Social Scientist. v 21, no. 242-43 (July-Aug 1993) p. 3.


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R.S. SHARMA"

The Aryan Problem and the Horse**

THE CONCEPT OF ARYA

Towards the end of the 18th century when William Jones discovered that Sanskrit is similar to Greek, Latin and other languages of Europe, it was postulated that the speakers of the common language were the Aryans who lived somewhere in Central Asia or eastern Europe. They were supposed to belong to the same racial stock. This concept prevailed in the 19th century and became a great political weapon in Nazi Germany because of the anti-Jewish campaign launched by Hitler. After 1933 it was declared that the German people constituted a pure Aryan race. In the Nazi view they occupied the highest place among the Aryans and hence were entitled to hegemony over the world. But those who have deeply studied the Aryan problem have come to the conclusion that speakers of the same language may not belong to the same racial or ethnic stock. Now most scholars think in terms of a proto-Indo-European language.

The term arya appears in several Indo-European languages but not in most of them. A scholar called 0. Szemerenyi has studied all the arguments relating to the term arya and has come to the conclusion that this term is not Indo-European but a Near Eastern, probably Ugaritic, loan word meaning 'kinsman, companion'.1 The term arya may have been borrowed by the speakers of the eastern branch of the ancient Indo-European languages. It occurs in both the Rg Veda and the Avesta. The term Iran is connected with arya. Since Afghanistan was occupied by the Indo-Aryans and the Iranian Aryans, for some time a part of this country came to be known as Araiya or Haraiva. In the 6th century BC king Darius of Persia calls himself Aryan. The Avesta mentions the country of the Aryans where the religion of Zoroaster started. Probably it was Aria or Ariana mentioned by classical writers. It covered a large area including Afghanistan and a part of Persia and

* Eminent historian, formerly chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi

** The article is based on Dr. M.A. Ansari Memorial Lecture, 1994, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi ^

Social Scientist, Vol. 21, Nos. 7-8, July-August, 1993



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