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Title:Indians | Ep 2: The Aryans and the Vedic Age | A Brief History of a Civilization

Research, Script and Narration by Namit Arora; Producer: The Wire; Director: Natasha Badhwar; Camera: Ajmal Jami; Video Editor: Anam Sheikh. Made possible by a grant from The Raza Foundation and contributions to The Wire by viewers like you. Join The Wire's Youtube membership program and help fund many such initiatives. The story of India is one of profound and continuous change. It has been shaped by the dynamic of migration, conflict, mixing, coexistence, and cooperation. In this ten-part web series, Namit Arora tells the story of Indians and our civilization by exploring some of our greatest historical sites, most of which were lost to memory and were dug out by archaeologists. He will also focus on ancient and medieval foreign travellers whose idiosyncratic accounts conceal surprising insights about us Indians. All along, Arora surveys India’s long and exciting churn of cultural ideas, beliefs, and values—some that still shape us today, and others that have been lost forever. The series mostly mirrors—and often extends—the contents of his book, Indians: A Brief History of a Civilization. Bibliography appears below. EPISODE 2: THE ARYANS AND THE VEDIC AGE After the decline of the Harappan Civilization, waves of Aryan migrants arrived from Central Asia between 2000–1500 BCE. A nomadic-pastoralist people of lighter skin, the Aryans were culturally different from the Subcontinent’s settled farmers and forest tribes of darker skin. They brought along an early Sanskrit, proto-Vedas, Vedic gods, a priestly class fond of fire rituals and oral chants, new social and gender hierarchies, the horse and chariot. Mixing with the locals forged a lighter-skinned elite that spoke Indo-European languages, or Prakrits. In the centuries ahead, larger political units led by tribal chiefs emerged in north India. War among Aryanized tribes like the Bharatas and Purus became common. From this substrate and its social conflicts came the early stories of the Mahabharata, c. 1000 BCE. Indo-Aryan culture and languages became dominant in Aryavarta, whose cultural and material qualities Arora will explore in this episode. More than a thousand years after the Harappans, the next cities arose in the Gangetic Plain in mid-first millennium BCE. New states with money economies even flirted with democratic ideas. New hybrid cultures arose from the mixing of Indo-Aryans, post-Harappans, and ethnic groups whose ancestors had come to India much earlier. They forged new trades, lifestyles, and a thriving marketplace of spiritual and religious ideas. This prolific age—of the early Upanishads, the Buddha, Mahavira, Carvaka, Panini—would profoundly shape later Indians. PARTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY / FURTHER READING Anthony, David W, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, Princeton, 2010 Bryant, Edwin, The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate, OUP, 2001 Devy, G N, Mahabharata: The Epic and the Nation, Aleph, 2022 Doniger, Wendy, The Hindus: An Alternative History, Penguin, 2009 Jha, D.N., The Myth of the Holy Cow, Navayana, 2010 Joseph, Tony, Early Indians, Juggernaut, 2018 Khan, Razib, The character of caste; Stark Truth About Aryans: a story of India; Stark Truth About Humans: a story of India, 'Unsupervised Learning' Substack, 2021 Kristiansen, K., Kroonen, G., & Willerslev, E. (Eds.), The Indo-European Puzzle Revisited: Integrating Archaeology, Genetics, and Linguistics. CUP, 2023 Kuz'mina, Elena E., The Origin of the Indo-Iranians, Brill, 2007 Mohan, Peggy, Wanderers, Kings, Merchants: The Story of India through Its Languages, Penguin, 2021 Modi, Jivanji Jamshedji, ‘The antiquity of the custom of Sati’, Anthropological Papers, 1929 Ollett, Andrew, Language of the Snakes: Prakrit, Sanskrit and the language order of premodern India, UC Press, 2017 Olsen, Birgit Anette (Editor), Tracing the Indo-Europeans: New evidence from archaeology and historical linguistics, Oxbow Books, 2019 Parpola, Asko, The Roots of Hinduism, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 96–7 Reich, David, Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past, OUP, 2018 Sen, Sudipta, Ganga: The Many Pasts of a River, Gurgaon, Viking, 2019 Shinde, Vasant, et al., ‘An Ancient Harappan Genome Lacks Ancestry from Steppe Pastoralists or Iranian Farmers’, Cell, Vol 179, Issue 3, Oct 17, 2019 Silva, Marina, et al., ‘A genetic Chronology for the Indian Subcontinent Points to Heavily Sex-biased Dispersals’, BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2017 Singh, Upinder, Political Violence in Ancient India, Harvard UP, 2017 Thapar, Romila, Early India, Penguin, 2002 Thapar, Romila, et al, Which of Us Are Aryans?, Aleph, 2019 Join The Wire's Youtube Memberships to The Wire Crew start at Rs 89/month.


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