5.1. A REMARKABLE BOOK
In spite of the mutual deafness of the pro- and anti-invasionist schools, the increasing awareness of a challenge has led prominent scholars groomed in the invasionist view to collect, for the first time in their careers, actual arguments in favour of the Aryan Invasion Theory. As yet this is never in the form of a pointwise rebuttal of an existing anti-invasionist argumentation, a head-on approach so far exclusively adopted by one or two non-invasionists.1 Nonetheless, some recent contributions to the archaeological and physical-anthropological aspects of the controversy pose a fresh challenge to the (by now often over-confident) anti-invasionist school.
An extremely important new synthesis of various types of data is provided by Dr. Bernard Sergent in his book Genesis of India, as yet only available in French.2 The book comes as a sequel to his equally important book, Les Indo-Européens (1995). Sergent is a Ph.D. in Archaeology with additional degrees in Physical Anthropology and in History, a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, and chairman of the French Society for Mythology.
One of Sergent’s objectives is to counter the rising tide of skepticism against the AIT with archaeological and other proofs. In particular, he proposes a precise identification of a particular Harappan-age but non-Harappan culture with the Indo-Aryans poised to invade India: the Bactrian Bronze Age culture of ca. 2000 BC. At the same time, he is quite scornful of AIT critics and neglects to take their arguments apart, which means that he effectively leaves them standing.
Sergent is very skeptical of the Aryan non-invasion theory, and dismisses it in one sentence plus footnote as simply unbelievable and as the effect of nationalistic blindness for the shattering evidence provided by linguistics.3 Nonetheless, it is important to note that, unlike Indian Marxists, he does not show any contempt for Hinduism or for the idea of India. Most people who analyze Indian culture into different contributions by peoples with divergent origins do so with the implicit or explicit message that “there is no such thing as Indian or Hindu culture, there is only a composite of divergent cultures, each of which should break free and destroy the dominant Brahminical system which propagates the false notion of a single all-Indian culture”. Sergent, by contrast, admits that the ethnically different contributions have merged into an admirable synthesis, e.g.: “One of the paradoxes of India is its astonishing linguistic diversity (they speak about five hundred languages there) compared with its cultural unity.”4 Rather than denying the idea of India, he strongly sympathizes with it: though a construct of history, India is a cultural reality. This French invasionist is more an Indian patriot than most Indian invasionists.
full justice to Sergent’s work, I must refer to the original, and I hope
it will soon be translated in English or Hindi. Here, we will only
discuss some of the most original or controversial points.
1S. Talageri: Aryan Invasion Theory, a Reappraisal, passim; and K.D. Sethna: The Problem of Aryan Origins, Aditya Prakashan, Delhi 1992 (1980), which includes a lengthy appendix dissecting Asko Parpola’s archaeological evidence.
2Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, Payot, Paris 1997.
3Bernard Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.370 and p.477 n-485.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.9.