2ndlook

Löwenmensch Puzzle – Am I missing something?

Posted in European History, History, India by Anuraag Sanghi on June 4, 2011

Löwenmensch (The Lion-man) = While the bones at the site are radio-carbon dated, the entire narrative structure is built on the undated ivory figurines.

Lowenmensch or the Lionman - Book extract from Foundations of culture: knowledge-construction, belief systems and worldview ...  By Harald Haarmann (Courtesy - Google Books.). Click to go to original book.

Löwenmensch or the Lionman – Book extract from Foundations of culture: knowledge-construction, belief systems and worldview … By Harald Haarmann (Courtesy – Google Books.). Click to go to original book.

Half man, half lion figure in Germany

The Löwenmensch (meaning lion-man in English) is a puzzle. The provenance of this figure is derived from the 1870s. Markedly

Significant is the discovery of the Löwenmensch — a German term meaning “lion-person” — as a larger Löwenmensch sculpture was found in 1939 at the Hohlenstein-Stadel site in a neighbouring valley. Both works carry similar features and have been dated to the Aurignacian period between 31,000 and 33,000 years ago.

Dr.Nicholas Conard added: “The occupants of Hohle Fels in the Ach Valley and Hohlenstein-Stadel in the Lone Valley must have been members of the same cultural group and shared beliefs and practices connected with therianthropic (half-man, half-animal) images of felids (cats) and humans. The discovery lends support to the hypothesis that Aurignacian people practised a form of shamanism.”

The second site at

Hohle Fels is a large cave site with Middle and Upper Paleolithic occupations, located in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany, some 20 kilometers southwest of the town of Ulm.

The cave deposits include a low density Middle Paleolithic site and a long Upper Paleolithic sequence with separate Aurignacian, Gravettian and Magdalenian occupations. Radiocarbon dates for the UP components range between 29,000 and 36,000 years bp.

Hohle Fels is best known for the recent recovery of three pieces of carved ivory from the Aurignacian period, which make up some of the earliest portable art in the world.

The three figurines are of a horse’s head (or possibly a bear), a water bird of some sort possibly in flight, and a “Lowenmensch”, a half lion/half human figurine. Previously, a similar lion/human sculpture (although much larger) was found at the Hohlenstein-Stadel site, an Aurignacian period site in the Lone Valley of Germany. The horse’s head at Hohle Fels came from a level dated about 30,000 years old; the other two are from an older occupation in the cave, ca. 31-33,000 years ago.

Hohle Fels was discovered in the 1870s and first excavated in the late 1950s, when undisturbed Paleolithic sediments were found. Excavations have been ongoing since the 1970s, led first by Joachim Hahn and beginning in the 1990s by Nicholas Conard. (via Hohle Fels (Germany).

These items, especially the two Löwenmensch seemed ‘polished from heavy handling, suggesting that rather than sitting on a shelf as an artifact to be admired’.

The Löwenmensch (Image courtesy - historyofinformation.com). Click for larger image.

The Löwenmensch (Image courtesy – historyofinformation.com). Click for larger image.

The importance of being the Löwenmensch

These ivory artifacts are vital to the European historical narrative being developed over the last 20 years – based on these finds.

Dr.Conard in another paper claims, ‘The ivory figurines from Swabia represent one of the earliest artistic traditions worldwide”. A related academic paper on this period goes on to say,

Indeed, how can we not see, in the numerous and varied ornaments, sculpted stone blocks, ivory statuettes or bone, antler and ivory spear points, evidence of a significant and abrupt mutation in the long history of human evolution?’.

Figurines apart, there are the odd musical instruments, which too are of ivory. Musical instruments made and used more than 30,000 years ago – in what is called as the Aurignacian period.

These incredible finds must have a credible theory behind it.

How was the Löwenmensch dated?

If this is true, I am most curious about the methodology used for dating. What samples were used for radio-carbon dating?

Academic papers presented by the team, list some 10 samples. These samples were radio carbon-dated – between 1977-2003, in different labs, by different researchers. These samples showed radio-carbon dates of 31000-41000 years BP. The error rate is less than a 1000 years. Conservative dating still puts these finds in the 30,000-40,000 years age.

10 samples over 10,000 years. That would be 1 sample per 1000 years. Usually such technology development has been accompanied by larger settlements – and not a remote cave, with sparse proof of habitation. To imagine that a few Early Stone Age people, sat down in a corner, picked a few sharp stones, and made musical instruments, sounds flimsy. Remember, in a remote cave.

However, another academic paper does not find this remarkable, as the ‘bulk of the material remained in situ, such a level of vertical displacement is also perfectly compatible with the recognition of global assemblage patterns’.

Just 10 samples. But with an age difference of over 10,000 years. Between the oldest and latest. At one site, at one stratigraphic layer. That is indeed a long period.

It means something.

Strange is my middle name

Going back to reports by the researchers, and a careful reading shows, that the Löwenmensch statuette of Hohlenstein-Stadel was found in the Upper Paleolithic layer – along side various other items. Organic material like reindeer, wolf, elk, horse bones (humerus, mixed bone sample, ulna, astragalus, radius, longbone, metatarsal, longbone, metapodial). It is these bones which were carbon-dated.

Dr.Conard the lead archaeologist, confirms that ‘Ivory artifacts were not dated to maximize the comparability between the dates.’ Cited by 153 other papers, strangely, questions are rare, on how the most visible artefact, the Löwenmensch was not specifically dated. It may be worthwhile to remind the academic community about some recent demotions.

The younger age of Combe Capelle upsets this theory, although skulls of this general type also appear in the Moravian site of Dolni Vestonice. In 2004 another supposed Aurignacian specimen, Vogelherd was demoted to the last 5,000 years.

If so much is being made out of these ivory artifacts, is it not then essential to carbon date the ivory? If the entire edifice of the evolution is based on these very ivory artifacts?

The bones are radio-carbon dated, but the entire narrative structure is built on the undated ivory figurines.

The story grows

Work on these sites has continued. Some more finds have been reported. Using the same technique, the Swabia region is now in danger of being called

Are we fitting evidence to a theory? Where is the dating of the ivory products?

Are we fitting evidence to a theory? Where is the dating of the ivory products?

The birthplace of human art. If indeed there is such a place, researchers are increasingly inclined to believe that it is to be found in the hills — and caves — of southern Germany. Already, archaeologists have unearthed a number of miniature mammoth ivory carvings — and on Wednesday, Nicholas Conard, a professor of prehistory at the University of Tübingen, presented his most recent sensational discovery: a tiny figure of a shockingly anatomically correct woman carved out of mammoth ivory that is at least 35,000 years old and perhaps as old as 40,000.

The carving, called the “Venus of the Fels Cave,” is thought to be the oldest human depiction ever found and one of the most ancient pieces of representational art in the world.

The find was made in September of last year in one of the numerous caves in the southern German region of Swabia, not far from the Danube River valley. The caves in the region have poured forth a number of valuable ivory carvings in recent years, all stemming from the Aurignacian period, an age which saw the earliest modern humans settle Europe concurrently with the demise of the Neanderthals which preceded them.

Archaeologists have found some 25 small ivory carvings in the region, including depictions of mammals, horses, bison and birds. Researchers have also found the world’s oldest music instruments — a kind of flute made out of the bones of birds. (via Explicit Art: Oldest Known Human Sculpture Found in Germany – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International).

Maybe even do a DNA verification?

The Löwenmensch figurine is made of ivory – which is usually used in context of elephant-tusks. In this case it has been proposed that this was made from mammoth or a mastodon tusk – the ancestors of modern elephants. The Ulm Museum where this figure is housed says this was carved  by ‘stone tools out of mammoth ivory’.

It is unclear on what basis the ivory type of the Löwenmensch was decided. Was it fossil ivory, of the mammoth type, or the modern African or Asian elephant tusk. The US Customs Department uses the Schreger Pattern to decide between elephant or mammoth ivory.

if the angle of the cross-hatch pattern is less than 90 degrees, the ivory is fossil mammoth (mammoth forms angles of 87 degrees on average). If the cross-hatch angle is more than 90 degrees, the ivory could be modern elephant (modern elephant ivory forms angles greater than 115 degrees.) On the other hand, Mastodons cross-hatch angle is 125 degrees on average. (via Fossil-Treasures-of-Florida-Newsletter, Issue #0007 — How to Identify Fossil Ivory, June 29, 2010).

Schreger lines in elephant ivory. (Image courtesy - www.ivoryandart.com.) Click for larger image.

Schreger lines in elephant ivory. (Image courtesy – http://www.ivoryandart.com.) Click for larger image.

Schreger lines for mammoth ivory. (Image courtesy - www.lab.fws.gov.). Click for larger image.

Schreger lines for mammoth ivory. (Image courtesy – http://www.lab.fws.gov.). Click for larger image.

A few years after the discovery and the consensus on the Löwenmensch, methods to unravel the DNA of the mammoth were found between 2005-2009. The mammoth genome was sequenced and comparative-DNA analysis of the mammoth too was done.

Considering what historians expect from Löwenmensch, would it not be prudent to go for DNA testing. Spectroscopic examination of the Upper Paleolithic era bones and mammoth ivory would reveal mineral traces, which may help in locating, where this mammoth tusk originated from.

Stratigraphic coincidence

The possible and logical answer to the stratigraphic coincidence, is the re-habitation of abandoned caves.

This logic appears stronger, with 10 samples sprayed across 10,000 years. So, apparently this cave was abandoned and re-occupied a few times in the 10,000 years which accounts for these chronologically widely spaced samples. The Löwenmensch and the other ivory artifacts could then belong to a probably Bronze age inhabitant – and not to the Upper Paleolithic man.

This is relevant when it is ‘securely established that working fresh ivory in the Aurignacian was highly unlikely, if not impossible’. Radio-carbon dating has fixed Swabia-Jura in the 30,000-40,000 BP period. At a time when the woolly mammoth were alive and well. After the end of the Pleistocene era (1.7 million years ago-12,000 years ago), with retreating ice caps, for the Bronze Age man, weathered tusks from skeletons of woolly mammoths would have been easily available.

This also begs the question why not stone? European soft woods would have been so much easier. Simplest would have been clay. Why ivory? Such choices also indicate developed language skills. There is no evidence of any language skills in the Upper Paleolithic man here.

Can Stone Age implements be used to make musical instruments, or tiny human, humanoid, or zoo-morphic figures? Like the tiny Venus of Fels? Even today, good stone household instruments, are made using metallic tools. Could rough, serrated-edge stone tools make a figure of the woolly mammoth

tiny, measuring just 3.7 cm long and weighing a mere 7.5 grams, and displays skilfully detailed carvings (or a) miniature lion is 5.6 cm long, (with an) extended torso and outstretched neck. It is decorated with approximately 30 finely incised crosses on its spine. (Linking text in parentheses supplied).

Or as Der Spiegel waxes poetically

A flute, made of pure ivory, was discovered in 2004. The craftsman split the tusk along the length . Then he hollowed it out, carved three holes into it and glued the two halves airtight with birch pitch.

(German-English translation supplied; original German text – Eine der Flöten – sie wurde im Jahr 2004 entdeckt – ist aus purem Elfenbein. Der Handwerker spaltete dafür einen Stoßzahn der Länge nach durch. Dann höhlte er ihn aus, schnitzte drei Löcher hinein und verleimte die beiden Hälften luftdicht mit Birkenpech; via DER SPIEGEL 27/2007 – Das magische Mammut).

Using ivory chips or bone-shards as tools, would be simple answer. Much like how Indians pioneered diamond-cutting more than 2000 years ago. But that was in a context of a nation with high language skills.

Musical instruments, with early Stone Age tools? Splitting a swan-bone, down the middle and sealing it again with with birch-pitch? Stone Age Man?

Gimme a break! Puh-leeze!

About the Löwenmensch itself

The Aurignacian model using Löwenmensch figurine seems to be using the Antikythera model. Discovered on a Roman ship,  off the Greek coast, near the island of Antikythera, this astrolabe kind of mechanism was replicated with modern innards – and displayed, with much fanfare, as a marvel of Greek engineering. Subsequent research is showing that the Antikythera probably used Babylonian astronomy – and not Greek models of astronomy at all.

Perhaps the thinking behind this project was best said in The Times, London.

Alistair Sinclair, of Liverpool University, said that the Swabian finds added weight to the theory that human art became very sophisticated very quickly after it emerged.

“Instead of a gradual evolution of skills, the first modern humans in Europe were in fact astonishingly precocious artists,” he said. “The argument in favour of fast-developing artistic skills in modern humans is strong, and certainly one that I find convincing.”

The oldest known examples of cave paintings — in the Grotte Chauvet in France — dated from the same period as the Swabian sculptures, Dr Sinclair said.

When any historical development or find gets described as ‘abrupt mutation in the long history of human evolution’ or ‘modern humans in Europe were in fact astonishingly precocious artists (with) fast-developing artistic skills’, Mortimer Wheeler comes to mind, who said how his archaeological ‘expeditions’

demonstrate with astonishing clarity the extent to which the brief transit of Alexander did in fact Hellenize almost instantly vast tracts of Asia populated previously by nomads or semi-nomads and villagers”

Hattusas' Lion - note the weathered mane

Hattusas’ Lion – note the weathered mane

This usually means, thin ice. Very thin.

Interestingly, on these Swabian-Aurignacian finds, Der Spiegel observes ‘Zwar hegt die mächtige Zunft der US-Archäologen noch Zweifel am Alter’ (English Translation – Although the powerful guild of U.S. archaeologists have doubts on age).

It goes further and calls the Löwenmensch figure ‘der Avatar aus dem Aurignacien’ – the avatar from Aurignacian.

Who could it be now?

Who could have brought to Germany, elephants, ivory, iron-age tools, horse, boar, fertility symbol female figures, phallic symbols, and the the Löwenmensch – a version of Narasimha avatar.

My favorite candidate

European Hittites.

After all, the gates of Hattusha are guarded by similar lion-faced statues.


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‘Aryan’ politics behind Indus-Saraswati history

Posted in European History, History, India, Media, politics, Religion by Anuraag Sanghi on March 3, 2010
Hattusha's Lion - note the weathered mane

Hattusas' Lion - note the weathered mane

A tale of two cities

To understand the ‘politics’ of Indus-Saraswati Valley sites, a good start point is Turkey.

In 1834, local villagers  in Turkey, (then the Ottoman Empire), guided a French explorer, Charles-Felix-Marie Texier to nearby ruins.  These ruins, he  thought were ruins of the Celtic Tavium city, mentioned in various Roman sources. Instead, what he ‘found’ was a more ancient culture, that predated Rome by 1500 years.

The Hittite city of Hattusas, that Texier ‘discovered’, took another nearly 100 years to start disgorging its secrets to modern archaeologists. The name of the Hittite city, Hattusas, is itself possibly derived from the Sanskrit word, hutashan, हुताशन meaning “sacred sacrificial fire.”

Guarded by weathered stone lions, very similar to Ashoka Pillar lions, the city of Hattusas, became a cause for much politicking.

The politics of archaeology

In 1906-07, an Turkish archeologist, Theodore Makridi-Bey, started excavations at Boghazkoi, (identified as the ancient Hattusas city) 150-200 km from Ankara, Turkey. He was joined by Hugo Winckler, a German archaeologist, specialising in Assyria. They unearthed more than 10,000 clay tablets which were of tremendous interest.

Earlier, in 1904, English archaeologist John Garstang (1876-1956) lost out to Hugo Winckler, of Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, (German Oriental Institute) supposedly at the intervention of the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm-II for excavation rights at modern Boghazkoy.

Related to Boghazkoy tablets were some of the tablets found at Tell-el-Armana, by Flinders Petrie in 1891-1892. The decipherment of the Tell-el-Amarna letters, by JA Knudtzon, in 1901, linked the few earlier tablets found at Boghazkoi-Hattusas. By French archaeologist JA Ernest Chantre in 1893-94, who was

the first in a long line of archaeologists to dig at the ancient site in the 1890s, starting with the hill top compound. His exclusive interest in tablets, unfortunately, led him to destroy everything else he uncovered.

What Makridi Bey and Winckler found, were some 10,000 clay tablets. 10,000 tablets, which no one in the world could read.

On the other side of the world

Bedřich Hrozný
Bedřich Hrozný

A Czech cryptographer, educated in Vienna, Austria, working in Germany, Bedřich (or Friedrich) Hrozný, cracked this code over the next 15 years – and that set off a furore among archaeologists. Hrozný’s

discovery was based on this short sentence written in cuneiform: NU NINDA-AN EZZATENI,WATAR-MA EKUTENI .

Since many Babylonian words were included in Hittite texts, the clue was provided by the Babylonian word ninda, which means “food” or “bread.” Hrozný asked himself a very simple question: What does one do with food or bread? The answer, of course, was, one eats it. So the word ezzateni must be related to eating.

The publication in 1922 of these tablets showed, in one case, a call to Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nastya to witness a treaty between the Hittite king Suppiluliuma and Shattiwaza, a Mitanni. Gods that only people in India worshipped.

So, how did Vedic gods land up in Turkey, some 3500 years ago?

A deserter’s tale

Back in India, a British ‘soldier-of-fortune’ working with the English East India Company, during 1833-1838, was making his way into various parts of India. On one such trip, after,

A long march preceded our arrival at Haripah, through jangal of the closest description. East of the village was an abundance of luxuriant grass … in front of the village … (a) ruinous brick castle. Behind us was a large circular mound, or eminence, and to the west was an irregular rocky height, crowned with remains of buildings, in fragments of walls, with niches, after the eastern manner. The entire neighbourhood is embellished with numerous pipal trees, some of them in the last stage of lingering existence; bespeaking a great antiquity, when we remember their longevity. The walls and towers of the castle are remarkably high, though, from having been long deserted, they exhibit in some parts the ravages of time and decay. Between our camp and it extended a deep trench, now overgrown with grass and plants. Tradition affirms the existence here of a city, so considerable that it extended to Chicha Watni, thirteen cosses distant, and that it was destroyed by a particular visitation of Providence, brought down by the lust and crimes of the sovereign. (from “Narrative of various journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan by Charles Masson”; underlined text in parenthesis supplied).

During his travels, over North and North West India, he “bought numerous ornaments, gems and coins in Kabul bazaar and amassed an estimated 60,000 coins, gems, seals, rings and other, mostly bronze, surface finds from the urban site of Begram north of Kabul.”

This travelogue, published in 1842, is the first known Western citing of Harappa.

Railway tracks over history

Much before 1857, the British Raj was wracked by rebellion, mutinies, uprisings, battles against colonial British rule. More than 50 of them between 1800-1850. Pushed by this state of constant war, British defense goals in India justified the expansion of Indian railway system. Many of these railway systems were set up by Indian princely states and the promoter-investors, with funds, underwritten by the Indian fare paying passengers. Buried under this railways expansion, are some vital elements of Indian history.

Between Lahore to Multan, for about a 100 km, buried under railway tracks, lies history. John Brunton, on an assignment to build railway lines from Lahore,  used bricks from Harappa “ruins, which in extent exceeded all (his) anticipations … situated on the banks of a deserted river bed.” As this section for railways was being built, contractors used precise bricks and baked clay blocks from nearby ruins and abandoned buildings, to lay the bedding, to which railways tracks were later anchored. The bricks used for this ballast were 4000-5000 year old bricks and clay material from Harappa. On this ballast, rests ‘modern’ Indian history.

Probably, even world history.

Indus Valley Civilization – a history of false starts

Alexander Cunningham, Director of Archaeological Survey of India reported in 1875, how the sites had changed from the time of his trips in 1850’s. The few seals that came to Cunningham’s attention, were promptly declared as “foreign to India.” In spite of the many finds, the first publication was of “three Indus seals discovered by the Italian scholar L. P. Tessitori at Kalibangan in 1917-18 …”

Between 1911-1912, DR Bhandarkar visited Harappa and Mohenjo daro. He thought the ruins did not represent “the remains of … any ancient monument …” and were less than 200 years old as the “bricks here found are of the modern type”.

The 1931 issue of Illustrated London News - Great New Discoveries of Ancient Indian Culture on a Virgin Prehistoric Site in Sind - further results of pioneer research at Chanu-Daro, in the Indus Valley: relics of craftsmanship, domestic life, and personal adornment in the third millennium B.C. by Ernest Mackay D. Litt, FSA, in 5 x photos of seals and seal amulets with animal designs.

The 1931 issue of Illustrated London News - Great New Discoveries of Ancient Indian Culture on a Virgin Prehistoric Site in Sind - further results of pioneer research at Chanu-Daro, in the Indus Valley: relics of craftsmanship, domestic life, and personal adornment in the third millennium B.C. by Ernest Mackay D. Litt, FSA, in 5 x photos of seals and seal amulets with animal designs.

Very little was published or studied, even though, Cunningham, Auriel Stein, DR Bhandarkar, Harold Hargreaves, were aware of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro sites.

All quiet on the Western front! Why?

Reactionary announcement

After 80 years, (1845-1924) of inaction, silence and denial, suddenly the British Raj ‘decided’ to put these ruins to some ‘good use’.

John Marshall, Director of Archaeological Survey Of India (ASI), a Lord Curzon-appointee, was despatched to Harappa and Mohenjodaro, in 1925, (his first visit!).

Despite being in India, and in ASI from 1902, Marshall’s first visit to Harappa and Mohenjodaro was in 1925. Based on his ‘insights’ and ‘intuition’ Marshall started writing an ‘authoritative’ book on the “Indus  Valley Civilization”.

What was behind this decision?

During 1800-1900, various excavations, in the Levant (Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia et al) Western archaeologists dug up more than 400,000 clay tablets. Showing an ‘Aryan’ linkage, pointing to India – peaking with the Boghazkoi decipherment. ‘Modern’ history does not

appreciate the colossal scale of their discoveries, decipherments, and specialized studies, and the effect of this new material in opening up the ancient Orient to European view in the period between 1880 and 1914. As scholars ransacked a vast quantity of new textual and archaeological documents, they discovered the powerful influence of Zoroastrian Persia, the esoteric depths of ancient India, and the primeval innovations of the Assyrians and Sumerians. These new cultures, appealing in their antiquity, spirituality, and apparent purity, made the well-known “orientals”—especially the ancient Israelites and Egyptians—seem derivative, corrupt, and banal …

… in the quest to give the Wilhelmine Empire autonomous and secure cultural foundations, they shared a common set of enmities—and an inclination to fight occidentalist traditions with “oriental” truths. (from German Orientalism and the Decline of the West By SUZANNE MARCHAND; ellipsis, underlined text in parenthesis supplied.).

The timing of the Indus Valley announcement, coincided with the publication of deciphered Boghaz-koi and the Amarna tablets between 1920-1925. When Indus Valley announcement was made, world historical narratives were at a delicate stage. Hegel-Marx-Muller’s historiography of ‘Aryan Invasion’ of India was hanging by a thin thread.

From the Illustrated London News - A "Sheffield of Ancient India: Chanhu-Daro's Metal Working Industry 10 x photos of copper knives, spears , razors, axes and dishes (Click for larer picture).

From the Illustrated London News - A "Sheffield of Ancient India: Chanhu-Daro's Metal Working Industry 10 x photos of copper knives, spears , razors, axes and dishes (Click for larer picture).

After WW1, with Germany defeated and Turkey dismembered, classification and announcement of the ‘Indus Valley Civilization’ (IVC) swiftly followed with a publication in Illustrated London News, in September-October 4th, 1924.  John Marshall, (Director, ASI, 1922-1927), made his first visit to Harappa-Mohenjo daro the next year, in 1925. He ‘recorded’ his excavations and investigations, in a 3-volume book.

Marshall’s tale of ‘Dravidian’ cities (Harappa /Mohenjo-daro) destroyed by ‘Aryan invaders’, has survived for nearly a 100 years. ‘Aryans’ a  Western invention, viewed through a prism of Euro-centric, colonial ideology of the 1920’s, have no basis in history or archaeology. There never was an Aryan race. On the other hands, the Aryan-Dravidian ‘divide’ were obvious colonial attempts to divert attention – and to draw attention away from the Indian connection with Boghazkoi decipherments.

And the story does not end here!

Bigger than WW2

In the dying days of the Raj, came more insidious history. At the apex of WW2, Britain pulled out a general from the Italian theatre of war and sent him to India – to head colonial India archaeological operations at ASI.

One evening in early August 1943, Brigadier General Mortimer Wheeler was resting in his tent after a long day of poring over maps, drawing up plans for invasion of Sicily. Mortimer Wheeler was invited to become the director general of archaeology by the India Office of the British government in its last years of rule in South Asia … Summoning a general from the battlefields of Europe was an extraordinary measure, an admission both of the desperate condition of Indian archaeology and an acknowledgment of its vital importance. (from The Strides of Vishnu: Hindu Culture … – Google Books; ellipsis, underlined text in parenthesis supplied).

Amazing!

Why would the glorious British Empire, on which the sun never set, struggling for its very existence, in the middle of WW2, suddenly pull a general back from the battlefield – and put him into archaeology! That too, Indian archaeology. Not Egyptian, not Greek!

One writer explains how one of Wheeler’s “main objectives was training the rising generation of Indian archaeologists in the field methods that he had perfected …” Oozing with the milk of human kindness, aren’t we? Especially, in the middle of WW II! When it was clear, that the British would be ‘departing’ from India – sooner than later.

Just why did the world’s foremost imperial power, struggling for its very existence, put a general on to the job of digging dirt.

Dirty brown Indian dirt!

Nejstarší dějiny Přední Asie a Indie Bedřich Hrozný - The oldest history of Near Asia and India

Nejstarší dějiny Přední Asie a Indie Bedřich Hrozný - The oldest history of Near Asia and India

Aryan /Indian history becomes fashionable

At the start of twentieth century, there were swarms of people wanting to study Aryan/Indian history. Along with cultural dacoits like Augustine Waddell, Auriel Stein, there were the more academic types who wrote a book on India and ‘Near East’ – Nejstarší dějinyPřední Asie a Indie by Bedřich Hrozný.

By the 1920’s under a deluge of archaeological evidence, it appeared that Indian history would run away from its rulers – the British Colonial Raj.

Usurping Aryan Achievements

While Britain and the France, for colonial reasons, were ‘discovering’ the Greek miracle, Germany and the USA started ‘discovering the ‘Aryan’ roots’ to Western civilization.

Martin Bernal, the author of ‘Black Athena” trilogy analyzes Western “amnesia” towards African contribution to Western culture. His thesis traces this ‘amnesia’ to the replacement of Europe’s “Ancient Model”  (Egypt-Greece-Rome model) of historiography with the “Aryan” (India-Mesopotamia-Babylon-Assyria) model.

Simply speaking, the West replaced Egypt as the source of culture with the Aryans. Fact is, neither the cultural achievements of Egypt (from Africa) nor of the Aryan (from India) are for the West to arrogate to themselves.

A writer on this phase of history, Susan Marchand says,

“The Aryan industry, of course, burgeoned. Even the former Kaiser Wilhelm II, in exile, took up the study of the Orient … In a 1928 letter to his friend, the former emperor reported a recent conversation with Oswald Spengler in which Wilhelm had tried his best to convince the herald of Western doom that “we are orientals [Morgenländer], and not westerners [Abendländer].” (Bold letters, italics, ellipsis mine).

With Germany and America on the Aryan train, Britain was hard pressed to control Indian historiography. ‘Fresh’ evidence was needed to show ‘Aryan’ invasion. Indus Valley civilization provided that opportunity.

The task became easier as Germany lost WW 1, and the Ottoman Empire was carved out of existence. The rump state of Turkey went down the ‘Westernization’ path. Neither Germany or Turkey were in any position to oppose Anglo-French historiography. The Egypt-Greece-Rome-Europe axis dismissed the ‘Aryan model’ archaeologists as pan Babylonists.

And after Hitler and WW II, USA no longer supported the ‘Aryan model.

The ‘Great’ Game

At the dawn of 19th century, European empires, found themselves with barren cultural cupboards. World powers in their own right, with millions of slaves from Africa, after successful’ genocides in Americas, swollen by hubris and military power, across Asia these European powers controlled capital flows across the world. For these empires, archaeology, became a ‘playing’ ground for extending intra-European ‘coopetition’ (a hackneyed business term, made up of cooperation and competition).

For Germany, the charge into archaeology, was a “national competition and a less belligerent realm for expression of resentment at Germany’s late leap into colonial activity.” And these rivalries had a telling effect.

Britons and Frenchmen almost monopolized Egyptian excavation in the 1880s and the 1890’s, but then Germans, Americans, and Italians came in. The turning point came in 1905-1907 with a rush of American expeditions and the founding of the German Archaeological Institute … In Istanbul and its Fertile Crescent provinces, German activity in the army and railroad building spilled over into archaeology. The director of Istanbul’s antiquities service and museum in the 1870s had been a German. German excavations at Pergammon in 1878 and later at Babylon and later at the Hittite capital of Boghazkoi fanned Frenchmen’s uneasiness …

World War I aborted this promising beginning. German property in Egypt was sequestered. After the war, the dispute over Borchardt’s quiet export of the bust of Nefertiti to Berlin flared up. The Eyptians refused to allow German excavation or reopening of the German Archaeological Institute till 1929, when Herman Junker replaced the embittered Borchardt … he clung to his post until 1939 despite British accusations that he worked for the Nazis. (From Whose pharaohs?: archaeology, museums, and Egyptian national identity from … By Donald Malcolm Reid, pages 196-198; ellipsis, underlined text in parenthesis supplied.).

Of course this writer does not tell the complete story of Nefertiti’s bust.

Germany alone, it is estimated, spent some four million marks, between 1899-1913 on excavations in the Middle East /West Asia.

After the founding of the Reich in 1871, archaeology became a national enterprise. The IfAK was taken over by the state, and eventually formed the basis of today’s Deutsches-Archaeologisches Institut. Rivalry with France and Britain extended to the scholarly realm, and resulted in governmental support for large-scale excavations by Ernst Robert Curtius at Olympia (1875-81), Carl Humann at Pergamon (1878-86), and eventually Robert Koldewy at Babylon (1898-1914) and Walter Andrae at Assur (1903-1914) in Ottoman Mesopotamia.[5] Wilhelm II was a particularly enthusiastic promoter of archaeology (pp. 192-199) …

Archaeology abroad grew ever more dependent on the diplomatic and financial support of the Reich for massive long-term projects … German prehistorians of the early-twentieth century also maintained that their countrymen represented the purest modern descendants of the ancient Aryans. Thus they contributed to the witches’ brew that would make up Nazi racist ideology

Out of this politics, came propaganda. In some cases, these archaeological excavations served the purpose of intelligence gathering.

The most famous example of this intelligence work was that of TE Lawrence and Leonard Woolley who were excavating at Carchemish in Syria prior to World War I. Their archaeological endeavours seem to have been secondary and perhaps even a cover for more covert activities.

While Britain and the France, for colonial reasons, were ‘discovering’ the Greek miracle, Germany and the USA started making out a case for ‘Aryan’ roots’ of Western civilization. Martin Bernal, the author of ‘Black Athena trilogy ascribes Western “amnesia” of African contribution to Europe’s replacement of the “Ancient Model” of historiography with the “Aryan” model.

Simply speaking, the West replaced Egypt as the source of culture with the Aryans.

Truth is stranger than fiction

Competition from Germany was especially very galling for the Anglo-French archaeologists and historians. Hollywood’s portrayals of the ‘German archaeologist’, even today are proof of this. Hollywood could not keep its hand off such a juicy set of characters and incidents.

To this odd and motley crowd of British, French, German and Italian archaeologists, add a character like Sheikh Hamoudi, and you have all the characters needed for a Hollywood potboiler – the Indiana Jones series.

Vendyl Jones, James Henry Breasted, Robert Braidwood, Hiram Bingham III and Roy Chapman Andrews became a mashed up Indiana Jones. Hollywood villainy drew upon German archaeologists like Hermann Junker (German archaeologist will do anything for artifacts), Otto Rahn (SS officer after Holy Grail), Ludwig Borchardt (German archaeologist ships home stolen’ artifacts).

German archaeologists  became cannon fodder to build a Hollywood caricature as a villain – as Indiana Jones’ protagonist.

Three rings for elven kings

The history of Indus-Saraswati basin sites is full of false starts – and some of these are false beginnings persist to this date.

excavating northwest India’s “forgotten cities”, historians and archaeologists had to break free from received ways of imagining the past. Cunningham, for instance, based his investigation on Hsuan Tsang’s accounts, using them to identify monasteries and stupas in the course of his surveys. Masson made his way with Alexander the Great’s 326 BC route in mind. Harappa demanded a different grid.(from On the Road to Harappa, Indian Express, Posted: Aug 14, 2005 at 0000 hrs IST).

And that different grid is something that Western historians (and their Indian and Western followers) are finding difficult to work with. The usual theory trotted out is that

The discovery of Harappa revised, in one stroke, existing theories of ancient Indian history. Until then, the earliest known Indians were believed to be the literate Hindus who lived by the Rig Veda in the Second millennium BC. Modern Hindus trace their origins to this “Vedic civilisation”, whose language and religion were considered wholly indigenous to the subcontinent. The existence of a separate pattern of settlement, an advanced civilisation predating the Vedic era by a few hundred years, raised confusing – and politically charged – questions. If the Indus Valley peoples were not Hindus, who were they? And where, then, did the Hindus come from?

This seemingly coherent scenario actually smuggles in some very potent and smooth pseudo-concepts – the concept of Hindus, Vedic and Aryans.

India did not have a religion for many centuries. Dharma ruled India.  The virus of religion was introduced by Desert Bloc – and Indian’s thereafter become ‘Hindus’. Hindus, Hinduism, in India, especially before 1000 AD is a historical fallacy. This fallacy gained significant traction, especially in the last 100 years.

MS in Sanskrit on palm-leaf, Bihar or Nepal, 11th c., 32 ff., 5x31 cm, 2 columns, (3x27 cm), 5 lines in an early Bhujimmol script, borders marked with double lines with orange pigmentation between lines, 1 miniature in text.

MS in Sanskrit on palm-leaf, Bihar or Nepal, 11th c., 32 ff., 5x31 cm, 2 columns, (3x27 cm), 5 lines in an early Bhujimmol script, borders marked with double lines with orange pigmentation between lines, 1 miniature in text.

Second is 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, 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. Massacring the males, raping 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. These attempts to phase Indian culture are artificial and unproductive. Simply a caricature of history.

The third fallacy of this dating logic is the ‘Aryan’ culture. Especially, as opposed to Dravidian culture. There was no Aryan race, religion, language, armies, conquests, invasions, rulers or other such markers. The only significant markers for the Aryans were values – especially in relation to slavery. Aryan values would not allow believers to enslave or be enslaved. Slavery was an asuric construct – which Aryan values opposed and sought to end. And all regions that abolished slavery became Aryavart.

And with these three pseudo-concepts, ‘modern’ historians mangle Indian history.

Same blunt tools

After WW1, with Germany and America on the Aryan train, Britain (and by extension, the West) was hard pressed to control Indian historiography. To show ‘Aryan’ invasion, ‘fresh’ evidence was needed. Indus Valley civilization provided that opportunity.

The task became easier as Germany lost WW 1, and the Ottoman Empire was carved out of existence. The rump state of Turkey went down the ‘Westernization’ path. Neither Germany or Turkey were any position to oppose Anglo-French historiography. After Hitler and WW2, the US was also in no position to continue with the Aryan legacy story. The Egypt-Greece-Rome-Europe axis dismissed the ‘Aryan model’ archaeologists as pan Babylonists.

Before leaving India, Britain gave one, last twist, to the ‘Aryan invasion’ knife, sticking out of the Indian history side. And Mortimer Wheeler was that last twist in the Indian side by the departing British rulers.

And HARP is the proxy knife which is being used – for the same reasons, with same blunt tools, but with lesser effects.

The Hittite city of Hattusa took another nearly 100 years to disgorge its secrets -to modern archaeologists. Guarded by weathered stone lions, (very similar to Ashoka Pillars lions), the excavation became the centre of much politicking.

The politics of archaoelogy

In 1904, English archaeologist John Garstang (1876-1956) lost out to Hugo Winckler, of Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, (German Oriental Institute) supposedly at the intervention of the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm-II for excavations at Boghaz koi.

The finds at Bogazkoy were an extension of the Tell-el-Armana archive of diplomatic correspondence found by Flinders Petrie in 1891-1892. The decipherment of the Tell-el-Amarna letter, by JA Knudtzon, in 1901, linked the few earleir tablets found at Boghazkoi-Hattusha. By French archaeologist JA Ernest Chantre in 1893-94, who was

the first in a long line of archaeologists to dig at the ancient site in the 1890s, starting with the hill top compound. His exclusive interest in tablets, unfortunately, led him to destroy everything else he uncovered.

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

Indic Justice – rediscover or reinvent?

More like Amartya Sen has foot in mouth disease?

More like Amartya Sen has foot in mouth disease?

Indic Justice …

The on-going saga of the Ambani brothers’ dispute, brings home how deeply and completely Indic norms of justice and fair play have been lost. The Ambani brothers have approached the Prime Minister and are pressing their cases in the Supreme Court for justice. Such a form of dispute redressal is alien and remote to Indic thought.

The other apparently unrelated ‘event’ is the much promoted and publicised book, The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen, has no clue about justice (at least on Indic thoughts on justice). Apart from a few token mentions about Ashoka Maurya and Akbar Moghul, he has very little to say about Indic thought on justice.

But he speaks very volubly on Western thinkers and thought on justice.

The wise king delivers justice

To bring out the contrast, one has only to read the Biblical story of King Solomon’s justice (where two prostitutes claimed the surviving baby as theirs). The point worth noting is that this paradigm of justice centralizes solutions and concentrates power in the hands of some central authorities.

So, whether it King Solomon or Caliph Haroun Al Rashid (the King in disguise), or the Turkish Çapanoglu Ahmet Pasha (of the bell of justice fame which even a donkey could ring to summon the king for justice) – the model was the all-knowing King. Variations of the Donkey /Horse and the Bell of Justice story is localized and retold in various cultures.

King Solomons Justice
King Solomon’s Justice

Going back earlier, the Desert Bloc model of seeking justice was captured in the story of Tehuti-nekht (the oppressive overseer); a sekhti’ (the poor salt-trader) the ‘clever’ Meruitensa (The Grand Vizier /Supreme Judge) and The Wise Pharoah Nebkanra.

The Duke of Venice perpetuates the myth of justice in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. The more than 120 Doges of Venice who ruled Venice for nearly a 1000 years, preserved the myth of justice during the Middle Ages.

In modern times, as republican democracy made Emperors and Kings redundant, the Smart Lawyer took over the justice function, in the garb of legal thrillers.

Perry Mason replaced The Wise Emperor as the fount of justice. John Grisham keeps company with many writers about legal-eagles, who go out to save the innocent from the hangman- and send the guilty into the dock. Like John Buchan, GK Chesterton, Wilkie Collins, et al.

Hollywood used the legal thriller genre with assembly line regularity – with successes galore, like Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution (1957), with earlier instances like Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich, or the screen adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), or the more modern Erin Brockovich (2000)and My Cousin Vinny (1992).

All quiet on the Indian front …

In more than 1000 Indic books, that record more than 10,000 years of history, there is no instance of any dispute reaching an Indic King.

The longest ancient epic in the world, The Mahabharata has no incident where a private dispute reached Yudhisthir (though a mongoose could lecture the King about sacrifices and yagnas). There was never any case of private dispute, recorded in the Ramayana, that reached Ramachandra (though a dhobi could ‘inform’ the king on bazaar talk about the Queen Sita). Even a poor Brahman, Kautsa, could reach King Raghu for help in the disbursal of guru-dakshina गुरु-दक्षिणा.

Kannagi and Devanthi - The Dream, from the epic Silappadhikaram

Kannagi and Devanthi - The Dream, from the epic Silappadhikaram

In yet another instance, rulers were warned against disproportionate punishment – through the Mandavya incident. Mandavya, was punished by Yama (the God of Death) for his ‘crimes’ as a child, of hurting insects. Through a chain events, Mandavya ended up, impaled on a trident /stake.  After best efforts to remove the offending weapon, a part remains inside  Mandavya’s body.

With a trident through his body, Mandavya confronted Yama. Mandavya, the sage, berates Yama for ‘criminalising’ children. Codifying the principle of juvenile justice, Mandavya exhorts “that no action committed by a human being till he is fourteen years of age shall be regarded as a sin  which it would thereafter.” In turn, Mandavya curses Yama to be born as a shudra child – to learn about the ‘reality’ of life. Yama, born to shudra woman, became Vidura, Dhritarashtra’s court.

In Buddha’s childhood, an injured swan becomes a point of legal dispute with his cousin, Devadatta. The injured swan, Devadatta’s hunting /archery practice target, was claimed by Siddhartha. Some minister’s preferred Prince Siddhartha’s claim, due to his position. Since the hunt was not for food, but for pleasure, Devadutta’s claim over the swan was seen as weak. Finally the claim of the saviour was seen as superior to the claim of the hunter /captor. Replace the swan, with a slave, and the legal principle for any dispute between a slave-owner versus slave-liberator, is established. The same principle is evidenced in Artha-shastra in many shlokas.

The Tamil classic, Silappadikaram, is ancient Tamil drama about the perils of royal justice.  Silappadhikaram is, a literary critic informs us is “a saga of the of the cult of the Goddess Pattini … the first ripe fruit of the Aryan-Dravidian synthesis in Tamil Nadu.” Who is Goddess Pattini? Once a widely worshipped Goddess in South India, now limited to modern Sri Lanka “Pattini was an angry deity, whose anger was directed at evil people and she is also associated with rational justice.” The destruction of the city by Pattini, the Goddess of ‘rational’ justice, is a warning against vengeful royal ‘justice’ – and instead move towards ameliorative Indic justice system.

Elango Adigal warns Indic kings from taking over and  interfering with dispute resolution mechanisms. The Pandyan King, Neduncheziyan, in  Silappadikaram, comes to grief, after royal intervention goes horribly wrong, resulting in miscarriage of justice.

It gets worse! No prisons …

Modern econometric modelling shows that for much of the last 1000 years, India has been a significant economic power – till the 1900. China and India, this analysis estimates, for the last 1000 years, 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. The interesting (historical) aspect of the criminal management story is the absence of any surviving mass jails in India prior to colonial India. Just how did pre-colonial India, one of the largest (and most prosperous) populations of the world, deal with crime and criminals?

Without prisons!

But then crime rate in India must be really high …

Cut to modern India. With such an inheritance, India has the lowest prison population in the world. How can India have such a low prison population, with a poor police-to-population ratio and a crime rate which is not above the average – in spite of a large civilian gun population.

All the 5 indices (below) create a bias for a lawless Indian society and rampant crime. With these five indices, namely: –

  1. Police to population ratio (‘increase police force’)
  2. Prison population (‘put more criminals behind bars’)
  3. Capital punishment (‘kill enough criminals to instill fear’)
  4. Poverty (‘it is poverty which the root of all crime’)
  5. Gun ownership (‘more guns means more crime’)

against a stable social system, how does current day India manage low-to-average crime rates. More than 2000 years ago, Megasthenes a Greek traveller to India wrote,

Theft is of very rare occurrence. Megasthenes says that those who were in the camp of Sandrakottos, wherein lay 400,000 men, found that the thefts reported on any one day did not exceed the value of two hundred drachmae, and this among a people who have no written laws

Historically, trade in India is governed by शुभ लाभ ‘shubh labh’ – and hence Indians have not been major players in drugs proliferation (unlike Japan, the West in which traded Opium in Korea and China) or in slave trade.

In modern times, India is not a big player in spamming or in software virusthough a power in computing industry. In August 2008, a hoax story alleged that an Indian hacker, had broken into a credit card database, and sold it to the European underworld. Some ‘experts’ feared that this would spark of a crime wave across Europe.

The Indic model of justice, crime and law

Evidence of a different Indic system goes far back in history. To Lipit Ishtar, Hittite laws, Hammurabi et al. At least as far back as 4000 years back in history. Indian kings did not deliver justice. It was done at the local level by panchayats पंचायत. Indian justice systems did not rely on imprisonment or executions or the police to control crime!

The answer – the world’s most stable marriage system and the extended family-social structures took care of the wayward.

Still from Breaker Morant - Edward Woodward, 3rd from left, portrayed Harry 'Breaker' Morant

Still from Breaker Morant - Edward Woodward, 3rd from left, portrayed Harry 'Breaker' Morant

A recent Hollywood film on the Desert Bloc system of justice was the schizophrenic Breaker Morant – by Bruce Beresford. In the closing lines of Breaker Morant, when asked about his religion, Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant declares that he is a pagan.

When the execution detail comes to get Morant and Handcock, the military chaplain asks their religious affiliation. “Pagan.” replies Morant. “What’s a pagan?” inquires Handcock. Morant replies, “Well, it’s somebody who doesn’t believe there’s a divine being dispensing justice to mankind.” Handcock nods and says to the chaplain, “I’m a pagan too.” (extract from Wikipedia; accessed on 25th January, 2010).

I have always wondered how much the writer knew – and understood the import of that statement.

Crumbling edifice

In India, under the onslaught of the Desert Bloc, Akbar-Birbal stories, Tenali Ram-Krishna Devaraya were used to create expectations of a Wise King. From then on, the Indic system of justice crumbled at a faster pace.

Is it that Indians were ‘saints’ and did not have private disputes? Were they so civilized that they could solve all disputes by talking to each other? Is it that Indian kings were not bothered about delivery of justice!

By Richard Brust

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.

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