By Bhagwan S. Gidwani, to the Book “Return of the Aryans”
(Published by Penguin Books, India – ISBN 0-14-024053-5)
This novel tells the story of the Aryans – of how and why they moved out of their homeland in Bharat Varsha (India) in 5000 BC, their trials and triumphs overseas, and finally their return to India.
I must present this as a work of fiction. But fiction is not falsehood. Nor a dream. Nor guesswork. Ideally it should be seen as a fictionalized alternative history that our mainstream historians have not attempted to write. In order to write the book I have had to rely on the oral history tradition – the songs of the ancients from prehistory which still remain in the traditional memory of the people of Angkor, Sind, Bali, Java, Burma, China, Bhutan, Nepal, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Russia, Lithuania, Germany and India.
The language in these songs of prehistory is archaic, the idiom strange and the images unfamiliar. Yet they carry the imperishable remembrance of the Aryan movement and migration from India; and the message in these songs is clear – that the Aryans originated from India and from nowhere else. It is the substance of these songs that dominates my story.
In order to tell the story of the Aryans, it is necessary to follow the drama of Hinduism back to its roots prior to 8000 BC.
My novel will therefore try to trace, among others :
- The origins of Hinduism, its roots in Sanathana Dharma and its pre-ancient root in Sanathana; and how the country came to be named Bharatot Varsha;
- The origins of Om, Namaste, Swastika, Gayatri Mantra, the sacred thread, marriage customs and soma wines;
- The establishment of the Hindu Parliament; guilds; the development of ships and harbours; legal systems; growth of cities; yoga; calendar; mathematics; astronomy; medicine; surgery; music, dance, drama, art and architecture; moral and spiritual beliefs; the written language; and material advancement;
- The Himalayan and trans-Himalayan expeditions by Hindu explorers to discover the source of the Ganga, Sindhu and Saraswati rivers;
- The founding of the Sindhu, Ganga, Dravidian and tribal civilizations; the rise and fall of Varnash (Benaras; Varanasi), Hari Hara Dwara (Haridwar) and other ancient cities.
While I wish to focus on the story of the Aryans, my hero in this novel is the pre-ancient Hindu. The Aryans of 5000 BC were born, grew up and died as Hindus. They were anchored in the timeless foundation of the Hindu tradition. While some readers may question such an assertion, it is strange to believe that the Aryans arrived on the world stage without precedents and ancestors; the fact is that there is no such thing as a spontaneous generation. History is rooted in continuity and advance and it is inappropriate to present the Aryans as ‘strays’ without their cultural precedents, traditional links and spiritual ancestry of the Hindu.
I cannot say that I found this subject. Rather, the subject found me; and gradually it came to obsess me. The impulse to study the history of the Hindu came to me, first, as I witnessed the anguish of my uncle Dr. Choithram P. Gidwani, and my father, Shamdas P. Gidwani, when the partition of India was announced in 1947. They both had different political faiths, though they lived as a part of the same family under the same roof in Karachi. Both spoke then of the cultural continuity of Bharat Varsha and its age-old political and spiritual frontiers. Both felt that by a succession of acts of surrender, the leaders of India had taken on the responsibility of dividing the country as they saw no other possibility of securing power in their own lifetime. Both felt that the Indian was being exiled from his own land. Both also feared the menace to partitioned India from outside, and a far greater menace from within. The spiritual tradition of the race, they felt, would not be able to protect India from the invader outside and the spoiler within.
I wish to make no judgment on their political views. My novels and I shall always remain apart from politics. However, the main purpose which their continuing conversation served was to invest me with the desire to study the history of the pre-ancient Hindu.
When Dr. Choithram died, he willed everything to me. The ‘everything’ contained books, an old watch and eighty rupees. (In those days, politicians and their families did not acquire many assets and wealth and were judged by the ‘magnitude of their non-possession’. It is only in the era after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination that politics became the most lucrative of all professions in India.) Dr. Choithram also left me a package containing many hastily scribbled songs about the Aryans.
Ever since then, I felt a perpetual restlessness to study the subject. Initially, I contented myself with trying to collect material from various sources. It was some eighteen years ago, after I completed my research for my novel – The sword of Tipu Sultan – that I started on the project of the Aryans in true earnest.
One version of history is that the Aryans originated not from India but from elsewhere. But the historians do no pinpoint any single region as the homeground of the Aryans. At the last count, they must have mentioned twenty-two regions in the west and the north from which the Aryans could possibly have sprung.
The difficulty in picking one single place from the twenty-two is understandable. None of the twenty-two regions showed even the slightest link with the high civilization and classical art and literature of India; and even as the historians came under the spell of the compelling fascination of the Vedas, the spiritual vision of the Upanishads, the philosophic content of the Bhagvadgita and the inspiration of the enduring epics of India, they must have wondered : how could it be that the Aryans came from this or that region, when that region itself showed no evidence of such philosophic development or artistic achievement or spiritual heritage? Especially as all these clearly flowered in India independently and unrelated to any other region, with no parallels or precedents elsewhere.
The main argument thus far, that the Aryans originated from outside, has been that Sanskrit had so much similarity to Greek and Latin and to all the languages now known as Indo-Iranian and Indo-European (including Italic, Germanic, Gothic, Armenian, Tocharian, Celtic, Albanian, Lithuanian and Balto-Slavic). But is it not possible that these western languages were enriched by the Aryans moving out of India to the other regions? And could it not have been Sanskrit that moved out to those countless lands instead of the reverse?
More will be said in my novel about how Sanskrit went out with the Aryans to enrich the language of many regions and was itself enriched by them. The novel will also explain how Tamil, the most ancient of all languages, remained largely unaffected.
The second hypothesis of the current historical view is weaker still. It relies on the divergence of skin colour and the physique of the races in India and, in particular, between the north and the south. My novel hopefully clarifies how the divergence arose.
The link of the pre-ancient Hindu with the Aryans should have been clear by now, given the plethora of clues that exist. In support of my argument I have read every word of the Vedas, Upanishads, epics and other Aryan literature. If the Aryans came from the far north or west, it would be amazing that they who wrote so much on so many subjects, simply forgot to mention their original homeland.
A date of 1500 BC has been ascribed to the Rig Veda but the grounds for this are somewhat flimsy. Certainly, the Rig Veda also includes a few songs of the ancient Hindu of the pre-Aryan period.
It is a perilous undertaking to criticize the mainstream historical view but it cannot be denied that new discoveries and versions of our shared past deserve to exist. And I am not arguing here about a revisionist view of history. As I have made clear earlier I have no political axe to grind. Having said this, let me continue my argument. Initially, it was thought that the entire culture of India had to be refracted through the prism of Aryan life – and that only decadence and darkness existed in the land until the Aryans emerged.
But then, in one of history’s more subtle ironies, came the excavations of Mohenjo daro, Harappa and others. These excavations clearly pointed to a flourishing civilization that existed thousands of years in the past, distinct from all others, independent and deeply rooted in the Indian soil and environment. After these discoveries, there was no longer an attempt to explain the origins of Hindu civilization in terms of immigration from outside.
Faced with this evidence, the histories of the civilization had to admit that the pre-Aryan Indus Valley civilization, with no known beginnings, was highly developed, thoroughly individual, and specifically Indian. But even so, it was maintained that the Aryans did not spring from the indigenous culture of India but were from a different culture and arrived, somehow from somewhere else, at a later stage.
What led to this confusion was the evidence of the Aryan influence in many foreign lands. But, I submit that this was probably because the Aryans emerged from India and returned to their homeland, leaving behind, in various regions, the imprint of their language and cultural, social and spiritual affinities.
Hopefully, this novel will give a mosaic of a long-forgotten past to show that the Aryans did not belong to a different species, culture or race. Their cradle-grounds were the Sindhu, Ganga and Dravidian civilizations; and there is an unbroken continuity – spiritual, social and secular between the pre-ancient civilization of Bharat Varsha and the Aryans of 5000 BC.
We now come to the assertion that the name ‘Hindu’ itself is of recent origin and that it came about as some foreigners had difficulty in pronouncing ‘Sindhu’.
My novel explains how the people of Sanathana Dharma chose to call themselves ‘Hindu’. It was a name that they adopted for themselves of their own accord, and not because some foreigner, somewhere, was unable to pronounce their name correctly.
Similarly, the novel will also explain the origins of the names of Shiva, Rudra, Soma, Bharat Varsha, Burma, Bhutan, Sind, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Tibet, Hindu Kush mountains, Himalayas, Saraswati, Danube and Volga rivers and scores of other names, here and in Europe, West Asia and the Far East, given by or under the inspiration of the pre-ancient Hindu and the Aryans of Bharat Varsha.
Even those who suspected that the Aryans might have originated in India, failed to follow up on their hunch. This lack was probably because it was unthinkable that the Aryans should leave their homes, neither to loot nor to plunder, not for conquest, nor to persecute in the name of dogma, nor to propagate their faith, nor to dethrone and destroy the gods and idols of others.
But what I’m trying to say in this novel is that the Aryans who left Bharat Varsha were not warriors or conquerors, not men of genius or madness; they were not adventurers or soldiers of fortune; and certainly, they were not religious zealots, fanatics or crusaders. These travelers simply had a dream that led them on towards the ‘unreachable goal of finding a land that was pure and free from evil – and it was a road that led everywhere but finally nowhere’ and at last they came to realize that there was no land of pure, except what a man might make of his own efforts.
There is some truth in the assumption that some Aryans came to India from foreign lands. Many Aryans from India married there. They brought their wives and children. But more so, many locals came with them – and kept coming – inspired by the faith and values of the Aryans of Bharat Varsha. These locals came with the returning Aryans in large numbers from Iran, Assyria, Sumeria, Egypt, Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, the Russian lands and Scythia, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece, Germany and even from Bali, Java, Angkor, Malaysia and Singapore.
Intellectually and emotionally, these men and women from foreign lands came to bind themselves together with the Aryans of India in a web of common ideas and reciprocal knowledge, with fellowship of spirit, a communion of minds and a union of hearts. It did not take too long for these visitors to be assimilated in India.
Not all the triumphs of the Aryans in foreign lands must be credited to Indians alone. The help they received from the locals who joined their cause and came to call themselves Aryans was tremendous. In the deep recesses of the past, many who so helped, remain anonymous. My novel gives an account of a few of them though I realize that much more needs to be written about these heroic men and women.
If the reader is looking for a golden age of peace and plenty in the past, this novel will disappoint him.
Our ancients were not all heroes or hermits; they did not walk hand-in-hand with gods and angels. As we closely examine prehistory, we find in it a cast of characters as varied as any around today. There was cowardice and courage; there were hermits and harlots; loyalty and treachery; yogis and tricksters; greatness and crafty stupidity – all existing side by side. Nor were the majority of people immersed in matters of the spirit. Some sang, others danced or told stories; some tried out new herbs and medicines, while still others sought to discover the physical laws of nature and find unity in diversity. Some occupied themselves with chiseling stone, drawing pictures, burnishing gold and weaving rich fabrics. Many dug wells or built reservoirs; some constructed granaries, doc-yards, huts, cottages; others made water-clocks, cloth-looms, boats, carts, chariots and toys; many more toiled in fields and farms, while a few made ships to cross the ocean.
But then, it has always been so – then and now – that those who live by the spirit alone are a mere handful, exalted above the life of their times, while the majority attend to mundane activities. And yet those few succeed in purifying and enlarging the heritage of mankind.
Even some of the rulers then were no less corrupt that those who are in power today; the only difference is that the means available to present-day rulers to manipulate the masses and spread evil are vast, if not unlimited.
The distortion of the caste system had not then entered Hindu society, but even then there was the system of slavery, howsoever benign. Fortunately, the system of slavery lasted only a few short centuries and was abolished both in law and fact in 5000 BC.
As a generalization, however, it can be said that the pre-ancient Hindu had more faith, less superstition, and therefore enjoyed greater laughter and joy in life. The affectionate bonds of the large family nourished him; he did not grow up inwardly torn, largely deprived of love, with his sights shattered and values confused. He did not allow many vague cults to exploit his credulity; nor did he idolize leaders who depended on disunity in the land for their existence.
There was also greater respect, even fear, of the doctrine of karma – the law of deed and consequence and greater preoccupation with achieving moksha (salvation). Judged by today’s standards, the corrupt rulers themselves displayed less greed and greater self-restraint; but then as a wag uncharitably, and even crudely, put it, ‘Mistake him not; his goodness arises not from his heart; he is simply afraid lest he go down the evolutionary ladder and be reborn as a cockroach or diseased and limbless.’
Even so, a reader seeking to discover a pure and golden age in the past may find melancholy fare in this novel. My effort has been to present our past as it was, with all its triumphs, trials, tragedies and terror, and not in a rosy light. In fact, the Aryans considered themselves exiled and moved out of their homeland only because they were disenchanted with the condition there. That they found greater degradation corruption, discord, superstition, anarchy, folly and frustration in every other country is quite a different matter.
Compared to other regions, there is no doubt that the Aryans sprang from a society of stability behind which lay ages of civilized existence and thought. No wonder then that the Aryans, soon after leaving their homeland, had the burning desire to return to the healing power of their roots, hometown and heritage. Yet it would be totally fictional to describe India, then, as a society of purity and perfection.
I have no special goals towards which I would like to lead the reader. I simply want to tell this story (or alternative history) as I believe that everyone must know where he comes from, where his ancestors resided and what his roots were. A civilization is kept alive only when its past values and traditions are recreated in men’s minds, faithfully and thoroughly, without the element of fancy and distortion; and a generation that remains unaware of its roots is truly orphaned. The present silence, blankness, oblivion about our ancient past represents a theft from the future generations as well and the tragedy we face is that the soul of our culture could well wither away. Already, we are moving towards a cultural holocaust in which our children will have much intelligence, power and intellect but no wisdom, virtue, and the exaltation of spirit, and not even the faith to serve as the consolation of their dreams.
We have inherited an ancient culture. It has faced many waves of invasions, among others, from the Greek, Persian, Pathan, Mongol, French, Dutch and the English. Often with savagery they attempted to suppress our culture; yet the flame of hope burnt brightly against the dark background of foreign rule. Our culture endured, though our land has shrunk to less that half its size compared to the past. But then freedom in 1947 did not bring a fulfillment of our dreams. Day by day, the menace grows from within. In the final analysis, the greatest danger lies not outside our borders but inside, and in our soul and spirit.
What often saved us in the past was the awareness of our age-old culture and the need to hold fast to it, while weaving and refining it for the future. What might doom us in the future is the ignorance of our culture, with no roots to cling to. Culture is tradition and tradition is memory. The ancients knew that and that is why Bharat, who led the Sindhu clan, reintroduced Memory songs in 5095 BC, to keep alive the knowledge of the past, lest we run the risk of building our future without foundation or roots of growth.
In this era of vanishing worth and fading memory, historians have a role to play, to rekindle the dying embers of life and light in our society. But where history falters for lack of fact or interpretation, the field is open to the novelist. He who fails to guard his house – be it the scholar or the nation itself – must learn to tolerate an intruder.
Canada July 1994
Bhagwan S. Gidwani