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.

 

 References:

 

  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 Battle of Ten Kings

The Battle of Ten Kings – Synopsis

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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.

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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.

Shankar

 

Who was Manu?

shankarkashyap

Was he the biblical Adam, the progenitor of all mankind as most ardent Hindus would have us believe?  Was he the original sage, a Noah or Utnapishtim of Hinduism, who escaped the great flood and saved the mankind? Was he the first king of kings who ruled the earth?  Was he the lawgiver, a Hammurabi or Shulgi or Moses of India?  As with most mythological figures there are numerous questions and equally numerous, albeit ambiguous answers.

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Vedic times were filled with hundreds of voluminous literary texts, starting with the Vedas of unknown age.  The ancient Vedic text of Shatapatha Bramhana gives a detailed story of the deluge and how Manu saves the mankind from extinction at the behest and the help of God Vishnu.  Manu was the King of antediluvian Dravida country of Kumari Kandam in the south.  He saves a fish from drowning in the River flowing down from…

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Hello world!

This is the Blog about the coming series of books based on Indus Valley Civilisation during the third millenium BCE!  The hero is a trainee physician from Harappa who befriends Shushun from Susa and a freespirited warrior, Parthava.  The three of them are involved in adventures in the fabled country of Bharata (also called Meluhha by the Sumerians) as well as in Sumer and Elam.

I have signed a publishing contract with Palimpsest Publishing House, New Delhi.  The first book of the series, Harappa:The Lure of Soma is with the editor, as we speak and should be ready for release soon.  Expected date of launch is scheduled for September/October 2013.  The second book of the series Harappa 2: The fall of Shuruppak will be released by the end of this year followed by the third book of the series – Harppa 3:The battle of ten kings in 2014.  A prelude to the series is being prepared and released at a later date.

A Non-fiction project title “India across the millennnia” is underway.  This is a definitive exposure of the Indian sub-continent from the ante-diluvian times to 21st century AD.  It is backed by extensive research into modern archaeological findings and literature.  It will have the latest information about the ancestry of the sub-continent and its progress.

The author has extensive knowledge of the major civilisations during the third millenium BCE – including the Indus/Saraswathi Valley, Sumerian/Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisations.