Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ancient world history in Indian scriptures - Historical events

This is the third (last) part of an essay on depiction of world and Indian histories in the famous Hindi writer Acharya Chatur Sen’s book Vayam Rakshamah. The first part of this essay introduced the figure of Chatur Sen and his works. The second part of the essay explained the broad context of Chatur Sen’s writings.

All the descriptions given here are from Acharya Sen's work, based upon decades of studies of ancient Hindu sacred books.

Knowledge of the world in ancient India

Ancient people living in different parts of the world had knowledge of different groups of persons living in different parts of the world, and had visits and communications among them, according to Sen. Some of the geographical areas mentioned in the book and their old Indian names in ancient Hindu sacred books are as follows:

Jambu dweep: Mainland Asia
Ang dweep: Sumatra
Java: Yav dweep
Malay dweep: Malaysia
Shankh dweep: Borneo
Kush dweep: Africa mainland
Varaha dweep: Madagascar
Swarn dweep: Sri Lanka
Andhralay: Australia
Kolavarah or Ketumaal dweep: Norway
Aryaviryan: Azerbaijan

Names of different locations according to Hindu scriptures

Origin of Clans that peopled India

According to Sen, the stories of different clans that later peopled India cover the geographical areas that start from northern India in the east and goes up to Gulf of Persia and the coast of Caspian sea in the west. In fact all the important clans that peopled India and many other countries started somewhere near Caspian sea around 4 to 5 thousand BC. This same area, that is today constituted by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Persia, called Elam or Elavrat in ancient Hindu texts, continued to be important for the forefathers of the future Indians for about 1500-2000 years, that means till about 3000 BC. Even after this period, till today, the memories of those initial millenniums in Elam continue to be central in Hindu mythologies.

Many different clans of people who later grew as very different people, originated from the same groups of persons near the Caspian coast. Thus the three most important bloodlines that peopled India – Dev, Danav and Daitya, originated from the same family. Dev clans contributed to the Suryavanshi line of Aryans and Daitya clans contributed to the Chandravanshi line of Aryans. For the initial thousand or more years, there was constant inter-mixing between these three bloodlines, but later wars separated Dev group of people from the other two, who were jointly called “Asur” group of people.

There were other groups of people such as Garud and Naag near the Caspian coast and Pichash, Gandharav and Kinnar, in the northern part of mountainous India.

Original families near the Caspian coast and the first waves of emigration towards India

The story starts some where around 4 to 5 thousand years BC, at the beginning of Satyug, on the south coast of Caspian sea, the family of Swayambhu Manu. Manu had two sons, Priyavrata and Utanpaad. That land was divided into four areas – Sugd, Maru, Varvadhi and Nisha. Later on Harayu (Heart) and Vakrit (Kabul) also joined the western areas.

About 4000 years BC, Nabhi, grandson of Priyavrata moved east towards the area of Sapt Sandhu. Bharat, grandson of Nabhi, gave the name Bharat Varsh to that land. Descendents of Utanpaad also moved east towards Saptsandhu and later on, became the kings of this area, taking over from the descendents of Priyavrata.

Reverse emigration, back from Sapta Sindhu towards the Caspian sea

In a few generations, the families that had moved east lost contact with the families in the west. In any case, even in the west, families from the same forefathers, were fighting with each other for power and domination. Thus, children of Chakshuk Manu, a descendent of Uttanpaad line of family, with a kingdom in Sapt Sandhu, decided to go to the west and attack the kingdoms there. Five sons of Chakshak Manu - Atyarati, Jananpati, Manyu (Abhimanyu), Ur, Pur and Taporat, took part in the battle expedition to the west. One of the sons of Ur, called Angira, accompanied his father in the war. This expedition had success and they established kingdoms in different parts of the western lands.

Thus elder sons, Atyarati and Janapati settled in the central part. Ancient Persian history speaks of Manu as Manyu, while Greeks called him Maimnen. He built the city of Manyupuri or Susha. Ur dominated parts of Africa, Syria and Babylonia. Pur settled south of Caspian sea and gave his name to Persia. Taporat settled in Taporia region (Manjadiran). Angira went off in Africa.

Alborz mountain in Taporia region was considered as paradise. On the mountain lived Tapsi Vikuntha and his son Vaikuntha, and thus the area was known as Vaikunthadham in ancient Indian texts. The attack of the five brothers wreaked wide-spread destruction and the event is recorded in ancient Persian history as “destruction of paradise” and the five brothers were called Aahirman or Shaitan.

The big floods in the paradise

A few centuries later, about 3,200 BC, the big rivers in ancient Persia had huge floods, probably after the eruption of a volcano in the western coast of Caspian sea, near the city of Baku.

All the western part of Persia, and parts of Babylonia were submerged in water. Palestine, that is 6000 feet above sea level was also submerged. Only the high mountains reaching up to 18,000 feet were not submerged. These floods have been recorded in almost all the different ancient texts.

Accounts of Manu being saved by a Matasya (fish) in the ancient Hindu text Matasya-Puran, probably refer to saving of Dev clan persons by fishermen from the Caspian sea coast area.

Daughters of Daksha and their children

Shortly after the floods, important new clans were born that will have important impact on the whole region, from Africa in the west to India in the east. These clans came from the daughters of Daksha, from the clan of Swayambhu Manu.

Aditi, one the daughters of Daksha gave birth to 12 sons. Varun, the eldest son, established the Sumerian clan in Susha. In the lands laid dead by the floods, he built canals for draining the water and flattened the earth, making it fit for agriculture. All these works gave Varun the name of life giver or Brahma, as well as the lord of water. Varun's children took the name of Dev clan. They gave the name Ksheersagar to the bay to the south of their land (Bay of Persia).

Children of Vivaswan Surya, the youngest son of Aditi, established the Suryavanshi clan of Aryans, who occupied north India. Vivaswan Surya married Renu from the family of Bhrigu, son of his eldest brother Varun. Surya and Renu had five children - Vaivasvat manu, twins Yam and Yami, then, another pair of twins, Nasatya and Dasr (also known as Ashwini Kumars).

Growing up, Yam went to his uncle Varun, who made him king of land called Aavivard or Dozakh or Nark, a land that had been completely destroyed by the floods and thus, known as the "land of dead".

Other children of Aditi, such as Vasu, Maru, Bhanu. Ghosh, Sandhya, etc. gave rise to other clans. Rudra, an important figure in Hindu mythology in this line was born in the family of Vasu.

Another daughter of Daksha, Diti, gave birth to Daitya clan. A third daughter, Danu, gave rise to Danav clan. The society was matrilineal, that means only mothers name was important.

Initially all the clans were inter-marrying. But as time passed, the fights among different clans started, called Devasur wars.

Indra, born at the Caspian coast, slowly became friends with Varun and Dev clan. It was the time when writing of first Ved (Rigved) was starting. Varun's son Vashisht made some of the Richa (poems) for it. Indra asked his friend Narad, step brother of Vashista to make some richa about him. Later on other persons in the clans, when they heard the richa about Indra, asked for some richa in their names.

Chandra from the family of Bhrigu, fell in love with Tara, wife of Brihaspati, a priest of Dev clan and ran away with her. Brihaspati with help of other clans declared war on Dev clan, and Devs lost the war. Tara was sent back to Brihaspati, but she was pregnant with Chandra's son. When the child, Budh was born, Brihaspati refused to keep him and he was sent back to Chandra.

Migration of Aryas to India and attack on Sat Sindhu

Vaisvat Manu (eldest son of Vivaswan Surya) and Chandra, both decided to emigrate to the east, and together constituted the two main Arya clans in north India. Vaisvat Manu settled near Saryu river and started the suryavanshi clan of Aryans, while Chandra settled near the meeting place of the two rivers, Ganga and Yamuna and started the Chandravanshi clan of Aryans.

Some time later, Indra attacked Vritra, the king of Saptsandhu area from the Daitya clan. Though Vritra had good relationships with Dev clan, Dev clans chose not to interfere in Indra's attack. Vritra was killed by Indra, that led to the destruction of the major cities of Sapt Sindhu (the ruins of Harappa and Mohan Jo'daro).

A few centuries later, the main clans ruling in the western part in Elavrat, gradually became less important and were mixed up with other population groups.


This is just a simplified summary of Acharya Chatur Sen's theory of early settlements in ancient world and in ancient India, where waves of people came in from the west, spreading not just in India, but also inhabiting Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia on the east and Africa on the west. According to him, the different population groups such as Daitya, Danav, Naag, Kinoor, etc. all came from the same original families and separated after an initial period of inter-mixing lasting some millenniums.

Book cover Vayam Rakshamah

Sen's history has three key events linked to India's inhabitation.

(1) The first settling of Sapt Sindhu, around 4,000 years BC and then, after some generations, return of some of these people back to west to the Caspian sea.
(2) The second is settling of Aryavrata in north India by Surya and Chandra clans around another 1000 years later.
(3) Some time later, there was the attack of people from the west on the kingdoms of Sapt Sindhu.

In Vayam Rakshamah, Sen also looks at the development of different clans of kings living in India, in Aryavrat and in the south in Dandkaranya and Dakshinaranya, that I have ignored in this article. For people interested in understanding more of Chatur Sen's theory of early settlements of people in what we know as India and middle east, read Vayam Rakshamah. It may not be a very interesting work of fiction, as far as the story of Polsatya Ravaan, but it does make for an interesting, if a little confused study on early Indian history according to the ancient Hindu books.


End of part 3. The first part of this essay introduced the figure of Chatur Sen and his works. The second part of the essay explained the broad context of Chatur Sen’s writings.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ancient World history in Indian Scriptures - Context

This is part 2 of an article in three parts, about the ancient world and Indian history in ancient Hindu sacred books, based on the works of eminent Hindi writer, Acharya Chatur Sen. Part one of this article introduced the writings of Sen. This second part examines the context of writings by Sen. The third part presents the events described by Chatur Sen in his book, Vayam Rakshamah.

All writers need to do research, when they are writing about something with which they are not familiar. Thus, for all historical novels, writers need to research that particular historical period. Probably Acharya Chatur Sen started his research when he decided to write about "Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu", or perhaps the research was started for some other book, and then it led to writing of this book.

If there was ten years of research in the ancient Hindu sacred books, you don't really see it in "Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu", because the book is true to its fiction form. The result of the long studies is reflected in the background and characterization, but it is not flaunted.

Six years later, in 1955, when "Vayam Rakshamah" came out, the situation had changed. The book is presented as historical fiction about the life of Raavan, son of an Aryan, Polsatya muni, and a Daitya girl. Yet, after the initial chapters, the book forgets about Raavan and starts with other stories about origins of different clans and their movements in different parts of the world. Entire chapters are devoted to explanations that have nothing to do with Raavan's story. In that sense, the historical research is not just for bringing authenticity to a historical novel, but is an integral part of the narrative, making it a mix of fiction and non-fiction. I can't say if it was because the writer was not able to control himself or it was a deliberate attempt to mix what he perceived as "real history" with the fiction of the story, so that it is read by larger number of persons?

In fact, while reading Vayam Rakshamah, at times I was feeling a little disoriented at the sudden intrusion of long descriptions of different clans and who married whom, etc. Sen tries to explain the history of world, how ancient people spread out from central Asia to Indonesia, Australia, Norway and central America. Another proof of this mixture between historical research and fiction writing is the publication of the companion volume with explanations about the research, something unknown in fiction world of Hindi literature.

Sen did not limit himself to study of ancient Hindu books, but also looked at historical and archaeological publications of his time. In Vayam Rakshamah, he mentions about the findings and theories of eminent archaeologists and historians of his time like Dr D. Tera, Dr. Frankfort, D. Morgan, Dr. Landon, Sir John Marshall. Then he writes:
Now I am daring to contradict the theories of these archaeologists. I want to take the places described by these western experts such as Susha, Elam, Saptasindhu, Pralay and their descriptions of different groups of people living there, together I also want to take more disorderly descriptions in ancient books like Rigved, Brahman, Vishnu-Puran, Matasay-Puran, etc. Then on the basis of these considerations, I want to make some foggy word-pictures of pre-vedic times. I will describe these people who were living in those times, friendly or warring, their names, habitates and Jaati, as given in our Puran but that also find an echo in ancient histories of Persia, Arab, Africa, Misr (Egypt) and central Asia.
He links ancient Indian mythological stories such as that of Narsimha, Hiranyakashyap and Prahalad to the archaeological findings in Assyrians, that also talk of Narsimha, as shown in some images of engraved panels from Assyrian culture in the British Museum of London:

Assyrian engravings

Assyrian engravings

Assyrian engravings

Some clarifications
Before proceeding to the descriptions of Sen's world history, it is necessary to make some clarifications. Acharya Chatur Sen was not a scientist or a historian, and the history he presents in Vayam Rakshamah has its share of contradictions, specially in terms of names of people and the timeline of when the events happened. This may be because the sources of his information are themselves contradictory.

Another problem is caused by persons of same name, who are apparently alive after events that must have taken centuries to unfold. This could be because they are using clan names, where same name continues though it refers to different persons.

Understanding the relationships between people is very difficult and Sen explains this a result of possibility of getting married or having children among different family members, including sons with their mothers or brothers with sisters. For example, Varun, the eldest son of Aditi is both, Surya's elder brother as well as his uncle (father's elder brother). The initial societies are described as matrilineal.

Timeline itself is a problem and Sen recognises it by saying that the times described in Puran are exaggerated hundreds or thousands of times. He has resolved this issue by estimating the time of events described in different Puran during the first six generations of Manvanter (children of Manu, who had some kind of leadership role), and using that as a yardstick for calculating times of all other events. In this way, the period of what ancient Hindu books call "Satyug", is about 1300 years.

Sen has given names of different places that he talks about, asserting that similar names still exist in those regions but through Google map, I was unable to find those places. For example, Atri river in Aryaviryan (Azerbaijan) near Kashyap sea (Caspian sea) described by Sen is supposed to have given the name Atraman to that region, but I couldn't find any such river or place in Azerbaijan. This could be because Sen is taking names from Arabic or Persian sources while the names in English or other local languages of these countries may be different.

In the book Sen presents all the characters as ordinary living beings, though many of them are today known as religious characters or gods in Hindu mythologies such as Varun, Brahma, Vishnu, Indra, Narad, etc. Basing himself on ancient descriptions in the Hindu sacred literature, some of his characters seem to be in contradiction with their present images. For example, Indra and to a lesser degree, Vishnu, are both presented as clever and ruthless persons, who are willing to adopt any means to gain power and wealth. This could have another reason, why Sen was worried that some persons may not like his depiction of Hinduism in this book.

One final point about calling the texts consulted by Acharya Chatur Sen as "ancient Hindu texts". This is because these are part of Puran, Brahman, Upanishad and Ved, etc. the texts safeguarded by Hindu Brahmin traditions, though they actually talk of periods centuries before the establishment of "Hindu" traditions, in much later Aryan and Anaryan people in what came to be called Bharat Varsh.

He locates the origin of different groups of persons living in India to the region south of Kashyap sagar (Caspian sea), where he identifies geographical places that are part of Hindu mythology such as Ksheersagar and Vaikunthdham. He also explains the ruins of Harappa and Mohan Jo'daro as ruins from attacks of Indra on the kingdom of Vritra. The images below showing the seals from Harappa and Mohan Jo'daro are from British Museum in London:

Indus valley seals

With this background, now we are ready to move into the actual, though grossly simplified, descriptions of the world history and more specifically Indian history in Acharya Chatur Sen’s writings.


 End of part 2 - Part one of this article introduced the writings of Sen.  The third part presents the events described by Chatur Sen in his book, Vayam Rakshamah.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ancient world history in Indian scriptures - Introduction

This is first part of an article in 3 parts on ancient World History and Indian history. It looks at the ancient history of world and India, given in Hindu sacred books including Veda, Puran and Brahman stories, based upon the works of an eminent Hindi writer, Acharya Chatur Sen (1891-1960). Part 2 explains the context of writings by Sen, while part 3 presents the main ideas of world history in Sen's work.

Introduction to some works of Acharya Chatur Sen

Acharya Chatur Sen, a trained Ayurvedic doctor, was a prolific Hindi writer and published 186 books including 32 novels, more than 450 short stories, and many non-fiction books on themes as diverse as politics, history and Ayurveda. Apart from a strong interest in ancient Hindu sacred books, he also wrote about history of Islam in India.

Acharya Chatur Sen, eminent Hindi writer

I have read two of his works related to ancient India -

(a) Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu (वैशाली की नगरवधु, The courtesan of Vaishali, first published in 1949 by J. S. Sant Singh and Sons Delhi for Hindi Vishwabharati) about a courtesan called Ambapali during the time of Gautama Buddha, a few centuries before Jesus.

(b) Vayam Rakshamah (वयं रक्षामः, We are Raksha, first published in 1955; from the edition published by Rajpal and Sons, Delhi 2009) about Raavan, the mythological king from Ramayana.

Each of these books carries a long list of ancient texts that were consulted by Chatur Sen for writing that book. Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu, the first book in this series, was dedicated to Jawaharlal Nehru and in preface of this book Chatur Sen had explained that though a work of fiction, the book was attempt to remove the "black curtain that has hidden the defeat of religion, literature, royal governance and culture of Aryas, and the win of progressive cultures of mixed races, during thousands of years, that have not been tackled by historians." He had also explained that writing that book had taken "ten years of research in the cultures of Aryas, Boddh, Jain and Hindus".
dedication to Nehru, Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu, Chatur Sen
By the time, "Vayam Rakshamah" came out in 1955, Chatur Sen was 63 years old and not keeping very well. In the dramatic preface of this book, Sen declared that "he had put in all the learnings and knowledge, both emotional from his heart and logical, from his brain, into writing this book and he had no more left to contribute." About his own mental condition he had written, that like horses, bulls and donkeys, who can die while pulling heavy burdens, he might also die because of burden of writing this book."

At that time, he was also worried that his depiction of ancient history of Aryas and other races may not be accepted easily as it touched on areas that can be seen as obscene. At the same time, he felt that he had to speak the truth as he had understood it from the studies of the ancient Hindu books:
In this book, I have presented the forgotten word-pictures of different human clans such as Nar, Naag, Dev, Daitya, Danav, Arya, Anarya, etc. from pre-vedic times, who had been seen through the coloured lenses of religion and mythologised into gods of the heavens. I have the courage to present them as human beings. "Vayam Rakshamah" is certainly a work of fiction, but at the same time it is the result of deep study of Ved, Puran, philosophy and foreign texts ... it the summary of my life's work.

Cover, Vayam Rakshamah, Chatur Sen
This book was accompanied by an accompanying explanatory book, to justify and reference whatever he had written in the book, with notes from different sources that Sen had studied.

Upinder Singh in "A history of ancient and early medieval India" (Dorling Kindersley India, 2008) had written, "History is not one but many stories, only a few of which have yet been written. ... there are two parallel images of ancient South Asia - one based on literary sources, the other on archeology." About the ancient texts, Singh wrote, "Ancient texts are much older than their surviving scripts, and have a life of their own. They have grown and changed over time, and this process of growth and change - the period of composition - could in some cases have lasted for hundred of years before they were compiled or given a more or less final shape."

The descriptions of ancient Indian and world histories, from analysis of ancient Indian texts, have been attempted many times, by scholars from different disciplines, from India and many other countries. Continuing archaeological excavations as well as new technologies such as satellite mapping imaging, have provided new corroborative evidences to the the different theories.

Still I think that it could be interesting to look at the conclusions about the ancient world events during prehistorical times, at which Acharya Chatur Sen had arrived through his decades long studies. I don't think that people have seriously taken a systematic look at the literary works of Indian authors writing in Hindi or other Indian languages, in terms of analysing their ideas and their implications.

This article is mainly based on the descriptions in Sen's book, "Vayam Rakshamah".

End of part one of a three parts article. Part 2 explains the context of writings by Chatur Sen, while part 3 presents the main ideas of world history in Chatur Sen's work.

Note: Special thanks to Sanjay Bengani and Sameer Lal for the image of Acharya Chatur Sen!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Progressive Muslims in Pakistan and India

As we approach the Republic day, the long article of Ramnath Guha in the new issue of Outlook makes for sombre reading about threats to "Idea of India" and the state of India's nationhood. Guha always makes for very interesting reading, and though he seems to end on an optimistic note, I don't know how India can find a solution before the damage to its social and enviornmental fibre won't be irriversible.

However, it was something in the two articles related to Muslims in India and Pakistan that caught my attention, and is the focus of this post's question.

Mariana Baabar, in her article "The Flickering Flame" on the fear in liberal Pakistani society following the assassination of Salman Taseer, has written:
This question has again become a subject of fervent debate from the time Punjab governor Salman Taseer was gunned down and the shocking feting of his assassin, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, who was outraged by his victim’s support for amending the blasphemy law. For someone to be killed for an opinion, an idea, has jolted Pakistanis into reflecting over their journey backward—from liberating progressivism to stifling conservatism. Recalls journalist Adnan Rehmat, “In the ’60s and ’70s, you could even eat at restaurants during Ramadan and see women in saris and bell-bottoms in the bazaars. Burqas and beards were a rare sight.” The socio-cultural transformation has prompted many Pakistanis to think of emigrating. This sentiment was articulated last week in the Dairy of a Social Butterfly, a popular satirical column of the Friday Times. The Butterfly’s husband, Janoo, tells her why they should quit the country, “Tomorrow, someone could pass a fatwa against you for not covering your head. And when a grinning bearded murderer guns you down, lawyers will come and shower him with rose petals.”
In another opinion article on the website of Outlook, Yoginder Sikand writes in "Beyond Sachar" about the role of Muslim religious and civil-political leaders in the state of Muslims in India, a role that he feels was not sufficiently explored in the Sachar report, and writes:
In the wake of Partition of India, a large section of the then Indian Muslim leadership, consisting mainly of the landed aristocracy as well as the middle class intelligentsia, particularly in north India, where the bulk of the Muslim population was concentrated, migrated to Pakistan. The Muslims who remained behind were largely poor and illiterate, the vast majority of who belonged to the so-called ajlaf, descendants of ‘low’ caste converts, whose economic, social and educational conditions had not changed appreciably despite their conversion to Islam. With their political influence, financial resources and access to new forms of knowledge, the landed aristocracy and, especially, the modern-educated intelligentsia could otherwise have been expected to play a key role in promoting internal social reform among the Muslims, as some of them indeed had in the years before Partition. But with their migration to Pakistan, this was rendered impossible. The leadership vacuum created by their departure was soon filled by a different class of men—mullahs, representing a variety of rival Muslim sects, educated in traditionalist madrasas. Many of them, particularly of the Deobandi variety, had been close allies of the Congress party. Today, the vast majority of Muslim organizations that claim to speak for Islam and for the entire Muslim community are led and dominated by mullahs belonging to various sectarian groups—the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, the All-India Milli Council, the two or more factions of the Jamiat ul-Ulema-e Hind, the Jamaat-e Islami, the Jamiat-e Ahl-e Hadith and so on.
Thus Sikand identifies, one of the reasons of the backwardness of Muslim leadership in India and its lack of sufficient social reforms, in the migration of more educated and liberals Muslims to Pakistan. Yet as Baabar's article points out, this did not help Pakistan to create a more reformed and progressive society. Why and how did that happen?

I feel that the problem could have been also in the decisions of the progressive and liberal Muslims to leave for Pakistan, because it underlined that their progressiveness and liberalism were less stronger than the idea that religion is more important in a society.

Once you choose religion over other human values, you lay the foundations of a society that is unable to rise above religion? What do you think?

Friday, January 7, 2011

A girl (drawing)

After a long long time, I finally made a drawing.

There was a time, when I made drawings regularly and even tried with computer art. Then for the past 6-7 years, I had stopped drawing anything.

It is in ink on paper and then scanned. It is not bad and I am happy that even after so many years, I have not completely lost the skill!

A girl, drawing by Sunil Deepak

OK, the belly button is probably inspired from Sheila ki Jawani, so what? BTW, what a stupid film is TMK, couldn't sit through it.

But do you like my drawing?
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