Migration of Aryans | Aryan Migration Theory

Theory of migration of Aryans

Introduction: Historians have  different opinion about the original homeland of the Aryans. According to one theory, the Aryans migrated to India from outside India. They came from other countries and settled in India. According to another theory, the Aryans migrated from India to other countries suggesting that India is the primary and original homeland of the Aryans. Both the theories regarding the migration of Aryans have been discussed below:

 1. Theory of migration of Aryans to India from outside India

A majority of scholars and historians hold the view that the Aryans migrated to India from outside. They have put forward various linguistic, archaeological and literary arguments in support of their claim that the origin of Indo-Aryans was outside of India.

It is believed that their original homeland was the Kirghiz steppe or Southern Russia. What was then the route, of their migration?

Aryan migration from the Balkan Valley to Persia

The Aryan migration was a very long drawn process spreading over many years and there was no previous planning behind this racial movement. From their original homeland one branch of the Aryans migrated to Europe and another branch migrated towards Iran and India. It is not definitely known whether the Aryans first migrated to Persia and then from Persia to Iran.

Eduard Meyer has suggested a central position theory that the Aryans migrated to a central place where from they branched off to Iran and India. Those who suggest that the Balkan was the original home land of the Aryans points out that the Aryans crossed the Dardanelles channel and entered Asia Minor. Crossing the valley of Asia Minor, they entered the Euphrates valley, where from they entered Iran. The Aryans who lived in Iran colonized Bactria and Afghanistan.

Another branch of Aryans entered the Kabul Valley and Punjab

Another branch of the migrating Aryans who did not enter Iran crossed the Hindukush, entered Southern Afghanistan and reached the Kabul valley, Sindhu and Punjab. The Aryan literature like the Rig Veda definitely point out the early familiarity of the Aryans with the region of Punjab and their gradual migration towards the Ganga-Yamuna valley. The rivers like the Sapta Sindhu, the mention of the Himavat Mountain in the Rig Veda testify their early settlement in Punjab and the North-Western India. The river Sarayu of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) is not mentioned in the earlier hymns of the Rig Veda, nor is the Vindhya Mountain mentioned. The geographical knowledge of the early Aryans in India seems to have been confined to the North-Western region and Punjab.

We may again return to the question, as to did the Aryans enter India in a single wave or did they enter through different waves of migration? Hoernle has suggested -that the Aryans entered India mainly in two waves. The first wave of migrating Aryans entered through the Kabul valley to Punjab. The second wave crossed the Gilgit, Chitral route and reached East Punjab and finally colonized the Ganga-Yamuna valley. The first group of migrating Aryans belonged to Rig Vedic culture and the second group represented Brahmanical culture and they ultimately dominated the Brahmarshi Desa or Madhya Desa.

Rapson has opposed the Hoernle theory. He has pointed out that the Indus Delta and the Gangetic plain are divided by a natural barrier. Hence, the Aryans first migrated to the Indus valley and from that base they colonized the Ganga-Yamuna valley over long course of time after crossing the natural barrier. However, archaeologists are inclined to suggest that the Aryans using gray-pottery entered Indian interior in two waves. In the middle of the second millennium B.C. the gray-pottery using Aryans belonging to copper bronze culture entered India. In the early centuries of one millennium B.C. the iron using gray-pottery Aryans entered India. In short they came in two waves.

Aryans penetrated deep inside India

The evidences of the Later Vedic literature shows that in the Later Vedic period the Aryans migrated into the interior parts of India. The river Ganges is mentioned only once in the Rig Veda, but in the Later Vedic literature, the Ganges and the Yamuna are frequently mentioned. The Aryans became familiar with the river Sarayu in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) The mention of Kasi, Videha and Magadha indicate that they migrated as far as Bihar. The Satapatha Brahmana in the Yajur Veda mentions these places.

It is estimated that the Aryan expansion in eastern India took place between 1000 B.C.  and  800 B.C. The Aryans extended their settlements to Eastern India due to lure of iron ore, fertile tracts of land and supply of bronze and copper. The Aryans learnt the use of iron by this time and they cleared the jungles of Eastern India with their iron implements. They also used fire to burn large forests. The story of Khandava Dahana recorded in the Epic is the mention of a tradition of burning primeval forests. The Munda aborigines who lived in North Indian plains were unable to resist the chariot driving, horse riding Aryan warriors who used iron swords, and lances. The Hastinapur excavations have proved that the Aryans used iron implements in the 800 B.C. When the Aryans penetrated in the Gangetic valley they were well up in the use of iron.

Aryanization of Bengal

The Aryans didn’t migrated to Bengal for a long time. The tiger infested forests of Bengal, its heavy rainfall, marshy lands did not attract the Aryans many years. The Aitareya Brahmana has described Bengal or Pundra Desa as a land of non-Aryans. But in the Age of the epics, Bengal was quite Aryanised. The Karatoya river of Bengal was included in the list of pure rivers. The Aryans started expansion towards Deccan and the Vindhyas were no longer unknown to them.

2. The theory of migration of Aryans from India to other countries

Some historians are of opinion that India is the original homeland of the Aryans. They point out that in subsequent period the Aryans migrated from India to other countries. The river hymns of the Rig Veda mentions Ganga, Yamuna at first and then mention the rivers of Punjab, the Indus and the rivers of Afghanistan. The geographical order of the names of the rivers indicates their location from the East to the West. It has been pointed out that the river hymn signifies the migration of the Aryans from the Brahmarshi Desha or the Ganga-Yamuna Doab towards the North-West.

The reasons for migration from India to other countries are not clearly known. They may be interring tribal warfare, dearth of pasturing land. It is suggested that the Tel-El-Amarna and Boghaz-koi inscriptions should be interpolated as the records of such Aryans who left India in search of new homeland. In course of such migration they invoked the names of their gods, Indra, Mitra, and Varuna in the Boghaz-koi inscription.