in Book Review — by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd — June 26, 2020FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailShare19
I met Tony Joseph, the author of Early Indians – the History of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From, first in Jaipur Literature Festival in 2019 and next at Mathrubhoomi Literature Festival in January, 2020 at Thivanthapuram. I had a lengthy discussion about his understanding of goats, buffalos, cows and so on, caste and race relations in ancient India and where the brahminic understanding of India went wrong and they became anti-animal economy and agrarian production. He gave me several clues which engendered a new curiosity in his understanding and his book. Then I started reading his book very seriously line by line. It threw up many new dimensions that were not done by the writings of any other historian, indologist and writer on ancient India earlier.
His book has opened a new perspective to Indian economic and cultural evolution in the context of many discoveries of the economic and cultural evolution of animal, plant and bird domestication and migration to different parts of the world and India. While reading early Indian agrarian system in the chapter ‘The First Farmers’ a new vision appeared for the first time. He wrote “the first evidence for domestication of goats comes from the settlement of Ganj Dareh in the central Zagros mountain region and is dated to 7900 BCE”. Even now the Indian shepherds have quite a bit of knowledge how goats live well around shrubby hills and mountains. Goat is known as the most adjustable animal to any new environment and selects its plant food from many available plants quite cleverly. Its selection of plants for food later on has thrown up many medicines that humans used to treat diseases. Its milk and meat is known as most human life sustaining and no wonder that this was the first domesticated animal and exported to many foreign lands in pre-historic times. This discovery of goat as earliest domesticated animal economy that brought humans out of hunting and food gathering and also short span of life.
As an animal, goat is highly useful for human stable life as its meat and milk are most suitable for human survival. During the corona pandemic the Kerala Government recommended goat milk as an immunity builder more than buffalo and cow milk. Mahatma Gandhi was said to have given up cow milk and took to drinking goat milk when he was attacked by the 1918 plague pandemic. In many pandemics goat meat and milk were said to have saved many people in South Asia. It is quite natural that this animal became the first source of stable food of humans. Even today both goat-sheep economy plays a critical role in global food, leather and wool economy.
Tony Joseph also tells how animals once domesticated at one place were carried along with migrant people all over the continents across the globe, where human habitat became possible. He further says “so the broad picture we see is that between 9500 BCE and 6500 BCE—that is a 3000—year period immediately following the end of the Younger Dryas and the beginning of Holocene—both plant and animal domestication had spread across most of the Fertile Crescent, after progressing in fits and starts during the last glacial period, with littering regions contributing in different times and probably with multiple instances of domestication for the same species”. He further adds:
“As we saw, even as the transition was on, people were taking their plants and animals, perhaps still in the process of being domesticated and perhaps not even that, migrating to newer places. Many places in the Fertile Crescent itself saw plants or animals being imported—an example being goats in the Southern Levant”. The Indian subcontinent certainly comes under this Southern Levant.
Tony Joseph established it with more evidence than any other historian—including Romila Thapar, R.S.Sharma – did earlier that Aryan migration took place as part of the third and last ancient wave of human migration, perhaps with horse as a war animal and white cow as food animal. This book established that for Aryan Brahminism horse was more significant and that animal was central to Rigvedic forces. Horse was not known to Harappans, as they were not war lovers like the Vedic Brahmins. Goat, though such a crucial food animal was mentioned just in one Rigvedic hymen.
Tony Joseph says “The Indian ‘pizza’ got made, with the base or the foundation being laid about 65000 years ago, when the Out of Africa migrants reached India. The sauce began to be made when the Zagrosian herders (shepherds) reached Baluchistan after 7000 BCE, mixed with the first Indians and then together went on to build Harappan Civilization….Then came the Aryans after 2000 BCE…”. It is very clear that the Aryans had no role in building the Harappan Civilization of India. In my view the name Harappa itself is Pre-Aryan and nativist. Such names do not appear in Vedic-Sanskrit literature but in South Indian literature and in real life ‘Appa’ and ‘Ayya’ names are very common in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and other places in South.
Joseph tells the migration to South first reached Karnataka crossing the Western plains. Similar names are also common in the Old Testament — like Messiah, Jeremiah, Isaiah –of the Bible. It appears that Old Testament of the Bible is quite older than Rigveda, constructed around cattle economy and agriculture as it deals with goats and sheep extensively as positive and respectable animals. Horse was not such major animal in the life of Abraham and Moses, as it is in the life of Indra in Rigveda. Once Rigveda constructed animal herders as Shudras and Mlecchas putting Brahminism on the highest spiritual and social pedestal the Brahmins seems to have disassociated themselves with all agrarian productive and animal herding activity, a process that continues till today. Production is pollution is their main spiritual theory even now.
Brahmins as community and Brahminism as ideology got formulated after that Aryan migration from the Central Asia. Brahmins as people and Brahminism as socio-spiritual and cultural ideology never treated the first human settlers (Out of Africa settlers) in the Indian subcontinent as great civilization builders, in spite of the fact they were the first urban civilization builders or what Tony Joseph calls first urbanites–Harappans.
Tony Joseph also disagrees with Ambedkar’s theory of no racial segregation in India. He says “….. Perhaps he (Ambedkar) did not go far enough–he seems to have still considered the tribals to be different from everyone else. We now know that this is not correct—because their genes run through every one, (According Tony they have more OoA genes about 65 per cent) no matter where in the caste hierarchy one is. Ambedkar was also wrong in denying ‘Aryan’ migration altogether, though he cannot be blamed for the mistake since he did not have the genome data that we have today”
The mythology of Indian civilization started with writing of Rigvedic text in Sanskrit and that went to construct anti-civilizational assertions to establish Indian caste system and Brahminic negativism. The Indian pattern of development deviated from the rest of the global pattern of civilizational developments once the Aryan casteism got constructed and indignity of animal economy became spiritually respectable.
By the time of writing of Rigveda the goat, sheep, buffalo and cow economy became fully expanded and that was the pivot of pastoral agrarianism. In entire Brahmin literature the first domesticated goat was not referred to as very prominent animal and people who were involved in the advancement of animal economy were constructed as Shudras and unsuitable to have respectable status in the realm of Brahminic God/Gods. The goat and sheep economy universally acquired high cultural value both spiritually and socially but in India the Brahmin writers projected that civilization builders as mlecchas (at that time untouchables) and all those communities now are known as backward, as they were not allowed to get education. The anti-animal herding Brahmins gradually built a culture of opposing agrarian production by deploying enormous amount of violence by the time of writing Rigveda and thereafter, which must have hindered Indian economic progress by that standard. Shudra resistance to their anti-productionism was suppressed by using horse power, perhaps by consuming Shudra animal wealth itself. That tendency continues till today. After the Rastriaya Swayamsevak Sangh was formed in 1925 cow was adopted as their Gomata and other economic animals like goat, sheep and buffalo were seen as unworthy of any respect as animal Mlecchas. This Brahminism runs through the present Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bharatiya Janatha Party regime. The Shudras still are only usable muscle power, which became evident in constituting the Ram Temple Trust in 2020, as no Shudra is found suitable to be on the Trust.
What is surprising is how and why the Shudra animal economists became so historically subservient to Brahmins? The answer could be found only in hierachised caste control of spiritual and state power. Brahmins and Ksatriyas, who have strong Aryan blood ownership but not of out of Africa migrant blood, which they attribute to Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis now, though according to Tony Joseph, all races are mixed by now unitedly oppressed the animal economy builders. However, all nationalist Brahmin-Bania (hardly any Ksatriya writers emerged in India) writers owned Aryan heritage whereas the first modern Shudra writer Mahatma Phule proudly asserted his Dravidian (OoA) lineage.
This book has come at a time when insecure Brahminism is doing all sorts of negative things as the new common language– English– education is spreading among all sections of India. The Shudra/OBCs of India must realize that they can become equal spiritual, social and economic citizens only when they fight brahminism, wherever it exists–temples, political parties of all ideologies right, left and centre. Tony Joseph’s book must be read by students, scholars in the universities and outside and policy makers in Indian system to gaze what went wrong in building our nation and economy and how to move forward.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author of many books, the latest being From Shepherd Boy to an Intellectual—My Memoirs
Notes and References:
 Tony Joseph, Early Indians–The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From, Juggernaut, 2018
 Ibid. p.78
 Goat and sheep economy plays a key role in India even today. The Indian shepherd communities though exist in different names in different states and their ancestral occupation is cattle grazing. Brahmins as people and Brahminism as ideology have no respect for this major community. They suffer various forms of discrimination. Though the author of Bhagvad Gita Sri Krishna is said to have come from the cattle grazing Yadav community Brahminism treats them very dis-respectable and historically denied Sanskrit education to them also. Now they are weakest in English education and globally available soft power knowledge. Tony Joseph’s book gives them a new hope with the discovery that goat was the earliest domesticated animal, which has no respectable place in Brahminic literature earlier and RSS/BJP ideology now like Buffalo. See Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd Buffalo Nationalism–A critique of Spiritual Fascism,Samya-Sage originally published in 2000.
 Tony Joseph, Early Indians–The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From, Juggernaut, 2018, p.79
 Romila Thapar, The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300, Penguin India, 2003
 Ram Sharan Sharma, Advent of the Aryans in India, Manohar Publications, New Delhi, 1999
 Tony Joseph, Early Indians — The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From, Juggernaut, 2018, p. 203
 Ambedkar, B.R, Who were the Shudras? How they came to be Fourth Varna in Indo-Aryan Society?, Samyak Prakashan, New Delhi, 2011
 Tony Joseph, Early Indians–The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From, Juggernaut, 2018, p. 213
 See Aparna Vaidk, My Son’s Inheritance –A Secret History of Lynching and Blood Justice in India, Aleph, 2020. Aparna is a historian and she tells about her grandfather’s Aryan Marwadi background and she looks that the tradition of Aryasamaj and that Mahatma Phule’s Dravidian, Mahabali culture which believed in equality of human beings as against Aryan vegetarian humanly discriminate culture.