Friday, September 25, 2020

The Vedic Arya and Anarya

The word “aryan” has acquired serious geopolitical ramifications in the last hundred years, but this word is probably derived from the words “arya’ and “anarya,” which occur frequently in all the four Vedas (and other ancient Hindu literature: the Puranas, the Mahabharata). Since the first Veda, the Rigveda, is placed by scholars between the 12th and 5th centuries B.C., it might be inferred that the conception that an “aryan" is a better man originated in the Indian subcontinent. But no sense of racial and ethnic bias can be perceived in the Vedic usage of “arya’ and “anarya”—the two words are used to express moral, social, and spiritual status. An arya is a man who enjoys high social status because he is moral and spiritual; an anarya is a man who is immoral and unspiritual. The Rigveda contains discussion of several battles between kingdoms and clans, and the enemies are often referred as “dasyu” (demon) and “dasa” (slave), but these two words are free of racial and ethnic prejudices—in several instances, the people who are described as “dasyu” and “dasa” are the progeny of the same parents or clans, who, for any reason, religious, political, or something else, have become rebellious.

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