Book Reviews :
An Aryan Journey by Harsh Mahan Cairae
The author of the concerned book, titled An Aryan Journey, has made an attempt to trace the lineage of one of the very controversial and most talked about ancient ethnolinguist group widely known as the Aryans. He has referred to a body of literature predominantly of scriptural and religious nature like the Veds and the Avesta. Along with these major texts, the author has also referred to a wide variety of first-hand accounts and commentaries on the aforementioned group. The author has used a multi- and inter-disciplinary approach by using theories and knowledge of disciplines like historical geography, comparative religions, linguistics, archaeology and philosophy. In this work, the author has tried to deal with the following burning questions: Who were the Aryans? Who were the Indo-Aryans? What do our literary traditions actually try to convey to us? Was there actually an invasion by these so-called Aryans that led to the fall of the Indus-Saraswati civilisation? What happened to the people of this civilisation? Where did the dwellers of this civilisation disappear? To begin with, the author has written the book in a very approachable and a lucid manner that can be accessible and comprehensible to a wide range of audience. He has put forward his views in a very systematic and constructive manner, which is informative and the same time gripping for the reader. The entire book is divided into fourteen chapters, which starts from the early days of the Aryans to the spread of the ethno-linguistic group all the way to Europe. The author should be duly credited for the work and using various disciplines to come to conclusions. He has wittily dealt with a number of burning questions as already mentioned and made a valiant attempt of filling the gaps, which for centuries archaeologists and historians have been trying to fill. Considering the enigmatic discoveries of the Harappan culture/civilisation in 1920s and a considerable acquisition of knowledge of the same through in-depth scientific research today, we have come to the conclusion that there was no so-called Aryan invasion in our country. As far as decline of the Harappan civilisation is concerned, the author has rightly noted the climatic factors especially the changing course of major riverine networks, which contributed to its decline. However, the further claims made by the author regarding the reasons adopted to continue rural way of life till the sixth century BCE need to be further evaluated and validated. To give definite and concrete evidence regarding the Aryans and their whereabouts, author has tried to use theories of evolutionary linguistics, particularly, usage of root words and their nomenclatures and using historical geography to trace the movement.of the Aryans and their habitation spots. To name a few instances, the so-called Arjika, from where the Veds or the Vedic
Aryans came to India, has been identified with the present-day Kazakhstan. Similarly, the author has tried to decode the Vedic texts and tried to explain the hidden meanings and symbolisms behind their hymns. For instance, he claims that the Devs and Asuras who keep on fighting in the hymns were actually two sub-groups of the Indo-Aryans who migrated from Arjika in search of new beginnings. He further claims that the Devs were the Vedic populace who followed the Vedic scriptures, while the Asuras were the Zoroastrians who followed the teachings of the Avesta. These conclusions have been reached based on the comparative analyses of both the texts and through cross corroboration of various events that occurred during those times. The author goes on to say that these Aryans amalgamated with the native non-Aryans, which included the Harappans and came up with the varna vargya or commonly known as the chaturvarna system. To go on further ahead, the author takes references from the various Greek, Roman, Chinese and Gothic works to answer wide range of questions like how the land of Sapta Sindhu came to be known as India, after the decline of the first urban settlements how a good number of Harappans migrated to the Mediterranean and established another great civilisation known as the Phoenician civilisation with thriving island towns like Tyre and Sidon. The author finally concludes the book by saying that during the Classical period, the Phoenicians were the same people who were the settlers of the great Greek Republics like Thebes and Boetia and finally the Kingdom of Carthage during the Roman Era. Recent archaeogenetic research carried out on the Harappan skeletal data from the site of Rakhigarhi has shed welcome light on this vexing issue in the Indian history. The DNA results repudiate the fact that the Indus people were successors of steppe pastoralists or ancient Iranian farmers as the DNA match with the aforementioned population was only at a 2.5% similarity. On the contrary it can be deduced that the South Asian ancestry is derived from the native Harappan Gene Pool from 30%–70% similarities. Along with the archaeogenetic research, craniofacial reconstruction of the Rakhigarhi skulls shows that the features of the skulls and the present-day population of Punjab and Haryana show an alarmingly uncanny affinity to each other. For last 10,000 years, there has been continuity in the genetic and cultural aspect; hence, the issue of Aryan invasion or large-scale migration does not arise. In order to resolve such issues, one has to take into consideration all the available sources. The author of the book An Aryan Journey has used all the available sources, and therefore, it is providing different perspective on this issue. The readers will welcome this book as it includes fine blend of textual and material evidence, and they will be further enlightened more on myth and reality associated with the Aryan issue. I wish all the best.
Review by Vasant Shinde Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad Telangana, India.Former Founding Director General National Maritime Heritage Complex, Lothal. Former Vice-Chancellor, Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Deemed University, Pune
(Book review published in the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), Indian Historical Review)