The Role of Christian Missionaries Towards Formulation and Spreading of Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) in India

  • Subrata Chattopadhyay Banerjee


‘If in that land you do give the people knowledge without religion, rest assured that it is the greatest blunder, politically speaking, that ever was committed’ proclaimed Reverend Alexander Duff, a Scottish missionary, during his address delivered before the General Assembly of the Church, on 25 May 1835. At this moment actually, Alexander Duff was referring to the evolving methodology of propagating Christianity in India. By advocating for knowledge-based religion propagation, he paved the way for the dissemination of Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). This single statement connected the three themes of religion, education and politics in colonial India, which crossed paths often. This time, however, the connection ranged from Europe to India. During the nineteenth century, European scholars stumbled upon significant scholarly discoveries, of which, arguably, Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) received the greatest contemporary following. It so happened, naturally, that the long-struggling Christian missions in the land of ‘130 million of idolaters’, to quote the speech of Reverend Duff, AIT would play a central role. In this chapter, I explore the struggle and growth of Christian missions in India, their ambivalence about the best methodology for the propagation of the Christian faith and finally, how they dealt with the emergence of AIT in Europe and its subsequent propagation in India. The main argument in this chapter is that the Christian missions kept in synchrony with the Indian social reform movement and ultimately utilized AIT as a sophisticated method for their mission. This tremendously boosted the sociocultural acceptance of AIT, which otherwise, rested on the flimsy foundation of evidences from the nascent field of philology. In a more general perspective, this brings forth the idea that development and propagation of a theory in nineteenth-century scientific world was intertwined with the social, economic, political and religious landscape. The propagation of AIT is a prime example to that effect.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Subrata Chattopadhyay Banerjee
    • 1
  1. 1.SingaporeSingapore

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