Monday, March 7, 2011

Rig Veda: Amalgamation of the Aryans with the natives

A very interesting thing in North India is that almost all the languages and dialects are derived from Sanskrit or Persian, both of which are Indo Iranian languages. Apart from the few pockets of tribal areas, where Austro Asiatic Munda languages are spoken, Indo Iranian languages are spoken almost every where from Afghanistan to Assam. This means that the Indo Iranian languages took over almost all the native languages of which Munda and Burushaski may be just the two known to us. We've seen in Languages of Aryan Trail that Dravidian languages were never native to northern India. So we discount them as being taken over by Indo Iranian languages.

Let's see some of the other cases of language takeover in historical times.

The most recent scenario of immigration of non native elites imposing a foreign language on the subdued natives is the arrival of Europeans in the American continents. The mainly English peoples subjugated the native Americans in what later became USA. Traces of the ancient native languages in USA are now limited only to names of places and rivers like Mississippi and Missouri. English is the dominant language in USA now but the American Indians still speak their native language. Even centuries of subjugation and elite dominance couldn't impose English and Christianity on them. The Bolivian and the Peruvian Indians may be Spanish speaking Christians now, but a large part of them still speak the native Queucha as well. Many native customs and tenets of the Inca religion still survive, often in a Christian garb.

After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 AD the elite dominance of the Norman French peoples influenced heavily and nearly replaced the Anglo Saxon, Welsh and other native languages of England. But in the end nothing happened. Apart from a few family names there are only very few remnants of that conquest and centuries of elite domination by the Normans.

The Russian language was enforced on the erstwhile Soviet Republics of Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan etc.). Now that the USSR has disintegrated the fate of Russian in all these countries is questionable. The Turkish language didn't survive in the Ottoman empire in Balkans. Even the bloody Arab dominance on the Parsis, that led to the coining of the term persecution, couldn't replace the Persian with Arabic. Even centuries of elite dominance by the elite English peoples in India couldn't replace any of the regional languages.

So it's very obvious that an elite dominance very rarely results in a complete language takeover, something that happened in India with the advent of the Indo Aryans peoples. So it's logical to believe that such a feat was achieved not by elite dominance, but through amalgamation and absorption of the native peoples. More than everything they showed better ways of lives to the native peoples. They brought considerable change in their standard of living. They made them prosperous.

Indus valley didn't know the use of plough. They had a primitive way of cultivation by using fertile silt left by periodic flooding of the rivers. Artificial dams and barrages were used to flood the river. This very flooding, which was so essential for farming, might have been one of the causes for the decline of their civilization. Lack of better agriculture is a striking difference from Mesopotamia and Sumer. Indus Valley had no canals as in Mesopotamia. Much less surplus in grains might have been the reason for the lack of internal competition and also external attack. That might have been the reason too for minimal change over 1500 years. The Aryans destroyed the dams and brought greater areas under cultivation. RV mentions Indra destroying Vritra, which means restrainer, obstacle and may refer to the barrage that obstructs the water. Indra is said to have removed rodhas, meaning obstacle but used in RV in context of dams and embankments. The Aryans broke barriers between primitive and conservative tribes which had managed to preserve their archaic religion and tools for long. They introduced better production techniques. Several groups of people separated for ages were brought together. Various skills, which were local secret, became public, thus stimulating more trade and prosperity.

A similar thing would have happened in BMAC around 1900 BC when there was a sudden surge of wealth with the arrival of the Indo Aryans from the northern Arkaim and Sintashta Cultures.

The Aryans never displaced anyone or enslaved entire lots of natives. The Aryans brought in new techniques and knowledge and provided the much needed guidance that led to their prosperity by better harnessing natural resources, producing more and enhancing trade and commerce. This made the Aryans very much acceptable to the natives as their elites.

In most cultures the natives were always enslaved by the intruders. But in case of the Aryans there are multiple instances where the natives were promoted to the ranks of elites. Discussions on Peoples & Conflicts during Rig Vedic times have many such instances. In fact the addition of shudra as the fourth class was to accommodate the natives. It may be still argued that the natives were put in the lowest stratum of the society. But still that's much better than treating them as slaves.

Anyway, coming back to the topic of language takeover it's important to understand that such a thing was possible not through force. Rather it was done through amalgamation and cooperation. It's a very rare instance in the history of mankind that a few elites make such a positive impact on the lives of the natives that they eventually adopt not only the language but also the culture and religion of the former.

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