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The Coming of the Aryans and the Brahmin Story

The Harappan Civilisation, "the vastest political experiment before the advent of the Roman Empire" (Mortimer Wheeler), suddenly came to an abrupt end around 1700 B.C.  All the reasons for its demise are not yet known, but it was probably directly related to the Aryans, invading tribes-men from the Russian and Central Asian steppes.  The newcomers called them-sleves Aryas, a term meaning "superior" and surviving in Iran and Eire/ Ireland.  There are references to the battles of the Aryans with the Dasas in the Vedic hymns, to the occupation of the Dasas1 land, to the capture of their possessions, and to the destruction of their cities.  The Indo-Aryan war-god Indra is known as puramdara, "the destroyer of cities."  Agni, the fire-god, is also prominently mentioned in this capacity, understandably, since many of the Indus cities were destroyed by fire.  The conclusion seems to be inescapable:  the destruction of the Indus cities of the Dravidians and/or Mundas was the work of the Aryans.

While the superiority of the Dravidians lay in their urban civilization, the superiority of the Aryans lay in their military strength.  The invaders relied more on wood for their homes than on stone and preferred villages to cities at least till the end of the Vedic period.

The invading Aryans were divided into a large number of independent tribes often fighting each other when they were not fighting the Dasas (Dravidians and Mundas), their common enemy.  The Aryans were highly conscious of their ethnic unity, based on a common language (Sanskrit is the literary expression of it), a common religion (Brahminism is its classical form), and a common culture (love of war and adventure is an integral part of it). the white Aryans were well aware of the contrast between themselves and the colored natives who either became Sudras or servants and dependents of the conquerors or withdrew to the forests and mountains and to regions beyond the Aryavarta (land of the Aryans) across the Vindhya Mountains to the South. That the Aryans were able to maintain their identity implies that they came in large numbers, in waves of migration, lasting a long period.  The Aryans expanded from the Indus Valley and Punjab eastwards to modern Uttar Pradesh down the Ganga Valley.  The main group of migrants followed the foothills of the Himalayas, driving the Mundas to the hills and the Dravidians south to Deccan.  All this time they were still living among the conquered Mundas called Nishadas or forest tribes.

The next stage in the Aryan occupation of India falls within 800-550 B.C. At this time Aryavarta had for its boundaries the seas in the east and the west and the Himalayas in the north and the Vindhya in the south.  The advance to Bengal and Orissa and Gujarat and Maharashtra and the Dravidian lands of the south took place not behind battle standards but under the banner of civilizing missions.  The Brahmins, the Aryan missionaries, spread the Brahminic religion, Vedic culture, and the Sanskrit language; the Brahmins also increased their status or strengthened their organization.  Alone or in small numbers and away from home, the wandering Aryans mixed with the Dravidians and Mundas, and their hybrid descendants moved farther to Dravidian South.  It was at this time that the Pre-Aryans considerably influenced the Aryans and that the transition from Vedic religion to later Hinduism had its beginnings.  Throughout, the Tamils .of the extreme South remained independent and standoffish.

The penetration of the South and Kerala by the Aryans began only during the Buddhist and Jainist times.  It was a slow, gradual process which was accomplished in a gentle, subtle manner by the missionaries.  It was a conquest, all right; but it was accomplished by the arts of peace and not by the force of arms.  Though the Buddhists came at the wake of Emperor Ashoka's evangelizing missions, most of the Vedic Brahmins came only in the seventh and eighth centuries by way of the West Coast from Tulu Nadu.

 

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