Overview of European Invention of Races

(This article is an excerpt (Pages 8 to 10) from the book ‘Breaking India‘ by Rajiv Malhotra & Aravindan Neelakandan. Published by Amaryllis. Delhi. 2011. Link: www.BreakingIndiabook.com)

Western Academic Constructions Lead to Violence

In past five centuries, European nations colonized regions of Asia, Africa, and Americas. These Western powers imposed a Eurocentric worldview on colonized cultures. Local cultures’ history, including global historic narrative, was constructed to justify colonization. Though biases are exposed, they still wield power in academic and socio-political discourses.


In eighteenth century, with traditional religious edifice of Europe threatened by Enlightenment, Europeans looked for a golden past, and hoped to find it in Bharat, a source of much of Europe’s import for centuries. In their search, hypothesized and constructed an idealized ‘Aryan race’ through distorted reading of Bharatiya scriptures. Fed by virulent German nationalism, anti-Semitism, and Race Science, this manipulation led to rise of Nazism and Holocaust.


In late eighteenth century, Indologist Max Muller proposed Aryan category as a linguistic group, which got transformed into Aryan race by colonial administrators who used Race Science to taxonomically divide traditional Bharatiya communities. Castes designated as ‘non-Aryan’ were marginalized in depictions of Hindu society. In parallel, Church evangelists working in South Bharat constructed a Dravidian race identity, de-linking Tamil culture from its pan-Bharat cultural matrix, and claimed that its spirituality was closer to Christianity than to the Aryan North Bharat culture.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, Buddhist revival spurred by Theosophical Society also spread ideas of Aryan race theory. Bishop Robert Caldwell and Max Muller categorized Tamils as Dravidians and Sinhalese as Aryans. This division was encouraged by colonial administrators. Gradually, south Bharatiyas adopted this division, turned it into antagonism towards so called Aryans. The result was a deadly ethnic civil war that continued in Sri Lanka for a few decades.


The Hamitic myth of Bible, where descendents of Noah’s son Ham were cursed, was used by slave traders and slave owners to justify slavery. Hamitic linguistic groups were identified and separated from rest of Africans. African civilization’s contributions were explained as work of an imaginary sub-race of Whites invading and civilizing Africa. Western classification of traditional African communities into races led to bitter rivalries, including genocide, as in Rwanda.

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