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Pre-Islamic history of West Asia


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Pre-Islamic history of West Asia

Manju Gupta

Once Upon a Time by Sudhakar Raje, Babasaheb Apte Samarak Samiti, 180 pp, Rs 100.00

Sudhakar Raje with painstaking effort has culled into some 200 pages the pre-Islamic Hindu history of the non-Muslim West Asia. He begins his book by saying that "icons, temples and scriptures (along with the language in which they are written) are evident, recognisable relics of the imprint Hindu influence has left on the world." Quoting Anwar Shaikh, a Pakistani Muslim scholar who, referring to Manu Smriti, has said, "Here is a Vedic law which clearly shows Vedic influence on the Middle Eastern culture and the Reformation that took place in Europe," the author says that the most modern imprint is that of the amazing progress of ancient Hindus who achieved in the sciences ranging from mathematics to medicine, from astronomy to engineering."

The book starts with Hindu influence in the hoary past in south- eastern Turkey at Nevali Cori. Prof. Herald Hauptmann of Germany, through excava-tion had come across "well planned massive structures, almost competing in finesse with the imposing architecture of the Assyrians who lived in the region thousands of year later. They are erected in staight lines and at right angles, like villas, with stone blocks. . . There was also an ancient form of air-condition-ing in each building. This was achieved though gaps in the floor, below which water from a stream in the region could be made to flow."

In Baluchistan is an island called Satadwipa where a Kali temple has been found and so is another temple of Mahadeva. This north-western region was a bustling centre of international trade during the heydays of the Indus Valley civilisation.

Archaeological research has resulted in discovery of protohistoric sites in Afghanistan that prove its close religio-cultural affinity with Hindu India. The author shows how references to Afghansitan, its rivers and towns are found in Rig Veda and that Ghazni had Hindu origin. What makes for moving reading is the reference to the two world-famous colossal statues of Buddha at Bamiyan, 53 and 35 metres tall, carved out of cliffs - "the remains that no longer remain" - thanks to the Taliban vandals who indulged in this wanton act because Islam required them to be butshikan (idol breakers).

The Iranian connection with Vedic India is traced back to the Rig Veda. The author quotes from Collecting the pebles Hibermicus written by Sir William Jones, "It has been proved by clear evidence and plain reasoning that a powerful monarchy was established in Iran long before the Assyrian or Pishdadi government, that it was truly a Hindu monarchy... that it subsisted many centuries, and that its history has been ingrafted on that of the Hindus who founded the monarchies of Ayodhya and Indraprastha."

Talking about the land between the two rivers - the Euphrates and Tigris, the author says ancient artefacts found in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) point to the link with Vedic Hindus. Seals found in Sumeria of Mesopotamia are similar to those found at Mohenjodaro.

Even Syria is said to have a Hindu past, so much so that it derived its name from Surya or Sun.

Arabia, the homeland of Islam has a long and rich Hindu pre-history. Arabia stands for Arabastan which is a distortion of Sanskrit name Asvasthan meaning the land of horses. He explains how Guru Nanak even said that Kaba (in Mecca) was a Shiva temple. Hind was a popular name among pre-Islamic Arabs. One of Mohammed's wives was named Hind.Discussing Egypt's Hindu heritage, the author says that hieroglyphs of Middle East and Indus Valley civilisations were similar, and has quoted French historian, who has said that "Egyptians of those times considered that Osiris had originally come from India, the land of Shiva."

The author through his book has succeeded in presenting a review of the pre-Islamic past a what is now known as the West Asia, broadly tracing the near-westward spread of Hindu religion, culture and civilisation in ancient times. "The pre-Islamic Hindu history of the non-Muslim West Asia appears to have begun at least 9,000 years ago and it continued literally for millenniums, at last coming to an end on the day Mohammad inaugurated Islam, with the destruction of the Hindu shrine of Kaba."

The author has aptly concluded his book by quoting Arnold Toynbee who had said, "It has already become clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have an Indian ending. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation for makind is the Indian way."

(Babasaheb Apte Samarak Samiti, 7 Madhusudan, Playground Road, Vile Parle (E), Mumbai-400 057.)

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Pre-Hindu history of South Asia…..?

Interesting, I was watching a documentary a few weeks ago, where the presenter, witnessed an ancient Brahman ritual (in south India), where prayers that have only ever been passed down through oral tradition) were recited, apparently the 1st time this has ever been filmed, and the Brahmans burned down all evidence of the gathering once the ritual had finished.

The prayers were found to be in an incomprehensible language, not even resembling Sanskrit.

Upon further research, it was found the chanting was actually the repition of wild animal noises (various birds etc), and this tradition/chanting still exits in certain African tribal communities.

They also checked the DNA of some of the locals and found it matched native African DNA.

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This topic is hilarious, much like others which seek to prove Guru Nanak and the Khalsa were predicted in the Vedas and even those that choose labels such as Islamic Mathematics or Islamic Science, particularly Evanlegical Physicists, why people can't work on their religions for themselves beats me, but the need to justify their insecurities against other faiths or secularism is nothing but a joke!

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  • 4 weeks later...

The Shiva Temple reference is made in the Bhai Mani Singh Janamsakhi. The same janamsakhi that Javanmard/singho used to justify the fact that in their view Guru Nanak supported the Shias against the Sunnis. The Janamsakhi relates that the Mujawars or custodians do not enter the Kaba unless they are blindfolded because they will go blind if they see the Shivling that is installed there. There is also an interesting story that Mohammed has not achieved Mukti and has to be born into the family of a Hindu in order to achieve it. This sakhi just shows that ideas about the superiority of the Indic over the semitic and the belief that much of the middle east was heavily influenced by Hindu ideas and beliefs is not a new thing. It certainly predates the RSS and Arya Samaj as the Bhai Mani Singh Janamsakhi is an 18th century work.

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Certain scholars view the Gyanratnavali (Bhai Mani Singh Janamsakhi) being influenced by Bala and Vilayatwali janamsakhis, although it doesn’t mention the character of Bala until the Udasi to the north, which interestingly is commonly cited in arguments for the non-existence of Bala, rather than what the janamsakhi appears to indicate (i.e. Bala only accompanied Guru Nanak in his latter travels).

It also asserted that this janamsakhi bases its commentary on the visit to Mecca on “Macce di Gosht†(aka “Paknamaâ€) by Rukn-ud-Din, text considered to be written after the Vilayatwali, Miharban and Bala janamsakhis.

It is interesting to note that this is the only janansakhi to relate in extensive detail that visit of Guru Nanak to Mecca-Medina and in addition to the assertion concerning the Shivling presence at Mecca as highlighted by Tony above, it also claims that the Islamic revulsion for pork arises because of God’s incarnation as “Varah†avtar.

Unsurprisingly, some scholars dispute the authorship of this text, attributing it to someone within Bhai Mani Singh’s congregation. As with other historical texts, many stories have subsequently been propagated by latter texts such as Gur Bilas Patshahi 6 which claims that it is based upon a katha that Bhai Mani Singh relayed to Bhai Bhagat Singh.

In view of the discussion thus far on this thread however, I would point out the following as my 2 cents:

- The comments provided by Tony would appear valid with regard to the use of this text by JM, however it does not necessarily negate their comments concerning the historical attitudes towards Shias compared to Sunnis, as whoever the author of the janamsakhi, it clearly presents at the very least an account of certain prevalent thoughts within the then contemporary community.

- Over and above this, as per T Singh’s comments from several months back concerning JM’s assertion, the above begins to highlight (admittedly at a high level) the scholarly issues prevalent with making conclusions from such heavy reliance on a single janamsakhi.

- Finally, for what it’s worth, I would like to clarify that JM and Singho are separate individuals and not the same person with different user IDs as this continued assertion is beginning to cloud discussions which I personally as a avid reader would rather not happen, since the arguments from both sides are interesting to read, however risk becoming more focused with personalities rather than the subject matter.

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Thanks for that info Tony. It goes to show that not all unorthodox challenges to "established" history are recent facist inventions, and they may be deemed worthy of further investigation.

It certainly throws many recent revised theories on this forum out the water largely based on contradictory reliance on one source.

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The Janamsakhi actually makes an erroneous assertion about the Shia-Sunni in that it makes the Shias ask Guru Nanak "who is better, Mohammed or Ali?" Whereas there is no real split over these two personalties but between Aisha/Umar/Abu Bakr on the one side and Ali on the other. JM did not highlight this fact as it would have negated the knowledge of the writer of the Janamsakhi on Shia and Sunni beliefs and thus hardly an authority on how the Guru treated both of these sects.

The Bhai Mani Singh Janamsakhi being as it is the product of the times of the Khalsa struggle with the Muslims, it certainly could have been attempt to take advantage of the Sunni-Shia split and at least to pander to the Shia obsession with Ali by making the Guru narate a Sakhi where it is said that Ali was the guardian of Heaven in the shape of a lion.

On the superiority of the Indic over the semitic, it was noted by most travellers that the inhabitants of India believed that their land/culture/religion was superior to any other and certainly better than the semitic and thus their allusion to all things semitic as Malesh.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think the Shia issues that are discussed on the forums will be one of the legacies of our friend Bahadur. Bahadur went looking into Sikh texts for mention of Shias or Ali or anything that he could then remotely claim to be a validation by the Gurus for his obsession with Ali and Shi'ism. There is very little he could latch on to but the Bhai Mani Singh Janamsakhi was one of the texts which he could manipulate to suit his own beliefs. He also made a number of unsubstantiated statements such as Shias were with Baba Deep Singh and attempted to save Harmandir Sahib from Abdali. His claim that Pir Budhu Shah was a Shia is also unsubstantiated.

To the Sikhs of the Gurus time, there was very little difference between the Shia and the Sunni. The earlier Janamsakhi make very little mention of Shia and lump them with other Muslims. The division was more pronounced when it came to Sufi and other Muslims. Although this is not to say that Sufis always had good relations with Sikhs, one of the Sufis actually sent letters saying how happy he was that Guru Arjan Dev had been martyred.

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