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Many concepts and ideas had put the world into deep difficulties and persecution of many, and the idea of Aryan as a race ought to come first and foremost among all of them. It is this idea of an Aryan race that went deep into the head of Adolph Hitler, and the Second World War was just the result of this Aryan Idea. It is this Aryan idea that brought millions of Jews to the gas chamber and a miserable death, apart from manifold and untold miseries as well as immense suffering. Hitler believed that Aryan is a race, a superior race, who is born to rule the world, and who had created all world civilisations by their superior intellect. One can see Hitler making further improvements in his idea of the Aryan race by creating a hierarchy of superiority within the Aryan race itself, and making the Nordic Aryans the most superior. We also know that he had gone to the extent of conducting an Aryan Olympics, in his utmost confidence that Aryans would win all the events. But the defeat of his idea of Aryan Superiority in the 1936 Olympics -- when a black sprinter/jumper, Jesse Owens, won four gold medals -- did not defeat his idea of Aryan superiority, and the 'march of the pure race on earth' continued. As a community, it was the Jewish community who paid the maximum price for this Aryan race concept, and to know that all these ideas of race concept is just a big blunder shall indeed make many pull their hair.
Race is essentially an Anthropological concept. What is race, how a race is determined, how one race is different from another one etc. are very scientifically determined by the anthropologists. But the popular idea of race has nothing to do with any scientific understanding; it is just a popular notion, emotionally attached to many people, and that is that. Let us try to enquire into how the notion of Aryan originated at all, tracing its sources and etymology.
The Rg Veda, the sacred text of the Hindus, is undoubtedly one of the most ancient documents. About the period of its origin, there are many opinions, but no one is really sure of the period of the Vedic Hindu days. The first reference of the term 'Arya' is found in the Rg Veda itself, and it has nothing at all do with an idea of race. The terms Arya, (Aryan, etc.) is essentially a Sanskrit term, and it is used as honorific expressions, as the Ancient Indians were using many such connotative concepts. The Rg Veda explicitly uses Aryan as a quality concept, a connotative concept and as an adjective. The Rg Veda says "Praja Arya Jyotiragrah" (Aryans are those who are lead by light and who seek light). Light here means knowledge and culture or civilisation. Aryans are those people who are enlightened, and who seek enlightenment. (Rg Veda, VII:33:7). "Amarakosa" is the most authoritative source of classical Sanskrit words, and Amarakosa is a Lexicon from 500 AD. Amarakosa says that Aryan is "Mahakula-Kulinarya-Sabhya-Sajjana-Sadhana". This means, that Aryan is the one, who had either acquired Aryan Qualities from his ancestors, or through education, etc. "Manu Smriti" is the oldest of Ordinances, and the period of the text is not known. It is the first text translated from Sanskrit to a European language, Dutch. Manu Smriti categorically says who could be termed Arya and who are non-Aryas, or Anaryas. Manu Smriti says how people lose the Aryan Qualities to become Anaryas, by citing example of some people. (Manu Smriti X:43-44). Ramayana is yet another holy book of the Hindus, written by Maharshi Valmiki. Valmiki says that Rama is an Arya, and he also says who could be termed an Aryan and who could be termed Anarya. The Ramayana says "Arya: Sarva-samscariana-sadaiva-priyadarsina" (Arya is one who cares for every one's equality and who is equally dear to every one).
The point is this, the term Aryan is of Sanskrit origin, Indian and Hindu origin, and in any part of India and Hindu world, Aryan is never used to mean race. Aryan had been an honorific concept, and is still used in many Indian languages as the same. For instance, in Telugu Language, instead of writing respected sir, they use only the term Arya while writing letters or addressing. It is also an established fact that the term Aryan had not come into the Sanskrit language from any other language or culture. It had been originally used in Sanskrit from the very beginning itself, as it is still used. Let us therefore, now try to find out how the term Aryan acquires the connotation or meaning of 'race' and from where and when it came to be used to mean 'race', especially in the European languages, albeit it is not used so in India.
The idea of "Parthenogenesis" was a translational mistake in the Septuagint Greek Bible, when they translated the Hebrew term Almah which is equivocal (it means an unmarried woman and can refer to a widow), to Parthano, a univocal term only meaning 'virgin', and the scholars of Bible accept this. Now they know that the notions of 'Immaculate conception' and 'Virgin' birth etc. are the result of a translational mistake. But giving an alien meaning to the term Aryan was no mistake, but on the contrary, deliberate. Researches by L. Paliakov and others show a great deal of interesting information regarding this (Leon Paliakov, The Aryan Myth : A History of Racist Nationalist Leaders in Europe, Basic books, New York, 1974.). 18th Century European Christian Intellectuals wanted to get rid of their Jewish ancestry, as they were totally uncomfortable with their Jewish heritage. But then, they had no redemption from the Genesis and their Jewish ancestry. One must remember that used to be the period when all of Europe detested the Jews, and the Jews were persecuted all over the world except in India. Look at William Shakespeare, calling Shylock 'Shylock the Jew!' And look at the punishment Antonio gives to Shylock towards the end by forcing him to convert to Christianity! Look at Jessica, the daughter of Shylock eloping with a Christian boy in Shakespeare's play! All these are more than sufficient to envisage how the entire Western world looked at the Jews. Naturally, the European Christians somehow wanted to get rid of their Jewish heritage.
That Europe was full of 'Humanist Movements' (Now called as European Renaissance), and the great voyages and discoveries of 16th and 17th century preceded it. They had already learned that there are many advanced and more developed cultures, music, literature, philosophy, and the like in Eastern 'far flung' lands, to say, India. They realised the folly of thinking that Europe is the world, or the centre of the world. They became aware of India and the richness as well as antiquity of Indianness. Jim Shaffer says: "Many Scholars such as Kant and Herder began to draw analogies between the myth and philosophies of ancient India and the west in their attempt to separate Western European Culture from its Judaic heritage, many scholars were convinced that the origin of western culture was to be found in India rather than their ancient Near East" (Shaffer Jim, "Indo Aryan Invasions: Cultural Myth and Archaeological Reality" in John R Lukas, Ed. People of South Asia: The Biological Anthropology of India, Pakistan and Nepal, Penguin Books, New York, 1984. p.80).
Anti Semitism was appealing to them, and they instantly created an Aryan theory, where, for the first time, Aryan gets used as 'Race'. European Christians created a theory that they are descendents of the Aryan race who reached Europe from the Far East, and thus they have nothing to do with the Jews. From then on, for the Europeans, the term Aryan stood for race. This was further complicated by the academics and European linguists. This deliberate lie of Aryan as a race became further vitiated by the European linguists when they found similarity between European and Indian languages. They packed the 'Aryan invasion of Europe' theory into academic language and presented it as the result of scientific researches. Indeed, the origin and spread of Indo-European languages becomes a problem of much historical importance, but this Aryan race theory vitiated it all to much complications, by entangling the problem with the spurious scientific Aryan theory. One ought to unambiguously disentangle these two. As a matter of fact, these are two different problems: the chronology of Vedic India and the spread of Indo European languages. The racist spurious scientific exercise was turned into a scientific theory through a semantic shift of emphasis from race to language.
Later on, this theory got further modified and Europeans and Indo-Aryans were said to be different branches of one stock of people known as Indo Europeans, whose original homeland is somewhere in Central Asia or Europe. It is interesting to note that these people want to place the home land of the 'Aryans' anywhere from Chinese Turkistan to Lithuania, with absolutely no reference to India or the one time flowing river "Saraswati" (Now dried up partially) on whose both banks the Vedic culture flourished. (This is erroneously believed to be Indus valley civilisation by the European historians, and this continued until the finding for the Saraswati River, popularly known as the 'Sarayu' from the time of Ramayana.)
The colonial rulers of India found this theory suitable to their ends. The greatest challenge the British faced in India was Indian pride itself, and through Lord Battington McCauley, the British tried to re-establish an Aryan invasion theory in India. This indeed was just another attempt to intellectually legitimise the colonial domination by the British. Through the Aryan invasion theory of India, they could say that the Vedic culture, Hindu religion, and all Indian civilisation was created by the Aryans who came to India -- they brought the Sanskrit language along with them and created the Indianness. Now the Europeans, the British, can become legitimate descendents of these Aryans, and therefore, they have a right to rule India as a superior race, and not only that, but Indians have no reason to be proud of their heritage, because it doesn't actually belong to the Indians.
One could very well say that Aryan invasion theory was created by the Germans and used by the British. Right from the very beginning, two factors were playing within the Aryan theory, one, the political factor of German nationalism and the other, the colonial interests of the British rule in India. It is impossible to separate these two ingredients in forming the Aryan race theory. From the German part, it began with Max Muller, and on part of the British, it was McCauley. Battington McCauley, who secretly made a plan to extend colonial rule in India. He found the root of Indian pride in Indian heritage, the Hindu heritage, and the Vedic culture. He also found that the language of Sanskrit was confined to Brahmins only, and all others do listen and follow the Brahmins. He wanted to educate Indians in the English language, and at the same time get these Sanskrit texts translated into English in such a manner that anyone reading it ought to throw them away as meaningless or trash. He thought that this shall be the right moment for the Christian missionaries to intervene and get all these Hindus converted into Christianity. Once India becomes a Christian majority, the colonial rule shall go on for a long time and smoothly. He had started English schools in India, and the missionaries were already at hectic work, converting Hindus. Now he wanted a person to do this dirty work of translating Sanskrit texts through mutilation, and he approaches the then Boaden Professor, Wilson. Wilson knew India well, he had spent much time in India translating the Rg Veda, and probably wanted no part in McCauley's game. He refuses, but suggests another name, which was of the young Max Muller, who knew how to read and write Sanskrit. (Max Muller could never speak or understand spoken Sanskrit, and he never visited India or took any Pundit's help in translating Sanskrit texts). Though an ardent German nationalist, Max Muller could take up the job offered to him by McCauley as an ardent Protestant, and also for the handsome money offered. Finally, in December 1854, the then German Ambassador to Britain, Christian Karl Hosia Baron Van Bunsen brought the 31 year old Max Muller to Oxford to see McCauley. And Max Muller started to translate "The Sacred Books of the East". Needless to say, the objectives and intention of Max Muller and McCauley are obvious, and the latter heartily rejoiced in the impending success of his mighty project of Christianising India and extending British rule for a real long time.
But then, fate had things in different ways. Max Muller's Aryan image was rather made in his own image, which better suited the Germans than the British. Germans took the Aryan race theory to their hearts, and even philosophers like Hegel and Kant became drunk in the idea of their race theory. Suddenly, Indian philosophy began to belong to the Germans. And German nationalism became very formidable. The Franco Prussian war of the 1871 saw Germany defeating France, which made Germany the single power in Europe. England is at ease when the power is balanced between France and Germany, and when Germany defeated France, England started becoming very restless. The growth of German nationalism is an immediate result of Max Muller's Aryan race theory, and Max Muller became frightened that his British masters might throw him out. By then Max Muller was fifty years of age, and was comfortably settled in Oxford. This was indeed a tightrope walk for Max Muller, and he had no other to go on other than disowning his Aryan race theory. He had already unleashed the devil, and he had no control on it any more. Imagine, Max Muller, seen as the cause of German nationalism, living in Victorian England!
In utter desperation, Max Muller set out to defend all himself. The very next year, that is in 1872, Max Muller makes a complete U-turn on his Aryan race theory. He goes to the 'Lion's Den' itself to give his new Aryan theory, through a series of lectures at the University of Strasbourg, in which he disclaimed the idea that Aryan is a race. Max Muller says that Aryan is not a race at all, it is simply the name given to linguistic groupings, and there are something called Aryan languages, and any one who speaks an Aryan language could be termed Aryan. And he maintained this position through out his later life, and never said again that Aryan is a race. But then, the devil he had unleashed went beyond all his control and it went on working into newer directions.
Practically no one listened to Max Muller's "amendments". Aryan race theory flourished. The German Philosophers celebrated the idea that they were the creators of world civilisations.
Hitler was simply a product of this drunkenness of Aryan race theory. Through the autobiography of Hitler, Mein Kampf, one can see how strongly he considers the notions of purity of race and the 'greatness' of the Nordic Aryan race. He wanted all others to become extinct from the face of earth itself, to give more room for the Aryans to flourish and create more and more civilisations. The Jews were his immediate victims, who he considers as 'polluting the blood of pure Nordic Aryan race' by intermixing with them. Hitler repeatedly says that Judaism is not a religion, it is race. He would say the same about Hindus also, as both Hindus and Jews do not add people into their fold through religious conversions. Naturally, both religions are confined to their own old folks, and Hitler could easily call them 'races'!
Look at this mistake, this deliberate lie, crafted and created to destroy Hinduism and India turning against the Europeans themselves, primarily against the British who were responsible for its creation. Jews became the unfortunate and innocent victims of this Aryan race theory in Hitler's hands, and suffered to an extent that can not be put into words.
It is indeed very strange a phenomenon in history as well as what is happening around the world. It is always the innocent and the good ones that suffer. Evil and the power of the negative is omnipresent and omnipotent. But then, for those who are spiritual, this is not taken simply as what is apparent. The power of the negative is only for the time being, and in the long run and eventually, the truth always wins. Maybe the Jihadis of today are successful in killing many innocents, and maybe they are apparently successful. But then, they are a very young group of people relatively, especially as compared with the Hindus and the Jews, and these are the two groups of people who have stood the test of time, and came out successfully. Jihadis keep both Hindus and Jews as their prime target, because we did nothing to offend them, and did not attack their lands in our entire history. For whatever reasons one might imagine, this phenomenon still remains unexplained, though it goes on around as a reality for us to face and fight with!
Manu Smriti X, 43-44
Rg Veda VII, 33.7
Shaffer, Jim. Indo Aryan Invasions: 'Cultural Myth and Archaeological Reality' in John R Lucas. Ed. People of South Asia: The Biological Anthropology of India, Pakistan and Nepal. Penguin, New York, 1984.
Paliakov Leon. The Aryan Myth. A History of Racist Nationalist Leaders in Europe. Basic Books, New York, 1974.
McCauley John Battington. The Life and Letters of Lord McCauley, Vol I. Harper, New York, 1976
Muller, Max. The Life and Letter of Right Honourable Friedrich Max Muller, Vol I.
This essay was submitted Nov 3, 2006.
Dr. TS Girishkumar is a Reader in the School of Social Sciences at Mahtama Gandi University, Kerala, India. His areas of expertise are Indian religions, politics and their interactions. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This essay was submitted Nov 3, 2006.
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