Dhahanu, Ladakh – The Brogpas (or Drogpas) living in Ladakh, India-administered Kashmir, claim to be the last of the Aryans. Tourists – domestic and foreign – researchers and visitors are lured by the “last Aryan village” located in the remote Himalayas.
Are they indeed the last of what Nazi-era racial theorists thought of as a purebred “master race”? Or an exotic identity has been promoted to bolster racial tourism?
They live in the villages of Dha and Hanu (commonly called as Dhahanu), Darchik, and Gahanu – situated 163km southwest of Leh, the administrative capital of Ladakh. The 5,000 or so members of its community follows Tibetan Buddhism.
One theory says they arrived from Gilgit, Pakistan in the seventh century; a popular story is that they are descendants of Alexander’s army, while many argue that the Aryans are the indigenous inhabitants of India.
Unlike the majority of the Ladakhis with Tibeto-Mongol looks, the Brogpas have Indo-Aryan features.
Sanjeev Sivan’s 30-minute documentary “The Achtung Baby – In Search of Purity” explores the lore of pregnancy tourism: German women traveling to Dhahanu, in search of men with blue eyes, high cheekbones, long noses and superior intelligence – in the hopes of being impregnated with the last of the pure Aryan sperms.
According to Mona Bhan, associate professor of anthropology at DePauw University, Indiana, the theory of Aryan identity can be traced to “the British who were obsessed with racial categorisation and conflated language with race”. She has been documenting the community for more than a decade.
For the community, tourism is an exciting proposition. “Brogpas do not associate their Aryanism with its ‘dirty and cruel’ history in Germany and elsewhere, though the two cannot be disassociated,” Bhan told Al Jazeera. “There is also an underlying current here to reclaim a particular kind of nationalist pride and masculinity that relies on Brogpa bodies to bolster the superiority of Indian genes.”
Stories such as pregnancy tourism are manufactured by outsiders “to fuel their continued obsession with race and exoticism”.
For many locals, sustained curiosity brings additional income during the summer tourist season. “Now we charge $5 from tourists to pose for photos and more to wear traditional clothes and a lot more if you want to shoot videos,” said Thinley Aryan, who boasts of changing his last name to Aryan to impress foreigners.
When asked if he has received proposals for fathering children by German women – “We all have stories,” he said with a smile.