The Indo-Aryan Branch

The Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family is the second oldest, going by attestation. Ironically, the oldest texts in which Indo-Aryan words are found don’t come from India itself, but rather from the Middle East, where some of them had risen to become leaders of local groups. The first part of the term Indo-Aryan is self-explanatory, referring to the Indian language. The second part, however, has been heavily politicised by nationalists and romanticists in the 19th and 20th centuries, most noteworthy among them the National-Socialists of Nazi Germany, which made them an integral part of their racial ideology. The word Aryan is first attested in the Vedas, ancient Greek religious texts, written in Sanskrit, an early ancestor of many of the modern Indian languages, traditionally spoken in the northern half of the country, such as Hindi and Urdu. The author(s) speak of themselves as Aryans, as opposed to other peoples. The modern word Iranian is cognate with Aryan and thus most likely developed from the term.

Because the Vedas are some of our earliest texts in any Indo-European language, Sanskrit, the language they were written in, was often thought to be Proto-Indo-European and the myths and rituals described within the texts were believed to be Proto-Indo-European myths and rituals. The Nazis assumed a similar stance and thus concluded that the Aryans must be the original Proto-Indo-Europeans. They didn’t locate their homeland in India, or even in the Eurasian steppes, as per the most popular modern theory, but in Germany and Scandinavia, thus making the “Germanic” inhabitants of the area the original Aryans.

This, of course, is utter nonsense. As has been mentioned, the homeland of the Proto-Indo-Europeans is thought to lie within the Eurasian steppes, more precisely in the area north of the Black and the Caspian Seas. Furthermore, the (actual) Aryans of the Vedas were most likely not identical with these Proto-Indo-Europeans but had already intermixed with different other populations on their way into the Indian Subcontinent, among them probably the people of the Indus Valley civilization.

Today, many of the languages of the Near East, the Middle East, and Northern India are part of the Indo-Aryan language family. On this page, you will find articles concerning the religion and mythology of the people inhabiting these areas. More articles, concerning aspects of Indo-Aryan history, mythology, language, and culture may be added in the future.

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