April 22, 2019

When did we?



"There is no question in Indian prehistory that has caused more heat and dust than this one: ‘when and how did Indo-European language speakers, who called themselves Aryans, reach the Indian subcontinent?

This is curious because no similar and extreme controversy surrounds questions like ‘when did the first inhabitants reach India?’ or ‘when did Dravidian-language speakers reach India?’ or ‘when did the Mundari, Khasi or Meitei-language speakers reach India?’ It provokes no one’s ire when it is said that the original inhabitants of India came from Africa; that Proto-Dravidian is related to the Elamitic language of Iran’ or that Mundari, Khasi and Meitei speakers came from east Asia. All of this is taken with a shrug because, after all, there is no nation in the world today that has not been shaped by repeated mass migration. Europe has seen its demography upturned at least two times through mass migrations. The Americas saw at least three major migrations that shaped their demography and these were even before the first European set foot there. East Asia has seen at least three major migrations, while central Asia and west Asia have been the sites of so many invasions and migrations that it is difficult to keep count. 

And it is not as if Indians have not ventured out and influenced other regions massively either, especially in the early centuries of the Common Era. All of south-east Asia, from today’s Vietnam and Cambodia to Burma, Thailand and Indonesia, once fell within the ambit of India’s cultural pre-eminence. Even China came under the spell of India for a while. Occasionally this may have involved invasion, but more often it involved the ceaseless efforts of Buddhist missionaries keen to spread their religion, and very often it had to do with merchants out to make a profit and protect and further their interests.Than Buddhism has 488 million adherents around the world, with only a minority of them in India today, is testimony to the impact India made outside of its natural boundaries. 

So what accounts for this special sensitivity to the question about the arrival of Indo-European-language speakers? The answer is simple: it is the unstated but underlying assumption that Indian culture is identical or synonymous with ‘Aryan’, ‘Sanskrit’ or ‘Vedic’ culture. Therefore, to ask when Indo-European languages reached India would be seen to be the same as asking, ‘when did we import our culture?'"

                                                                     ---Early Indians, Tony Joseph



4 comments:

  1. ছোটো মুখে বড় কথা। তবুও টোনি বাবু হয়ত রাহুল সাংকৃত্যায়নের "ভোলগা থেকে গঙ্গা" পড়ে দেখতে উৎসাহী হবেন। ইংরেজিতেও সহজলভ্য বই। তবে ইদানিং ভারতবর্ষে যে "লহু লহর" বইছে, তাতে সেই লহরিরা বইটির ওপর খাপ্পা হবেনই যে কোনো দিন।

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    Replies
    1. boro bhalo boi. Class five e porte amar mastermoshai gift korechhilen boita. aj obdhi songe songe ghurchhey.

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  2. One of the best non-fiction I have read in recent times. I recommend it very highly.

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