By the end of the nineteenth century, India was no longer referred to at all as a candi- date for the original homeland, and most scholars had situated themselves somewhere within the parameters of Max Müller's (1985) accommodating opinion that “if an answer must be given as to the place where our Aryan ancestors dwelt before their separation, … I should still say, as I said forty years ago, ‘Somewhere in Asia,’ and no more” (127). 5A few peripheral intellectuals noted the change with nostalgia, still hop- ing that there would be a reversal in India's fortunes as a homeland contender. In 1881, Olcott, a Theosophist, in a lecture given to native audiences in various parts of India, stated:
The theory that Aryavarta was the cradle of European civilization, the Aryans the progeni- tors of western peoples, and their literature the source and spring of all western religions and philosophies, is comparatively a thing of yesterday. Professor Max Müller and a few other Sanskritists of our generation have been bringing about this change in western ideas.
Let us hope that before many years roll by, we may have out the whole truth about Aryan civilization, and that your ancestors (and ours) will be honoured according to their deserts. … the Brahmins have their own chronology and no one has the means of proving that their calculations are exaggerated…. We Europeans … have a right to more than sus- pect that India 8,000 years ago sent out a colony of emigrants. (124)
In sharp contrast, the racial scientists, who will be discussed later, recorded the change of affairs with a note of indignant relief: “In our school days most of us were brought up to regard Asia as the mother of European people. We were told that an ideal race of men swarmed forth from the Himalayan highlands disseminating culture right and left as they spread through the barbarous West.” As far as Ripley was concerned, such philo- logical ideas represented the dark age of Indo-European studies: “In the days when … there was no science of physical anthropology [and] prehistoric archaeology was not yet … a new science of philology dazzled the intelligent world … and its words were law. Since 1860 these early inductions have completely broken down in the light of modern research” (Ripley 1899, 453).
Even during the earlier phase of the homeland quest, when India was still a popular candidate, many scholars were uncomfortable about moving the Indo-Europeans too far from their biblical origins somewhere in the Near East. There were those among the British, in particular, whose colonial sensibilities made them reluctant to acknowledge any potential cultural indebtedness to the forefathers of the rickshaw pullers of Calcutta, and who preferred to hang on to the biblical Adam for longer than their European contemporaries. Even well after Adam was no longer in the picture, there was a very cool reception in some circles to the “late Prof. Max Müller [who had] blurted forth to a not over-grateful world the news that we and our revolted sepoys were of the same human family” (Legge 1902, 710). Again, let us not forget the influence of the times: many scholars, quite apart from any consideration of India as a possible homeland, could not even tolerate the newfound language relationship. Müller (1883) again noted the mood of the day:
They would not have it, they would not believe that there could be any community of origin between the people of Athens and Rome, and the so-called Niggers of India. The classical scholars scouted the idea, and I still remember the time, when I was a student at Leipzig and begun to study Sanskrit, with what contempt any remarks on Sanskrit or comparative grammar were treated by my teachers…. No one ever was for a time so completely laughed down as Professor Bopp, when he first published his Comparative Grammar of Sanskrit, Zend, Greek, Latin and Gothic. All hands were against him. (28)
Unlike some of his contemporaries, Müller was effusive in his admiration for things Indian (although he never subscribed to an Indian homeland). In his course of lectures “India: What Can It Teach Us?” (1883), he declared that she was “the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow,” indeed, “a very paradise on earth,” a place where “the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, [and] has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life” (6). Such lavish praise was far too extreme for those who, as Müller himself noted, would be “horror struck at the idea that the humanity they meet with [in India] … should be able to teach us any lesson” (7).
Müller's concerns about the reactions that enthusiastic portrayals of India's superi- ority might provoke were not unwarranted. The Indomania of the early British Orientalists
“did not die of natural causes; it was killed off” and replaced by an Indophobia initi- ated by Evangelicalism and Utilitarianism, epitomized by Charles Grant and James Mill, respectively (Trautmann 1997, 99). Well before Müller's glorifications of India, Grant, who was very influential in East India Company circles, promoted an aggressive Angli- cizing and Christianizing relationship with India, which he provoked by completely disparaging Indian laws, religion, and character. In contrast to the Orientalists, Grant ( 1970) stressed the absolute difference, in all respects, between the British and the despicable natives of the subcontinent: “In the worst parts of Europe, there are no doubt great numbers of men who are sincere, upright, and conscientious. In Bengal, a man of real veracity and integrity is a great phenomenon” (21). Most significantly, he made absolutely no reference to the kinship of Sanskrit and the European languages except, possibly, to note that “the discoveries of science invalidate none of the truths of revela- tion” (71). Nor did Grant have any regard for enthusiastic depictions of India. Grant was quick to criticize scholars who had never even visited India, thereby undermining the relevance of their scholarship to the real world: “Europeans who, not having resided in Asia, are acquainted only with a few detached features of the Indian character” (24).
Grant was by no means the first or sole Christian leader to engage in extreme dia- tribes against Hinduism—these continued throughout the colonial period. In 1840, the Reverend Alexander Duff briefly referred to the Aryan commonality by stating that the Hindus “can point to little that indicates their high original.” But for the most part he also simply ranted that they “have no will, no liberty, no conscience of their own. They are passive instruments, moulded into shape by external influences—mere machines, blindly stimulated, at the bidding of another, to pursuits the most unworthy of immortal crea- tures. In them, reason is in fact laid prostrate. They launch into all the depravities of idol worship. They look like the sports and derision of the Prince of darkness” (107). In 1882, William Hastie, principal of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland's institu- tion in Calcutta, in letters he addressed to “educated Hindus” about their religion, consid- ered that “no pen has yet adequately depicted all the hideousness and grossness of the monstrous system.” Hastie was well aware that Hindu idolatry originated from the same Aryan stem as that of the Greeks. But the latter had been “recalled from their idolatrous errors,” while India remained “the most stupendous fortress and citadel of ancient error and idolatry, … paralleled only by the spirits of Pandemonium,” a country whose reli- gion consisted of “senseless mummeries, loathsome impurities and bloody barbarous sacrifices.” It has “consecrated and encouraged every conceivable form of licentiousness, falsehood, injustice, cruelty, robbery, murder,” and “its sublimest spiritual states have been but the reflex of physiological conditions in disease” (24–33).
Müller, fully aware of the resentment generated by his Indophilic laudations, took pains to specify “at once” to the civil servants, officers, missionaries, and merchants who were actually in the “bazaars” and “courts of justice” of the real-life India that there were “two very different Indias.” Müller was not unaware of the scathing and disparag- ing opinions that his contemporaries in the colonies held regarding the present state of civilization in India. The India he was referring to “was a thousand, two thousand, it may be, three thousand years ago” (1883, 7); it was “not on the surface but lay many centuries beneath it” (1899, 4). The golden age represented a thing very much in the past. Nonetheless, he did not hesitate in insisting that these ancient Indians “repre- sented … a collateral branch of that family to which we belong by language, that is,
by thought, and [that] their historical records … have been preserved to us in such perfect … documents … that we can learn from them lessons we can learn nowhere else” (1899, 21).
Such a claim would have been intolerable for the likes of Mill ( 1975), who had previously censured Jones for indulging in “panegyrics,” finding it “unfortunate that a mind so … devoted to Oriental learning … should have adopted the hypoth- esis of a high state of civilization in the principal countries of Asia” (109). Mill, too, had ignored the relationships between the Indian and Western languages, and, like Grant, insisted on emphasizing the tremendous difference, as opposed to the Orientalist sense of kinship, between the British and the Indians. These latter, for Mill, were ignorant and barbaric and despicable: “No people, how rude and ignorant soever, … have ever drawn a more gross and disgusting picture of the universe” (157). His was a far cry from the venerable status accorded to the ancient Hindus by Müller and the Orientalists. The extreme Indophobic discomfort with the connection of Sanskrit with Greek and Latin was exemplified by the conviction of the Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart, who, without knowing a word of the language, proposed that Sanskrit was not a cog- nate of Greek, it was Greek. It had been borrowed by the wily Brahmans during Alexander's conquest and adopted to keep their conversations inaccessible to the masses (124). Max Müller (1875), commenting on Stewart's attempt, again reveals the mood of the time:
This … shows, better than anything else, how violent a shock was given by the discovery of Sanskrit to prejudices most deeply engrained in the mind of every educated man. The most absurd arguments found favor for a time, if they could only furnish a loophole by which to escape the unpleasant conclusion that Greek and Latin were of the same kith and kin as the language of the black inhabitants of India. (164)
Clearly, the developing pressure to justify the colonial and missionary presence in India prompted the denigration of Indian civilization, and the shunning of embarrassing cultural and linguistic ties. Trautmann suggests that such considerations also explain why the British, despite having primary access to Sanskrit source material, did not pursue the study of comparative philology. This was to become a predominantly German domain.
The Indo-European language connection, however, was not about to disappear, and Trautmann masterfully traces the emergence of race science as the resolution of inescap- able philological reality with the colonial need for cultural superiority over the natives of India. It should be noted that up until the middle of the twentieth century, the term race was used to designate what we would today call an ethnic group (rather than refer- ring to the divisions of Caucasian, Negroid, Mongoloid, and so on, as per present usage). During the nineteenth century, race and nation were more or less interchangeable terms, but drifted apart in the course of the century as race became more biologized, and na- tion politicized. One of the catalysts for the development of race science was that some of the Orientalists, like Müller, in contrast to the Utilitarians, not only recognized and appreciated European linguistic and cultural brotherhood with the Hindu Aryans but also articulated these bonds in terms of racial equality:
No authority could have been strong enough to persuade the Grecian army that their gods and their hero-ancestors were the same as those of king Porus, or to convince the English soldier that the same blood was running in his veins as in the veins of the dark Bengalese.
And yet there is not an English jury now-a-days, which, after examining the hoary docu- ments of language, would reject the claim of a common descent and a legitimate relation- ship between Hindu, Greek and Teuton. We challenge the seeming stranger, and whether he answer with the lips of a Greek, a German, or an Indian, we recognize him as one of ourselves. Though the … physiologist may doubt, … all must yield before the facts furnished by language. (Müller 1854a, 29–30; my italics)
The recognition of such racial kinship was repugnant to the ethnologists, who re- acted by jettisoning the importance of language and scorning the Orientalist philolo- gists. For them, fairness of skin paralleled highness of civilization, and the Indians were a beggarly lot who could not possibly be allowed to claim a common racial pedigree, not to speak of being recognized as “one of” the British. Isaac Taylor ( 1988) scathingly exemplifies the antiphilological reaction of the race scientists: “It cannot be insisted upon too strongly that identity of speech does not imply identity of race, any more than diversity of speech implies diversity of race” (5–6). Anthropologists such as himself had scant regard for the Orientalists: “Max Müller, owing to the charm of his style, his unrivaled power of popular exposition, and to his high authority as a Sanskrit scholar, has done more than any other writer to popularise this erroneous notion.” Despite the racist overtones, there was actually a good measure of truth to some of these criti- cisms: “Instead of speaking only of a primitive Aryan language, he speaks of an ‘Aryan race’ and ‘Aryan family.’ … more mischievous words have seldom been uttered by a great scholar” (3–4). As for Müller's English jury, “the evidence derived from the docu- ments of language … which might be put before an English jury as to a ‘common descent’ and a ‘legitimate relationship’ between the negro and the Yankee, would be more intelligible to the twelve English tradesmen in the box than the obscure evidence which applies to the case of the Teuton and the Hindu” (6). Taylor attempted to point out that just as the African American and the European American spoke the same lan- guage but were not considered members of the same race, so there were no grounds to consider the Hindu and the European as being the same race on the basis of the Indo- European language connection.
Race science was precipitated by the discovery, by the Madras school of Orientalists, that the South Indian languages were not derivable from Sanskrit. This fact was com- bined with certain forced readings of the Vedic texts (which will be discussed in chapter 3) to produce images of the Aryans as white-skinned and dolichocephalic, in contrast to the dark-skinned, snub-nosed dasas. Despite Taylor's comments, the one-language-one- race model inherited from Babel was retained—at least for the white Aryans—and India was reconstructed as the product of two original races: a fair invading race speaking an Aryan tongue, and a dark- skinned aboriginal one speaking Dravidian.
For our purposes, both Orientalist philologers and ethnologists agreed on one thing: Trautmann's “big bang” of Indian civilization consisted of the impact of Aryan invad- ers with the indigenes of India. What the racial theorists succeeded in doing, in their opposition to the philologists, was to uncouple the common language bond from the need to identify with the Hindus on any other level whatsoever. The Europeans, as a race, were now not required to acknowledge any common racial or even cultural bond with the Hindus: “To speak of ‘our Indian bretheren’ is as absurd and false as to claim relationship with the Negroes of the United States because they now use an Aryan lan- guage” (Sayce 1883, 385). Even the common Indo-European language was presented as
being a gift to India from the West, just as it had been to the “negroes of the United States.” The racial theorists paved the way for the postulate that the Aryans were an autonomous white race who brought civilization and the Sanskrit language to the differ- ent races of India—a development Trautmann holds as pivotal to the political construc- tion of Aryan identity developing in Germany. The biblical model of the identity of language and race still held good for the original white Aryans, but not for the Hindus. These invading Aryans taught the racially and linguistically distinct natives the Indo- European language and the arts of civilization. But in so doing, they, in time, lost their superior status and became racially subsumed by the native population.
There were those in the colonial power who were much more comfortable with these new developments. The British presence in the subcontinent could now be cast as a rerun several millennia later of a similar script, but a script that hoped to have a differ- ent ending. The British could now present themselves as a second wave of Aryans, again bringing a superior language and civilization to the racial descendants of the same na- tives their forefathers had attempted to elevate so many centuries earlier. Some, drawing on the findings of racial science, believed that a lesson was to be learned from the ear- lier wave of Aryans who had allowed themselves to become degenerate due to their new environment. Bolstered with the new racial theories, such scholars could now exoner- ate themselves for, and indeed insist on, the need for remaining aloof and superior to their subjects. Thus in Annals of Rural Bengal (1897), W. W. Hunter describes the re- tardation of Aryan India, which had become “effeminated by long sloth” because of miscegenation, “but which could again be regenerated by British Rule” (193). 6On the Continent, Gobineau saw India as a warning to Europe of the horrors resulting from the bastardization of Aryan culture. The trajectory that Aryanism took toward Nazism in Germany is beyond the scope of the present work, but it has been amply traced in numerous works, among which Poliakov (1971) is especially noteworthy.
The protestations of the race theoreticians notwithstanding, the equation of language with race remained entrenched. It certainly did not prevent some British representa- tives from exploiting this Aryan commonality in a variety of ways. Henry Sumner Maine made no bones about the fact “that the government of India by the English has been rendered appreciably easier by the discoveries which have brought home to the edu- cated of both races the common Aryan parentage of Englishman and Hindoo” (18–19). The headmaster of Marlborough wrote in 1870 that “in coming to Hindostan with our advanced civilization, we were returning home with splendid gifts, to visit a member of one common family” (quoted in Maw 1950, 14–15). A few years earlier, one J. Wilson insisted that “what has taken place since the commencement of the British Govern- ment in India is only a reunion … of the members of the same great family.” (14–15). Müller himself (1847) had earlier expressed that “it is curious to see how the descen- dants of the same race, to which the first conquerors and masters of India belonged, return … to accomplish the glorious work of civilization, which had been left unfin- ished by their Arian bretheren” (349).
This reunion, of course, was hardly on equal terms; as Maw (1990) notes, such scholars “refused to follow the notion to its logical conclusion: that consanguinity entitled con- temporary India to a moral parity with Great Britain, and ultimately, to national inde- pendence” (36). Far from it. As H. S. Newman (n.d.) was quick to point out: “Once in
the end of aeons they meet, and the Aryan of the west rules the Aryan of the east” (110). Farrer (1870), referring to the “common ancestors from whose loins we both alike are sprung,” compared the reunion of offspring to that of Esau and Jacob. Accord- ing to this association, “from the womb it had been prophesied respecting them that ‘the elder should serve the younger’” (50; italics in original). Havell (1918) took it upon himself to speak on behalf of the Indians, who, in his perception, accepted British rule because “they recognize that the present rulers of India … are generally animated by that same love of justice and fair play, the same high principles of conduct and respect for humanitarian laws which guided the ancient Aryan statesmen and law givers in their relations with the Indian masses” (vi). Clearly, the Aryan connection could turn out to be a politically shrewd card to play because “in thus honouring our Aryan forerunners in India we shall both honour ourselves and make the most direct and effective appeal to Indian loyalty” (ix).
The Aryan connection proved useful on a variety of occasions and in a variety of sometimes conflicting ways. Devendraswarup a historian of the colonial period (1993, 36) argues that after the British were shaken by the Great Revolt of 1857, certain indi- viduals suddenly found reason to stress their common Aryan bond with the Brahmanas where others had previously shunned it. Since the Brahmanas were preponderant in the Bengal Native Infantry, which had taken part in the revolt, there were those among the British who conveniently began to propagate discourses of Aryan kinship in the hope of cultivating a sense of identification and allegiance with them (36). Chakrabarti (1997, 127) notes that the same Risley quoted previously who had voiced such relief that the new science of racial anthropology exempted the need for Europeans to affiliate themselves with the Hindu side of the family, did not hesitate in his 1881 Bengal sur- vey on the races, religions and languages of India, to allot common Aryan descent lib- erally to the Indian groups predominant in the British army such as the Rajputs, Jats, and Brahmins. The Aryan connection was simply manipulated at will.
Such Aryan commonalty was not only adapted to suit colonial exigencies. Maw (1990) has thoroughly outlined how certain Christian evangelists also found advantages in dis- courses of Aryan kinship. As far as G. Smith was concerned, “the English-speaking Ary- ans had been providentially trained to become the rulers of India and evangelizers of India” since “the youngest civilization in the world was to instruct and correct the oldest” (quoted in Maw 1950, 35). He noted that “it is not the least of the claims of India on England that our language is theirs, our civilisation theirs, our aspirations theirs, that in a very true and special sense they are our brothers” (35). Samuel Laing held that the “two races so long separated meet once more…. the younger brother has become the stronger, and takes his place as the head and protector of the family…. we are here … on a sacred mission, to stretch out the right hand of aid to our weaker brother, who once far outstripped us, but has now fallen behind in the race” (quoted in Maw 1950, 37).
Along these same lines, a general history of the subcontinent, written by W. C. Pearce in 1876, compared the ancient pre-Christian Aryan invasion of the subcontinent to the modern Christian Aryan one. In his view, the ancient Aryans had descended from the highlands of Central Asia, bringing with them their language, civilization, and religion, which far surpassed those of the natives: “[The Aryan] religion was, in its poetic fan- cies, as far exalted above [the native's] crude systems of worship as the sublime teach-
ings of Christianity soar above the doctrines of the code of Menu [sic]” (37). Hastie (1882) appealed to the “twin branches on the same original Aryan stem”—in this case the ancient Greek and modern Indic cultures—in order to suggest that the Church could extinguish the “tenacious survival of the old Aryan world” in modern India just as Paul had extinguished “the brighter and fairer Hellenism” in the ancient West (25–26).
In contrast to all this, Devendraswarup, (1993), touches on very different Christian appropriations of the work of the philologists and the discourse of Aryanism: “It seems that missionary scholars in India had already perceived the potential of the science of comparative philology in uprooting the hold of the Brahmins” (32). Unlike some of the discourses noted earlier, other missionaries found it preferable to target the non-Aryan identity of segments of the Indian populace rather than play up the Aryan commonalty. The missionaries were having little or no success in converting the Brahmans and up- per classes. Devendraswarup finds the scholarly work of missionary intellectuals such as the Reverend John James Muir and the Reverend John Stevenson readily presenting the Brahmanas as foreigners who had foisted their Vedic language and texts onto the aboriginals of India. The idea in this case was to create a sense of alienation from Brahmanical religion among the lower castes, thereby preparing them for exposure and conversion to Christianity. Thus Wilson, in a letter to his parents, noted that “the Aryan tribes in conquering India, urged by the Brahmanas, made war against the Turanian demon worship…. It is among the Turanian races, … which have no organized priest- hood and bewitching literature, that the converts to Christianity are most numerous” (quoted in Devendraswarup 1993, 35). The Aryan invasion theory proved to be adapt- able to a curious mismash of contradictory (but not necessarily competing) interests.
Like some of their administratorial counterparts, still other evangelicals also felt the need to be very clear about the distinction between the eastern and western branches of the Aryan family. In 1910, the missionary Slater was quite specific that Christianity had transcended its Aryan matrix, developing a higher spiritual expression as a result of influences from the Semitic encounter. India, in contrast, had decayed and remained “sunk in the grossest superstition.” Slater could not countenace attempts to couple this sorry state of affairs with western religiosity under a common rubric of Aryan spiritual- ity. (Maw 1950, 63). There was no shortage of voices who rejected an Aryanism that bonded British rulers with their ungrateful subjects (Day 1994, 19).
No one knew what to do about the corollaries of comparative philology. Depending on their agendas and strategies, British individuals glorified, stressed, minimized, shunned, or otherwise negotiated in some form or fashion with the Aryan connection. Scholars went backward and forward, attempting to balance colonial and missionary exigencies with the academic opinions of the day. For our purposes, whereas India had been viewed as the homeland of the Aryans and the cradle of civilization at the begin- ning of the nineteenth century, by that century's end, in the opinion of people like Enrico de Michaelis, it was considered its grave. It seems tempting to suggest that the concern of many British colonialists during this period was not so much where the Aryans had come from (there was, after all, no question that England could have been the homeland), provided they had not come from India, and provided the British did not need to acknowledge any embarrassing kinship with their Indian subjects. Despite having primary access to the Sanskrit source material upon which the rest of Europe was dependent, it was Germany, and to some extent France, but not Britain, that came
to dominate the field of historical linguistics. Sayce was to lament as late as the end of the nineteenth century that “little is known about it [comparative philology] in England, for English scholars have but recently awakened to the value and meaning of the work done by Bopp and Schleicher and Curtius, and have not yet learned that this already belongs to a past stage in the history of linguistic science” (1883, 385). Although En- gland did eventually become a principal center of Sanskrit study for all of Europe (and had been a pioneer in the early days with people like Jones, Maesden, Leyden, and Ellis), the British became wary of this new comparative philology. Colonial interests seem to have superseded this particular pursuit of knowledge.
The dilemma facing the rulers was how to avoid according cultural equality, not to speak of indebtedness, to the Hindu subjects they intended to govern. The Germans did not have the same colonial exigencies; on the contrary, philology offered certain German scholars an opportunity to compensate for their poor showing on the colonial scene. The British, as expert politicians, were able to turn previously awkward philo- logical realities to their political advantage, but it would be well worth exploring the extent to which they remained wary, in the nascent stages of Indological studies, of the possibly embarrassing repercussions that might be inherent in exploring the field of philology. Doubtless other factors were also involved, but philology was nonetheless very much a German prerogative. 7There were those among the British who were re- lieved to hand the Germans the philological baton of a white Sanskrit-speaking race that had come into India from somewhere else—anywhere else. And there were those among the Germans who were happy to take it and run.
Before turning to German Aryanism, it would be unfair to conclude this section without noting that not all British intellectuals can be generically categorized as arro- gant elitists. While it is important to highlight the more extreme versions of Aryan dis- course in order to best understand Indian reactions and responses, there were also voices of moderation and soberness. One cannot tar and feather all nineteenth-century schol- ars as racists and bigots. In 1870, Farrer, albeit still convinced of the modern West's advancement in civilization, was at least shamed by the excesses of some of his contem- poraries in their reactions to the Aryan connection:
Oh! if, instead of calling them and treating them as “niggers”; if, instead of absorbing with such fatal facility the preposterous notion that they were with few exceptions, an abject nation of cringing liars, to be despised and kicked, … if our missionaries had been tempered sometimes with their religious fanaticism of hatred against idolatry with a deeper historical knowledge of the religions of the world, … then, indeed, the Hindoos no less than ourselves would have recognized the bond of unity between us because of the common ancestors from whose loins we both alike are sprung. (48)
Other voices, too, had not hesitated to express disgust at their compatriots:
Is it not something, also, that you all—our Arian friends—should be told, intensely as it may disgust you, that this Arian Bengali—whom, uncivilly and un-ethnologically, you have been in the habit of calling a “Nigger,”—is, stubbornly as you may kick against the con- viction, your Elder Brother:—one who, much as you may glory in being descended from certain pig-herding Thegns or piratical Norse Vikings, is, in very truth … the represen- tative of the pure Arian stock, of which you are a mere offshoot … whom it is your duty to treat with mercy, justice, and forbearance;—as you will have to answer for your dealing with him to the God and Father of us all. (Blackwell 1856, 548)