Journal Article

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar on the Aryan Invasion and the Emergence of the Caste System in India

Arvind Sharma

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 73, issue 3, pages 843-870
Published in print September 2005 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online September 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar on the Aryan Invasion and the Emergence of the Caste System in India

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The advent of the Aryans in India in the second millennium B.C.E. has long been considered a pivotal event in the history of the subcontinent, a view now under contestation academically (as well as politically by the Hindu Right). It has gone unnoticed in this context that one of the earliest coherent critiques of this regnant paradigm was offered by an opponent of the Hindu Right, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (1892–1956). His views on the Aryan invasion and the emergence of the caste system in India—the subject of this article—far from being preciously esoteric, speak on at least three conceptual registers: (1) their biographical significance when compared to the views of B. G. Tilak (1856–1920), Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964), and, Ambedkar’s predecessor, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule (1827–1890); (2) their political significance in the role of Ambedkar, first as an opponent of the Brahmanical vision of the Hindu nation represented for him not only by the Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) but the Gandhian Congress as well, then as the proponent of constitutionalism after the attainment of Indian independence in 1947, involving a simultaneous commitment to majority rule and minority protection, and later as the exponent of the exercise of Buddhist option out of Hinduism for the Dalits in 1956, and (3) finally, posthumously, as relevant to the current academic debate around ethnogenesis in South Asia.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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