According to Jiu-Hwa Upshur, the Indus River Valley Civilization was on its way out by the time of the Aryan invasion (Upshur 64). Therefore, the Aryan Invasion was not likely to have been much of what one would consider an invasion. “By about 1500 B.C.E. the Indus civilization had perished…. Deforestation and degradation of the environment and natural catastrophes first weakened both the morale and the economy of the Indus peoples. Then, from the north and west, came waves of dynamic and warlike invaders and settlers called Aryans…” (Upshur 64). But whatever the definition used to describe this invasion, the Aryans had a long and lasting influence on the culture of this region. The written Sanskrit language, Hinduism and the concept of reincarnation, and the caste system are all closely associated with the people of India, but they are all legacies from the Aryan invaders.
Without the Aryan invasion the Indus civilization would be much more of a mystery than it already is. As with the study of paleolithic man, a society that cannot write must be learned about through other means. Like the builders of Stonehenge, one of the four major river civilizations would be shrouded only in myth and innuendo. According to Upshur, “…India from 1500 to 500 B.C.E. is almost an archeological blank; knowledge about it comes mainly from literary sources” (Upshur 67). Therefore, without the Sanskrit that arrived with the Aryans, nothing would be known about the Indus civilization today, and a major contributor to world culture would have faded away into obscurity. Without writing there would be no Hindu religious books. The world’s oldest continuing religion and its offshoots such as Jainism and Buddhism would never have existed. Without these religions the religious and cultural complexion of the eastern world would not be what it is today.
But the Aryan invasion also brought belief in their God Indra, the Vedas, and the belief in reincarnation. Indra was the principal God of the Aryans; he was the hard drinking dragon killing God of the Rig-Veda, the holy book of the Aryans (Upshur 66). Although, the people of India adopted the Rig-Veda and its Principle God Indra, the warlike nature of Indra was not a great fit with the peace loving people of the Indus valley, so they almost immediately began to mellow out their new God and make him fit in with their conceptions of religion. “Old rituals and sacrifices to had lost their appeal, and the goal of the thinking people was to seek the truth (Upshur 70). However, the belief in reincarnation that was borrowed from the Aryans did not fade away, and it was used to justify the most controversial of practices that was introduced during the Aryan invasion.
The caste system is likely to be one of the most controversial aspects of modern India and it was introduced during the Aryan invasion. The caste system was originally used for separating the people of the Indus valley by skin tone. The light skinned Aryans were on the top of the social pyramid while the darker skinned people were in the lower castes. However, the differences of skin tone have gone away due to inner marriage, but the caste system remained. By the time the physical traits of the Aryan people had blended in, the caste system had become thoroughly entrenched in the Hindu mythology. The Hindu belief in reincarnation made the horribly discriminative caste system seem like a respectable part of life. The belief in reincarnation allowed the people to believe that they would be born again over and over. If they lived well in this life, they would be born in to a higher caste in the next, but if they lived poorly, they would be born into a lower caste (class notes). Therefore, because of its religious standing the caste system still stands today in modern India even though many people wish it could be done away with.
For good and for bad, the Sanskrit language, the concept of reincarnation, and the caste system are living legacy of Aryan invaders. Whether the invasion was a violent one or just a slow trickle of immigrants, the Aryan people had a profound and lasting impact for the people of the Indus valley.
Upshur, Jiu-Hwa Lo. World History. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012.