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Vedic India

About 1500 BC, India was invaded by Indo-European people. These people came from the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian sea. Between 2500 and 2000 BC, many Indo-Europeans migrated all over Eurasia, probably because of the same climate crisis that ended the Old Kingdom in Egypt. Some of the Indo-Europeans went to Europe and became the Romans and the Greeks, some settled in Turkey and became the Hittites, or went east to China where they influenced the Shang Dynasty. Others migrated south-east instead. Some of them stopped in Iran, while others continued south-east to Pakistan and India. The slow migration did not arrive in northern India until about 1500 BC. In India, the Indo-Europeans are usually called the Aryans.

Some people have disputed this arrival of the Indo-Europeans, and if you search the web you will find some sites saying that it never happened. But there are written records of the language that these Indo-European people brought with them to India, Sanskrit. We can read Sanskrit, and we can easily see that many words in Sanskrit are basically the same as in other Indo-European languages. In addition, recent genetic evidence supports the arrival of the Indo-Europeans.
The Indo-Europeans brought their language, and also their gods with them to India. These gods form the basis of the Rig Veda and other sagas which were first written down in Sanskrit. They also brought the domesticated horse and chariot. We call these Indo-Europeans in India the Vedic people.

Indus River
Indus River

The Vedic people first settled along the Indus River, in the same place where the Harappa people had lived. They settled down and mixed with the local Indian people. They lived there from about 1500 BC to about 800 BC. It seems to be at this time that the caste system got started in India.

About 800 BC, the Vedic people learned how to use iron for weapons and tools. They probably learned to work iron from the people of West Asia, the Assyrians, who had learned it from the Indo-European Hittites. Once the Vedic people learned how to use iron, they used their new weapons to conquer more of India, and moved to the south and east into the Ganges river valley. They settled there not long after 800 BC.

Learn by Doing - Find Iron at Home or A Project with Caste
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Bibliography and further reading about the Indo-Europeans in India:

Eyewitness India Ancient India Aryan Debate

Eyewitness India, by Manini Chatterjee (2002). Written for kids.

Ancient India, by Virginia Schomp (2005). Written for teens. Very good for reports.

Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History, by Edwin Bryant (2005). A scholar's discussion for other scholars of all the evidence concerning Indo-European nomads coming to India (for and against), written for adults.

The Aryan Debate, by Thomas Trautman (2005). A collection of past writings about this question, designed to show why it is so political and what the problems are with the evidence.

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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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