Definition - What does Aryan mean?

Aryan is a term thought to have historically been used by several groups of people to refer to themselves, including those who settled in prehistoric times in ancient Iran and northern India. It is likely that they were light-skinned and spoke an archaic Indo-European language. When this group of Aryans invaded ancient India from the north, their social structure, religion and literature shaped the Vedic religion and culture, which formed the basis of Hinduism and yoga.

Aryan is considered now by scholars to have originally been a cultural, religious and linguistic term, as opposed to the controversial racial connotations that it developed in later years.

Yogapedia explains Aryan

Arya is a Sanskrit word meaning “a noble one” or “one who does noble deeds." In Sanskrit literature, Aryavarta, or “abode of the Aryas,” is the name given to northern India.

The large-scale migration of the Aryan people into the Indian subcontinent is believed to have occurred before 1500 B.C.E. They were nomadic cattle herders and would have come into contact with the Indus Valley civilization, a civilization which was likely already decaying with the drying up of the Saraswati River in some parts and flooding in other parts.

With the Aryan migration, the Aryan language gradually began to take over the area. The ancient Aryan people likely worshiped the Vedic deities, especially Indra, and their religion and writing strongly influenced the ongoing development of Indian religion.

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