Last week, eyebrows were raised over yet another media appearance by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief, Mohan Rao Bhagwat. This time, the fuss centred on his categorical public announcement that the next national president of the Bharatiya Janata Party would not be a Delhi-based leader, and that L.K. Advani would soon relinquish his post as leader of the Opposition. Fortuitously for the Indian foreign policy establishment, his prognosis that Pakistan and Afghanistan “are a part of us and will return one day” did not arouse corresponding attention. (via The Telegraph – Calcutta (Kolkata) | Opinion | A shift in position).
From Ashvakan to Afghans
The task of subduing the Afghan, (a possibly corrupt form of Ashvakan, meaning horse specialists in Sanskrit), from the time of Alexander to the latest Russian and American misadventures in Afghanistan underscores, the nature of the Indo-Afghan relationship. From the time of Tomyris (Thamyris), when Indian elephant units helped the Afghans to massacre Persian invaders under Cyrus the Great, or when the Afghans hopelessly tied up Alexander.
Alexander’s Indo-Afghan campaign ‘gave him the runs’ (dysentery), his soldiers deserted him in droves, he had to make a marriage alliance, pay nearly 1000 talents (25,000 kg in gold) for an alliance, his dear horse Bucephalus died, he was himself injured twice, made to release prisoners (without a ransom).
End result – he massacred defenceless non-combatant populations and armies alike, when ‘opportunities’ presented themselves.
Islamic ‘conquest’ of India
While Islamic armies were marauding Europe, Central Asia, Africa, India held out. When Genghis Khan’s Mongol armies were running rampant, Islamic refugees found shelter in India, during the reign of Iltutmish. In 1221 Genghis Khan‘s Mongol armies pushed Khwarezm-Shah and other Persian refugees across the Indus into the Punjab, India.
During early Islamic rule, when India was still viewed as militarily difficult target, the Mongols did not think of attacking India. Remember, that the Mongols attempted to invade Japan, a rather poor country then, without the Sado gold mines! The Japanese blessed their good fortune, when typhoons or (‘The Divine Wind” is what the grateful Japanese called) the Kamikaze, that scattered the Mongol invasion fleet in 1274 and 1281. The Kublai Khan himself barely escaped the fury of the typhoon during the second invasion.
India, the richest economy of the world at that time, with known and famous for its wealth, was spared by Genghis Khan! Just why would history’s foremost looter, invader, pillager spare India?
Encyclopedia Britannica says ‘Fortunately, the Mongols were content to send raiding parties no further than the …” (emphasis mine). As Indian military reputation waned under foreign Islamic rule, the Mongols mounted a military expedition. The Mongols could succeed in India only under the foreign rule of the much-derided Islamic Tughlaks. (in the northern Punjab region), which Iltutmish wisely ignored
End of foreign Islamic rule
The 200-year foreign-Islamic rule from 1206 AD to 1400 AD ended when Ibrahim Lodi, an Afghan horse trader, cobbled together an alliance and sent the incompetent foreign rulers packing. The Lodis, were in turn deposed by another Afghan family, the Mughals.
The Mughals realized, early on, that freedom to Indians was non-negotiable – and enlisted Indian generals, kings, allies to expand their boundaries. The depredations of the foreign ‘Islamic’ rulers were partly reversed by these rulers of Afghan extract – with land reforms, tax reforms, reduction in forceful conversions, et al. The Lodis and Mughals partially reformed the Indic political model – deformed beyond recognition, during the 200 years of foreign Islamic rule. Land holdings remained concentrated in a few hands. Taxes were imposed and increased on the trading classes. Licenses and firmaans were reduced – but remained.
In the last 200 years
The only people who could win against the Afghans were the Indians – last under Ranjit Singhji. The British, and more recently, the Russians and Americans have failed miserably. British possessions of Afghanistan and Balochistan, which were handed to Pakistan on a platter, were a part of the Sikh-Punjab Empire, which fell into the British lap.
Till about 1960′s India-Afghanistan trade and relations were close and neighbourly. Rabindranath Tagore wrote the short story, ‘Kabuliwalla’. Subhash Chandra Bose escaped from Colonial Raj imprisonment during WW2, using the Afghan route to reach Germany finally.
In early 1970s, in Hyderabad, कागजी बेदाना अनार (seedless pomegranates) from Kabul, were available at around Rs.4 a kg – at today’s value is about Rs.100 a kg (based on gold prices). Local varieties were sold at less than Rs.1 a kg.
Between 1950 to the post-1973, Nixon Chop world, saw increasing of walls, barriers, battening down of national boundaries. Marxism-Communism seemed relentless and inevitable. Closed economies were seen as the panacea of all problems. Trade was a dirty word. During this period, something momentous happened – a complete and total closure of the Indian mind. India’s international profile underwent a profound change. Indians, who earlier saw the world as a their stage, suddenly retreated into a shell.
Right and wrong
So, yes RSS view is right.
India and Pakistan are a part of the Indic family. What this means is to see Pakistan and Afghanistan not as troublesome neighbours, but as prospective future allies. The Indian political construct was always to surround the Indian heartland by buffer states – like Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was not to take over these countries and expand into an unwieldy land mass.
So, when RSS, dreams of an Akhand Bharat, they are wrong. The idea of Bharat was value driven and not power-driven or ruler driven. What Bharat needs to focus on is not to create an Akhand Bharat, but a real Bharat, which will become a model for other countries, especially of the Greater India.
Back to the future
But the Indic model was never to have one king who ruled over others. The Indic model allowed for smaller kingdoms to compete for populations – based on opportunities, freedom, equity. Land holdings in the hands of the populations remained a unique Indian feature for thousands of years – and the West saw this feature only in the last 150-250 years. Religious restrictions in India were not even discussed – unlike the Desert Bloc where the ‘Cuius regio, eius religio’ principle (meaning whose land, his religion; CRER) was established.
In the Desert Bloc, the land, the religion and the very life of all subjects belonged to the king – unlike in India. And that is the Akhand Bharat that we all need to work for!
‘BJP after Sardar because it needs an icon with mass appeal’ – Interviews – OPINION – The Times of India
History, however, shows that India has disintegrated whenever the Centre has become weak. The regimes of Ashoka, Allauddin Khilji and Aurangzeb all became weak because their descendants were weak rulers. (via ‘BJP after Sardar because it needs an icon with mass appeal’ – Interviews – OPINION – The Times of India).
With historians like this, who needs enemies!
Firstly before regurgigating Western cliches, Shri Tripathi should ask a fundamental question.
Why did Ghenghis Khan avoid India?
India, a rich civilization, with massive exports and large gold reserves, was an attractive target. Genghis Khan, whose empire, from Mongolia to Austria, from Central Asia to Russian borders, was larger than Alexander’s – and whose conquests brought Chinese culture to Europe (like abacus, gunpowder, paper, printing) by-passed India completely.
It was India’s military paradigm
From the Battle of Kadesh to the retreat of Alexander, Indic rulers changed the military paradigm. Buddhist texts talk about 16 mahajanapadas – which formed this ruling federation. Five very important changes were seen. Buddhist texts refer to the “the 63,000 kings of Jambudwipa”. Power was distributed amongst the many kings to provide a choice of competing administrations, to which the populations could migrate, based on advantage, opportunity and benefit.
One - war chariots became less important. By the time of Alexander’s march in India, chariots were a minor part of the Indian armies. Instead, the importance of cavalry increased. Bessos, the Bactrian mathista, designated to succeed Darius III, led the successful Indic cavalry charge, at Gaugamela, on the Macedonian right flank – which forced Alexander to focus on the centre of the Persian army, led by Darius III.
When Alexander finally was able to make his way to India, he met a fierce onslaught of the Indian cavalry units – supported by fearsome elephants. Indian cavalry units were always smaller than in other nations due to paucity of horses in India. India was a traditional importer of horses. For combat use, Indian cavalry used imported horses and Indian breeds. Behind Rajput power, was the successful breeding of the Marwari horses, which came about only in the 12th century. Earlier Indian horses easily trained and more intelligent, but smaller with less stamina, and used as as pack animals.
Two - a system of alliances supporting frontline kingdoms in the entire North West Indian swath was formulated. For instance, against the Assyrian invasion, led by Semiramis, a minor Indian king, Stabrobates, was supported to beat back the Assyrian invasion. Against Cyrus the Great, Tomyris, a Scythian Queen was supported to massacre Persian invaders. Alexander’s nightmare began immediately, as soon as he crossed into the Indic area.
Instead of the complete capitulation and collaboration that Alexander got from the defeated Achaemenid ruling family of Sisygambis, Stateira, Oxathres (brother of Darius III; also written as oxoathres and oxyathres) et al, the foursome of Bessos, Spitamenes, Datafernes and the Scythians made Alexander’s life miserable. At Gaugamela, it was Bessos and his Indian cavalry, which broke Alexander’s formations.
The tribes and kshatrapas (satraps) of Indian North West swath, delayed Alexander for nearly three years – before he could step into India. In India, Alexander had to pay the King of Taxiles, Omphis, (Ambi) 1000 talents of gold (more than 25 tons of gold) – to secure an alliance. He had to return the kingdom of Punjab to Porus – purportedly, after winning the battle. His loot and pickings from India were negligible. Alexander’s response – “the Macedonians frequently massacred the defenders of the city, especially in India.”
Alexander realized that the Indian Brahmins had influenced the Indian princes to organize and support the Indian war against Alexander. Greek sources cite, how at ‘The City of Brahmans’, he massacred an estimated 8000-10,000 of these non-combatant Brahmins. Thus while, invaders were kept at bay, within the Indic area, borders and crowns kept changing and shifting.
Less than 300 years after Alexander, Romans came close to Indian border. They were led by Marcus Licinius Crassus – estimated (or allegedly) worth 200,000,000 sestertii. A writer of classical journals estimated that to be worth about 7.6 million in 1860. Inflation adjusted, about 7.6 billions. Source of Crassus’ wealth – slavery, corruption, pillage, bribery et al. Crassus is more famous in history for three things – One, for his wealth, Two – for having crucified thousands of rebellious slaves on the Via Appia, after defeating Spartacus’ Slave Army and Three, as the man who funded the rise of Julius Caesar.
It is his death, that is usually glossed over.
The rich Crassus decided to chase military fame – “to penetrate even to Bactria, India, and the shores of the Eastern Ocean.” The North West swath was ruled by the Indo-Parthian rulers from circa 100 BC onwards. Western historical narratives place King Guduvhara (who Western historians equate with Gondophares) as a prominent king of this era – based on a mix of coins and contradictory written evidence. The value of numismatics in India gets diluted, the moment one factors the fact that Indian rulers did NOT have an exclusive prerogative to mint coins. Freedom to issue coinage was general – based on the acceptability of the issued coinage. Hence, Indian royal Indian coinage was usually crude and simplistic.The capital of these Indo-Parthian kingdoms was Takshashila – the major centre of Indian learning and the site of the Takshashila University.
A lesser known noble of this kingdom was the Suren family – one of who, led an Indo-Parthian-Iranian army against Roman armies, in 53 BC at Carrhae, led by the billionaire, Marcus Licinius Crassus. The Surens were possibly powerful warlords – ruling over Siestan (Shakyastan). These Indo-Scythians, expert horsemen and archers, creators of the Parthian Shot (popularized as parting shot), pulverized the Roman armies. Crassus was captured – and his greed was satiated when molten gold was poured down his throat. Mark Anthony tried avenging Crassus defeat – with a disastrous defeat, again.
For the next nearly 400 years, Romans were wary of any large expeditions into Indo-Persian territories. At least, the Italians did not forget Crassus. 1800 years later, Dante Alighieri, asked Crassus, “‘Crassus, tell us, because you know, how does gold taste?”
Of General Suren, not much is known – which by now, should not surprise us. Also, some ancient maps show the Gandhara-Takshashila region as Suren. Suren also supposedly ‘lacked strategic vision’ – these days, is called ‘killer instinct’, for which he was shortly later killed. But it is interesting that the enemies of the daiwas (enemy of devas are the asuras, in Indian scriptures), the Zoroastrians (followers of Ahura Mazda, speculatively Mahishasura) allied themselves with a Suren. The House of Suren’s had traditional rights to install the crown of Persian rulers.
Three – the biggest game changer were the elephant corps. War elephants was an Indian invention and an Indian monopoly. After the defeat and death of Cyrus The Great at the hands of Tomyris, the Persians stopped looking India-wards. 500 years later (nearly), with the help of the Indian elephant corps, the Sassanians stopped the Romans at Persian borders in 363 AD.
With these three changes, Indian heartland became invincible. Empire builders like the Assyrian Queen, Semiramis and the Achmaenian Emperor, Cyrus the Great mounted expensive campaigns to conquer India – and barely escaped with their lives. Later, Genghis Khan’s armies avoided India completely. Timurlane could invade India – when Delhi was under rule by a foreign dynasty, the Tughlaks. Indian invincibility and military prowess was unmatched till the 13th century – when the first foreign rulers, the Slave Dynasty rulers from the Levant started ruling from Delhi – Qutubuddin Aibak, in 1206.
Four – Indian teachers and intellectuals were sent to all corners of the world. The spread of Buddhism in Asia is well chronicled. Socrates’ encounter with an Indian yogi however, is not so well known. Mani, the Buddhist teacher was feared by the Vatican for the next 1000 years. Vatican killed, burnt and quartered all those who displayed any leaning towards Manicheanism. Islamic invaders searched and destroyed statues or ‘boet’ (meaning statues of Buddha?). In 2nd century AD, Origen, a Christian pioneer, attributed the spread of Christianity “The island (Britain) has long been predisposed to it (Christianity) through the doctrines of the Druids and Buddhists, who had already inculcated the doctrine of the unity of the Godhead”
Five - Indic legal and political structures were introduced. The usage of gold was popularized and became widespread as an economic tool. Coinage in India was not a royal prerogative or implemented by fiat. Even the British colonial government could not impose a single currency system in India.
Thus, for instance, there were intricate Greco-Bactrian coins, compared to crude and simple Indic coins. Sanskritic and Dravidian systems were used to structure ancient languages like Akkadian and Elamite.
The foremost administrative innovation was the concept of Bharata(ah) - the aryavart and the arya dhwaj. Comprising of 16 to 30 mahajanapadas, Bharata(ah) became a federation of kingdoms. Each of these kingdoms became a series of succeeding lines of defence against invading armies. What the European Union is grappling with, (and may yet fail) for the last 300 years, was implemented and used 3000 years ago in India.
The foremost proponent of this Indic construct, well known to modern history, is Kautilya Chanakya. Western colonial historians, have spitefully, called him the Indian Machiavelli. Chanakya, encoder-in-chief of Indic statecraft, came a full 1700 years before Machiavelli, who took office, after Savonarola was served en flambe to the Borgia papacy, in a declining and decadent Florence, under the Medicis.
Islamic Conquest of India …?
By 1000 A.D., Al Beruni’s description of India and its wealth, spread over the Islamic world. By the time of the first significant Islamic raid of Indian heartland, in 1001, when Mahmud of Ghazni invaded India, Islam was already entrenched in Europe. Spain was already under Islamic rule by 718 AD. Parts of Italy fell by 902. Crete (part of modern Greece) fell in 961. In Northern Europe, modern day Georgia (on Russian borders) fell to Islamic rule, by 735.
For the next 500 years, Islamic territories continued to expand. India was the last significant conquest of the Islam. Islamic raiders targetted India for plunder and loot – but were not able to establish themselves till the 13th century. The first significant Islamic dynasty in India was the Slave dynasty – only in the 13th century, Qutubuddin Aibak in 1206. From the 1206 to 1526, Islamic rulers struggled to consolidate in India.
The successful invasion of Babur, in the 1526 established Islamic rule in the Indian heartland. From 1526 onwards, Islamic conquest waned. Islamic empires started consolidating. On the other, the European star, was on the ascendant from 1492, with the voyage of Columbus. But then the Moghuls were from Afghanistan, part of Bharat(ah). And their greatest successes came after (reluctantly) co-opting the Indians.
Colonial historians mix up Central Asian and Levantine raiders with Islamic kings from the Indian sub-continent as Islamic invaders, but themselves as European.Why is the British Colonial rule not described as the Christian conquest of India? For the same reasons, that Islamic conquerors, by that time, had conquered most of Eastern Europe, had failed in India.
The other trick in bag of the colonial historian was to show successful invaders as foreign – and defeated foreign rulers, as an Indian defeat. The Tughlaks were powerful, foreign Islamic invaders who swept the weak Hindus, before them, but when Timurlane defeats the same Tughlaks, it becomes a Indian defeat. When Babur, from Afghanistan, captures the throne of Delhi, he is a successful foreign invader – but when his descendant Bahadur Shah Zafar, is defeated, he is the defeated Indian ruler.
And Shri Tripathi gives us the same lines …