Branches of Sanskrit)
The Aryans spoke Sanskrit. After their arrival in India, they were able to dominate the Dravidians culturally and socially. As a result, the indigenous people of India also started to speak Sanskrit.
Moreover, the new language ‘Sanskrit’ blended with the local languages to shape the future lingual landscape of the Indian Subcontinent. Today, the existence of scores of languages in India are basically branches of the Sanskrit language. Some of these languages are Punjabi, Balochis, Saraiki, Shina, etc.
3. Caste system
The caste system in India is one among several historical dimensions that segregate the society on basis of race, tribe, religion, gender, class, and language. (Deshpande, 2010). Deshpande (2010) with reference to Daniel also notes that the caste system in India started around 1500 BC with the advent of the Aryans.
Thus the arrival of the Aryas in India gave rise to a social system that contained a long-lasting impact on Indian culture. They divided the population into four major social categories or castes which were further divided into thousands of subcastes. The castes determined a person’s occupation and social class. Moreover, those not included in the caste system were called Untouchables. The untouchables mostly included the indigenous Indians whom the Aryas had subdued.
4. Influence on later faith systems
The Hindu sacred books, the Vedas, were written in the post-Aryan advent period about 1500-500 BC. Important features of the concept of Dharma introduced in Vedic texts also featured in the later faith system of India i.e. Jainism, Buddhism.
5. Wars and Conflict
As discussed in the above lines, archeologists trace the origin of Dravidians to the period of Indus valley civilization. The people of this period were peaceful as archeological findings and discoveries suggest they avoided armed conflicts and war. However, the arrival of Aryas with their aggressive and warring approach changed this peaceful environment turning India into a conflict zone until they had completely subdued the indigenous people.
1. Deshpande, M. S. (2010). History of the Indian caste system and its impact on India today.
2. Oppert, G. S. (1988). On the original inhabitants of Bharatavarsa or India: The Dravidians. Asian Educational Services.