What Impact Did the Aryans Have on India?

In the 19th century, a theory arose that claimed that ancient India was conquered by a people known as the Aryans and that their invasion was a turning point in the evolution of Indian civilization. Supporting scholars have argued that the Aryans influence was profound and provide evidence with the origins of two of the most notable features of Indian civilization, Hinduism and the Caste System.

According to this theory, the Aryans were a white-skinned, or at least light-skinned people, that invaded

India from the north, bringing their beliefs and social organization with them. In particular, they are thought to have brought their Vedic religion, one which would eventually provide the germinal elements for Hinduism, the prevailing faith throughout much of the Indian sub-continent. Additionally, the Aryans may have influenced the traditional Caste system in India, where each member of society is born to a certain rank which has entailing privileges, stigma and responsibilities.

However, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Aryan theory has come under considerable criticism. Some scholars wonder whether the ancient designation of Aryan actually refers to people of a different ethnicity or simply those of a higher social rank. In other words, there may have been no invasion at all. Moreover, the theory of the light-skinned Aryan emerged during an era when much of Western intellectualism and science was pervaded by racist overtones. The notion of the “white Aryan” as a pinnacle of human civilization was later appropriated by the Nazis and was a regular feature of their propaganda efforts and vision of a reborn master race.