Indo-Aryan migration

Archaeological cultures associated with Indo-Iranian migrations (after EIEC).

Models of the Indo-Aryan migration discusses scenarios of prehistoric migrations of the early Indo-Aryans to their historically attested areas of settlement (North India). The Indo-Aryans derive from an earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian stage, usually identified with the Bronze Age Andronovo culture at the Caspian Sea. Their migration to and within Northern India has been theorized to have taken place in the Middle to Late Bronze Age, contemporary to the Late Harappan phase in India (ca. 1700 to 1300 B.C.E.). The origin of the Indo-Aryan people addresses a bigger issue within the origin of races. Did humanity have a single origin or multiple origins? For those who aim to prove that the Indian race had its origin in India, the multiple origin theory is the only explanation. Those who seek to prove the origin of their race in their kingdom have many challenges to that belief. In the case of the Indian people, the Indo-Aryan race is one, and probably the first, race that makes up the Indian people. The Indian people are comprised of a number of races, defying the notion of a single race.


In the case of the Indo-Aryan race, they indeed appear to have origin roots other than in India. Using a complex system of analysis to trace the origin of the Indo-Aryan's, a mix of language analysis, DNA tracing, review of ancient writings, and religions, the Aryan race appears to have its origin in the Black Sea region. They migrated from that region to many places, including the Indus Valley Civilization in northwest India, one of the first civilizations in the world. India has, since that time about 5000 years ago, developed into a multi ethnic people, having distinct racial differences between the southern, eastern, northern, and western peoples. Still, in spite of the racial differences among the people of India, they have achieved a oneness in the creation of the Republic of India that seeks to transcend race.



The linguistic center of gravity principle states that a language family's most likely point of origin lay in the area of its greatest diversity.[1] [2] By that hypothesis, India, home to only a single branch of the Indo-European language family (i.e. Indo-Aryan), appears an exceedingly unlikely candidate for the Indo-European homeland. Central-Eastern Europe, on the other hand, serves as home to the Italic, Venetic, Illyrian, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Thracian, and Greek branches of Indo-European. [3] Both mainstream Urheimat solutions locate the Indo-European homeland in the vicinity of the Black Sea.[4]

Early 2nd millennium introduction of the chariot to India corresponds with the overall picture of the spread of this innovation (Mesopotamia 1700 B.C.E., China 1600, Northern Europe 1300).

Dialectical variation

A binary tree model fails to capture all linguistic alignments. Certain areal features cut across language groups and a model treating linguistic change like waves rippling out through a pond better explains the phenomena. That holds true of the Indo-European languages as well. A close relationship between the dialectical relationship of the Indo-European languages and the actual geographical arrangement of the languages in their earliest attested forms that makes an Indian origin for the family unlikely.[5]

Movement of Indo-Aryan peoples

The vast majority of the professional archaeologists in India insist that no convincing archaeological evidence exists to support claims of external Indo-Aryan origins. The Andronovo, BMAC and Yaz cultures have often been associated with Indo-Iranian migrations. The Gandhara Grave (GGC), Cemetery H, Copper Hoard and Painted Grey Ware (PGW) cultures stand as candidates for cultures associated with Indo-Aryan movements.

Indo-European isoglosses, including the centum and satem languages (blue and red, respectively), augment, PIE *-tt- > -ss-, *-tt- > -st-, and m-endings.

The Indo-Aryan migration dates from before the Mature Harappan culture. The arrival of Indo-Aryans in the Indian subcontinent dates to the Late Harappan period. Based on linguistic data, many scholars argue that the Indo-Aryan languages arrived in India in the 2nd millennium B.C.E. The standard model for the entry of the Indo-European languages into India maintains that the first wave went over the Hindu Kush, forming the Gandhara grave (or Swat) culture, either into the headwaters of the Indus or the Ganges (probably both). The language of the Rigveda, the earliest stratum of Vedic Sanskrit falls between 1500-1200 B.C.E.[6]

The separation of Indo-Aryans proper from Proto-Indo-Iranians has been dated to roughly 2000–1800 B.C.E. Indian Archaeologists offer that the Indo-Aryans reached Assyria in the west and the Punjab in the east before 1500 B.C.E. The Indo-Aryan Mitanni rulers appear from 1500 B.C.E. in northern Mesopotamia, and the Gandhara grave culture emerges from 1600. That suggests that Indo-Aryan tribes would have had to be present in the area of the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (southern Turkmenistan/northern Afghanistan) from 1700 B.C.E. at the latest (incidentally corresponding with the decline of that culture).

The Gandhara grave culture stands as the most likely locus of the earliest Indo-European presence east of the Hindu Kush of the bearers of Rigvedic culture. Three waves of Indo-Aryan immigration occurred after the mature Harappan phase. First, the Murghamu (BMAC) related people who entered Baluchistan at Pirak, Mehrgarh south cemetery and later merged with the post-urban Harappans during the late Harappans Jhukar phase. Second, the Swat IV that co-founded the Harappan Cemetery H phase in Punjab. And third, the Rigvedic Indo-Aryans of Swat V who absorbed the Cemetery H people, giving rise to the Painted Grey Ware culture. The first two to 2000-1800 B.C.E. and the third to 1400 B.C.E.[7]


Distribution of R1a (purple) and R1b (red)

The conventional identification of the Andronovo culture as Indo-Iranian has been disputed by those who point to the absence south of the Oxus River of the characteristic timber graves of the steppe. Based on its use by Indo-Aryans in Mitanni and Vedic India, its prior absence in the Near East and Harappan India, and its sixteenth–seventeenth century B.C.E. attestation at the Andronovo site of Sintashta, Kuzmina (1994) argues that the chariot corroborates the identification of Andronovo as Indo-Iranian.

Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC)

A movement of peoples from Central Asia to the south may explain the characteristically BMAC artifacts found at burials in Mehrgarh and Baluchistan. The exclusively Central Asian BMAC material inventory of the Mehrgarh and Baluchistan burials evidence that people migrated from Central Asia at the time Indo-Aryans arrive.

Indus Valley Civilization

Indo-Aryan migration into the northern Punjab happened about the same time as the final phase of the decline of the Indus-Valley civilization (IVC). The historical Vedic culture may have resulted from an amalgamation of the immigrating Indo-Aryans with the remnants of the indigenous civilization, such as the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture. Some scholars have questioned the arrival of the Indo-Aryan as the cause for the end of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Gandhara grave culture

The diversion of Haplogroup F and its descendants.

About 1800 B.C.E., a major cultural change in the Swat Valley appeared with the emergence of the Gandhara grave culture. With its introduction of new ceramics, new burial rites, and the horse, the Gandhara grave culture became a major candidate for early Indo-Aryan presence. The two new burial rites—flexed inhumation in a pit and cremation burial in an urn—were, according to early Vedic literature, both practiced in early Indo-Aryan society. Horse-trappings indicate the importance of the horse to the economy of the Gandharan grave culture. Two horse burials indicate the importance of the horse in other respects. Horse burial is a custom that Gandharan grave culture has in common with Andronovo, though not within the distinctive timber-frame graves of the steppe.[8]

Physical Anthropology

The spread of the Indo-European languages has been associated with Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1, identified with genetic marker M17, conducted by the National Geographic Society states that M17 arose "in the region of present-day Ukraine or southern Russia."[9]

Textual References


The earliest written evidence for an Indo-Aryan language appeared not in India but, rather, in northern Syria in Hittite records regarding one of their neighbors, the Hurrian-speaking Mitanni. In a treaty with the Hittites, the king of Mitanni, after swearing by a series of Hurrian gods, swears by the gods Mitrašil, Uruvanaššil, Indara, and Našatianna, who correspond to the Vedic gods Mitra, Varuṇa, Indra, and Nāsatya.

Clustering analysis from Rosenberg (2006), shows no distinctive genetic cluster compositions among Indo-Aryan populations in India, though there is a slight change in the specific Indo-Aryan populations of the Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir regions located in the north-west of South Asia.

Contemporary equestrian terminology, as recorded in a horse-training manual, author identified as "Kikkuli the Mitannian," contains Indo-Aryan loanwords. The personal names and gods of the Mitanni aristocracy also bear traces of Indo-Aryan. Because of that association of Indo-Aryan with horsemanship and the Mitanni aristocracy, the Indo-Aryan charioteers may have been absorbed into the local population and adopted the Hurrian language.[10]

The possibility that the Indo-Aryans of Mitanni came from the Indian subcontinent, as well as the possibility that the Indo-Aryans of the Indian subcontinent came from the territory of Mitanni, has been questioned. That leaves migration from the north the only likely scenario.[11]


The Rigveda represents by far the most archaic testimony of Vedic Sanskrit. Nevertheless, Rigvedic data must be used, cautiously, as they represent the earliest available textual evidence from India.

Rigvedic society as pastoral society

The Rigveda mentions fortifications (púr), mostly made of mud and wood (palisades), mainly as the abode of hostile peoples, while the Aryan tribes live in víś, a term translated as "settlement, homestead, house, dwelling," but also "community, tribe, troops".[12]

Indra in particular has been described as "destroyer of fortifications," e.g. RV 4.30.20ab:

satám asmanmáyinaam / purām índro ví asiyat
"Indra overthrew a hundred fortresses of stone."

The Rigveda contains, according to some, phrases referring to elements of an urban civilization, other than the mere viewpoint of an invader aiming at sacking the fortresses. For example, Indra is compared to the lord of a fortification (pūrpatis) in RV 1.173.10, while quotations such as a ship with a hundred oars in 1.116 and metal forts (puras ayasis) in 10.101.8 all occur in mythological contexts only.

Rigvedic reference to migration

No clear mention of an outward or inward migration exists in the Rig Veda. Just as the Avesta lacks a mention of an external homeland of the Zoroastrians, the Rigveda lacks explicit reference to an external homeland or to a migration. Later texts than the Rigveda (such as the Brahmanas, the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas) center more in the Ganges region.

That shift from the Punjab to the Gangetic plain continues the Rigvedic tendency of eastward expansion, but falls short of implying an origin beyond the Indus watershed. The Rig Veda contains names (such as Rasa/Raha, Sarayu/Haroyu) that represent memories of the Volga, as well as the Pani (Parni) tribe and the Herat Rivers in western Afghanistan.

Rigvedic Rivers and Reference of Samudra

The geography of the Rigveda seemingly centers around the land of the seven rivers. While the geography of the Rigvedic rivers remains unclear in the early mandalas, the Nadistuti hymn provides an important source for the geography of late Rigvedic society. The Sarasvati River constitutes one of the chief Rigvedic rivers. The Nadistuti hymn in the Rigveda mentions the Sarasvati between the Yamuna in the east and the Sutlej in the west, and later texts like the Brahmanas and Mahabharata mention that the Sarasvati dried up in a desert.

A non-Indo-Aryan substratum in the river-names and place-names of the Rigvedic homeland would support an external origin of the Indo-Aryans. Most place-names in the Rig Veda, and the vast majority of the river-names in the north-west of India, have Indo-Aryan roots.[13] They frequent appear in the Ghaggar and Kabul River areas,[14] the first being a post-Harappan stronghold of Indus populations.

Iranian Avesta

The religious practices depicted in the Rig Veda and those depicted in the Avesta have in common the deity Mitra. The Indo-Aryan deva 'god' cognates with the Iranian daēva 'demon'. Similarly, the Indo-Aryan asura 'name of a particular group of gods' (later on, 'demon') cognates with the Iranian ahura 'lord, god,' a reflection of religious rivalry between Indo-Aryans and Iranians.[15] Mention occurs in the Avesta of Airyanəm Vaējah, one of the "16 the lands of the Aryans" as well as Zarathustra himself.

Other Hindu texts

Some Indologists have noted that textual evidence in the early literary traditions fails to unambiguously show a connection with an Indo-Aryan migration. Texts like the Puranas and Mahabharata belong to a later period than the Rigveda, making their evidence less than sufficient to be used for or against the Indo-Aryan migration theory.

Later Vedic texts show a shift of location from the Panjab to the East: according to the Yajur Veda, Yajnavalkya (one of the Vedic Seers) lived in the eastern region of Mithila. Aitareya Brahmana 33.6.1. records that Vishvamitra's sons migrated to the north, and in Shatapatha Brahmana 1:2:4:10 the Asuras were driven to the north. In still later texts, Manu was said to be a king from Dravida. In the legend of the flood he was stranded with his ship in Northwestern India or the Himalayas.

The Vedic lands (e.g. Aryavarta, Brahmavarta), sit in Northern India or at the Sarasvati and Drsadvati River, according to Hindu texts. The Mahabharata Udyoga Parva (108) describes the East as the homeland of the Vedic culture. The legends of Ikshvaku, Sumati and other Hindu legends may have their origin in South-East Asia.


Geography of the Rigveda, with river names; the extent of the Swat and Cemetery H cultures are indicated.

The evidence from the Puranas has been disputed because the text appears comparably late, dated from c. 400 to c. 1000 C.E.; whereas the Rig Veda dates from before 1200 B.C.E. Thus approximately 1600 to 2200 years separate the Reg Veda and the Puranas, though scholars argue that some contents of the Puranas may date to an earlier period. The Puranas record that Yayati left Prayag (confluence of Ganga & Yamuna) and conquered the region of Saptha Sindhu. His five sons Yadu, Druhyu, Puru, Anu and Turvashu became the main tribes of the Rigveda.

The Puranas also record that Mandhatr was driven out the Druhyus of the land of the seven rivers and that their next king Ghandara settled in a north-western region which became known as Gandhara. The sons of the later Druhyu king Pracetas migrated to the region north of Afghanistan. Several Puranas recorded that migration.

Vedic and Puranic genealogies

The Vedic and Puranic genealogies indicate a greater antiquity of the Vedic culture. The Puranas themselves deem those lists incomplete. The accuracy of the lists has been disputed. In Arrian's Indica, Megasthenes has been quoted as stating that the Indians counted from Shiva (Dionysos) to Chandragupta Maurya (Sandracottus) "a hundred and fifty-three kings over six thousand and forty-three years." The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (4.6.), (ca. eighth century B.C.E.), mentions 57 links in the Guru-Parampara ("succession of teachers"). That would mean that Guru-Parampara would go back about 1400 years. The list of kings in Kalhana's Rajatarangini goes back to the nineteenth century B.C.E.

History and Political background

Cluster of Indus Valley Civilization site along the possible course of Sarasvati/Ghaggar-Hakra River. See [16] for a more detailed map.

In the earliest phase of Indo-European studies, Sanskrit had been assumed close to (if not identical with) hypothetical Proto-Indo-European language. Its geographical location also fit the Biblical model of human migration. That model presented Europeans as descended from the tribe of Japhet, son of Noah, supposed to have expanded from Mount Ararat after the Flood. Iran and northern India seemed the likely early areas of settlement for the Japhetites.

In the nineteenth century, as the field of historical linguistics progressed, and Bible-based models of history fell into disrepute, Sanskrit lost priority. In line with mid to late nineteenth century ideas, an Aryan 'invasion' became the vehicle of the language transfer. Max Muller estimated the date to be around 1500–1200 B.C.E., a date also supported by more recent scholars.

The Indus Valley civilization, discovered in the 1920s, had been unknown to nineteenth century scholars. The discovery of the Harappa and Mohenjo-daro sites changed the theory. It transformed from an invasion of advanced Aryan people into an aboriginal population to an invasion of nomadic barbarians on an advanced urban civilization. In the later twentieth century, ideas refined. Migration and acculturation have become viewed as the method Indo-Aryan spread into northwest India around 1700 B.C.E. Those changes square with changes in thinking about language transfer in general, such as the migration of the Greeks into Greece (between 2100 and 1600 B.C.E.), or the Indo-Europeanization of Western Europe (between 2200 and 1300 B.C.E.).

Political debate and implications

The debate over such a migration, and the accompanying influx of elements of Vedic religion from Central Asia, has led to hot debate in India. Foremost, Hindutva[17] (Hindu nationalist) organizations oppose the concept. Outside India, the perceived political overtones of the theory have less sway. Scholars discuss the concept in the larger framework of Indo-Iranian and Indo-European expansion.

Even though it lies outside the mainstream academic consensus, an "Indian Urheimat" (Out of India OOI) has its proponents.[18] "Out of India" scenarios that locate the Indo-European homeland on the Indian subcontinent have had some currency in Hindu nationalism since the 2000s, but found little support in the academic community.[19]

See also


  1. Edward Sapir and David Goodman Mandelbaum. Selected Writings in Language, Culture and Personality. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1949), 55
  2. Robert Gordon Latham, as cited in J. P. Mallory. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth. (New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1989), 152
  3. Mallory, 1989, 152–153
  4. Mallory, 1989, 177–185
  5. Hock (1996), "Out of India? The linguistic evidence," in Bronkhorst & Deshpande, 1996
  6. J. P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair. The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West. (London: Thames & Hudson, 2000)
  7. Rajesh Kochhar. The Vedic People: Their History and Geography. (London: Sangam Books, 2000), 185–186
  8. Mallory, 1989
  9. The Genographic Project: Atlas of the Human Journey. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  10. Mallory & Mair, 2000
  11. Mallory, 1989
  12. Mallory, 1989
  13. Edwin F. Bryant. The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001)
  14. Michael Witzel, 1999, "Substrate Languages in Old Indo-Aryan (Ṛgvedic, Middle and Late Vedic)." Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies 5 (1), online [1] Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  15. Thomas Burrow, as cited in J. P. Mallory. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth. (New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1989.)
  16. Detailed map of Indus Civilization Retrieved July 10, 2008
  17. [2] Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  18. Koenraad Elst. Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate. (New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 1999. ISBN 8186471774). online [3]. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  19. Bryant, 2001, 201


  • Bronkhorst Johannes & Madhav. M. Deshpande. (eds) Aryan & Non-Aryan in South Asia. Harvard Univ Dept of Sanskrit, vol 3. Cambridge, MA: 1996. ISBN 1888789042.
  • Bryant, Edwin F. The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0195137779.
  • Bryant, Edwin, and Laurie L. Patton. The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History. London: Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0700714634.
  • Diakonoff, Igor M. "Two Recent Studies of Indo-Iranian Origins." Journal of the American Oriental Society 115(3) (1995):473-477.
  • Elst, Koenraad. Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 1999. ISBN 8186471774. [4]. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  • Elst, Koenraad. Summary of The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia. [5] voice of
  • Erdosy, George. The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity. Indian philology and South Asian studies, v. 1. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995. ISBN 3110144476.
  • Fortson, Benjamin W. Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction. Blackwell textbooks in linguistics, 19. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 2004. ISBN 1405103159.
  • Hock, Hans, (1999) "Out of India? The linguistic evidence" in Johannes Bronkhorst & Madhav M. Deshpande. eds. Aryan & Non-Aryan in South Asia. Harvard Univ Dept of Sanskrit, vol 3, Cambridge, MA: 1996.
  • Hock, Hans Henrich. Principles of Historical Linguistics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1991. ISBN 0899258514.
  • Kochhar, Rajesh. The Vedic People: Their History and Geography. London: Sangam Books, 2000. ISBN 8125013849
  • Lal, B. B., and K. S. Saraswat. The homeland of the Aryans: evidence of Ṛigvedic flora and fauna & archaeology. New Delhi: Aryan Books International, 2005. ISBN 8173052832.
  • Mallory, J. P. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1989. ISBN 050005052X.
  • Mallory, J. P. and Victor H. Mair. 2000. The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0500051011.
  • Sapir, Edward, and David Goodman Mandelbaum. Selected Writings in Language, Culture and Personality. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1949. OCLC 973252.
  • Sethna, Kaikhushru Dhunjibhoy. The Problem of Aryan Origins from an Indian Point of View. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 1992. ISBN 8185179670.
  • Talageri, Shrikant G. Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism. New Delhi: Voice of India, 1993. ISBN 8185990026.
  • Witzel, Michael, 1999, "Substrate Languages in Old Indo-Aryan (Ṛgvedic, Middle and Late Vedic)." Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies 5 (1), [6] Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  • Witzel, Michael, 2006, "Rama's realm: Indocentric rewritings of early South Asian archaeology and history," in Garrett G. Fagan. Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public. London/New York: Routledge, ISBN 0415305926, 203–232.

External links

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