|‘There is no evidence to show
that the distinction between
Aryans, Dasas and Dasyus was a racial distinction’
—Dr Babasaheb AmbedkarBy Dr BR AMBEDKAR
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s original works are rarely studied by students of modern Indian history, his theories and worldview still buried from wider exposure and scrutiny... His writings clearly reveal that he totally debunked the Aryan theory of race. Excerpts:
That the theory of the Aryan race set up by Western writers falls to the ground at every point goes without saying. This is somewhat surprising since Western scholarship is usually associated with thorough research and careful analysis. Why has the theory failed? … Anyone who cares to scrutinise the theory will find that it suffers from a double infection. In the first place, the theory is based on nothing but pleasing assumptions and inferences based on such assumptions. In the second place, the theory is a perversion of scientific investigation. It is not allowed to evolve out of facts. On the contrary the theory is preconceived and facts are selected to prove it.
The theory of the Aryan race is just an assumption and no more. It is based on a philological proposition put forth by Dr. Bopp in his epoch–making book called Comparative Grammar, which appeared in 1835. In this book, Dr. Bopp demonstrated that a greater number of languages of Europe and some languages of Asia must be referred to a common ancestral speech. The European languages and Asiatic languages to which Bopp’s proposition applied are called Indo–Germanic. Collectively, they have come to be called the Aryan languages largely because Vedic language refers to the Aryas and is also of the same family as the Indo–Germanic. This assumption is the major premise on which the theory of the Aryan race is based.
From this assumption are drawn two inferences: (1) unity of race, and (2) that race being the Aryan race. The argument is that if the languages have descended from a common ancestral speech then there must have existed a race whose mother tongue it was and since the mother tongue was known as the Aryan tongue the race who spoke it was the Aryan race. The existence of a separate and a distinct Aryan race is thus an inference only. From this inference, is drawn another inference which is that of a common original habitat. It is argued that there could be no community of language unless people had a common habitat permitting close communion. Common original habitat is thus an inference from an inference.
The theory of invasion is an invention. This invention is necessary because of a gratuitous assumption, which underlies the Western theory. The assumption is that the Indo-Germanic people are the purest of the modern representatives of the original Aryan race. Its first home is assumed to have been somewhere in Europe. These assumptions raise a question: How could the Aryan speech have come to India? This question can be answered only by the supposition that the Aryans must have come into India from outside. Hence the necessity for inventing the theory of invasion.
The third assumption is that the Aryans were a superior race. This theory has its origin in the belief that the Aryans are a European race and as a European race it is presumed to be superior to the Asiatic races. Having assumed its superiority, the next logical step one is driven to is to establish the fact of superiority. Knowing that nothing can prove the superiority of the Aryan race better than the invasion and conquest of native races, the Western writers have proceeded to invent the story of the invasion of India by the Aryans and the conquest of native races, and the conquest by them of the Dasas and Dasyus.
The fourth assumption is that the European races were white and had a colour prejudice against the dark races. The Aryans being a European race, it is assumed that it must have had colour prejudice. The theory proceeds to find evidence for colour prejudice in the Aryans who came into India. This it finds in the Chaturvarnya – an institution by the established Indo–Aryans after they came to India and which according to these scholars is based upon Varna which is taken by them to mean colour.
Not one of these assumptions is borne out by facts. Take the premise about the Aryan race. The theory does not take account of the possibility that the Aryan race in the physiological sense is one thing and an Aryan race in philological sense quite different, and that it is perfectly possible that, the Aryan race, if there is one, in the physiological sense may have its habitat in one place and that the Aryan race, in the philological sense, in quite a different place. The theory of the Aryan race is based on the premise of a common language and it is supposed to be common because it has a structural affinity. The assertion that the Aryans came from outside and invaded India is not proved and the premise that the Dasas and Dasyus are aboriginal tribes of India is demonstrably false.
Again, to say that the institution of Chaturvarnya is
a reflection of the innate colour prejudice of the Aryans is really to
assert too much. If colour is the origin of class distinction, there must
be four different colours to account for the different classes, which comprise
Chatur-varnya. Nobody has said what those four colours are and who were
the four coloured races who were welded together in Chaturvarnya. As it
is, the theory starts with only two opposing people, Aryas and Dasas —
one assumed to be white and the other assumed to be dark…
The Aryan race theory is so absurd that it ought to have been dead long ago. But far from being dead, the theory has a considerable hold upon the people. There are two explanations which account for this phenomenon. The first explanation is to be found in the support which the theory receives from Brahmin scholars. This is a very strange phenomenon. As Hindus, they should ordinarily show a dislike for the Aryan theory with its express avowal of the superiority of the European races over the Asiatic races. But the Brahmin scholar has not only no such aversion but he most willingly hails it. The reasons are obvious. The Brahmin believes in the two–nation theory. He claims to be the representative of the Aryan race and he regards the rest of the Hindus as descendants of the non–Aryans. The theory helps him to establish his kinship with the European races and share their arrogance and their superiority. He likes particularly that part of the theory which makes the Aryan an invader and a conqueror of the non–Aryan native races. For it helps him to maintain and justify his overlordship over the non–Brahmins.
The second explanation why the Aryan race theory is not dead is because of the general insistence by European scholars that the word Varna means colour and the acceptance of that view by a majority of the Brahmin scholars. Indeed, this is the mainstay of the Aryan theory. There is no doubt that as long as this interpretation of the Varna continues to be accepted the Aryan theory will continue to live. This part of the Aryan theory is therefore very important and calls for fuller examination. It needs to be examined from three different points of view: (1) Were the European races fair or dark? (2) Were the Indo–Aryans fair? (3) What is the original meaning of the word Varna?
On the question of the colour of the earliest Europeans, Prof. Ripley is quite definite that they were of dark complexion. Prof. Ripley goes on to say: “We are strengthened in this assumption that the earliest Europeans were not only long–headed but also dark complexioned, by various points in our inquiry thus far. We have proved the prehistoric antiquity of the living Cro–Magnon type in Southern France; and we saw that among these peasants, the prevalence of black hair and eyes is very striking. And comparing types in the British Isles we saw that everything tended to show that the brunet populations of Wales, Ireland and Scotland constituted the most primitive stratum of population in Britain… it would seem as if this earliest race in Europe must have been very dark.... It was Mediterranean in its pigmental affinities, and not Scandinavian.’
Turning to the Vedas for any indication whether the Aryans had any colour prejudice, reference may be made to the following passages in the Rig Veda:
In Rig Veda, i. 117.8, there is a reference to Ashvins having brought about the marriage between Shyavya and Rushati. Shyavya is black and Rushati is fair.
In Rig Veda, i. 117.5, there is a prayer addressed to Ashvins for having saved Vandana who is spoken as of golden colour.
In Rig Veda, ii. 3.9, there is a prayer by an Aryan invoking the Devas to bless him with a son with certain virtues but of (pishanga) tawny (reddish brown) complexion.
These instances show that the Vedic Aryans had no colour prejudice. How could they have? The Vedic Aryans were not of one colour. Their complexion varied; some were of copper complexion, some white, and some black. Rama the son of Dasharatha has been described as Shyama, i.e., dark in complexion, so is Krishna the descendant of the Yadus, another Aryan clan. The Rishi Dirghatamas, who is the author of many mantras of the Rig Veda, must have been of dark colour if his name was given to him after his complexion. Kanva is an Aryan rishi of great repute. But according to the description given in the Rig Veda — x. 31.11 — he was of dark colour.
To take up the third and the last point, namely, the meaning of the word Varna. Let us first see in what sense it is used in the Rig Veda. The word Varna is used in the Rig Veda in 22 places. Of these, in about 17 places the word is used in reference to deities such as Ushas, Agni, Soma, etc., and means lustre, features or colour. Being used in connection with deities, it would be unsafe to use them for ascertaining what meaning the word Varna had in the Rig Veda when applied to human beings. There are four and at the most five places in the Rig Veda where the word is used in reference to human beings. They are: i. 104.2; i. 179.6; ii. 12.4; iii. 34.5; ix. 71.2.
Do these references prove that the word Varna is used in the Rig Veda in the sense of colour and complexion? ... The question is: What does the word Varna mean when applied to Dasa? Does it refer to the colour and complexion of the Dasa, or does it indicate that Dasas formed a separate class? ...
The evidence of the Rig Veda is quite inconclusive. In this connection, it will be of great help to know if the word occurs in the literature of the Indo–Iranians and if so, in what sense.
Fortunately, the word Varna does occur in the Zend Avesta. It takes the form of Varana or Varena. It is used specifically in the sense of “Faith, Religious doctrine, Choice of creed or belief.” It is derived from the root Var which means to put faith in, to believe in. One comes across the word Varana or Varena in the Gathas about six times used in the sense of faith, doctrine, creed or belief… This evidence from the Zend Avesta as to the meaning of the word Varna leaves no doubt that it originally meant a class holding to a particular faith and it had nothing to do with colour or complexion.
The conclusions that follow from the examination of the Western theory may now be summarised. They are:
(1) The Vedas do not know any such race as the Aryan race.
(2) There is no evidence in the Vedas of any invasion of India by the Aryan race and its having conquered the Dasas and Dasyus, supposed to be natives of India.
(3) There is no evidence to show that the distinction between Aryans, Dasas and Dasyus was a racial distinction.
(4) The Vedas do not support the contention that the Aryans were different in colour from the Dasas and Dasyus.