An old article published in 2007, but quite relevant now in the wake of clinching evidence of 'No –divide' as Aryan and Dravidian
What ails Archaeological Survey of India?
By M.R. Mallya
The people of India were shocked at the untruths the ASI purveyed in the affidavit, "No proof that Rama existed. Ramar Sethu is not man made but a natural formation…" When there were loud protests, the government backed down and sought a revised amendment, which is yet to be issued.
No doubt people's emotions moved the government to change its ways. But the basic issue is that the ASI and the history department under the government are doling out incorrect history which is not in accordance with the truth or with historical methodology that is observed all over the world, except in India.
Ancient history of India, whether in the time of the Rigveda or the Ramayana, had few monuments because the then Aryans were not great builders, unlike the Egyptians and Mesopotamians. The Aryan altars were in the open spaces and there were no temples at that time. Naturally there are no archaeological ruins, but the Rigveda and the Ramayana is true history. This is not only true of India but also of Israel in whose history Noah and Moses figure prominently thought there are no archaeological ruins. The same is true of ancient China and Greece.
History is much more than archaeology. The basic function of archaeology is to tend the ruins and confine their remarks to its interpretation.
The ancient history of the world is based on ancient narrations like the Rigveda and the Ramayana in India, the Bible and the Talmud in Israel and Chinese narrations in China even when they are not supported by archaeology. Nobody calls these narrations 'mythological texts' except in India. This happened mainly because of the early Europeans who had little regard for our traditions and whom our servile historians still copy.
In all ancient narrations of various countries, besides the core happenings, there are occasional exaggerations and mythic episodes. Historians omit them and complete their history and thus are the ancient history of Israel, Greece, China and India compiled. To call our ancient narrations, itihasa (history), 'mythological texts' shows the persistence of obsolete habits by archeologists in India. Let us recall that 2000 years back Kalidasa wrote his epic poem Raghuvamsa on our past history as even then recorded. Let us recall that an Englishman, ICS, and Sanskritist, Pargiter compiled ' the ancient India historical traditions' which included Bharat, Rama etc. and he believed that it is the true history of ancient India.
No doubt the dates of ancient history need to be carefully studied, but we do not realise the importance of tradition, which is deep rooted and persistent in its manifestation. It is that which gives a specific feel of a people with an ingrained ancient culture. As Ananda Coomarswamy said of the Indian peasant, he may be illiterate but he is cultured (due to the imbibed tradition).
The hold of tradition is strong. Here is a book by Alan Machado on the history of the Mangalorean Christians written by a Catholic and describing mainly the lives of the Christians, their sufferings under Tipu Sultan etc. But how does he begin his book? By calling it 'Saraswati's Children', because his people have a longstanding tradition that they, Konkani-speaking migrants, came from the banks to the Saraswati river, now no more. The book pictures the old Saraswati river as now reconstructed.
When in 1860s, Francisco Gomes, wellknown Goan who was in Portugal, was introduced to Lamartine the French poet, he said, "I am an East Indian, I come from the race that produced the Mahabharata and invented the game of chess."
It was tradition that transformed Coomarswamy from an Anglican gentleman to a great Indologist. Similarly, Raimando Pannikkar, born to a Spanish mother and an Indian father, ex-Jesuit, renounced his priesthood and now calls himself a 'Hindu Christian', as tradition and reason assert themselves.
When we visit Prayag the priest there mentions that at the Triveni Sangam, the Ganga, the Yamuna and the Saraswati meet. But where is the Saraswati? we ask. It is underground, he replies. One more myth to swallow, we say. But today it is revealed that sometime in 2000 BC the mighty Saraswati was disturbed due to tectonic reasons and its water was diverted some into the Beas and some into the Yamuna river. The historical river and the Triveni Sangam are factually correct as our tradition maintained.
Tradition is a help in understanding ancient history. One should be cautious in overlooking it unless there are very valid reasons.
Forming of ancient history
About 150 years back in 1857, when the East India Company was ruling, there was practically no ancient history of India as given in the standard texts with the Aryan invasion theory, Indus ruins, the Vedic age etc. (James Mill's version of History of India, 1818, written mainly for Europeans cannot be taken seriously). Among the Europeans none was sure about how early Indian history was. They did not consider Indian history as old as Mesopotamian.
But the Indian people were aware of the deep culture, its epic stories and religious traditions. Folk plays and the theatre conveyed to the people their past history etc. (Surprisingly some of the Greek observers who came with Alexander recorded that Indians even then had a long line of kings ruling in the past.)
Between 1860 and 1930 the framework of our ancient history had been formed by well-meaning Europeans with their views, including philology, epigraphy and archaeology and to some extent genealogy as given in the Puranas.
But this history was not structured on our ancient tradition/narrations like the Vedas and Puranas, the Ramayan and the Mahabharata, or the Jain scriptures or the Sangam literature of the South. The new history was based on assumptions, inferences or guesswork on crucial issues, for example.
Some doubt has been cast on the antiquity mentioned, as there are now better ways of dating by radiocarbon studies, etc. Shri Dhavalikar has also mentioned that archaeologically there have been cases where the oldest skeletons have been dug whose history is supposed to be later than what I have stated about our antiquity.
If Egypt and Mesopotamia and even China can have ancient dates in their history why are India's old narrations questioned? I have no quarrel with so many other dates that have been found, but that does not affect the dates now given subject to marginal variations. Some of the modern dates are not always reliable when we go to old history. I have commented on it in Ancient India, Search for a True Chronology (AISTC) p.p. 198-199. One also has to realise that archaeology by itself does not help in dating in India because Aryan civilization was not known for monumental buildings etc in the early Vedic age. Absence of archaeology is also true of China, Greece, and Israel for the ancient period. That is why the eminent archaeologist Dr. S.R. Rao who wrote the foreword to my book did not object to the ancient dates mentioned there. The first archaeological ruins that are significant which we encounter are the ruins of the Dwarka temple submerged in the sea that Rao discovered, which has been mentioned in AISTC.
Incidentally, even in the present history textbooks there are no archaeological ruins for Chandragupta Maurya and Bindusara in 300 BC. It is only in Asoka's time that the rock engravings come to light.
In short our chronology does not overstate the antiquity of Indian history.
Even if the dates based on nakshatra is disregarded, we still have to base it on the flow of the historical Saraswati river between 8000 and 2000 BC. Our chronology and Rigveda age is again confirmed.
A part from Pargiter A. D. Pusalkar has written on the same subject in History and Culture of the Indian People (HCIP) p.p. 271-336. His dates from Manu to the Mahabharata age is from 3100 BC to 1450 BC which broadly synchronizes with our chronology. But he wrote in 1951 when our history was still dominated by the western/Cambridge historians and his chapter are treated as historical traditions." (Both Pargiter and Pusalkar believed it to be authentic history). Besides the HCIP treats the Aryans, at one place as earlier to 3000 BC and yet they are again treated after the Indus valley civilization as having come to India later. Both these alternatives are allowed in this book, which has significantly not given any chronology at the end of the book. In AISTC we have treated the Puranic age as authentic history occurring earlier to and part of the Indus Saraswati civilization.
Indic civilisation which included Vedic civilization was essentially pluralistic even from the beginning, as I have repeatedly emphasized in AISTC. There were Panis who were traders and from whose colonies coastal India was known as Melakha (called Mlechcha by Vedic Aryans) by the Mesopotamian traders etc. There were Jains, Vratras, and even Naga kings during the Gupta period. Indic civilization composed many tribes with different religions. Our western indologists fail to undrstand and have reduced ancient India to a sort of battleground of Aryan versus others.
In Genetics and the Aryan Debate (Puratatwa. No. 36, 2005-6) by Michel Danino, he assesses these complex issues of geneticists and social scientists. In the end he states, "So the southward gene flow that had been imprinted on our minds for two centuries was wrong, after all the flow was out of, not into India." The Y-chromosomal data (relating to males) consistently suggest a largely South Asian origin for Indian caste communities and therefore argue against any major influx from regions north and west of India, of people associated either with the development of agriculture or the spread of Indo-Aryan language family. This debunks Colin Renfrew's hypothesis that traces Indo-European origins in the beginning of agriculture to Anatolia, imagining Indo-European entering India around 9000 BP.( Before Present) along with agriculture.
After reviewing some of the latest genetic studies, Danino concludes that none of them lend any support to differences between North and South Indians or to any lines of demarcation of castes and tribes. Secondly, India's considerable genetic diversity as verified even for period of 40 to 50,000 years proves, "In simple terms except for Africans, all humans have ancestors in the North West of the Indian peninsula. In particular, one migration started around 50,000 BP towards the Middle East and Western Europe. Indeed nearly all Europeans…can trace their ancestors to only four mt DNA lines which appeared between 10,000 and 50,000 years ago and originated from South Asia."
In short genetically and scientifically Aryan invasion into India is a false idea and the chronology given by textbooks is misleading.
The true chronology is in accordance with tradition, ancient narrations, astronomy and historical geography. The present textbook ancient history is not based on correct data, is contrary to tradition and its inferences are wrong. It needs to be discarded. True history will open up to a rich and suppressed Puranic Age. It will help in interacting history and mythology of India and the West.
It is high time that the authentic history of ancient India is written and popularised through textbooks. We have many Puranic scholars and historians with a sense of integrity and understanding of India's traditions. They could easily write such a book if they are engaged.
(The author can be contacted at 120, Grihalakshmi Colony, 2nd Stage, 3rd Main, Kamalanagar. Bangalore-560 079.)