2ndlook

Dating agenda in ‘modern’ history

Posted in European History, History, India, Media, politics, Religion by Anuraag Sanghi on February 21, 2010
Annales Veteris Testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti: una cum rerum asiaticarum et aegyptiacarum chronico, a temporis historici principio usque ad Maccabaicorum initia producto. Jacobo Usserio Armachano, Digestore

Annales Veteris Testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti: una cum rerum asiaticarum et aegyptiacarum chronico, a temporis historici principio usque ad Maccabaicorum initia producto. Jacobo Usserio Armachano, Digestore

09:00 hr, 23rd October, 4004

Western history and historians, then and even now, have tried to fit Indian civilization into a Biblical calendar frame.

Western historians needed a Day-zero date, the date of creation, to build their historical narrative. Various Western ‘scholars’ and ‘historians’ worked backwards and arrived at a date. The date was 4004 BC.

For all those, to whom the year 4004, was not precise enough for the beginning of mankind, Earth, history, further refinement was supplied – Monday, October, 09:00 hr. This chronology estimated that God created Earth in 4004 – based on Ussher-Lightfoot chronology. A situation where

each generation of Orientalists accepting almost without question or examination the dates handed down to them by the first pioneers, whose thoughts and imaginations were cramped with the limits set by the archbishop Ussher. (1906, from The theosophical quarterly, Volume 4, By Theosophical Society in America).

Max Muller, the ‘Orientalist’, whose template for Indian historiography is followed till date, significantly, had no choice but to use the Ussher-Lightfoot chronology. Till 1857, Britain through the East India Company, followed Spain and Portugal, who had planted the banner of Christ in heathen and pagan lands’. The Chairman of the Directors of the East India Company, Ross Donnelly Mangles, piously declared in the British House Of Commons –

“Providence has entrusted the extensive empire of Hindustan to England, in order that the banner of Christ should wave triumphant from one end of India to the other. Everyone must exert all his strength that there may be no dilatoriness on any account in continuing in the country the grand work of making India Christian.”.

It took a revolution in Haiti to start the end of the Spanish Empire – and the 1857 Anglo-Indian War to end the English campaign to ‘convert the heathen’ and ‘civilize pagan Hindoos.’

His 'calculations' were followed even in the 20th century

His 'calculations' were followed even in the 20th century

Egypt rules

In all this, Egyptian history was the hub, around which the spokes of Western historical constructs rotated. Hence, there has been resistance to changing Egyptian dates. Even with

“helpful data such as the record of a solar eclipse recorded in an Assyrian document that can be equated by modern astronomers with the one that took place on 15 June 763 … Before 1400, chronologies are much less precise, largely reflecting the poorer survival of useful evidence. As a result the debates over an absolute chronology for both Egypt and Babylonia are much fiercer.” (from From Egypt to Babylon: the international age 1550-500 BC; By Paul Collins; pages 10-14)

Traditional Western historians from both the schools don’t want to change – as whole libraries of history based on theories of Western superiority will become irrelevant. At least the dates will.

This resistance to change is an especially important consideration for dating of the Egyptian artefacts and history. Radio carbon dates for Egyptian history were dismissed as “errors have recently been revealed by comparing carbon-14 dates with known Egyptian Dynastic dates … carbon-14 estimates for Egypt are from several hundred to a thousand years too late …

The Greek miracle

The Greek miracle

Change in sources

From around 500 BC, sources also change. After the Greek Dark Age, modern Western history assigns greatest weight to Greek sources’.

After 150 BC, as the Greeks disappear, entire races, nations and dynasties mysteriously vanish. History becomes speculation. The fact that the Greeks themselves disappear after 150 BC, is not important, as per Western historiography.

For instance, instead of the disappearing Mittanis, it has been suggested that the Mittanis and the Medes were the same. Phoenicians make an entry and the Canaanites disappear – even though they are both the same.

In the Canaanite avataar, from being a race of Semitic people, Phoenicians become a trading and sea-faring people of unknown origins. Similarly, a hypothesis that instead of disappearing, Hittites became Lydians, is ignored. Another study proposes that Cyrus and Tiglath-Pileser III were the same.

The Dating Imbroglio

Historical dating till the 1960’s was based on a matrix of theology, politics, colonialism, archaeology, books, records, events, cross-indexing, astronomy. In most cases, all these factors were NOT present, resulting in a significant element of guess–work – and a major element of vested interests.

In 1960s, came new tools to assist archaeological dating system – the the Carbon-14 and the Bristlecone Pine tree-ring system – as well as others. Even this has been distorted by calibration, aberrant data and acceptable readings – all the time maintaining a veneer of secular and objective history.

Indian chronology – Deconstructing Indian dates

Behind this dating ‘logic’, is a man who is much admired (wrongly) in India today – Max Mueller. For instance in Max Muller’s colonial propagandist history, when it comes to Indian triumphs over Semiramis, she 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.

All these theories rest on the axle of philological dating. Based on imprecise evidence, tools and estimates, of when various texts were ‘composed’ and ‘reduced’ to writing, and ‘frozen for ever’, which are based on stylistic changes in Sanskrit language. Looking at construction of Sanskrit language and texts, the logic of oral ‘composition’, ‘reduction’ to writing, ‘frozen for ever’ is a wrong model – and creates these false debates and models.

Sanskritic compositions were team-based effort, (picture Sage Durvasa travelling with his 1000’s of disciples), a vast body of argument and debate  (Kahoda-Vandin-Ashtavakra debate) over many hundreds – if not thousands, of years. Vishwamitra, Vyasa, Vashishtha, Narada were the most well-known of the wandering monks of many Indian texts and scriptures. Appearing and disappearing at various points of time and events.

They could not have been the same person, because they appear at the (near) beginning of Rahgukul (Vishwamitra at the Trishanku incident) and at the (near) end of Raghukul (the marriage of Sita and Ram) – spanning more than 30 generations of kings. Was Vashisht, Vishwamitra and Vyasa, a titular  system, decided by a collegium of peer rishis. The ascension of Vishwamitra from a rishi-to-rajrishi-to-brahmarishi supports this.

The difficulty that Western historians have is the internal consistency across the vast body of texts and scriptures. For instance, Western historians trace Indian own significant achievements in astronomy to ‘import’ from Babylon – via Greece! David Brown, an ‘expert’, on Mesopotamian astronomy and astrology, goes further and asserts that the “evidence for transmission to Greece and thence to India in the Hellenistic period was overwhelming.” (from Learned antiquity By Alasdair A. MacDonald, Michael W. Twomey, G. J. Reinink).

What is this ‘overwhelming’ evidence that he presents? Nothing, but the usual dating mix ups. Considering “it unlikely that it was the work of one person’, analysts are surprised, ‘considering its internal consistency”.

Worried? There is more, where this from, Mr.Brown.

The fallacy of the Vedic age

There never was a Vedic age. Not in the sense that Western historiographers slot and exclude various developments. This presupposes linear, directional, phased, and centralized development of the Vedas. Assuming a command and control system, it has a non-empirical base.

For instance, this assumes that the Vedic age was dedicated to the Vedas – and all other texts developed after that.

Fact is that the Vedas depend on the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh; along with the Devatas and Asuras. The structure of the Devas, Asuras, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh can really be understood through the Upanishads,  the epics and the Puranas.  And we have not even begun on development of an ‘artificial’ language like Sanskrit  (as opposed to Prakrit).

Pauranik structures, Upanishadic debates, technical compendiums, the twin epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata were parallel developments and coeval – albeit at different stages of evolution, structure, style, pace and direction.

While other cultures struggle with low or high double digits of ancient texts, India has lakhs of them. This vast body of textual creation, has not happened anywhere else in the ancient world. The very assumption that it happened in India, in a matter of a few centuries – while the Aryans, Greeks, Persians, Scythians, Tocharians, Huns, were conquering India.

During these ‘invasions’, the conquerors were kind enough to leave Indian seers, sages, munis and rishis alone so that they could carry on with the composition of these texts. Massacre of the males, raping of the women and enslaving the rest, in the meanwhile continued in the parallel. And after these massacres and conversions, these invaders were of course kind enough to convert  to an Indian way of life – and melt away from the centre stage of Indian history.

To pass of these caricatures as attempts to phase Indian culture are artificial and unproductive. and simply not history.

Alexander, Porus, Takshashila and Gymnosophists

At the time of Takshashila’s decline in the 5th century, a significant Gupta king was Purugupta – successor of Skandagupta. Written records from Purugupta’s reign are few and far in between. He has been variously named as Vikramaditya, Prakashaditya and of course as Puru /Pura Gupta.

The most authentic link to his reign is the Bhitari seal inscription, (near Ghazipur, in modern UP). The Bhitari seal provided proof of an elongated Gupta reign – than the Skandagupta-was-the-end-of-Gupta dynasty dating. Currently dated between 467 AD, Purugupta’s reign saw many border wars.

Purugupta’s reign saw Vasubandhu, a known teacher of logic and debate, become famous and Huien Tsang reported on the debates based on Vasubandhu’s texts. Today Vasubandhu’s texts exist in Chinese and Tibetan languages – the original Sanskrit volumes remain untraceable. Purugupta also restored the gold grammage in the ‘suvarna’ coins, probably debased in Skandagupta’s time, possibly due to the cost of the fighting the Hunas.

Alexander and the Indian 'Gymnosophists' - Medieval European drawing

Alexander and the Indian 'Gymnosophists' - Medieval European drawing

Alexander’s ‘debates’ with Indian Gymnosophists was possibly with Vasubandhu’s disciples. Is it that the Porus identified by the Greeks, Purugupta? Were the marauding soldiers, mentioned in Chinese texts, and in Indian texts during Purugupta’s times, mercenary Huna soldiers hired by Alexander to replace the ‘deserting’ Greek’ soldiers, on the eve of his Indian ‘campaign’? The 8000 Brahmans that Alexander massacred were possibly teachers at Takshashila. The dating of the Gupta dynasty to end of the 5th century AD, is probably off by about 800 years.

State propaganda as history

The two point agenda was the maintenance of the Greek Miracle – motivated by desire to use history as a colonial and exploitative tool. And the other item on the agenda was the proving of the ‘correctness’ of Biblical events – which was motivated by a racial agenda to prove Western racial superiority.

By the time Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was officially announced, (interestingly, to coincide, with Boghazkoi decipherment), colonial history was set – and IVC at that time, was force-fitted into these datelines and ‘structures’.

Modern history, is now caught between the Greek Miracle History School, which has stuck to the Sumer->Turkey->Egypt->Greece->Rome->Europe–>West-Is-The-Greatest Axis and the Velikovsky School which is stuck to proving that the Bible is indeed the Last & Only Word.

Understanding Western history and agenda becomes impossible unless these motivations are remembered.

Reviving Phoenicia: in search of identity in Lebanon

By Asher Kaufman

Destruction of Takshashila – a defining moment

Posted in Current Affairs, European History, History, Indo Pak Relations, language, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on August 4, 2009
The theory that Huns destroyed Takshashila in 5th century is a theory with no legs – and a case without evidence. So … then what could have happened?
Julian (?) Monastery, Takshashila

Julian Monastery, Takshashila

The importance of Takshashila

As the oldest university in the world, Takshashila has a special place in the history of the world. More so, in Indian history. It’s destruction (purportedly) at the hands of the Hunas, as proposed by Western historians (and their followers) has been rather facile  – to say the least.

There is evidence that the truth may be otherwise. This post lays out an alternative scenario, but before that let us refresh ourselves with the history of Takshashila.

Takshashila in classical texts, history, geography

The Vayu Purana traces the start of Takshashila, to Taksha, son of  Bharata (brother of Raghu Ram Chandra). Takshashila also finds a mention in Mahabharata – citing Dhaumya, as the acharya of Takshashila. It was at Takshashila, that Vaishampayana made the first recorded narration of the Mahabharata to Janmajeya.

The Gitopdesha from the Mahbharata

The Gitopdesha from the Mahbharata

It finds continued mentions in numerous Jatakas, too. For centuries, across many cultures, stories of Takshashila (and its environs) swirled, like even later,

According to a story contained in the Mujma-t-Tawarikh a twelfth-century Persian translation from the Arabic version of a lost Sanskrit work, thirty thousand Brahmans with their families and retinue had in ancient times been collected from all over India and had been settled in Sindh, under Duryodhana, the King of Hastinapur. (from Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World By André Wink).

The Buddhist anthology of storiesAvadana-shataka mentions that “3.510 millions of stupas were erected at the request of the people of Taxila”.

Students paid upto 1000 coins in advance to receive education at Takshashila – and there were thousands of such students. Students came from all over the world – and paid large sums of money to Indian teachers for education! Kings, brahmans, commoners – all came to study at Takshashila. Its alumni included all the stars of the Indian firmament – Atreya, Pasenadi, Mahali, Patanajali, Jivaka, Panini, Kautilaya, Prasenjita.

Its development and importance lay in the fact that,

Takshashila and Purushpura on either side of the Sindhu river were connected with the Indian trade routes on the Indian side and Central Asian trade routes on the other. Strategically located, Takshashila, the capital of Gandhar, was the terminus of several inland routes and the starting points of the great trade routes connecting India and Central Asia. (from India and Central Asia By J. N. Roy, Braja Bihārī Kumāra, Astha Bharati (Organization)).

Based on subsequent excavation and diggings, it is thought that Takshashila was the oldest city in South Asia – when Alexander landed there. So Takshashila’s historic and cultural importance is too high to become a victim of slip-shod colonial propaganda – posing as history.

Faxian, Fa Hian, Fa Hien

Faxian, Fa Hian, Fa Hien

Chinese travellers to India

An important source for ‘modern’ history, much used by Western historians are the travels of Chinese travellers (like Fa Hian/ Faxain, Huien Tsang /XuanZang). Supposedly 1000 years after death of Gautama Buddha, overlooking some gaping holes in Fa Hian’s travelogue.

How could Fa Hien miss meeting /mentioning Kalidasa – supposedly a contemporary of Fa Hien? In fact, Kalidasa is not mentioned at all in Fa Hian’s account, which supports the hypotheses that Kalidasa preceded Fa Hian. It may be pointed out that since, Kalidasa’s works are artistic rather than religious or philosophical, the lack of Fa Hain’s interest in his works is obvious. But to ignore a man of Kalidasa’s stature and learning?

Then Fa Hian misses the name of the supposed ruling ‘Gupta’ king – a dynasty which ruled over most of South Asia! And it is Fa Hian who is supposedly a significant authority on the Gupta period. Western history labelled the Gupta period as the ‘golden age’ of Indian history – which Fa Hian seems to have completely missed. Similarly when Fa-Hien visited Takshashila in 5th century AD (travelled in India during 399-414 AD), he found nothing. His travelogue makes some cursory mentions of Takshashila.

And that leaves Indian history with some rather big ‘dating’ holes! Is it that Fa hian visited India much after Kalidasa, the Gupta dynasty, the death of Buddha? Maybe a few centuries later, relative to the period in Indian history. Fa Hian’s date is well indexed. So that possibly cannot move much. It is the the corresponding Indic dates which come into question!

Another Chinese traveller, Sung Yun, who had a rather exalted view of his country and its ruler, is largely responsible for overly negative image of the Hunas in ‘modern’ history. Sung-Yun’s peeve – the Huna king did not read the letter from the Wei Tartar king standing, but in a seated position. A modern historian writing on the spread of Buddhism and Buddhist traveller’s tales thinks that,

Like most things India it (Buddhism) suffered somewhat from the invasions of the Huns, who dominated many parts of the northwest from 480 to 530; but the immediate effect of their depredations does not seem to have been very striking. At any rate, the Chinese pilgrim Sung Yun, who travelled through this region in 518-21, gives us a picture in which Buddhism is quite as thriving as it was in Fa-Hien’s time. (from The Pilgrimage of Buddhism and a Buddhist Pilgrimage By James Bissett Pratt, page 111)

Subsequent Chinese travellers to India like I Ching (I Ching or Yi Jing, Yìjìng, Yiqing, I-Tsing or YiChing), were more about Buddhism the religion that it had become, instead of a school of learning and thought. I Ching also recorded details of the works and life of Bhartrhari, the (probably) 5th century grammarian and poet. His take away from India, from Nalanda “in ten years (A.D. 675-685), during which he collected there some 400 Sanskrit texts amounting to 500,000 slokas.”

The ‘end’ of Takshashila

The colonial narrative traces the destruction of Takshashila in 499 AD, by the Hunas (Western history calls them White Huns, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal;  The Chinese Ye Tha). Western ‘historians’ have ascribed the demise of Taxila to the White Huns, a Central Asian, nomadic tribe, roaming between Tibet to Tashkent, practicing polyandry.

Taksashila

Takshashila

Takshashila lying at the cross roads of the Uttarapatha (West calls it The Silk Route) – from Tibet, China, Central Asia, Iran – and India, fell to this mindless savagery, goes the ‘modern’ narrative. But specifically, there is no mention in Chinese, Persian, Indian texts (that I could find) of the Hunas who destroyed Takshashila. So, how and where did this story spring from?

Kanishka, a major Buddhist king, was a Yue Chi, known as Tusharas in India, related to the White Huns. Why would his tribal cousins destroy Takshashila?

History as propaganda

We have the ‘imaginative genius’ of Sir John Marshall to thank for this – a man who was “interested in Alexander’s campaign and in Graeco-Buddhist monuments at Sanchi and Taxila.” Sir John, who was “filled with enthusiasm for anything Greek” was also aware that it was at “Taxila that Alexander the Great halted and refreshed his army before advancing to do battle with Porus.” Not one to stoop below self-aggrandisement, he counts himself among the “few archaeologists now living who have devoted as many years to the excavation of a single site as I have devoted to Taxila.” He lays out the ground for the ‘destroyer White Huns’ theory, describing how

the hordes of Ephthalites or White Huns which swept over Gandhara and the Panjab in the third quarter of the fifth century, carrying ruin and desolation wherever they went. (from Taxila – an illustrated account of archaeological excavations By Sir John Marshall page 76).

Barbara Cartland and Mortimer Wheeler - both imaginative

Barbara Cartland and Mortimer Wheeler - both imaginative

And his evidence for this destruction is,

Thirty two coins, all of them silver, leave no room for doubt it was it was the White Huns who were responsible for the wholesale destruction of the Buddhist sangharamas of Taxila … several skeletons of those who fell in the fight, including one of White Hun, were lying. (ellipsis mine; from Taxila by Sir John Marshall page 791).

Join the gang!

A chorus of historians joined in Sir John’s smear campaign (published between 1940-1951) against the White Huns who were ‘guilty’ of ‘destruction of Takshashila’. Sir John lays the burden of guilt at the doorstep of the Hunas (Western history calls them White Huns, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal;  The Chinese Ye Tha). Not surprising, since both ,

“Indian and foreign archaeologists often invoked invasion /diffusion as tools for explaining away the origins of fully-fledged archaeological cultures ranging in age from the Lower Paleolithic to the early historic period as well as individual traits concerning pottery, technology and other aspects. Africa, West and Central Asia and Europe were the favourite source areas. (From Theory in Archaeology: A World Perspective By Peter J. Ucko, page 132)

Lower Paleolithic is about 250,000 years ago and early historic period in India is 3000 years ago. Based on traveller’s tall tales, we have ‘modern’ historians who have depicted, without any evidence, that the

the White Huns, or Hephtalites, felt a kind of hatred toward Buddhism and strove to destroy all its physical as well as mental manifestations during the fifth century. This is how Taxila brutally vanished. (from Books on fire: the destruction of libraries throughout history By Lucien X. Polastron, Jon Graham page 107-108).

And this is from a book which claims to be a “historical survey of the destruction of knowledge from ancient Babylon and China to modern times”. Another book seeking to capture Central Asian history writes that these Hunas, who came,

sacking monasteries and works of art, and ruining the fine Greco-Buddhic civilization which by then was five centuries old. Persian and Chinese texts agree in their descriptions of the tyranny and vandalism of this horde.” (from The Empire of the Steppes By Rene Grousset, Naomi Walford).

It has been pointed out that

Although the exact relationship between the Buddhist communities of the Peshawar basin and the new Hun dynasty is not entirely clear, there is considerable evidence to suggest that Buddhism continued under Hun rule … (there is) textual evidence to show that Chinese Buddhist pilgrims continued to visit Gandharan sites in the Peshawar Basin into the early sixth century C.E.; The Bhamala main stupa can be compared to the 7th to 8th century cruciform stupas in Kashmir, Afghanistan, and other parts of Central Asia. (from The Buddhist architecture of Gandhāra By Kurt A. Behrendt pages 207-209).

Technically, it was also pointed out that Sir John did not stratify his digs, which creates a dating and sequencing problem. Going with self-aggrandizing nature, Sir John also focussed on ‘glamourous digs’ – without focussing on the connectivity issues.

Alexander in colonial historical narrative

For more on the decline of Takshashila, it is Alexander that we must turn to.

The Alexander mosaic, discovered in Pompeii

The 'Alexander mosaic', discovered in Pompeii

Alexander has long been a vital cog in Western colonial narrative of history. Alexander’s halo gave bragging rights – first to the Greco-Romans and then to the Euro-colonialists.

The American Department of Defense, in its Legacy Program, has a section on Cultural Heritage Training. The use of Alexander’s mythos there is self evident. Between the Greco-Roman historians and the Euro-Colonialists, has sprung an entire industry, to create a mythos surrounding Alexander.

Amongst Alexander’s first actions in India were his attempts to cobble up alliances. His most famous one was with Ambhi – the ruler of Taxila. 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. To cement this alliance, Alexander ‘gifted’ Ambhi with ‘a wardrobe of Persian robes, gold and silver ornaments, and 30 horses, 1000 talents in cash’. 1000 talents is anywhere between 25,000-60,000 kg of gold! Does this look like Ambhi accepted Alexander as the conqueror of the world – or Alexander ‘persuading’ Ambhi to seal an alliance?

The payment of 1000 talents in gold to Ambhi aroused much envy and outrage in Alexander’s camp. It prompted Meleager, to sarcastically congratulate Alexander for ‘having at least found in India a man worth 1000 talents.’ What seals this incident is Alexander’s retort to Meleager, “that envious men only torment themselves.” (C 8.12.17 & 18).

Black and blue

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. As a 19th century historian reports,

During the three years anterior to the passage of the Indus, Balk (Bactria) was usually Alexander’s headquarters. It was in these countries that he experienced his only serious reverses in the field. (from On the practicability of an invasion of British India By Sir George De Lacy Evans).

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.

To these lean pickings, Alexander’s reaction“the Macedonians frequently massacred the defenders of the city, especially in India.” What was Alexander’s response to a ‘sub-continent occupied by a complex network of peoples and states, who viewed Alexander as a new piece to be played in their complex political chess game.’ Another modern historian, an expert on Greek history writes that ‘the tale of slaughter told in the ancient sources is unparalleled elsewhere in the campaign.’ ( from Ancient Greece By Sarah B. Pomeroy, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan).

The Indian reaction

Alexander and the Indian 'Gymnosophists' - Medieval European drawing

Alexander and the Indian 'Gymnosophists' - Medieval European drawing

Alexander’s massacres in India, a colonial historian informs us (without naming a source), earned him an “epithet … assigned (to) him by the Brahmins of India, The Mighty Murderer.” This Indian Brahmanic characterization of Alexander, commonly taught to English schoolchildren and present in Eglish college texts, as The Mighty Murderer, curiously disappeared from Western-English texts soon after 1860 – and instead now “a positive rose-tinted aura surrounds Alexander” … !

Greek writers report, that Alexander finally realized that it was the Indian Brahmins who had influenced Indian princes to organize and support the Indian war against Alexander. Greek sources cite, after this realization, at ‘The City of Brahmans’, Alexander massacred an estimated 8000-10,000 of these non-combatant Brahmans. His question-answer sessions with the 10 Indian-prisoners-Brahmans (called Gymnosophists by the Greeks), related by Plutarch, shows Alexander asking inane questions – at sea, completely lost.

And arising from this frustration, came Alexander’s wanton massacres at Takshashila – which thereafter limped along for the next 1000 years, but never to fully recover.

Takshashila – the pattern!

One must also recall that Alexander’s behaviour in Babylon – a intellectual freeport, city ‘under the protection’ of code of ‘kidinnu’. The code of ‘kidinnu’ allowed creation of sanctuaries where weapons and arms were not allowed. The religious persecution by Alexander of the Zoroastrians (as per the Zoroastrian accounts) bears out Alexander’s wanton cruelty. As a modern researcher, Jona Lendering writes,

the Zoroastrian tradition is unanimous that Alexander ‘killed several high priests and judges and priests and the masters of the Magians and upholders of the religion’ (Book of Arda Wiraz 1.9),  ‘quenched many sacred fires’ (Great Bundahishn 33.14) and ’caused great devastation (Denkard 4.16 and 7.7.3). This ‘evil-destined and raging villain’ (Denkard 8.pr.20) was not just regarded as a collaborator of Angra Mainyu, but as one one of the calamities that the evil one had sent to earth to destroy what is good. Alexander even received the surname Guzastag, the Accursed, a title that had until then only been used to describe Angra Mainyu. It is possible -perhaps even likely- that several apocalyptic texts from the Avesta were composed during the reign of Alexander.

BCHP 1: Alexander Chronicle (obverse; **) Photo coutesy livius.com

BCHP 1: Alexander Chronicle (obverse; **) Photo coutesy livius.org

A set of Babylonian tablets, published in 1975, the Alexander Chronicles, mention that Alexander killed Kidinnu – most probably the famed Babylonian astronomer.

The name Kidinnu itself seems to be derived from the Sanskritic word, ‘Krishna’, the Dark One. Was Kidinnu better known by his assumed Sanskritic name? The Indo-Assyrian collaboration, represented by the Babylonian texts and schools give significant weight to this hypotheses.

More questions on the destruction of Takshashila

At the time of Takshashila’s decline in the 5th century, a significant Gupta king was Purugupta – successor of Skandagupta. Written records from Purugupta’s reign are few and far in between, he has been variously named as Vikramaditya, Prakashaditya and of course as Puru /Pura Gupta.

The most authentic link to his reign is the Bhitari seal inscription, (near Ghazipur, in modern UP). The Bhitari seal provided proof of an elongated Gupta reign – than the Skandagupta-was-the-end-of-Gupta dynasty dating. Currently dated between 467 AD, Purugupta’s reign saw many border wars.

Purugupta’s reign saw Vasubandhu, a known teacher of logic and debate, become famous and Huien Tsang reported on the debates based on Vasubandhu’s texts. Today Vasubandhu’s texts exist in Chinese and Tibetan languages – the original Sanskrit volumes remain untraceable. Purugupta also restored the gold grammage in the ‘suvarna’ coins, probably debased in Skandagupta’s time, possibly due to the cost of the fighting the Hunas.

Is it that the Porus identified by the Greeks, Purugupta? Were the marauding soldiers, mentioned in Chinese texts, mercenary soldiers hired by Alexander to replace the ‘deserting’ Greek’ soldiers, on the eve of his Indian ‘campaign’? The dating of the Gupta dynasty to end of the 5th century AD, is probably off by about 800 years.

The Indian defence system

Taksashila’s destruction raises an obvious question! And also important. What did Indian polity do to defend centres of excellence like Takshashila?

To protect such a vibrant and important centre of leaning, the Indian polity had evolved a complex structure across the entire North Western swath. Thus while, within the Indic area, borders and crowns kept changing and shifting, invaders were kept at bay. 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 from the Persian area into the area governed by the Medes – an Indic area.

Death of Crassus

Death of Crassus

A symbol of these alliances, for instance, was the House of Suren’s traditional rights to install the crown of Persian rulers. Some ancient maps show the Gandhara-Takshashila region as Suren. And it was at the hands of these very Surens that Crassus met his nemessis. At the hands of the Indo-Parthian armies – led by a Suren general.

The Sassanian dynasty was able to wrest back and defend 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.

End of Crassus

Laurence Oliver as Crassus in Spartacus

Laurence Oliver as Crassus in Spartacus

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.

Roman forces retreated, when confronted by Indo-Sassanian armies with Indian elephants. For the next nearly 400 years, Romans were wary of any large expeditions into Indo-Persian territories. 500 years later (nearly), with the help of the Indian elephant corps, the Sassanians stopped the Romans at Persian borders in 363 AD. 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. 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.

The rise of religion in India

Without access to the ‘Indian thought factory’, after the fall of Takshashila, in 499 AD – by the Huna (dating as per Western history which calls them White Huns, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal;  The Chinese Ye Tha) Buddhism soon became a religion. Buddha in India, was another, in a long line of teachers. But in the rest of world, Buddhism soon became a religion.

The destruction of Takshashila (Taxila) meant that students and scholars would need to travel for an extra 60 days to reach the other Indian Universities of the time. This was a traumatic event in the status of the Indian ethos – even the Asiatic ethos.

The decline of Taksashila marked the destruction, persecution and decline in Indian education, thought and structure. Fewer believers in Indian faith systems made the trip to India. ‘Consumers’ of ideological products from the ‘Indian Thought Factory’,  were left with Desert Bloc alternative products. Buddhism soon became a religion outside India. A few centuries after decline of Takshashila, Nalanda, etc. were also destroyed by Desert Bloc invaders.

Travels of Fah-Hian and Sung-Yun, Buddhist pilgrims from China to India (400 …

By Samuel Beal

3 Battles That Changed World History – And India

Posted in European History, Feminist Issues, History, language, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on February 28, 2009

Battle Of Kadesh - Rameses II in Chariot

Battle Of Kadesh - Rameses II in Chariot

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.

Bedoiun Slaves Being Beaten - Battle Of KadeshDuring 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).Battle Of Kadesh

The Historic Treaty

After this battle, the Egyptians and the Hittites sat down and wrote their versions of this battle – which makes it rather unique. One of the few times in history, we get both versions of the battle.

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.Treaty Of Kadesh

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.

Religious Freedom

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.

Statue of Nebo

Statue of Nebo

The Assyrian Misadventure

The Assyrian Empire in Asia Minor, (1300 BC – 500 BC) expanded by the conquests of Semiramis their legendary Queen, was one of history’s largest and the longest lasting Empire.

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.

History of mother and child

History of mother and child

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.

Fortress of Semiramis

Fortress of Semiramis

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.

Sassanians used Elephant corps to conquer Armenia

Sassanians used Elephant corps to conquer Armenia

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.

Elephants in Indo-Iranian alliance

Elephants in Indo-Iranian alliance

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 andThe Silk Route & Aurel Stern 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.

Early Indian figure with a stirrup (Courtesy - An early history of horsemanship  By Augusto Azzaroli).

Early Indian figure with a stirrup (Courtesy - An early history of horsemanship By Augusto Azzaroli).

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.

Mysterious Vanishings

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

A modernized version of Strabo’s The Geography of Strabo reads,

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.

Timurs Caltrops

Caltrops

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 Conquest of India – A 2ndlook

Posted in European History, Gold Reserves, History, India, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on January 23, 2009

Indian armies had two great military advantages over Alexander’s armies. War elephants and a cavalry which had invented the stirrup. Could Alexander have defeated such armies?

Alexander – Son of God

Alexander has long been a vital cog in Western history.

Alexander’s halo gave bragging rights – first to the Greco-Romans and then to the Euro-colonialists. The American Department of Defense, in its Legacy Program, has a section on Cultural Heritage Training. The use of Alexander’s mythos there is self evident. Between the Greco-Roman historians and the Euro-Colonialists, has sprung an entire industry, to create a mythos surrounding Alexander.

The troops beg Alexander to allow them to return home from India in plate 3 of 11 by Antonio Tempesta of Florence, 1608 (Courtesy - alexanderstomb.com)

Alexander troops beg to return home from India in plate 3 of 11 by Antonio Tempesta of Florence, 1608 (Courtesy - alexanderstomb.com)

The conquest of India, a super power then, by Alexander was seen as major victory. Much was made of this ‘victory’, as for most of history, India and China accounted for nearly half the world’s economic output.

Modern econometric modelling shows that for much of the last 1000 years (at least), India has been a significant economic power. Till the 1900, China and India, this analysis estimates, accounted for 50% of the world economy. Statistical analyses showed India with a world trade share of 25% for much of the 500 years during 1400-1900.

In modern times, within a short 70 years after British evacuation from India, the decline of the Britain has been slightly faster than the turn around in the Indian economy. Thus, Alexander’s ‘conquest of India’ was the seminal point in Western history. Western time lines of Indian history are ante-post Alexander ‘invasion’ of India. Some Western historians seem to imply that Indian nationhood itself sprang from Alexander’s conquest.

The Porus Red Herring

Modern Western historians use the ‘Porus Red Herring’ to claim conquest over all of ‘India’ – with a single victory against Porus! Indian political class is blamed for “dividing India into small kingdoms, which were hamstrung by infighting.” But when one of these small kings (like Porus) is defeated, India is defeated. Colonial Western historians have maintained a uni-directional focus on the battle with Porus at Hydaspes – to draw attention away from the more glaring aspects of the hagiographic details of the Alexander’s Indian conquest.

“Arrian and other writers clearly recount the special significance to Alexander of the victory in India. Later authors in the West continued to dwell upon the commemoration of this battle. Some of the accounts are quite unbelievable, but their very existence proves that the battle against Porus remained a popular subject in Greece and Rome for many centuries.”

Medieval caricature of the Alexander-Porus battle ("Alexander defeats King Porus in single combat"(West Flanders; c. 1325-1335).

Medieval caricature of the Alexander-Porus battle ("Alexander defeats King Porus in single combat"(West Flanders; c. 1325-1335).

Western Colonial historians implied that after the Battle at Hydaspes, India became a Greek colony, due to the the loss in that one battle! Anyone in the world can have their lucky day – including Alexander! The one important question which is ignored was “Were the Greeks able to retain their Indian conquests?”

Within the next few years, Western history admits that the Indians kings won back all their losses – quite unlike the rest of Alexander’s conquests. For instance the Sassanians, a true-blue Persian dynasty was able to retake Persia, in 223 AD, 500 years after Alexander, from the phil-hellenistic Parthians, who in turn were able to depose the Seleucids after 250 years – by 63 BC. Egypt, Greece never, of course, never recovered.

Accounting for the Porus Red Herring, further analysis of Alexander’s actions,  in fact, seem to show that Alexander aimed at patching up alliances with Indian rulers to secure his borders.

Reaction

Of course, Indians believe that all are वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम, vasudhaiva kutumbakam (“vasudha” meaning the earth; and “kutumbakam”, “family”) ‘vasudevaih kutumbakam’ and ईसा वास्यो मिदं सर्वंisa vaasyo midam sarvam(meaning we are one family on earth and God is in everyone and everywhere respectively). So, Alexander’s claim that he was son of Zeus would not enthuse Indians – or strike as odd or strange.

Enigmatically, Indian archaeology, writers and history do not know of any Porus or much of Alexander’s Indian campaign. Under the onslaught of a ‘defeatist’ version of Indian history by colonial historians, Indian nationalistic historians admit that at best, Alexander may have conquered some border districts of India. They ask “Why did Alexander’s undefeated troops, after the Indian campaign, suddenly feel homesick?”

Nationalism apart, there are many reasons to examine the plausibility of Alexander’s conquest of India? There are two interesting positions (for me) to examine. For one, it represented “the importance of Alexander as a positive paradigm for European expansionism in India” (from British Romantic Writers and the East By Nigel Leask). Alexander represented the ‘triumphant West’ over the ‘muddling East.’

The other interesting aspect of the Western History is the Colonial device of the ‘divided Indians.’ This device overused the assumption that ‘Indians always lost because Indians were divided – look at Ambhi versus Porus, Jaichand versus Prithviraj Chauhan, Mir Jafar versus Nawab ud Dowlah, Tipu Sultan versus the Marathas, et al.’

Alexander – Hagiography and /or Cultural Dacoity?

Th first step in the propaganda campaign was how a Balkan general, (Macedonian father and Albanian mother) from an obscure part of Eastern Europe, Macedonia, was Hellenized. Alexander, became a Greek conqueror of the world. It would be similar to the Chinese claim to Genghis Khan’s Mongolian Empire.

Since recent history of the Balkans has not been very glorious, Alexander was transported from the Balkans to the Mediterranean region – for propaganda purposes. Truth is, the contribution of the Greek soldiers and the Greek City States, was always a drag on Alexander – rather than a help. Alexander’s release of Greek soldiers after Ecbatana, was also in response to the difficulties that Antipater was having in Macedonia with the Spartan revolt.

The mythos surrounding Alexander calls for serious questioning of the sources themselves. What and who are these sources?

Sources Of Alexander mythos

'Sources' Of Alexander mythos

Our knowledge of Alexander therefore rests on histories produced long after the fact: a late first-century b.c.e. section of a world history written in Greek by Diodorus of Sicily; a Latin History of Alexander published by the Roman author Quintus Curtius Rufus in the first century c.e.; a biography in Greek by Plutarch of Chaeronea, also produced in the first century c.e.; a history written in Greek by Arrian of Nicomedia sometime in the second century c.e.; and Justin’s third-century c.e. Latin abridgment (Epitome) of a lost Greek secondary account by the first-century author Pompeius Trogus. Each of these five narrative treatments of Alexander’s reign claims to be a serious work of history or biography, but all five contradict one another on fundamental matters and cannot be considered absolutely reliable unless somehow corroborated by other evidence. Beyond these texts, we have little except a compilation of legendary material known as the Greek Alexander Romance, a wildly imaginative work filled with talking trees and other wonders that later thrilled the medieval world. (from Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions By Frank Lee Holt).

400 years after Alexander’s death, Arrian’s hagiography is today seen by the Western world as the last word on Alexander. One man’s word as history? Arrian, of Nicomedia (in modern Turkey, near Istanbul) patterned his own version of ‘history’ on Xenophon’s Anabasis – a propaganda account of 10,000 Greek mercenaries. Arrian’s version of history alleges that Alexander conquered India by defeating King Porus. This is the foundation on which Westerners have based their version of Indian history.

The (deliberate?) trickle of translated material from the Babylonian clay tablets, Astronomical diaries released in the last few years is, of course, filtered and edited, to raise suspicions about the charade of Western history.

Homesick troops – after 7 years of war

Greek ‘historians’ tell us that the main reason for Alexander’s turning back was homesick soldiers. During the (nearly) half-year long siege of Tyre, Alexander received fresh troop reinforcements from Macedonia. Before his India ‘campaign’, at Ecbatana, Alexander cashiered thousands of his Greek troops who wished to return home. After the death of Darius, at Ecbatana (330 BC), to all the Greek officers, wishing to return home, Alexander awarded one talent of gold (approx. 25kg-60 kg).

Also at Ecbatana, Alexander dismissed the allied Greek troops he had requisitioned thus far under the powers granted him by the Greek league. The official goal of the invasion, the destruction of the Persian empire in revenge for its attack on Greece, had now been achieved, so the official duties of these troops were fulfilled. (from Alexander the Great By Arrian, James S. Romm, Pamela Mensch)

At this stage, Alexander also inducted into his army, fresh Persian soldiers, trained in Macedonian style of warfare. Again, after his marriage to Roxanne, a further 10,000 Persian soldiers joined his army. Hence, the troops left with Alexander, were either fresh or those who decided to stay with Alexander.

Homesick … or frightened?

The pleadings of Coenus, that Alexander’s men, “long to see their parents, wives, and children, and their homeland again.” were patently the cries of frightened soldiers. Once back in the folds of the secure Macedonian Empire, the same soldiers joined the mutiny at Opis. These Macedonian soldiers revolted when they were released by Alexander to return to Macedonia, demonstrates that reason for the revolt in India, was not home-sickness.

As per Arrian, the only ‘victory’ celebration by Alexander’s troops was after the battle with Porus. Surprising – that Alexander’s troops did not celebrate any victory, till the very end of the campaign. Was it, instead, a celebration that they had escaped with their lives?

After all, Alexander’s horse, Bucephalus died during the Indian campaign. Before that, in the Battles with the Aspasioi /Asspassi, Alexander (along with Ptolemy and Leonnatos) was wounded. Again in the battles with the Gandaridae /Candaras /Gangaridae Gandridae and then the Massagaetae.

And – a soon after the revolt, he received a large contingent of cavalry and infantry – with military supplies and medicines, through Memnon, from Thrace. As Alexander retreated from India, a Mallian force attacked the Macedonian army. In this Mallian attack, Alexander was himself injured – and his very life was in balance for the next many weeks.

Indian war elephant against Alexander’s troops by Johannes van den Avele, 1685

Indian war elephant against Alexander’s troops by Johannes van den Avele, 1685

So, what frightened Alexander’s army ?

326 BC was the year of the battle with Porus. After that battle, what possibly frightened Alexander’s army was the ‘information’ that further from Punjab, lay places

“where the inhabitants were skilled in agriculture, where there were elephants in yet greater abundance and men were superior in stature and courage

And Plutarch tells us how Alexander’s armies were

told that the kings of the Ganderites and Praesii were awaiting them with eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants. (from The Life of Alexander, Plutarch, The Parallel Lives).

A hundred years later, terrorized Roman armies lost major battles against Hannibal and Pyrrhus. What about Pyrrhus and Hannibal frightened the Roman armies?

Elephants. That is what. War elephants.

Pyrrhus’ army had elephants. That is what. Hannibal’s elephants are better known. If 20 elephants of Pyrrhus, or Hannibal’s 37, frightened the Romans so much, what happened to Alexander’s army, when faced with 100s, if not 1000s of elephants, which were common in Indian armies.

To put that in perspective, Chandragupta Maurya had thousands – figures range between 5,000 to 9,000. And how many elephants did Porus’ army have? 200 of them is the estimate by Greek hagiography.


War elephants in history

In the battle against the Massaga, resulting in the defeat and death of Cyrus, against Queen Tomyris, Indian elephants played a crucial role. Thereafter, Persians (then Zoroastrians) did not use elephants (considered evil by Zoroastrians). Possibly, the outcome against Alexander would have been different, had they used elephants.

The story of Semiramis, the Assyrian Queen and the Indian King Stabrobates by a Greek ‘historian,’ Ctesias (in Diodorus Siculus) is of interest. Apparently, foreign armies used ‘faux’ elephants to frighten enemies.

One of Alexander’s generals, Seleucus Nicator traded in some part of his empire, for 500 elephants. In the ensuing Diadochi wars, at the decisive battle of Ipsus, it were these Indian elephants that gave Seleucus victory.

At this decisive battle of Ipsus, the Seleucid army fielded “the largest number of elephants ever to appear on a Hellenistic battlefield” which turned out to be, as a historian describes as the “greatest achievement of war elephants in Hellenistic military history.” And Pyrrhus learnt his lessons, on using elephants in battle, at Ipsus.

Cyrus The Great

Cyrus The Great

What did the Persians tell Alexander …

Alexander’s newly inducted  Persian advisors 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 Levant, had failed against the Indians.

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).

The Assyrians, whose trans-Asia Minor Empire and their legendary Queen Semiramis too, had failed in the Indian campaign with faux elephants. Cyrus The Great, too had met his nemesis, trying to conquer India (or an army with significant Indian component). A modernized version of Strabo’s The Geography of Strabo reads,

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).

The Indian elephant contingent had played a significant role in the win of Massaga Queen, Tomyris over Cyrus The Great and the Persians. Were the Massagas from Magadha? 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?

The start of the Indian campaign

Alexander’s troubles began soon after Ecbatana (331 BC).

Allied troops were released from the Macedonian army – at Ecbatana and Hecatompylus. Then the veterans decided to leave – with a show of loyalty by veterans like Atenor. Bessus has destroyed the bridge across Oxus river – and that finally took a toll on the veterans – who decided to leave. After the Cyropolis treaty, Alexander ‘released’ the victors at Gaugemela, the Thessalian cavalry, much to the astonishment of Cleitus The Black.

Then began the conspiracies, confrontation and revolts. Even before Bactra, at Artacoana, was the conspiracy at Xerxes’ Gate (or the Persian Gate)  – the first of the many assassination conspiracies. The conspirators’ main grouse was the expansion of Alexander’s military brief to include India. Philotas and others (Dimnus, Nicomachus) were implicated in this affair.Then came The Pages Conspiracy (327 BC) – which saw the indictment of Callisthenes. Next in line was the killing of Cleitus the Black.

If this was not enough, came the constantly shifting battles against the rulers of the Indian North West – especially, the foursome of Satibarzanes, Bessus, Spitamenes and Datafernes.

First, off the block was the ruler of Artacoana, Satibarzanes allied himself with Bessus. He was finally killed in a one-to-one combat with (sources differ) with Erigyius (or with Leonnatus) in 329 BC. Then started the chase for Bessos /Bessus. Bessos, Spitamenes and Datafernes were to take up the next nearly three years with constantly shifting theaters of wars. Spitamenes and his Massagetae soldiers created havoc in Alexander’s army.

Bessos, the mathista, was handed over to Alexander’s army, (only Arrian claims that Ptolemy represented Alexander) by Spitamenes and Dartafernes. Was the handover of Bessos, made as a hostage, upon a guarantee of safekeeping, by Alexander? Did Alexander break a safe-keeping covenant, when Bessos was executed? This scenario acquires credibility when seen in light of the fact that Bessos was finally executed after nearly a year of his surrender.

Did Alexander, finally agree to execute Bessos, to curry favor and gain acceptance with Sisygambis, Stateira and Oxyathres? Was the disfigurement of Bessos, the spark that set off the Bactra-Sogdia War against Alexander by Satibarzanes, Spitamenes and Datafernes?

This was also the grist of the satire mills. A Greek poet, (possibly named Pranikos) with satire, provoked Cleitus Black into insulting Alexander himself. Alexander killed Cleitus.

At Bactra (Bharata?), Alexander did not have to battle the ruler Artaozos. He had a credible story. The stated story – the avenging of the Persian king, by the assassin, Bessos. Or was it the new Persian King, securing his frontiers against the biggest threat – India. Based on this story, Alexander’s armies were allowed to pass through.

Instead of the complete collaboration that Alexander got from the defeated Achmaenid 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 cavalry which broke Alexander’s formation.

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. Thus while, invaders were kept at bay, within the Indic area, borders and crowns kept changing and shifting.

The Greek characterization of Bessos as the killer of Darius III and usurper was out of touch. Bessos 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.

As a killer /usurper or a successor, either way, Alexander’s target was Bessos.

Between Bessos, Satibarzanes, Spitamenes and Datafernes, Alexander was tied up in the Bactra-Sogdia region for more than two years. To control this war, Alexander travelled all the way to the Scythian chief, Dravas, agreed to release all Scythian soldiers for no ransom. While he was negotiating a treaty with the Scythians at Jaxartes, Kurushkkat or Cyropolis, the Macedonian army was massacred at Polytimetus. Alexander instructed his surviving troops, at the pain of death, not to discuss the massacre of Polytimetus with other soldiers – ‘to maintain the morale of his own men, and to limit the propaganda value of these losses to his enemy’ (from Alexander the Great:Lessons in Strategy By David J. Lonsdale).

Thus well before, the start of the Indian campaign, Alexander had a first hand experience of the North West buffer that protected India from Western foreign invaders. Added to this experience by Alexander, was the history of costly misadventures by Semiramis and Cyrus, in the Indian realms.

Alexander paid in gold to Indian king …

If the Porus Red Herring is ignored, we can see that an important success of Alexander was his alliance with Ambhi – the ruler of Taxila. To cement this alliance, Alexander ‘gifted’ Ambhi with ‘a wardrobe of Persian robes, gold and silver ornaments, and 30 horses, 1000 talents in cash’. 1000 talents is anywhere between 25,000-60,000 kg of gold – 25-60 tons of gold !

Does this look like Ambhi accepted Alexander as the conqueror of the world – or was Alexander ‘persuading’ Ambhi to seal an alliance – at a huge price? Portrayed as traitor, a sell out, by Colonial historians, Ambhi’s case was a simple case of providing neutrality and supplies (at a fabulous price) to a travelling army, which was securing its own borders.

The payment of 1000 talents in gold to Ambhi aroused much envy and outrage in Alexander’s camp. It prompted Meleager, to sarcastically congratulate Alexander for ‘having at least found in India a man worth 1000 talents.’ What seals this incident is Alexander’s retort to Meleager, “that envious men only torment themselves.” (C 8.12.17 & 18).

In the year 518 BC, a few years after the defeat and death of Cyrus the Great, by a joint force of the Massagetae and the Indians, and more than 200 years before the death of Alexander, Darius-I re-organized his inherited empire into 20 satrapies.

To put these figures in perspective, Babylon and Syria, the richest provinces, paid 1000 talents, while Egypt paid 700 talents. (from Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire By David Christian).

At least, Darius-I, did not pay anything to the satrapies – unlike Alexander. If Ambhi wanted Alexander to wage a war against Porus, would it not be more logical that Ambhi, the (supposed) feudatory should have paid Alexander? Allegedly, Alexander bribed Ambhi (bribe a satrapy?) to join him and wage war against Porus.

What was Alexander’s response to a ‘sub-continent occupied by a complex network of peoples and states, who viewed Alexander as a new piece to be played in their complex political chess game.’ He had to return the kingdom of Punjab to Porus – purportedly, after winning the battle. His loot and pickings from India were negligible.

To these lean pickings, what was Alexander’s response? Writes a historian, “the Macedonians frequently massacred the defenders of the city, especially in India.” Another modern historian, an expert on Greek history writes that ‘the tale of slaughter told in the ancient sources is unparalleled elsewhere in the campaign.’ ( from Ancient Greece By Sarah B. Pomeroy, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan)

His other famous ‘victory’ was at Jaxartes, over the Scythians over a people which had hitherto been deemed by its neighbours invincible’. Of course, the writer goes onto mention that it was Alexander’s illness (he had the runs, the dysentery, these days known as Delhi belly), which ‘saved the Scythians from extermination.’

But after a few paragraphs, Alexander becomes ‘famous for clemency and liberality.’ After an overnight ride, the next morning, Alexander concluded a friendship pact with the Darvas, the Scythian chieftain with just a handshake – at Alexandria Eschate (The Furthest”) in modern Tajikistan. He also ‘agreed’ to release all Scythian prisoners – without a ransom. Was the reason for this clemency and liberality, or to isolate Bessus, Spitamenes and Datafernes responsible for ‘two years of savage warfare waged across Sogdiana on a scale unequalled anywhere else in Alexander’s anabasis.’

By the way, Scythians are known in India as Sakas or Shakhyas – and Buddha was Shakhya. Scythians were also engaged in Athens to patrol Rome, with clubs. Is that why they were called Massagata = Maha + gada (club), finally becoming known as Magadha? Much like their descendants, the Pathans were used in India, for debt recovery.

Alexander’s marriage

Was Alexander’s marriage, a similar alliance, with the Bactrian (Afghan) King, Oxyartes, whose daughter Rhoxane /Roxana /Roxanne /Roshanak (in Bactrian) was?

For almost the first ten years of his reign Alexander avoided marriage with remarkable success. After Issus the majority of the Persian royal ladies were in his power. Alexander scrupulously cultivated the Queen Mother, Sisygambis as his “Mother’ and promised dowries to Darius’ daughters. Taking over Darius function as son and father he buttressed his claims to be the genuine King of Asia. But he stopped short of actual marriage, contenting himself with a liaison with Barsine, the daughter of Artabazus and descendant of Artaxerxes II. This liaison was protracted and from it came a son, Heracles, born in 327, but there was no question of marriage till the last days of Alexander’s campaign in Bactria /Sogdiana. Then came his meeting with Rhoxane and almost immediate marriage. (from Alexander the Great By Ian Worthington).

How would Greeks pronounce Bharata? Most probably as Bactra (τὰ Βάκτρα)!

And we know that in the Indic context, a marriage is for life – and a marriage alliance is sure way of creating goodwill and positive bias. And the importance given to a son-in-law by Indians is also known! And in the Indian marital tradition (Savitri, Sita and Draupadi), wives did not stay back in palaces.  And Roxane accompanied Alexander, like an Indian wife would.

Other sources

Ekkehard, a 12 century Benedictine monk, a participant in the Crusade of 1101, had many such questions, in his updates of Chronicon Universale, (probably co-written by Frutolf of Michelsberg).

Coming so soon after the schism between the Greek and the Roman Church, Ekkehard must also be seen through the prism of Christian Church politics. After all, how could a monk of the Roman Church let go of such a juicy Greek target? Similarly, in 19th century environment, Alexander’s inflation must also be seen in the context of Western colonialism, which needed to show ‘Western’ superiority.

Alexander’s Indian Conquests

Alexanders shown with elephant headdress

Alexander’s shown with elephant headdress

Apart from the written sources there are ‘other proofs’ also. Subsequent to his Indian ‘conquest’, Alexander minted (possibly only some) elephant coins and his successors minted definitely many coins – for propaganda purposes.

The propaganda purpose of the elephant coins becomes clearer, when the spread of the coins becomes is seen – 21 of the 24 specimens recovered are in the Iraq and Babylonia region. It is in this region that this coinage would have worked – and the local population who would have looked at the Macedonians with respect, as they had ‘conquered’ India.

After all, a few centuries ago, Cyrus The Great had met his nemesis, trying to conquer India (or an army with significant Indian component). Semiramis the Assyrian Queen, whose Empire in Asia Minor, rivalled Alexander, lost her throne (to her son (Ninyas /Ninus) – after her loss to the Indian king, Stabrobates. Many of Alexander’s actions in fact seem to have been aimed at patching up alliances with Indian rulers on his borders – to avoid the fate of his predcessor ‘conquerors’ – Cyrus The Great and Semiramis.

The significance of these coins itself is questionable. Elephant units, managed by Indians, were a common feature in Central Asian region – and later Greek armies also co-opted elephant units. These elephant coins could well have been stuck to  celebrate Alexander’s victory at Gaugemela over Darius.

Alexander’s coinage system itself is very hazy subject, with many sub-plots and qualifications. An expert writes,

There are few series which present more difficulties in the way of chronological classification than the ‘Alexanders.’ The mass of material is so vast and the differences between the varieties so minute, so uninteresting to anyone but the numismatic specialist, and so difficult to express in print, that very little progress has been made since the publication of L. Müllerr’s remarkable work in 1855 … (By Sir George Hill from The Numismatist, American Numismatic Association; page 57)

After Alexander

Alexander’s ‘boasts’ about his conquest of India, a super-power then, did get him mileage. Ptolemy, to create legitimacy for his rule, issued coins showing Alexander wearing a elephant head, looking like a mixed Zeus and Ammon.

It also became the butt of comedies. These Greek comedies survive through Roman writers like Plautus’ Curculio – with an ex-India soldier, Therapontigonus Platagidorus, who boasts of his conquest of

the Persians, Paphlagonians, Sinopians, Arabs, Carians, Cretans, Syrians, Rhodes and Lycia, Gobbleollia and Guzzleania, Centaurbattaglia and Onenipplearmia, the whole coast of Libya and the whole of Grapejusqueezia, in fact, a good half of all the nations on earth, have been subdued by him single-handed inside of twenty days

and wants a golden statue – made with melted gold from Philip (of Macedon’s) gold coins. Other such unbelievable accounts were written in Greece and Rome about Alexander’s victory against Porus – “a popular subject in Greece and Rome for many centuries.”

By 303 BC, less than a 20 years after Alexander’s death (323 BC), Alexander’s greatest general, Seleucos Nicator, sued for peace with Chandragupta Maurya. He ceded large parts of empire, made a marriage alliance with Chandragupta, stationed an ambassador (Megasthenes) in Chandragupta’s court.  – and obtained 500 elephants, which proved invaluable in at the decisive battle of Ipsus.

Where did the much vaunted ‘Greek’ sarrisae and Macedonian phalanxes miss out? On the other hand, the 500 elephants that Seleucos Nicator bought from Chandragupta were decisive in the Battle Of Ippsus – which ended the Daidochi wars .

Indo-Greek colonies and kingdoms – at Indian borders

Modern historians refer to the Greek colonies in Bactria, Sogdiana (modern Afghanistan and Baluchistan) as proof of Alexander’s and Greek conquests in the Indian sub-continent. 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.

"Alexander Ceding Campaspe to Apelles" by Jéröme-Martin Langlois (1819)

"Alexander Ceding Campaspe to Apelles" by Jéröme-Martin Langlois (1819)


Alexander’s own propaganda machine

Also must be remembered that Alexander had his own in-camp propagandists – like Callisthenes and Aristobolus, who were his camp followers. Alexander was introduced to Xenophon Cyropaedia and Anabasis. These books were excellent propaganda material, which converted a retreat of Greek mercenaries into a heroic saga.

To do his portraits, Alexander commissioned Appelles, the ‘greatest’ Greek painter of the time. Further, Alexander, ‘gifted’ his favorite mistress, Pancaspe (also Campaspe) to Appelles as an added ‘incentive.’ Lysippus was similarly appointed as the official sculptor for Alexander.

Ptolemy (one of Alexander’s inner circle) was himself no mean wielder of the propaganda pen – and Ptolemy’s memoirs of the campaign were used as sources by many subsequent hagiographers. In 321 BC, Ptolemy captured Alexander’s body – and kept it till Alexander’s mausoleum

Soma, was built in midst of the city, at the point where the two main thorough fares crossed each other. Encased in a translucent shroud, it stood there for centuries for all to see.

As a propaganda tool and obtain legitimacy for his rule. In modern times, I am reminded how Lenin’s body was kept embalmed and displayed for the next 7 decades.

Ptolemy, a master propagandist, also subsequently issued many coins showing Alexander as a elephant slayer, as God (Zeus and Ammon). Ptolemy is famous for the set up of the Library of Alexandra, to promote ‘Greek’ learning and propaganda – the precursors to the Alliance Francaise, the British Council and the USIS of today. He ‘imported’ Demetrius of Phalerum, to run the Mouseion an institute of higher learning, or Temple of the Muses.

But, his masterstroke was to circulate rumors about his parentage. Ptolemy I Soter, claimed through these rumors, that he was not the son of Lagos, but in fact one of Phillipp II’s illegitimate children – and thus Alexander’s half brother. Was it therefore strange that his descendant, Cleopatra, surrendered to the Roman usurpers, seeing them as successors to the ‘Greeks’?

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?

For the same reasons, that Islamic conquerors, by that time, had conquered most of Eastern Europe, had failed in 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 – from 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.

Colonial historians show Central Asian and Levantine raiders as Islamic raiders, but themselves as European. Central Asian and other invaders like Nadir Shah, Timur Lang, Mahmud Ghazni, Muhammed Ghori, traced their extract from non-Indic countries.

As soon as we redefine India, and include Afghanistan as also a part of the Greater India(deriving its very name from up+gana-stan, meaning allies from the North) foreign presence in India is limited to a brief period of 1206-1500 and from 1756-1947. Thus Mughal rule was characterized by Indic values – whereas less than 200 years after Babur, Ranjit Singh, captured most of Afghanistan again. Thus to show Afghan rule as foreign rule, is colonial mischief.

As Britain itself could never capture Afghanistan (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 – made the colonial historians separate Afghanistan from 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.

Timurs Caltrops

Caltrops

What were India’s main military differentiators? It’s main line of defence? In one word – elephants. 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.

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 was the economic reason – slavery. The use of slaves for economic production, 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, which was 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.

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