Chocolate and Gold Coins

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Invasion of the Bread People

Here is a fascinating post (Sepia Mutiny) and discussion of some genealogical analysis of castes in India. Before I discuss it, though, I would like to make some points about the “Aryan Invasion Theory”.

There are some people in India who, for some reason, think it really matters to India today what might have happened to their culture thousands of years ago. And, for some reason, many of these people have their hearts set on a notion of denying that India was ever invaded and conquered by some Proto-Indo-European people (henceforth referred to as the bread people). We know that India was conquered by the British, and by various Moslem people, and even invaded by the Greeks (Alexander) so why would it break your heart if you found out that the bread people invaded and conquered India?

I don’t have a dog in this fight but I do have an opinion: at the end of the day, there is no way to deny the invasion of the bread people. Why? There are two reasons: there is bread in India and there is the bread people’s language.

These deniers like to create a straw man argument: there is no archeological evidence for any invasion. You mean there is no archeological evidence for bread making in India? There is no archeological evidence for Sanskrit in India? What else would you be looking for? We don’t really know what else the bread people had besides bread and Sanskrit so absence of anything else really proves nothing.

The genetic evidence above seems to suggest that most of the distant ancestors (I think about 95%) of all caste members in India can be traced right back to India. This is presented as a counter argument to the idea that the bread people invaded and conquered India. This is nonsense. In fact, I would bet that 75% of the genes of the bread people – once they got to India – could be traced to India. Let me explain.

Let us suppose the bread people discovered this wonderful new grain and new food that gave them a nutritional advantage over other tribes. Over time, the bread people would have grown more prosperous and numerous than other tribes in the area. There would have been the temptation to conquer the neighboring tribes and take over their land so they could grow more wheat and make more bread.

Suppose they succeeded. Typically, there are more conquered people than conquerors. The conquerors would have wanted the land but there would be too few of their own people to work that land. There would have been plenty of the conquered to work the land. But if they didn’t speak the same language, how could they work together? It could be that the conqueror would think, “There are more of them than there are of us, let us learn their language.” Or he might have thought, “If I keep whipping him, he will eventually catch my meaning.” My guess, “Everyone learns the language of the guy with the whip.”

So the language spreads and the knowledge of wheat growing and bread making spreads. Does that mean that the bread people just wiped out the other people? No. It never happens. The conqueror counts on the conquered to be his peasants and other jobs as well. What happens is that the conqueror begins noticing that some of the younger female peasants are kind of cute. As Amit would say, fun happened, (from the conqueror’s viewpoint). Mixing of genes happened. After a few hundred years, a new ethic group happened. If you don’t think that could happen – just look at Mexico.

This process repeats itself many times over. One fine day, the bread people arrive at modern day Pakistan. By this time, they have already crossed though all of Persia. Already, there has been much mixing of genes and maybe mixing of cultures as well. By this time, the bread people look to everyone like just another Indian ethnic group and most of their ancestors could be traced right back to India. They would have had tanned skin. They would have had dark hair. They would look very much like Pakistanis do today.

The invasion deniers will argue that maybe the bread simple passed from one people to another by trade and the language along with it. Both of these are far-fetched but the second claim is ridiculous. Can you image a people saying, “Our language stinks. Let’s learn their language?” But even the idea of trade leading to bread making is not so likely – there is no evidence that this happened in ancient times. Just look at how reluctant South Indians are to eat bread today when they can get it in the market. Can you imagine how hard it would be to convince a people who never ate bread before to change their whole economy from some other grain production to wheat and bread production?

Here is an interesting point: if there is no bread in south India and since the Dravidian languages are clearly not the language of the bread people, why do people think that the high-caste Hindus in the South were bread people? It is ridiculous. If these people were bread people they would have brought their bread and their language with them. There ample evidence that they brought neither: the South still speaks Dravidian and they still don’t eat bread (for the most part). Therefore, I would guess that the high-caste Hindus in the South are as Dravidian as anyone else.

There is really no evidence that the bread people brought the caste system. First, they didn’t bring anything like a caste system to any of the other places that the bread people conquered. Second, the caste system exists in the South where the bread people never came. My guess is that the caste thing was always an Indian thing. The bread people were unable and/or unwilling to change it much like the British.

Also, there is little evidence that Hinduism, as it is practiced today, originated outside of India. In fact, quite the contrary, it almost could not have originated outside of India. What ever was the religion in India 5000 years ago, it has vanished long ago. The Hinduism of today is probably a complete rework of the ancient belief as a reaction to Buddhism. And since Vishnu and Shiva are both worshipped in the South, which the bread people never conquered, my guess is that these two are both 100% Indian deities (if that matters to you).

So who are the Dravidians and where did they come from? Their dark skin indicates that they have probably been in India a long time – maybe 30000 years. Their round eyes indicates that they are not related to any of the east Asian people and are probably related to the people who later settled in Europe. But not too much can be made of this – the Europeans and the Indians probably don’t share any common ancestors for 30000 years.

If anything I have written breaks anyone’s heart, I apologize. But I think that if Indians spent less time thinking about where they have been and more time thinking about where they are going, they would be further along by now. (This last idea was suggested by this comment).


  • You have written too many points and due to laziness I will reply in random orders.

    About your claim regarding the absence of archeological evidence; the point is that some invasion theorists tried to prove their theory using mutilated skeletons in the indus valley - something which was later refuted/disowned even by many left historians but still persisted in history textbooks. Hence the stress on the absence of archaeological evidence.

    Now regarding "What is our problem if we were conquered"? No problem; the claim is only that the culture here is not just what people brought from outside and later grew here. There are formidable arguments put towards vedic culture having been developed in India, that is all; for instance by linking Harappan customs with vedic ones. And no one is denying that almost through out the history of India tribes kept coming here and invading/settling.

    Today's hinduism is not just a reaction to buddhism. The core of the most popular hindu philosophies is based on the upaniShads, which were written before buddha. Today's devotional practices may be a later development but not necessarily a reaction to buddhism. I don't think the action philosophy of the gIta etc. are related to buddhism at all. True, organized monasticism was borrowed from buddhism, vegetarianism possibly borrowed from jainism etc.

    brAhmins weren't as such powerful in ancient tamil nADu. It was only in due course of time that they became king's favourites and started calling everyone else shUdras. Except for some kings who called themselves kShatriyas and some highly trading communities like ceTTiyArs who called themselves vaishyas the rest were generally considered shUdras. Thus southern caste system is a much later development.

    By Blogger froginthewell, at 11:14 AM  

  • Hmmm, can I blame those invasions for my rather slight build which almost always makes sure, the hot women never ever look my way? Maybe the real reason is that I don't shut up. But blaming the Aryan invasion is comforting. I am going to stick with it.

    By Blogger Nilu, at 12:12 PM  

  • Hi Froggy
    Holy people are always powerful - otherwise why bother. There no other fun associated with the job (unless you're Catholic and like little boys - eww).

    You're most certainly correct in noting that much of Hinduism predated Buddhism. I was referring to the "Hindu renaisance" when Hinduism was rebranded and repackaged for public consumption. But all the holy texts were written in India. Sanskrit writing was developed in India for sure.

    Hi Nilu
    Whatever works for you I suppose.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 1:25 PM  

  • is bread the new holy cow ?
    i a,m not sure what you mean by dravidians but if you imply people who live south of present day chattisgarh by that i'd like to bring a few relevant facts to your notice ( does that sound pompous ?)
    rice wasn't exactly the staple grain of many parts of the south - telangana and rayalaseema and hyderabad karnataka, for instance, until very recently. other grains - a variety of millets, formed the daily diet. and most of them were consumed in bread-like baked forms.
    you accept there might have been invasions from the north-west so why do you presume there were no invasions from the north in the south and vice versa ?
    the study under such ..emotional discussion takes, in my view, the overall view that most indians are, on an average, just indians..
    the differences ,on the whole, very minor. so, if you've lived among the dravidians and the telugus and other peoples( i am not making a strong distinction here, but there is a distinction that needs to be made, not on the basis of whole genetic make-up but on the linguistic grounds of rates of absorption of prakrits, sanskrit, farsi and other languages) the differences between the south and the north are not as major as you would like to see them, or some would like to see them.

    By Blogger kuffir, at 1:28 PM  

  • Hi Kuffir
    That is interesting about the baked millet. I doubt that this indicates the invasion of bread people because, primarily, the didn't bring the language down south. I am assuming that the South was largely unaffected by invasions because they were able to keep their language. But sometimes one people briefly conquers another people and there are no lasting impact on the conquered people's language or even religion. So the South might have been conquered - who knows.

    I didn't know ovens had reached the South. I had always assumed that they had no need for them. Even today, among Indian people who live in the U.S. and have ovens, they are frequently used only to heat up frozen pizza. That should be another post: ways of prepareing good Indian food in an oven.

    I don't doubt that the difference in the customs (especially the religion) of North and South Indian is not so great. But my wife hates going to a North Indian style temple. I don't really understand what is the big difference.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 1:59 PM  

  • Hi Abhi
    I don't follow your logic at all. First, the holocaust was within the living memory of many people. Also it was genocidal murder. No one knows what the invasion of the bread people was like other than they seemed to bring in bread and Sanskrit into India but there is no reason to think they did anything genocidal.

    My only point in the last paragraph was to argue that things that happened perhaps 5000 or 10000 years ago are much (much much much) less important than things that happened 5 or 10 years ago and things that we can effect in the next 5 or 10 years.

    It would probably aid most Indians to put the distant past behind them and move on. I don't know much about my distant ancestors and I am not that curious. They really cannot help me now.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 9:00 PM  

  • baking, i guess, was a wrong choice of word..
    alright : baking them like rotis..
    i urge you again not to use the word south..loosely. when ashoka conquered kalinga, the latter's borders extended west and south beyond present day vijayawada. most of present day tamil nadu and kerala didn't fall under his direct control. that's only one instance.
    most empires that held sway over large parts of india had followed roughly the same division of control rules as the british later: delegating a part of their authority to certain smaller empires/kingdoms in the northwest &south & east &
    west. the territories of the mughals extended until arcot in the south through a chain of loose governorhoods. only the british went furthest on their own.
    as for invasions from the known history, pulakesin 11 is beleved to have gone north as far as u.p.
    i cite all these examples to illustrate my point that there might have been much more intense interaction in the unrecorded period (which the ait and you refer to) than is assumed.

    By Blogger kuffir, at 12:55 AM  

  • You know what I find so amusing.

    No, its not your post coz whatever you said or have to say doesnt matter one bit.

    Nor the comments which I didnt read because most of them would be very stereotypically predictable.

    Its that while making your argument, you are inciting Indians to waste more time on this topic. Either you are doing this deliberately (in which case, Congrats!) or this is just an inadvertent fallout which you didn't realize (in which case, it makes me wonder what makes you feel that you can tell people what they should or should not do).

    By Blogger A G, at 1:29 AM  

  • alexander never succeseeded in his invasion of india. all he did was conquiring 2 states which were very insignificant both in size and power. his soldiers rebeled against him for the fear of mighty nandas, so he has to return but never able to complete his journey.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:50 AM  

  • sanskrit is never the laguage of "bread people". there is a strong arguement that the laguage used by sindhu valley civilization was infact an early version of sanskrit.(this civilisation, as even supporters of aryan invation theory agree, was of indian origin)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:56 AM  

  • if those dravidians had a laguage before bread people invaded, where is it now? in no epic or stories ofpresent day "dravidian languages" we come across the days before invasion. and all of them evolved after sanskrit and borrowed heavily from it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:05 AM  

  • Hi Kuffir, Abhinav, Anon1, Anon2, Anon3

    Kuffir: No doubt I think that there were lots of invasions and other interaction each way. Probably most had no lasting impact (except maybe some hard feelings).

    Abhinav: Indeed you have seen through me. Clearly it is hypocrisy for me, a blogger, to urge others to not waste time. Time wasting is one of the great joys in life. I just liked the comment in Sepia Mutiny and wanted to spread it a little.

    Anon1: Alexander was a madcap. His only virtue was that he made reading history somewhat entertaining. But what could he have been thinking. Him and Genghis and Napoleon - what madcaps. If they had been satisfied to conquer a small area that they could control for centuries they might have had some lasting impact, but instead they conquered "the world" and their empires quickly vanished.

    Anon2: Indeed Sanskrit was some artificial language for royal poets much like high Latin. The "vulgar Sanskrit" that was brought by the bread people probably is unique to India. But the root of the language stretches back all the way to Anatolia.

    Anon3: Indeed perhaps people in India had no language before the bread people came. Perhaps they just pointed and grunted. This could be an alternative explanation for the spread of language as opposed to the invasion theory. But this still begs the question of where Tamil came from.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 5:40 AM  

  • Btw..who is that Anonymous...The Dravidian language is Tamizh...and was of pure Centamizh at that times...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:21 AM  

  • Michael,
    But this still begs the question of where Tamil came from.

    There is an entire blog, Incoherent Theories, where the blogger (Manjunatha) discusses possible Dravidian origin theories (or should I say hypotheses).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:33 AM  

  • Michael,

    1. Check out What Is Knowledge? at Tamil.Net -- a heavy duty case of under-realised inferiority complex is what has Indians to lament, bask and clutch the straws of eons ago.

    Happens to cultures that drop from high highs to low lows that have not come to terms with it.

    2. Re: parentage of Sanskrit. Are you contesting this:-


    The Vedic form of Sanskrit is an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian (spoken around 2000 BC), and still comparatively similar (being removed by maybe 1500 years) to the Proto-Indo-European language. Vedic Sanskrit is the oldest attested language of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. It is also still closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language.

    3. On likely root of Tamil, check out the Sumero-Tamil hypothesis .

    By Blogger Bala Pillai, at 7:58 AM  

  • Hi Tamizhthondan, Srikanth, and Bala
    Tamizhthondan: I am sure that the Dravidian language go way back. But without writing, it is hard to track them.

    Srikanth: Thanks for the link, it is an interesting blog.

    Bala: Thanks for the two links.
    No, I'm not contesting anything about the Vedic Sanskrit. It would make sense that it would be related to the oldest persian version of PIE.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 8:50 AM  

  • Aryan Invasion Theory is a misnomer...
    It's hard to refute the fact that there is no single Indian Race, or an Indian family of languages so to speak.
    But one cannot imply that the heterogeneity is because of an Invasion by a 'fair-skinned' race exactly 5000 years ago.
    A more plausible version of history would suggest the gradual migration of central asian tribes to India....
    The first such migration probably occured 5000 years ago...And there have been many such incursions since then.

    But one thing is for sure...The caste system was, in its origins, an
    attempt at racial segregation.

    By Blogger shrikanth, at 10:56 AM  

  • loads of bollocks

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:21 PM  

  • In my search for a better understanding of Vedic history, I came across this translation of an article on Vedic origins in a German linguistic journal from 1935. The article gives a clear picture of the significance of Aryan contributions to the advancement of civilization.

    Foundations for Aryan Migration Hypothesis

    The purpose of this paper is to give a brief summary of our understanding of the Aryan history in simple, nonscientific language--to maximize its dissemination throughout the world. The scientific--technically complicated--version, which is addressed to the scientific and academic communities, is obviously far to complex for most of the world population to grasp.

    We start off with the first humans evolving in Africa. Then some time latter, some of them decide to move. Among them are those with the superior Aryan genetics, which they carry into the future and out of Africa.

    They walk through Africa, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. When they reach the Himalayas, some of the inferior ones decide to stop walking and head south to a nicer, warmer, climate. Thus laying the ground for future indigenous tribes in India. And the superior ones trek on through the rugged mountains to central Asia before they decide to stop for possibly several generations, or so (forgot to mention that on their way they probably headed down through Nepal to scale Everest just for a day of fun and exercise, those superior Aryan genetics make child’s play out of accomplishments that are quite challenging to the rest of us).

    Before long, the future Aryans of the group (with their rapidly advancing intellectual and physical prowess) grew restless and bored, so off they went: north through Asia, east through Russia, and then into the heart of Europe. Of course some of the group consisted of inferior, non-future Aryans who gradually dropped out at various places along the way, laying the foundation of indigenous populations throughout Asia and Europe.

    By the time they had covered all the ground between Finland and Spain, most of the inferiors had dropped-out of the adventure, and only the future Aryans were remaining; vigorously awaiting the chance to find the perfect spot to finally settle down, and put their immense intellectual energy towards building an incredible civilization.

    As they wandered back through Europe it wasn’t long before they realized that the only fitting place for them to call home was Germany. The land, the water, and the future were all superior to every other place they had seen--the perfect place for the perfect people. And so it was.

    Before long the Aryans had accomplished so much in the advancement of civilization that the Germanic region was like an oasis in the desert compared to the rest of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Of course, on their journey they had already discovered fire, developed the wheel, and domesticated several species for pulling the various carts they had invented to ease their travels, not to mention the fantastic Aryan language they developed to enhance communication on their trip.

    Once settled they quickly developed mathematics, architecture, roads, water and sanitation systems--the complete art of civil engineering and civic planning; agriculture, including not only the development of many different grains, but also the invention of the plow and the harness, including the revolutionary refinement of shifting the pressure of the collar from the neck (windpipe) to the shoulders of their beasts of burden. This finally actually harnessed the power of the horse, oxen, and mules that they domesticated and developed--not only for agricultural purposes, but also for transportation, warfare, and the arts.

    Music and art flourished in no time, forming the foundations of future Germanic legends like Bach and Beethoven; the secrets of philosophy, medicine, and religion were soon discovered, resulting in many of the insights that latter became the foundations of more recent systems like Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Sufism and many more admirable isms (not to mention the Socratic Method and Aristotelian Logic).

    After many generations of refinement, some of the Aryans, grew restless and set-out on their own journeys.

    Some went alone, these were the first “Walkabouts” which many years later became a tradition among the Aborigines of Australia. Some went in groups to spread wisdom to the less fortunate, inferior, indigenous people--those who had evolved from the “first” group of Africans who had started the “first” journey with the Aryans’ ancestors--but had not been able to keep-up with their superior traveling companions.

    These traveling groups of Aryans were the first true missionaries, leading the way for latter day Christians--whose crusades and missions would also spread their enlightenment to the poor, unfortunate, inferior indigenous peoples of the earth.

    As they traveled about, spreading their good works and wisdom, many of the words and nuances of their language naturally influenced the less developed languages of the indigenous people they tried to enlighten.

    Unfortunately however, none of their great developments or discoveries have survived intact through time. In fact, none of the civilizations which were developed from the insights of Aryan wisdom documented the great cultural gifts they had received, or even mentioned encountering these fantastic Aryans.

    Furthermore, none of these inferior cultures were able to absorb or preserve (in its original purity) the vastly superior qualities of Aryan civilization. What was once a complete and perfect spiritual, cultural, and scientific understanding, has since been torn (by the many inferior “indigenous” groups with whom the Aryans shared their wisdom) into these various incomplete isms which we are left with today.

    Gutten Groinaslurpin,

    Ima Wisenegger, no, Ima Wisemann,

    or even better, Ima Wiseguy

    Deutches Dept. of, no, no,... Dept. of History, Culture, and Self Esteem

    Wow! I can hardly dare to imagine where the world would be today if all of the great Aryan works--in their original purity--had not been lost! If even a few of their discoveries or inventions had survived, the impact would have been like farfignugen!

    If for the last several thousand years, mankind had just had the benefit of one of the great Aryan inventions--the Mac with OS X--the only truly great Tiger in the tank--just imagine...

    So, this is the essence of Aryan Invasion Theory? Or Aryan Migration Theory? Now I understand why this is titled Aryan Migration Hypothesis. Science requires a hypothesis to withstand rigorous testing to become a theory and since neither AIT nor AMT, have provided even a single trace of any existence of an Aryan civilization to date, hypothesis seems much more appropriate than bastardizing the word theory.

    When the first Europeans arrived here in America, they thought they had traveled all the around the world to India. So naturally, they labeled the people they encountered “Indians”.

    Even though I’m just now learning about Indian history, I was born and raised in Indian Territory. Indian Territory, the last great Indian reservation in America. The end of the “Trail of Tears” for the Cherokee.

    After breaking every treaty they had made, and destroying the vast majority of the Native American nations, the US government created Indian Territory, the final piece of land promised to the few indigenous nations left.

    Of course, that promise was also soon broken, and Indian Territory became Oklahoma Territory at the end of the 19th century, and then the state of Oklahoma at the beginning of the 20th century. I never new a real Indian while I was growing-up in Indian Territory. I knew Cherokee, Osage, and Sioux, but no Indians.

    Even as a youth, I could not believe that after more than four centuries our US history books still referred to all of the Native American tribes as “Indians” (or savage tribes--according to the same kind of racist eurocentric, Aryan supremacist ideas that gave birth to the AIT or AMT, and have been used to justify degrading and robbing every indigenous group they have encountered).

    Still today, I am often amazed by the falsehoods and myths that are maintained in order to perpetuate the illusion of racial superiority. Of course this illusion was just as important to America’s vision of Manifest Destiny as it was to European Colonialism, and the Nuremberg Laws. One must first dehumanize the victims to justify taking away their rights.

    Someday soon, hopefully, we will finally be able to move beyond these divisive falsehoods, and embrace the truth.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:52 PM  

  • As defined in wikipedia:
    "Proto-Indo-European language the hypothetical common ancestor of the Indo-European languages"
    Are we not going into a cyclic argument by saying that "assume that there must hve been a common ancestor of Info-European languages => it must be true that bread people migrated to India!"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:29 AM  

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