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MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE OF UKRAINE


Borys Grinchenko Kyiv University
Humanitarian Institute

HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT ARYANS

Pryadko Marina
Group -1-13-4

Kyiv 2015
CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION................................................................................................
PART 1
ARYANS AS PART OF HISTORY...................................................................
1.1. The etymology of term Aryan.......................................................................
1.2. The Aryan problem........................................................................................
1.3.The Aryan migrations.....................................................................................
1.3.1. Original homeland of the Aryans..........................................................
1.3.2. Indo-Aryan migration theories..............................................................
1.4.Indo-Aryan language......................................................................................
PART 2
2. LIFESTYLE OF ARYANS................................................................................
...............................................................................................................................
2.1.Way of life and customs.................................................................................
2.2. Political life.................................................................................................
2.3.Religious phenomena...................................................................................
2.3.1..................................................................Mythical records
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3. CONCLUSION..................................................................................................
4. LIST OF SOURCES...........................................................................................

INTRODUCTION

There is a consensus opinion among many historians that the Aryans were a
heterogeneous group of people who lived in different parts of the ancient world in
the area of central Asia, north western India and parts of Europe. They seemed to
have shared a common ancestry; they parted their ways in matters of language and
religion.
However, there is a divergence of opinion among various scholars as to the
original homeland of Aryans. It is difficult to reconstruct because of numerous
migrations, which were one of the main parts of Aryan`s lifestyle.

PART 1
ARYANS AS PART OF HISTORY
1.1.

The etymology of term Aryan

The term Aryan has had a history filled with controversy. The source of the
English word Aryan comes from the Sanskrit word rya, which is the selfdesignation used by the Vedic Indic people who migrated into the Indian
subcontinent about 1500 BCE. The Sanskrit term has a cognate in the Iranian
word arya. Both the Sanskrit and the Iranian terms descend from a form rya that
was used by the Indo-Iranian tribes to refer to themselves, a tem which is also
connected to the source of the country-name Iran, from a phrase meaning
Kingdom of the Aryans.
The original meaning of the term is unknown and different meanings have
been proposed, the most common being nobleman. In a 1989 article in
Scientific American, Colin Renfrew used the term "Aryan" as a synonym for
"Indo-European". And now it is not only the Indo-Iranian tribal self-designation
but also the self-designation used by the ancestors of all Indo-Europeans, which is
a theory no longer, accepted. The term Indo-Aryan is still commonly used to
describe the Indic half of the Indo-Iranian languages.
Later it was further proposed that the ancestor of the Indo-European people
had their homeland located in northern Europe, implying that Indo-Europeans were
originally of a Nordic racial type.

1.2.

The Aryan problem

The voluminous body of religious texts, the Vedas, is thought to have been
composed by the Aryans. It was believed by traditional historians and

archaeologists that the Indo-Aryans migrated from West Asia into the Indian
Subcontinent in several stages. The Aryans had a common original home, from
where some groups migrated to Europe and others to East. Scholars have found
similarities in languages used in the Rigveda and the Avesta, the oldest Iranian text,
older to the Rigveda, but the debate regarding the original home of the Aryans is no
longer valid. It is because the concept of a common racial identity of the Aryans
has now been proved false. Though historians still believe in a common linguistic
identity and some, on this basis continue to insist upon the theory of Aryan
migration.
The theory has been proved false because there is no archaeological proof to
suggest Aryan migration around 1500 BC that might have destroyed
the Harappan civilization and laid the foundation of a new Indian civilization. The
Aryan invasion is at best a vague concept, related to linguistic similarities between
people. This is despite the fact that the Rigveda repeatedly refers to hostilities and
wars between different groups.

1.3.

The Aryan migrations

Before the time of the Aryan migration into the Indian subcontinent, there was
a highly developed civilization in ancient India known as the Indus Valley
Civilization, which was located in what is Pakistan and northwest India today.
The earliest evidence of religious practices in this area dates back
approximately to 5500 BCE, farming settlements began around 4000 BCE, and
around 3000 BCE there appeared the first signs of urbanization. By 2600 BCE,
dozens of towns and cities had been established and between 2500 and 2000 BCE
the Indus Valley Civilization was at its peak. The evidence suggests that the Indus
Valley Civilization had social conditions comparable to Sumeria and even superior
to the contemporary Babylonians and Egyptians.

By 1500 BCE the Aryans migrated into the Indian subcontinent. Coming from
central Asia, this large group of nomadic cattle herders crossed the Hindu Kush
Mountains and came in contact with the Indus Valley Civilization. This was a large
migration and used to be seen as an invasion, which was believed by some scholars
to be behind the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization; this hypothesis is not
unanimously accepted today.
Today scholars have a different understanding of how things developed.
Exactly the process of decay was already underway in 1800 BCE; some say that
the Saraswati River was drying up, others that the region suffered catastrophic
floods. The consequences of either event would have had a catastrophic effect on
agricultural activity, making the economy no longer sustainable and breaking the
civic order of the cities. The evidence supporting the decline of the Indus River
Civilization is compelling: Writing started to disappear, the connection with
the Near East was interrupted, and some cities were gradually abandoned.
1.3.1. Original homeland of the Aryans
It is generally believed that they were not the original inhabitants of India.
Many theories have been put forward in favor and against the argument. Some
historians say that the original home of Aryans was Central Asia. Others are of the
opinion that their original home was in southern Russia (near the Caspian sea) or in
the south-east Europe (in Austria and Hungary).
German scholar Max-Muller thought that the original home of the Aryans was
somewhere nears the Caspian Sea. From there they had migrated to the European
countries. Two groups of Aryans are said to have come to Persia and India. The
Aryans who had migrated to India are known as the 'Indo-Aryans'. They were the
first people who entered India through the north-western passes.
The common descent of the Aryans is also indicated by the fact that Sanskrit,
the language of the Indo-Aryans, is closely related to many languages of Europe

and some languages of Western Asia. From this it can be concluded that in olden
times the ancestors of these people who spoke similar languages must have once
lived as neighbors.
1.3.2. Indo-Aryan migration theories
There are several Indo-Aryan migration theories, which explain where were
original home of the Aryans:
The northern hypothesis was proposed by Valentyn Danilenko argues that IndoEuropean community was born in the steppe border of Europe and Asia in the XVII millennium BC. E. e. and later spread to Europe and the Caucasus, devided
into three groups. One of them left traces in the form of pit-comb ceramic through
the Dnieper-Donets and the Azov-Dnieper Neolithic archaeological cultures,
ethnicity has shaped the people of Ukraine.
Balkan-Anatolian formulated by Igor Diyakonov explains the Indo-European
ancestral home in the Balkan-Carpathian Basin. Some tribes settled in Ukraine.
Anatolian theory, created by Tamaz Gamkrelidze connects the creation of IndoEuropean ethnic group and culture of Catal-Guyuk in VI-V millennium BC. E. e.
on the border of Caucasus and Upper Mesopotamia.
Central and southern European hypothesis by Borys Hornun defends the idea of
Indo several zones: one of them is connected with the culture of StarchevoKeresh, developed into a cultural of Vinci - Tordosh and Tisza; second - with
Bugo-Dniester, and later with Trypillian.
Out of India theory - hypothesis that the Indo-European language family originated
in the Indian subcontinent and spread of Indo-European territory of the region
through a series of migrations. The Out of India theory came in late XVIII
century to explain the relationship that exists between Sanskrit and European

languages. Friedrich Schlegel supported that theory. Over time, the theory was
rejected by linguists who prefer Kurgan hypothesis. Nevertheless, the theory of
Out of India always had supporters among scientists.
Arctic hypothesis hypothesis that provides the location of the ancestral home of
Indo-European (or Aryan) in northern Eurasia. It was formulated in 1903 by the
famous Indian politician Bal Tilak in his book "Arctic homeland in the Vedas."
The hypothesis is non-academic.
As a result, most of the theories contradict each other, because nowadays it is
impossible to reconstruct the history of the Aryans in details.
1.4.

Indo-Aryan language

The separation of Indo-Aryans proper from Indo-Iranians is commonly dated


in 1800 BCE. The Nuristani languages probably split in such early times, and are
classified as either remote Indo-Aryan dialects or as an independent branch of
Indo-Iranian. By the mid-2nd millennium BCE early Indo-Aryans had
reached Assyria in the west and the northern Punjab in the east (the Rigvedic
tribes).
The spread of Indo-Aryan languages has been connected with the spread of
the chariot in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE. Some scholars trace the
Indo-Aryans to the Andronovo culture (2nd millennium BCE). Other scholars have
argued that the Andronovo culture proper formed too late to be associated with the
Indo-Aryans of India, and that no actual traces of the Andronovo culture (e.g.
warrior burials or timber-frame materials) have been found in India and Southern
countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
PART 2
LIFESTYLE OF ARYANS

2.1.

Way of life and customs

The Aryans were engaged in cattle breeding and horses. A large number of
cows and bulls is the main measure of material well-being and wealth. The horse
and the cow were irreplaceable animals. All other animals were inferior in
importance to cows and horses, and besides these Indo-Iranians bred goats, sheep
and camels. Pig was almost unknown to them. Aryans engaged in agriculture, but it
was their secondary occupation.
The tribes of the Indo-Iranians were sedentary, but every few years they
moved their village to a new location. Aryans did not know about the potter's
wheel, they made pottery by hands and fired it into the special pits or at the stake.
Their ritual dishes were wooden.
Indo-Iranians lived in large houses recessed into the ground, and used homes
on wheels - such as vans or tents.
Indo-Iranians were warlike people, the spoils of war (cattle grazing), the
prisoners - was one of the major sources of their wealth. Wars were fought almost
constantly between them and other nations.
Also, Aryans were experienced collectors of wild honey; it was an essential
element of their diet. The main food was fresh cow's milk and products derived
from it: sour milk and butter, as well as dishes from cereals like porridge and
boiled meat.
They wore leather pants, boots and jackets. It was comfortable to use. Leather
was the main material for household, useful things. As a result, that kind of clothes
became traditional for the mass of the Eurasian nomads.

2.2.

Political life

When Aryans came to India they came in the form of tribes, this tribal system
survived for many centuries. The tribes were organized in patriarchal groups, and
in the early stages the chief of the tribe was merely a tribal leader. As the need for
protection grew, the most capable protector was elected chief, and he gradually
began to assume privileges generally associated with kingship. The rapid
development of monarchies was kept in check, by the two tribal assemblies, the
sabha and the samiti. The sabha was an exclusive council of the tribal elders,
whereas the samiti may have been a general assembly for the entire tribe. Among
tribes which had no elected monarch's these assemblies played the pivotal role.
Soon the status of the king became hereditary. Consequentially the position of
the sabha and the samiti underwent a change; they could act as a check on the king
but king was the final authority.
A rudimentary administrative system was introduced, with the king as the
pivot. The tribal kingdom (rashtra) contained tribes (jana), tribal units (vish), and
villages (grama). The nucleus was the family (kula), with the elsdest male member
as its head (kulapa). The king was assisted by a court of the elders of the tribe and
by the village headmen. Even closer to him were two officers: the purohita or chief
priest, who combined the function of priest, astrologer, and adviser; and the senani
or military commander. Spies and messengers completed his entourage. Later
sources mention a more elaborate group surrounding the king: the charioteer, the
treasure, the steward, and the super-intended of dicing.

2.3.

Religious phenomena

There is information on the religion of the Aryans in the Vedas. The Rig Veda
is believed to be the oldest; and is the source of the religion of the early Vedic
period. Aryans seem to have believed in monotheism. Some of the hymns express

the idea that God is one, but he is called by many names. The following hymn
from Rig Veda illustrates the vedic monotheism.
The early Aryans worshipped phenomena of nature in the form of nature
gods. These forces of nature were worshipped as male or female gods.
Indra was the Aryan superman, the god of strength, foremost in battle, always
ready to smite dragons and demons and to destroy cities. He was the God of
thunder, the rainmaker, and the victor over the forces which the Aryans could not
vanquish.
Agni the God of fire, received many beautiful tributes; he dominated the domestic
fireplace, and marriages were solemnized in the presence of fire, as they are to this
day in Hindu rites. Fire was the purest of the five elements and was held in high
esteem.
Surya (Sun), Savitri a solar deity to whom the famous Gayatri mantra is dedicated.
Varuna was the god of water. He was the sustainer of plant and animal life. It was
his responsibility to uphold the natural order.
Soma (god of intoxicating juice soma).
Yama, the god of death, had a prominent place.
Vayu , the god of winds.
Prithvi was the goddess of Earth. and Usha, the goddess of Dawn.
A characteristic feature of the Vedic religion is that male deities like Varuna,
Surya and Agni were given prominence and goddesses like Prithvi and Usha
occupied a subordinate position.

Although a large number of gods are referred to in the Vedas, yet the Vedic
religion cannot be considered as polytheistic (having belief in more than one god).
All these gods represent various phenomena of nature and were the manifestations
of one Supreme God who is the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the universe.
They called Him Ishwar, Brahma or Vishnu.
The gods were engaged in the conflict between good and evil and ultimately
suppressed the evil.
Ritualism In the later part of the Vedic period the powerful priestly class
emerged and they transformed the simple Vedic religion into a complicated ritual
religion filled with superstitions. The emphasis was placed more on rituals than on
religious chanting of the sacred hymns of the Vedas. Complicated mantras were
composed to make the sacrifices more effective. On account of this, Brahmins
emerged as an important class in the society. Besides, the complicated rituals
resulted in growth of superstitions.
A small error during the yajnas was said to bring the wrath of the gods on the
person for whom the sacrifice was offered. Gradually the performance of sacrifices
became costly and beyond the reach of an average man. This brought in discontent
among the masses which gave rise to various religious reformers like Bhagwan
Mahavira and Gautam Buddha, in the sixth century B.C.
New Gods The nature gods like Indra and varuna of the early Vedic period
lost their importance in the later Vedic times. In their place, Brahma, Vishnu and
Shiva became prominent. Brahma was the creator of life. Ram and Krishna were
believed to be the incarnations of Vishnu. Shiva was considered to be the destroyer
of the universe.
During the later Vedic period, Ganesh too was worshipped. Besides, the
female energy as represented by Shakti, Durga, Kali and Parvati came into
prominence. The division of society into four varnas (classes) had its origin in the

Rig Vedic period. Members of the priestly class were called Brahmins; those of the
warrior class, kshatriyas; agriculturists and traders, vaishyas; and the menials,
sudras. It is said that the caste system in the Rig Vedic times was based on
occupations of the people and not on birth.
Varna in Sanskrit means color and the caste system was probably used to
distinguish the fair colored Aryans from the darl colored natives. The people of
higher castes (Brahmins, Khatriyas, and Vishyas) were Aryans. The dark skinned
natives were the sudras, the lowest class in society, whose duty was to serve the
higher classes.
In the beginning, the class system was not rigid. But in the later Vedic period
it became rigid when the Brahmins and the kshatriyas became powerful and the
vaishyas were made to pay tributes. The sudras became miserable and began to be
treated as untouchables.
2.3.1. Mythical records
Linguistic studies have shown that as the Aryans migrated into the Indian
subcontinent, the Aryan language gained ascendency over the local languages.
They also gradually adopted an agricultural lifestyle which was widely established
by around 1000 BCE.
Despite the fact that there are no historical records of these periods, it is a
mythical record in the form of religious literature known as The Vedas, one of the
most important religious books in Indian history. Stories about military conflicts
and other hostilities are recorded in the Vedas, but the historical reliability of this
episode is uncertain.
CONCLUSION
The main characteristics of the social system of Aryans were: numerous
migration; strengthening trade relations; establishment of private property; gradual

property differentiation of society; territorial displacement of tribal communities;


allocation hierarchically structured military elite, the formation of a military and
political associations and unions.
They introduced an advanced civilization in the Indian subcontinent and
developed political system of life.
Over time Aryans created a rich tapestry of social, religious and cultural
diversity that is peculiarly and uniquely for all the world.

LIST OF SOURCES

1. Aryan [electronic resource]. - Access:


http://www.ancient.eu/Aryan/
2. Aryan race [electronic resource]. - Access: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryan_race
3. Indo-Aryan people [electronic resource]. - Access:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Aryan_peoples#Earliest_migrations
4. The origin and history of the Aryans of the Ancient India [electronic resource]. Access: http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/concepts/aryan.asp
5. The Coming of Aryans [electronic resource]. - Access:
http://indiansaga.com/history/aryans.html
6. [electronic resource]. - Access: http://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/

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