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Unformatted text preview: Vedic Sanskrit, the language of the invaders,
gave this word to later Sanskrit as a
term for “noble” or “free-born” (arya).
The word is found also in old Iranian,
Indus Stamp Seal. Note the familiar humped bull of India
or Persian, texts, and even the term
on this stone stamp seal. © Scala/Art Resource, New York.
Iran is derived from the Old Persian CRAIMC01_001-039hr.qxp 8/12/10 3:57 PM Page 27 Chapter 1 equivalent of arya. It was apparently the original name of
peoples who migrated out of the steppeland between eastern Europe and Central Asia into Europe, Greece, Anatolia,
the Iranian plateau, and India during the second and first
millennia B.C.E. Those who came to India are thus more precisely designated Indo-Aryans, or Vedic Aryans.
In the nineteenth century, Aryan was the term applied to
the widespread language group known more commonly today
as Indo-European. To this widely distributed family belong
Greek, Latin, the Romance and Germanic languages, the
Slavic tongues, and the Indo-Iranian languages, including
Persian and Sanskrit and their derivatives. The Nazis perversely misused “Aryan” to refer to a white “master race.”
Today most scholars use Aryan only to identify the Indo-European speakers who invaded India and the Iranian plateau in
the second millennium B.C.E. and the Indo-Iranian languages.
“Aryanizing” of North India The Vedic Aryans were
seminomadic warriors who reached India in small tribal
groups through the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush.
They were horsemen and cattle herders rather than farmers and city builders. They left their mark not in material
culture, but in the changes that their conquests brought to
the regions they overran: a new language, social organization, techniques of warfare, and religious forms and ideas.
The early Aryans penetrated first into the Punjab and
the Indus valley around 1800–1500 B.C.E., presumably in
search of grazing lands for their livestock. Their horses,
chariots, and copper-bronze weapons likely gave them military superiority over the Indus peoples or their successors.
Rig-Vedic hymns echo these early conflicts. The god Indra,
for example, is hailed as the warrior who smashes the fortifications of enemies (Indus citadels?) and slays the great
serpent who had blocked the rivers (referring to the destruction of the dams that controlled the Indus waters?). The references to human rather than divine warriors in some later
Rig-Vedic hymns may reflect actual historical events. One
late hymn praises the king of the Bharatas, giving us the Indian name for modern India, Bharat, “land of the Bharatas.”
During the Rig-Vedic age (ca. 1700–1000 B.C.E.), the
newcomers settled in the Punjab and beyond, where they
took up agriculture and stockbreeding. How far they penetrated before 1000 B.C.E. is not clear, but their main locus
remained the Punjab and the plains west of the Yamuna River.
Then, between about 1000 and 500 B.C.E., the Late Vedic Age,
these Aryan Indians spread across the plain between th...
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