Fundamentalist Islam has, apart from the solitary success of increasing enlistment, delivered nothing on political governance, economic growth, social justice, modernization of education or even military preparedness..
- New Light on the CIA Coup in Iran on its 60th Anniversary: Why “Argo” Needs a Prequel (Sternfeld) (juancole.com)
- Robert Scheer: Oscar 2013: Hollywood’s CIA Celebration (huffingtonpost.com)
- Putting the Iran “Threat” in Perspective (counterpunch.org)
- Even if Iran gets the Bomb, it won’t be worth going to war (telegraph.co.uk)
Samuel P . Huntington’s 1993 book, Clash of Civilizations, has a historical ring to it – a hint of something grand. An influential book, it ostensibly examined ‘conflicts between Western and non-Western cultures’ – and brought the phrase, Clash of Civilizations into limelight.
In the post-Soviet World, the book marked the launch of a new Western campaign – Islamic demonization. This book, released some four years after Rushdie-fatwa, provided pseudo-intellectual justification for West’s anti-Islamic campaign.
The America+NATO sponsored ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaign in Bosnia was underway, since 1992. Saturation media coverage of Monica Lewinsky and cigars effectively drowned President Clinton’s role in the initiation of the anti-Islamic campaign – and the news coming out of the Balkans. Deliberate diversionary tactics?
India’s co-option too, into this campaign was planned in significant detail – and successfully executed. 9/11 (September 11, 2001) was still 8 years in the future. The verbal trickery behind Huntington’s Clash of civilizations ‘package-deal’ has gone by without challenge or de-construction in India. This post will cover some Trojan concepts Huntington smuggled into the mainstream.
A Basic Stance
For one, the definition of civilizations has to be beyond race, ruins and region. Instead, a definition around differentiated structures – political, social, economic and ethical structures makes comparative analysis possible.
Civilizations tend to repeat political, social, economic and ethical structures. In the last five thousand years, only three civilizational models can be identified and substantially differentiated.
The world’s dominant model today, it has been able to nearly erase competing systems from the collective minds of the ruling elites in the world.
Signs of the Desert Bloc’s birth were first evidenced in the Assyrian Empire – its first laws codified by Hammurabi. Dating is contested, and best estimates are that the Assyrian Empire collapsed around c.600 BC. Seven of history’s largest empires used the Assyrian Empire, as a springboard.
The Desert Bloc extends from west of India, across Middle East, West Asia, extending to Central Asia and Eastern Europe – with its core in a region of 1000 miles radius of Palestine. Inventors of religion, world’s three important religions, (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) were born within 1000 miles radius of Palestine, in the deserts of Middle East. Each of these religions were, so to say, ‘backward compatible’. Islam recognizes Christianity, which uses Judeo-Mosaic texts for its foundations.
Anti-feminist, none of the three religions have female goddesses – unlike the two other civilizations specified below. Western Christian world gave women the right to vote, mostly between 1920-1950. Low levels of marital success are institutionalized – and instead prostitution levels are high.
The Desert Bloc depends on extreme competitiveness between its own factions to gain leadership – extending the analogy of survival of the fittest. Some of its defining struggles in the last 1000 years were Islam vs Christianity; Spain vs Portugal; England vs France; USA vs USSR.
Such factions spring up around deified leaders based on a sharp identity – race, tribe, language, region, religion. Significant leadership struggles have broken out between even intra-religious sects – like Catholics and Protestants, Shias vs Sunnis.
A significant marker of the Desert Bloc is concentration of wealth, power and land in the hands of these deified leaders and their inner circle. Unlike the two other civilizational groups, as we will see. This allows Desert Bloc factions to indulge in extremism. Over 90% of the world’s bloodiest wars, genocides, massacres, annihilations, are to the Desert Bloc account.
Driven by ‘at-any-cost’ approach, in the Desert Bloc, everything and everyone is expendable to attain leadership position. Driven more by accelerated creation and destruction, Desert Bloc sub-groups have short life spans (Achaemenid Iran, Greece, Rome, Mongol Empire). Greece, Rome, the Ummayyads, Abbasids, Mongolian Empire, Colonial Spain and Britain best represent the Desert Bloc.
Can different factions of the Desert Bloc, like the Christian West and Islam collaborate? The Islāmic Ottoman Empire and the Christian European powers could not get around to colluding with each other. Even the collusion between the Christian European colonizers was difficult. Unless it was over carving the spoils, dividing areas for exploitation – like Papal Bulls (between Spain and Portugal) or the Berlin Conference which triggered the ‘scramble for Africa.’
The Afro Group
Apart from the Indic System, the only other civilization, the Afro Group could resist the Desert Bloc onslaught in the last 1000 years. The Afro Group successfully kept its identity, at a great cost, unlike Native Americans or Australian aborigines.
Monica Schulyer, an assistant professor of history at Wanye State University, (thinks) the name Mau Mau was itself a British invention and means nothing in Kenyan. Members of the independence movement called them selves the Land and Freedom Army.
In modern South Africa, on July 16, 1976, the ‘day began with a march by 10,000 students carrying banners and slogans, saying “Down with Afrikaans” and “Viva Azania” (the name given to South Africa by black nationalists)’. Soon the number swelled to ‘fifteen thousand school children involved in the protests (Tuttle 1)’, rose against imposition of Afrikaans language by White Apartheid rule. Known to the world as Soweto Uprisings, it is without parallel in the annals of history. In the very heart of the modern Desert Bloc – the USA, after centuries of slavery and discrimination, the Afro Group was able to roll back excesses.
Their robust ‘native’ intelligence best describes how Desert Bloc works. In Jomo Kenyatta words,
“When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”
Another unit from the Afro Group, Cuba, far from its base in Africa, after breaking from slavery, successfully resisted coming under political bondage of the Desert Bloc, for the last 100 years. In the ancient world, Carthage checked the spread of Desert Bloc, represented by Greece. Carthage allied with Rome to destroy Greece.
Before that, Nubians brought the Egyptian Empire to heel. The 25th dynasty from Nubia or Kush, south of Egypt (modern Sudan), ruled over Egypt for at least 75 years. Piye, earlier”Piankhy”the Nubian king invaded Egypt (ca. 746 BC) – and started the 25th Dynasty, that probably continued till 650 BC. He was succeeded by Shabaqo (ca. 716-702 BC) and his successors Shebitqo (ca. 702-690 BC) and Taharqa (690-664 BC).
Traditional African structures had diffused land and wealth ownership – unlike the Desert Bloc. There is little proof of concentration of wealth in African structures.
Both, the Afro Group and the Indic System have a much superior record of minimal environmental degradation. The Big 5 in animals – elephant, tiger /leopard, lion, wild bull, rhino exist only in the these two core geographies. Big Game hunters in Africa (from the Desert Bloc, where else) described 5 animals as the Big 5 – elephants, lion, buffalo, leopard and the rhino as the Big Five. These were animals that were difficult to hunt and kill (for pleasure, if you thought otherwise).
This ‘pleasure’ was the operating principle. As a result of this ‘pleasure’, there are only two parts of the world where such Big Five exist. India and Africa. China, the Middle East and of course Europe and America, have wiped entire continents of all these animals.
Modern history, under a Hegelian spell has ignored Afro Group history. Bereft of spectacular structures, visible ‘leaders’ or the recent decline in fortunes, the study of African history has been decided as unimportant.
Based on भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra platform. Indic systems focus on four freedoms – काम kaam (desire, including sexual) अर्थ arth (wealth), मोक्ष moksh(liberty)and धर्मं dharma (justice), and stipulates unrestricted access to ज़र zar (gold), जन jan (people) and ज़मीन jameen (land).
Originating in India, based on platform of anti-slavery, distribution of power and diversity, this was the dominant ideology in the world till about 8th century. In Tibet, Songtsen Gampa, the 33rd king, became the first dharma-raja in 7th century – a follower of भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra . The Indic system has been in sharp retreat for the last 500 years – especially after Mughal rule in India. Inspite of sharp reversals in the last 500 years, half the world is still significantly influenced by Indic systems.
Militarily impregnable till about 17th century, Mughal rule established the first beachhead for the Desert Bloc in India.
Strong population growth based on widespread marital occurrence, strong and extensive family structures, are features that have sustained Indic systems in the society, even though some rulers defected to the Desert Bloc.
With diverse liturgical, beatification, sacramental practices, graded pantheism (local deities, semi-divine gods and goddesses with a top layer of the Holy Trinity), faith and belief do not occupy the space or importance that religion has in the Desert Bloc. These are within the realm of individual choice with scattered efforts at proselytization
The Indic system still has significant following in China and most of ASEAN region – notably Indonesia, Tibet, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka. The modern proof of this was the India Independence League (IIL) headed by Subhash Chandra Bose.
In recent times
Each of these megaliths have traditional spheres of influence.
Post-WWII world has been been seriously influenced by the Desert Bloc. The Desert Bloc split into two factions. The liberal-progressive, democratic, Judeo-Christian faction led by America. Significant parts of the world has moved to the Desert Bloc orbit, and adopted the religion of Westernization.
An interesting study is the post-WWII behaviour of the Euro-American faction. After WWII, as British, French and Dutch colonialists were being thrown out of Asia, in country after country, the West was in real danger of losing markets and raw material sources.
A new power, fueled by a growing migrant population, USA, took the place of tired, old powers – Britain, France and the Dutch. Instead of the openly-exploitative system of European powers directly running colonial governments in these Asian countries, the US installed an opaque system – which is equally exploitative. To impose its writ on the newly independent Asian countries, the US simply destroyed their economies by war. The USA, then instituted the innovative USCAP Program and ‘helped’ these countries. These countries (Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, et al) were now ruled by overtly independent regimes – but covertly, client states of the USA.
US multinationals and home-grown oligarchs (keiretsus, chaebols, etc.) took over the economy – and sidelined British, French and Dutch companies. To impose this economic model, US armies, using nearly 1 million troops, killed 50 lakh Asians. The takeover of European colonial possessions by the USA was handled over 3 regimes of Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson seamlessly.
The second faction is the Islamic faction. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, by the West, after WWI, new renegade groups supported by the West, sprang up. These renegade groups are using extremist Islam to meld the Islamic faction into a more powerful factor in the global power equation.
Some of these Islamic regimes installed and supported by Western powers have been slowly drifting away from the West – like Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, etc. Some other regimes are longer able to call the shots – like the Saud family, or the Iraqi regime.
The other aspect of the Islamic faction is the geographical spread. The primary Islamic region is the Arab region, centred around Middle East /West Asia region. The secondary Islamic region is the Central Asia – earlier a part of the Mongol Empire. Walled in by China and Japan on the East, by Russia on the West and diverse countries in the South, it is a shadow of its former self.
The region with the largest Islamic population is South and South East Asia – concentrated across India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia. The South and South East Asia Islamic region has a moderate and non-imperial history.
Hence these three regions (Middle-East region, Central Asian region and South /SE Asian) have evolved differently and have little in common. Hence, the image of the Islamic ‘world’ as a monolithic unit is misleading.
Big trouble in Little China
The other puzzle is classifying China. China under Confucian State model was solidly in the Desert Bloc. After the advent of Buddhism, as the Chinese people became landholders, as they obtained rights to own silver and gold, they moved to Indic system. Marriage and family systems became the norm – instead of exception.
After and under Mongols, for instance the Kublai Khan restricted silver and gold rights – and issued fiat currency. The Chinese State has mostly been Desert Bloc in its tendency. But the Chinese people have great faith in their Buddhist teachers. Will China become a staunch Desert Bloc member like Iran in the past, is still possibly an open question.
The Assyrian thread
With Niniveh, (also called Asshur) as its capital, the Assyrian Empire, ended in 600 BC. The Assyrian Empire passed through many hands – recreating and renewing itself in the same mould. The name, Assyrian Empire was a Roman modification of Asuristan - the area of current Iraq.
The Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC) were the first successor power to preside over the Assyrian Empire, from their capital in Perspolis. Many wealthy Jews were envied for their vast slave holdings. Alexander ousted the Achaemenids to rule over the Assyrian Empire – effectively after the Battle at Gaugemela (331 BC). Daidochi Wars after Alexander’s death and attacks by Rome-Carthage alliance led to the disintegration of Macedonian rule. Romans, added Western Europe, and ruled over the Assyrian Empire for the next 350 years (60 BC-285 AD), with its capital in Rome.
Rome formally lost the Assyrian Empire when Diocletian was forced to split Roman Empire in 285 AD. Eastern Roman Empire, well-known for its premier city, Byzantium (a cognate of Indian Vyjayanti) mostly had its capital in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) continued to gain power and wealth over the next 400 years.
Various Islamic dynasties (c.700-1300) ruled over large parts of the Assyrian Empire, with capitals mostly in Damascus, Baghdad, till they were deposed by Genghis Khan’s Mongols. After adding China, Mongol factions ruled over the Assyrian Empire for varying periods, between 1300-1600 AD over different parts of the Assyrian Empire.
It was the Mongols who helped in the rise of the West. First, was the trade in millions of slaves from Eastern Europe (the Slavs, hence slaves) by Venetian and Florentine traders, which funelled vast monies into European economies from Egyptian and Byzantine slave-buyers. This wealth from slave trade was the stuff of which tales are told. Shakespeare wrote of Merchant of Venice, Comedy of Errors, Gentlemen of Verona. Leonardo da Vinci, architect Bramante, sculptor Donatello, Michelangelo, Titian and other famous artists found patrons with the earlier Visconti, powerful Medicis, notorious Borgias, lesser known Sforza (Milan), Pazzi and the Albizzi families. It was this slave-trade that fuelled Renaissance art and culture. Florence, Venice, Milan became major banking centres. Double-entry book keeping became standard, under which any kind of financial picture can be created. Quite unlike the Indian single-entry system.
Mongols brought to the West two major technologies. One, was the Indian decimal system and Indian saltpetre for gunpowder, was the other. Indian mathematics (initially outlawed by European rulers) is the foundation of Western science and technology. Indian gunpowder was their ticket to military power. Wealth from trade in African slaves, conquest, loot, annihilation of Native Americans, using gunpowder, fuelled a 500 year technology boom in the West.
The last significant dynasties that ruled over the ancient Assyrian Empire were Islamic Ottomans and the Christian Austro-Hungarian Empire. These two empires were dismantled after WW1 (1920) by Western allies.
Slavery rarely finds mention in Indian media. Much less is any discussion or understanding about the role of slavery in the rise of the West. A rare Indian columnist with awareness of the slavery factor. Even this discussion about clash of civilizations does not work.
- The Assyrians and Jews: 3,000 years of common history | Gene Expression (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- The Clash of Civilizations (adweek.com)
- Arab Voices, Heard at Last (nytimes.com)
- Fighting Words (nytimes.com)
Gunpowder monopoly ends
Towards the end of 19th century, newly discovered nitrate deposits (sodium nitrate) in the Atacama desert of Chile came onto world markets. Chile’s nitrates were a crucial intermediate for gunpowder.
Chile’s nitrates broke the British monopoly over the trade in Indian saltpetre for the first time in modern history. French domestic production of saltpetre, barely enough for their own needs, could not challenge Indian saltpetre output that the British monopolized.
Indian saltpetre (potassium nitrate) could be simply refined and used directly in gunpowder – unlike Chilean nitrates. Also Chilean nitrates were limited natural deposits, whereas Indian saltpetre was produced on an industrial scale, accounting for some 70% of global production.
Germans quickly secured supplies of Chilean nitrates. A few years into the WWI, Germans brought the Haber-Bosch process from the laboratory stage to industrial production. The Haber-Bosch process for production of ammonia, gave Germans industrial capacity to produce gunpowder.
Causes for WW1
With this industrial capacity for gunpowder in place, Germany and Turkey, both non-colonial, industrialized powers challenged colonial powers, Britain and France, for access to world markets.
Against Britain and France, the then dominant world powers, with extensive colonies, were Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire out of Turkey. Once WWI started, US funded both Britain and France. The US plied the Anglo-French alliance with extensive supplies and credit.
Emergence of USA
While millions died in European trenches, the USA bided its time. With mud, blood and disease taking a heavy toll, Britain, France, Germany, Turkey and Russia were soon exhausted and prostrate into a stalemate by the end of 1916. As the fate of WWI hung in balance, USA finally joined the Anglo-French side to gain a share of spoils.
Financially unaffected, industrially strong, militarily effective, the US emerged on the world stage.
Soon after WWI, as Anglo-French colonies and markets started opening up, US products gained new customers. Indians started buying Chevrolets, Buicks, Packards in small numbers. Victrolas started playing music in India – and on India. Michelin’s radial tyres from France became a byword in India for long-life. Indian natural rubber started going to Italy’s Pirelli and France’s Michelin.
Impoverishment of India
But Britain, a victorious nation was deep in debt – to USA and Colonial India. US emerged as the largest creditor nation. To settle these wartime debts, debtor Britain and creditor USA worked out a debt-repayment ‘mechanism’. Nothing but financial jugglery, this mechanism slashed the amount due to Colonial India and actually transferred the debt-burden of WW1 onto the backs of Indian peasant.
To settle this debt, Britain took recourse to gold from India. To give impetus to this transaction US supplied Britain with silver – then in abundant supply, in the form of US silver currency coins. This silver was ‘sold’ to Britain at double the market price – under the guise of the Pittman Act. Britain paid its wartime debt to India with this silver – at this inflated Pittman Act price. Abundant silver coins were stuck by the Colonial Raj, which are still available across India in large quantities.
To settle loans taken from USA to fight WW1, Britain extracted scarce gold from India. While payments for Indian exports were made in overpriced silver, the Indian peasant was forced to pay for imports and taxes in under-priced gold.
Due to this overpriced silver-under-priced gold combination, a surge in gold outflows started from India. Soon the US banking system was flush with liquidity.
Expecting the closed markets of Anglo-French colonies to open up, US economy expanded trade relations and industrial capacity. This expansion in trade and production of industrial goods was funded partly on the back of inflows of gold from India through Britain.
Finally though, protective barriers did not come down substantially enough – creating industrial over-capacity and excess liquidity in USA. Seeing ‘irresponsible’ bankers, waste ‘hard-earned’ gold on ill-planned trade expansion and production capacities, the US Federal Reserve clamped down on liquidity.
Great Depression followed. To ‘save’ gold-reserves, Roosevelt went further and nationalized gold.
Crime in the 20th century
In turn, Roosevelt’s gold nationalization, sparked a global crime tsunami. Only after the easing of restrictions on gold ownership by 1990, did the crime tsunami subside. The axis of this tsunami of crime was gold smuggling into India and narcotics trans-shipment through India.
A tsunami that engulfed all major economies of the world.
Unresolved issues of WW1 triggered WW2. Germany hemmed in from all sides by British client-states, unable to find markets for its industrial production, reacted.
Germany, allied with Japan and Italy, proposed creation of larger ‘home’ markets. This was to be done by ‘expanding’ their own borders – to include neighboring countries. As first steps, on 3 October 1935 Italy invaded Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, Germany on 11-12 March, 1938, swallowed Austria; and Japan occupied Manchuria.
These militant powers shared the same disregard for human life. Britain wreaked havoc by creating The Great Bengal Famine. Some 40-50 lakh (4-5 millions) Indians died. Hitler rained the Holocaust on the Jews. Some 50-60 lakh (5-6 million) Jews died.
Three faces of stagnation
Production capacity of non-OECD world was destroyed by years of colonialism, WW1 and WW2. Economic conditions after WW2 improved due to relative peace and as countries of the world started rebuilding their economies in the last 60 years (1950-2010).
The last 60 years has seen significant increase in industrial capacity of non-OECD nations. US extended supplier’s credit – using the US dollar, the favored currency of the Bretton Woods system.
A significant portion of economic expansion of OECD economies during 1950-1980 happened as production capacity of the world was rebuilt. The same capacities that were destroyed by colonialism, WW1 and WW2 – especially during 1850-1950 period.
This creation of production capacity in non-OECD countries means economic stagnation and loss of political power for a few decades across OECD. With greater production capacity in the hands of non-OECD producers, production capacity in OECD-USA must shrink.
Or a WW3 will be ‘needed’ to destroy the production systems of the poorest countries – to ‘save’ the West-OECD.
To get around this ‘problem’ of stagnation, the West has created artificial ‘crisis’ situations.
- Population Explosion
- Global Warming and climate change
- Civil Wars in Africa
- Islamic Demonization
- Financial meltdowns
Complicating the current situation is the US currency mechanism, called USCAP (by 2ndlook) which favors selected US allies with advantageous exchange rates. China, Asian Tigers, Japan and NATO-Europe have gained significantly from the USCAP program.
The most notable loss due to trade distortion has been Africa’s.
During the 20th century, the world had to contend with an intolerable situation. The Anglo-Saxon Bloc (America, Australia, Britain and Canada) accounted for 80% of gold production (between 1200-1800 tons per annum) and controlled 80% of global gold reserves (around 100,000 tons circa 1920) also. Not even Chengez Khan had that kind of control over global economy.
Dawn of a new century
At the beginning of 21st century, gold reserves in the hands of all the nation-States, are at a historic low. All the Governments in the world own less than 20%, i.e. 30,000 tons from global gold reserves of 150,000 tonnes.
Another 5 years of aggressive gold buying by global consumers will see this down to possibly 15%-17%. This will severely limit the ability of any State to wage a prolonged war.
A collapse of the currency systems in the world is imminent – in the next 5-15 years. Gold may give super-normal returns in the face of such an event.
Desert Bloc – beginning of the end?
The 20th century possibly saw the Desert Bloc reach its high-point. The world fully understands the bankruptcy of the Desert Bloc – and it may take some time for the effects of Desert Bloc propaganda to wear off.
Celebrations may, however, be premature. The alternate to Desert Bloc politics – भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra is yet to regain traction.
- U.S. losing its grip on world (timesunion.com)
- Anglo-Indians: Some corner of a foreign field (economist.com)
- India Now and Then (3quarksdaily.com)
- Profile: Thomas Babington Macaulay a giant of the British Empire (telegraph.co.uk)
- New revelations in ammonia synthesis (scienceblog.com)
- Why trapped miners “unwilling to die in darkness” (cnn.com)
- Recycling animal and human dung is the key to sustainable farming (energybulletin.net)
- Science History of the Renaissance Period (brighthub.com)
Demons, Satan and Ogres and Monsters
The world calls them by many names – demon, daemon, daimon, deuce, devil, daeva, evil spirit, ghost, fiend, imp, monster, ogre, rogue, savage, satan, villain, et al. All cultures in the world, extant and extinct have a vast array of villains. The Desert Bloc has the Satan and the Greeks had the sundry Medusa, Titans and Cyclops. The Sumerians had Gilgamesh and Enkidu take on Humbaba.
But the Indian tradition does not really have demons. The closest that Indian texts offer are the asuras - blessed by the Gods, especially by Brahma and Shiva. Unlike demons in the rest of the world, the Indian asuras are believers in God, at least in the Indian trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Their rivals are the devas – led by Indra. The struggle between devas and asuras is an ongoing theme in Indian classical texts. Some asuras like Ravana are highly learned, some were Brahmans before becoming asuras, like Vritrasura and there is the highly righteous asura, like King Bali.
What is one to make of the Indian asura?
Asuras in Indian texts
Indian pauranik and classical history begins to make sense only after the concept of ‘asuras’ as a verbal cue for slavery and slave masters /traders is used. In the Ramayana, there is great elaboration about Ravana’s palace and cities – and Ayodhya was itself an unremarkable city.
Jataka stories (mainly considered as children’s stories in the West) are a reflection of social mores, realities- and also cautionary tales for adults. This Jataka story (click on the link) refers to a “demon’ (another word for a slave trader) and cautions travellers and merchants about slave traders. This ‘demon’ kidnaps the merchant – but leaves the goods behind.
Similarly, the story of Bali, the ‘righteous’ Asura king, who was sent to the patalaloka, by Vamana, makes sense, the moment ‘demons’ are defined as slave-owners and enslavers.
Daas /Daasyus and Slavery
Daas and daasis in India are correctly, attendants or servants. The Pandavas, Harishchandra, Nala (of the Damyanti fame), all became dasas during adverse times. After their period of service, they could freely leave their employers. This was voluntary – and they were NOT captured, sold, resold, traded – as slaves, in slave societies were. Slaves have no control over the recompense for their output.
The word गुलाम ghulam is an import into modern Indian languages.The more wrongly and commonly used Sanskritic synonym is दास dasa - an attendant, or a servant, but not a slave. Draupadi was a daasi to the Queen of Virat-desh. The Pandavas became daasas at the court of Viraat-naresh. Raja Harishchandra became a daasa to a chandala. These were kings who became daasas. Nala, (Damayanti fame), the King of Nishada, became a daasa – but not a slave. Interestingly, in neo Assyrian period, “daughters of vassals (especially from Syria and Palestine) were sometimes sent to the Assyrian court to act as servants (ana abrakkuti)”
Therefore, once asura for slave traders /owners is used, the reading of Indian Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, Mahabharat and Ramayana, everything, begins to makes much sense – especially historical sense. Without this interpretation, there are missing elements. For instance, the story of Bali and Vamana, the horror stricken response of readers to Sita-apaharan by Ravana and others.
Similarly, the story of Dadhichi, from whose bones the vajrastra was made to kill the ‘demon king’ Vritrasura! Or the ‘Nahusha’ story, where a ‘mere’ mortal human being was elevated to the position of Indra, to defeat the ‘asuras’. This interpretation of asuras as slave owners /traders, also adds another layer to the Rajput opposition to Mughals. And the Rajput women committing jauhar. In modern era, India’s unceasing opposition to South African apartheid was another example.
The Pyramids, the Coliseum, the Great Wall, were all monuments that were raised by slave societies. To impress the slave population?
India has no such monuments because India had no slave populations to build such showpieces – and no slaves to impress. Monuments, in the forms of temples, started showing up in India too, after 10th century AD – including in Indic ruled countries like Cambodia, Indonesia, etc.
Valmiki’s Ramayana is breathless with wonder at Lanka – and makes no mention of Ayodhya as a city.
samaasaadya cha lakshmiivan laN^kaaM raavaNapaalitaam |
parikhaabhiH sapadmaabhiH sotpalaabhiralaMkR^itaam || 5-2-14
siitaapaharaNaarthena raavaNena surakshitaam |
samantaadvicharadbhishcha raakshasairugradhanvibhiH || 5-2-15
kaaJNchanenaavR^itaaM ramyaaM praakaareNa mahaapuriim |
gR^ihaishcha grahasaMkaashaiH shaaradaambudasannibhaiH || 5-2-16
paaNDuraabhiH pratoLiibhiruchchaabhirabhisaMvR^itaam |
aTTaalakashataakiirNaaM pataakaadhvajamaaliniim || 5-2-17
toraNaiH kaaJNchanairdivyairlataapaN^kivichitritaiH |
dadarsha hanumaan laN^kaaM divi devapuriiM yathaa || 5-2-18
the city which looked like the city of Gods in heaven, decorated by moats filled with lotuses and water-lilies, which was well protected, since the time of Seetha’s abduction, by Ravana and by Rakshasas with horrifying voices roaming around, which was surrounded by a golden boundary wall, that beautiful great city consisted of houses equal in height to mountains and which looked like autumnal clouds, with white and elevated main streets, decorated with flags and pennons, with excellent golden hued archways adorned with sculpted rows of vines.
So, shining and gleaming cities were out of place in India – but Indians did associate such cities with slave-societies of Asuras.
Pandavas learn their lessons …
The Mahabharata has a cautionary tale about the Khandava-dahan and the building of city of Indraprastha -which the Pandavas lost very quickly. A reluctant Maya was pressured, persuaded and influenced to build Indraprastha for the Pandavas.
This tale in the Mahabharata is an interesting insight on monuments and man-nature conflict. The Pandavas, having secured a favorable award from Dhritarashtra, in their inheritance dispute, decided to set up a new capital. The divine architect Maya was retained to build this city. The site chosen for the new capital city – a forest, Khandava. Overcome by their hubris, the Pandavas, burnt down the entire forest - and the animals inhabiting the forest. In place of the forest came up the gleaming new city of Indraprastha.
All the kings were called to marvel at the new city. And in her pride, Draupadi mocked at Duryodhana – a guest. To avenge this mockery, Duryodhana challenged Yudhishthira for a game of chess (instead of a war) – which Yudhishthira promptly lost. They lost their new city – and were sent into exile by Duryodhana. Lessons duly learnt, the Pandavas after the completion of their exile, asked for five villages. After winning the War Of Mahabharat, they ruled from the ancient capital of Hastinapur. No more gleaming cities for them.
India and slavery
Unlike in the rest of the world, no records, ever, have been found of human trafficking in the India. Sanskrit and Indic languages have no word for ‘slave’. Based on inertia and social design, it would be difficult to imagine, that Indians woke up in 1000 BC and decided to abolish slavery. Instead, a pre-existing, anti-slavery bias, was re-affirmed repeatedly, is a more feasible hypothesis.
Unremitting and unceasing opposition to slavery – that is what Indian history is about. In fact, there is no Sanskritic word for a slave. Ghulam is an imported word, daas /daasi is an attendant. Slavery, as a concept does not exist in India – and it was slave traders who were defined as asuras.
Slave Memory In Indian Society
There are also no historical records of slave trades, prices, quantities, ownership anywhere in India. In fact, Sanskritic Indian languages have no word for slaves.
By the 10th century, Slave memory faded out in India. The Indic word for slave owning cultures, asur, became disconnected with slave ownership. The understanding of the word ‘asura’ changed – and foreign words like ‘ghulam’ made their way into Indic languages. 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, though a power in computing industry, is not a big player in spamming or in software virus.
What Did This Do In India
At least 4000 years ago, India went ahead and created a new economic model without slavery. The Occident and the Levant were using slaves till 20th century. Middle East’s labour laws even today smack of slave owner mentality.
Imported words like गुलाम ghulam or the xenophobic, Euro-interpretation of asuras as ‘Dravidians’, ‘foreigners’ or ‘others’ further dimmed Indian perception of slavery. Instead, created divisions within Indians. On the contrary, asuras could even be Indians – and even ‘righteous’ kings like Bali. The entire Ravana characterization was not about Sita being abducted. The outrage was the ‘asuras’ i.e. slave traders, trading her.
Similarly, the story of Dadhichi, from whose bones the vajrastra was made to kill the ‘demon king’ Vritrasur. Dadhichi was a former king, son of Atharvan, and Vritrasur was a brahman who became a slave trader – an asura. Or the ‘Nahusha’ story, where a mere mortal was made Indra, to defeat the ‘demons’.
Asuras in History
Interesting are the many Mahishasurmardini statues, coins and seals, especially 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, celebrated the victory of Tomyris, over Cyrus, 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. Ahasuerus, is the Persian King, in the Hebrew Book Of Esther and Ezra – who is considered by some to be Xerxes. The commonality of Sanskritic language, symbols between Zend Avestha and Aryan India are well known for me repeat. After all, Zarathushtra was also from Bactra (Bharata-ah).
The Persian linguistic makeover from the Dravidian-Elamite language to Sanskritic-Old Persian however did not change everything. The Elamite element in Zoroastrian revolt against the daiwas (devas), continues today in Elamite-Dravidian-Tamil Nadu, where asura kings like Ravana and Neduncheziyan are respected.
Rural, Tribals and Urban
The Desert Bloc typically, targetted tribals for slavery – and in recent history, it was the Africans. In India though, the relationship was different. The interaction of tribals with the urban populations, limited to the extent of trade of produce needed by the urban dwellers – and urban products needed by these forest dwellers.
Early Indian records like the Ramayana recognized these rights – when Ramachandra on his way to exile was welcomed into the forest by Guha, the forest king, hunter king of the Nishada tribe – the ruler of the forests. Such centuries of tradition are today being trampled by the Indian State, which continues with some colonial practices – in the name of progress and public good.
tataH niSaada adhipatim dR^iSTvaa duuraat avasthitam |
saha saumitriNaa raamaH samaagacchad guhena saH || 2-50-35
35. dR^ishhTvaa= seeing; duuraat= from the distance; nishhaadaadhipatim= the king of Nishada; upasthitam= coming; saH raamaH= that Rama; soumitriNaa saha= along with Lakshmana; tataH= thereupon; samaagachchhat= went forth to meet; guhena= Guha.
Seeing from a distance the king of Nishada coming, Rama along with Lakshmana thereupon went forth to meet Guha.
Slavery – in recent Indian history
This also adds another layer to the Rajput opposition to Mughals. And the Rajput women committing sati and jauhar was a response to the huge slave market that operated in the entire Central Asian geography and the Levant. The Central Asian region from the 10th century to the 17th century, imported Indian slaves – and exported horses.
In modern era, India’s unceasing opposition to South African apartheid was another example. But before that, suddenly intrepid Indians discovered kaala paani - a response to indentured labour, which was a close parallel to slavery.
Unremitting and unceasing opposition to slavery – that is what Indian history is about. In fact, Sanskrit language, which is a synthetic and artificial language, works on the system of relational data base system, has no word for a slave. Ghulam is an imported word, daas /daasi is an attendant. Slavery as a concept does not exist. And it is this unceasing opposition to slavery, which has made India the longest, continously extant civilization in human history.
Where Do We Go From Here
The world has looked to India for answers. But modern India looks to the West. And Western history, by drawing away our attention from the elephants in room has irrelevant answers – a trail of red herrings. It is this lack of slavery, it is these values that gives India the lowest prison populations in the world – and few positions in the Forbes ‘Most Wanted’ List.
The Greatest Chariot Battle In History
1301 BC. An Egyptian land army, numbering more than 20,000, (divided in 4 divisions) was raised. The leader – Pharaoh Ramesses-II of the XIX Dynasty. They were out to punish a small kingdom of Hittites, for trying to lure Amurru, Egyptian vassals, to their side. Another force set sail, in ships, to reach Byblos and squeeze the Hittites in the world’s first pincer movement.
What followed was a historic chariot battle.
An estimated 2500 Hittite (Ramesses’ estimate) chariots saw action. For two days the battle of Kadesh raged. Fought on the banks of the Orontes River in Syria. The Hittites had cobbled an alliance of small kingdoms. The Egyptian king was saved at the last minute by the appearance of his reserve troops.
On one side was the Egyptian Pharoah RamessesII (1279-1212 BCE). The builder of Temple Of Abu Simbel, Temple Of Nefertari; lived for more than 90 years. How would Abu Simbel read in Sanskrit – ‘abu’ is elephant, ‘simba’ is sinh i.e. lion and ‘bal’ is strength. He is believed to be Pharaoh at the time of Exodus of Hebrews under Moses. Ramesses II was known in history for construction that occurred during his reign. On the other side were the lesser known (to modern history) element – The Hittites led by Muwutalli II.
During the march, leading to the Kadesh battle, the Egyptian army captured two Bedouin “spies”. These “spies”, after being sufficiently beaten, “revealed” to the Pharoah important information – giving confidence to the Pharoah that the Hittites feared the approaching Egyptian army. The truth was the opposite.
The awaiting Hittites ambushed the Egyptian army. These spies, in fact, were Hittites – sent to misinform the Egyptians!!
Cause of War Of Kadesh
Both these kingdoms were interested in the Syria and Palestine areas through which trade was carried out with India. Syriac and Palestinian lands were controlled by the Amurru – who were Egyptian vassals. The Hittites were a liberalising element in the Middle East /West Asia and possibly the Amurrus had defected to practice their religion and save their culture from the Egyptians – instead of being slaves.
The cause of this battle was the defection of King Benteshina of the Amurru (is the correct name Bente = वंश vansha in Sanskrit and shin = moon goddess; meaning Chandravanshi?). The Amurru, (also known as Amorites) possibly switched sides from being an Egyptian vassal, to a Hittite ally. Were Amurrus, the Mauryas who later defeated the Seleucid army?
One of the Hiitite allies against Ramesses II was Rimisharrinaa, रामशरण, the King of Aleppo. (One of my grand uncles is also named as रामशरण – a common Indian name 4000 years later, 4000 kilometers apart).
The Historic Treaty
Two copies of the treaty were made. One, in Egyptian hieroglyphics and the other, in Hittite-Akaddian, and both survived. Only one difference in both the copies – the Egyptian version (recorded on a silver plaque) states that the Hittite king who wanted peace. In the Hittite copy, it was Ramesses-II who sent emissaries.
Peace broke when the queens of Hatti and Egypt, Puduhepa and Nefertari, both of Indo-Aryan extract and parentage, respectively, sent one another congratulatory gifts and letters. Over the next 15 years, they arrived at modus vivendi and drafted a peace treaty.
This peace treaty is the first in recorded history. A replica of this peace pact, in cuneiform tablet, found at Hattusas, Boghazkoi, hangs above the Security Council Chamber, United Nations, in New York, – a demonstration to modern nations the power of peace through international treaties. At Boghazkoi other Hiitite treaties have been found.
The Moses Connection
The Hittite liberalisation triggered a (vengeful) Moses to walk out of Egypt and formed Judaism – a monotheistic religion. The (suspected) Pharaoh at that time was Ramesis-II roughly between 1300-1200 BC. This is also when the Battle of Kadesh happened with the Hittites, which resulted in the most famous treaty.
While the Levant and the Occident continued with slavery for the next 3000 years, till 1900 AD, in India (referring to the Greater India, including the Hittites and Mitannis) after 1100 BC, slavery vanished. Compared to the retributive and vengeful Hammurabi’s code, the Indic rulers of Middle East (the Hittites, Mittanis and Elamites) already had a more liberal and humane legal system.
Plague, Locusts, Disease
So what was behind the the Indian disengagement from West Asia, the Greek Dark Age and the fall of the XVIIIth dynasty of Egypt.
Moses and Judaism, slavery, revolt of the slaves is my hypotheses. With the walkout by slaves, cities became dirty, plague broke out, agriculture suffered and locusts descended. With malnutrition, hunger and deprivation, came diseases.The newly liberated slaves fled to Greece – on Phoenician ships, where they were enslaved again.
And the Greek Miracle was born.
And who went to town claiming credit for mishaps in Egypt? Moses, proclaiming the power of his God.
The Hittite rule and legal system contrasted sharply with the parallel regime of Hammurabi – the much proclaimed Western world’s first law giver. Hammurabi’s legal concepts of vengeful laws and retributive justice are the basis of laws in the 3 ‘desert religions.’
Some archaeologists await the discovery of royal tombs to establish the identity of kings. They may never find them. In Vedic cultures, there are no royal tombs – like the Pyramids, or the Catacombs, or Mausoleums. Vedic Indo Aryans cremate their dead royals. They do not build memorials or mausoleums.
The Hittite kingdom is often called the “kingdom of thousands of gods.” Like the Mittani, they also adopted all the gods of the people they conquered . The Hittites (like Mittanis) did not impose their religion on the conquered peoples (Why does this sound familiar?). Both the Mitannis and the Hittites adopted the gods of the conquered tribes. This is significant as the Western concept of slavery was to deprive the captured from the religions (e.g. The Wends and their religion). This is another display of slave reform by Indics 3000 years ago.
The Assyrian Misadventure
Semiramis was possibly Queen Sammurammit /Sammurammat, ruling over Assyria and Babylon in late ninth and early eight centuries B.C. The identity of her husband is in question with different names like King Shamshi-Adad V, Adad-nirari IV (probably co-regent, son of ShamshiAdad V and Semiramis), and some say Rammannirar, and yet some others Vul Lush III.
Between Herodotus and Ctesias, we have Greek accounts of the rise of Semiramis. The Assyrian Empire in Asia Minor, of Semiramis, rivalled Alexander’s Asian territories. She was deposed by her son Ninyas /Ninus (probably co-regent, Adad-nirari IV, son of Shamshi Adad V and Semiramis), after her loss to the Indian king, Stabrobates.
Clearly a historical figure, Semiramis was elevated to godhood in the Assyrian pantheon of goddesses, deified and worshiped – much like cannonization of saints by the Christian Church.
To the Greeks and Romans, Semiramis was the foremost of women, the greatest queen who had ever held a sceptre, the most extraordinary conqueror that the that the East had ever produced. Beautiful as Helen or Cleopatra, brave as Tomyris, lustful as Messaline, she had the virtues and vices of a man rather than woman, and performed deeds scarcely inferior to those of Cyrus or Alexander The Great. (from The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World By George Rawlinson).
For her achievements, Semiramis was personified in the cult of ‘Mother and Child’, which Vatican was at great pains to exterminate, as it was the continuation of the worship of the Mother figure of Gnosticism and other Christian streams.
Assyrians in India
Queen Semiramis too failed in the Indian campaign. The story of Semiramis, the Assyrian Queen and the Indian King Stabrobates by a Greek ‘historian,’ Ctesias (in Diodorus Siculus) is of interest. Her army consisted, informs Ctesias, of an (over?) estimated 100,000 chariots, 5000 cavalry and 300,000 foot soldiers.
Semiramis prepared for her Indian campaign for two years. But, face to face with the menacing Indian armies with real elephants, Assyrian soldiers panicked – and some defected to the Indian army.
Only to spill the beans.
The elephants in the Assyrian army were camels – dressed as elephants. During the two years of preparation, the army of Semiramis made costumes for thousands of her camels – to look like elephants.
She selected three hundred thousand dark colored oxen … she then sewed the hides together and stuffed them full of hay to make imitation elephants that mimicked the appearance of these beasts in every detail. Inside each of these mock elephants was a man to operate it and a camel by which it was moved (from The antiquities of Asia By Diodorus Siculus, Diodorus, Edwin Murphy).
Apparently, foreign armies used ‘faux’ elephants to frighten enemies.
Ctesias in Diodorus Siculus mentions Semiramis commissioned an inscription at Bagistan – later known as The Behistun /Besitoon /Bisitoon Inscription – a rock-face carving.
When Semiramis had finished all her works, she marched with a great army into Media, and encamped near to a mountain called Bagistan ; there she made a garden twelve furlongs in compass. It was in a plain champaigne country, and had a great fountain in it, which watered the whole garden. Mount Bagistan is dedicated to Jupiter, and towards one side of the garden has steep rocks seventeen furlongs from the top to the bottom. She cut out a piece of the lower part of the rock, and caused her own image to be carved upon it ; and a hundred of her guards, that were lanceteers, standing round about her. She wrote likewise in Syriac letters upon the rock, that Semi- ramis ascended from the plain to the top of the mountain, by laying the packs and fardels of the beasts that followed her, one upon another.
But what we see today at Behistun is a message by Darius - a tri-lingual message which helped in decipherment of Elamite, Akkadian and Old Persian scripts. So, what happened?
The Behistun inscription is on a limestone rock face. Darius (could have) simply scraped away Semiramis’ carving – and overwrote his message. Could Darius have let go of such a site – and not used it to glorify himself? Subsequently, a figure of Hercules was also carved in 139 (some writers mention 148) BC by Seleucid Greeks – Demetrius II Nicator.
Semiramis in modern history
Mired in legend and prejudice, Semiramis is discredited in modern Western history – especially starting from 1853-1857. Her very existence denied, accused of incest, Semiramis has been tarred and condemned to the rubbish heap of modern history – and the Bible. As far back as 1798, the Asiatick Researches By Asiatic Society (Calcutta, India), were able to trace references to the Semiramis campaign in the Indian Puranas also. And …
In the case of Semiramis, confusion may have been caused by the fact that her husband and her son were both named Ninus; but to classical and medieval readers it seemed quite plausible that a powerful woman ruler (and a barbarian to boot) would be tyrannical and transgressive in her lust and that her violent delights would have a violent end. (from Incest and the Medieval Imagination By Elizabeth Archibald).
Semiramis established an empire that lasted, practically till WW1. Some 300 years, after the reign of Semiramis, the Assyrian Empire passed into Persian hands – and then into the hands of Alexander. Romans usurped Alexander’s Empire – and in turn, lost everything 500 years later. The Romans lost the Assyrian Empire which passed into the hands of the Eastern Empire of Byzantium. The last inheritors of the Assyrian Empire were the Ottoman Turks and the Austro Hungarian Empire. Behind the problems in the Middle East today, is t he carve up of the Ottoman Empire by victorious Allies, handled by amateurs like TE Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, after WW1.
History as colonial agenda
Why has modern history treated Semiramis so badly?
Was it the colonial agenda, being set by Max Mueller. Appointed to Oxford University in 1851, made a full professor in 1854, Max Mueller became a British citizen in 1855. A German Christian, with a missionary zeal, he took his cues from Bible – and was paid by the British East India Company. For instance, the British East India Company commissioned him to produce propaganda at the rate of 4 pounds per page. A very satisfied Max Muller, agreed to write 50 pages of manuscript every year – for which he would be paid 200 pounds.
Behind numerous specious historical theories that sprang up during Colonial (Indian) period, Max Mueller’s significant objective was to use his knowledge of Sanskrit and Indian religion, to show the superiority of the Christianity – and the Christian West. He wrote, how
The translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3000 years.
After all, Max Mueller believed that
whatever finds root in India soon overshadows the whole of Asia, and nowhere could the vital power of Christianity more gloriously realize itself than if the world saw it spring up there
If Greek accounts or sources went against the Colonial agenda, Max Muller, dismissed all his beloved Greek sources by carefully, hedging his writing with terms like ‘half legendary account’ with ‘possibly’ , ‘supposed’ , ‘may represent’ with a few ‘doubtful’ also thrown in – for free. When it comes to Indian triumphs, Semiramis becomes half legendary. Yet in another book, the same Semiramis becomes one of ‘the great conquerors of antiquity.’ In a matter of a few pages, he dismisses Indian history completely, in a half-Hegelian manner.
Cyrus The Great
The first inheritor of the Assyrian Empire, was the Persian Achaemenid dynasty (Hakhamanish in Persian) – of which Cyrus (Kurush in Persian) The Great, was the first ruler. He was victorious in battle after battle – and his armies defeated all others they came across. Building on the Assyrian Empire, he expanded his empire across most of Southwest Asia and much of Central Asia, from Egypt and the Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east.
His rule (ca 554-529) was the object of much study by Greeks and Romans. Xenophon, in Cyropaedia, thought that Cyrus was ‘the ideal of monarchy.’ Building on the Assyrian territories, his empire was the largest the world had yet seen. Dr.Abul Kalam Azad, the Indian political leader, also the first education Minister of the post-colonial Indian Republic, theorized that Cyrus The Great was the Koranic character of Dhul-Qarnayn – and not Alexander The Great.
Death of Cyrus – and India
After all these victories, Cyrus turned his attention India wards. Trying to conquer India, Cyrus The Great met his nemesis, at the hands of an army with significant Indian component. The defeat of Cyrus The Great, reverberated in the Western world. A Greek writer, well travelled in Asia and Northern India, Herodotus,
judged it to be be the bloodiest battle he had witnessed. Not even a Persian messenger survived to carry the tale of the battle, and for years his people did not know what had become of Cyrus. (from Women Warriors By David E. Jones).
In the battle against the Massaga, resulting in the defeat and death of Cyrus, against Queen Tomyris, Indian elephants played a crucial role. After their defeat at the hands of Tomyris, the Persians (then Zoroastrians) did not use elephants (considered evil by Zoroastrians).
After their defeat at Indian borders, at the hands of the Massagetae, Persians foccussed their expansionary ambitions towards Europe – and Greece in particular, – and stopped looking India wards. Alexander the Great, renamed the site of the Cyrus-Tomyris battle as Alexandria Eschate – which was earlier known as Kurushkhatta (Kurukshetra?) /Kyreschata /Kuruškatha.
Achaemenids did not learn their lessons from the death of Cyrus their Great. Possibly, the outcome against Alexander would have been different, had they used more elephants at Gaugamela – instead of 12-15. Similarly, a 1000 years later, the Sassanian army, had forgotten their lessons – and could not use their few elephants to full effect, against the Islamic Arabs.
But, the Sassanian dynasty was able to wrest back and defend the Persian dominions from the Greco-Romans, after setting up an elephants corps in their army – evidenced, for instance, by the carvings at Taq-i-Bustan. At one time, the Sassanian rulers had increased its elephant corps to 12,000 elephants.
In the character of their warfare, the Persians of the Sassanian period did not greatly differ from the same people under the Achaemenian kings. The principal changes which time had brought about were an almost entire disuse of the war chariot, [PLATE XLVI. Fig. 3.] and the advance of the elephant corps into a very prominent and important position. Four main arms of the service were recognized, each standing on a different level: viz. the elephants, the horse, the archers, and the ordinary footmen. The elephant corps held the first position. It was recruited from India, but was at no time very numerous. Great store was set by it; and in some of the earlier battles against the Arabs the victory was regarded as gained mainly by this arm of the service. … The elephant corps was under a special chief, known as the Zend-hapet, or “Commander of the Indians,” either because the beasts came from that country, or because they were managed by natives of Hindustan. (from The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World By George Rawlinson).
But, the India connection …
Of course, India is not what India calls itself. Bharat(ah) and aryavart are the more common names. Bactra (possibly) is the Greek pronunciation of Bharat(ah).
For most modern Western historians (and also modern Indian historians), only the Core North India, is Indian history, society and culture.
This is the history which colonial historians propagated and showed India as a defeated civilisation. Invaded, pillaged and dominated. Inferior. Technologically backward. This is the history that is taught in schools and exists in popular imagery. Despite its many fallacies, this view is being perpetuated by propaganda interests of the West in general and the Anglo Saxon Bloc in particular – in addition to the (various versions of) Congress party which has been the ruling party for most of post-colonial India’s existence.
Some of the myths that have taken root and which have done much damage to the post colonial India. The infamous population theory, Chidambaram’s ill-informed 5000 years of poverty, poor natural resources, the supine Hindu, non-aggressive behavior by Indians amongst many others myths.
One India is North of Vindhyas and the other is South of Vindhyas. These 2 India’s have a overlap (as is to be expected) and are complementary. The North of Vindhyas, stretching from modern day Orissa, MP, Maharashtra upwards has its core around the Indo Gangetic plains and the Himalayas. It is the core of North Indian geography.
This North Indian geography radiates out and spreads on the उत्तरपथ Uttarapatha (the Western world knows this as the Silk Route) to modern day Samarkand, Afghanistan, Tibet, Pakistan, Iran, Oman, Tajikstan upto the Caspian Sea. Central Asian tribes and kingdoms of Persians, Sakas /Scythians, Kushans (Kanishka, their most famous ruler), Huns, Mongols, Tartars set up empires with shifting boundaries. Hueng Tsang narrates that India ruled till east of Taklamakan desert. The famous ‘robber baron’ of colonial archaeology, Sir Aurel Stein, recovered many Indian language scripts from Central Asia.
Along the Dakshinapatha दक्षिणपथ
There is another part to that history – which today influences and touches half the world. This history is full of wealth, military successes and a spread which taken India deeper than any other civilisation in the world. While the previous history was along the उत्तरपथ uttarapath, this story lies along the दक्षिणपथ dakshinapatha.
Its starts at Kerala, a highway across Nagpur Jhansi, Gwalior, Delhi ,Kashmir and ends in modern Iran. This history and geography is loosely dominated by the Dravidian segment of India.
Colonial historians (from India and the West) dismissed Dravidian history as subordinate and lesser than Aryan on the basis of the Aryan Invasion Theory. Now that the Aryan Invasion /Migration Theory does not have a leg to stand on, the contribution by the Dravidians along the dakshinapatha दक्षिणपथ becomes more important.
Military paradigm changes
From the battle of Kadesh to the retreat of Alexander, Indic rulers changed the military paradigm. Buddhist texts talk about 16 mahajanapadas – which formed this ruling federation. Five very important changes were seen. Buddhist texts refer to the “the 63,000 kings of Jambudwipa”. Power was distributed amongst the many kings to provide a choice of competing administrations, to which the populations could migrate, based on advantage, opportunity and benefit.
One - war chariots became less important. By the time of Alexander’s march in India, chariots were a minor part of the Indian armies. Instead, the importance of cavalry increased. Bessos, the Bactrian mathista, designated to succeed Darius III, led the successful Indic cavalry charge, at Gaugamela, on the Macedonian right flank – which forced Alexander to focus on the centre of the Persian army, led by Darius III.
When Alexander finally was able to make his way to India, he met a fierce onslaught of the Indian cavalry units – supported by fearsome elephants. Indian cavalry units were always smaller than in other nations due to paucity of horses in India. India was a traditional importer of horses. For combat use, Indian cavalry used imported horses and Indian breeds. Behind Rajput power, was the successful breeding of the Marwari horses, which came about only in the 12th century. Earlier Indian horses easily trained and more intelligent, but smaller with less stamina, and used as as pack animals.
Two - a system of alliances supporting frontline kingdoms in the entire North West Indian swath was formulated. For instance, against the Assyrian invasion, led by Semiramis, a minor Indian king, Stabrobates, was supported to beat back the Assyrian invasion. Against Cyrus the Great, Tomyris, a Scythian Queen was supported to massacre Persian invaders. Alexander’s nightmare began immediately, as soon as he crossed into the Indic area.
Instead of the complete capitulation and collaboration that Alexander got from the defeated Achaemenid ruling family of Sisygambis, Stateira, Oxathres (brother of Darius III; also written as oxoathres and oxyathres) et al, the foursome of Bessos, Spitamenes, Datafernes and the Scythians made Alexander’s life miserable. At Gaugamela, it was Bessos and his Indian cavalry, which broke Alexander’s formations.
The tribes and kshatrapas (satraps) of Indian North West swath, delayed Alexander for nearly three years – before he could step into India. In India, Alexander had to pay the King of Taxiles, Omphis, (Ambi) 1000 talents of gold (more than 25 tons of gold) – to secure an alliance. He had to return the kingdom of Punjab to Porus – purportedly, after winning the battle. His loot and pickings from India were negligible. Alexander’s response – “the Macedonians frequently massacred the defenders of the city, especially in India.”
Alexander realized that the Indian Brahmins had influenced the Indian princes to organize and support the Indian war against Alexander. Greek sources cite, how at ‘The City of Brahmans’, he massacred an estimated 8000-10,000 of these non-combatant Brahmins. Thus while, invaders were kept at bay, within the Indic area, borders and crowns kept changing and shifting.
Less than 300 years after Alexander, Romans came close to Indian border. They were led by Marcus Licinius Crassus – estimated (or allegedly) worth 200,000,000 sestertii. A writer of classical journals estimated that to be worth about 7.6 million in 1860. Inflation adjusted, about 7.6 billions. Source of Crassus’ wealth – slavery, corruption, pillage, bribery et al. Crassus is more famous in history for three things – One, for his wealth, Two – for having crucified thousands of rebellious slaves on the Via Appia, after defeating Spartacus’ Slave Army and Three, as the man who funded the rise of Julius Caesar.
It is his death, that is usually glossed over.
The rich Crassus decided to chase military fame – “to penetrate even to Bactria, India, and the shores of the Eastern Ocean.” The North West swath was ruled by the Indo-Parthian rulers from circa 100 BC onwards. Western historical narratives place King Guduvhara (Western historians think he is Gondophares) as a prominent king of this era – based on a mix of coins and contradictory written evidence. The value of numismatics in India gets diluted, the moment one factors the fact that Indian rulers did NOT have an exclusive prerogative to mint coins. Freedom to issue coinage was general – based on the acceptability of the issued coinage. Hence, Indian royal Indian coinage was usually crude and simplistic.
On the other hand, private coinage, exquisitely crafted by Greco-Bactrians. These coins possibly gave rise to Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan, from the word yavana, Sanskrit name for Greeks. The capital of these Indo-Parthian kingdoms was Takshashila – the major centre of Indian learning and the site of the Takshashila University.
A lesser known noble of this kingdom was the Suren family – one of who, led an Indo-Parthian-Iranian army against Roman armies, in 53 BC at Carrhae, led by the billionaire, Marcus Licinius Crassus. The Surens were possibly powerful warlords – ruling over Siestan (Shakyastan).
These Indo-Scythians, expert horsemen and archers, creators of the Parthian Shot (popularized as parting shot), pulverized the Roman armies. The Indian invention of the toe-stirrup, a first in the world happened probably around 500 BC-300 BC, at the latest by 200BC. The Indian invention of the toe-stirrup, made the Parthian cavalry into a fearsome fighting force.
Crassus was captured – and his greed was satiated when molten gold was poured down his throat. Mark Anthony tried avenging Crassus defeat – with a disastrous defeat, again.
For the next nearly 400 years, Romans were wary of any large expeditions into Indo-Persian territories. At least, the Italians did not forget Crassus. 1800 years later, Dante Alighieri, asked Crassus, “‘Crassus, tell us, because you know, how does gold taste?”
Of General Suren, not much is known – which by now, should not surprise us. Also, some ancient maps show the Gandhara-Takshashila region as Suren. Suren also supposedly ‘lacked strategic vision’ – these days, is called ‘killer instinct’, for which he was shortly later killed. But it is interesting that the enemies of the daiwas (enemy of devas are the asuras, in Indian scriptures), the Zoroastrians (followers of Ahura Mazda, speculatively Mahishasura) allied themselves with a Suren. The House of Suren’s had traditional rights to install the crown of Persian rulers.
Three – the biggest game changer were the elephant corps. War elephants was an Indian invention and an Indian monopoly. After the defeat and death of Cyrus The Great at the hands of Tomyris, the Persians stopped looking India-wards. 500 years later (nearly), with the help of the Indian elephant corps, the Sassanians stopped the Romans at Persian borders in 363 AD.
With these three changes, Indian heartland became invincible. Empire builders like the Assyrian Queen, Semiramis and the Achmaenian Emperor, Cyrus the Great mounted expensive campaigns to conquer India – and barely escaped with their lives. Later, Genghis Khan’s armies avoided India completely. Timurlane could invade India – when Delhi was under rule by a foreign dynasty, the Tughlaks. Indian invincibility and military prowess was unmatched till the 13th century – when the first foreign rulers, the Slave Dynasty rulers from the Levant started ruling from Delhi – Qutubuddin Aibak, in 1206.
Four – Indian teachers and intellectuals were sent to all corners of the world. The spread of Buddhism in Asia is well chronicled. Socrates’ encounter with an Indian yogi however, is not so well known. Mani, the Buddhist teacher was feared by the Vatican for the next 1000 years. Vatican killed, burnt and quartered all those who displayed any leaning towards Manicheanism. Islamic invaders searched and destroyed statues or ‘boet’ (meaning statues of Buddha?). In 2nd century AD, Origen, a Christian pioneer, attributed the spread of Christianity “The island (Britain) has long been predisposed to it (Christianity) through the doctrines of the Druids and Buddhists, who had already inculcated the doctrine of the unity of the Godhead”
Five - Indic legal and political structures were introduced. The usage of gold was popularized and became widespread as an economic tool. Coinage in India was not a royal prerogative or implemented by fiat. Even the British colonial government could not impose a single currency system in India.
Thus, for instance, there were intricate Greco-Bactrian coins, compared to crude and simple Indic coins. Sanskritic and Dravidian systems were used to structure ancient languages like Akkadian and Elamite.
The foremost administrative innovation was the concept of Bharata(ah) - the aryavart and the arya dhwaj. Comprising of 16 to 30 mahajanapadas, Bharata(ah) became a federation of kingdoms. Each of these kingdoms became a series of succeeding lines of defence against invading armies. What the European Union is grappling with, (and may yet fail) for the last 300 years, was implemented and used 3000 years ago in India.
The foremost proponent of this Indic construct, well known to modern history, is Kautilya Chanakya. Western colonial historians, have spitefully, called him the Indian Machiavelli. Chanakya, encoder-in-chief of Indic statecraft, came a full 1700 years before Machiavelli, who took office, after Savonarola was served en flambe to the Borgia papacy, in a declining and decadent Florence, under the Medicis.
Thus many tribal groups from India’s North West swath, merged under a larger Indic identity – which allowed them to maintain their own sub-identity within the larger Indic group. Even today, India with 40,000 endogamous groups, is the most diverse ethnic grouping in the world.
Cyrus’ target was the border tribe of Massagetae – a branch of Scythians.
The difference in accounts of which tribe defeated Cyrus are due to the fact that the Derbices were a part of a powerful tribal confederation of the Massagetae living in the steppes between the Caspian and Aral seas. In Ctesias’ time they were the most famous among the Massagetae. But long before the time of Berossus (third century B.C.), the Dahae had replaced the Massagetae on the stage of history, and that is why he named them as Cyrus’ adversaries. (from History of Civilizations of Central Asia By Ahmad Hasan Dani, Vadim Mikhaĭlovich Masson, Unesco, János Harmatta, Boris Abramovich Litvinovskiĭ, Clifford Edmund Bosworth).
The Massagetae derived their name from, possibly Maha + gadha (great club /mace) – a feared battle axe. Finally becoming known as the kingdom of Magadha? Were they earlier known as the Amurrus and later known as Mauryas of Magadha? Possibly the same Massagetae, contributed to Alexander’s experience at the battle against the Asvanyas (Khamboj), called by the Greeks as Aspasioi /Aspasii /Assakenoi /Aspasio /Hipasii /Assaceni/Assacani, Osii /Asii /Asoi, and Aseni in Greek records.
After days of intense fighting, the chieftain of the Massaga fort died – and the Queen of the Massagas, Cleophis (as per Greek records) took command. After five days (Plutarch says) even possibly nine days (Curtius Rufus confirms), Alexander finally, Diodorus recounts, was driven to use subterfuge to gain ascendancy. Both Plutarch and Diodorus, recount how Alexander’s forces killed the Massaga army marching away, after false assurances of safe passage. Plutarch (Mestrius Plutarchus) (46 c AD 127 c AD) recounts how Alexander “incurred serious losses and accordingly, concluded a treaty of peace with them but, afterwards, as they were going away, set upon them while the were on the road and killed them all”
By the way, Scythians are known in India, as Sakas or Shakhyas – and Gautama Buddha was also known Shakhyamuni. Their favorite drink was hauma, which seems to be similar to Indo-Aryan, Sanskritic Soma. The other name for this tribe (referred to by the Greeks) against the Persians was the Derbices or Dahae. Was this name derived from the ‘darbha’ grass, which Chanakya had used to swear the downfall of the Nanda kings? Shakhyas /Scythians, were from the steppes and the ‘darbha’ grass would have been symbolically auspicious and sacred for them. Scythians were also engaged in Athens, as slave-policemen, to patrol the streets, with clubs. Much like their descendants, the Pathans were used in India, for debt recovery.
Much like many actors in Indian history, there is little known of Tomyris. That is one qualification. The second is, by now the famous Indian ‘deficiency‘ – her ‘lack of killer instinct.” Like the much debated Indian lack fo ‘killer instinct’, the Massagetae could have followed on and taken ‘advantage’ of the Persian situation – which Tomyris didn’t.
Third, was the Tomyris’ advice to Cyrus, “Be content to rule in peace your own kingdom, and bear to see us reign over the countries that are ours to govern.” Very similar to the logic given by Ambhi to Alexander. Similar results.
“To what purpose, should we make war upon one another, if the design of your coming into these parts be not to rob us of our water or our necessary food, which are the only things that wise men are indispensably obliged to fight for? As for other riches and possessions, as they are accounted in the eye of the world, if I am better provided of them than you, I am ready to let you share with me; but if fortune has been more liberal to you than me, I have no objection to be obliged to you.” (from Plutarch’s Lives, Vol. 2 of 2 By Plutarch - Ambhi to Alexander).
Fourth, most interestingly, were the many Mahishasurmardini statues, coins and seals – especially seals by the Gupta kings and coins by many other Indic rulers, recovered from Afghanistan and Iran. The issuance of Mahishasurmardini seals and coins continued, going by by appearances, to celebrate this victory of Tomyris, for the next 800-1000 years. Such coins, seals and statues have been found in modern day Iran, Afghanistan, which support this linkage. The possible link between Ahura Mazda and Mahishasura (Sanskrit root of Mazda Ahura?) has been the source of much speculation. After all, Zarathushtra was also from Bactra. The commonality of Sanskritic language, symbols between Zend Avestha and Aryan India are well known for me repeat.
The Persian linguistic makeover from the Dravidian-Elamite language to Sanskritic-Old Persian however did not change everything. The Zoroastrian revolt against the daiwas (devas), continues today in Tamil Nadu, where asura kings like Ravana and Neduncheziyan are respected.
Cut to modern India. After the 1971, Bangla Desh War, Indira Gandhi was described as Durga by the leader of Opposition, Atal Behari Vajpayee. More recently, Sonia Gandhi was portrayed as Durga (as a reaction to Vasundhara Raje Scindhia’s portrayal as Devi Annapoorna). So, was the popularity of Mahishasuramrdini portrayals, a hark back to the Tomyris saga?
Back to the mother lode …
So, the next question! What happened to the Tocharians (known to Indians as Tusharas /Tukharas), Yue-Chi, the Kushans, the Scythians, the Hunas, the Bactrians – who at various times had a significant position in Indic societies.
India has approximately 40,000 endogamous groups, of which about 37,000 groups are structured into the largest religious group (Hindu) and 3,000 are tribal, religious, and other migrant populations (Malhotra 1984). The Indian population is subdivided into a number of castes and subcastes, depending on the profession or nature of work.
Model for Indic assimilation
A probable model for Indic assimilation is the synthesis of Parsis (Zoroastrian) in India. Zarathustra, a Bactrian, established the Zoroastrian faith, which became significantly popular in the Persia and the North West swath of India. The Achaemenid Dynasty succeeded the Elamites (Dravidian Indians) in Iran – and the took over the Assyrian Empire. With the change in regime, came a change in the linguistic policy. Elamite-Dravidian language was replaced by Sanskritic-Old Persian.
Till about 8th century BC, the Zoroastrians were based in Iran. Within a few years, after the fall of Zoroastrian Sassanian kingdom, under persecution by the Islamic conquerors, in Persia, the first set of Zoroastrians made their way back to India. Over the next 200 years, from 8th century to 10th century, the Zoroastrians returned to the larger Bactra – Bharat(ah).
The second major influx of Zoroastrians, was in the 17th-19th century. The second wave of immigrants mostly carry the ‘Irani’ surname and were significantly associated with setting up tea parlours. India was the mother lode to which these populations reverted. The commonalities between Vedic texts and the Zoroastrians texts are significant and well known to repeat here.
How did this change history
Alexander … heard that no one had hitherto passed that way with an army and emerged in safety, except Semiramis, when she fled from India. The natives said that even she emerged with only twenty men of her army; and that Cyrus son of Cambyses, escaped with only seven of his men … When Alexander received this information he is said to have been seized with a desire of excelling Cyrus and Semiramis … What credence can we place in these accounts of India … Megasthenes virtually agrees. (from Alexander the Great By Ian Worthington – ellipsis mine).
Both Cyrus the Great and Semiramis are the subject of many volumes and books written by the Greeks, Persians, Babylonians tablets, etc.
Alexander in fact is said to be eager to capture India precisely because two earlier conquerors – Semiramis and Cyrus – had failed to do so. Here it is worth noting, Alexander apparently views the legendary Assyrian queen as an historical figure, the equal of Cyrus the Great, and strives to outdo them both. (from Warrior Women By Deborah Levine Gera).
Alexander’s newly inducted Persian advisors, apart from Greek writers also, would have filled him in, on how a few centuries ago, Semiramis, Queen of Assyria, and Cyrus the Great, two significant historical figures of the Asia and the Levant, had failed against the Indians.
Many of Alexander’s actions, seemingly aimed at patching up alliances with Indian rulers on his borders, to avoid the fate of his predecessor ‘conquerors’ – Cyrus The Great and Semiramis. His pickings in terms of loot were negligible - unlike, say from, Persia.
The ‘Greek miracle’ in India
Modern Western historians refer to the Greek colonies in Bactra-Bharata(ah), Sogdiana (modern Afghanistan and Baluchistan) as proof of Alexander’s and Greek conquests in the Indian sub-continent – and trace all development in Indian art, culture, et al to this Greek presence. Even though,
Though its officials were literate, very little written evidence has survived about Greco-Bactrian society, and even archaeological evidence is thin, so that most of our evidence for the history of the kingdom comes from numismatics. (from Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire By David Christian).
This did not stop the West to start claiming credit for the Gandhara art – for the next nearly 100 years. Succumbing to romanticizing history, another Western historian laments how
their picturesque story would be far more prominent if any adequate account had survived (it has been brilliantly pieced together by Tarn). – from History of ancient geography By James Oliver Thomson.
With little ‘written evidence’, when ‘archaeological evidence is thin’, though no ‘adequate account has survived’ the Western narrative of Bactra’s Greeks so ‘brilliantly pieced together by Tarn’ can only be termed as yet another Greek miracle! This did not stop the West to start claiming credit for the Gandhara art – for the nearly 100 years.
Greek influence in India
The truth – Herodotus informs us that rebellious Greeks in the Persian kingdoms were exiled to Indian borders – at Susa, Khuzestan (in modern Iran) and Bactria (modern Afghanistan). Among these exiles were citizens of Miletus, who were behind the Ionian revolt in 499 BC.
Alexander continued with this practice. After his death, we are informed by Diodorus of Sicily (World history, 18.7) veteran Macedonians and Greek exiles revolted against their externment – and the Daidochi had to send an expedition, under Peithon, to quell this revolt.
And the first man to raise the banner of opposition to Alexander was Bessos – who was appointed as mathišta – the Achaemenid word for a successor. The appointment of Bessos as the mathišta, also explains the support that Bessos got from the various kings.
Dutch scholars have argued that mathišta (which simply means “the greatest” and can also be used in common expressions like “Ahuramazda is the greatest of the gods”) was the title of the man who had been chosen by the great king as his successor.
And where were mathistas posted for training – to Bactra /Bharat(ah) . Of course, Greek hagioraphers have portrayed Bessos as the killer of Darius III – which seems odd. After the death of Alexander, Seleucos Nicator married Apama, the daughter of Spitamenes – and they sent their son, Antiochus for training – again to Bactra.
Foreign rule in India
Why did Ghenghis Khan avoid India? India, a rich civilization, with massive exports and large gold reserves, was an attractive target. Genghis Khan, whose empire, from Mongolia to Austria, from Central Asia to Russian borders, was larger than Alexander’s – and whose conquests brought Chinese culture to Europe (like abacus, gunpowder, paper, printing) by-passed India completely. Why?
Islamic Conquest of India …?
By 1000 A.D., Al Beruni’s description of India and its wealth, spread over the Islamic world. By the time of the first significant Islamic raid of Indian heartland, in 1001, when Mahmud of Ghazni invaded India, Islam was already entrenched in Europe. Spain was already under Islamic rule by 718 AD. Parts of Italy fell by 902. Crete (part of modern Greece) fell in 961. In Northern Europe, modern day Georgia (on Russian borders) fell to Islamic rule, by 735.
For the next 500 years, Islamic territories continued to expand. India was the last significant conquest of the Islam. Islamic raiders targetted India for plunder and loot – but were not able to establish themselves till the 13th century. The first significant Islamic dynasty in India was the Slave dynasty – only in the 13th century, Qutubuddin Aibak in 1206. From the 1206 to 1526, Islamic rulers struggled to consolidate in India.
The successful invasion of Babur, in the 1526 established Islamic rule in the Indian heartland. From 1526 onwards, Islamic conquest waned. Islamic empires started consolidating. On the other, the European star, was on the ascendant from 1492, with the voyage of Columbus. But then the Moghuls were from Afghanistan, part of Bharat(ah). And their greatest successes came after (reluctantly) co-opting the Indians.
Colonial historians mix up Central Asian and Levantine raiders with Islamic kings from the Indian sub-continent as Islamic invaders, but themselves as European.Why is the British Colonial rule not described as the Christian conquest of India? For the same reasons, that Islamic conquerors, by that time, had conquered most of Eastern Europe, had failed in India.
The other trick in bag of the colonial historian was to show successful invaders as foreign – and defeated foreign rulers, as an Indian defeat. The Tughlaks were powerful, foreign Islamic invaders who swept the weak Hindus, before them, but when Timurlane defeats the same Tughlaks, it becomes a Indian defeat. When Babur, from Afghanistan, captures the throne of Delhi, he is a successful foreign invader – but when his descendant Bahadur Shah Zafar, is defeated, he is the defeated Indian ruler.
Afghanistan in Indian history
As soon as we redefine India as Bharat(ah), it encompasses and includes Afghanistan. Defining Afghan rule, as a part of the Greater India, limits foreign to a brief period of 1206-1400 and from 1756-1947. Thus Mughal rule was characterized by (corrupted and reluctant?) Indic values – whereas less than 300 years after Babur, Ranjit Singh, captured most of Afghanistan again. Thus to show Afghan rule as foreign rule, is colonial mischief.
Varahamihira, in his Brhat Samhita (11.61; 16.38), in 6th century, refers to Afghans as Avagan. Soon thereafter, Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang /Huien Tsang (7th century AD) refers to the Apokien (Avagans or Afghans). A modern view, supported by Greek and Indian classical texts, trace the name Afghan from Sanskrit – Ashvaka or Ashvakan (Panini’s Ashvakayana), the Assakenoi in Alexander’s campaign in India. The Ashvakayan/Asvakan were possibly a sub-tribe of the Kambojas, specialists in horse-breeding and trading.
No Western power could capture Afghanistan. Britain failed, neither could Russia and now the USA is unable to. But Afghanistan was ruled by Indian rulers like Chandragupta Maurya, the Gupta Dynasty did, or the Kushans could, as did Ranjit Singh. Colonial historians separated Afghanistan from India – to neuterlize Indian polity and exaggerate Western ‘conquests’ of India.
India’s line of defence
Unlike what most Western historians would like us to believe, Indian military machine was a successful system – which safeguarded India well. Indians pioneered war chariots and horses. The first horse manual was written by Kikuli, the Hittite. But, after the battle of Kadesh, chariots receded in importance.
After the chariots, what were India’s main military differentiators? It’s main line of defence? In one word – elephants. After more than 2000 years of success, the first military general to have an answer to elephants was Timur Lane. Timur mined the fields with caltrops – a four headed spike, with one spike always upward. But then, Timurlane’s solution was successful against a foreign Tughlak ruler in India – Nasir-ud-din Mahmud Shah, of the Tuglak dynasty.
Then came the guns, cannons and gun powder. Elephants were no longer effective against caltrops or gun powder. Indians were not lagging in gunpowder, cannons, guns or muskets. Indian ships sailed the world – under Indian or foreign flags.
The main reason for India’s military eclipse in 18th and 19th century was the economic reason – slavery and colonialism. The use of slaves for production by the West, gave a temporary edge to slave societies – which India did not have. Indian rulers, with limited options could not wage long term wars – as slave owning cultures could. Indian rulers, were hobbled by a system which dispersed property, wealth – unlike the rest of the world where it was concentrated in the hands of the few. India, never a slave-owning culture, could not muster resources to wage a 100 year war, like Europeans could – at a great cost to their societies.