Relevance of The Aryans
All this suggests that there is a much greater degree of continuity in Indian civilization than previously realized, and further examination of the Indian historical record will demonstrate that the numerous developments in philosophy and culture that have taken place in India cannot be attributed to “Aryan” invaders. In fact, the main significance of the invasion theory lies not in the determination of whether such an invasion took place or not, but rather in how much of a debt Indian civilization might owe to such an invasion.
For instance, prior to the series of Islamic invasions, and long after the “Aryan” period of Indian history, there have been numerous other invasions that had an impact on the subcontinent. Yet it is only the ‘Aryan” invasion that attracts popular and scholarly attention. This is primarily because of the importance ascribed to the “Aryan” invasion by British colonial historians. Before the invention of the “exalted” Aryan (of European origin) by British (and other European and Western) ideologues, few Indians had any conscious memory of an “Aryan” warrior past since later ruling families in India had long since expanded and diversified from what may have been the ruling ‘Aryan” clans of the time of the Mahabharatha or even the Manusmriti. Not only had the “Kshatriya” caste expanded to accommodate several new dans, but many of India’s most illustrious Northern rulers (such as the Nandas, the Mauryas, and the Guptas) were also non-Kshatriyas.
Prior to any supposed “Aryan” invasion, India already had a relatively advanced settled-agriculture-based urban civilization. And within a few centuries after their possible “imported” introduction in India, some of the “Aryan”-identified gods described in the Rig Veda ceased to be worshipped and gradually faded from mainstream Indian consciousness.
Brahmin gotra (clan) names mentioned in the Rig Veda also lost their import and the vast majority of Brahmin gotra (clan) names that came into common use could not have had any “Aryan”-invasion connection. As Kosambi convincingly points out in his Introduction to Indian History, many of India’s Brahmins rose from `Hinduised’ tribes that earlier practiced animism or totem worship, or prayed to various fertility gods and/or goddesses, or revered fertility symbols such as the linga (phallus) or the yoni (vagina).
A majority of these Hinduised tribes retained many elements of their older forms of worship, and several Brahmin gotra (clan) names are derived from non-Aryan clan totems and other tribal associations.
For instance, one of the most popular gods in the Indian pantheon – Shiva – appears to have no connection with any possible ‘Aryan” invasion, and may in fact have its prototype in the fertility god of the Harappans. Similarly, Hanuman, Ganesh, Kali or Durga, or Maharashtra’s Vithoba – none could have any external ‘Aryan” connection, since they don’t even find any mention in the Rig Veda.
Whether in matters of popular religion or in matters of high philosophy, there is the little contribution of note that can be traced directly to a supposed ‘Aryan invasion”.