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Indo-Aryan Migration

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Indo-Aryan Migration

Models of the Indo-Aryan migration discuss scenarios of prehistoric migrations of the proto-Indo-Aryans to their historically attested areas of settlement in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, generally considered to have started around 1500 BC. Migration of Proto-Indo-Iranian speakers to and within Northwestern parts of South Asia is consequently presumed to have taken place in the Middle to Late Bronze Age, contemporary to the Late Harappan phase (ca. 1700 to 1300 BCE).

Claims of Indo-Aryan migration are drawn from linguistic,[1] genetic[2] and even archaeological sources, as well as from a multitude of data stemming from Vedic religion, rituals, poetics, as well as some aspects of social organization and chariot technology.

Linguistics has been the primary basis of Aryan Immigration theories. Indo-Aryan language derives from an earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian stage, usually identified with the Bronze Age Sintashta and Andronovo culture north-east of the Caspian Sea.

No evidence of massive migration has been found through examination of skeletal remains.[3][4][5] The ancient Harappans were not markedly different from modern populations in Northwestern India and present-day Pakistan. Craniometric data showed similarity with prehistoric peoples of the Iranian plateau and Western Asia,[6] although Mohenjodaro was distinct from the other areas of the Indus Valley.[7] According to Shaffer, archaeological evidence for a mass population movement, or an invasion of South Asia in the pre- or proto- historic periods, has not been found.[8][9][10] At best, there is evidence of small-scale migrations approaching South Asia.[11][12]


The standard model for the entry of the Indo-European languages into India is that this 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 Gandhara grave culture is thus the most likely locus of the earliest bearers of Rigvedic culture, and based on this Parpola (1998) assumes an immigration to the Punjab ca. 1700-1400 BC, but he also postulates a first wave of immigration from as early as 1900 BC, corresponding to the Cemetery H culture. [note 1] Kochhar (2000:185–186) argues that there were three waves of Indo-Aryan immigration that occurred after the mature Harappan phase:

  1. the "Murghamu" (BMAC) related people who entered Baluchistan at Pirak, Mehrgarh south cemetery, etc. and later merged with the post-urban Harappans during the late Harappans Jhukar phase (2000-1800 BCE);
  2. the Swat IV that co-founded the Harappan Cemetery H phase in Punjab (2000-1800 BCE);
  3. and the Rigvedic Indo-Aryans of Swat V that later absorbed the Cemetery H people and gave rise to the Painted Grey Ware culture (to 1400 BCE).

Archaeological evidence consistent with a mass population movement, or an invasion of South Asia in the pre- or proto- historic periods, has not been found.[8][9][10] At best, there is evidence of small-scale migrations approaching South Asia.[11][12] But, professional archaeologists in India remain quite skeptical.[note 2]

Archaeological evidence of continuity[note 3] need not be conclusive. A similar case has been Central Europe, where the archaeological evidence shows continuous linear development, with no marked external influences.[13] Archaeological continuity can be supported for every Indo-European-speaking region of Eurasia, not just India.[14][15] Several historically documented migrations, such as those of the Helvetii to Switzerland, the Huns into Europe, or Gaelic-speakers into Scotland are not attested in the archaeological record.[16] As Cavalli-Sforza (2000) sums up, "archaeology can verify the occurrence of migration only in exceptional cases".

Development of the Aryan Migration Theory

In 19th century Indo-European studies, the language of the Rigveda was the most archaic Indo-European language known to scholars, indeed the only records of Indo-European that could reasonably claim to date to the Bronze Age. This "primacy" of Sanskrit inspired some scholars, such as Friedrich Schlegel, to assume that the locus of the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat (primary homeland) had been in India, with the other dialects spread to the west by historical migration. This was however never a mainstream position even in the 19th century. Most scholars assumed a homeland either in Europe or in Western Asia, and Sanskrit must in this case have reached India by a language transfer from west to east, in a movement described in terms of invasion by 19th century scholars such as Max Müller. With the 20th century discovery of Bronze-Age attestations of Indo-European (Anatolian, Mycenaean Greek), Vedic Sanskrit lost its special status as the most archaic Indo-European language known.[17][18]

The Indus Valley civilization (IVC) was discovered in the 1920s. The discovery of the Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and Lothal sites changed the theory from a migration of "advanced" Aryan people towards a "primitive" aboriginal population to a migration of nomadic people into an advanced urban civilization, comparable to the Germanic migrations after the Fall of Rome, or the Kassite invasion of Babylonia. The decline of the Indus Valley Civilisation at precisely the period in history for which the Indo-Aryan migration had been assumed, provides independent support of the linguistic scenario. This argument is associated with the mid-20th century archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler, who interpreted the presence of many unburied corpses found in the top levels of Mohenjo-daro as the victims of conquest wars, and who famously stated that the god "Indra stands accused" of the destruction of the Indus Valley Civilisation.

In the later 20th century, ideas were refined along with data accrual, and migration and acculturation were seen as the methods whereby Indo-Aryans spread into northwest India around 1500 BC. These changes were thought to be in line with changes in thinking about language transfer in general, such as the migration of the Greeks into Greece (between 2100 and 1600 BC) and their adoption of a syllabic script, Linear B, from the pre-existing Linear A, with the purpose of writing Mycenaean Greek, or the Indo-Europeanization of Western Europe (in stages between 2200 and 1300 BC).


Accumulated linguistic evidence points to the Indo-Aryan languages as intrusive into South Asia, some time in the 2nd millennium BC. The language of the Rigveda, the earliest stratum of Vedic Sanskrit, is assigned to about 1500–1200 BC.[19]


According to the linguistic center of gravity principle, the most likely point of origin of a language family is in the area of its greatest diversity.[20] By this criterion, India, home to only a single branch of the Indo-European language family (i. e., Indo-Aryan), is an exceedingly unlikely candidate for the Indo-European homeland, compared to Central-Eastern Europe, for example, which is home to the Italic, Venetic, Illyrian, Albanian, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Thracian and Greek branches of Indo-European.[21]

Both mainstream Urheimat solutions locate the Proto-Indo-European homeland in the vicinity of the Black Sea.[22]

Dialectical variation

It has been recognized since the mid-19th century, beginning with Schmidt and Schuchardt, that a binary tree model cannot capture all linguistic alignments; certain areal features cut across language groups and are better explained through a model treating linguistic change like waves rippling out through a pond. This is true of the Indo-European languages as well. Various features originated and spread while Proto-Indo-European was still a dialect continuum.[23] These features sometimes cut across sub-families: for instance, the instrumental, dative and ablative plurals in Germanic and Balto-Slavic feature endings beginning with -m-, rather than the usual -*bh-, e.g. Old Church Slavonic instrumental plural synъ-mi 'with sons',[24] despite the fact that the Germanic languages are centum, while Balto-Slavic languages are satem.

The strong correspondence between the dialectical relationships of the Indo-European languages and their actual geographical arrangement in their earliest attested forms makes an Indian origin for the family unlikely.[25]

Substrate influence

Dravidian and other South Asian languages share with Indo-Aryan a number of syntactical and morphological features that are alien to other Indo-European languages, including even its closest relative, Old Iranian. Phonologically, there is the introduction of retroflexes, which alternate with dentals in Indo-Aryan; morphologically there are the gerunds; and syntactically there is the use of a quotative marker ("iti").[note 4] These are taken as evidence of substratum influence.

It has been argued[by whom?] that Dravidian influenced Indic through "shift", whereby native Dravidian speakers learned and adopted Indic languages. The presence of Dravidian structural features in Old Indo-Aryan is thus plausibly explained, that the majority of early Old Indo-Aryan speakers had a Dravidian mother tongue which they gradually abandoned.[26] Even though the innovative traits in Indic could be explained by multiple internal explanations, early Dravidian influence is the only explanation that can account for all of the innovations at once – it becomes a question of explanatory parsimony; moreover, early Dravidian influence accounts for the several of the innovative traits in Indic better than any internal explanation that has been proposed.[27]

A pre-Indo-European linguistic substratum in South Asia would be a good reason to exclude India as a potential Indo-European homeland.[28] However, several linguists, all of whom accept the external origin of the Aryan languages on other grounds, are still open to considering the evidence as internal developments rather than the result of substrate influences,[29] or as adstratum effects.[30]

Genetic anthropology

The Austro-Asiatic tribals are hypothesized to have been the earliest inhabitants of India, while incoming Indo-European tribes may have displaced Dravidian-speaking tribals southward. However, the study's authors posit that a major influx into India occurred from the Northeast as well. It has also been noted that there is an underlying unity of present-day female lineages in India, and that historical gene flow has led to the obliteration of congruence between genetic and cultural affinities.

Pre-Holocene origins

Some reports emphasize the finding that tribal and caste populations in South Asia derive largely from a common maternal heritage of Pleistocene southern and western Asians, with only limited gene flow from external regions since the start of the Holocene.[31][32][note 5][note 6] A 2011 genetic study "confirmed the existence of a general principal component cline stretching from Europe to south India." They also concluded that the Indian populations are characterized by two major ancestry components, one of which is spread at comparable frequency and haplotype diversity in populations of South and West Asia and the Caucasus. The second component is more restricted to South Asia and accounts for more than 50% of the ancestry in Indian populations. Haplotype diversity associated with these South Asian ancestry components is significantly higher than that of the components dominating the West Eurasian ancestry palette. Modeling of the observed haplotype diversities suggests that both Indian ancestry components are older than the purported Indo-Aryan invasion 3,500 YBP[34]

Aryan Migration Theory

However, this finding alone does not rule out the possibility of an elitist and/or male-predominant Aryan invasion of the Indian subcontinent as in fact the patterns of historical conquest and migration are ultimately reflected in terms of sex-biased admixture, with the mitochondrial heritage being more stable and of more local origin and the Y-chromosomal heritage reflecting an external influence upon the population genetic structure, as can be seen in not only such regions as South Asia,[35] but also in such regions as Northeastern Africa (Semitic Y chromosomes vs. Niger-Kordofanian mtDNA)[36] and Latin America (Iberian Y chromosomes vs. Amerindian mtDNA).[37] Furthermore, the majority of researchers have found significant evidence in support of Indo-European migration and even "elite dominance" of the northern half of the Indian subcontinent, usually pointing to three separate lines of evidence:[38]

  • the previously widespread distribution of Dravidian speakers, now confined to the south of India;
  • the fact that upper caste Brahmins share a close genetic affinity with West Eurasians, whereas low caste Indians tend to have more in common with aboriginals or East Asians;
  • and the comparatively recent introgression of West Eurasian DNA into the aboriginal population of the post-Neolithic Indo-Gangetic plain.[38][39][40]

Other studies also claim that there is genetic evidence in support of the traditional hypothesis of Indo-Aryan migration. Basu et al. argue that the Indian subcontinent was subjected to a series of massive Indo-European migrations about 1500 BC.[41] In the case of paternal-line Y-chromosome DNA, the Indo-Aryan migration is associated with the R1a haplogroup, especially the R1a1a subgroup, which clusters in Eastern Europe and the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, and nicely dovetails with the observed similarities between Lithuanian and Sanskrit, and more broadly, satem languages as a whole. The strongest such claims, though, are based upon studies of autosomal DNA, not only Y DNA. Several such studies have isolated two major components of ancestry amongst Indians, one being more common in the south, and amongst lower castes, and the other more common amongst upper caste Indians, Indians speaking Indo-European languages, and also Indians living in the northwest. This second component is shared with populations from the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia, and is thought to represent at least one ancient influx of people from the northwest.[41] According to one researcher, there is "a major genetic contribution from Eurasia to North Indian upper castes" and a "greater genetic inflow among North Indian caste populations than is observed among South Indian caste and tribal populations." [42]

A more recent study has provided support for an influx of Indo-European migrants into the Indian subcontinent, but not necessarily an "invasion of any kind", further corroborating the findings of previous investigators, such as Bamshad et al. (2001), Wells et al. (2002) and Basu et al. (2003).


The terms North Indian and South Indian are ethno-linguistic categories, with North Indian corresponding to Indo-European-speaking peoples and South Indian corresponding to Dravidian-speaking; however, because of admixture, these two groups often overlap.[43][44] Certain sample populations of upper caste North Indians show affinity to Central Asian caucasians, whereas southern Indian Brahmins' relationship is further.[42][45]

Language change resulting from the migration of numerically small superstrate groups would be difficult to trace genetically. Historically attested events, such as invasions by Huns, Greeks, Kushans, Mughals and modern Europeans, may have had negligible genetic impact, and if they did it can be hard to trace it. For example, despite centuries of Greek rule in Northwest India, no trace of either the I-M170 or the E-M35 Y DNA paternal haplogroups associated with Greek and Macedonian males lines have been found.[31] On the other hand, evidence of E-M35 and J-M12, another supposed Greek or Balkan marker, has been found in three Pakistani populations – the Burusho, Kalash and Pathan – who claim descent from Greek soldiers.[46]


The Andronovo, BMAC and Yaz cultures have been associated with Indo-Iranian migrations, with separation of Indo-Aryans proper from Proto-Indo-Iranians dated to roughly 2000–1800 BC. The Gandhara Grave, Cemetery H, Copper Hoard and Painted Grey Ware cultures are candidates for subsequent cultures associated with Indo-Aryan movements, their arrival in the Indian subcontinent being dated to the Late Harappan period.

It is believed Indo-Aryans reached Assyria in the west and the Punjab in the east before 1500 BC: the Hurrite speaking Mitanni rulers, influenced by Indo-Aryan, appear from 1500 in northern Mesopotamia, and the Gandhara grave culture emerges from 1600. This 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 BC at the latest (incidentally corresponding with the decline of that culture).


Main article: Andronovo culture

The conventional identification of the Andronovo culture as Indo-Iranian is disputed by those who point to the absence south of the Oxus River of the characteristic timber graves of the steppe.[47]

Based on its use by Indo-Aryans in Mitanni and Vedic India, its prior absence in the Near East and Harappan India, and its 19-20th century BC attestation at the Andronovo site of Sintashta, Kuzmina (1994) argues that the chariot corroborates the identification of Andronovo as Indo-Iranian. Klejn (1974) and Brentjes (1981) find the Andronovo culture much too late for an Indo-Iranian identification since chariot-wielding Aryans appear in Mitanni by the 15th to 16th century BC. However, Anthony & Vinogradov (1995) dated a chariot burial at Krivoye Lake to about 2000 BC and a BMAC burial that also contains a foal has recently been found, indicating further links with the steppes.[48]

Mallory (as cited in Bryant 2001:216) admits the extraordinary difficulty of making a case for expansions from Andronovo to northern India, and that attempts to link the Indo-Aryans to such sites as the Beshkent and Vakhsh cultures "only gets the Indo-Iranian to Central Asia, but not as far as the seats of the Medes, Persians or Indo-Aryans". However he has also developed the "kulturkugel" model that has the Indo-Iranians taking over BMAC cultural traits but preserving their language and religion while moving into Iran and India.

Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC)

Some scholars have suggested that the characteristically BMAC artifacts found at burials in Mehrgarh and Baluchistan are explained by a movement of peoples from Central Asia to the south.[49]

Jarrige and Hassan (as cited in Bryant 2001:215–216) argue instead that the BMAC artifacts are explained "within the framework of fruitful intercourse" by "a wide distribution of common beliefs and ritual practices" and "the economic dynamism of the area extending from South-Central Asia to the Indus Valley."

Either way, the exclusively Central Asian BMAC material inventory of the Mehrgarh and Baluchistan burials is, in the words of Bryant (2001:215), "evidence of an archaeological intrusion into the subcontinent from Central Asia during the commonly accepted time frame for the arrival of the Indo-Aryans". However, archaeologists like B.B. Lal have seriously questioned the BMAC and Indo-Iranian "connections", and thoroughly disputed all the proclaimed relations.[50]

Indus Valley Civilization

Indo-Aryan migration into the northern Punjab is thus approximately contemporaneous to the final phase of the decline of the Indus-Valley civilization (IVC). Many scholars have argued that the historical Vedic culture is the result of an amalgamation of the immigrating Indo-Aryans with the remnants of the indigenous civilization, such as the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture. Such remnants of IVC culture are not prominent in the Rigveda, with its focus on chariot warfare and nomadic pastoralism in stark contrast with an urban civilization.

The decline of the IVC from about 1,900 BC is not universally accepted to be connected with Indo-Aryan immigration. A regional cultural discontinuity occurred during the second millennium BC and many Indus Valley cities were abandoned during this period, while many new settlements began to appear in Gujarat and East Punjab and other settlements such as in the western Bahawalpur region increased in size. Shaffer & Lichtenstein (in Erdosy 1995:139) stated that:

This shift by Harappan and, perhaps, other Indus Valley cultural mosaic groups, is the only archaeologically documented west-to-east movement of human populations in South Asia before the first half of the first millennium B.C.." This could have been caused by ecological factors, such as the drying up of the Ghaggar-Hakra River and increased aridity in Rajasthan and other places.

The Indus River also began to flow east and floodings occurred.[51] Shaffer contends:

There were no invasions from central or western South Asia. Rather there were several internal cultural adjustments reflecting altered ecological, social and economic conditions affecting northwestern and north-central South Asia.Bryant 2001:192

At Kalibangan (at the Ghaggar river) the remains of what some writers claim to be fire altars have been unearthed that are claimed to have been used for Vedic sacrifices, although the presence of animal bones does not seem consistent with Vedic rites. In addition the remains of a bathing place (suggestive of ceremonial bathing) have been found near the altars in Kalibangan.[52] S.R. Rao found similar "fire altars" in Lothal which he thinks could have served no other purpose than Vedic ritual.[53] The sites in Kalibangan are dated back to pre-Harappan times i.e. 3500 BC, well before any likely date for the Indo-Aryan migrations, so this evidence is taken[by whom?] to suggest that Vedic rites are indigenous to India and not brought in from outside.

Gandhara grave culture

About 1800 BC, there is a major cultural change in the Swat Valley with the emergence of the Gandhara grave culture. With its introduction of new ceramics, new burial rites, and the horse, the Gandhara grave culture is 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.[54]

Physical anthropology

Based on examination of skeletal remains, no evidence of massive migration has been found.[3][4][5] The ancient Harappans were not markedly different from modern populations in Northwestern India and present-day Pakistan. Craniometric data showed similarity with prehistoric peoples of the Iranian plateau and Western Asia,[6] although Mohenjodaro was distinct from the other areas of the Indus Valley.[7] Cephalic measures, however, may not be a good indicator as they do not necessarily indicate ethnicity and they might vary in different environments.[55]

Textual references


The earliest written evidence for an Indo-Aryan language is found not in India, but 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 (Aśvin). Contemporary equestrian terminology, as recorded in a horse-training manual whose author is identified as "Kikkuli the Mitannian," contains Indo-Aryan loanwords. The personal names and gods of the Mitanni aristocracy also bear significant traces of Indo-Aryan. Because of the association of Indo-Aryan with horsemanship and the Mitanni aristocracy, it is presumed that, after superimposing themselves as rulers on a native Hurrian-speaking population about the 15th-16th centuries BC, Indo-Aryan charioteers were absorbed into the local population and adopted the Hurrian language.[56]

However, Brentjes (as cited in Bryant 2001:137) argues that there is not a single cultural element of central Asian, eastern European, or Caucasian origin in the Mitannian area and associates with an Indo-Aryan presence the peacock motif found in the Middle East from before 1600 BC and quite likely from before 2100 BC.

In contrast, most scholars reject 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, leaving migration from the north the only likely scenario.[note 7] The presence of some BMAC loan words in Mitanni, Old Iranian and Vedic further strengthens this scenario.[57]


The Rigveda is by far the most archaic testimony of Vedic Sanskrit. Bryant suggests that the Rigveda represents a pastoral or nomadic, mobile culture,[58] centered on the Indo-Iranian Soma cult and fire worship. The purpose of hymns of the Rigveda is ritualistic, not historiographical or ethnographical, and any information about the way of life or the habitat of their authors is incidental and philologically extrapolated from the context.[note 8] Nevertheless, Rigvedic data must be used, cautiously, as they are the earliest available textual evidence from India.

Views on Rigvedic society (pastoral or urban?)

Fortifications (púr), mostly made of mud and wood (palisades)[59] are mentioned in the Rigveda. púrs sometimes refer to the abode of hostile peoples, but can also suggest settlements of Aryans themselves. Aryan tribes have more often been mentioned to live in víś, a term translated as "settlement, homestead, house, dwelling", but also "community, tribe, troops".[note 9] Indra in particular is described as destroyer of fortifications, e.g. RV 4.30.20ab:

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

This has led some scholars to believe that the civilization of Aryans was not an urban one.

However, the Rigveda is seen by some as containing phrases referring to elements of an urban civilization, other than the mere viewpoint of an invader aiming at sacking the fortresses. For example, in Griffith's translation of the Rigveda, Indra is compared to the lord of a fortification (pūrpati) in RV 1.173.10,[60] while quotations such as a ship with a hundred oars in 1.116.5[61] and metal forts (puras ayasis) in 10.101.8 all occur in mythological contexts only.[62]

There are other views such as, according to Gupta (as quoted in Bryant 2001:190), "ancient civilizations had both the components, the village and the city, and numerically villages were many times more than the cities. (...) if the Vedic literature reflects primarily the village life and not the urban life, it does not at all surprise us.". Gregory Possehl (as cited in Bryant 2001:195) argued that the "extraordinary empty spaces between the Harappan settlement clusters" indicates that pastoralists may have "formed the bulk of the population during Harappan times".

Views on Rigvedic reference to migration

Talageri speculates that some of the tribes that fought against king Sudas and his army on the banks of the Parusni River during the Dasarajna battle have migrated to western countries in later times,[63][need quotation to verify] as they are connected with what he assumes are Iranian peoples (e.g. the Pakthas, Bhalanas).[64]

Just like the Avesta does not mention an external homeland of the Zoroastrians, the Rigveda does not explicitly refer to an external homeland[65] or to a migration.[66] Later texts than the Rigveda (such as the Brahmanas, the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas) are more centered in the Haryana and Ganges region. This shift from the Punjab to the Gangetic plain continues the Rigvedic tendency of eastward expansion.

Rigvedic Rivers and Reference of Samudra

Main article: Sarasvati River
Main article: Samudra

The geography of the Rigveda seems to be centered around the land of the seven rivers. While the geography of the Rigvedic rivers is unclear in some of the early books of the Rigveda, the Nadistuti hymn is an important source for the geography of late Rigvedic society.

The Sarasvati River is 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.[67]

Most scholars agree that at least some of the references to the Sarasvati in the Rigveda refer to the Ghaggar-Hakra River, while the Afghan river Haraxvaiti/Harauvati Helmand is sometimes quoted as the locus of the early Rigvedic river. Whether such a transfer of the name has taken place from the Helmand to the Ghaggar-Hakra is a matter of dispute. Identification of the early Rigvedic Sarasvati with the Ghaggar-Hakra before its assumed drying up early in the second millennium would place the Rigveda BC,[68] well outside the range commonly assumed by Indo-Aryan migration theory.

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. However, most place-names in the Rigveda and the vast majority of the river-names in the north-west of South Asia are Indo-Aryan.[69] Non-Indo-Aryan names are, however, frequent in the Ghaggar and Kabul River areas,[70] the first being a post-Harappan stronghold of Indus populations.

Srauta Sutra of Baudhayana

According to Romila Thapar, the Srauta Sutra of Baudhayana...

... refers to the Parasus and the arattas who stayed behind and others who moved eastwards to the middle Ganges valley and the places equivalent such as the Kasi, the Videhas and the Kuru Pancalas, and so on. In fact, when one looks for them, there are evidence for migration.[71]

Kalpasutra notes that Pururavas had two sons by Urvasi, named Ayus and Amavasu, Ayus went east and Amavasu went west.[71]

Iranian Avesta

The religious practices depicted in the Rgveda and those depicted in the Avesta, the central religious text of Zoroastrianism—the ancient Iranian faith founded by the prophet Zarathustra—have in common the deity Mitra, priests called hotṛ in the Rgveda and zaotar in the Avesta, and the use of a hallucinogenic compound that the Rgveda calls soma and the Avesta haoma. However, the Indo-Aryan deva 'god' is cognate with the Iranian daēva 'demon'. Similarly, the Indo-Aryan asura 'name of a particular group of gods' (later on, 'demon') is cognate with the Iranian ahura 'lord, god,' which 19th and early 20th century authors such as Burrow explained as a reflection of religious rivalry between Indo-Aryans and Iranians.[72]

Most linguists such as Burrow argue that the strong similarity between the Avestan language of the Gāthās—the oldest part of the Avesta—and the Vedic Sanskrit of the Rgveda pushes the dating of Zarathustra or at least the Gathas closer to the conventional Rgveda dating of 1500–1200 BC, i.e. 1100 BC, possibly earlier. Boyce concurs with a lower date of 1100 BC and tentatively proposes an upper date of 1500 BC. Gnoli dates the Gathas to around 1000 BC, as does Mallory (1989), with the caveat of a 400 year leeway on either side, i.e. between 1400 and 600 BC. Therefore the date of the Avesta could also indicate the date of the Rigveda.[73]

There is mention in the Avesta of Airyanəm Vaējah, one of the '16 the lands of the Aryans' as well as Zarathustra himself. Gnoli's interpretation of geographic references in the Avesta situates the Airyanem Vaejah in the Hindu Kush. For similar reasons, Boyce excludes places north of the Syr Darya and western Iranian places. With some reservations, Skjaervo concurs that the evidence of the Avestan texts makes it impossible to avoid the conclusion that they were composed somewhere in northeastern Iran. Witzel points to the central Afghan highlands. Humbach derives Vaējah from cognates of the Vedic root "vij," suggesting the region of fast-flowing rivers. Gnoli considers Choresmia (Xvairizem), the lower Oxus region, south of the Aral Sea to be an outlying area in the Avestan world. However, according to Mallory & Mair (2000), the probable homeland of Avestan is, in fact, the area south of the Aral Sea.[74]

Later Vedic and Hindu texts

Some Indologists have noted that "there is no textual evidence in the early literary traditions unambiguously showing a trace" of an Indo-Aryan migration.[66] Texts like the Puranas and Mahabharata belong to a much 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 (a Vedic ritualist and philosopher) lived in the eastern region of Mithila.[75] 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.[76] In much later texts, Manu was said to be a king from Dravida.[77] In the legend of the flood he stranded with his ship in Northwestern India or the Himalayas.[78] The Vedic lands (e.g. Aryavarta, Brahmavarta) are located in Northern India or at the Sarasvati and Drsadvati River.[79] However, in a post-Vedic text the Mahabharata Udyoga Parva (108), the East is described as the homeland of the Vedic culture, where "the divine Creator of the universe first sang the Vedas."[80] The legends of Ikshvaku, Sumati and other Hindu legends may have their origin in South-East Asia.[81]


The Puranas record that Yayati left Prayag (confluence of the Ganges & Yamuna) and conquered the region of Sapta Sindhu.[82] His five sons Yadu, Druhyu, Puru, Anu and Turvashu correspond to the main tribes of the Rigveda.

The Puranas also record that the Druhyus were driven out of the land of the seven rivers by Mandhatr and that their next king Gandhara settled in a north-western region which became known as Gandhara. The sons of the later Druhyu king Pracetas are supposed by some to have 'migrated' to the region north of Afghanistan though the Puranic texts only speak of an "adjacent" settlement.[83][84]

Concurring views

The notion of Indigenous Aryans posits that speakers of Indo-Aryan languages are "indigenous" to the Indian subcontinent. The "Indigenous Aryans" position may entail an Indian origin of Indo-European languages, and in recent years, the concept has been increasingly conflated with an "Out of India" origin of the Indo-European language family. This contrasts with the model of Indo-Aryan migration which posits that Indo-Aryan tribes migrated to India from Central Asia.[85]

See also




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  • Chakrabarti, D.K. The Early use of Iron In India. Dilip K. Chakrabarti.1992. New Delhi: The Oxford University Press.
  • Chakrabarti, D.K. 1977b. India and West Asia: An Alternative Approach. Man and Environment 1:25-38.
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  • Dhavalikar, M. K. 1995, "Fire Altars or Fire Pits?", in Sri Nagabhinandanam, Ed V Shivananda and M. K. Visweswara, Bangalore.
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  • Lal, B.B., (1984) Frontiers of the Indus Civilization.1984.
  • Lal, B.B., (1998) New Light on the Indus Civilization, Aryan Books, Delhi 1998
  • Lal, B.B. 2005. The Homeland of the Aryans. Evidence of Rigvedic Flora and Fauna & Archaeology, New Delhi, Aryan Books International.
  • Lal, B.B. 2002. The Saraswati Flows on: the Continuity of Indian Culture. New Delhi: Aryan Books International
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  • Pargiter, F.E. [1922] 1979. Ancient Indian Historical Tradition. New Delhi: Cosmo.
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  • S.R. Rao. The Aryans in Indus Civilization.1993
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  • Thapar, Romila. 1966. A History of India: Volume 1 (Paperback). ISBN 0-14-013835-8
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External links

  • The Myth of Aryan Invasion Theory
  • Famous Personalities on Aryan Invasion Theory
  • Witzel, Michael: The Home of the Aryans
  • `What is Aryan Migration Theory ?' by Vishal Agrawal
  • Agarwal, Vishal: Is There Vedic Evidence for the Indo-Aryan Immigration to India? (pdf)
  • Thapar, Romila: The Aryan question revisited (1999)
  • Kazanas, Nicholas homepage Articles by Nicholas Kazanas
  • Book reviews


  • Cache of Seal Impressions Discovered in Western India
  • Central Asia 2000-1000BC (
  • Lal, B.B.: The Homeland of Indo-European Languages and Culture: Some Thoughts By Archaeologist B.B. Lal
  • Michel Danino
  • Agrawal, D.P.: The Indus Civilization = Aryans equation: Is it really a Problem? By D.P. Agrawal (pdf)


  • Genetic Evidence on the origins of Indian Caste Population, Genome Research, 2001
  • A prehistory of Indian Y chromosomes: Evaluating demic diffusion scenarios, PNAS paper, 2006
  • Polarity and Temporality of High-Resolution Y-Chromosome Distributions in India Identify Both Indigenous and Exogenous Expansions and Reveal Minor Genetic Influence of Central Asian Pastoralists, AJHG paper, 2006
  • Peopling of South Asia: investigating the caste-tribe continuum in India

Religious and political aspects

  • A Tribute to Hindusim - compilation
  • Frawley, David: The Myth of the Aryan Invasion

Related Video

  • The Story of India - BBC

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