‘Indian history was distorted by the British’
The Aryan invasion theory was actually part of the British policy of divide and rule, French historian Michel Danino, an expert on ancient Indian history, said on Thursday on the sidelines of the Kolkata Literary Meet.
Danino, who authored books such as The Lost River: On The Trail of Saraswati and Indian Culture and India’s Future, blames the British for distorting Indian history and challenged the Arayan invasion theory, while maintaining that there was no actual Aryan-Dravidian divide.
“No ancient or medieval Indian text would support the Aryan invasion theory. It is genetically proven that Aryans and Dravidians belong to the same race, ”said Danino, who settle in India in 1977 and has since acquired Indian citizenship.
Danino said that early Tamil literature displayed a cultural fusion with north Indian literature. Even the name of the city Maduri was influence from the ancient north Indian heritage city, Mathura, Danino claimed.
“Indians are basically a mixed breed and the mixing started as early as the Stone Age. After the Saraswati river dried up, leading to the collapse of the Indus Valley civilization, people started settling on the banks of the Ganges. This phenomenon that occurred around 2000 BC led to massive mixing up of the populace as a while has to shift its base,” Danino explained.
“The Mahabharata defined ethnic groups as jatis, whereas the British brought in the term tribes to describe the same thing, thus denigrating the homogenous culture of India. Jatis were defined on ecological terms. There is a popular perception that casteism started in India since the Vedas but that is not true. There was no casteism even during the Mahabharata period,” he said.
Danino also rued the fact that Indians are apathetic towards the preservation of their rich culture and heritage. “1170 sites of the ancient Harappan civilization have been identified during its mature phase. But till date only around 100 sites have been excavated. There is a fear that 90% of the sites might disappear due to expansion of urban areas or agricultural land being converted to residential high rises,” Danino said.
He went on to give an example of how the archaeological Survey of India (ASI) could recover only eight kilos of Harappan gold when about 80 kilos of the same was unearthed at Mandi in Uttar Pradesh. Villagers pilfered the rest, depriving India of a useful insight into its rich heritage.
“ASI admitted to a Parliament query that 42 protected sites vanished from Delhi alone. No one noticed as land sharks went to grab the sites and construct high-rises on them,” Danino said.
Historian Sanjeev Sanyal, speaking on the continuity of Indian history claimed that east European and north Indian people share genetic similarities.