Radhashtami

Radha was born at noon on Sukla Paksha Ashtami of Bhadrapada month, i.e on the 8th day of the increasing phase of the moon in the month spanning across August – September, in present times.

This day falls 14 days after Krishna Janmashtami and is celebrated with much gaiety in the birthplace of Radha at Barsana and also all over Braj Bhumi as Radhashtami.

Of all the Gopis that Krishna used to play with, Radha was His favourite and Krishna was everything to Radha.

Concepts and Misconceptions on Radha

Some have explained Radha as a concept that denotes pure love and devotion. Various forms of art have depicted Krishna and Radha as a couple. Some stories tell us that Krishna married Radha.

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Some others describe Radha as a married woman, older to Krishna, who was enamoured by Krishna and sought Krishna’s company. Some have even gone to the extent of writing derogatorily that Radha was a concubine.

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 Radha and Krishna

In modern times too, Radha has been described by a few, even in learned circles, as a Gopi who had a live-in relationship with Krishna.

Radha and Krishna were together only in Vrindavan, before Krishna left for Mathura, never to return to Vrindavan ever again. Krishna then was less than twelve years old.

How could Krishna, a child who may not have attained puberty, not yet in his teens, have had a live-in relationship?

Such statements evidently show a deliberate suppression of real fact while blowing out of proportion an incorrect interpretation of the context and concept of Radha and Krishna relationship.

Such misconceptions could also have set in due to picturizations that show Krishna not as a 10 to 12 year old lad but instead as a young handsome man while in the company of Radha and the Gopi.

Comprehending the true essence of such picturizations, needs an indepth understanding of the meaning of “Radha”.

Meaning of Radha

Ra means to give, to yield. Dha means to leave, to let go, to wish to give, to wish to gain, to strive after, to fix mind upon. These two syllables when joined together as “Radha”, give a very interesting interpretation.

It is only when we “give in” and “let go of ourselves” with “our mind fixed upon” the truth, can “we gain” the realization of the true self within ourselves as well as the universal divinity. If we hold back, there is no gain.

The word Radha, aptly suggests that we give ourselves in, fully, to realize the divinity that encapsulates us and this whole universe, of which we are but a part.

Radha thus embodies the act of complete and unconditional surrender, which is also known as Sharanagathi, surrendering at the feet of the divine. Pure Bhakti, devotion, is when one unconditionally gives oneself unto the other.

Historical Radha

Radha has been accorded historical status by various accounts. Legends state that Radha, the Gopi, was already a married woman when she met Krishna.

The husband of Radha was a senior trusted soldier in the army of Kamsa, the wily king of Mathura. Kamsa had deputed Radha’s husband to battle in the far ends of his kingdom. It is probably then that Radha spent her time with the local children, especially Krishna and participated in their playful deeds.

To misconstrue this association beyond this, from an immoral perspective, would be incorrect, given the facts of the story.

The birth place of Radha is Brahmasarin, which is now known by the name Barsana. This place is about 45 kilometers from Mathura. Radha’s husband’s name was Abhimanyu. Jatiladevi was her mother-in-law and Kutiladevi, her sister-in-law.

Radha’s father was Vrushabhanu and mother, Kirtida. These information are available in Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Padma Purana, Narada Purana and Garga Samhita.

More on Radha and Krishna in our book, “Historical Krishna-Vol 3 – Facets of Krishna”.

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Ayyankali – Birthday

Ayyankali birth

Leader of socially downtrodden

Ayyankali was one of the foremost leaders of the socially downtrodden community who fought for their rights. He undertook many reforms to end the injustice that this community was facing in the society then.

Birth

Ayyankali was born at Venganoor, the present day part of Trivandrum, Kerala in 1863. He was born in a family called Cheramar.

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Ayyankali

Discrimination against the socially downtrodden

At that time, the socially downtrodden were forbidden from walking freely on roads. They were not allowed to take part in normal activities of life as society considered them untouchable.

Fighting against untouchability

Ayyankali began his revolt against the evil of untouchability by bringing together the socially downtrodden to fight against these discriminatory practices in the society.

Meeting Guru

Ayyankali soon met his Guru Ayyavu Swami who was against the caste system. Ayyankali was inspired by his Guru to further spearhead his movement against social discriminations.

Fighting for Education

Fighting for the cause of education for the neglected socially downtrodden children who were not allowed to study in school, Ayyankali started a school at Venganoor for socially downtrodden children.

Raising demands for equal rights

Stepping up his voice for equal rights for the socially downtrodden, Ayyankali called for the boycott of agriculture and farming by the socially downtrodden until certain demand were met. These demands were:

  1. Right to Education for socially downtrodden children
  2. Allowing socially downtrodden to have tea in tea stalls
  3. Resting hours for labourers during their work
  4. Abolishing the in-kind wage system and bringing in cash system.

Inspite of being illiterate

It is noteworthy that Ayyankali carried out all these activities inspite of being an illiterate. It was his impeccable organizing skills that made this possible.

Support from Narayana Guru

As his efforts for bringing the socially downtrodden on an equal platform gathered steam, he received support from many prominent leaders. One of them who assisted Ayyankali in his endeavours on social reforms was Sri Narayana Guru.

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Narayana Guru

Efforts bearing fruits

Ayyankali’s efforts soon began to fructify. In the year 1900, socially downtrodden were allowed to travel freely on public places. In 1914, the educational restriction on the socially downtrodden children was lifted and they were allowed to join schools. The many social restriction on socially downtrodden women also disappeared as people began to accept the socially downtrodden into mainstream society.

Starting Sadhujana Paripalana Sangam

In 1907, Ayyankali started a new association called Sadhujana Paripalana Sangam for the cause of human rights and social justice. Many projects were undertaken by this association for economic and educational growth of the socially downtrodden.

Nominated to Assembly

Ayyankali was nominated to the Travancore assembly in the year 1910.

As a leader known for his great leadership qualities, Ayyankali continued to play a major role in the development of the socially downtrodden in the next three decades of his life.

Ayyankali passed away on June 18th, 1941.

After life Impact

Ayyankali had a great impact on various sections of the society even after his life time. In Kerala, he is considered on the same league as Sri Narayana Guru.

The government of India has released a stamp in his name.

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Legacy still stands tall

In 1980, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi unveiled a statue of Ayyankali in Trivandrum.

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Statue of Ayyankali, Trivandrum                             Indira Gandhi                                           

Just as his statue, the legacy of Ayyankali continues to stand tall among various sects of the society, especially the socially downtrodden community.

Dronacharya

On this day Dronacharya awards, which was instituted in 1985, are given away to those achievers in the field of sports.

Great Acharya

Dronacharya was the acharya, teacher of the Pandava and Kaurava.

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Dronacharya

Parasurama as Guru

He had Parasurama as his Guru, from whom he obtained all great weapons, as also the art of using them.Dronacharya soon became one of the foremost teachers in military strategies warfare of his times. He was called to train the royal princes of Hastinapura, the Pandava and Kaurava.

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Parasurama

Guru Grama

He had his teaching centre, between Indraprashtha and Kurusketra. This place through the ages was called Guru Grama, the village where the Guru had set up his training academy. Even in the times of Takshashila, this place was famous in warfare training. Later through times, the word grama was referred to a gaon. This place is today’s Gurugaon, in North India.

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Dronacharya training the royal princes

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Gurugaon

Dronacharya, etymology

How did this acharya get the name ‘Drona’?

Dronam means a pot and Dronar is the one born from a pot. He was called Drona as he was born from a pot, which in modern parlance, can be viewed as a test tube.

Test Tube baby?

Probably he was a test tube baby. His birth, in this land, is counted among those Vichitra Janana, extraordinary birth.

Dehradun, house of Drona

Dronacharya married Kripi, sister of Kripacharya, the royal preceptor of Hastinapura.

Dehradun, etymology

Dronacharya used to live with his wife near a cave in Dehradun, Uttarkhand. The word Dehra is derived from the word Griha, meaning house. Dun, Doon, Dron, refers to Drona, who lived here. Dehradun thus literally means, “the house of Drona”.

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Dehradun

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Dronacharya cave, also known as Tapkeshwar Cave

Tapkeshwar temple

At the cave, also known as Drona Gufa, is located the Tapkeshwar temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva.

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Idol of Tapkeshwar Mahadev Temple in a natural, Dehradun

Ashwathama

Horse voiced

Ashwathama was born to Drona and Kripi near this cave. When Ashwathama was born, he cried like an Ashwa, horse and so he was named Ashwathama, meaning horse voiced.

Chiranjivi, physically immortal

Ashwathama propitiated Lord Shiva and secured many powers, including the boon of Chiranjivi, immortality, from the Lord. It is believed that, Ashwathama lives even today.

In Kurukshetra battle

Dronacharya fought the Kurukshetra battle which commences 22nd Nov 3067 BCE. from the side of the Kaurava army headed by Duryodhana. He was made the commander-in-chief of the army after Bhishma was mortally wounded.

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Dronacharya as commander-in-chief of the Kaurava Army

Img courtesy: Wikipedia

Dronacharya was killed in this battle by Dhrishtadhyuma of the Pandava army.

Dronacharya Award

As he was a great teacher in the field of archery, the government of India, department of sports has instituted the sports award in the name of Dronacharya.

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Dronacharya Award

Even today, when the names of ancient acharya of this land are recalled, the name of Dronacharya is taken with reverence.

‘Micchami Dukkadam’

Paryusana Parva is a 10 day Jain festival normally observed in the month of August – September. The last day of this festival is observed as repentence day, the day of Micchami Dukkadam.

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Period after initial rains

It is during this period when after the initial spell of rains, small plants are sprouting all over the ground, and minute insects are busily moving around.

Ahimsa

The Jain tradition is known for its concept of Ahimsa. Thus, by staying in a place, the Jain Muni avoid trampling on these very small creatures, following the principle of Ahimsa.

A day of repentence

The 10th day of this period is a day of observance of repentance.  On the 10th day of this observance, the members of Jain community come together, repent for some of their misdemeanours and apologize for their harsh words to others. A noble practice that has been practiced thought the land, through the times.

‘Micchami Dukkadam’

The last day, the 10th day of Paryusa festival also coincides with the Churthi of Shukla Paksha in the month of Bhadrapad. It falls on the same day as Ganesh Chaturthi.

The Jains seek forgiveness from friends, family and all living creatures, with the phrase, “Micchami Dukkadam”, which is a Prakrit phrase, meaning “may all the evil that has been done be fruitless”.

This phrase is chanted with the request, Please forgive me for any harm I have done to you, intentionally or unintentionally.”

Celebrating Ganesha with Knowledge

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The festival Ganesha Chathurthi has arrived, the festival to invite the divinity Ganesha to our homes and bless our homes with prosperity and happiness.

Ganesha is a fun loving, dancing, frolicking divinity from the Indian pantheon. Ganesha has been symbolically and graphically illustrated and modelled in different forms, from riding on His vahana, vehicle, the mouse Mooshika, to the modern day figurines, showing Him speaking on the phone, typing on the computer etc. Interestingly, all these caricatures seem to suit Him well and only go to make Him dearer and more loveable.

Ganesha

Who is this Ganesha?

His name Ganesha, has two components, Gana plus Esha.

Esha means “the lord of”.

Gana stands for count, numbers, multitude. Which is why, the subject mathematics in the Indian knowledge system is known as “Ganitham”. The name Ganesha denotes Him to be the lord of multitudes and numbers and the faculty that is needed to count, deal with multitudes, is knowledge, intellect.

It is this intellect which can help man overcome obstacles as man’s obstacles primarily stem from his mind.

Ganesha is therefore also called Vigneshwara, the one who removes obstacles. And to channelize our mind, our thoughts and energies in the right direction to ensure successful completion of any task, we pray to Vigneshwara before we embark on any important activity, before all beginnings.

With this intellect to discern good from bad, knowledge and strength to overcome obstacles and act wisely and purposefully, it is but natural man will be endowed with prosperity. Hence Ganesha is also considered to usher in prosperity and good luck. And to embody the humility that should go with all these wealth and wisdom, He is also called Vinayaka or the humble, approachable one.

Such a concept of praying for mental strength, wisdom, prosperity and to ward off all obstacles before embarking on any important activity, is not unique to the Indian culture alone.

Janus and Ganesha

In ancient Rome too, the pre-Christian era had a divinity known as “Janus.

This Janus was a divinity who was propitiated to, during all beginnings. Images of Janus were also installed on doorways as a guardian. This  Janus had 2 faces, one to look at the past and one to look at the future.

Janus

 The God Janus

Janus and Ganesha both seem to be associated with two faces.

Ganesha had a human face before He got an elephant face. There are many interesting similarities between Janus and Ganesha including the aspect that phonetically their names are also similar. Janus is also a divinity associated with numbers, which is why, the first month of the calendar is named January after Janus.

Ganesha, Ganesha Everywhere

It is not only in Rome, but in different other parts of the world, that we find the knowledge, appreciation and reverence to the concept denoted by Ganesha.

We have sculptures of Ganesha in Central America, Persia, Afganisthan, China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia and in many other South-Eastern Asian islands.

Kangiten Ganesha

Kangiten Ganesha, Japan

Ganesha as warrior

Depiction of Ganesha as Warrior in Persia

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and forms the major part of the south eastern archipelago. The currency, the Rupiah note of Indonesia too, has an image of Ganesha, depicting him as a divinity for numbers and knowledge.

Indonesian currency

From this example, we can see that the concept of Ganesha was prevalent far and wide from faraway Central America to Europe to Asia, more than 2500 years back itself.

This commonality and the prevalence of the concept of Ganesha across the world, brings to our attention that Ganesha is not just a Hindu divinity in the limited sense, but a divinity of knowledge and numbers, not just of India but of the multitudes across the world.

On this Ganesh Chathurthi, let us repledge ourselves to bring forth this knowledge so that, we can unite all the people of this world so that this world can once again grow as a knowledgeable society,  apart from just counting its monies, its luxuries and its several goodies.

Ganesha with all His multitude of forms, symbols and stories, is a concept, Tattva, epitomising the winning formula for a good mind, intellect, knowledge, strength and prosperity, which is the direction we all need to progress in.

 

Madras Day

A City’s Birthday

People celebrate their birthdays. Here, a city celebrates its birthday. The city of Madras was founded on August 22, 1639. This day is celebrated as Madras day.

Events

On this day, many events are held focusing on the history and cultural heritage of the city and Tamil land in general. Many groups, communities and companies come forward to organize events on culture, music, food, poetry, and talks, on the history of the city.

East India Company

Land from Raja of Chandragiri

On this day, the British East India Company, represented by Francis Day, purchased land from Raja of Chandragiri, near Tirupati, to build Fort Saint George on the Coromandel Coast.

 

Madras Day 1Francis Day                                     East India Company Logo               

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Chandragiri in India Map                                                Chandragiri fort

Dynasty of Padmavati Devi

It was a daughter of this Chandragiri dynasty, Padmavati Devi whom Lord Venkateswara married.

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Princess Padmavathi of Chandragiri dynasty

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Lord Venkateswara & Goddess Padmavathi

Why Francis Day chose this place?

Francis Day decided to set up their camp at the estuary of the Cooum River, probably because, his lady love, a Portuguese girl, was in the Portuguese settlement of Luz, which was around 5 kms down south, along the same beach.

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Cooum River

Luz – Light

‘Luz’ is a Portuguese word, meaning light. When the Portuguese were one evening, searching for a suitable spot in the Coromandel coast, they saw a ray of light on shore and decided to move their ship and set up their trading camp there.

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Coromandel Coast

This place is now remembered as Luz church.

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Luz Church

This beach between Fort Saint George and Luz is the famous Marina beach of Chennai.

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Marina Beach, Chennai

British Trade Post

This piece of land soon grew into a fledgling town, primarily a British trading post operating out of Fort Saint George.

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Fort Saint George

Chennaipatnam

The word Chennai comes from Chennaipatnam. The word patnam in Tamil means town.

Patron Divinities

The word chennai comes from the two patron divinities of this region, Chenna Malleswara and Chenna Kesava. The word Chenna itself finds more usage now in the Kannada language, meaning good, that which augurs well. This shows how people, language intermingled and were composite, even few centuries back.

Similarly, we have the word Vishakapatnam in northeast, with the word patnam, meaning town.

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Vishakapatnam

Madras – Madrassa – Thousand lights

The name Madras could well have come from a madarasa, a school of Islam that was then situated at a place now known as thousand lights. It was then called Airyam Vilaka, for, Madarrasa was well lit, every evening, with thousand glistening lamps.

Birthplace of Indian Army

In 1746, there was a war in the outskirts of Madras called the Adyar War. It was fought between the French commanders who had thousand soldiers on his side against the local Nawab who has a 10,000 strong army. The local Nawab was routed at the Adyar Estuary. The handful of British who were present there were bystanders during the war.

Major stringer Lawrence who was present then collected all the local soldiers post this battle, made them into a fighting force and called them the Madras Army.

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Madras Army

Not of Recent Origin

While the British might have set up their colony here only in the year 1639, this place of Chennai has ancient antiquity.

Adi Shankara visits Chennai

Tiruvottiyur

2500 years ago, Adi Shankara visited the area around Chennai. When he came, he visited the Devi temple at Tiruvottiyur, which is today in North Chennai.

Madras Day 7Adi Shankara                                                 Tiruvottiyur Devi Temple

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Adi Shankara with his four disciples at Tiruvottiyur Devi Temple

Mangadu

He also visited the Devi temple at Mangadu. The word Mangadu means mango groove, Manga meaning mango and Kadu for forest.

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Mangadu Devi temple

Both these Devis at Tiruvottiyur and Mangadu were in their ugra, ferocious form. Adi Shankara through his penance made a sri yantra in front of both Devis, to bring down their ferocity and make this place habitable for the locals.

Alwars

Alwars who lived around 1500 years have visited Chennai. One of the Alwar, Bhoothath Alwar was born in west of Chennai.

Around Chennai, there are over a dozen temples that have poems sung by Alwars, called Pasuram in Tamil, when they visited these temples.

 

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The 12 Alwars

Nayanmars

Nayanmars who also lived around 1500 years ago, also visited the Chennai region.

Nayanmars, who are devotees of Shiva have visited many Shiva temples in this region.

Infact, one of the big festivals of Chennai, is the carrying of the 63 Nayanmars in palanquin, around the Kapileshwar temple and its tanks, annually, in the month of March.

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Kapileshwar Temple, Chennai

This festival is popularly known as Arvathi Muvar, named after 63 Nayanmar saints.

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Arvathi Muvar, 63 Nayanmars being carried in chappram, palanquin procession

Ancient Antiquity

The antiquity of this area having continuous habitation for the last 2500 years and more is available to us through poetry, archaeology and monuments.

Recent Antiquity

It is only the British component of Madras, which grew around Fort Saint George, which is of recent antiquity of 375 years.

Chatrapati Shivaji visits Chennai

Chatrapati Shivaji, in his conquest of the south, came upto Chennai. He prayed at the Kalika temple on 16 October, 1677.

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 Chatrapati Shivaji Plaque at the Kalikaamba temple

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Kalikamba Temple, Chennai

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 Shivaji statue found at Kalikambal temple gopuram

British paid honorariums to Shivaji

During this visit to Madras, the British sent him gifts, honorariums, which in the local language is called “Kappam”, twice within a month, to his camping site near the Kalikambal temple, which is to the west of Fort Saint George, which was then the entry point to Madras.

They did this as a good will gesture requesting him not attack their trading post saying that they were only peaceful traders.

Madras First

As the East India Company and the British rule of India slowly grew from Madras. Madras has many firsts to its credit.

·   First Allopathy Hospital in India

·   First Muncipal Corporation in India

·   First Centre of Technical Education In India

·   First English type school

·   First Astronomical Observatory

·   First native infantry regiment

·   Great Trignometrical Survey which measure the size of India, which survey incidently found the Mount Everest to be the tallest peak, started their first survey from Chennai

·   First Railway track for demonstration purpose was laid here

·   Madam Tussads wax museum famous now, was brought to Madras for display, before finally being housed in London.

Becoming a Major City

This town continued to grow over the centuries. Around this piece of land, has grown the modern city of Madras, known as Chennai today.

Madras Day is an occasion to remember the glorious heritage of this city that has evolved over millennia.

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Afghanistan Independence Day

Afghan Anglo Treaty

Afghanishtan Independence Day is the day the Anglo – Afghan treaty was signed giving complete independence to Afghanistan from British control. This settlement came forth after the third war between Britian and Afghanistan.

Three Wars

Britain and Afghanistan fought three wars.

First War

In the first war, between 1839 and 1842, the British forces were completely routed by Afghan forces. In this crushing defeat for the British, off the 16000 British soldiers who fought the battle, only one survived.

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 The Lone British survivor

Second War

In the second war, initially the British were on back foot, but came back strongly at the battle of Kandahar. After this there was amity between both for the next 40 years.

Third War

In the third war, of 1919, the British sensing a defeat under the hands of Afghan forces decided to patch up with the Afghans, and ceasefire was agreed upon by both sides. Further negotiations led to the complete independence of Afghanistan on August 19, 1919.

Indo Afghan Connect

The India Afghanistan connect is ancient.

Afghan, Ashva, Ashvaka

The word Afghan comes from the word Ashvaka. In Samskrt, the word Ashva refers to a horse. Ashvaka means ‘A land of horses’. In ancient times, the people of this region were known for raising fine breed of horses. Hence the Afghan region was called Ashvaka in those days.

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Afghanistan, land of horse                                                            Afghan Horses

Gandhara Desha, Gandhari

The Gandhara Desha from Mahabharata times is the present day Khandahar. The mother of the Kauravas got the name Gandhari for she hailed from Gandhara Desha, kingdom of Gandhara.

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Gandhari

Rivers

The Rig Veda-10.75.6 speaks of the northwestern rivers, tributaries of Indus flowing through Afghanistan and north western Pakistan. The rivers are Trstama, Susartu, Rasa, Shvetya, Sindhu, Kubha, Gomati, Kruma and Mehatnu.

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‘Hara quaiti’ – ‘Saras Vati’

The River Haraquaiti, a tributary of Helmund River in Afghanistan derives it name etymologically from the River Sarasvati.

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River Haraquaiti

Hindu Kingdom

It is a fact that Afghanistan was an Hindu Kingdom till, 871 CE. This kingdom was last ruled by King Lagatorman. His dynasty was also called by the name, Kabul Shahi, Brahman Shahi, Hindu Shahi and Raya of Kabul.

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King Lagatorman

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Coins of Kabul  Shahi Kings

Naga King

A statue of a Naga king holding a lotus can be found at the Afghanistan, Kabul Museum.

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Statue of a Naga King

‘Head of Brahma’

Similarly, a statue called ‘the head of Brahma’ dating to 200 CE is also found in the museum.

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‘Head of Brahma’

Panini

Panini, one of the early grammarians of Samskrt language was a Patan from Afghanistan. His authoritative work on Samskrt grammar is called Ashtadhyayi, Ashta meaning eight and Adhyayi, chapters. This work consists of 8 chapters on the Science of Grammar.

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                                   Panini                                          Panini writing Ashtadhyayi brought out in Indian stamp

Buddhism

Buddhism also had a major presence in Afghanistan as can be seen from the many statues of Buddha at Bamiyan.

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Bamiyan, Afghanistan

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Statues of Buddha in Bamiyan

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A 160 metre statue of Buddha equal to a six storey building in Bamiyan

Hieun Tsang, Chinese traveller describes the statue of a 3rd Buddha, when he visited Bamiyan on his way to India in 630 CE. This is a reclining figure of Buddha about to enter Nirvana.

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Hieun Tsang

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             Buddha in relining position, a sculpture in Bamiyan    

Lady in Namaskara position

A Reliquary Gold set with rubies dating to 200 CE, found in Afghanistan, depicts a lady in the namaskara position and also wearing a bindi. This gold set is presently at the British Museum in London.

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Reliquary Gold Set, British Museum

Tillyya Tepe

Similarly, a pendant, called the Tillyya Tepe found in 100 BCE in Afghanistan has the mark of a bindi.

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Tillyya Tepe Pendant

Connect in recent times

Coming to the present days, the connection continues.

Kabuliwala

Raindranath Tagore wrote a story called Kabuliwala, which was later made into a film.    23          Raindranath Tagore  22

Kabuliwala story

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Film Kabuliwala

Hamid Karzai studied in India

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai studied in India. He came to India as an exchange student and studied at the Himachal Pradesh University.

 

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    Hamid Karzai    

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Himachal Pradesh University

Afghan Snow Cream

Afghan snow cream was one of the popular cream that was used in India, in the days gone by.

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Afghan Snow Popularity through the decades

Close ties through millennia

India and Afghanistan have been geographically and culturally close for many millennia. These are but some of the facets of of these close ties.