The Greatest Chariot Battle In History
1301 BC. An Egyptian land army, numbering more than 20,000, (divided in 4 divisions) was raised. The leader – Pharaoh Ramesses-II of the XIX Dynasty. They were out to punish a small kingdom of Hittites, for trying to lure Amurru, Egyptian vassals, to their side. Another force set sail, in ships, to reach Byblos and squeeze the Hittites in the world’s first pincer movement.
What followed was a historic chariot battle.
An estimated 2500 Hittite (Ramesses’ estimate) chariots saw action. For two days the battle of Kadesh raged. Fought on the banks of the Orontes River in Syria. The Hittites had cobbled an alliance of small kingdoms. The Egyptian king was saved at the last minute by the appearance of his reserve troops.
On one side was the Egyptian Pharoah RamessesII (1279-1212 BCE). The builder of Temple Of Abu Simbel, Temple Of Nefertari; lived for more than 90 years. How would Abu Simbel read in Sanskrit – ‘abu’ is elephant, ‘simba’ is sinh i.e. lion and ‘bal’ is strength. He is believed to be Pharaoh at the time of Exodus of Hebrews under Moses. Ramesses II was known in history for construction that occurred during his reign. On the other side were the lesser known (to modern history) element – The Hittites led by Muwutalli II.
During the march, leading to the Kadesh battle, the Egyptian army captured two Bedouin “spies”. These “spies”, after being sufficiently beaten, “revealed” to the Pharoah important information – giving confidence to the Pharoah that the Hittites feared the approaching Egyptian army. The truth was the opposite.
The awaiting Hittites ambushed the Egyptian army. These spies, in fact, were Hittites – sent to misinform the Egyptians!!
Cause of War Of Kadesh
Both these kingdoms were interested in the Syria and Palestine areas through which trade was carried out with India. Syriac and Palestinian lands were controlled by the Amurru – who were Egyptian vassals. The Hittites were a liberalising element in the Middle East /West Asia and possibly the Amurrus had defected to practice their religion and save their culture from the Egyptians – instead of being slaves.
The cause of this battle was the defection of King Benteshina of the Amurru (is the correct name Bente = वंश vansha in Sanskrit and shin = moon goddess; meaning Chandravanshi?). The Amurru, (also known as Amorites) possibly switched sides from being an Egyptian vassal, to a Hittite ally. Were Amurrus, the Mauryas who later defeated the Seleucid army?
One of the Hiitite allies against Ramesses II was Rimisharrinaa, रामशरण, the King of Aleppo. (One of my grand uncles is also named as रामशरण – a common Indian name 4000 years later, 4000 kilometers apart).
The Historic Treaty
Two copies of the treaty were made. One, in Egyptian hieroglyphics and the other, in Hittite-Akaddian, and both survived. Only one difference in both the copies – the Egyptian version (recorded on a silver plaque) states that the Hittite king who wanted peace. In the Hittite copy, it was Ramesses-II who sent emissaries.
Peace broke when the queens of Hatti and Egypt, Puduhepa and Nefertari, both of Indo-Aryan extract and parentage, respectively, sent one another congratulatory gifts and letters. Over the next 15 years, they arrived at modus vivendi and drafted a peace treaty.
This peace treaty is the first in recorded history. A replica of this peace pact, in cuneiform tablet, found at Hattusas, Boghazkoi, hangs above the Security Council Chamber, United Nations, in New York, – a demonstration to modern nations the power of peace through international treaties. At Boghazkoi other Hiitite treaties have been found.
The Moses Connection
The Hittite liberalisation triggered a (vengeful) Moses to walk out of Egypt and formed Judaism – a monotheistic religion. The (suspected) Pharaoh at that time was Ramesis-II roughly between 1300-1200 BC. This is also when the Battle of Kadesh happened with the Hittites, which resulted in the most famous treaty.
While the Levant and the Occident continued with slavery for the next 3000 years, till 1900 AD, in India (referring to the Greater India, including the Hittites and Mitannis) after 1100 BC, slavery vanished. Compared to the retributive and vengeful Hammurabi’s code, the Indic rulers of Middle East (the Hittites, Mittanis and Elamites) already had a more liberal and humane legal system.
Plague, Locusts, Disease
So what was behind the the Indian disengagement from West Asia, the Greek Dark Age and the fall of the XVIIIth dynasty of Egypt.
Moses and Judaism, slavery, revolt of the slaves is my hypotheses. With the walkout by slaves, cities became dirty, plague broke out, agriculture suffered and locusts descended. With malnutrition, hunger and deprivation, came diseases.The newly liberated slaves fled to Greece – on Phoenician ships, where they were enslaved again.
And the Greek Miracle was born.
And who went to town claiming credit for mishaps in Egypt? Moses, proclaiming the power of his God.
The Hittite rule and legal system contrasted sharply with the parallel regime of Hammurabi – the much proclaimed Western world’s first law giver. Hammurabi’s legal concepts of vengeful laws and retributive justice are the basis of laws in the 3 ‘desert religions.’
Some archaeologists await the discovery of royal tombs to establish the identity of kings. They may never find them. In Vedic cultures, there are no royal tombs – like the Pyramids, or the Catacombs, or Mausoleums. Vedic Indo Aryans cremate their dead royals. They do not build memorials or mausoleums.
The Hittite kingdom is often called the “kingdom of thousands of gods.” Like the Mittani, they also adopted all the gods of the people they conquered . The Hittites (like Mittanis) did not impose their religion on the conquered peoples (Why does this sound familiar?). Both the Mitannis and the Hittites adopted the gods of the conquered tribes. This is significant as the Western concept of slavery was to deprive the captured from the religions (e.g. The Wends and their religion). This is another display of slave reform by Indics 3000 years ago.
The Assyrian Misadventure
Semiramis was possibly Queen Sammurammit /Sammurammat, ruling over Assyria and Babylon in late ninth and early eight centuries B.C. The identity of her husband is in question with different names like King Shamshi-Adad V, Adad-nirari IV (probably co-regent, son of ShamshiAdad V and Semiramis), and some say Rammannirar, and yet some others Vul Lush III.
Between Herodotus and Ctesias, we have Greek accounts of the rise of Semiramis. The Assyrian Empire in Asia Minor, of Semiramis, rivalled Alexander’s Asian territories. She was deposed by her son Ninyas /Ninus (probably co-regent, Adad-nirari IV, son of Shamshi Adad V and Semiramis), after her loss to the Indian king, Stabrobates.
Clearly a historical figure, Semiramis was elevated to godhood in the Assyrian pantheon of goddesses, deified and worshiped – much like cannonization of saints by the Christian Church.
To the Greeks and Romans, Semiramis was the foremost of women, the greatest queen who had ever held a sceptre, the most extraordinary conqueror that the that the East had ever produced. Beautiful as Helen or Cleopatra, brave as Tomyris, lustful as Messaline, she had the virtues and vices of a man rather than woman, and performed deeds scarcely inferior to those of Cyrus or Alexander The Great. (from The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World By George Rawlinson).
For her achievements, Semiramis was personified in the cult of ‘Mother and Child’, which Vatican was at great pains to exterminate, as it was the continuation of the worship of the Mother figure of Gnosticism and other Christian streams.
Assyrians in India
Queen Semiramis too failed in the Indian campaign. The story of Semiramis, the Assyrian Queen and the Indian King Stabrobates by a Greek ‘historian,’ Ctesias (in Diodorus Siculus) is of interest. Her army consisted, informs Ctesias, of an (over?) estimated 100,000 chariots, 5000 cavalry and 300,000 foot soldiers.
Semiramis prepared for her Indian campaign for two years. But, face to face with the menacing Indian armies with real elephants, Assyrian soldiers panicked – and some defected to the Indian army.
Only to spill the beans.
The elephants in the Assyrian army were camels – dressed as elephants. During the two years of preparation, the army of Semiramis made costumes for thousands of her camels – to look like elephants.
She selected three hundred thousand dark colored oxen … she then sewed the hides together and stuffed them full of hay to make imitation elephants that mimicked the appearance of these beasts in every detail. Inside each of these mock elephants was a man to operate it and a camel by which it was moved (from The antiquities of Asia By Diodorus Siculus, Diodorus, Edwin Murphy).
Apparently, foreign armies used ‘faux’ elephants to frighten enemies.
Ctesias in Diodorus Siculus mentions Semiramis commissioned an inscription at Bagistan – later known as The Behistun /Besitoon /Bisitoon Inscription – a rock-face carving.
When Semiramis had finished all her works, she marched with a great army into Media, and encamped near to a mountain called Bagistan ; there she made a garden twelve furlongs in compass. It was in a plain champaigne country, and had a great fountain in it, which watered the whole garden. Mount Bagistan is dedicated to Jupiter, and towards one side of the garden has steep rocks seventeen furlongs from the top to the bottom. She cut out a piece of the lower part of the rock, and caused her own image to be carved upon it ; and a hundred of her guards, that were lanceteers, standing round about her. She wrote likewise in Syriac letters upon the rock, that Semi- ramis ascended from the plain to the top of the mountain, by laying the packs and fardels of the beasts that followed her, one upon another.
But what we see today at Behistun is a message by Darius – a tri-lingual message which helped in decipherment of Elamite, Akkadian and Old Persian scripts. So, what happened?
The Behistun inscription is on a limestone rock face. Darius (could have) simply scraped away Semiramis’ carving – and overwrote his message. Could Darius have let go of such a site – and not used it to glorify himself? Subsequently, a figure of Hercules was also carved in 139 (some writers mention 148) BC by Seleucid Greeks – Demetrius II Nicator.
Semiramis in modern history
Mired in legend and prejudice, Semiramis is discredited in modern Western history – especially starting from 1853-1857. Her very existence denied, accused of incest, Semiramis has been tarred and condemned to the rubbish heap of modern history – and the Bible. As far back as 1798, the Asiatick Researches By Asiatic Society (Calcutta, India), were able to trace references to the Semiramis campaign in the Indian Puranas also. And …
In the case of Semiramis, confusion may have been caused by the fact that her husband and her son were both named Ninus; but to classical and medieval readers it seemed quite plausible that a powerful woman ruler (and a barbarian to boot) would be tyrannical and transgressive in her lust and that her violent delights would have a violent end. (from Incest and the Medieval Imagination By Elizabeth Archibald).
Semiramis established an empire that lasted, practically till WW1. Some 300 years, after the reign of Semiramis, the Assyrian Empire passed into Persian hands – and then into the hands of Alexander. Romans usurped Alexander’s Empire – and in turn, lost everything 500 years later. The Romans lost the Assyrian Empire which passed into the hands of the Eastern Empire of Byzantium. The last inheritors of the Assyrian Empire were the Ottoman Turks and the Austro Hungarian Empire. Behind the problems in the Middle East today, is t he carve up of the Ottoman Empire by victorious Allies, handled by amateurs like TE Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, after WW1.
History as colonial agenda
Why has modern history treated Semiramis so badly?
Was it the colonial agenda, being set by Max Mueller. Appointed to Oxford University in 1851, made a full professor in 1854, Max Mueller became a British citizen in 1855. A German Christian, with a missionary zeal, he took his cues from Bible – and was paid by the British East India Company. For instance, the British East India Company commissioned him to produce propaganda at the rate of 4 pounds per page. A very satisfied Max Muller, agreed to write 50 pages of manuscript every year – for which he would be paid 200 pounds.
Behind numerous specious historical theories that sprang up during Colonial (Indian) period, Max Mueller’s significant objective was to use his knowledge of Sanskrit and Indian religion, to show the superiority of the Christianity – and the Christian West. He wrote, how
The translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3000 years.
After all, Max Mueller believed that
whatever finds root in India soon overshadows the whole of Asia, and nowhere could the vital power of Christianity more gloriously realize itself than if the world saw it spring up there
If Greek accounts or sources went against the Colonial agenda, Max Muller, dismissed all his beloved Greek sources by carefully, hedging his writing with terms like ‘half legendary account’ with ‘possibly’ , ‘supposed’ , ‘may represent’ with a few ‘doubtful’ also thrown in – for free. When it comes to Indian triumphs, Semiramis becomes half legendary. Yet in another book, the same Semiramis becomes one of ‘the great conquerors of antiquity.’ In a matter of a few pages, he dismisses Indian history completely, in a half-Hegelian manner.
Cyrus The Great
The first inheritor of the Assyrian Empire, was the Persian Achaemenid dynasty (Hakhamanish in Persian) – of which Cyrus (Kurush in Persian) The Great, was the first ruler. He was victorious in battle after battle – and his armies defeated all others they came across. Building on the Assyrian Empire, he expanded his empire across most of Southwest Asia and much of Central Asia, from Egypt and the Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east.
His rule (ca 554-529) was the object of much study by Greeks and Romans. Xenophon, in Cyropaedia, thought that Cyrus was ‘the ideal of monarchy.’ Building on the Assyrian territories, his empire was the largest the world had yet seen. Dr.Abul Kalam Azad, the Indian political leader, also the first education Minister of the post-colonial Indian Republic, theorized that Cyrus The Great was the Koranic character of Dhul-Qarnayn – and not Alexander The Great.
Death of Cyrus – and India
After all these victories, Cyrus turned his attention India wards. Trying to conquer India, Cyrus The Great met his nemesis, at the hands of an army with significant Indian component. The defeat of Cyrus The Great, reverberated in the Western world. A Greek writer, well travelled in Asia and Northern India, Herodotus,
judged it to be be the bloodiest battle he had witnessed. Not even a Persian messenger survived to carry the tale of the battle, and for years his people did not know what had become of Cyrus. (from Women Warriors By David E. Jones).
In the battle against the Massaga, resulting in the defeat and death of Cyrus, against Queen Tomyris, Indian elephants played a crucial role. After their defeat at the hands of Tomyris, the Persians (then Zoroastrians) did not use elephants (considered evil by Zoroastrians).
After their defeat at Indian borders, at the hands of the Massagetae, Persians foccussed their expansionary ambitions towards Europe – and Greece in particular, – and stopped looking India wards. Alexander the Great, renamed the site of the Cyrus-Tomyris battle as Alexandria Eschate – which was earlier known as Kurushkhatta (Kurukshetra?) /Kyreschata /Kuruškatha.
Achaemenids did not learn their lessons from the death of Cyrus their Great. Possibly, the outcome against Alexander would have been different, had they used more elephants at Gaugamela – instead of 12-15. Similarly, a 1000 years later, the Sassanian army, had forgotten their lessons – and could not use their few elephants to full effect, against the Islamic Arabs.
But, the Sassanian dynasty was able to wrest back and defend the Persian dominions from the Greco-Romans, after setting up an elephants corps in their army – evidenced, for instance, by the carvings at Taq-i-Bustan. At one time, the Sassanian rulers had increased its elephant corps to 12,000 elephants.
In the character of their warfare, the Persians of the Sassanian period did not greatly differ from the same people under the Achaemenian kings. The principal changes which time had brought about were an almost entire disuse of the war chariot, [PLATE XLVI. Fig. 3.] and the advance of the elephant corps into a very prominent and important position. Four main arms of the service were recognized, each standing on a different level: viz. the elephants, the horse, the archers, and the ordinary footmen. The elephant corps held the first position. It was recruited from India, but was at no time very numerous. Great store was set by it; and in some of the earlier battles against the Arabs the victory was regarded as gained mainly by this arm of the service. … The elephant corps was under a special chief, known as the Zend-hapet, or “Commander of the Indians,” either because the beasts came from that country, or because they were managed by natives of Hindustan. (from The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World By George Rawlinson).
But, the India connection …
Of course, India is not what India calls itself. Bharat(ah) and aryavart are the more common names. Bactra (possibly) is the Greek pronunciation of Bharat(ah).
For most modern Western historians (and also modern Indian historians), only the Core North India, is Indian history, society and culture.
This is the history which colonial historians propagated and showed India as a defeated civilisation. Invaded, pillaged and dominated. Inferior. Technologically backward. This is the history that is taught in schools and exists in popular imagery. Despite its many fallacies, this view is being perpetuated by propaganda interests of the West in general and the Anglo Saxon Bloc in particular – in addition to the (various versions of) Congress party which has been the ruling party for most of post-colonial India’s existence.
Some of the myths that have taken root and which have done much damage to the post colonial India. The infamous population theory, Chidambaram’s ill-informed 5000 years of poverty, poor natural resources, the supine Hindu, non-aggressive behavior by Indians amongst many others myths.
One India is North of Vindhyas and the other is South of Vindhyas. These 2 India’s have a overlap (as is to be expected) and are complementary. The North of Vindhyas, stretching from modern day Orissa, MP, Maharashtra upwards has its core around the Indo Gangetic plains and the Himalayas. It is the core of North Indian geography.
This North Indian geography radiates out and spreads on the उत्तरपथ Uttarapatha (the Western world knows this as the Silk Route) to modern day Samarkand, Afghanistan, Tibet, Pakistan, Iran, Oman, Tajikstan upto the Caspian Sea. Central Asian tribes and kingdoms of Persians, Sakas /Scythians, Kushans (Kanishka, their most famous ruler), Huns, Mongols, Tartars set up empires with shifting boundaries. Hueng Tsang narrates that India ruled till east of Taklamakan desert. The famous ‘robber baron’ of colonial archaeology, Sir Aurel Stein, recovered many Indian language scripts from Central Asia.
Along the Dakshinapatha दक्षिणपथ
There is another part to that history – which today influences and touches half the world. This history is full of wealth, military successes and a spread which taken India deeper than any other civilisation in the world. While the previous history was along the उत्तरपथ uttarapath, this story lies along the दक्षिणपथ dakshinapatha.
Its starts at Kerala, a highway across Nagpur Jhansi, Gwalior, Delhi ,Kashmir and ends in modern Iran. This history and geography is loosely dominated by the Dravidian segment of India.
Colonial historians (from India and the West) dismissed Dravidian history as subordinate and lesser than Aryan on the basis of the Aryan Invasion Theory. Now that the Aryan Invasion /Migration Theory does not have a leg to stand on, the contribution by the Dravidians along the dakshinapatha दक्षिणपथ becomes more important.
Military paradigm changes
From the battle of Kadesh to the retreat of Alexander, Indic rulers changed the military paradigm. Buddhist texts talk about 16 mahajanapadas – which formed this ruling federation. Five very important changes were seen. Buddhist texts refer to the “the 63,000 kings of Jambudwipa”. Power was distributed amongst the many kings to provide a choice of competing administrations, to which the populations could migrate, based on advantage, opportunity and benefit.
One – war chariots became less important. By the time of Alexander’s march in India, chariots were a minor part of the Indian armies. Instead, the importance of cavalry increased. Bessos, the Bactrian mathista, designated to succeed Darius III, led the successful Indic cavalry charge, at Gaugamela, on the Macedonian right flank – which forced Alexander to focus on the centre of the Persian army, led by Darius III.
When Alexander finally was able to make his way to India, he met a fierce onslaught of the Indian cavalry units – supported by fearsome elephants. Indian cavalry units were always smaller than in other nations due to paucity of horses in India. India was a traditional importer of horses. For combat use, Indian cavalry used imported horses and Indian breeds. Behind Rajput power, was the successful breeding of the Marwari horses, which came about only in the 12th century. Earlier Indian horses easily trained and more intelligent, but smaller with less stamina, and used as as pack animals.
Two – a system of alliances supporting frontline kingdoms in the entire North West Indian swath was formulated. For instance, against the Assyrian invasion, led by Semiramis, a minor Indian king, Stabrobates, was supported to beat back the Assyrian invasion. Against Cyrus the Great, Tomyris, a Scythian Queen was supported to massacre Persian invaders. Alexander’s nightmare began immediately, as soon as he crossed into the Indic area.
Instead of the complete capitulation and collaboration that Alexander got from the defeated Achaemenid ruling family of Sisygambis, Stateira, Oxathres (brother of Darius III; also written as oxoathres and oxyathres) et al, the foursome of Bessos, Spitamenes, Datafernes and the Scythians made Alexander’s life miserable. At Gaugamela, it was Bessos and his Indian cavalry, which broke Alexander’s formations.
The tribes and kshatrapas (satraps) of Indian North West swath, delayed Alexander for nearly three years – before he could step into India. In India, Alexander had to pay the King of Taxiles, Omphis, (Ambi) 1000 talents of gold (more than 25 tons of gold) – to secure an alliance. He had to return the kingdom of Punjab to Porus – purportedly, after winning the battle. His loot and pickings from India were negligible. Alexander’s response – “the Macedonians frequently massacred the defenders of the city, especially in India.”
Alexander realized that the Indian Brahmins had influenced the Indian princes to organize and support the Indian war against Alexander. Greek sources cite, how at ‘The City of Brahmans’, he massacred an estimated 8000-10,000 of these non-combatant Brahmins. Thus while, invaders were kept at bay, within the Indic area, borders and crowns kept changing and shifting.
Less than 300 years after Alexander, Romans came close to Indian border. They were led by Marcus Licinius Crassus – estimated (or allegedly) worth 200,000,000 sestertii. A writer of classical journals estimated that to be worth about 7.6 million in 1860. Inflation adjusted, about 7.6 billions. Source of Crassus’ wealth – slavery, corruption, pillage, bribery et al. Crassus is more famous in history for three things – One, for his wealth, Two – for having crucified thousands of rebellious slaves on the Via Appia, after defeating Spartacus’ Slave Army and Three, as the man who funded the rise of Julius Caesar.
It is his death, that is usually glossed over.
The rich Crassus decided to chase military fame – “to penetrate even to Bactria, India, and the shores of the Eastern Ocean.” The North West swath was ruled by the Indo-Parthian rulers from circa 100 BC onwards. Western historical narratives place King Guduvhara (Western historians think he is Gondophares) as a prominent king of this era – based on a mix of coins and contradictory written evidence. The value of numismatics in India gets diluted, the moment one factors the fact that Indian rulers did NOT have an exclusive prerogative to mint coins. Freedom to issue coinage was general – based on the acceptability of the issued coinage. Hence, Indian royal Indian coinage was usually crude and simplistic.
On the other hand, private coinage, exquisitely crafted by Greco-Bactrians. These coins possibly gave rise to Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan, from the word yavana, Sanskrit name for Greeks. The capital of these Indo-Parthian kingdoms was Takshashila – the major centre of Indian learning and the site of the Takshashila University.
A lesser known noble of this kingdom was the Suren family – one of who, led an Indo-Parthian-Iranian army against Roman armies, in 53 BC at Carrhae, led by the billionaire, Marcus Licinius Crassus. The Surens were possibly powerful warlords – ruling over Siestan (Shakyastan).
These Indo-Scythians, expert horsemen and archers, creators of the Parthian Shot (popularized as parting shot), pulverized the Roman armies. The Indian invention of the toe-stirrup, a first in the world happened probably around 500 BC-300 BC, at the latest by 200BC. The Indian invention of the toe-stirrup, made the Parthian cavalry into a fearsome fighting force.
Crassus was captured – and his greed was satiated when molten gold was poured down his throat. Mark Anthony tried avenging Crassus defeat – with a disastrous defeat, again.
For the next nearly 400 years, Romans were wary of any large expeditions into Indo-Persian territories. At least, the Italians did not forget Crassus. 1800 years later, Dante Alighieri, asked Crassus, “‘Crassus, tell us, because you know, how does gold taste?”
Of General Suren, not much is known – which by now, should not surprise us. Also, some ancient maps show the Gandhara-Takshashila region as Suren. Suren also supposedly ‘lacked strategic vision’ – these days, is called ‘killer instinct’, for which he was shortly later killed. But it is interesting that the enemies of the daiwas (enemy of devas are the asuras, in Indian scriptures), the Zoroastrians (followers of Ahura Mazda, speculatively Mahishasura) allied themselves with a Suren. The House of Suren’s had traditional rights to install the crown of Persian rulers.
Three – the biggest game changer were the elephant corps. War elephants was an Indian invention and an Indian monopoly. After the defeat and death of Cyrus The Great at the hands of Tomyris, the Persians stopped looking India-wards. 500 years later (nearly), with the help of the Indian elephant corps, the Sassanians stopped the Romans at Persian borders in 363 AD.
With these three changes, Indian heartland became invincible. Empire builders like the Assyrian Queen, Semiramis and the Achmaenian Emperor, Cyrus the Great mounted expensive campaigns to conquer India – and barely escaped with their lives. Later, Genghis Khan’s armies avoided India completely. Timurlane could invade India – when Delhi was under rule by a foreign dynasty, the Tughlaks. Indian invincibility and military prowess was unmatched till the 13th century – when the first foreign rulers, the Slave Dynasty rulers from the Levant started ruling from Delhi – Qutubuddin Aibak, in 1206.
Four – Indian teachers and intellectuals were sent to all corners of the world. The spread of Buddhism in Asia is well chronicled. Socrates’ encounter with an Indian yogi however, is not so well known. Mani, the Buddhist teacher was feared by the Vatican for the next 1000 years. Vatican killed, burnt and quartered all those who displayed any leaning towards Manicheanism. Islamic invaders searched and destroyed statues or ‘boet’ (meaning statues of Buddha?). In 2nd century AD, Origen, a Christian pioneer, attributed the spread of Christianity “The island (Britain) has long been predisposed to it (Christianity) through the doctrines of the Druids and Buddhists, who had already inculcated the doctrine of the unity of the Godhead”
Five – Indic legal and political structures were introduced. The usage of gold was popularized and became widespread as an economic tool. Coinage in India was not a royal prerogative or implemented by fiat. Even the British colonial government could not impose a single currency system in India.
Thus, for instance, there were intricate Greco-Bactrian coins, compared to crude and simple Indic coins. Sanskritic and Dravidian systems were used to structure ancient languages like Akkadian and Elamite.
The foremost administrative innovation was the concept of Bharata(ah) – the aryavart and the arya dhwaj. Comprising of 16 to 30 mahajanapadas, Bharata(ah) became a federation of kingdoms. Each of these kingdoms became a series of succeeding lines of defence against invading armies. What the European Union is grappling with, (and may yet fail) for the last 300 years, was implemented and used 3000 years ago in India.
The foremost proponent of this Indic construct, well known to modern history, is Kautilya Chanakya. Western colonial historians, have spitefully, called him the Indian Machiavelli. Chanakya, encoder-in-chief of Indic statecraft, came a full 1700 years before Machiavelli, who took office, after Savonarola was served en flambe to the Borgia papacy, in a declining and decadent Florence, under the Medicis.
Thus many tribal groups from India’s North West swath, merged under a larger Indic identity – which allowed them to maintain their own sub-identity within the larger Indic group. Even today, India with 40,000 endogamous groups, is the most diverse ethnic grouping in the world.
Cyrus’ target was the border tribe of Massagetae – a branch of Scythians.
The difference in accounts of which tribe defeated Cyrus are due to the fact that the Derbices were a part of a powerful tribal confederation of the Massagetae living in the steppes between the Caspian and Aral seas. In Ctesias’ time they were the most famous among the Massagetae. But long before the time of Berossus (third century B.C.), the Dahae had replaced the Massagetae on the stage of history, and that is why he named them as Cyrus’ adversaries. (from History of Civilizations of Central Asia By Ahmad Hasan Dani, Vadim Mikhaĭlovich Masson, Unesco, János Harmatta, Boris Abramovich Litvinovskiĭ, Clifford Edmund Bosworth).
The Massagetae derived their name from, possibly Maha + gadha (great club /mace) – a feared battle axe. Finally becoming known as the kingdom of Magadha? Were they earlier known as the Amurrus and later known as Mauryas of Magadha? Possibly the same Massagetae, contributed to Alexander’s experience at the battle against the Asvanyas (Khamboj), called by the Greeks as Aspasioi /Aspasii /Assakenoi /Aspasio /Hipasii /Assaceni/Assacani, Osii /Asii /Asoi, and Aseni in Greek records.
After days of intense fighting, the chieftain of the Massaga fort died – and the Queen of the Massagas, Cleophis (as per Greek records) took command. After five days (Plutarch says) even possibly nine days (Curtius Rufus confirms), Alexander finally, Diodorus recounts, was driven to use subterfuge to gain ascendancy. Both Plutarch and Diodorus, recount how Alexander’s forces killed the Massaga army marching away, after false assurances of safe passage. Plutarch (Mestrius Plutarchus) (46 c AD 127 c AD) recounts how Alexander “incurred serious losses and accordingly, concluded a treaty of peace with them but, afterwards, as they were going away, set upon them while the were on the road and killed them all”
By the way, Scythians are known in India, as Sakas or Shakhyas – and Gautama Buddha was also known Shakhyamuni. Their favorite drink was hauma, which seems to be similar to Indo-Aryan, Sanskritic Soma. The other name for this tribe (referred to by the Greeks) against the Persians was the Derbices or Dahae. Was this name derived from the ‘darbha’ grass, which Chanakya had used to swear the downfall of the Nanda kings? Shakhyas /Scythians, were from the steppes and the ‘darbha’ grass would have been symbolically auspicious and sacred for them. Scythians were also engaged in Athens, as slave-policemen, to patrol the streets, with clubs. Much like their descendants, the Pathans were used in India, for debt recovery.
Much like many actors in Indian history, there is little known of Tomyris. That is one qualification. The second is, by now the famous Indian ‘deficiency‘ – her ‘lack of killer instinct.” Like the much debated Indian lack fo ‘killer instinct’, the Massagetae could have followed on and taken ‘advantage’ of the Persian situation – which Tomyris didn’t.
Third, was the Tomyris’ advice to Cyrus, “Be content to rule in peace your own kingdom, and bear to see us reign over the countries that are ours to govern.” Very similar to the logic given by Ambhi to Alexander. Similar results.
“To what purpose, should we make war upon one another, if the design of your coming into these parts be not to rob us of our water or our necessary food, which are the only things that wise men are indispensably obliged to fight for? As for other riches and possessions, as they are accounted in the eye of the world, if I am better provided of them than you, I am ready to let you share with me; but if fortune has been more liberal to you than me, I have no objection to be obliged to you.” (from Plutarch’s Lives, Vol. 2 of 2 By Plutarch – Ambhi to Alexander).
Fourth, most interestingly, were the many Mahishasurmardini statues, coins and seals – especially seals by the Gupta kings and coins by many other Indic rulers, recovered from Afghanistan and Iran. The issuance of Mahishasurmardini seals and coins continued, going by by appearances, to celebrate this victory of Tomyris, for the next 800-1000 years. Such coins, seals and statues have been found in modern day Iran, Afghanistan, which support this linkage. The possible link between Ahura Mazda and Mahishasura (Sanskrit root of Mazda Ahura?) has been the source of much speculation. After all, Zarathushtra was also from Bactra. The commonality of Sanskritic language, symbols between Zend Avestha and Aryan India are well known for me repeat.
The Persian linguistic makeover from the Dravidian-Elamite language to Sanskritic-Old Persian however did not change everything. The Zoroastrian revolt against the daiwas (devas), continues today in Tamil Nadu, where asura kings like Ravana and Neduncheziyan are respected.
Cut to modern India. After the 1971, Bangla Desh War, Indira Gandhi was described as Durga by the leader of Opposition, Atal Behari Vajpayee. More recently, Sonia Gandhi was portrayed as Durga (as a reaction to Vasundhara Raje Scindhia’s portrayal as Devi Annapoorna). So, was the popularity of Mahishasuramrdini portrayals, a hark back to the Tomyris saga?
Back to the mother lode …
So, the next question! What happened to the Tocharians (known to Indians as Tusharas /Tukharas), Yue-Chi, the Kushans, the Scythians, the Hunas, the Bactrians – who at various times had a significant position in Indic societies.
India has approximately 40,000 endogamous groups, of which about 37,000 groups are structured into the largest religious group (Hindu) and 3,000 are tribal, religious, and other migrant populations (Malhotra 1984). The Indian population is subdivided into a number of castes and subcastes, depending on the profession or nature of work.
Model for Indic assimilation
A probable model for Indic assimilation is the synthesis of Parsis (Zoroastrian) in India. Zarathustra, a Bactrian, established the Zoroastrian faith, which became significantly popular in the Persia and the North West swath of India. The Achaemenid Dynasty succeeded the Elamites (Dravidian Indians) in Iran – and the took over the Assyrian Empire. With the change in regime, came a change in the linguistic policy. Elamite-Dravidian language was replaced by Sanskritic-Old Persian.
Till about 8th century BC, the Zoroastrians were based in Iran. Within a few years, after the fall of Zoroastrian Sassanian kingdom, under persecution by the Islamic conquerors, in Persia, the first set of Zoroastrians made their way back to India. Over the next 200 years, from 8th century to 10th century, the Zoroastrians returned to the larger Bactra – Bharat(ah).
The second major influx of Zoroastrians, was in the 17th-19th century. The second wave of immigrants mostly carry the ‘Irani’ surname and were significantly associated with setting up tea parlours. India was the mother lode to which these populations reverted. The commonalities between Vedic texts and the Zoroastrians texts are significant and well known to repeat here.
How did this change history
Alexander … heard that no one had hitherto passed that way with an army and emerged in safety, except Semiramis, when she fled from India. The natives said that even she emerged with only twenty men of her army; and that Cyrus son of Cambyses, escaped with only seven of his men … When Alexander received this information he is said to have been seized with a desire of excelling Cyrus and Semiramis … What credence can we place in these accounts of India … Megasthenes virtually agrees. (from Alexander the Great By Ian Worthington – ellipsis mine).
Both Cyrus the Great and Semiramis are the subject of many volumes and books written by the Greeks, Persians, Babylonians tablets, etc.
Alexander in fact is said to be eager to capture India precisely because two earlier conquerors – Semiramis and Cyrus – had failed to do so. Here it is worth noting, Alexander apparently views the legendary Assyrian queen as an historical figure, the equal of Cyrus the Great, and strives to outdo them both. (from Warrior Women By Deborah Levine Gera).
Alexander’s newly inducted Persian advisors, apart from Greek writers also, would have filled him in, on how a few centuries ago, Semiramis, Queen of Assyria, and Cyrus the Great, two significant historical figures of the Asia and the Levant, had failed against the Indians.
Many of Alexander’s actions, seemingly aimed at patching up alliances with Indian rulers on his borders, to avoid the fate of his predecessor ‘conquerors’ – Cyrus The Great and Semiramis. His pickings in terms of loot were negligible – unlike, say from, Persia.
The ‘Greek miracle’ in India
Modern Western historians refer to the Greek colonies in Bactra-Bharata(ah), Sogdiana (modern Afghanistan and Baluchistan) as proof of Alexander’s and Greek conquests in the Indian sub-continent – and trace all development in Indian art, culture, et al to this Greek presence. Even though,
Though its officials were literate, very little written evidence has survived about Greco-Bactrian society, and even archaeological evidence is thin, so that most of our evidence for the history of the kingdom comes from numismatics. (from Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire By David Christian).
This did not stop the West to start claiming credit for the Gandhara art – for the next nearly 100 years. Succumbing to romanticizing history, another Western historian laments how
their picturesque story would be far more prominent if any adequate account had survived (it has been brilliantly pieced together by Tarn). – from History of ancient geography By James Oliver Thomson.
With little ‘written evidence’, when ‘archaeological evidence is thin’, though no ‘adequate account has survived’ the Western narrative of Bactra’s Greeks so ‘brilliantly pieced together by Tarn’ can only be termed as yet another Greek miracle! This did not stop the West to start claiming credit for the Gandhara art – for the nearly 100 years.
Greek influence in India
The truth – Herodotus informs us that rebellious Greeks in the Persian kingdoms were exiled to Indian borders – at Susa, Khuzestan (in modern Iran) and Bactria (modern Afghanistan). Among these exiles were citizens of Miletus, who were behind the Ionian revolt in 499 BC.
Alexander continued with this practice. After his death, we are informed by Diodorus of Sicily (World history, 18.7) veteran Macedonians and Greek exiles revolted against their externment – and the Daidochi had to send an expedition, under Peithon, to quell this revolt.
And the first man to raise the banner of opposition to Alexander was Bessos – who was appointed as mathišta – the Achaemenid word for a successor. The appointment of Bessos as the mathišta, also explains the support that Bessos got from the various kings.
Dutch scholars have argued that mathišta (which simply means “the greatest” and can also be used in common expressions like “Ahuramazda is the greatest of the gods”) was the title of the man who had been chosen by the great king as his successor.
And where were mathistas posted for training – to Bactra /Bharat(ah) . Of course, Greek hagioraphers have portrayed Bessos as the killer of Darius III – which seems odd. After the death of Alexander, Seleucos Nicator married Apama, the daughter of Spitamenes – and they sent their son, Antiochus for training – again to Bactra.
Foreign rule in India
Why did Ghenghis Khan avoid India? India, a rich civilization, with massive exports and large gold reserves, was an attractive target. Genghis Khan, whose empire, from Mongolia to Austria, from Central Asia to Russian borders, was larger than Alexander’s – and whose conquests brought Chinese culture to Europe (like abacus, gunpowder, paper, printing) by-passed India completely. Why?
Islamic Conquest of India …?
By 1000 A.D., Al Beruni’s description of India and its wealth, spread over the Islamic world. By the time of the first significant Islamic raid of Indian heartland, in 1001, when Mahmud of Ghazni invaded India, Islam was already entrenched in Europe. Spain was already under Islamic rule by 718 AD. Parts of Italy fell by 902. Crete (part of modern Greece) fell in 961. In Northern Europe, modern day Georgia (on Russian borders) fell to Islamic rule, by 735.
For the next 500 years, Islamic territories continued to expand. India was the last significant conquest of the Islam. Islamic raiders targetted India for plunder and loot – but were not able to establish themselves till the 13th century. The first significant Islamic dynasty in India was the Slave dynasty – only in the 13th century, Qutubuddin Aibak in 1206. From the 1206 to 1526, Islamic rulers struggled to consolidate in India.
The successful invasion of Babur, in the 1526 established Islamic rule in the Indian heartland. From 1526 onwards, Islamic conquest waned. Islamic empires started consolidating. On the other, the European star, was on the ascendant from 1492, with the voyage of Columbus. But then the Moghuls were from Afghanistan, part of Bharat(ah). And their greatest successes came after (reluctantly) co-opting the Indians.
Colonial historians mix up Central Asian and Levantine raiders with Islamic kings from the Indian sub-continent as Islamic invaders, but themselves as European.Why is the British Colonial rule not described as the Christian conquest of India? For the same reasons, that Islamic conquerors, by that time, had conquered most of Eastern Europe, had failed in India.
The other trick in bag of the colonial historian was to show successful invaders as foreign – and defeated foreign rulers, as an Indian defeat. The Tughlaks were powerful, foreign Islamic invaders who swept the weak Hindus, before them, but when Timurlane defeats the same Tughlaks, it becomes a Indian defeat. When Babur, from Afghanistan, captures the throne of Delhi, he is a successful foreign invader – but when his descendant Bahadur Shah Zafar, is defeated, he is the defeated Indian ruler.
Afghanistan in Indian history
As soon as we redefine India as Bharat(ah), it encompasses and includes Afghanistan. Defining Afghan rule, as a part of the Greater India, limits foreign to a brief period of 1206-1400 and from 1756-1947. Thus Mughal rule was characterized by (corrupted and reluctant?) Indic values – whereas less than 300 years after Babur, Ranjit Singh, captured most of Afghanistan again. Thus to show Afghan rule as foreign rule, is colonial mischief.
Varahamihira, in his Brhat Samhita (11.61; 16.38), in 6th century, refers to Afghans as Avagan. Soon thereafter, Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang /Huien Tsang (7th century AD) refers to the Apokien (Avagans or Afghans). A modern view, supported by Greek and Indian classical texts, trace the name Afghan from Sanskrit – Ashvaka or Ashvakan (Panini’s Ashvakayana), the Assakenoi in Alexander’s campaign in India. The Ashvakayan/Asvakan were possibly a sub-tribe of the Kambojas, specialists in horse-breeding and trading.
No Western power could capture Afghanistan. Britain failed, neither could Russia and now the USA is unable to. But Afghanistan was ruled by Indian rulers like Chandragupta Maurya, the Gupta Dynasty did, or the Kushans could, as did Ranjit Singh. Colonial historians separated Afghanistan from India – to neuterlize Indian polity and exaggerate Western ‘conquests’ of India.
India’s line of defence
Unlike what most Western historians would like us to believe, Indian military machine was a successful system – which safeguarded India well. Indians pioneered war chariots and horses. The first horse manual was written by Kikuli, the Hittite. But, after the battle of Kadesh, chariots receded in importance.
After the chariots, what were India’s main military differentiators? It’s main line of defence? In one word – elephants. After more than 2000 years of success, the first military general to have an answer to elephants was Timur Lane. Timur mined the fields with caltrops – a four headed spike, with one spike always upward. But then, Timurlane’s solution was successful against a foreign Tughlak ruler in India – Nasir-ud-din Mahmud Shah, of the Tuglak dynasty.
Then came the guns, cannons and gun powder. Elephants were no longer effective against caltrops or gun powder. Indians were not lagging in gunpowder, cannons, guns or muskets. Indian ships sailed the world – under Indian or foreign flags.
The main reason for India’s military eclipse in 18th and 19th century was the economic reason – slavery and colonialism. The use of slaves for production by the West, gave a temporary edge to slave societies – which India did not have. Indian rulers, with limited options could not wage long term wars – as slave owning cultures could. Indian rulers, were hobbled by a system which dispersed property, wealth – unlike the rest of the world where it was concentrated in the hands of the few. India, never a slave-owning culture, could not muster resources to wage a 100 year war, like Europeans could – at a great cost to their societies.
Alexander’s retreat from India … empty handed?
Alexander’s campaign to drum up alliances with Indian kings on the borders of his Persian empire did not yield much gold or wealth. Unlike the Persian Empire, most of the gold and wealth in India was diffused and spread. In raid after raid, Alexander came back empty handed – or almost. While he was managing the fires in Bactra and Sogdia, he had to release Scythian prisoners without a ransom. But, while stitching an alliance with Omphis (Ambi /Ambhi), instead he had to pay Ambhi about 1000 talents of gold – which provoked much envy in his camp.
The talk of an Indian invasion provoked assassination conspiracies, demand for release by soldiers and much expenditure. Many of his soldiers – Greeks units, Macedonian veterans, Thessalian cavalry had to be released, after handsome gratuities and payments. New soldiers had to be recruited again at a significant cost.
Unlike Alexander’s experience of poor pickings in India, the Greek image of India, in history, was different. There were wild tales about Indian ants, big as foxes and jackals, that mined gold. These were tales related by Pliny, Herodotus, Strabo, Arrian – partly, based on reports from Megasthenes. And the very same Greek sources show that with each victory, at kingdom after kingdom, Alexander gained little in terms of gold. Unlike many other subsequent raiders.
The case of missing Indian gold
So, where was the famed Indian gold?
Two possible theories suggest themselves. Alexander was singularly unsuccessful in his Indian campaign and could not, hence, obtain any gold. While this may please Indian jingoists, we will suspend opinion on this in face of overwhelming Western historical opinion – though the truth may be otherwise.
The second theory is more intricate – and also stronger. Unlike the description of Persian cities, the description of Indian cities in all the accounts, is of very simple and plain cities. Not one Indian city is extolled for its beauty, or its buildings, palaces or temples. What gives?
Extant Indian society
Three elements of the Indian economic system were unique till the 19th century – property ownership by the commoners, widespread ownership of gold and absence of slavery (defined as capture, trade and forced labour by humans – without compensation).
The Indian social structure in pre-Alexandrian Indian had widespread gold and property ownership. With complete absence of slavery, wages could also rise above subsistence levels. This restricted the wealth of Indian rulers – and thus impressive monuments, buildings and palaces are rare or non-existent in pre-medieval India. Thus Indian cities were plain and simple. Royal treasuries were hence, meagre.
Colonial Indian rule dispossessed many Indians of their property – and concentrated wealth in the hands of the few – the Thakurs and the Zamindars. Indians were dispossessed of their gold in the Squeeze Indian Campaign of 1925-1945 – started by Churchill and Montagu Norman and continued by Neville Chamberlain.
Monopoly in currency
Royal official coinage was only one of the options even in colonial India. This reduced the concentration of wealth which we see in evidence in the Persian Empire – where Darius’ treasury yielded (Greek estimates) more than 100,000 talents of gold (some exaggeration?).
Indian armies could only scaled up by voluntary services and funding. Hence, these motivated and volunteer armies could inflict so much losses on Alexander.
So, what did the Greco-Macedonians take away …
There were more interesting things that Alexander’s armies took away from India. The odd and interesting things that Alexander carted away were cattle, elephants and the Macedonian national dress – and possibly kissing.
Cattle from Punjab
At the battle against the Asvanyas (Khamboj), called by the Greeks as Aspasioi /Aspasii /Assakenoi /Aspasio /Hipasii /Assaceni/Assacani, Osii /Asii /Asoi, and Aseni in Greek records, Alexander took some 230,000 Asiatic humped zebu cattle to, says Arrian, improve cattle stock in Macedonia. Indian agriculture was well advanced by that time – and exports of spices, textiles, iron and steel were significant.
Elephants from India
War elephants were rule changers – and Indians were the only significant trainers, users, and owners of war elephants. Alexander’s successor, Seleucos Nicator, considered by Ptolemy as the possible true successor of Alexander, ceded his possessions East of Persia – to Chandraupta Maurya. As a part of the treaty, Chandragupta also gifted Seleucos 500 elephants which proved invaluable in settling the Daidochi Wars – at the Batle of Ipsus.
While the above two are well known, the other two interesting that Greco-Macedonian armies took back to Europe were more cultural. First was the current Macedonain national dress – the ‘salvaria’. The entire North West Indian sub-continent, from Punjab to Afghanistan wears the salwar – which is tubular leggings.
This is a unisex garment – like the sari /dhoti also is. And popular all over India today. Unlike other parts of the world, where women were forced to conform to a male standards and prescriptions of dressing, Indian women were free and dressed like their men did (Feminists note – Indian men were forced to dress, like their women did, since you insist). Unisex clothing, saris and dhotis dominated the Indian plains, and the salwars, in the North West mountain regions of India. The Indo-Scythians used leather leggings – which were helpful in case of long marches on horse backs.
These leggings even today called the salvaria in Macedonia. The Persians at that time had the robes – and purple robes were the sign of royalty. The Greeks wore chitons – and peplos. The Greek fustanella similarly, is very much like tribal costumes worn even today by Gujarathi rabari tribals.
Kissing … and Kamasutra
On kissing, Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist at Texas A&M, has traced the first recorded kiss back to India, somewhere around 1500 B.C., when early Vedic scriptures start to mention people “sniffing” with their mouths, and later texts describe lovers “setting mouth to mouth.” From there, he hypothesizes, the kiss spread westward when Alexander the Great conquered the Punjab in 326 B.C.