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Michigan-Lausanne Seminar abstracts / Madhav Deshpande

From Fri Nov 1 10:40:20 1996
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1996 23:03:42 GMT
From: Madhav Deshpande <>
To: Members of the list <>
Subject: note on the abstracts

Dear Indologists,

Here I wish to post a Note in relation to the abstracts of the papers presented at the recent Michigan-Lausanne International Seminar on the theme of "Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia: Evidence, Interpretation, and Ideology". The reservations included in my Note are necessary in order to make a proper use of these abstracts and avoid their misuse.

All the best,
Madhav Deshpande


The abstracts represent pre-seminar statements. The actual presentations at the seminar were indeed often more complex, extensive, and often significantly differed from the abstracts. Similarly, the presentations were followed by very intensive open discussions of individual papers and of general issues raised. The final papers, revised in view of the extensive discussions at the seminar, will appear in the 1998 volume of the Swiss journal Etudes Asiatiques/ Asiatische Studien. The abstracts should not be taken to represent the final views of any given author and should not be cited as statements of claims by any of the authors.

Madhav Deshpande
Organizer of the Michigan-Lausanne Seminar

For any further questions in relation to the seminar, please contact me personally at []

Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1996 14:02:28 -0500 (EST)
From: Madhav Deshpande
Subject: Re: Aryan-non-Aryan Conference Program
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

Dear Indology Members,
In response to recent queries about the Michigan-Lausanne International Seminar, I am posting the abstracts of papers presented at this seminar.
Madhav Deshpande


October 25-27, 1996 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Coordinated by: Johannes Bronkhorst (University of Lausanne)
Madhav Deshpande (University of Michigan)
Thomas Trautmann (University of Michigan)

Titles and Abstracts of Papers (in alphabetical order)


Nicholas Allen (Oxford University, UK)

The study of Sanskrit as one branch of the Indo-European language family is far better established than the study of the Hindu tradition as one branch of Indo-European culture, but the second undertaking, already envisaged by Sir William Jones, has remained an obvious intellectual challenge. Any contemporary response to the challenge must refer to the work of Dumezil, which the author has elsewhere tried to emend and elaborate (and thereby defend), by exploring the idea of a fourth function.

But what political dimensions are there to such an undertaking? On the one hand questions can be raised about the presuppositions and motivations of Dumezil and of those who continue his work. On the other, one wonders how the results of the work will be perceived outside academia (if and when they make the transition). Two possibilities are discussed. Nationalist sentiment might be offended by any claim that what has previously been thought of as 'Indian' has its roots outside India before the immigration of the Aryans; and whereas right-wing parties might welcome evidence for the importance of the Sanskritic tradition, speakers of non-IE languages might feel that their contribution to the development of Hinduism was being slighted. What precautions, if any, should be taken by the comparativist?


Johannes Bronkhorst (University of Lausanne)

The question I wish to address in this paper is the following. Does the opposition which the early Indian tradition itself introduce by distinguishing Aryans from non-Aryans help us to understand later developments of Indian culture? Put more generally: Do we have to assume any kind of opposition in order to understand some of the later developments, whether or not the parties concerned referred to themselves as Aryans? I will limit the discussion of this question to a few examples, representing the views of some chosen scholars.


Edwin Bryant (Columbia University, New York)

There has been considerable and increasing controversy, of late, about the origins of the Indo-Aryan speakers. A significant body of scholarship has developed, in India, which can be termed the 'Indigenous Aryan' school, which claims that the Indo-Aryans were autochthonous to thesubcontinent and not invaders or immigrants as is generally held. This group, which consists predominantly of philologists, historians and archaeologists, draws particular attention to the impossibility of definitively identifying Aryan speakers with any intrusive element in the archaeological record.

The external origin of the Aryans, however, was a theory predicated on linguistic evidence. Irrespective of the status of the archaeological debate surrounding the Aryan presence on the subcontinent, most detractors of the Indigenous Aryan school ultimately refer to the linguistic evidence as conclusive in this regard. The Indigenous Aryan school has not critiqued the linguistic dimension of this problem with the same gusto with which it has reconsidered the archaeological and philological evidence.

This paper, which is based on a section of my dissertation examining the whole Aryan 'invasion' debate from the perspective of the Indigenous Aryan school, examines the most compelling feature of the linguistic evidence, namely, that of a non-Indo-Aryan linguistic substratum in Sanskrit texts. I will first outline the major strands of scholarship that have dealt with this area. In assessing them as a group, I will be forced to conclude that they are not internally consistent, since the opinions of the principal linguists in this area have differed quite considerably. This problematizes the value of this method as a significant determinant in the Indo-Aryan debate and raises the question as to whether the position being advanced by the Indigenous Aryan school survives this particular linguistic challenge intact.


Sarah Lee Caldwell (University of Michigan)

Abstract: ???


Madhav M. Deshpande (University of Michigan)

The discussion of the terms Arya and non-Arya is normally dominated on the one hand by the discussions in linguistics and archaeology, and, now more increasingly in the context of politics of knowledge as reflected in colonial and post-colonial histories of South Asia. However, there is a middle period which is dominated by the discourses of the Hindu Dharmashastras and epics on the one hand and the contesting traditions of Buddhism and Jainism, where these terms played an equally significant role. When we deal with the vast literature covered by these traditions, we certainly need to move away both from the archaeological and linguistic studies of South Asian prehistory, which was too remote and unknown to the classical authors in these traditions, and from the politics of knowledge as reflected in the colonial and post-colonial developments which have yet to come into being in a distant future. However, in the period we are concerned with, the religious traditions are indeed not without their own politics of knowledge, and indeed they have their own conceptions of linguistic, ethnic, moral and spiritual purity and superiority. In this paper, I shall study the use of these terms in these traditions in the context of the underlying politics between these traditions.


Luis O. Gomez (University of Michigan)

In this paper I consider some Chinese translations and explanations of Buddhist uses of the term "a-rya." The sources are primarily sutras, commentaries and glossaries in which we find the Buddhist terms "a-rya=s'ra-vaka," "a-rya=satya," and "" I discuss the ways in which the Chinese translators on the one hand continued the task of "spiritualizing" and emptying the terms of their social connotations, and on the other, found new parallels between spiritual status and social prestige and power.


Hans Henrich Hock (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Since at least the time of Zimmer (1879), the conflict between arya and dasa/dasyu portrayed in the earliest Vedic texts has tended to be interpreted tantamount to conflict between two racially distinct groups, whose differences are characterized especially in terms of white/light vs. black/dark skin color. (See for instance Macdonnell & Keith 1912: s.vv. d7asa and var na; Chatterji 1960: 7 (with the qualification that the Indo-Europeans were of 'unknown racial characteristic (though it is not unlikely that they were Nordic originally [!])') and 32; Elizarenkova 1995: 36; Gonda 1975: 129; Hale 1986: 147 (see also 154); Kuiper 1991: 17 (vs. ibid. 3-4); Kulke & Rothermund 1986: 35; Mansion 1931: 6; Rau 1957: 16; Parpola 1988: 104-106, 120-121, 125. This racial interpretation of the Vedic textual evidence overlaps, and in many cases closely agrees with, an interpretation of the conflict between arya and dasa as comparable that between the British and India in (early) modern times. The aryas are seen as conquering invaders who subjugate the indigenous popula tion (often identified as Dravidian) who, in turn, subvert the language of the conquerors in a way similar to the Indianization of English. It has further been assumed that the conflict between colonialist/imperialist aryas and the indigenous dasas is responsible for the Indian caste system, especially (but not exclusively) the establishment of the shudra caste as the social group appropriate for subjugated and unassimilated dasas.

It is the purpose of this paper to question the "orthodox" position (or positions) just outlined, in terms both of a reexamination of textual evidence and linguistic evidence and of a reconsideration of the basic assumptions made about the arya/dasa contact specifically and the nature of such contacts in prehistoric contexts in general.

As I show in Hock 1996, the textual evidence for interpreting words meaning 'dark, black' and 'light, white' as referring to skin color is quite uncertain. At least equally possible is an "ideolog ical" interpretation of the terms somewhat along the lines of the black hats of the 'good guys' and the white hats of the 'bad guys' in Western movies. In fact, such an interpretation provides a plausible explana tion of why a word originally meaning 'light' came to designate the world, loka, if we assume that it first meant the 'light world' of the aryas. Moreover, there is good reason for believing that such notions as "race", defined in terms of skin color, are an invention of (early) modern European colonial ism and imperialism (see e.g. Appiah 1987) and thus are inappropriate for the prehistoric arya/dasa contact.

Hock 1996 presents similar arguments against identifying prehistoric conflicts between different ethnic groups with modern colonialist/indigenous conflicts: ' both "civilized" empires (such as the Roman one) and "barbarian" ones (such as that of the Huns) were truly multiethnic, multilin gual, and mul ticultural. War-time alliances might pit members of the same linguistic and ethnic group against each other (such as the Germanic allies of the Huns and of the Romans).' This view is supported by such evidence as the fact that the Rig-Vedic 'battle of the ten kings' arrays aryas and dasas on both sides of the fight. Further support that the contact situation was less one-sided than commonly assumed is found in the thesis of Hock MS that early Dravidian and Indo-Aryan, and to a lesser degree even Iranian, participated in convergent changes that presuppose a situation of stable bi- or multilingualism.

Time permitting, I also adress the issue of caste. While specifics of the Indian caste system no doubt reflect an uneven relationship in terms of power (see especially the 'outer groups' of the Sunahsepa story in the Aitereya-Brahmana), the antecedents of the system can be traced to Indo-Iranian, even Indo-European origins. The Dumezilian tripartite "ideology" of the Indo-Europeans at best reflects the stratification of the "in-group"; there is ample evidence for at least two "out-groups" that play an im portant, even if socially marginal, role in society artisans (see the fourth caste of Avestan) and slaves/prisoners of war. What appears to be specifically Indian is the explicit consolidation of these two out-groups into the fourth, shudra, caste but it is not at all clear that this consolidation must be attributed to a special relationship between aryas and dasa, different from the relationship between, say, early Iranian "in-group" and "out-group" strata.


Asko Parpola (University of Helsinki)

At the Fourth World Sanskrit Conference held in Weimar in 1979 I presented a paper on this very same theme, and a one-page abstract was published in the proceedings. A more extended outline of the argument was included in a paper that came out four years later with the title "The pre-Vedic Indian background of the Zrauta rituals" (pp. 41-75 in: Frits Staal ed., Agni: The Vedic ritual of the fire altar, vol. II, Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1983). I am returning to this subject for three reasons. Firstly, the documentation of those earlier outlines is defective; secondly, my contentions have escaped the notice of scholars writing on kiMpuruSa / kinnara (cf. M. Mayrhofter, Etymologisches Woerterbuch des Altindoarischen I, Heidelberg 1992, p. 348; and A. Wayman's paper on kinnara read at the meeting of the AOS in 1994); and thirdly, some striking new material pertinent to this topic has come to light in the meantime. I have also continued my work on the prehistory of early Indian religions, which I find necessary for understanding the mixture of early Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, as represented by these words.

The structure of the paper is as follows: 1. The meaning of kiMpuruSa and kinnara in classical Sanskrit, Prakrit and Neo-Indo-Aryan. 2. The meaning of kiMpuruSa in Vedic texts. 3. The ritual context of Vedic kiMpuruSa and its Proto-Aryan background. 4. Etymology of kiMpuruSa and kinnara: Proto-Dravidian *kinnaram and its occurrence in the Near East (Semitic *kinnAru) since the last quarter of the third millennium BC --- if accepted, this is by far the earliest attestation of any Dravidian word. 5. Hypotheses concerning the contexts of *kinnaram in the Harappan / Dravidian religion.


Shereen Ratnagar (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

This paper will investigate the ways in which archaeological data have been used to support interregional migration and the presence of Aryan speakers in Central Asia, Iran and northwestern India-Pakistan. What are the categories of evidence used, and how does this vary? What about the rest of material culture residues? Considering the nature of that entity we call 'culture' in archaeology, is the conceptual leap from artefact-distributions to migration-of-a-group-speaking-a-particular-language justified?


Jim G. Shaffer (Case Western University, Cleveland)

South Asian archaeology remains significantly influenced by interpretations proposed by prominent European scholars (e.g., Marshall and Wheeler) that developed this area's archaeological record into one of international importance during the first half of the twentieth century. However, seldom is it recognized that these scholarly interpretations significantly reflect eighteenth and nineteenth century European perceptions of history, language, ethnicity, and what is today referred to as orientalism. These interpretations continue to influence our understanding of South Asian cultural history including recent archaeological discoveries. This historical background will be critically examined here as well as how recent developments in the archaeological record argue for a fundamental restructuring of the region's cultural history prior to the Early Historic Period.


Pashaura Singh (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

This paper will address the issue of how the ancient Vedic term "Arya" was employed successfully by a late nineteenth-century movement, the Arya-Samaj, and how it underwent a radical change in its meaning and application in a new historical context. Although the Arya-Samaj claimed to restore the pristine ancient glory of Vedic religion following the Orientalist perspective, it was in fact involved in the process of redefining Hinduism in the colonial context. In that process, the Arya-Samaj had to meet the challenges offered by the other competing religious organizations. We will try to assess the role of this movement in presenting a model of unified and monolithic Arya Dharam in contrast to the prevalent diversity of the Hindu tradition. We will also examine the role of the terms, Arya and Non-Arya, in the growth of the politics of religious nationalism in South Asia, particularly in India, as a result of the legacy of the Arya-Samaj movement.


F. C. Southworth (University of Pennsylvania)

In their book _The_Rise_of_Civilization_in_India_and_Pakistan_ (1982), the Allchins state that there is a substratum of Dravidian place names in Maharashtra. This statement, based probably on the ideas of H. D. Sankalia, has never been properly investigated. Fortunately there exist two lists of Maharashtrian village names which provide the data for such a study. My investigation of these names turned up a number of candidates for Dravidian origin among the suffixes of Marathi place names. Among these suffixes, the most promising is -vali/oli, both because of its high frequency and because its Dravidian origin is not questioned (< Drav. paLLi 'hamlet, camp, place to lie down' < paT- 'lie,fall').

A study of the spatial distribution of village names with the suffix -vali/oli shows 90% or more of them concentrated in the coastal region known as Konkan. In the remainder of the Marahi-speaking area, the greatest concentration is in the southern part of the Desh, i.e. in the districts of Kolhapur and Solapur. A number of other suffixes of probable Dravidian origin are also found in these areas, though they are of lower frequency of occurrence. Thus these suffixes of Dravidian origin are in a continuous distribution with the Dravidian paLLi, as well as with similar suffixes in the state of Gujarat (discussed in Sankalia's doctoral thesis, which is based on early inscriptions in Gujarat). Thus there can be little doubt that these areas were previously inhabited by speakers of some Dravidian language(s).

The paper will also discuss reflexes of Dravidian paLLi in place names in Sindh and Pakistani Panjab, where the evidence is somewhat less clear.


Thomas R. Trautmann (University of Michigan)

Accepting that knowledge and politics are mutually entailed, it by no means follows that the constructions of Orientalism have stable meanings or unitary politics attaching to them. The Aryan or Indo-European idea has at least three different readings belonging to different political contexts. (1) The exclusionary sense is the one associated with Nazism and other modern racial-hate doctrines, while (2) for the orientalists of British India the Aryan idea had always an inclusionary sense, as a sign of the kinship of Britons and Indians, related to Orientalist policy positions; and (3) for Indians, the Aryan idea tends to be equated with the celebration of Hinduism. This multiplicity of political tendencies is a capital fact, showing the historically contigent character of the conjecture. The Dravidian idea had its own politics, to do with the growing assertiveness of Madras vis-a-vis the Calcutta establishment, different again from political uses made of it in the twentieth century in South India and Sri Lanka. In the course of the nineteenth century, the growing tension between an emergent "race science" and the Sanskritists was compromised in the racial theory of Indian civilization, that is, the notion that Indian civilization was formed by conquest and the intermingling of white, Aryan, Sanskrit-speaking civilized invaders and dark savages native to India. The paper closes with a critique of this theory, which has proved remarkably durable and resistant to the appearance of new evidence against it.


Gernot Windfuhr (University of Michigan)

Some notes on the functional range of Airyaman in Iranian tradition, compared with Indian Aryaman, and a possible new etymology that fits the description.


Michael Witzel (Harvard University)

Our means for reconstructing the prehistory of India are limited: apart from the testimony of the Vedic texts and of archaeology, including the Indus inscriptions, there are only the materials provided by the languages that have been spoken in South Asia for the past four thousand years. However, the evidence of them that appears in the early texts needs to be re-investigated and re-evaluated, especially the loan words and names of persons, localities and rivers. In this paper attention is limited to the northern part of South Asia for which the evidence is earliest and most copious.

A brief overview is presented of the languages known or discernable in the Vedic texts, with stress on their ancient geographical location, and can discern various dialects of Indo-Iranian: Old Indo-Aryan (Vedic and local dialects), some East Iranian dialects close to Young Avestan (Bactrian, Arachosian Kamboja) and a predecessor of Nuristani (Kafiri). Secondly, early forms of Dravidian and Munda as loans in the Rgveda. This is confronted with a study of the personal and place names found in the post-Rgvedic texts, again establishing traces of Dravidian, Munda, but also of Tibeto-Burmese.

Further evidence for a wide-spread cultural network of exchange of goods, products, plants and domesticated animals can be established through the study of certain loan words, especiallly those designating wheat (from W. Asia), rice (from S.E. Asia), horse (from Central Asia). -- To this is added a brief discussion of the layering and the substrates of the various languages that were successively introduced into South Asia.

This allows to posit mutual linguistic influence in Northern South Asia of Munda, Dravidian, Indo-Iranian, perhaps also Tibeto-Burmese, since at least the end of the Indus civilization, c. 1900 B.C.E. Even the hieratic Rgveda bears witness to acculturation and substrate influence in the form of loan words, calques or in its syntax.

All of this indicates that the linguistic (and ethnic) situation in S. Asia was quite varied from early on and further, that S. Asia was not isolated from developments in other parts of Asia but took part in the transmission of new techniques and economies along with the words designating them.

The study of much of these data has been fairly cursory so far. Especially (northern) place names are in need of (re-) evaluation. The progress made during the last few decades in Dravidian, Munda and Tibeto-Burmese linguistics should open the path for a close cooperation of specialists in these languages and in Indo-Iranian for the study of the prehistory and early history of S. Asia.

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