Aryan Invasion Theory & colonial racial interpretation of Rig Veda

According to the Aryan invasion theory, the invading group of  Indo-European (i.e  the speakers of Indo-European languages to which Sanskrit and it’s derived languages belong) people called themselves as Aryans and subjugated the native non Indo-European population which the Aryans called as Dasas or Dasyus. This theory was mostly based on the 19th century interpretations of early Vedic texts, especially the Rig Veda, which talks of conflicts between a group called Aryans and their opponents called Dasas and Dasyus.

Apart from Dasa-Dasyus, Rig Veda also mentions about other hostile groups. But most of the conflicts of Aryans were with Dasa-Dasyus and they both appear as opposite of Aryans. The Dasas and Dasyus more or less refer to the same group and are spoken of as the enemies of Aryans. Many colonial authors also added racial narration to the Aryan invasion theory, viz the Aryans represented by fair skinned Caucasians subjugating the native population represented by the non Caucasoid dark-skinned Dasas and Dasyus.

These racial narrations were also based on the interpretations of descriptions found in the Rig Veda and colonial European supremacist notions. The colonial racial narrations of Aryans gradually led to development of the racial ideology of superior Aryan master race by the Nazis, which gradually led to the genocide of millions. They also associated Aryans with occultism and the Swastika symbol, which was in fact used by many non Indo-European cultures all over the world. There was also a notion about pure Aryan looks, which is held by many people even today. Although most academic authors reject this racial theory today, we feel it is necessary to analyze the racial theory since there are people who still argue about it.

The term Arya or Aryan in Sanskrit refers to a noble person with virtuous qualities who lives according to the Vedic laws and lifestyle. Later, the term was applied as a geographical marker for northern Bharat i.e Aryavarta where Vedic culture flourished. In Iranian Avesta too, the term Arya or Airya mostly refers to a person who adheres to the Zoroastrian tenets, but later it was transformed into a geographic term and the very name of Iran derives from the term Arya or Airya.

The term Arya does not contain any racial tone in Vedic usage although the Rig Veda indeed associates Aryas with light many times and it associates Dasa-Dasyus with darkness. In many passages of Rig Veda, the Vedic deities like Indra and Agni are said to have aided their Aryan followers in exterminating the dark Dasa-Dasyu enemies. For example, in Rig Veda 5.14.4, Agni is said to have killed Dasa-Dasyus and darkness with his light. Technically, this is a light vs darkness battle, with the light representing good and darkness obviously representing the evil. This theme can be seen in modern cartoons and it is not unique to Vedic thoughts. Agni representing the sacred fire would obviously eliminate the darkness and bring light.

In other verses of Rig Veda, deities like Indra are said to have slaughtered dark Dasa-Dasyus. For example, Rig Veda 4.16.9 mentions Indra defeating the Dasa-Dasyus in the battle for the Sun and in other hymns like 10.148.2 and 2.11.4 it is stated that Indra along with Surya (Sun) defeated the Dasa-Dasyus. Further, in 4.16.13 it is mentioned that Indra slaughtered as many as fifty thousand dark ones, but the very next verse informs that Indra’s splendid body is placed near to the Sun and it is obvious that just like the fire, the Sun also eliminates darkness with its light. So here too we have an obvious light vs darkness or good vs evil battle.

In Rig Veda 10.73.5, the Dasa-Dasyus are explicitly identified with darkness. For Vedic authors, the darkness symbolized evil and various verses like Rig Veda 2.40.2, 2.27.14, 1.62.5, 4.13.3, 5.80.5, 1.94.7, 7.78.2 etc speak about getting rid of darkness. So it is no surprise why the Vedic authors frequently associated their Dasa-Dasyu enemies with darkness. On the other hand, they frequently associated Aryans with light and invoked Vedic deities to grant light to the Aryans like in Rig Veda 2.11.18, 1.59.2, 7.5.6, 1.117.21, 10.43.4 etc.

Certain other verses like Rig Veda 1.130.8 talk about subduing dark skin or krshna tvach and this is cited as part of the racial narrations. But actually, when we look at the context, the earlier stanza speaks of Indra aiding his Aryan sacrificer or worshiper to win the light and the dark skin is associated with the lawless in the same stanza. So this is just another metaphor for good light vs evil darkness. Similarly, Rig Veda 9.73.5 also talks about asikni tvach or dark skin, but again if we look at the context, the earlier stanza talks about burning up the lawless with rchas or Rig Vedic Mantras and it is through maya or magic powers by which the dark skin is said to be chased away from sky and earth. So again, this is a metaphor for the power of Vedic Mantras.

Also, apart from skin, the term tvach can also mean something which covers; for example, in 10.68.4 earth’s surface is referred to as tvach. So krshna or asikni tvach can also mean dark cover or covered in darkness which is equated with evil. Similarly, the term Arya varna occurs in Rig Veda 3.34.9 and it is usually translated as Aryan color, but it can also denote exterior, layer, covering etc. as in sense of one’s character or qualities . This verse speaks of Indra gaining possession of horses, cows, sun, gold etc. and of protecting the Arya varna or character by destroying Dasyus. In Rig Veda, cows, horses, sun, gold etc. denotes prosperity, wealth etc. So here the Arya varna denotes the virtuous qualities of Aryans. The preceding and subsequent verse also speak of Indra obtaining possession of sky, earth, light, waters, forests, trees, atmosphere etc., all denoting prosperity and well being. Rig Veda 2.12.4 also speaks of Dasa Varna or qualities of Dasas, which is exact opposite of Arya varna or noble qualities or character.

Also, certain verses from Rig Veda like 1.51.8 speak of distinguishing Dasa-Dasyus and Aryans, and punishing the lawless. Rig Veda 10.86.19 also speaks of distinguishing Dasa-Dasyus and Aryans. If Dasa-Dasyus were completely different race or ethnicity from the Aryans, then there would have been no question about the difference between Aryans and Dasa-Dasyus. What actually distinguished Dasa-Dasyus from Aryans was their qualities or character.

In Rig Veda 4.16.9 Dasa-Dasyus are mentioned as abrahma meaning unholy, riteless, prayerless etc. and in Rig Veda 5.29.10 Dasa-Dasyus are said to be mrdhravach or speaking hostile or abusive speech. The same verse also mentions about Dasa-Dasyus being anasa or noseless. According to racial narrations, this referred to flat nosed non-Aryan racial population of Bharat as opposed to long pointed nosed Aryan race. But this assumption is silly, since anasa refers to without nose at all, and there’s no mention of flat nose in this verse. Others have interpreted the term as meaning mouthless, being used as a metaphor for evil speakers, and this is also consistent with the occurrence of the term mrdhravach.

In other verses of Rig Veda like 10.22.8 and 8.70.11, the Dasa-Dasyus are called as riteless, inhuman, without Devas or Gods, keeping alien laws and so on. In other passages like Rig Veda 9.41.2, 1.175.3 etc Dasa-Dasyus are frequently mentioned as avrata, which means lawless or vowless. Rig Veda 6.14.3 also mentions about overcoming lawless Dasa-Dasyus with laws. Further, Rig Veda 10.65.11 talks about spreading Aryan laws or vratas all over the land. And what was this Aryan law? It was the path of Agni or sacred flame and Yajna or sacrifice as mentioned in Rig Veda 1.96.3, 10.11.4 etc. This path was first established by father Manu, whom Vedic Aryans viewed as their ancestral figure and ideal human, as mentioned in Rig Veda 6.14.2-3, 1.36.19, 7.2.3, 1.44.11, 1.128.1, 8.30.3 etc., and they also prayed not to move away from Manu’s path.

So the difference between Dasa-Dasyus and Aryans was not about any race or ethnicity, but about rites and laws. So in Rig Veda, we see a battle between the noble Aryans representing light, who abide by laws and follow the ancient virtuous path of their ancestors, against the unholy, inhuman, harsh speaking, lawless, riteless Dasa-Dasyu who represented darkness. It must be noted that Rig Veda 10.83.1, 6.60.6, 6.33.3 etc. also speak of Aryan enemies as well. This obviously refers to internal conflicts between Vedic Aryans. All the reference to light Aryans and dark Dasa-Dasyus should not be taken racially, since they can simply be part of Vedic poetry and of course the obvious good light vs evil dark battle. There is no need to subscribe to the colonial era racial narrations.

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and the Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content. HinduPost will not be responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information, contained herein.


Did you like this article? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.

About the Author

Dauhshanti & Paanchajanyaa
@Dauhshanti - A proud Polytheist & Idolater, blessed to be born into the civilization of Bharata. @paanchajanyaa - Soldier of dharma... Yato dharmas tato jayah...