Significance of Aryan Invasions to India

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  • 0:01 India Before the Aryans
  • 1:01 Who Were the Aryans?
  • 2:02 What the Aryans…
  • 3:21 Legacy of Aryan Invasion
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Unlike any invasion to threaten India, the Aryans forever changed Indian culture, religious life, and even its languages. This lesson talks about the Aryans before they arrived in India, as well as the major cultural attributes of their society.

India Before the Aryans

India was a largely agricultural society more than 4,000 years ago, just before the Aryans arrived from Central Asia. In fact, they were really in decline. The mighty Indus River, which supported a very complex society, had been less predictable, causing people to leave places, like Harappa, to go back to smaller villages. Great minds that could have continued the innovations of that society were pulled by their families in different directions, with some going east to the Ganges River, and others heading further south onto the Deccan Plateau. In short, it was not a good time to be an Indian.

Things were about to get worse. From the northwest, a new wave of intruders approached. Unlike the Indians, this society was obsessed with war, glorifying battle and destruction in their art, but especially in their poetry and literature. Known as the Aryans, this group of invaders would leave a mark on India that no culture since has matched.

Who Were the Aryans?

But, who were the Aryans? The writings from India that survive, which were, in fact, in no small part written by the Aryans themselves, describe them as mighty war-like invaders from across the Hindu Kush mountains, well into Central Asia. In fact, historians have found significant evidence for a society that was very similar to the Aryans of Indian lore in Uzbekistan, complete with many of the same artifacts that the Aryans brought to India.

Yet, the best link for the Aryans back to Central Asia was nothing they carried, but instead how they talked. These new invaders brought a new language, Sanskrit, which actually had more in common with Greek or even modern English than any of the languages spoken in India at the time. This is because Sanskrit, like almost every language in Europe, is an Indo-European language. This means that the first speakers of Sanskrit came from a place not too far away from the first speakers of the languages that eventually evolved into European languages like English, Greek, or Spanish.

What the Aryans Brought to India

While the Aryans brought new weapons, such as iron-tipped spears and war chariots, to India, neither was really what conquered the subcontinent. Oddly enough, it was also the language of the Aryans that proved to be one of the most enduring aspects of life after the invasion. Soon, more and more people in India were speaking languages that were related to Sanskrit. This is pretty easy to understand—it is helpful to speak the language that the powerful people speak, that way you can talk to them and get better treatment, if not a completely better life.

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