Is Indus Valley Civilization
Dravidian's  or Aryan's?

Different views are expressed in the world of research on Indus Valley Civilization. Some say it is of the Aryans while others opine that it is of the Dravidians.

On the basis of the four Vedas, the theory that the Indus Valley Civilization is of the Aryans was built up. Hence, the analysation of the Vedas throws much light on this line.

If Indus Valley Civilzation is of the Aryans, mother goddess worship that plays an important role in the Indus Valley Civilization should be described in the Vedas. But in the Vedas only minor female deities are mentioned. The Indus Valley deities normally have horns, whereas the deities of the Vedas are not portrayed with horns.1 Sivalinkas which are found in the Indus Valley Civilization is later on degraded in the Vedas.

The Vedas describe the wheels of the Chariots with spokes, but the wheels that are seen on the seals and vehicles of clay in Indus valley do not have wheels with spokes.2

Following analysation of Sir John Marshall on the Indus Valley Civilization here are given some clues.

1. "The picture of Indo-Aryan society portrayed in the Vedas is that of a partly pastoral, partly agricultural people, who have not yet emerged from the village state, who have no knowledge of life in cities or of the complex economic organization which such life implies, and whose houses are nondescript affairs constructed largely of bamboo.

At Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, on the other hand, we have densely populated cities with solid, commodious houses of brick equipped with a adequate sanitation, bathrooms, wells, and other amenities.

2. The metals which the Indo-Aryans used in the time of the Rigveda are gold and copper or bronze; but a little late, in the time of the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda, these metals are supplemented by silver and iron.

Among the Indus people silver is commoner than gold, and utensils and vessels are sometimes made of stone - a relic of the Neolithic Age - as well as of copper and bronze. Of iron there is no vestige.

3. For offensive weapons the Vedic-Aryans have the bow and arrow, spear, dagger, and axe, and for defensive armour the helmet and coat of mail.

The Indus people also have the bow and arrow, spear, dagger and axe, but, like the Mesopotamians and Egyptians, they have the mace as well, sometimes of stone, sometimes of metal; while on the other hand, defensive armour is quite unknown to them - a fact which must have told against them in any contest with mailed and helmeted foes.

4. The Vedic-Aryans are a nation of meat-eaters, who appear to have had a general aversion to fish, since ther is no direct mention of fishing in the Vedas.

With the Indus people fish is a common article of diet, and so, too, are molluscs, turtles, and other aquatic creatures.

5. In the lives of the Vedic-Aryans the horse plays an important part, as it did in the lives of many nations from the northern grasslands.

To the people of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa the horse seems to have been unknown

6. By the Vedic Aryans the cow is prized above all other animals and regarded with special veneration.

Among the Indus people the cow is of no particular account, its place with them being taken by the bull, the popularity of whose cult is attested by the numerous figurines and other representations of this animal.

7. Of the tiger there is no mention in theVedas, and of the elephant but little.

Both these animals are familiar to the Indus people.

8. In the Vedic pantheon the female element is almost wholly subordinate to the male.......

Among the Indus cults...........the female elements appear to be co-equal with, if not to predominate over the male.

As times goes on, doubtless many other salient points of difference will be revealed, but for the moment the above will suffice to demonstrate how wide is the gulf between the Indus and Vedic Civilizations. Now it may, perhaps, be argued that the difference between them is a difference of time only; that the Vedic civilization was either the progenitor or the lineal descendant of the Indus civilization........ Let us assume, in the first place, that the Vedic civilization preceded an led up to the Indus civilization. On this hypothesis the progress from the village to the city state and from the nondescript houses of the Vedic period to the massive brick architecture of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa would find a logical explanation, though we should have to postulate a long interval of time in order to account for the evolution. But what about other cultural features?

If the Vedic culture antedated the Indus, how comes it that iron and defensive armour and the horse, which are characteristic of the former, are unknown to the latter? Or how comes it that the bull replaces the cow as an object of worship in the Indus period, only to be displaced agains by the cow in succeeding ages? Or, again, how comes it that the Indus culture betrays so many survivals of the Neolitihic Age - in the shape of stone implements and vessels - if the coper or bronze and iron culture of the Indo-Aryans intervened between the two? Clearly these considerations put out of court any solution of the problem which postulates an earlier date for the Vedic than for the Indus Civilization. But if it was not earlier, are there any grounds for supposing that it was evolved out of the latter? In other words, could the Indo-Aryans have been the authors of the Indus as well as of the Vedic Civilization?

Here, again, we are faced with a like dilemma. For, though on this assumption we could account for such phenomena as the introduction of iron, of the horse, and of body armour, all of which might have signalized merely a later phase of the same culture, we are wholly at a loss to explain how the Indo-Aryans came to relapse from the city to the village state, or how, having once evolved excellent houses of brick, they afterwards conteneted themselves with inferior sturctures of bamboo; or how, having once worshipped the linga and the Mother Goddess, they ceased to do so in the Vedic Period, but returned to their worship later; or how, having once occupied Sind, they subsequently lost all memory of that country of the Lower Indus".3

Opinions of Asco Parpolo regarding Indus civilization and the review of Mahadevan on Asco Parpolo's view are given as follows.

The Survival of Brahui; a Dravidian language, spoken even today by large numbers of people in Baluchistan and the adjoining areas in Afghanistan and Iran, is an important factor in the identification of the Indus Civilization as Dravidian. Brahui belongs linguistically to the North Dravidian group with several shared innovations with Kurukh and Malto; no dialectal features connect it with the South or Central Dravidian languages. Hence Parpola cocludes that Brahui represents the remnants of the Dravidian language spoken in the area by the descendants of the Harappan population.4

Survival of place-names is generally a good indicator of the linguistic pre-history of a region. Parpola points out several place-names in the north western region like nagara. Palli, Pattana and Kotta with good Dravidian etymologies.5

Parpolo also points out that syntactical analysis of the Indus inscriptions has revealed Dravidian like typological characteristics, especially the attribute preceding the headword.6

It has often been pointed out that the complete absence of the horse among the animals so prominently featured on the Indus seals is good evidence for the non-Aryan character of the Indus Civilization.7

Recently an article titled 'Looking beyond Indus Valley' published in 'The Week' magazine dated July 26, 1998 was written on the basis of the Vedas and trying to prove that it was of the Aryan civilization.

The Vedas, which were nomadic worsip songs were compiled, classified and written in sanskrit as the four Vedas only in the post-Christian era by Veda Vyasa, a Dravidian. History of epigraphy reveals that Sanskrit was not prevalent in the pre-Christian era. Since the Vedas were written by a Dravidian, non-Aryan elements and ideologies occur in the Vedas.

The following statement of Parpolo on the Vedas is to be keenly observed.

"......some Dravidian loan words can be recognized in the Rgveda.......

The number of Dravidian loan words increases dramatically in post-Rgvedic literature. The Rgveda is assumed to contain not only Dravidian loan words but also phonological and syntactic Dravidisms, in particular the development of

1) retroflex phonemes
2) the gerund and
3) the quotative and
4) onomatopoeic constructions,

all of which are absent from the closely related Iranian branch of the Aryan languages.......

We must bear in mind that the Rgveda was largely composed in the plains of the Punjab relatively late and redacted even later. The language as well as the contents of the Yajur Veda reflects an entirely different tradition, which probably evolved in the Punjab and was incorporated in the Veda only during the acculturation that may be assumed to have taken place after the descent of the Rgvedic tradition from the Swat Valley.8

The response given by Dr. Alexander Harris on the above article titled 'Looking beyond Indus Valley' was published in the same (week) magazine  under the title 'Holes in Vedic Valley theory' and it is given as follows.

The focus and motive of the article 'Looking beyond Indus valley' (July 26) seem to be to elevate the Vedas and the people associated with them rather than to edify and bring to light the truth of our past. Archaeologist Ravindra Singh Bisht, described as a Sanskrit scholar calls the Rig Veda "the world's oldest literary record". If what he says is true then how is it that the first epigraphic evidence of Sanskrit occurs only in AD150?

The earliest epigraphic evidence on languages employed in India comes from the inscriptions of Ashka inscribed in third century BC. Asoka took care that his messages were intelligible to all and he used a particular kind of Prakrit. Even more remarkable is the fact, which has been recently discovered, that for those people who at the time lived in Afghanistan his message was given in Greek as well as Aramaic. One of the Greek inscriptions is a translation of the Kalinga Edict, and the Greek of the inscriptions is not inferior in style to classical Greek. In such circumstances neglect of Sanskrit by Asoka, if the language were in use, would be contrary to all his practice. So, the absence of Sanskrit in his inscriptions indicates that it did not exist at that time.

An inscription dating around AD 150 in the Brahmi script attests to the first evidence of classical Sanskrit. It records the repair of a dam originally built by chandragupta Maurya and contains a panegyric in verse, which can be regarded as the first literary composition in classical Sanskrit. It is at Girnar in Kathiawar and was inscribed by Rudradamana, the Saka satrap of Ujjaini, on the same rock on which the Fourteen Rock Edicts of Asoka were also found. It is significant that Rudradamana employed classical Sanskrit in a region where about 400 years before him Asoka had used only Prakrit. This definitely proves that in the second century AD Sanskrit was replacing the dialects. Even so the language did not replace Prakrit anywhere, but it continued to be used in inscriptions for another hundred years or even more. However, from the fifth century AD classical Sanskrit is seen to be the dominant language in the inscriptions.

From the bibliographical evidences we find that the Vedas were written rather late and, thus, the entire correlation in the article lacks credibility. Also, as renowned historian A.L. Basham puts it. "The Harappan religion seem to show many similarities with those elements of Hidnuism which are specially popular in the Dravidian country". He further states, "Some Indian historians have tried to prove that they were the Aryans, the people who composed the Rig Veda, but this is quite impossible."9

Hence, the historical analysation on Indus Valley Civilization implies the historical fact that it is of the Dravidians and this truth is hidden through the ages.

  1. Mr. I. Mahadevan, Indian Express, Madras-5, August 1994.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Sir John Marshall, Mohenjo-daro and the Indus Civilization, Vol.I, Indological Book House, 1973, Pp.109-112.
  4. Dr.Alexander Harris, 'Holes in Vedic Valley Theory', The Week, August 9, 1998
  5. Mr. I. Mahadevan, ‘Review - An Encyclopaedia of the Indus Script’ by Asco Parpola, International Journal of Dravidian linguistics, Vol.xxvi number1, January 1997, P.110

  6. Ibid.

  7. Ibid.

  8. Ibid., P.109.

  9. Asko Parpolo, Deciphering the Indus Scripts, Cambridge University Press, F.P.1994, Pp.168,169.


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Dr. M. Deivanayagam
Dr. D. Devakala

The Revival Movement of Dravidian Religion