Thursday, November 12, 2015

The concept of Pakistan in the Vedas






 (Law Animated World, Hyderabad, 30 Oct. 2015)

 

The three most famous sculptures from Mohenjo Daro, on the Sindhu/Indus river, seem ill-chosen to represent the Pakistani publicity campaign “5000 years of Pakistan”. The “king-priest” apparently is an officiant of a stellar cult, and at any rate of a cult other than Islam, so according to the Pakistani state ideology, raison d’être for Pakistan’s very existence, he was a leading figure in a false religion belonging to Jahiliyya, the “age of ignorance”. Like the seated yogi surrounded by animals, “Śiva Paśupati”, he must be burning in hell now. As for the “dancing girl”, stark naked and in a defying pose, in today’s Pakistan she would be stoned to death right away.

And yet, that Pakistani slogan does make sense. Bear with us, we will take the reader through a convoluted array of scriptural and historical data, and you will see why this conclusion is anything but far-fetched. Indeed, it is inevitable.

 

Foreign

The Northwest has always had a negative connotation in the Vedic tradition. Thus, R. Siddhantashastree (1978: History of the Pre-Kali-Yuga India, Delhi: Inter-India Publications, p.11) writes: “The valley of the five tributaries of the Indus had always been held as an unholy region because of its occupation by a non-Aryan tribe antagonistic to the civilized Aryans until the time of Sambarana, (...) the king of Hastinapura belonging to the Lunar dynasty. He was the first Aryan to settle in the valley after driving away the aboriginal non-Aryans to a considerable distance.”

The latter sentence suggests a concession to the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) by positing an antagonism between “Aryans” and “aboriginals”, contrary to the Puranic narrative revaluated by the same author, which has the Aryans come from inner India to this peripheral zone and then n to Central Asia. This simply exemplifies the confusion regarding Aryan origins. Then again, perhaps it is the reader who is misled by this received wisdom while the author has a different scenario in mind: the Aryans as natives of a part of India, who came as conquerors to subdue the natives of other parts of India, notably the Northwest.

As Shrikant Talageri (The Rigveda, an Historical Analysis, and The Rigveda and the Avesta, the Final Analysis, Delhi: Aditya Prakashan 2000 c.q. 2008) has argued, the ancient Hindu suspicion towards the Northwest is a strong argument against the AIT. Knowing the Hindu veneration for origins, they should have treated the region of their provenance far more positively. Anyway, we note that Siddhantashastree situates this anti-Northwest attitude already in the pre-Vedic age, in the very beginning of Aryan history.

 

Battle of the Ten Kings

By the time the Vedic seers start composing their hymns, though, the Northwest is already populated by cognate tribes speaking an Indo-European dialect: first the Druhyu tribe, still remembered in the Rg-Veda as a defeated enemy of the Vedic Pūru tribe, but largely already emigrated to Afghanistan and beyond; then the Anu tribe, the direct enemy confronted by the Vedic people themselves at the time the hymns were being composed. Though speaking related dialects, then probably still mutually understandable, they come into the Vedic horizon as enemies, as harbingers of evil. They add to the region’s negative aura.

Both the successive enemies, from the Druhyu and the Anu tribe, attack the Vedic Pūru tribe from the Northwest. A confederacy led by the Anu tribe comes to confront the Vedic king Sudās in the Battle of the Ten Kings, the foremost historical event in the Ṛg-Veda (7:18-33-83). Unexpectedly, they suffer complete defeat and relocate to Afghanistan. In the names of the tribes and kings, we recognize Iranian (and not Dravidian) names, and in their religion, we recognize the main traits of Mazdeism. The enemies are said to be “without Indra” and “without the Devas”, who were indeed demonized in Mazdeism; and “without fire-sacrifice”, because in Mazdeism, fire is so sacred that one shouldn’t pollute it by throwing things into it. It seems that then already, near the beginning of Vedic history, Mazdeism had its distinctive features.

This is all the more remarkable because this was even before Zarathuštra., the supposed reformer who brought these traits into being. Some three generations later, another battle confirms the division of power and territory. In that more even battle, Ṛjāśva, descendant of Vṛṣagira (hence the “Vārṣāgira battle”), and Sahadeva, descendent of Sudās, face the Iranian king who is remembered in history through the mentions and praise he receives in his court priest Zarathuštra’s own hymns: Kavi Vištāspa. Both parties are mentioned in the Veda 1:100, 1:122) and the Avestā.

The proverbial demons, the Asuras (comprehensively discussed in Hale, Wash Edward: Asura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1986, and in Krishna, Nanditha: The Book of Demons, Penguin, Delhi 2014 (2007)), originally indicate the class of gods preferentially worshipped by the Anu tribe, but also by the first Vedic seers. Varuṇa, god of the night sky with its orderly succession of constellations, hence god of the world order (ṛta/aša, seen in Persian names like Artaxerxes) is an Asura, a “lord” or “mighty one”. The Iranians, who often replaced /s/ with /h/, called him Ahura Mazda, “Lord Wisdom”. After the Iranians had demonized the Devas/Daēvas, the Indians started to demonize the Asuras, and Varuṇa gradually fell into disuse, even if by no means as steeply demonized as Indra by the Mazdeans. At any rate, Vedism and Mazdeism conceived of one another as antagonistic, much as Hinduism and Islam do today.

In theological respect, the Iranian religion Mazdeism has often been considered monotheistic, and in popular publications this account still persists. This was not entirely correct (SkjaervØ, Prods Oktor: “Zarathustra: a Revolutionary Monotheist?”, p. 317-350, in Pongratz-Leisten, Beate: Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism, Eisenbrauns , Winona Lake IN 2011), it remained a polytheism, and Zarathuštra with his hyperfocus on one god was strictly speaking a “henotheist”, and hardly representative for the common religion. But it was sufficiently close. The Persians became the saviours of the Israelites with their budding monotheism, their preferred god Varuṇa was the moralist in the Indo-Iranian pantheon (as is apparent from RV 7:86), a bit like the Christian god, and the idea of exalting a single god so much above the others shows a would-be monotheist urge. All this allows for the conclusion that Islamic monotheism is but a radicalization of Zarathuštra’s henotheism. His religion, and possibly his personal religious dissent, was at any rate sufficiently different from the Vedic religion to be thematized as a factor in the long-drawn- out conflict described in the Ṛg-Veda.

So, Pakistan, which has a persianized form of Hindi as national language, can really be said to be the heir of the proto-Iranian tribes living in that same territory in the Vedic age, or at least to fulfil the same antagonistic role in the Hindu worldview.

 

 

Other considerations

The epics give even more flesh to this hostile attitude. In the epics, the troublesome characters typically come from the Northwest. The Rāmāyaṇa intrigue is caused by Kaikeyī, a co-wife of Rāma’s father coming from the northwestern Kaikeya tribe. Gāndhārī, mother of the enemy Kauravas, and her brother Śakuni, deceiver at dice and evil spirit behind the disrobing of Draupadī, come from Gandhāra in Afghanistan. Mādrī, who triggers the death of king Paṇḍu, cause of the whole war, belongs to the Iranian Madra tribe (apparently related to the Medes).

The first, to my knowledge, to become aware of this dislike’s relevance to the Aryan Homeland issue, was Shrikant Talageri. The negative aura of the Northwest was so consistent and unadulterated that this could not possibly be the venerated land of their ancestors. To the above and other considerations, he has added a fact he remembers from his own Saraswat Brahmin community. When it was time for religious fasting, rice was not eaten, but wheat products were. They did not consider wheat, which in the Vedic age came from the Northwest, as real food, and treated it on a par with foreign foods like potatoes. (Talageri 2008:102-106) The wheat-growing Northwest was a foreign country, as Pakistan now is to India.

For another consideration: a negative designation in Sanskrit is Mleccha, “barbarian”. The word is generally taken to come from Meluhha, the Mesopotamian name for Sindh, now in Pakistan. So, long before Pakistan existed, proto-Pakistanis were already called “barbarians” by orthodox Hindus.  

Another Vedic fact, peripheral but symbolically significant, is this. An enemy of the Pauravas is called the Guṅgu tribe (RV 10:48:8). But Guṅgu in Vedic means the firstly-appearing moon, the crescent. And what country has the crescent in its flag?

 

 

Territorial claims

The ancient Ānavas lived in West Panjab where they confronted the Vedic king Sudās in the Battle of the Ten Kings, the first Indo-Pak war. (Then already, such wars typically ended in Pakistani defeat.) But where did they come from? Aha, as per Puranic tradition, they immigrated from Kashmir, after taking Panjab from their Druhyu cousins. Kashmir was known in the Mazdean Videvdād as the Airiiānām Vaējo, the “seed of the Iranians”, their intermediary Homeland. It was the place of their ethnogenesis after having migrated westwards from Prayāga as part of Yayāti’s branch of the Lunar Dynasty; much like in 1947, the Mohajirs migrated from the Ganga-Yamuna plain to Pakistan.

This proves, as proofs go in irredentism, that Kashmir belongs with Pakistan. So, if all else fails, Pakistan can justify its separate existence, its hostility to India and its territorial demands by invoking Vedic testimony.

 

A breakthrough slogan

The Pakistani government ought to highlight this long-standing Hindu hostility to the Northwest. It would prove that the negative attitude to the territories now constituting Afghanistan and Pakistan dates back to the Vedic or even pre-Vedic age. If that implies shedding the AIT, so much the better.

Moreover, all this would validate its slogan for attracting tourists to Mohenjo-Daro: “Five thousand years of Pakistan!”

 

 

Dr. Koenraad Elst

(This paper was rejected by another Indian journal on the sole ground that defending the Pakistani claim on Kashmir is considered treason, and officialdom should not be deemed capable of understanding that this is only done tongue-in-cheek.)

19 comments:

Nirjhar007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nirjhar007 said...

Yes, A very nice article! thank you, indeed NW is always considered somewhat or mostly an area of adharma.

Shravan Tanjore said...

"The epics give even more flesh to this hostile attitude. In the epics, the troublesome characters typically come from the Northwest" Please read below my objections.

"The Rāmāyaṇa intrigue is caused by Kaikeyī, a co-wife of Rāma’s father coming from the northwestern Kaikeya tribe" I object because Kaykeyi is not seen as a devious villain in the scripture itself neither do Hindus consider her evil. Also Kaykeyi helped Dashrata in war. Also Damayanti the wife of King Nala was the daughter of a Kekaya King and she is known as a very intelligent woman of good character. Infact if I remember correctly her father was Ashvapati Kaikeya who instructed 4 Brahmins with Brahma Vidya.


"Gāndhārī, mother of the enemy Kauravas, and her brother Śakuni, deceiver at dice and evil spirit behind the disrobing of Draupadī, come from Gandhāra in Afghanistan" You forgot to mention Gandhari had a very good character unlike her brother, she did not bless her own sons with victory.


"Mādrī, who triggers the death of king Paṇḍu, cause of the whole war, belongs to the Iranian Madra tribe (apparently related to the Medes)" Madri did not trigger her husband's death he did that himself as recorded in the Mahabharata.

"The first, to my knowledge, to become aware of this dislike’s relevance to the Aryan Homeland issue, was Shrikant Talageri" I do not mean to insult or downplay but how difficult is it really?. I had noticed it too but it is not a unyielding trend of enemity only. there are equally many positives.

"The negative aura of the Northwest was so consistent and unadulterated that this could not po To the above and other considerations, he has added a fact he remembers from his own Saraswat Brahmin community. When it was time for religious fasting, rice was not eaten, but wheat products were." I do not know how orthodox Mr Talageri's family is but really Orthodox Brahmins neither eat any food not drink water during fasting that is really fasting.

Gururaj BN said...

A very unusual perspective indeed. But, I shudder to think, what Pakistanis would do if this paper falls into their hands! I might add here that in Mahabharata also, this derision towards people from North West surfaces in the quarrel between Karna and Shalya, who is the Madra king. Shalya is annoyed that though he is a king, Duryodhana compels him to become charioteer for Karna, a sutaputra. Their exchange of barbs and accusations are comparable to any street fight in today's India. Choicest sanskrit terms are used for denigrating the opponent's country and people, their living habits etc. Refer Karnaparva, chapters preceding Karna's generalship.

ramesh said...

tongue-in-cheek indeed. wonderful article. i loved it.

Arun said...

If not Vedic, then there are Pauranic considerations for considering Bihar, W. Bengal and Bangladesh as alien territory as well. :)

Prabhnoor Rangi said...

The Puranas have been adulterated by foreigners.
Actually Vedas are purely oral. Ved is 90 000 years old
Ahimsa everyone!!!

Nirjhar007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nirjhar007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nirjhar007 said...

If not Vedic, then there are Pauranic considerations for considering Bihar, W. Bengal and Bangladesh as alien territory as well.
Kikata which is attested in Rigveda is associated with Bihar by quite a few scholars.
To be true i think more or less the Brahmanic doctrines of Dharma and Ethics have their roots in the Ghaggar-Hakra (Sarasvati) area, from there it spread to the East and South, after the 4.2 KYO event (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4.2_kiloyear_event ) which created droughts and slowly started to dissolve the Urban SSC into more of a village type of lifestyle and triggered the Harappan Migrations (from their core zone in the north), some may also have migrated NW as in common sense, I think Mr. Elst will disagree here, but i think there is a slight chance that the migrations to NW as perhaps attested in Baudhayana Shrauta Sutra.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baudhayana_Shrauta_Sutra#BSS_18:44_controversy
Indeed happened around that 2000 BC period.

Shankar Sharan said...

The last para 'A breakthrough slogan' is perplexing. Is it the reason for or the conclusion of the article? In either case it appears unlike KEesque. Perhaps written in the mood of the Prophet's Satanic Verses.

Prabhnoor Rangi said...

One could argue south india is a place of moral rot if what Captain Vadakayil states about the depravities of Nambaduri Bahmins is correct.

Northwest Aryavarta is a place of tremendous tapasya.

The need of the hour is a King such as Raja Janak. He emptied all the hells. Some say Baba Nanak was an incarnation of Raja Janak.






Karthikrajan said...

Interesting !

"5000 years of Mlechchisthaan" would be a better slogan for the pakis. !

But what message would pakis send thro this brave slogan ?
"we are mlechchaas, so please help us" , or ,
would it be "we are mlechchaas, so we will continue to throw filth (terrorism) all around , don't blame us" !!!

Prabhnoor Rangi said...

Only Akal Purakh can free us.

Centuries of inbreeding, non-vegetarian lifestyle and polygamy are all factors in the destruction of Beauty.

Temple destruction and looting, theft of our gyan in philosophy, language, maths, terror of forced conversions to semitic creeds also uglified greater historical india.

What to do? Live and let live; truth alone triumphs. Education, patience and prudence will restore beauty to all regions of our sacred Aryavarta.







Vijay Rangan said...

Hi,
Great article. Yes the North-western part of the Subcontinent esp west of the River Indus (according o Manu Smriti), are place of the Melechchas people who were once noble Kshatriyas fallen from grace because they rejected the Vedic Injunctions. Coming to middle ages, the Afghans and even Punjabis remained predominantly Hindu (i.e. Hindu-Buddhist). Even as specified in Chach Nama the Rai Kings of Sindh patronized Buddhism (Buddha along with Hindu pantheon). Well, adding to the humour, even though ancient Pakistanis occupied Punjab, Sudas and his descendants drove them away beyond the Himalayas. Finally it returned to the Vedic fold when Ranjit Singh conquered Punjab and banned cow slaughter, gave cows as charity to the Vedic Brahmins, donated 2 times the amount of gold to the makeshift Kashi Vishwanath temple than to the Darbar Sahib and finally wanted to give away the Koh-e-Noor to Puri Jagannath temple as his farewell gift (these Ranjit Singh episodes are taken from your work itself so the credit goes to thy noble self). Thanks for the great article KE jee, have a rocking day.

Thanks & Regards,
Sridhar Krishnan

Alexandros HoMegas said...

Mazdaism/Zoroastrianism was a reaction of the Iranic tribes against the Aryans in India, what is today Pakistan was where the clashes between Iranics and Aryans happened, the Iranics reformed the faith of the Vedas and the Aryans mixed the Vedas with the faith of the Natives of the subcontinent.

indic vidula said...

It seems that besides 'officialdom' there are many others not capable of understanding the 'tongue-in-cheekiness'of the article, though I must admit, the eyes did grow wider and wider until they reached the last part!!

Nirjhar007 said...

Koenraad Elst,
I today came across some interesting links, one was of you where you suggested genetics can't resolve the Indo-European history-
http://scroll.in/article/735722/evolutionary-biology-cant-prove-any-theory-about-how-sanskrit-came-to-india-koenraad-elst
The other was of Romila Thapar-
http://cshperspectives.cshlp.org/content/early/2014/06/25/cshperspect.a008599.abstract
So what i get that, both of you suggest that Genetics is not much of a help, regarding linguistic history but what is amusing is that you criticize when the Geneticist appeal that it favors AIT and she when the opposite suggested! :).
But IMO genetics will help, its the second best thing we can get.

bharti sharma said...


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