Journey into a forgotten Empire


This was a journey in planning for more years than I care to remember. I had even booked hotels and train tickets a few years ago, only to be cancelled in the last minute for some reason. It seemed as if it was a journey I was never going to make. Ever since my father had said that one of our ancestors fought in the army of emperor Krishnadevaraya, arguably one of the greatest stone chariotmonarchs of the time, I had dreamed of visiting the capital of the greatest empire of medieval India. An opportunity arose during this visit to India with some spare time.
I walked into the local Train booking centre, which happened to be literally across the street from my brother’s house and booked two overnight tickets on the Hampi Express. I had heard quite a lot about the Hampi Express from my friends and was looking forward to the train journey as much as the visit to Hampi itself. Travelling in trains in India has not changed much over a hundred years. There is still the same crowd of people rushing to find their coach and seats – those that were lucky enough to get a booking. This who were not lucky enough to get a reservation even in the “Tatkal quota” were seen to be running from one end of the train to the other looking for UR – unreserved carriages, carrying bulky trunks, suitcases, bags and even some cases filled with fruits. Women carrying crying babies, the noisy ‘coolies’ (they are no longer called coolies – a remnant of the British Raj) Booking a train ticket is a complex procedure, it appears if you go to a station to book one. One has to fill in an elaborate form printed in smallest font they could find and with questions to daunt an MI6 spy – not that anyone is admitting that MI6 exists! After a few attempts I gave up and went home dejected. But a walk down the street to a local shop got me two tickets in an instant. After a couple of phone calls to people who had visited Hampi, booked a room at Hotel Malligi, which came highly recommended. Hampi-Express-in-Hospet-Railway-Station-e1439910909538I called up my publisher friend who had worked on a treatise on the Vijayanagara empire for help with a guide. I was hoping to get her friend who was in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as a guide. ASI had done yeoman service to the ancient monuments in India and probably the best experts in the subject. I was disappointed to hear that he was retired and moved away from Hampi. I had to settle for a guide recommended by the hotel like everyone else. It turned out be not a bad choice in the end.
We reached Hospet Junction, about 12 kms from Hampi early hours of morning after a comfortable overnight journey in the famed Hampi Express. It lived up to its expectations. The clackety-clack of the rails, gentle swaying (mostly gentle!!) of the carriage, ‘chai gharam chai’ at every station along with hawkers selling roasted peanuts and as the sun broke on the horizon, breakfast sellers filled the carriages with that inescapable aroma of Idli and sambar. Its an aroma that is unmaauto-rickshaw-indiatched by any other food item, particularly on a train. There were neatly folded and ironed sheets, blankets and pillows for our comfort with a decent sized bed to boot. As soon as we got off the train at Hospet, we were swamped by Riksha drivers inviting us to go with them “to the best hotel in town saar.” After fighting off the madding crowd, we did manage to get to the Riksha stand and hire one to our hotel.
A nice hot shower in a sumptuous and somewhat ornately decorated room with a nostalgic feel of the 1960s and 70s, and delicious breakfast with a spread to match any appetite, we were ready for Hampi. The hospitality desk at the hotel arranged a car with a driver – we still don’t see many outsiders like me daring to drive on the Indian roads yet. Our driver was an enthusiastic youngster who gave us his own version of history of Hampi as he weaved his car through the mad rush of traffic mingled with stray cows and dogs of Hospet out on to the road to Hampi. “Don’t worry, saar. I’ll get you the best guide in Hampi for you. I look after my guests and know their taste minute I see them.” He wasn’t too far off his claims. The gentleman he found for us held a degree in history and appeared to know what he was talking about.
The first sign of what to expect comes, not in the form of monuments, but what appears to be an inexhaustible collection of huge granite boulders over low hills, stretching for as far as the eyes can see. The granite rocks of colours from grey to ochre and pink appeared to have been thrown in a random fashion everywhere. The remarkable evenness of the top of the hills didn’t seem natural at first, until a closer inspection revealed that the rocky hills were topped by neatly arranged, beautifully sculpted fortwall2granite rocks, row after row to lift the height of the hills. These turned out to be the first of the seven walls of the city of Hampi. The rulers of the fabled city were apparently fanatical about the safety of their capital and surrounded the city with seven huge granite fortifications. Outsiders, particularly strangers were not allowed beyond the second wall until authenticated. Our driver pointed to several ruins on the way such as watch towers high up on the hills where “kotwals’ would watch over the city walls.
Our car stopped in a ramshackle car park with the usual hawkers selling caps, plastic sunglasses, ice creams and tender coconut filling most of the parking space. Even though it was still late morning, the sun was blisteringly hot. I ended up buying one of those Texan hats to protect my head from getting sunburnt. A good sunblock cream and dark glasses is a must for a visit to the site.
There was a vigilant guard at the gate of the fenced off area who looked us up and down before letting us in. I was a bit surprised that there was no check as is the usual custom in most hotels, malls and even some shops in India. Judging from what we saw that day, if there was a place which needs protection is the ruins of Hampi. Our guide told us that the site was covered with CCTV cameras pointing to a few tall poles around the site. The area of Hampi is vast, extending to over 32 square kilometres, making it the second largest city in the world during 14th and 15th century after Beijing. Our guide told us that the central district was divided into four cities, centred around four large temples – Hampe around Virupaksha temple, Krishna pura around Krishna temple and so on.
Once through the gate, we start climbing a gradual slope on massive granite boulders to reach the first feature of the entire site. The massive monolithic statue of Lord Ganesha – here called “Sasive kalu Ganesha,” is seated on a plinth protected by rough cut granite platform with a granite roof, some of which had long since disappeared. Standing at 2.4 metres, it is quite impressive in size and beauty, only marred by the sasivekalubroken trunk. This deity was the first one a commoner would offer prayers before moving on to the main temple at the top of the hill. The idol had been defaced by the Islamic forces of the Bahmani Sultans in 16th century after the fall of the Vijayanagara empire. As per the Hindu tradition, there was no prayers offered to the deity as it was defaced. It was an impressive feat of engineering to see a 15-foot-high idol hacked out of a single granite block using nothing but hand tools.
From here the climb is gradual over solid rock and we soon come across first of the twenty-two “dwaras” – main gates to the city. Pavilion like gateway, again hewn out of granite and with massive stone columns and two storey chambers on either side with archway3two and often four channels in each – a four lane highway in 15th century! The gate is set back from a massive stone wall which stretched on either direction for as far as the eyes could see. This was the outside fortress wall sitting on top of natural granite rocks on top of the hill. Our guide tells me that there were seven walls altogether around the city. At this place it was about three meters wide, with two layers of granite boulders with compacted earth in between. There was no mortar used and the stability was entirely due to the accurate cuts. There were remnants of square and rectangular battlements on top at regular intervals where soldiers could patrol and keep a watch on the city. Just north of the gateway is the austere looking temple with an open mandapa. The slender columns look delicate compared to the size of the huge Ganesha within – standing at 4.5 metres, nearly twice the size and even more impressive than the previous one. My guide tells me that this was the first deity the royalty visited before proceeding to the main temple. It is called Kadalekalu Ganesha. The statue is defaced with broken trunk and damaged belly – ostensibly looking for hidden treasures within the stomach of the Ganesha.
The climb continues uneven rock and we come across numerous tiny shrines for lord Shiva, with lingams missing from all of them, again carved out of granite. These are small “temples’ built by commoners, generals as well as minor chieftains to mark their devotion to the deity or/and the reigning monarch of the time. When the Islamic forces went on a looting rampage, they firmly believed that fabulous wealth was hidden inside these ‘lingams’ and they invariably destroyed the idol to find the wealth and as a mark of stamping their religion on the defeated populace. There we see a large granite temple for Shiva with three large pyramidal towers or gopuras. They have square mandapas with unadorned walls, rather austere compared to the rest of the architecture of Hampi. These were one of the first of the great temples built by Kampila Raya, king of Kampili with its capital Kummata not too far from Hampi. This is where it all began with sacking of the Kampili in 14th century by the Malik Zada, a general of the Delhi sultan, Mohammed Bin Tughluk. The story goes that when the citizens of Kampili realised that the battle was lost, they committed Jauhar – mass sacrifice – ala Masada. This probably laid the seed for the future development of the famed Vijayanagara empire.hampe3
Once we reach the top of the hill, called Hemakuta, the view is spectacular, and one can see the extent of the city to an extent. The most impressive is the Virupaksha temple towards the east of the hill, which towers above the south bank of river Tungabhadra with panoramic views. We turn right and go down steep steps through seven stone pavilions, cut into the granite rock to reach the massive temple complex. The temple built on a square plinth with the usual three-chamber format, is massive. Base of the main entrance is made of granite with the huge tower or gopuram built out of brick and mortar – mythological figures along with the figures of the emperor Krishnadevaraya and his concubines adorn the tower. Our guide tells us that the superstructure collapsed after the sacking of Hampi in 1565 and it was rebuilt by an unknown chieftain during early 19th century. As we pass through the massive entrance we are into a spacious rectangular courtyard with high stone-walls. There is the customary kitchen in the north-eastern corner – or what is left of it. The great Emperor built the smaller gopuram on top of the sanctum sanctorum, in 16th century. He also built a mantapam with 100 columns in front and to the left of the main chamber. The columns are typical of 16th century architecture of cut out columns with delicate carvings. The ceiling shows vivid paintings from Ramayana as well as the story of Pampa and Virupaksha. Our guide tells us that the ceiling paintings have been restored in 19th century. The main deity is Virupaksha, a Shiva lingam with a bejewelled face mask. On the right side of the main chamber we find two smaller chambers with deities of Buvanashwari and Mahishasura Mardhini. Bhuvaneshwari is the family deity of the kings and the main deity of the Mahanavami festival – which now continues as Dassara celebrations in Mysuru. As we pass through the south facing entrance there is a large Pushkarni, a stepped well, now in a rather dilapidated condition. Tungabhadra flows serenely a couple hundred yards to the north of here.virupaksha
The front of the Virupaksha temple shows a vast bazar extending to 100 feet wide. It is L-shaped with the long limb stretching to nearly a kilometre in length. The shops on either side was a row of stone built and in many places two or even three storeys high. In the north-east corner of the bazar is the customary tank or Pushkarni for the merchants and the customers alike. Walking through the bazar, one gets an eerie feeling of being in a massive open-air mall. Our guide tells me that these bazars thronged with merchants from all over the world hawking their wares. Each of the bazars was dedicated to different type of goods – one for corns and groceries, one for gold, precious and semiprecious stones and so on. The immensity of the bazars cannot be appreciated by photographs. The open space between the rows of shops would fit many football fields. The Virupaksha Bazaar is flat and at the same level as the temple.
As we work our way back towards Kamala Pura, we come across the next impressive temple complex of Krishna. Most of the superstructure of the temple hatemple1s collapsed and there were scaffoldings by the ASI (Archaeological Society of India) trying to restore and hopefully preserve. This forms the nucleus of the townships of Krishna Pura. The impressive granite entrance is topped by a once massive gopuram of brick and mortar. We can still make out some of the figurines showing battle scenes – from the battle between Krishnadevaraya and Gajapathi of Orissa. Our guide tells me that the emperor brought the Krishna idol from Udayagairi after winning the battle to install in the temple. It is now apparently in a museum in Chennai. There is a large square Mantapam in the quad with 25 open bays leading to the sanctum with an enclosed passageway around for circumambulation. The main idol of the temple is missing, presumably destroyed by the invaders. krishna bazaar1
As we come outside through the south facing gateway, we come across a huge granary. This is covered by six massive domes and vents at the top for airing the granary. The front of the temple gopuram leads to a vast granite steps leading to the Bazaar about twenty feet below. The linear bazaar is again at least hundred feet wide, lined with rows of stone columned shops, some of which are two and three storeys high. The bazaar is again nearly a kilometre long and has the customary tank, ‘Pushkarni’ in the north-east corner. I believe most of this was under sugar cane plantation not too long ago.
As the road winds around the corner from the bazaar through aNarasimhanother pavilion like archway, the next complex comes into view with a walled enclosure. A path leads us to the most impressive part of the complex. Massive idol of Ugra Narasimha. The colossal statue stands at 6.5 metres high and even today is awe inspiring with huge seven headed snake on top. We can still remnants of an arm of the goddess Lakshmi sitting on his left thigh. Rest of the goddess has been completely destroyed by the invaders. If you are not impressed by this, you will certainly be impressed by the next monolith – a huge Lingaa measuring about 3 metres tall standing in a pooled enclosure.
lingaAs we drive towards Kamala Pura after this, we come across Virabhadra temple, which apparently was yet another gateway during the time of the empire. On the other side of the road we can glimpse ruins of stone columns and fallen granite roof slabs – ‘chatra’ – a free house where poor and needy were fed during the empire. Not too far from here we come across a curiosity that I have not seen anywhere else. There is a stone cut curved channel with plates, cups etc carved on its banks, ostensibly to serve as an elaborate picnic table made of green stone.
As we pass further on we come across a large platform with a notice board saying ‘Queen’s palace’, presumably was where royalty and nobleman lived. Only the foundations survive showing a glimpse of the grandeur and size of their residences. We see within the complex several remnants of storehouses and granaries. Not too far from here we come across a high walled enclosure, part of it destroyed. After buying the customary entrance pass, we enter a vast enclosure with well kept lawns. On our left, in the far corner is a huge square building with plain unadorned walls, only broken by high small windows – maybe a store room or armoury. In the midst of a well-manicured lawn is foundations of a vast building – ‘queen’s palace.’ None of the walls have survived the destruction of the invaders. As we cast our eye to the north, a square building with bathing facilities looms large. But the most impressive building of the enclosure is the Lotus Mahal. lotus mahalIts built on a square platform with nine pyramidal towers. Its on two levels with a very narrow stairwell – locked out now. The architecture is interesting as it is a mixture of Islamic and Hindu styles – showing the cosmopolitan nature of the empire. The enclosure has its quota of watch towers, in different states disrepair. The enclosure also has granaries, water storage tanks and store rooms – or what is left of them.
A small gate in the eastern wall leads into a large plaza, which I believe was covered by sugar cane fields at one time. In the southern edge of the plaza is the what is presumably the most impressive building of the entire site – Elephant stable.stables They are truly impressive and seen to be appreciated. It is a row of eleven stables, each capable of holding two elephants. The domes on top of the stables are again a combination of Islamic and Hindu architectural styles. The central dome on top of the stable which apparently hosted the drummers and musicians for the parade has lost its tower. An equally impressive two storey building at right angles to the stables – with elevated gallery and eleven pointed arches. Most likely used as a gallery for the dignitaries to watch the parade. The building has narrow corridors with open courtyards behind – our guide was not too sure about the use of the building! It could have been the quarters for the soldiers and mahouts – I have my doubts!guards quarters
As we go past the stables, we come across a vast area of half excavated monuments and some still to be excavated complexes. They are mostly Jain temples with a road leading onto south and a monumental gateway leading us out of the enclosure. The road leads on to yet another gateway out of the city wall – Talarighat gate.
As we walk out of the enclosure (often termed “zenana”) to the south-east, we come across an equally impressive building – ‘Queen’s bath’ – with rather bland outer walls. The interior takes you to a large pool – now completely dry – surrounded by ornate balconies, where presumably ladies in waiting sat and sang songs and threw perfume and flowers into the bath as the royalty swam in the pool. The towers on top of the enclosure is now collapsed leaving a sort of a flat roof. We can still see the remnants of the aqueduct which brought water to the bath from the river. Not too far away from the bath itself.queens bath If you look towards the east from the bath, there is another small Siva temple which our guide tells us dates from the period of Krishnadevaraya. Not too far away is the famous octagonal bath with granite columns and a central platform. Our guide was not sure about the purpose of the bath as it appears to stand isolated.
One temple not to be missed in the Hampi complex is the Vittala temple. It is a masterpiece of construction and is probably the biggest temple complex at the time. It formed the centre of Vittala pura, one of the four centres of the capital. The vast ‘chariot street’ forms the bazaar in front, with most of the colonnade destroyed by fire. The temple itself has three ‘gopuras’ on top of a vast sanctuary. The central one, ostensibly built by Krishnadevaraya dance mantapais very ornate and still looks impressive. The interior of the sanctuary is empty with evidence of wanton destruction by fire evident everywhere. Our guide tells me that the invaders kept the fire going inside the temple for six months and ran the nearby forest to the ground in the process.
The front chamber is a large hall with numerous columns, most of them defaced by repeated knocking of the pillars by tourists over the centuries. The walls of the chambers have figures from all over the world – Chinese, Mongolian, Persian and European. The ceiling at one time had elaborate paintings – now almost completely destroyed by the fire. There have been some attempts at restoration during the early 19th century. This chamber was used for music and dance. The pillars were carved in such a way that when it is hit with certain force and directions, they produced different sounds, ranging fro vocal to string and wind instruments as well as the drums. Indiscriminate hitting of the stone pillars made them precarious and the powers banned anyone from hitting the stone pillars and recently, the entire area has been cordoned off to stop the tourists from being tempted.
Immediately in front of the mantapam is the now famous stone chariot – The Garuda temple. The tower of the temple shrine is missing. Our guide tells us that the emperor would turn the wheel of the stone chariot on the day of the Mahanavami – we can still evidence for the movement of the wheel. There is an inscription on a stela next to the shrine which tells us about the construction of the complex by Krishnadevaraya – in three languages – Kannada, Telugu and Tamil. inscription
As we walk out of the Vittala temple complex, we are faced with the King’s balance and a two storeyed gate which would take us out of the Vittala pura. The Kings would weigh themselves with gold and precious metals which would be distributed to the temple priests.
The sun had started to go down by this time and our guide said we would have to watch the sunset from the top of the fort for a spectacular view. Our driver sped past the monuments to reach the fort wall near the Sasivekalu Ganesha and I ran up the hill to the top of the fort wall. It was worth the effort and the sunset over distant hills with rocky rubble strewn all over the immediate distance was out of this world. There were many tourists sat on top of the fort in silence soaking in the serene atmosphere.
I sat there soaking in the setting sun and the surrounding glory that once was the golden empire of the sun. It was a fitting end to a glorious day and somehow, I was at peace with the world. There was intense sadness at the wanton destruction of the grandeur of what once was. What did the invaders achieve by destroying such a beautiful city? A question I have asked myself many times with no answer. As the sunset finally, most of the people on the wall started to walk back slowly in utter silence back to the car park below. It was sad that I could not see everything in the complex, the glory of Hazara Rama temple, sanctity of Mahanavami Dibba, the majestic Matanga Hill, quaint Anegondi (where it all started) and many more. There will be another day and another time for me to see and as our taxi wound its way past the last of the watch towers, I thought I could hear the tormented voices of the brave souls of Kampili.mantapa1

Shankar Kashyap


A Cry for freedom

Is that the cry for freedom in distance I hear?
It’s but the voices of tormented souls I fear
The dreaded enemy is at the front and rear
No escape for the brave souls of Kampili I fear

Enemy drown the voices, as they plunder and loot
The valiant and tortured souls end their life in fear
Roaring fire of funeral pyre darkens the sky in soot
The enemies destroy their homes and city held so dear

As the monuments of grandeur and palaces crumble,
A tiny seed is borne out of the ashes and rubble
A seed is born for something unknown and greater
Something far greater and ambitions still higher

Bring forth Hukka e Bukka, the Sangama brothers
They rallied the brave with their life, with no fear
Found the great Vidyaranya, sage tutor theirs
Born was the desire rest of world would fear

The desire of an unrivalled empire to come
An empire that all Gods would welcome
A truly golden empire to shine over others
An empire rising out of the rubble of rocks

The kings built Hampi and cities of gold, many
With forts, palaces and temples of grandeur
The empire grew, a dismay of the Bahmani
It blossomed with art, music and architecture

Cities thronged with merchants from far and wide
Goods aplenty, gold, diamonds in profusion
Markets with abundance one would struggle to decide
No one went hungry in the land of profusion

The golden period of empire saw an emperor
Build the glory of Hampi, a pinnacle the world over
The five jealous Bahmani Sultans tried and failed
Into the kingdom scribes from Europe sailed

Sangama, Tuluva and Saluva, dynasties three
Hoysalas all, branches from the same tree
Raised the empire from river in the north
To the Tambrapani and ocean in the south

Dynasties came and went, the empire matured
A pearl in the eyes of people loved
Loved by the emperors and the kings alike
But an envy of the world over unlike

Foreigners from afar flocked to the city to gaze
At the splendour, beauty and wealth ablaze
Poets and scribes from afar wrote grand epics
The wealth and grandeur of a scale epic

There came an emperor par excellence
Took the empire to a pinnacle of excellence
The art and architecture knew no bounds
It was the golden period for artists so sound

The beautiful Hampi sang, hewn out of granite
Inimitable magic of the stones of Hampi did ignite
Intense jealousy, anger and greed of the Sultans
Knew no bounds, hurt the greedy Sultans

The emperor left, fate has it and the power did slip
The five Sultans of the Bahmani’s, friendless
Joined hands and with treachery afoot killed
The monumental golden Vijayanagara Empire.

A cry for freedom of tormented souls went unheard
A cry that would lay buried among the ruins of Hampi
As the enemy spent months burning the city to shreds
Hear the cry for freedom from the forests around Hampi

Shankar Kashyap


The Hindus




Hindu – Is it a religion? Is it a faith? Or is it a culture?  Who are the Hindus?  Where did they come priest kingfrom?  These are the questions that have vexed experts for generations. When Achaemenid Emperor Darius annexed the Indus Valley around 512 BCE, the Harappan civilisation was already history and the second urbanisation in the Gangetic plain was in its infancy.  The Vedic religion was undergoing a transformation.  Darius called the people of the Indus Valley, “Sindhus” or people of Sindhu River.  This was pronounced “Hindus” in Persian.  The Ionian Greek soldiers who accompanied the emperor integrated well with the local population and in Greek “Hindus” became “Indos” and thus the name India was born.


The earliest evidence of “Bhagavata cult” goes back to the days of Mahajanapadas with Vasudeva (Krishna) and Sankarshana (Balarama) making their appearance in archaeological residues of Vidisha.   A brick structure suggestive of a temple has been excavated in the archaeological site dating to second century BCE.  Within the temple there is an oval structure of an older construction, as yet undated.   An estimate of 8th century Bvidisha1_0001CE has been put forward by some historians.


 By this time, most of the Vedic gods were forgotten and some of the minor gods of the Vedas – Rudra, Vishnu and Brahma became prominent.   The primary deities of Rigveda – Indra, Varuna, Mithra and Agni were not given the same importance as during the Vedic times.  River Saraswathi, which is so prominent in the Vedas – ‘mighty Sarasvati flowing from the mountains to the sea’ –  becomes more of a mythological entity and a goddess of learning.  Drying up of the mighty Saraswathi during the late third millennium BCE into minor seasonal streams of Gaggar and Hakra might have something to do with it.


 Experts like Asko Parpola (Asko Parpola) and others have suggested that the Vedic Aryans came from the Pontic-Caspian steppes.  sintashta chariotThere is archaeological evidence of horse drawn carriages and fire altars in the Sintashta culture of the steppes.  The experts have by and large used the philological evidence to support their theory of Indo-aryan migration into the Northwest India and then to the Gangetic plains.  However, Chromosomal studies have shown a low concentration of genetic mix from the steppes in the Harappan and post-Harappan people.  In fact there IVC mapappears

to be a limited northward movement of the Harappan people (Sahoo et al). 


 The cities of the Harappan civilisation started to decline towards the beginning of the second millennium BCE and had given way to village based communities living on farming.   Drying up of Sarasvati, Drishadvati and Beas with the westward translocation of the Sutlej caused the desertification of Rajashtan, southern parts of Punjab and Haryana as well as Cholistan (in Pakistan).  The rate of desiccation accelerated when the monsoon moved eastwards during the late third and beginning of second millennium BCE. There seems to be a gradual movement of the people away from the Sarasvati valley during this period.  Major movement was towards the east into the Ganga-Yamuna doab, north towards Swat valley and beyond and south towards Kutch, over a period of thousand years.   


ancient India mapThe Harappan civilisation seems to have fragmented into Gandharan grave culture (north), Cemetery H, OCP culture (South), Painted Grey Ware (PGW)  (East) and Northern Polished Black ware (NBP)(East) cultures.  The population migrated mostly eastwards towards the rivers, Ganga and Yamuna and northwards along the river Indus. The second urbanisation started around 8th century BCE with cities such as Ujjaini, Kausambi, Rajgriha, and Varanasi sprouting up in the Ganga-Yamuna doab, and leading to the establishment of the sixteen Mahajanapadas by 6th century BCE.   Expansion of the mighty Mauryan empire under Chandragupta and Kautilya, saw the growth of Hinduism as we now of it today.


 While the Hebrew were busy writing the Old Testament in Babylon as prisoners of Nebuchadnezzar in early sixth century BCE, the Vedic corpus including all the four major Vedas and the Bramhanas and Aranyakas were finished articles. There has been an on going debate about dating of the Vedas.  Experts agree that Rigveda is essentially a Bronze Age document.  The scholars consider that it was probably composed over a period of 600 years starting from around 1500 BCE.  They also agree that the text was composed around the present day Punjab and Haryana belt.  However it is difficult to see how the massive and technically demanding Vedic corpus could have been composed during 1500 BCE to 900 BCE in a land with hardly any civilisation of note.  By that period most of the population had migrated further east into the Gangetic plains.  The Rig-Veda has river Sarasvati flowing from the mountains to the sea – it had dried up into small seasonal streams of Gaggar and Hakra by 1900 BCE.  Most of the large cities of the Harappan civilisation had either been abandoned or significantly reduced in size to small hamlets.  I would place Rigveda to around the late third millennium BCE to the middle of second.  Earliest mention of Iron as Shayma Ayas (black metal) occurs in Atharvana Veda.  Evidence of Iron smelting in the Gangetic plains goes back to around 1800 BCE (Tewari et al).  The inference would be that Atharvana Veda was probably composed around or after that period.  It is entirely probable that Rigveda was composed during the late third millennium BCE, the latter three Vedas and the other Vedic texts from around the middle of second millennium BCE to the middle of first millennium BCE.    rigveda


The texts of Bramhanas and Aranyakas talk about ‘priests’ and ‘gurukuls’ for the first time.  The name ‘Aranyaka’ suggests that they might have been composed in forests.  Archaeological evidence shows that there was general anarchy among the urban settlements during the beginning of second millennium BCE.  The fine art and seals of the Harappan urban centres disappear during this period.  In all probability, the literate deserted the anarchical cities and moved into forests and villages.  There is a definite change in the structure and content of these texts from the four Vedas.


 Manusmriti has been dated from between 1200 BCE to 200 BCE.  The final version that we now have kaurilyaprobably saw the light of day during the period of Buddha.  It is the first time the four ‘varnas’ – Bramhana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra – are described along with the rules.  With Emperor Chandragupta’s minister, Kautilya (Chanakya) coming out in support of the Manusmriti, the state of Varna became the law of the land.  Kautilya’s Arthashastra is dated around 5th century BCE.  The Varnas or castes were prescribed by Manusmriti, and became established during the Mahajanapadas.  Buddhism and Jainism grew out of frustration and as a reaction to the perceived inequality and injustice of the rigid Varna system.  Buddhism however did not take root until the conversion of Emperor Ashoka who was instrumental in spreading the word of Gautama Buddha across the Magadhan Empire and abroad in third century BCE.


 It was the eminent sages such as Ramanujacharya, Adi Shankara and Madhvacharya who rejuvenated the Hinduism and stopped from extinction.  In summary, the Vedic religion of third millennium BCE transformed into the religion of Hindus over a period of thousand years.  There was a significant transmigration between Harappan civilisation and the cultures of the Pontic-Caspian steppes of southern Russia (Yamnaya culture and Sintashta cultures) during the second millennium BCE.  This had a profound influence on the Vedic culture and its transformation into the present day Hinduism.




  1. A prehistory of Indian Y Chromosomes: Evaluating demic diffusing Scenarios.   Sanghamitra Sahoo et al, PNAS, Jan 2006;vol 103. 9=843-848.
  2. Origins of Iron working in India: New evidence from the central Ganga plains and eastern Vindhyas.   Archaeology on Line.  Rakesh Tewari,  Director, U.P. State Archaeological Department, Roshan-ud-daula Kothi,
    Kaisarbagh, Lucknow 226 001 (U.P.) India
  3. The Roots of Hinduism: The Early Aryans and Indus Valley Civilisation. Asko Parpola, Oxford University Press, 2015
  4. The Hindus : An alternative history.  Wendy Doniger,  Oxford University Press, 2010.






The Harappa Trilogy

Harappan Trilogy: a preamble

Middle of third millennium BC was the golden era of Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan Civilization.  It stretched from Afghanistan beyond Hindu Kush Mountains in the west to the Ganges-Yamuna doab in the east, Himalayas in the north and the Arabian Sea in the south.  The area was over a million square miles and the biggest empire of the time, bigger than Sumerian and Egyptian civilisations put together. 

mapAfter the Last Glacial Maximum about 13,000 years ago, the Himalayan glaciers receded just far enough north to leave a vast fertile alluvial plain between the Hindu Kush mountains in the north west and the Aravalli hills in the east.  This area was flooded every year like clockwork by the river Indus.  This vast land was fed by waters of seven great rivers – Sindhu (Indus), Parushni (Ravi), Vitasta (Jhelum), Vipasa (Beas), Sutudri (Sutlej), Asikni (Chenab) and Saraswathi (Gaggar-Hakra).

The Indus Valley civilisation was at the peak of development in the middle of the third millennium BCE with several large urban centres such as Mohenjo-Daro,mohenjodaro Harappa, Kalibangan, Dholavira and Rakhigarhi. Archaeological excavations show uniform developments across the empire, suggesting area wide communications, exchange of ideas and resources across the vast land.  The Harappan seals have been discovered as far away as Mesopotamia and Egypt in the west and in places at the southern peninsula of Indian sub-continent, suggesting travel and communications over vast distances.  This vast civilisation appears to have disappeared over a period around 1900 to 1300 BCE.  There are several theories for their demise.  Drying up of River Saraswathi, Monsoon moving further east, desertification of Rajasthan, several major tectonic upheavals, over use of natural resources, breakdown of civic order, economic downturn of Mesopotamian civilisation and finally an invasion from beyond its borders – the now infamous Aryan Invasion. It could be either one or a combination of these caused the demise of this amazing civilisation.  There is growing acceptance that the Harappan civilisation gradually evolved into the historic civilisation of the Gangetic plains.

ancient India mapThe question of who were these people has been asked for centuries.  Not many people subscribe to the “Aryan Invasion” theory anymore.  It is now generally accepted that the population of Indus Valley civilisation was made up of indigenous people and there was a gradual migration and integration of Indo-European speaking people from the central Asia.  During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was probably difficult for scholars to accept that such an advanced civilisation could have pre-dated a population, which they considered lacking in cultural development.   The conclusion that there was an “invasion” of the Aryans from the steppes of central Asia was drawn based on tenuous philological evidence.  So far there has not been any evidence to suggest mass destruction or warfare among the ruins that have been excavated so far to suggest any invasion.  There is, however, a grain of truth in that the warfare was conducted in battlefields rather than the cities being attacked or ransacked during the pre-history.priest king

There are still thousands of Harappan sites waiting to be excavated.  The excavations so far have revealed a highly advanced civilisation with well-developed city planning including roads, civic engineering, water supply and drainage.  Some of the discoveries show that the system of drainage could be compared to any modern day city.   Earliest settlements of mehragarhMehrgarh date back to seventh millennium BCE had houses built of sun baked bricks, ploughing and irrigation of streams of river Bolan by building the earliest dams – ‘gabarbands.’  During the so-called urban period during the middle of the third millennium BCE saw mushrooming of large cities in both Indus and Saraswathi valleys.  Best known are Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, both of which are in the Indus valley.  They extended over 200 hectares and had an estimated population of over 80,000 at their peak.  They were equivalent of present day New York and London.  Only about 10% of these two sites have been excavated so far. 

The Indus script, which dates back to being one of earliest scripts dating back to fourth millennium BCE, still defies our experts and remains a mystery.  scriptVery little was known about the people who lived in these cities until recently.  Now we know what they looked like, what kind of clothes they wore, their jewellery, their food habits and religious practices to some extent. 

All the cities of Indus Valley Civilisation show an extremely high standard of engineering and mathematical skills not seen in any other contemporary civilisation.  For example all the high streets of the large cities such as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were set in major cardinal axes.  A sound knowledge of astronomy and mathematics along with engineering skill was essential for such an achievement.  Mathematical texts ‘written’ by eminent sages such a Baudhayana, Apastambha, Manava and Katyana have been placed between 800 BCE and 200 BCE.  The dating again is based purely on linguistic evidence comparing with other contemporary texts and they could easily have been a few centuries before.  Apasthambha described both Pythagorean theorem and Pythagorean triples dating at least 200 years before Pythagoras.

There is a school of thought, which subscribes to the idea that the Vedas were composed by the Harappans or the Meluhhans as the Mesopotamians called them, during the third millennium BCE.  Rig Veda is the oldest of the Vedas and has been dated by the historians to have been composed around 1700 BCE.  Niraj Mohanka of New Dharma takes it even further to 4000 BCE as the timeline for Rigveda.  R Griffith's bookThere was no archaeological evidence to suggest the dating of the Vedas until recently.  This was based purely on linguistic and philological evidence.  The evidence is hidden within the books themselves.  However evidence is emerging now that the earliest recensions of the Vedas might have been composed a long time ago during the Bronze Age dating back to 3000 BCE.  There are now both archaeological and textual evidence emerging which show that both the Vedas and Harappans belong to same time period.   One of the grammar texts – Rigveda Pratisakya – used for analysis and understanding of Rigveda has been dated back to between 3100 and 800 BCE.  New evidence is emerging all the time, which is putting our history further, and further back.  It will not be long before the Indus script is unravelled and we may get an answer to if the Harappans wrote the Vedas.

Rig Veda is the oldest of four Vedas – Sama, Yajur and Atharvana being the other three.  It is organised into ten books or ‘Mandalas’ and consists of 1028 hymns.  Numbering of the books is rather arbitrary and again based on linguistics.  For example, the first book of the Rigveda in considered much younger than the second.  The language of the Vedas was considered ‘archaic’ as long ago as the time of the great grammarian, Panini, who has been dated to have been around sixth century BCE.   Dr David Frawley suggests that the positioning of vernal equinox in the Vedic scriptures suggest that the authors were from 6000 BCE.  Astronomical configurations shown in the Vedas and Bramhanas suggest that these were written well before 3000 BCE.  I recommend a visit to  It has an excellent link to an extremely well researched chronology of history, of not only the Vedic people but also other religions of the world.

Zarathustra (Zoroaster) is considered to be the author of religious text of the Avestans, Yasna Haptanghaiti.  This has been dated to around the middle of the second millennium BCE.    Geography of Ariana is quite clear in the book and puts in squarely in present day Iran and to some extent Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan.  There is very little known about people who lived in these parts before Zoroaster.  According to the Avestan Gathas, he teaches the Avestan King Vishtaspa and overcomes obstacles placed by other priests and ruling classes.  The dating of both these individuals has been severely contested, some placing Zoroaster from 700 BCE to as far back as 7000 BCE.  The language used in the Yasna Haptanghaiti is old Avestan and the date of the language is still contested.

saraswathiThere is archaeological evidence to show that there were significant tectonic activity in the area and several of the rivers were diverted during the second and third millennium BCE.  Diversion of several major rivers left parts of the country barren and unliveable.  River Yamuna moved eastwards to join Ganges, Drishadvati and Beas dried up and Sutlej turned west to drain into Indus because of the uplifting of the western tectonic plate.  This caused the Saraswathi to dry up almost completely leaving two segments of seasonal streams – Gaggar in Northwest India and Hakra in lower Pakistan.  This meant most of Rajasthan in India and Cholistan in Pakistan turned into desert over a millennium.  There are remnants of settlements from the Bronze Age dotted on either side of the dried up bed of the once mighty river in the Thar Desert.  Recent Landsat satellite photography show the water still flowing all the way from the foothills of Himalayas and the Shivaliks all the way down to the Arabian Sea at the Kutch. Even now, area from Greater Iran to north West Pakistan shows regular seismic activity with regular earthquakes.  We were reminded of the devastating earthquake of Bhuj, which left thousands dead in 2001.  The massive earthquake of 1819 lifted the Asian plate along a corridor of nearly 100 kms by an average of 10 meters causing the major rivers to back up for decades.  It is still called the “Allah’s bund” in Pakistan. 

As the desertification of Rajasthan and Cholistan progressed, the Urban phase of the Harappan civilisation ended around 2000 BCE and post-urban civilisation lost much of the characteristics and reverted to the pre-urban pastoral civilisation.  The Indus script, seals, artisan work with Carnelian, Agate, Steatite and Lapis Lazuli disappeared.  The civic society with ordered roads, drainage, water supply and baked bricks came to an end.  The settlements were small and clustered around the southern part of the empire in Saurashtra and in the northeast in present day Haryana, Punjab and Ganges doab, where the precipitation was more predictable.  Iron made its appearance as the new or second urbanism set in around late second millennium BCE – around 1300 BCE.  The population gradually migrated towards the east into the Gangetic plain over a millennium.

Book One: The Lure of Soma:Harappa1 cover

It is in this context that the lives and trials and tribulations of people living in the Indus valley during the middle of third millennium BCE are tackled in this book.  I have used existing archaeological evidence along with known historical evidence in writing this book.  Rigveda talks about several conflicts among the descendants of the emperor Bharata and the Avestan scriptures talk about the conflicts between the Aryans and the Dasyus.  There have always been fierce debates about who exactly these Aryans were and the Daevas mentioned in the Avestan scriptures.   I have used some poetic license to accommodate the dates and times of various individuals and events to suit the story telling.  The book tries to portray the life of ordinary people during the period of Harappans, while trying to tell the tale of the priestly kings, Magi, Rishis and Sages of the great Indus Valley Civilisation during the middle of third millennium BCE.  This is the story of our hero, Upaas, a trainee physician from Harappa.  It is a story of a young man growing up, falling in love, getting involved in adventures and finally fighting for the city he loves most – Harappa.  The story shows the human elements of people around him.  He faces friendship, love, hate, jealousy, treachery and deceit in day to day life.  There is generous sprinkling of magic and sorcery.  As the country of Ariana, west of Hindu Kush dries up, the Avestans facing with near extinction take up arms against their neighbours to obtain the precious Soma.  The tactics used include deceit, sorcery and finally a war between the Meluhhans and Avestans

The Soma plant has been the centrepiece of several hymns in the Vedic scriptures.  It is a plant still not accurately recognized.  The Vedic people revered it as a God, drank the extract from the stalk of the plant, used the plant for medicinal purposes and it is supposed to have magical properties.  There are hymns composed to the Soma within the Vedas.  The Avestan had a similar plant and called it Haoma and their scriptures also revered the plant for its spiritual properties.  Vedas describe it as growing in a sacred mountain around a sacred lake (Mount Mujavant and lake Sharynavat). Avestan scriptures describe a similar sacred mountain and a sacred lake in Sistan where the Haoma plant grew.  Similar to the Soma of Indus valley, we still do not know exactly what this plant was as it disappeared at the same time as the Harappans.  It was considered the mushroom, Amanita Muscaria for a long time because of the ”hallucinogenic” effects the Soma was said to produce when consumed.  This may be a misconception by the writers who tried to explain the events described in Vedic scriptures and the powers of ancient sages.






Book Two: The Fall of Shuruppak:

Harappa2 coverHarappans appear to have ventured far and wide with their trade, both on land and sea.  Harappan settlements spread as far west as Shortugai in Afghanistan at the head of river Oxus, which was the centre of raw materials such as Lapis Lazuli, Gold and Silver for the Harappan artisans.  Harappan seals, jewellery and pottery have been found in Elam (present day Iran), Egypt, and Sumer.  Jewellery found in Queen Puabi’s tomb had all the hallmarks of Harappan artisans.  The cylindrical Carnelian beads with central core drilled after hours of careful work is typical of the Harappans.

Cylindrical seal of Shu-ilishu, the translator has the typical humped bull on one side and cuneiform text on the other side.  Archaeologists agree that he must have been a translator of Sumerian and Akkadian into Meluhhan language.  He is placed to have lived in Lagash around the middle of third millennium BCE.  There is archaeological evidence of Meluhhan enclaves around Lagash. 

Sargon the great who ruled most of Mesopotamia from around 2300 BCE, boasts of ships from Meluhha, Dilmun and Magan docking in the port of his capital city, Akkad.  The Meluhhans obviously had marine trading links with Akkad for a long time with some of them settling down in Sumer.  Despite elaborate description of the city of Akkad in several tablets in cuneiform texts, the city eludes detection.

Epic of Gilgamesh is a well known story with an almost entire story written and transcribed from cuneiform texts.  Emperor Gilgamesh befriends an uncouth Enkidu from the deep forests and a deep friendship ensues.  The epic is that of undying love, sacrifice and heroism.  Enkidu is mortally injured fighting a mythical demon and only a meluhhan sage can save him.

Book Three: The Battle of Ten Kings (Dasharajna)

Harappa3 coverBook six of Rigveda describes a battle between King Sudas and “ten kings.”  It is a confederacy of ten to twelve kings compiled by disgruntled descendants of King Yayathi’s sons who felt hard done by when the ageing king gives the central part of the great Bharatha kingdom to the youngest son, Puru over the elder four brothers – Yadu, Turvasu, Druhyu and Anu.   King Sudas is brought up and trained by sage Vishwamitra and Vasishta.  Vishwaimtra falls out with the king and the senior sage Vasishta and joins the confederacy of ten kings.  A bitter battle ensues on the banks of River Parushni (present day Ravi) between the forces of King Sudas, highly outnumbered by the huge army of “sixty six thousand” of the confederacy.  God Indra intervenes and takes the side of “righteous Sudas,” and a flash flood destroys most of the army of the confederacy.

While there is no archaeological evidence of the battle or the actors within it, there is enough evidence within the Rigveda itself to place the event around the third millennium BCE.  River Parushni is easily identifiable as the present day Ravi and the kingdom to be the present day Punjab, Haryana and parts of northeast Pakistan with seven rivers.   This epic is considered by many to be the third epic of India, after the great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana.  Descendants of king Puru for the famous Kuru dynasty who are the actors within the great battle of Mahabharata.  This battle has often been used by the proponents of the Aryan Invasion theory as proof of mighty Aryans invading India and destroying the Harappan civilisation.  It is claimed that they brought the horses and Iron weapons to destroy the great Harappan empire.


The Harappan Trilogy is due for worldwide release in June 2017.


The Battle of Ten Kings

The Battle of Ten Kings – Synopsis


War has burst the banks of the river Parushni and floods across the land. A confederacy of ten tyrannical kings threatens to drown the lives of millions in their greed. Great and sacred powers lie in the balance and with them hangs the fate of the entire world.


In the distant past, an arrogant king kneels defeated before a great sage – a magi of uncommon power – and is told to command that power himself he must abandon everything, even his crown.


In the present, a young prince is presented with his father’s crown and a sacred duty to protect his people, at all costs.


The heroic doctor Upaas from Harappa bids farewell to his good friend, Shushun of Elam, and travels homeward with his love Lopa, and his trusty friend Parthava, but is drawn into a mission of the utmost secrecy, which may change the fate of the entire kingdom.


The conquering King Sudas rules his country Bharata from the ‘centre of the world’ Ilaspada with the assistance of the peaceful Sage Vasishta and the proud Sage Vishvamitra, having waged a successful war of conquest on the neighbouring territories. Upaas is commanded to serve at the royal hospital there, forcing him to leave his home city Harappa with Lopa and his young child still a babe, to live in the centre of the greatest empire the has ever seen.


Yet even at the height of its power, Sudas’ kingdom lies under threat from all sides, from apostate kings and barbarians that have banded together in competition with Sudas, defiantly wielding demonic powers and threatening the life of the king himself.


As Sudas moves to mobilise against forces that threaten Harappa, Sage Vishvamitra, the wielder of a power capable of defeating entire armies, abandons the kingdom prophesying doom and destruction. Upaas must learn to counter mystic powers, under the guidance of Vasishta, to protect all that he holds dear from annihilation. With Lopa and Parthava at Upaas’ side, he seeks the assistance of the mystical Ghandharis – custodians of the powerful Soma plant -, which is needed for the holy rituals of power.


Meanwhile the usurper kings gather their allies and plan for a war on a scale never before seen, not since the Avestans marched greedily on Harappa. Sudas rides against them, against the dark powers of the Dasyus and their merciless armies of raiders.


And the proud-orphaned prince, Cayamana, has grown to fill the heavy crown left for him. A prophesied saviour among his people he leads the confederacy against Sudas wielding the powers of Magi and threatens the capital, Ilaspada. When they see Vishvamitra behind Cayamana, the fears of Sudas and Vasishta seem to be confirmed, and nothing less than an act of God can save from the brutally superior forces arrayed against the city. The fate of the world lies in the balance as a tide of war threatens to engulf both Ilaspada and Upaas.

Buy your copy from Amazon here


Many thanks to young Chris Donkin for his hard work in creating this brief synopsis of the book.



The Battle of Ten Kings – Dasharajnya – ? The Third Epic of Inida

Rigveda Book 7, Hymn 18

The Battle of Ten Kings

This is Ralph Griffith’s translation of the Rigveda and describes the great war on river Parushni (present day Ravi)  and the battle on River Yamuna.  This is the Battle of Ten Kings.  The seventh book of Rigveda describes a historical event that took place in an empire – on the south-eastern front on the banks of Yamuna and on the western front on the banks of River Ravi.

Sudas, a descendant of the great emperor Bharata, whose name carries on today as the Hindu name of India, was a Pur King probably around 2700 BCE.  He expands his kingdom to reach the Oxus river in west crossing the Hindukush mountains and the river Yamuna in the east, conquering the surrounding kingdoms.  He and his Royal priests, Vasishta and Vishwamitra tell him that there was nothing worth conquering in the south.  This spared the Pandyan Kingdoms south of the Vindhyas.  He alienates all the surrounding Kingdoms by doing this.

River Ravi as it is today. Ancient Parushni, the site of the Battle of Ten Kings

There is a rift between the two great sages, Vasishta and Vishwamitra.  Vishwamitra walks out of Sudas’s court to join the ancestral enemy, Kavi Cayamana.  He is the grandson of the Emperor Abhyavartin Cayamana of the Anu dynasty and a contemporary of Sudas.  He grows up in obscurity and brought in to lead the Brghus in the city of Mundigak of Sistan.  He wants to regain the glory of his grandfather and the empire of Ariana.  The Kingdoms of Yadu, Druhyu, Turvasa, Balanas, Pakthas, Alinas, Panis, Matsyas and other smaller tribes join hands under the leadership of Kavi Cayamana.  A large army of over sixty thousand, with fast chariots, cavalry and elephants march on Sudas.

Sudas gets the message of the confederacy of ten kings marching on his empire s he is on the way back from the battle on the eastern front on the river Yamuna.  His depleted and tired army face the challenge under the guidance of sage Vasishta.  It becomes a battle of wits, magic and sorcery between the two great sages – Vasishta and Vishwamitra.  A shallow river allows the army of Sudas to cross.  A flash flood (?by the virtue of God Indra) blows away large portion of the confederate army.  Kavi Cayamana is killed on the river battling for what he believed in.  Sudas returns victorious to the capital, Ilaspada (centre of the world), as the man fighting for the right side.

Ancient map of India showing the rivers of Saptha Sindhu

There are several moral issues as well as ethical issues in the story.  Sudas leads people of Bharata, who firmly beleive in the Aryan values of valour, forgiveness and righteousness.  Cayamana, although believed in his right to lead his country to glory, uses un-aryan comrades, who are mostly aryans, who have deviated from the path and those tribes who did not believe in the aryan values. These kingdoms later on go on to establish themselves as BMAC complex – Bactria Margiana Archeological Complex spread mainly around Afghanistan and Iran.

God Indra – the saviour of King Sudas and the Battle of Ten Kings

It is a battle of right over wrong.  If the battle had gone the other way, the other two epics of India – Ramayana and Mahabharata – might not have occurred.  Or if they did, it would have been vastly different.  It was a turning point in the pre-history of India and should rightly be considered the third epic.  It is the only Vedic epic, as the other two took place in the post-vedic period.  If the battle had gone the other way, we would most likely be following the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism!!

Read the details of the epic story – intricacies, planning, controversies, valour, deceit, sorcery and challenge in the upcoming book – Harappa3: The Battle of Ten Kings.  Being launched in India in October and in the UK in November.

The epic story is so powerful and paradigm shifting in nature that it should rightly be considered as the third epic of India

Watch this space for a date!!

Rigveda Book 7, Hymn 18.

1. ALL is with thee, O Indra, all the treasures which erst our fathers won who sang thy praises.
With thee are milch-kine good to milk, and horses: best winner thou of riches for the pious.
2 For like a King among his wives thou dwellest: with glories, as a Sage, surround and help us.
Make us, thy servants, strong for wealth, and honour our songs wirth kine and steeds and decoration.
3 Here these our holy hymns with joy and gladness in pious emulation have approached thee.
Hitherward come thy path that leads to riches: may we find shelter in thy favour, Indra.
4 Vasiṣṭha hath poured forth his prayers, desiring to milk thee like a cow in goodly pasture.
All these my people call thee Lord of cattle: may Indra. come unto the prayer we offer.
5 What though the floods spread widely, Indra made them shallow and easy for Sudās to traverse.
He, worthy of our praises, caused the Simyu, foe of our hymn, to curse the rivers’ fury.
6 Eager for spoil was Turvaśa Purodas, fain to win wealth, like fishes urged by hunger.
The Bhṛgus and the Druhyus quickly listened: friend rescued friend mid the two distant peoples.
7 Together came the Pakthas, the Bhalanas, the Alinas, the Sivas, the Visanins.
Yet to the Trtsus came the Ārya’s Comrade, through love of spoil and heroes’ war, to lead them.
8 Fools, in their folly fain to waste her waters, they parted inexhaustible Paruṣṇī.
Lord of the Earth, he with his might repressed them: still lay the herd and the affrighted herdsman.
9 As to their goal they sped to their destruetion: they sought Paruṣṇī; e’en the swift returned not.
Indra abandoned, to Sudās the manly, the swiftly flying foes, unmanly babblers.
10 They went like kine unherded from the pasture, each clinging to a friend as chance directed.
They who drive spotted steeds, sent down by Pṛśni, gave ear, the Warriors and the harnessed horses.
11 The King who scattered one-and-twenty people of both Vaikarna tribes through lust of glory-
As the skilled priest clips grass within the chamber, so hath the Hero Indra, wrought their downfall.
12 Thou, thunder-armed, o’erwhelmedst in the waters famed ancient Kavasa and then the Druhyu.
Others here claiming friendship to their friendship, devoted unto thee, in thee were joyful.
13 Indra at once with conquering might demolished all their strong places and their seven castles.
The goods of Anu’s son he gave to Trtsu. May we in sacrifice conquer scorned Pūru.
14 The Anavas and Druhyus, seeking booty, have slept, the sixty hundred, yea, six thousand,
And six-and-sixty heroes. For the pious were all these mighty exploits done by Indra.
15 These Trtsus under Indra’s careful guidance came speeding like loosed waters rushing downward.
The foemen, measuring exceeding closely, abandoned to Sudās all their provisions.
16 The hero’s side who drank the dressed oblation, Indra’s denier, far o’er earth he scattered.
Indra brought down the fierce destroyer’s fury. He gave them various roads, the path’s Controller.
17 E’en with the weak he wrought this matchless exploit: e’en with a goat he did to death a lion.
He pared the pillar’s angles with a needle. Thus to Sudās Indra gave all provisions.
18 To thee have all thine enemies submitted: e’en the fierce Bheda hast thou made thy subject.
Cast down thy sharpened thunderbolt, O Indra, on him who harms the men who sing thy praises.
19 Yamuna and the Trtsus aided Indra. There he stripped Bheda bare of all his treasures.
The Ajas and the Sigrus and the Yaksus brought in to him as tribute heads of horses.
20 Not to be scorned, but like Dawns past and recent, O Indra, are thy favours and thy riches.
Devaka, Mānyamana’s son, thou slewest, and smotest Śambara from the lofty mountain.
21 They who, from home, have gladdened thee, thy servants Parasara, Vasiṣṭha, Satayatu,
Will not forget thy friendship, liberal Giver. So shall the days dawn prosperous for the princes.
22 Priest-like, with praise, I move around the altar, earning Paijavana’s reward, O Agni,
Two hundred cows from Devavan’s descendant, two chariots from Sudās with mares to draw them.
23 Gift of Paijavana, four horses bear me in foremost place, trained steeds with pearl to deck them.
Sudās’s brown steeds, firmly-stepping, carry me and my son for progeny and glory.
24 Him whose fame spreads between wide earth and heaven, who, as dispenser, gives each chief his portion,
Seven flowing Rivers glorify like Indra. He slew Yudhyamadhi in close encounter.
25 Attend on him O ye heroic Maruts as on Sudās’s father Divodāsa.
Further Paijavana’s desire with favour. Guard faithfully his lasting firm dominion.

The original Sanskrit version of the Mandala 7, 18th Hymn:

तवे ह यत पितरश्चिन न इन्द्र विश्वा वामा जरितारो असन्वन |
तवे गावः सुदुघास्त्वे हयश्वास्त्वं वसु देवयतेवनिष्ठः ||
राजेव हि जनिभिः कषेष्येवाव दयुभिरभि विदुष कविः सन |
पिशा गिरो मघवन गोभिरश्वैस्त्वायतः शिशीहिराये अस्मान ||
इमा उ तवा पस्प्र्धानासो अत्र मन्द्रा गिरो देवयन्तीरुप सथुः |
अर्वाची ते पथ्या राय एतु सयाम ते सुमताविन्द्र शर्मन ||
धेनुं न तवा सूयवसे दुदुक्षन्नुप बरह्माणि सस्र्जे वसिष्ठः |
तवामिन मे गोपतिं विश्व आहा न इन्द्रः सुमतिं गन्त्वछ ||
अर्णांसि चित पप्रथाना सुदास इन्द्रो गाधान्यक्र्णोत सुपारा |
शर्धन्तं शिम्युमुचथस्य नव्यः शापं सिन्धूनामक्र्णोदशस्तीः ||
पुरोळा इत तुर्वशो यक्षुरासीद राये मत्स्यासो निशिता अपीव |
शरुष्टिं चक्रुर्भ्र्गवो दरुह्यवश्च सखा सखायमतरद विषूचोः ||
आ पक्थासो भलानसो भनन्तालिनासो विषाणिनः शिवासः |
आ यो.अनयत सधमा आर्यस्य गव्या तर्त्सुभ्यो अजगन युधा नर्न ||
दुराध्यो अदितिं सरेवयन्तो.अचेतसो वि जग्र्भ्रे परुष्णीम |
मह्नाविव्यक पर्थिवीं पत्यमानः पशुष कविरशयच्चायमानः ||
ईयुरर्थं न नयर्थं परुष्णीमाशुश्चनेदभिपित्वं जगाम |
सुदास इन्द्रः सुतुकानमित्रानरन्धयन मानुषे वध्रिवाचः ||
ईयुर्गावो न यवसादगोपा यथाक्र्तमभि मित्रं चितासः |
पर्श्निगावः पर्श्निनिप्रेषितासः शरुष्टिं चक्रुर्नियुतो रन्तयश्च ||
एकं च यो विंशतिं च शरवस्या वैकर्णयोर्जनान राजा नयस्तः |
दस्मो न सद्मन नि शिशाति बर्हिः शूरः सर्गमक्र्णोदिन्द्र एषाम ||
अध शरुतं कवषं वर्द्धमप्स्वनु दरुह्युं नि वर्णग वज्रबाहुः |
वर्णाना अत्र सख्याय सख्यं तवायन्तो ये अमदन्ननु तवा ||
वि सद्यो विश्वा दरंहितान्येषामिन्द्रः पुरः सहसा सप्त दर्दः |
वयानवस्य तर्त्सवे गयं भाग जेष्म पूरुं विदथे मर्ध्रवाचम ||
नि गव्यवो.अनवो दरुह्यवश्च षष्टिः शता सुषुपुः षट सहस्रा |
षष्टिर्वीरासो अधि षड दुवोयु विश्वेदिन्द्रस्य वीर्या कर्तानि ||
इन्द्रेणैते तर्त्सवो वेविषाणा आपो न सर्ष्टा अधवन्त नीचीः |
दुर्मित्रासः परकलविन मिमाना जहुर्विश्वानि भोजना सुदासे ||
अर्धं वीरस्य शर्तपामनिन्द्रं परा शर्धन्तं नुनुदे अभि कषाम |
इन्द्रो मन्युं मन्युम्यो मिमाय भेजे पथो वर्तनिम्पत्यमानः ||
आध्रेण चित तद वेकं चकार सिंह्यं चित पेत्वेना जघान |
अव सरक्तीर्वेश्याव्र्श्चदिन्द्रः परायछद विश्वा भोजना सुदासे ||
शश्वन्तो हि शत्रवो रारधुष टे भेदस्य चिच्छर्धतो विन्द रन्धिम |
मर्तानेन सतुवतो यः कर्णोति तिग्मं तस्मिन नि जहि वज्रमिन्द्र ||
आवदिन्द्रं यमुना तर्त्सवश्च परात्र भेदं सर्वतातामुषायत |
अजासश्च शिग्रवो यक्षवश्च बलिं शीर्षाणि जभ्रुरश्व्यानि ||
न त इन्द्र सुमतयो न रायः संचक्षे पूर्वा उषसो न नूत्नाः |
देवकं चिन मान्यमानं जघन्थाव तमना बर्हतः शम्बरं भेत ||
पर ये गर्हादममदुस्त्वाया पराशरः शतयातुर्वसिष्ठः |
न ते भोजस्य सख्यं मर्षन्ताधा सूरिभ्यः सुदिना वयुछान ||
दवे नप्तुर्देववतः शते गोर्द्वा रथा वधूमन्ता सुदासः |
अर्हन्नग्ने पैजवनस्य दानं होतेव सद्म पर्येमि रेभन ||
चत्वारो मा पैजवनस्य दानाः समद्दिष्टयः कर्शनिनो निरेके |
रज्रासो मा पर्थिविष्ठाः सुदासस्तोकं तोकाय शरवसे वहन्ति ||
यस्य शरवो रोदसी अन्तरुर्वी शीर्ष्णे-शीर्ष्णे विबभाजा विभक्ता |
सप्तेदिन्द्रं न सरवतो गर्णन्ति नि युध्यामधिमशिशादभीके ||
इमं नरो मरुतः सश्चतानु दिवोदासं न पितरं सुदासः |
अविष्टना पैजवनस्य केतं दूणाशं कषत्रमजरं दुवोयु ||

The Battle of Ten Kings

Sanskriti Online

Making of The Fall of Shuruppak

I have always been fascinated by the Epic of Gilgamesh.  The link between the biblical flood and the events in the epic became even more intriguing when the evidence of floods during the third millennium BCE was dug up by the archaeologists in the Mesopotamian cities of Ur and Shuruppak among others.  My research into it intensified and led me to Shu-Ilishu, the Sumerian translator and the ruins of Lagash.  It has long been considered that Lagash or one of the villages near Lagash was a Meluhhan colony.  There is evidence of Meluhhan influence in the ruins of Lagash in the form of discovery of Indus seals and also images in the Mesopotamian seals suggestive of Indus valley influence.

The cuneiform texts speak of Meluhhan ships docking in several Sumerian ports, especially during the period of Sargon the great during 2200 BCE.  Sargon boasts of ships from Meluhha, Magan and Dilmun docking in the port of Akkad (by the way, we still don’t know where this famed city of Akkad is!).  Magan has been identified with Oman and Dilmun with Failaka island in Bahrain.  There has been controversies regarding the identity of Meluhha, but it is generally believed to be Harappan civilisation.

Shuruppak:  The city of Shuruppak lies on the banks of one of the tributaries of Euphrates 35 miles south of the city of Nippur at the site of Tell Fara. This was probably found by King Shuruppak around 3000 BCE. The city features in the Epic of Gilgamesh and comes to a watery end probably around 2000 BCE.

Cuneiform texts speak of warfare between cities and particularly the attacks by the Gutians. The number of tablets found in this site has given the city somewhat of a university atmosphere. These tablets feature anything from classroom texts to business deals and itemisation of object including plants and animals.  The Sumerian King list puts Shuruppak as the son of Ubara Tutu, “last king before the big deluge”.  King Shuruppak is known for the Instructions of Shuruppak, which is probably the oldest surviving Mesopotamian literature. Here, Shuruppak gives instructions to his son.  “let me speak a word to you: you should pay attention! Do not neglect my instructions! Do not transgress the words I speak! The instructions of an old man are precious; you should comply with them!:tablet house

  • You should not locate a field on a road.
  • You should not place your house next to a public square: there is always a crowd.
  • You should not loiter about where there is a quarrel;
  • You should not steal anything.
  • You should not play around with a married young woman: the slander could be serious.”

This is similar to the code of Hammurabi and Manu smriti and even the Ten Commandments in lot of respects. There are nearly 300 instructions found on cuneiform tablets at various levels of excavations. The earliest known tablet showing the instructions, dates back to 2500 BCE.ziusudra
Cuneiform Texts: There are over a million cuneiform tablets discovered so far and with 130,000 tablets, British Museum leads the field. Not all of the tablets have been deciphered. Emperor Darius decides to immortalise his work on stone gets his exploits carved on the sides of the Mount Behistun in three languages.   Behistun inscriptions in Persia written during the Emperor Darius’s reign had three languages – Elamite, Persian and Babylonian.  This helped Henry Rawlinson, a British Officer to decipher the first Cuneiform texts in 1835. Tablets dating back to the third millennium BCE are mainly in the Sumerian language changing gradually to cuneiform texts of the classic Akkadian towards the end of the second millennium BCE.

instructions of shuruppak
Shuruppak is not known for massive fortifications or huge Ziggurats, but is known for one of the most charismatic characters of ancient times – Ziusudra or Utnapishtim.  His name is immortalised in the flood tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh.


The Epic of Gilgamesh:  There are over 50 flood stories across the globe in almost all the religions with a similar story’s content. Here, the Gods getting tired with looking after themselves, create a junior set of gods. But these junior set of gods rebel at having to do all the work and the create humanity to serve them. Humans unexpectedly go forth, multiply, and become noisy. God Enlil is enraged by the noise and decides to end humanity with plagues of droughEnkit, which talk about the massive flood sent down by the angry god Enlil to end the noisy humanity. A more amicable God Enki comes to hear of this and he concocts a plan. He speaks to Ziusudra and tells him about the flood. He gives instructions to build a boat. As the flood comes, Ziusudra takes his wife, some animals and seven sages on to the boat. When the flood recedes, they land in Shuruppak and thus inhabit the world. Enki is very impressed by this and grants him immortality and sends him to live in a place “at the end of the world” in the middle of “deep dark waters” – the Apsu – so that he may not be accessible to mortals. Ziusudra turns out to be the son of Shuruppak according to the Sumerian king list.

Gilgamesh is the king or Lugal of Uruk, probably the largest city after Kish during that period in pre-history. He is considered to be, two thirds God and one third human. This makes him invincible and becomes extremely arrogant.

Many despise his rule. He is Gilgamesh-Kingportrayed as a sort of a womanizer and would take any bride on the first night. The Gods hear of this and they send beautiful Shamash and the jungle man, Enkidu. The powerful jungle man is brought up by the wild animals of the jungle and grows up without any human contact until he meets Shamash and falls in love with her. When he hears of the outrage being ravaged by the king Gilgamesh, he attacapsuks the King. The ensuing battle is bitter and long. Gilgamesh is impressed by the jungle man and befriends him. They become very close friends. Gilgamesh hears of the demon in the cedar forest, Humbaba. The legend was that the demon was the most powerful in the world. Gilgamesh could not stand someone else being called more powerful than himself. He asks for Enkidu’s help to go to the cedar forest and destroy the demon against the advice of his courtiers. They enter the forest and challenge the demon. In the ensuing fight, Enkidu is mortally wounded. Gilgamesh brings him back to the city of Uruk along with the head of the demon, Humbaba. The royal physicians and all the Magi in the land try to save Enkidu in vain.gilgamesh-deluge

However, no one can save his friend and Enkidu breathes his last to the extreme lamentations of Gilgamesh. He is heartbroken and talks of killing himself. He asks why he could not save his friend if he was so powerful. Why is the human life so fragile? Why did his power not help his friend? How is it that the old sage Ziusudra can get immortality?  He travels to deep waters of the Apsu in search of the sage to ask him these questions.

Trade Links with Mesopotamia:  Our ancient scriptures tell us of the story of Sage Vasishta travelling to the thousand-pillared temple of Varuna in Susa, the capital of Elam by ships. He lives on the southern slopes of Mount Arbuda (present carnelianday Mount Abu) in Bharata. Vasishta’s ashram is destroyed in a massive earthquake, which flattens the top of the mountains.
Experts agree that the Harappan ships sailed up the gulf to Sumer during the height of the mature phase in 2600 to 2300 BCE with Dilmun (Bahrain) and Magan (Oman) as intermediary ports. Later, as the two civilisations started to decline, the intermediary ports of Magan and Dilmun became terminals. The Harappans ships brought grains, copper, Silver, Gold, semi-precious stones such as Carnelian, Lapis Lazuli, Agate and took mainly woollen material and probably silver from Sumeria. There are trading mapreferences to a Magillu boat (typical Harappan boat) harappan boat1in Sumerian cuneiform tablets including the epic tablets. Later, during the Akkadian period, there is record of meluhhan boats docking in Mesopotamian ports. Sargon claims in one of the tablets that meluhhan ships docked in his port under his power! The cuneiform texts talk of King Gudea buying shiploads of Meluhhan wood to build the temple at Lagash. Several Harappans seals have been found in Mesopotamian sites as well as in Bahrain and Oman. Very few typical cylindrical seals of Mesopotamia have been found at some Harappan sites.

A meluhhan seal found in Lagash – meluhhan seal lagash

The story of The Fall of Shuruppak has used all the available evidence both, archaeological and literary, to link the stories of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Harappan maritime trade to weave a story of action, romance, suspense and pathos.

In the words of the great sage Vasishta –
“….the most lasting achievements of a ruler are not buildings, walls or temples;
Since they can be swept away and turned into ruins and fields; and not power
Since the gods control all destiny,  But knowledge and humility …”

Alchemy Experience:  The story of the hero of the book has been dealt with expertise, experience and dignity by the publishing team at the Alchemy India.  I have to thank several people in the editorial team who painstakingly went through the manuscript to ease out the mistakes and trim the manuscript to a manageable size and bring out an excellent result.

Cover imageFinal Cover1



  1. A New approach to tracking connections between the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia: initial results of strontium isotope analyses from Harappa and Ur.  J. Mark Kenoyer a, T. Douglas Price b, James H. Burton. Journal of Archeaological Science, 2013 (2286-2297).
  1. Vedic Irina and the Rann of Kutch, R N Iyengar, B P Radhakrishna, S S Mishra. Puratattva38 (170-180)
  2. The Lothal Revisitation Project; A fine thread connecting ancient India to contemporary Ravenn (via Oman); Dennys Frenez, TOSI Vol. 2014, BAR International Series. (pp 263-273).
  3. Wheeled vehicles of Indus Valley Civilisation of India and Pakistan. J M Kenoyer, University of Wisconsin, 2004.
  4. Growing in a foreign world. For a history of “Meluhha villages” in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BC.  Massimo Vidale, The Melammu Project. 2004. (261-280).
  5. From Sumer to Meluhha. J M Kenoyer, Wisconsin Archeaological Reports, 1994.
  6. The First Civilisations in Contact: Mesopotamia and the Indus. Jane McKintosh. University of Cambridge, 2014.
  7. Shu Ilishu’s cylinder seal: Gregory L Possel, Museum of Penn, Expediton, Vol 1;42-43.