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The origin of modern Indians has long been a heated debate – the answer to which could even create political waves. So, who are the Indians, and where do they come from?

Why is this question important?

Hindu right wingers believe that Aryans were a nomadic tribe who were the source of Hinduism and indigenous to India. They created the Vedas and spread across Asia and Europe. The Harappan civilization which is seen as one of the most sophisticated early human settlements are claimed to be Aryan civilisations – therefore, inferring early superiority of the Indian/ Hindu race. The claim that they were migrants from out of India would break this perception, proving that Vedic culture is not inherently Indian. 

What does recent research suggest?

Many facts that we took for granted to be true have been proved wrong as science advances. Earlier historians, archeologists and anthropologists would argue amongst themselves but due to the recently acquired ability to track genetic information from ancient fossils has helped bring us scientific proven answers. For example, we did not know who the people of the Harappan Civilization or where their descendants had gone, but now we do. Six years ago, we did not know how much of our ancestry we owed to the original Out of Africa migrants who reached India about 65,000 years ago, but now we do. Six years ago, we did not know when the caste system began, but now we can zero in on the period with a fair degree of genetic accuracy. But what does it say about the origin of Indians?

Passage to India

A study led by geneticist David Reich and co-authored by 92 other scholars, claimed that there were 2 major migrations to Indian subcontinent in the last 10000 years. The first one was from Zagros, Iran, which mainly contained herders. They mixed with local descendants, who were directly related to the original African ancestors of all mankind. 

The Second Coming

The second set of immigrants, who would later be called the Aryans, were from the Eurasian Steppe – what is now called Kazakhstan. They brought with them an early version of Sanskrit and new cultural practices that would form the basis of early Vedic culture. 

What this means for the Aryan Question

The claim of the Hindu right wing was broken as a result of Dr. Reich’s research – and the backlash was instant. A former Harvard University professor and current MP from ruling BJP party in Haryana called it ‘damned lies’. The Hindu right wing emphasises on racial purity and frowns upon ‘mixing’ with other ethnicities as a reason to conserve ‘the original Indian race’. However, these findings prove that India’s origins are as complicated and colourful as the nation itself, with an exciting future of discovery and unity. 

Find out more in the Question of the Day, ‘Did Aryans Migrate to India?’, the answer to which will be available for free on 7th July!

 

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