Tuesday, October 30, 2007

India - 1 Country 2 Histories Many People

Dead Civilisations

Understanding dead civilisations is dead easy. Grand hypotheses or criticism on scanty evidence can be heady wine. Archaeologists can speculate freely about Egypt, Greece, Rome, Babylon, Assyria, Hittites, knowing they are safe with only a limited material. India is different.

World’s oldest living civilisation, India, on the other, is difficult to understand. At every stage, India challenges historians and archaeologists. To make sense of India, we have to define India in 2 set of histories and many peoples within the 2 histories. After that, the haze drifts and it becomes clearer.

The North Indian Geography

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 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. Sir Aurel Stern, recovered Indian language scripts from Central Asia.

Intermarriage, trade, alliances, diplomacy, military campaigns stretched and contracted zones of influence in this melting pot of peoples. Many board games played today were born along the Uttarapatha (the Silk Route from China to the Central Asia and thence to Europe). Chaturang, became shatranj and now known as Chess moved to Persia during the reign of Khusru Nuwshirwan in 6th century AD before the birth of Islam and from there into the Central Asia and the Levant - before the wave of Islamic aggression. Bana in early 7th century AD, praises Harsha, the King Of Kannauj, who reigned from 606-647. Bana describes this king as prince of peace, noting that in his kingdom the only wars were fought those moves on 64 squares. Thaayam, Chaupar, Pachisi (played today as Ludo) were Indian games that have become popular under different names all over the world.

In modern terms this geography was influenced significantly, by Greeks, Roman, Persian, Chinese and Indic cultures - in order of increasing importance. Indian classical characters have origins from various (now foreign) lands. Kaikeyi was a Caucasian /Iranian princess. Draupadi’s marriage with Pandavas was solemnised as per Tibetan practice (where polyandry is an accepted customs amongst in the ruling class). Indian spiritual exchanges continued well till the advent of the colonial period. Guru Nanak Dev’s 11 years travel in the Middle East and his religious discussions with Bahlol Dana at Baghdad, Iraq are proof of this exchange.

Three major religions now dominate this Greater North Indian geography. Islam dominates most of modern Central Asia. Buddhism has deep roots in Modern Tibet, Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan and Burma. Major population in the modern North India follows Hinduism and Sikhism and has an Islamic minority.

It is the North-of Vindhiya India that gave birth to Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, the four major religions that dominate the world, Sanskrit (World’s first artificial, revolutionary language, as opposed to other evolutionary, Prakrit प्राकृत languages). India’s first known civilisation sprang in the Indus valley - evidenced by the cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Many more archaeological site of the same civilisation (Lothal, etc) have been excavated. The Indus Valley script is not yet deciphered - hence linkages to pre-Sankrit is difficult to make.

British colonial understanding of India depended on limited and intermittent Greco-Roman writers for the definition of India. Colonial British and European historiographers further limited India’s definition to suit colonial ends. Colonialists have resisted change from the Egypt-Greece-Rome-Europe world view - which was called in question by the excavations and study by Friedrich Delitzsch, Alfred Jeremias, Peter Jensen, Eduard Stucken and Hugo Winckler, whose work has been obscured. To view India from modern political boundaries is to severely limit understanding of India. India was historically (and as per Indian texts) has been different from the current India that one sees. Post colonial India has further limited its own definition.

Aryan Invasion & Migration Theory

Max Mueller’s theory, a German (orientalist, whatever they are) popularised a theory that originates the Indic civilisation from the Central Asia down to Iran - whether migration or invasion is possibly immaterial. From Iran, the Aryans branched out to Europe and India. Hence, the similarities in languages. There are alternative historical scenarios being mapped out. Politically, Max Mueller’s theory created a political divide in India that proposed Aryan conquest (by North India) of Dravidians(from South India).

From India To Babylon and Russia

Post colonial historical revision is proposing new theories. These new hypotheses presuppose that Aryans moved from India to the Anatolian plains and established the Babylonian cultures of Elam, Mitannites, Kassites along modern Syria to Turkey. The Mittanites and Kassites competed and traded with the Egyptians. Babylon finally became a part of Alexander’s empire and Indian cultural links over time diluted.

In 1906-07, an Turkish archeologist , Theodore Makridi-Bey, started excavations at Hattusas (Boghazkoi), 150-200 kms from Ankara, in Cappadocia. He was joined by Hugo Winckler, a German archaeologist, specialising in Assyria. They unearthed more than 10,000 clay tablets which proved to be of tremendous interest.

Deciphered cuneiform tablets show worship of Varuna, Mitra and Indra - Gods worshipped by Indo Aryans. Rulers and Kings had names likes Shutruk (Shatrughna), Tushrutta (Dashratha) Rama-Sin (Assyrian Moon Good was Sin; in other words Ramachandra) Warad (Bharat) and immediately before and after Hammurabi - the world’s first law giver. The Elam culture had a language which is similar to Dravidian languages. The Mitannite Kikuli wrote on how to manage chariot horses. Egyptian king, Amenhotep I, married a Mittanite princesses. The Elamite were founders of the first kingdom in the Iranian geography.

In the new theoryof migration from India, a second stream of migrants went up Iran into Upper Central Asia to the borders of Siberia. In 1972, excavations at Dalverizin Tepe in Uzbekistan uncovered what are possibly chess pieces - a game that has been popular in India, Iran and Central Asia. These have been dated around 100 BC.

In 1987, north of Kazakhstan border, at Chelyabinsk Oblast, a archaeological site, situated in Souther Ural Mountains, was to be flooded by a reservoir being built. The complex city built seems to have been built by Indo-Aryans, named Sintastha. Sin was the Assyrian /Central Asian Aryan Moon God and stha meaning place. This can be loosely translated to Chandrapur in modern Hindi. This city, shaped as ’rounded swastik’, followed the burial culture of the Mitanni rulers and Gandhara Aryan cities of 1500 BC-1700BC period - but 3000 kms apart.

What Does This Mean

European historians have traditionally dated Aryan Indian civilisation at 1500-1800BC. The Indus valley was dated 1500-2000BC. With dates, Hammurabi, ancient Babylon were alreadt established. Greece was flourishing.

As for India - it was a desolate, backward civilisation, awaiting Aryan conquest. India’s progress was thus entirely due to the colonisers. This was history that was used by British colonisers and is accepted today. And this is the history that is being questioned.

January 19th, 1992, an archaeologist, Albert Glock was killed. Many rumours, many allegations and many theories. What is it that he had discovered? Why did his discovery make it essential to kill him? Israelis, Palestinians?

In 1996, another writer made waves - Suzanne L. Marchand (Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany 1750–1970. Princeton, NY: Princeton UP, 1996). The core of the book was how archaeology was being thwarted and her case in point - the Boghazkoi team.

If King Ram-Sin (1822-1763 B.C.), also Rim Sin, who ruled from the capital city of Larsa, a few miles north of Ur shortly before Hammurabi’s time was an Indian Aryan, then the history of the world changes.

It implies: -

  • Indians Aryans had reached the borders of Greece (Boghazkoi).
  • Indian priests at Ur, managed the temple of Babylon where the world’s first banking was carried out.
  • Ramayana, Upanishads, Puranas, Vedas were already composed and far ahead of any known civilisation at that time.
  • Was the Temple Of Ishtar a temple to Lakshmi?
  • Were the Tower Of Babel a place where Sanskrit was propogated?
  • Russia and Urals where significant gold deposits have been mined is the site for the Sinshastha Arkaim.
  • The cylindrical seals at Ur were similar to the Indus Valley seals - including a sacred bull.

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 British 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. While there are many fallacies with this view, it is being perpetuated by propaganda interests of the British (Euro-American interests now) and the (various versions of) Congress party which has been the ruling party for the most of post-colonial India.

Some of the myths that have taken root and which have done much damage to the post colonial India. Population theory, 5000 years of poverty, poor natural resources, the supine Hindu, non-aggressive behavior by Indians amongst many others myths.

No comments: