Re: Racism and ancient history

Gerold Firl (
2 Jan 1997 21:07:53 GMT

In article <5a4bsh$>, (Paul Kekai Manansala) writes:

|> In article <5a1bn1$>,
|> (Gerold Firl) wrote:

|> >One example which has been mentioned in passing should probably be
|> >highlighted further: the aryan conquest of india. The vedas
|> >specifically note the contrast between the light-skinned gods and
|> >dark-skinned demons in the mythological struggle for control of the
|> >subcontinent, and allusions to the formation of the caste system, with
|> >a light-to-dark color gradient from brahmin to untouchable, shows the
|> >racial origin of the worlds oldest apartheid system.

|> Things really are not that clear-cut. The major gods of Hinduism such
|> as Shiva, Parvati, Krishna, Rama and Vishnu are described as of dark
|> complexion (syam-mukha). In fact, the names of gods like Mahakala (Shiva),
|> Kali (Parvati), Krishna and Rama literally mean "dark" or "black."

Yes, this is a very interesting example of cultural evolution. As the
aryans were absorbed by india, demographically as well as culturally,
the indo-european dieties were supplanted by their indigenous
predesessors. Shiva and parvati are clearly pre-IE; vishnu, krishna,
and brahma are possibly hybrids. Why is krishna colored blue?

As the absorbtion proceeded, indra and agni faded from popular
consciousness, to be replaced by indigenous indian dieties (dark
colored, significantly, as the patrons of the dravidian underclass) or
else by buddhism, which was, in some ways, a more attractive alternative
for the aristocracy.

It appears that this process took many centuries. It's a great example
of the endurance of mythology.

|> The idea of a racial gradient between brahmin to untouchable
|> was suggested by Risley, but subsequently refuted by Indian
|> anthropologists. There is no clear evidence of a relationship between
|> caste and race. Brahmins and other upper castes might have ligher
|> complexions because they stay indoors a lot. Martial castes like the
|> Rajputs would be darker, but still high caste. The main color gradient
|> is geographical not caste-related. Brahmins tend to be of the same race
|> as other people of their region. In fact, a recent genetic study showed
|> Iyer brahmins were farther away from North Indian brahmins than many lower
|> castes in the same population.

This shows how thoroughly the indo-europeans and dravidians have mixed
in northern india. The aryans didn't have much use for the areas south
of the ganges watershed; what is the point of going someplace that
doesn't have good grazing? They occupied the north, and by now have
become largely assimilated. Subsequent conquests have accelerated that

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf