Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

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Chapter II: Alexander's Campaigns in India, Excerpt from "Age of the Nandas and Mauryas"
by K.A. Nilakanta Sastri
1952

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Highlights:

We have the name of only one tribal chief, Astes, in the Peucelaotis region (the Yusufzai country) who ventured to offer resistance, and paid for it with his life. His city was captured after thirty days, and in his place was installed Sangaios (Sanjaya ?) who had quarrelled with him some time before and gone over to Taxiles...

The route taken by Alexander along the Khoes is not easy to follow in its details, but doubtless his operations led him for a considerable distance up the large and populous valley of the Kunar, where he fought many hard battles. In an encounter before the first important city taken by the invaders, Alexander was slightly wounded in the shoulder. The city was razed to the ground and all its inhabitants, excepting those who managed to escape to the hills, were put to the sword. Craterus and some other infantry officers were left behind to complete the subjugation of the district, while Alexander advanced to attack the Aspasians, who abandoned their capital on hearing of his approach, and were pursued with great slaughter to their mountain refuges.

Alexander then crossed the mountains to the east and entered the Bajaur valley. Here Craterus rejoined him after carrying out his orders, and was asked to find fresh inhabitants for the city of Arigaion which occupied an advantageous site, but had been burnt down and deserted by its original residents. Meanwhile Ptolemy, the son of Lagos, spotted the main Indian camp ... the Indians descended from the high ground they held to meet the invader on the plain below and sustained a defeat; the number of prisoners taken by the conqueror is said to have been no less than 40,000; then were captured also 230,000 oxen, from which Alexander chose the best to be sent over to Macedonia for use in agriculture...

Alexander appeared before Massaga, ‘the largest city in those parts'. Thus began the war in the upper Swat region against the Assakenoi....the Greek engines of war battered down the defences and inflicted great losses on the besieged, and their chief fell on the fourth day ‘struck by a missile from an engine'. Among the besieged were 7,000 mercenary troop who had no inclination to continue the arduous defence, especially after the death of the ruler of the city, and they started negotiations with Alexander; they were allowed to hill, leave the city, arms in hand, and encamp on a neighbouring on condition that they changed sides and accepted service under Alexander. But they had no wish to aid the foreigner against their countrymen and planned an escape by night to their homes; Alexander heard of this, surrounded their camp and cut them to pieces. Diodorus and Plutarch state that Alexander’s conduct on this occasion was a ‘foul blot on his martial fame’; he had made separate peace with the mercenaries to escape the serious losses they inflicted on his forces, and then fell upon them treacherously. Massaga itself, deprived of its best defenders, was taken by storm, and according to Arrian, the mother and daughter of its ruler became prisoners of war. Curtius records a story that the queen of the city, who had an infant son whom she placed on Alexander’s knees was treated indulgently by the conqueror, rather owing ‘to the charms of her person than to pity for her misfortunes'. He adds that afterwards she gave birth to a child who received the name of Alexander. Justin mentions that the Indians called the queen ‘the royal harlot'....

Bazira, which stood on a lofty eminence and was strongly fortified, offered resistance to Koinos... Alexander directed his march to that city first, and ordered Koinos to join him there after fortifying a position before Bazira and leaving there a garrison strong enough 'to keep the inhabitants from undisturbed access to their lands’. A sortie by the defenders of Bazira after the departure of Koinos was unsuccessful and they were confined more rigorously than before within the walls their city. Ora was captured at the first assault with little loss to the invader, who took over all the elephants he found there. The news of the fall of Ora led the inhabitants of Bazira to abandon their city at dead of night and seek refuge in the more inaccessible heights of the neighbouring mountains....

Alexander then spent some days reducing minor strongholds, some on the way to the Indus, and some on its right bank, accompanied by two local chieftains Kophaios and Assagetes (Asvajit ?)....

Before crossing the Indus, Alexander had still to deal with the last stronghold of the Assakenoi at Aornos to which they had all flocked for refuge...

Seeing the extraordinary skill with which these daring operations were carried out and the success which attended them, the Indians began to feel that further resistance was hopeless and sent a messenger to Alexander offering to surrender the rock if he granted them terms of capitulation. While the negotiations were dragging on, the besieged formed plans of dispersing to their several homes under cover of night; Alexander saw this, allowed them to begin their retreat without any obstruction, and then with a picked body of seven hundred troops scaled the rock at the point abandoned by the defenders. The surprise was complete; many of the Indians were slaughtered, and many others fell over the precipices and were dashed to death; ‘Alexander thus became master of the rock which had baffled Herakles himself....

From Aornos, records Arrian, Alexander went in pursuit of the fleeing defenders of Aornos, who were led by a brother of the Assakenian chief killed in Massaga. The fugitives had taken refuge in the mountains with an army and some elephants. When Alexander reached Dyrta he found the city and its environs deserted, and thereupon he detached certain troops to reconnoitre the surrounding country and secure information about the enemy, particularly his elephants....From captives Alexander learned that the Indian prince had crossed the Indus and taken refuge with Abhisares, leaving his elephants at pasture near the Indus. These he succeeded in capturing with a loss of only two animals killed in the chase by their falling down a precipice....

Only Porus (Paurava), bearer of a great name coming down from the age of the Rigveda, sent a defiant reply to Alexander’s message and said he would meet the invader at the frontier of his territory, but in arms....

When he saw the prince advancing, Alexander thought that Porus was approaching with his whole army and sent the horse-archers to reconnoitre. When he discovered the real strength of the advancing force he charged with all his cavalry and overwhelmed it; 400 Indians fell, Porus’ son among them. The chariots were no help on ground loosened by the rain and fell into the hands of the enemy, horses and all...

The engagement now became crowded into a narrow space, and the elephants being pressed from all sides became uncontrollable; many of them lost their drivers, and maddened by wounds, they turned their fury against friend and foe quite indiscriminately. The Macedonians who retained a wide and open field on the whole suffered less from the elephants as they eluded their attack by giving way when they charged, and followed them and plied them with darts when they retreated. At length many of the elephants were killed and the rest spent with wounds and toil, ceased to be formidable. Then Alexander ordered a general charge of horse and foot and the battle ended in a decisive victory for him. By this time the Macedonian divisions on the right bank had crossed over, and being fresh, were employed in the pursuit of the retreating Indians on whom they inflicted great slaughter...

When Alexander took the field again with a select division of horse and foot, he invaded the land of the Glausai or Glauganikai (Glauchukayanas) as they were called, a free tribe on the western bank of the Akesines (Chenab) living in thirty-seven cities of between five and ten thousand inhabitants each and a multitude of villages. These people were now placed under the rule of the Paurava against whom they had maintained their independence for so long...

Alexander crossed the Ravi and entered the land of the Kathaians (Kathas), who were among the best fighters in the Punjab and had gathered their allies for the defence of their fortified capital, Sangala (not yet identified). These warlike Kshatriya tribes had proved their mettle a short time before against Porus and Abhisares when they marched against them; would they prevail against the new-comer from farther west? Within two days of his crossing the Ravi, Alexander had received the submission of Pimprama (unidentified), the city of the Adraistai (Adhrshtas or, according to Jayaswal, Arishtas), But the Kathaians of Sangala camped under shelter of a low hill outside the city and offered a determined resistance from behind a triple barricade of wagons. Finding his cavalry of no avail against the enemy, Alexander led the infantry on foot and after much hard fighting, compelled the Indians to seek refuge behind the city walls. Alexander now closely invested the city, and Porus joined him with a force, of 5,000 Indians and several elephants; the besieged made a plan of escape by night across a shallow lake on one side of the city, but it was betrayed to Alexander, who fell upon the fugitives and forced them back into the city, after inflicting losses on them. Military engines then began to batter the walls, but before a breach was effected, the Macedonians carried the walls by escalade. The city was taken, many of the Kathaians were killed, and more taken prisoner. The desperate nature of the fighting is clear; the Greek accounts admit an unusually large number of slain and wounded in Alexander’s army; and Alexander razed the city to the ground. The inhabitants of two neighbouring cities, the allies of the Kathaians, escaped a similar fate by abandoning their cities in good time.

The Malloi (Malavas) and the Oxydrakoi (Kshudrakas) were getting ready to give a hostile reception to the invader, and Alexander wanted to press on quickly and attack them before they completed their dispositions...

Alexander himself landed with a body of picked troops and made an inroad against the Siboi (Sibis) and the Agalassoi (Agrasrenis) to prevent their joining the powerful confederacy of the Malloi lower down the river. The Sibis, a wild people clad in skins and armed with clubs, who claimed descent from the soldiers of Hercules, made their submission when Alexander encamped near their capital. Their neighbours, the Agalassoi, were not so amenable; they had mustered an army of 40,000 foot and 3,000 horse and offered battle. They fought in the field and in the streets of their city, and many Macedonian soldiers fell; this roused the fury of Alexander, who set fire to the city and massacred large numbers of the inhabitants, condemning many others to slavery; a bare 3,000 sued for mercy and were spared....

Alexander planned a great drive against the tribal confederations of the Malavas, and their allies, the Kshudrakas who lived farther to the East along the Beas. While he himself with his favourite troops would deliver the main attack, Hephaestion, who had gone in advance, and Ptolemy, who was to follow behind, would prevent the enemy's attempts to escape in either direction....

Alexander struck across fifty miles of waterless desert and completely surprised the first city of the Malavas he came against; the men, who were abroad in the fields unarmed, offered no resistance and were simply butchered; the rest were shut up in the city, guarded by a cordon of cavalry round the walls till the infantry came up. Then Perdiccas was sent forward to the next city, which he was to invest without attempting to storm the place till Alexander came up. The first city was now carried by assault, the citadel in the centre of it holding out somewhat longer; practically all the garrison were killed. Meanwhile Perdiccas reached the city against which he had been sent, and found it deserted; he rode in hot pursuit of the fugitives and overtook and killed some, but the bulk of them managed to escape him to the marshes of the river and beyond.

Soon Alexander came up and joined the pursuit; many of the Malavas were overtaken and slain while crossing the Ravi, but others, made good their escape to a position of great natural strength which was also strongly fortified; here they were attacked by Peithon, who carried the fortress by assault and made slaves of all who had fled to it for refuge. The next place to be attacked was a city of the Brahmins to which the Malavas had flocked; here the resistance was desperate and most of the five thousand defenders sold their lives dear, only a few being taken prisoners. After a day’s rest for the army, Alexander resumed the pursuit and, when he found the cities empty, he had the jungles scoured for fugitives, and his soldiers had instructions to kill everyone that was caught, unless he surrendered voluntarily....The Malavas now withdrew into the nearest stronghold, being hotly pursued by the enemy. In the assaults that followed the next day, the main walls of the city were yielded with little resistance; the citadel held out, and in the assault on it Alexander exposed himself in a way that nearly cost him his life; scaling ladders were few, and Alexander got up one of them, being the first to appear on the wall, a conspicuous target because of his shining arms; to escape the danger, he jumped within the citadel and only a few of his companions could join him there at once; they maintained an unequal contest for some time, but the arrows of the Malavas killed some of them, and Alexander himself was deeply wounded in the chest, and fainted with loss of blood when the arrowhead was pulled out by Perdiccas. Possibly Alexander adopted the desperate expedient to keep up the morale of his troops in this difficult war. The danger to their king maddened the Greek troops and when they managed to gain the citadel by scrambling up the earthen walls and breaking In the gates, they did not spare man, woman or child....

What was left of the Malava people after the decimation of the war sent in their submission now, and the Kshudrakas, who had been holding aloof so long as the swiftness of Alexander’s movements left them no chance of going to aid the Malavas, also sent their representatives with full authority to conclude a treaty with the invader....But the campaign against the Malavas was no unalloyed success. As a record of mere slaughter it stands out unique even in the blood-stained annals of Alexander’s Indian campaigns...

The progress of the flotilla down the Chenab and the Indus cannot be traced...More ships were built, and more tribes submitted along the course, the Abastanoi, (Ambashthas), Xathaoi (Kshaitiyas) and Ossadioi (Vasatis)....

The country below the last confluence differed from the Punjab in its political and social conditions, which have been noted with surprise by the Greek writers. There were no free tribes here, but principalities ruled by kings whose Brahmin counsellors had great influence with them and the people....

The greatest king of this region was known to the Greeks by the name Musicanus (Muchukarna ?). He did not offer his submission or even send presents, but when surprised by the sudden arrival of Alexander in his country, he adopted the course of prudence, tendered his submission and was confirmed in his territory though a garrison was installed in the citadel of his capital (Alor?), which Craterus was to fortify adequately. Alexander then took a number of cities with much booty, all from a chieftain named Oxycanus who was made prisoner. Sambus had abandoned his capital Sindimana when he heard that Alexander had made friends with his arch-enemy Musicanus; his relatives explained the situation to Alexander and offered presents, which were accepted. But the most irreconcilable enemies of the foreigners in this region were the Brahmins (Brahmanako nama Janapadah-Patanjali) and one of their cities was carried by storm and all its inhabitants put to death. Meanwhile Musicanus, acting probably on the advice of his ministers, threw off his allegiance; Peithon who was sent against him suppressed the revolt with a strong hand. He destroyed some cities and placed garrisons in others; he took Musicanus captive and produced him before Alexander, who ordered that he should be executed along with his instigators.

Then came the ruler of Patala and the delta country and offered his submission...With the rest of the army Alexander continued his course downstream and reached Patala in the middle of July 325 B. C.; when he found the city deserted, he sent his emissaries to overtake the fugitives and persuade them to return in safety to their lands and cultivate them as formerly, and so most of the people did return to their homes....

Alexander set out with some ships to explore the western arm of the river; the task was rendered difficult by lack of knowledgeable pilots, the whole country having been deserted by its inhabitants....

When he reached the Arabios (Hab) he found the country deserted, as the Arabitai tribesmen had fled in terror. Crossing the river, he entered Las Bela, the land of the Oreitai, who offered a slight and ineffectual opposition to his progress. One of their villages, Rambakia, pleased Alexander by its situation and Hephaestion was instructed to colonise it with Arachosians (Curtius). When he passed on to the country of the Gedrosi, he appointed Apollophanes satrap over the Oreitai and leit Lenonnatus to reduce the country and help in the scheme of colonisation. Leonnatus fought a pitched battle with the tribesmen, inflicting great losses on them, and the satrap designate, Apollophanes, was among those who fell on his side.

-- Chapter II: Alexander's Campaigns in India, Excerpt from "Age of the Nandas and Mauryas", by K.A. Nilakanta Sastri


CHAPTER II: ALEXANDER'S CAMPAIGNS IN INDIA

After Alexander’s conquest of Bactria and Sogdiana, the Indian satrapy was the only province of the Persian empire into which he had not carried his arms. Of this province he must have gained some valuable knowledge from Sisikottos (Sasigupta), the Indian mercenary leader who transferred his services from Bactria to her conqueror. Alexander also received an embassy in Sogdiana from Omphis (Ambhi) of Takshasila (Taxila) which offered him the alliance of the Indian prince and sought the foreigner’s aid against his powerful neighbour Porus, the first recorded instance of an Indian seeking foreign aid against fellow Indians.

At the end of the spring of 327 B.C., Alexander started on his Indian expedition leaving Amyntas behind with 3,500 horse and 10,000 foot to hold the land of the Bactrians. He crossed the Central Hindu Kush in ten days following the main road from Balkh to Kabul, and reached the rich and beautiful valley of Koh-i-Daman, where he had already founded an Alexandria, which he now strengthened with fresh recruits from the neighbourhood and from among his war-worn soldiers. He placed Nicanor in charge of the city, and appointed Tyriespes satrap of the area, dispositions intended, as was, usual with Alexander, to secure his rear before advancing further.

Alexander then proceeded to Nikaia (Greek for ‘city of victory’), a place that lay most likely on his route to the river Kabul. Here he offered a sacrifice to the goddess Athena, and met an Indian embassy headed by the king of Takshasila which ‘brought him such presents as are most esteemed by the Indians’ and gave him also all the elephants they had with them, twenty-five in number.

After leaving Nikaia and at some distance from the city on the way to the Kabul river, Alexander divided his army, and sent one part of it under Hephaestion and Perdiccas to the Indus, along the course of the Kabul river, with instructions to take Peucclaotis (Pushkalavatl, near Gharsadda, N.E. of Peshawar) and other places on the way by force if they would not submit of their own accord. When they reached the Indus they were to make necessary preparations for the transport of the army across that river. We have the name of only one tribal chief, Astes, in the Peucelaotis region (the Yusufzai country) who ventured to offer resistance, and paid for it with his life. His city was captured after thirty days, and in his place was installed Sangaios (Sanjaya ?) who had quarrelled with him some time before and gone over to Taxiles. The boats built by the Greeks on reaching the Indus were such as could be taken to pieces and reassembled on reaching another river (Curtius).  

Subjugation of the Swat Valley

With the rest of the army Alexander set forth on a hard campaign in the mountains in order to secure the flank of his main line of communication. The people of these mountain tracts are called Aspasians, Gauraians and Assakenians by Arrian. The first and last of these terms are variants of the same tribal name, Asmaka, a name known to Varahamihira’s list of tribes in North-Western India; the other rendering of the name into Asvaka is supported by the fact that the Greeks translated it into Hippasioi (Hypasioi in Strabo). It is noteworthy that the Pushto name for the Yuzufzai still continues to be Asip or Isap. The Gauraians were doubtless closely connected with them and took their name from the river Gauri (Panjkora), the Gouraios of the Greek texts. They were all obviously Indian tribes and are so described by the Greek writers.

The route taken by Alexander along the Khoes is not easy to follow in its details, but doubtless his operations led him for a considerable distance up the large and populous valley of the Kunar, where he fought many hard battles. In an encounter before the first important city taken by the invaders, Alexander was slightly wounded in the shoulder. The city was razed to the ground and all its inhabitants, excepting those who managed to escape to the hills, were put to the sword. Craterus and some other infantry officers were left behind to complete the subjugation of the district, while Alexander advanced to attack the Aspasians, who abandoned their capital on hearing of his approach, and were pursued with great slaughter to their mountain refuges.

Alexander then crossed the mountains to the east and entered the Bajaur valley. Here Craterus rejoined him after carrying out his orders, and was asked to find fresh inhabitants for the city of Arigaion which occupied an advantageous site, but had been burnt down and deserted by its original residents. Meanwhile Ptolemy, the son of Lagos, spotted the main Indian camp and brought news of its whereabouts to Alexander, who planned an attack against it in three divisions, one of which he led ‘in person against the position occupied by the main body’ of the Indian forces. Confident in the strength of their numbers, the Indians descended from the high ground they held to meet the invader on the plain below and sustained a defeat; the number of prisoners taken by the conqueror is said to have been no less than 40,000; then were captured also 230,000 oxen, from which Alexander chose the best to be sent over to Macedonia for use in agriculture. After the subjugation of the Aspasians, Alexander moved, according to Curtius, to the city of Nysa; Arrian records the visit in detail, but gives no indication of the position of Nysa, and is openly sceptical not only of the legendary details, but of the existence of the city itself. The inhabitants of Nysa offered no resistance, but sent an embassy with presents and claimed kinship with the Greeks on the score that their city had been founded by Dionysus and named after his nurse, Nysa, and that the Nysans were the descendants of his followers; the mountain near the city also bore the name Meros (thigh) because Dionysus grew, before his birth, in the thigh of Zeus. Nysa had remained a free city with its own laws ever since, and Alexander should permit them to continue as they were. ‘It gratified Alexander to hear all this' from Akuphis, the leader of the Nysan deputation, and he was not inclined to be too critical of legends that were pleasing to the ears of his soldiers, and promised him the glory of excelling the achievements of Dionysus. So he offered a sacrifice to his divine predecessor and confirmed his colony in the enjoyment of its ancient laws and liberty as an aristocratic republic. When Alexander asked for three hundred horsemen from Nysa and one hundred of their best men to accompany him, Akuphis smiled and agreed readily to give the horsemen, but offered two hundred of the worst men of Nysa instead of the hundred best demanded by Alexander. The reply by no means displeased Alexander who took the cavalry and waived the other demand. He made a pilgrimage to Mount Meros (Koh-i-Mor ?) where his followers rejoiced at the sight of the ivy and laurel and wove chaplets of them for their heads while they joyfully chanted hymns to the divine forerunner of Alexander.

Marching across the land of the Gauraians and crossing the river Gauri (Panjkora), a difficult task owing to the depth and swiftness of the stream, Alexander appeared before Massaga, ‘the largest city in those parts'. Thus began the war in the upper Swat region against the Assakenoi. This powerful confederation commanded extensive territory including the whole of Swat, Buner and the valleys to the north of Buner, and extending right up to the Indus. It had an army of 20,000 cavalry'1 [Lassen and Stein give 2,000.], and more than 30,000 infantry besides 30 elephants. Yet, it seems to have relied for defence against the invader not on fighting in open battle, but on the fortifications of its walled towns. The Greek accounts of the war contain details of several places besieged and taken by Alexander, but their position can seldom be fixed with confidence on modern maps. Stein, who knew the country very well, suggests that they ‘were probably situated in the main Swat valley; for this at all times must, as now, have been the most fertile and populous portion of the territory'.

The siege of Massaga (Masakavati ?) the capital of the Assakenoi, lasted for four days; at the outset Alexander was wounded in the leg, 'though not severely', by an arrow from the besieged; but the Greek engines of war battered down the defences and inflicted great losses on the besieged, and their chief fell on the fourth day ‘struck by a missile from an engine'. Among the besieged were 7,000 mercenary troop who had no inclination to continue the arduous defence, especially after the death of the ruler of the city, and they started negotiations with Alexander; they were allowed to hill, leave the city, arms in hand, and encamp on a neighbouring on condition that they changed sides and accepted service under Alexander. But they had no wish to aid the foreigner against their countrymen and planned an escape by night to their homes; Alexander heard of this, surrounded their camp and cut them to pieces. Diodorus and Plutarch state that Alexander’s conduct on this occasion was a ‘foul blot on his martial fame’; he had made separate peace with the mercenaries to escape the serious losses they inflicted on his forces, and then fell upon them treacherously. Massaga itself, deprived of its best defenders, was taken by storm, and according to Arrian, the mother and daughter of its ruler became prisoners of war. Curtius records a story that the queen of the city, who had an infant son whom she placed on Alexander’s knees was treated indulgently by the conqueror, rather owing ‘to the charms of her person than to pity for her misfortunes'. He adds that afterwards she gave birth to a child who received the name of Alexander. Justin mentions that the Indians called the queen ‘the royal harlot'.

The final stages of the campaign in the Swat valley centred round Bazira (Bir-kot) and Ora (Udegram). Koinos was sent to Bazira, which was expected to surrender, and three other generals against Ora, with instructions to invest the place until the arrival of Alexander. Bazira, which stood on a lofty eminence and was strongly fortified, offered resistance to Koinos, and on hearing this, Alexander started to conduct the operations there himself. But then he learned of attempts to reinforce Ora, set on foot by Abhisares, the king of Abhisara, territory east of the Indus. Alexander directed his march to that city first, and ordered Koinos to join him there after fortifying a position before Bazira and leaving there a garrison strong enough 'to keep the inhabitants from undisturbed access to their lands’. A sortie by the defenders of Bazira after the departure of Koinos was unsuccessful and they were confined more rigorously than before within the walls their city. Ora was captured at the first assault with little loss to the invader, who took over all the elephants he found there. The news of the fall of Ora led the inhabitants of Bazira to abandon their city at dead of night and seek refuge in the more inaccessible heights of the neighbouring mountains. This was the end of the campaign in the Swat valley; Alexander turned Ora and Massaga into strongholds for guarding the country round about, and improved the defences of Bazira, before marching south towards the Peshawar valley to follow the line taken by Hephaestion and Perdiccas down the Kabul river.

These generals had fortified a town called Orobatis (not identified) on their way to the Indus Alexander now appointed Nicanor satrap of the country west of the Indus, and received the submission of Peucelaotis (Pushkalavati), the ancient capital of Gandhara, stationing a garrison of Macedonian soldiers in the city under the command of Philip. Alexander then spent some days reducing minor strongholds, some on the way to the Indus, and some on its right bank, accompanied by two local chieftains Kophaios and Assagetes (Asvajit ?).

Aornos

Before crossing the Indus, Alexander had still to deal with the last stronghold of the Assakenoi at Aornos to which they had all flocked for refuge. This place has been most satisfactorily located by Stein in the mountain ranges of Pir-sar and Una-sar, which answer to all the topographical details contained in the Greek accounts of Alexander’s operations against Aornos, accounts derived ultimately from Ptolemy, the son of Lagos, who took a prominent part in those operations.

A word may be said at this stage about political conditions in the North-West frontier of India at the time of Alexander’s invasion; the Assakenoi and their neighbouring and allied tribes were supported by Abhisares, and probably also by Porus, in their resistance to the invader; Abhisara proper is the name of the hill country between the upper Jhelum and the Chenab; but the ruler of this territory at this time seems to have extended his sway in the west into Hazara (Ursa) up to the Indus, and on the east his territory might well have included parts of Kashmir. The ruler of Takshailla whose territory lay between the kingdoms of Abhisares and Porus, was on no friendly terms with them, and, as we have already seen, he welcomed the invader, hoping to have his support against his local enemies. It is not surprising then that the Assakenoi prepared themselves to defend their independence in a region impregnable because of its physical features and in close proximity to the territory of Abhisares, and that Alexander did not feel free to accept the welcome of Taxila until he had overthrown this last and most redoubtable stronghold of the tribes whose subjugation was the chief aim of the arduous campaigns he had fought in the Swat valley.

To get at this stronghold on the eastern frontier of the Assakenian country, Alexander had to move some way up the right bank of the Indus to Embolima (Amb), a city within two marches of Aornos. Here he left Craterus with a part of the army to gather into the city as much corn as possible and all other requisites for a prolonged stay, in order that the Macedonians, having that place as a base, might by protracted investment wear out those holding the rock, in case it should not be taken at the first assault. Alexander himself then advanced to the rock, taking with him the archers, the Agrianians, the brigade of Koines, the lightest and best armed of the phalanx, two hundred of the companion cavalry and one hundred horse-archers. He fixed his camp on the second day very near the rock.

Aornos is described by Arrian as a mighty mass of rock, 6,600 ft. in height with a circuit of about 22 miles; Diodorus halves the circuit, puts the height at 9,600 ft., and says that it was washed by the Indus on its southern side. 'It was ascended', says Arrian, ‘by a single path cut by the hand of man, yet difficult. On the summit of the rock there was, it is also said, plenty of pure water which gushed out from a copious spring. There was timber besides, and as much good arable land as required for its cultivation the labour of a thousand men'. A report was current that this stronghold was once assaulted in vain by Hercules who had to abandon the attempt on the occurrence of a ‘violent earthquake and signs from heaven', and this is said to have made Alexander the more eager for the capture of the stronghold. But it should be noted that Arrian discredits the story and says ‘my own conviction is that Herakles was mentioned to make the story of its capture all the more wonderful'.

At first Alexander was at a loss how to proceed to the attack, when some people from the neighbourhood came to him, offered their submission and undertook to guide him to the most accessible portion of the rock, from which the assault on the main eminence would not be difficult. Alexander accepted their guidance and sent with them Ptolemy with a select body of light-armed troops, telling him that on securing the position he was to signal to him and to hold it with a strong force. Traversing a rough and difficult route which led most probably up the valley to the west of the Danda-Nurdai spur, Ptolemy succeeded in occupying the indicated position on the height known as Little Una, unobserved by the defending forces on the heights of Pir-Sar. He fortified his position with a palisade and a trench, and signified his success to Alexander by means of a beacon raised on a height from which it would be seen by Alexander. Alexander did see it, and he moved forward the next day with his army along the route that Ptolemy had taken; but the defenders soon saw what had happened and sent their men to the heights of Danda-Nurdai to obstruct the ascent of Alexander, which they did successfully, and then turned round and attacked the position held by Ptolemy higher up; after severe fighting in the latter part of the day, the Indians failed to carry Ptolemy’s fortifications and retired at nightfall.

During the night, Alexander secured the aid of an Indian deserter and sent a letter to Ptolemy asking him not to be content on the following day with just holding his position but to attack the Indians in the rear when they sought to obstruct the passage of the main army up the hill. At daybreak he started again, and succeeded, after a hard fight in forcing a passage and effecting a junction with Ptolemy’s men.
But the assault on the main rock (Pir-Sar) could not be undertaken without much toil in filling up a ravine that lay between his position and the height held, by the defenders. This task was begun the next day and Alexander himself supervised the operations of cutting stakes and piling up a mound towards the main rock. The mound was advanced to a length of 200 yards as a result of the first day’s work, but progress became necessarily slower in the depths of the ravine. The Indians attempted to obstruct the progress of the work and, though by their sallies they inflicted some losses on the enemy, their main object was foiled by the missiles of the Greeks shot from engines which were being advanced along the mound as each section of it was completed. The work of piling up the mound went on for three days without intermission, and on the fourth a few Macedonians succeeded in forcing their way up a small hill and occupying its crest on a level with the rock. The work on the extension of the mound was continued until it was joined three days later to the small hill near the rock that had passed into Greek occupation. Seeing the extraordinary skill with which these daring operations were carried out and the success which attended them, the Indians began to feel that further resistance was hopeless and sent a messenger to Alexander offering to surrender the rock if he granted them terms of capitulation. While the negotiations were dragging on, the besieged formed plans of dispersing to their several homes under cover of night; Alexander saw this, allowed them to begin their retreat without any obstruction, and then with a picked body of seven hundred troops scaled the rock at the point abandoned by the defenders. The surprise was complete; many of the Indians were slaughtered, and many others fell over the precipices and were dashed to death; ‘Alexander thus became master of the rock which had baffled Herakles himself. He celebrated his success by offering sacrifice and worship to the gods and erected altars dedicated to Minerva and Victory. He also built a fort and gave command of it to Sisikottos before setting out to complete the conquest of the Assakenoi and rejoin his main forces on the banks of the Indus. The siege and capture of Aornos may be placed round about the month of April 326 B. C.

From Aornos, records Arrian, Alexander went in pursuit of the fleeing defenders of Aornos, who were led by a brother of the Assakenian chief killed in Massaga. The fugitives had taken refuge in the mountains with an army and some elephants. When Alexander reached Dyrta he found the city and its environs deserted, and thereupon he detached certain troops to reconnoitre the surrounding country and secure information about the enemy, particularly his elephants. Dyrta has not been identified, but the fact that a new road had to be made, without which the march across the country to the Indus would have been impracticable, seems to point to the central parts of Buner as the scene of the operations. From captives Alexander learned that the Indian prince had crossed the Indus and taken refuge with Abhisares, leaving his elephants at pasture near the Indus. These he succeeded in capturing with a loss of only two animals killed in the chase by their falling down a precipice. He also discovered a lot of serviceable timber, which he caused to be floated down the Indus to the bridge constructed long before this by the other section of the army.

When Alexander reached the bridge at Ohind, at the end of sixteen marches, he gave his army a rest of thirty days, entertaining them with games and contests. Here he was met by an embassy from Ambhi of Takshasila who had recently succeeded to his father’s throne, but was awaiting the arrival of Alexander to assume sovereignty. The embassy brought presents consisting of 200 talents of silver, 3,000 fat oxen, 10,000 sheep or more and 30 elephants; a force of 700 horsemen also came to the assistance of Alexander from the same prince and brought word that Ambhi surrendered into Alexander’s hands his capital Takshasila, ‘the greatest of all the cities between the river Indus and Kydaspes’. Alexander then offered sacrifice to the gods on a magnificent scale and found the signs favourable for his crossing into India proper the first European to set his foot on Indian soil.

Taxila

As the invader approached Takshasila a strange incident occurred. When he was at a distance of some four miles from the city, he was met by a whole army drawn in battle order and elephants ranged in a line; Alexander suspected treachery and instructed his troops to prepare for a battle; but Ambhi seeing the mistake made by the Macedonians, left his army with a few friends and contrived to explain to Alexander, with the aid of an interpreter, that he meant not to fight, but to honour his foreign ally whose protection he had been soliciting for so long and with so much persistence. He surrendered himself, his army and kingdom into the hands of Alexander, and got them back as his favoured protege.

Alexander was entertained in Takshasila for three days with lavish hospitality, and on the fourth day he and his friends received presents of golden crowns and eighty talents of coined silver (Curtius). In his turn Alexander showed his gratification by sending to Ambhi a thousand talents from his spoils of war ‘along with many banqueting vessels of gold and silver, a vast quantity of Persian drapery, and thirty chargers from his own stalls, caparisoned as when ridden by himself'. Thus did a fraction of the loot from the store-houses of the old Persian kings find its lodgement in the palace of Takshasila. But Alexander’s liberality on the occasion displeased some of the Macedonian generals, though it secured for him an additional force of five thousand men and the unfailing loyalty of a most useful ally. Embassies from Indian princes met Alexander here with presents and declared their submission to him; even Abhisares of the hill country sent his brother. Only Porus (Paurava), bearer of a great name coming down from the age of the Rigveda, sent a defiant reply to Alexander’s message and said he would meet the invader at the frontier of his territory, but in arms. Porus was the ruler of a considerable kingdom, and its expansion was doubtless causing some stir among the neighbouring kings and tribes, and bringing about the political alliances and groupings among them at the time.

Preparing to leave Takshasila for the encounter with Porus, Alexander offered the customary sacrifices and celebrated a gymnastic and equestrian contest. He sent Koinos back to the Indus to dismantle the bridge of boats and bring it over to the Jhelum river, the ancient (Vitasta, the Hydaspes of the Greeks). He posted Philip, the son of Machatus, at the head of a garrison, as satrap of Takshasila and its neighbourhood, and began his march to the Jhelum with his own army and the Taxilan contingent of 5,000 men commanded by their king in person. The route lay in a south-easterly direction over difficult country and was about a hundred miles in length. On his march Alexander found a defile on his road occupied by Spitaces, a nephew of Porus, with a body of troops; these he soon dispersed, and then completed his march without encountering any further opposition; Spitaces fought later on the side of his uncle and fell in the battle of the Jhelum.

Battle of the Jhelum

Alexander fixed his camp in the vicinity of the town of Jhelum on the right bank of the river; it was the spring of 326 B.C. Porus had ranged his entire forces on the opposite side, and stationed posts at various points up and down the river to watch the enemy’s movements and give the alarm when he attempted to cross the river. The Paurava’s army drawn from the populous villages of his principality was an imposing force. Arrian records that in the final encounter with Alexander, he employed all his cavalry, 4,000 strong, all his chariots, 300 in number, 200 of his elephants, and 30,000 efficient infantry. We should add to these numbers the 2,000 men and 120 chariots he detached earlier in the day under his son's charge to meet the enemy as he was crossing the river, as also the considerable section of the army he left behind in his original camp to oppose the crossing of the troops that Alexander left behind in his camp on the opposite bank. Alexander's army on the other side was made up of many elements; the heavy-armed Macedonian infantry carrying the long spear in phalanxes; and the highly disciplined cavalry, the ‘Companions’ of the king who were drawn from the aristocracy of Macedon and formed the core of the force. The original 2,000 Companions were much reduced in numbers and the four hipparchies into which they were now reorganised contained only one Macedonian squadron each. There were also mercenary soldiers in thousands from the Greek cities and half-civilized hill-men from the Balkan lands serving as light troops. But mingled with the Europeans were men of many nations. Here were troops of horsemen, representing the chivalry of Iran, which had followed Alexander from Bactria and beyond, Pashtus of the Hindu Kush with their highland-bred horses, Central Asiatics who could ride and shoot at the same time; and among the camp followers one could find groups representing the older civilizations of the world, Phoenicians inheriting an immemorial tradition of ship-craft and trade, bronzed Egyptians able to confront the Indians with an antiquity still longer than their own’ (Bevan). The battle of Jhelum was indeed a battle of the nations. Alexander’s army had already become ‘a school for the fusion of races’. Of the numbers in Alexander’s force we have no certain knowledge. Tradition counts 120,000 in his camp, and this number included camp followers, traders and scientific experts, besides the Asiatic wives of the Macedonian soldiers and their children. Tarn estimates the number of fighting men at some 35,000 and adds that the known formations of Alexander render any much greater number impossible. All our authorities agree that his cavalry decidedly outnumbered that of Porus.

Alexander soon saw that it was impracticable to cross the river in the face of so powerful and vigilant a foe, for the very sight of Porus' elephants would have thrown his cavalry into confusion. He had therefore to resort to a ruse and to steal a passage, as Arrian puts it. He sought at first to divert the attention of Porus by dividing his army into several columns with which he made frequent excursions in different directions, as if searching out a spot for easy passage across the river. At the same time he sent out foraging parties into the country and gathered provisions in large quantities, so as to lead the enemy to think that he intended to await a more favourable time when the melting of the snow on the mountains would stop, the river would be low and the crossing easier. The numerous feints of Alexander kept Porus at first perpetually on the move in the nights, and finally he became indifferent to the threats of crossing that never materialised. ‘When Alexander had thus quieted the suspicions of Porus about his nocturnal attempts’, he completed his plans for crossing the river at a point some sixteen miles above his camp. The spot chosen was completely screened from the view of Porus' camp by a remarkable bend in the river, a thickly wooded island in its middle and a bluff on the opposite bank. And Porus' men had become so used to the noises on Alexander's side of the river that the actual preparations for the crossing were carried out with hardly any concealment and without the sentries of Porus suspecting anything unusual; a thunderstorm and a heavy downpour of rain also helped to drown the sound of arms and the shouting of orders.

The actual day chosen for the crossing was advanced by the news that Abhisares of the hill country was, notwithstanding his recent embassy to Takshasila, hastening with his army to the assistance of the Paurava, and it was important to force the encounter before the allies joined their forces.

Alexander laid his plans with care and precision. A strong division under Craterus and the troops of Takshasila were left behind in the main camp with orders to remain there as long as they saw the elephants on the opposite bank, but to attempt the passage of the river ‘with all possible speed' whenever they should see the elephants withdrawn. Half way between the main camp and the island were posted the mercenary cavalry and infantry under three commanders, Meleager, Attalus and Gorgias, with instructions to cross to the other side in detachments as soon as they saw the Indians fairly engaged in battle. Alexander took the bulk of the army including the Companions under his own command and marched to the selected spot keeping at a considerable distance from the river bank to avoid detection by the enemy. Towards daybreak the storm subsided and the rain ceased. The army crossed over to the island in boats and skin rafts specially prepared for the cavalry, without being noticed by enemy sentries. Alexander himself crossed over in a thirty-oared galley accompanied by Ptolemy, afterwards king of Egypt, Perdiccas, the future regent, Lysimachus, later king of Thrace, and Seleucus who was to inherit Alexander’s Asiatic empire; there also were the body-guards and one half of the hypaspists. The movements of the troops were concealed by the woody island, until, having passed it, they came within a short distance of the left bank. Then they were perceived by the Indian sentinels who rode off to convey the news to their camp. Meanwhile Alexander, who was the first to disembark, formed the cavalry into line as they came up and moved forward at their head; but he soon discovered that he had not yet reached the mainland, but was still on another island separated from it by a channel, usually shallow, but swollen into a formidable stream on account of the rain. A ford, barely passable, was at length found and the infantry crossed over breast-deep in water and the horses swam across with only their heads above the stream. On this occasion Alexander is said to have exclaimed: ‘O Athenians! Can you believe what dangers I undergo to earn your applause?' Then crossing over, Alexander drew up his forces in order of battle. He posted the body-guards and cavalry on the right wing, and the horse-archers in front of them; next to these were placed the infantry with the archers and javelin-men at each extremity of the phalanx.  

Having made these dispositions, Alexander led his 5,000 cavalry forward at a rapid pace; he asked the archers to hasten at the back to give support to the cavalry, while the infantry were to follow at ordinary marching pace in regular order. He decided to avail himself of his superior strength in cavalry, and was confident of defeating the entire army of Porus or keeping it engaged till the infantry came up; if, on the other hand, at the news of his marvellous crossing the enemy took to flight, he would be able to overtake and destroy the fugitives quickly. But the Paurava was no craven. When he received intelligence of the crossing, his first thought was to come up with the enemy, if possible, before he completed the landing; and he immediately sent one of his sons with 2,000 cavalry and 120 chariots to go and contest the passage. But Alexander had made even the final passage before he came up. When he saw the prince advancing, Alexander thought that Porus was approaching with his whole army and sent the horse-archers to reconnoitre. When he discovered the real strength of the advancing force he charged with all his cavalry and overwhelmed it; 400 Indians fell, Porus’ son among them. The chariots were no help on ground loosened by the rain and fell into the hands of the enemy, horses and all. When the survivors went and reported to Porus that Alexander had himself crossed the river with the strongest division of his army, he was perplexed for a while by the necessity of meeting Alexander’s attack and defending the passage of the river against Craterus at the same time. He took a quick decision, and leaving a part of his elephants to check Craterus, he advanced to the decisive conflict with Alexander with the bulk of his troops. Beyond the swampy ground near the river, Porus found a tract of sandy soil on the Karri plain, suited to the movements of his forces, and there he drew up his army for the battle. He relied chiefly on his elephants and he placed them in the front of his line at intervals of a hundred feet; between and behind the elephants were ranged the infantry with huge bows capable of shooting long arrows with great force, though the looseness of the ground due to rain handicapped them badly on this occasion. One half of the cavalry was posted on each flank and the chariots in front of them.
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Alexander, when he perceived the Indian troops drawn up in battle order, made his cavalry halt, to allow time for the infantry to come up and rest a while after their march, while he himself rode round the ranks considering the plan of attack to be followed. His aim was to make full use of the cavalry arm, in which he was superior, and to deprive Porus of the advantage he expected from the elephants and from his numerous infantry. He posted himself with the main body of cavalry on the right, and stationed Koinos with two squadrons on the left. He would begin the battle with an attack on the enemy’s left wing, which he anticipated would draw out the enemy cavalry from the right for its protection, and in this case Koinos was to fall on their rear. His own phalanx commanded by Seleucus and others was not to take part in the action until they saw the Indian cavalry and infantry thrown into disorder by his cavalry charge. The course of the battle answered Alexander’s expectations at every point. The 1,000 horse-archers were first ordered to deliver the attack and the shower of their arrows and the charges of their horses threw Porus’ left wing into some confusion; Alexander then charged with the rest of his cavalry; the Indian cavalry of the right wing was summoned to the relief of the left and was taken in the rear by Koinos. Thus the Indian cavalry had to fight on two fronts, and the movements involved threw their ranks into confusion, and Alexander pressed his attack home before they could recover and complete their formation, whereupon they 'broke from their ranks and fled for shelter to the elephants as to a friendly wall’. The elephants were then urged against the Macedonian cavalry, but were soon met by the phalanx which advanced to take advantage of the confusion; but the shock of the charging elephants was too much even for the close formation of the phalanx and for some time wrought havoc among the Greek forces and afforded a chance to the Indian cavalry to rally and renew the attack. But another charge from Alexander’s cavalry once more broke their ranks and drove them back upon the elephants. The engagement now became crowded into a narrow space, and the elephants being pressed from all sides became uncontrollable; many of them lost their drivers, and maddened by wounds, they turned their fury against friend and foe quite indiscriminately. The Macedonians who retained a wide and open field on the whole suffered less from the elephants as they eluded their attack by giving way when they charged, and followed them and plied them with darts when they retreated. At length many of the elephants were killed and the rest spent with wounds and toil, ceased to be formidable. Then Alexander ordered a general charge of horse and foot and the battle ended in a decisive victory for him. By this time the Macedonian divisions on the right bank had crossed over, and being fresh, were employed in the pursuit of the retreating Indians on whom they inflicted great slaughter.

The losses on the Indian side were indeed terrible; but the Greek accounts seem to exaggerate them while they are at great pains to conceal the losses on their own side. ‘The loss of the Indians in killed', affirms Arrian, ‘fell little short of 20,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry, and all their chariots were broken to pieces. Two sons of Porus fell in the battle, and also Spitaces, the chief of the Indians of that district.... The elephants, moreover, that escaped destruction in the field were all captured. On Alexander’s side there fell about 80 of the 6,000 infantry which had taken part in the first attack, 10 of the horse-archers who first began the action, 20 of the Companion cavalry, and 200 of the other cavalry’. Propaganda is not so modern an art as we may imagine! But the most decisive proof of the desperate nature of the struggle with the elephants and the impression it produced on the minds of Alexander's generals is found in the course of subsequent events. The generals soon developed a stout opposition to further advance into India, and Seleucus, who had seen something of the Indian elephants in the battle of the Jhelum, when he became king, was ready to cede whole provinces in order to secure an adequate number of these noble animals for his army.


Porus himself, mounted on a tall elephant, not only directed the movements of his forces but fought on to the very end of the contest; he then received a wound on his right shoulder, the only unprotected part of his body, all the rest of his person being rendered shot-proof by a coat of mail remarkable for its strength and closeness of fit; he now turned his elephant and began to retire. Alexander who had observed and admired his valour in the field was anxious to save his life and sent Taxiles after him on horseback to summon him to surrender; but the sight of this old enemy and traitor roused the indignation of the Paurava, who gave him no hearing and would have killed him, had not Taxiles instantly put his horse to the gallop and got beyond the reach of Porus’. Even this Alexander did not resent; he sent other messengers till at last Meroes (Maurya ?), an old friend of Porus, persuaded him to hear the message of Alexander. The Indian king, overpowered by thirst and fatigue, dismounted and took a draught of water; when he felt revived he allowed himself to be led to Alexander’s presence. When the conqueror heard of his approach he rode forward with a few of the Companions to meet him and admired his handsome person and majestic stature. He saw too with wonder that Porus did not seem to be broken or abased in spirit, but advanced to meet him as one brave king would meet another after contending with him in the defence of his kingdom. Alexander, who was the first to speak, requested Porus to say how he wished to be treated. ‘Treat me, O Alexander! as befits a king’ was the answer of Porus. Pleased with it, Alexander replied; ‘For mine own sake, O Porus! thou shalt be so treated, but do thou, in thine own behalf, ask for whatever boon thou pleasest' to which Porus said that everything was included in what he had asked. Alexander not only reinstated Porus in his kingdom, but added to it territory of still greater extent. Thus the Paurava took his place in the world-empire of Alexander for a time by the side of his old enemy, the king of Takshasila. Possibly Alexander meant that they should be a check on each other.

The actual date of this important battle is not free from doubt; the Greek texts are conflicting and modern commentators are also divided; the middle of May 326 B. C., rather than July, seems to have the best support.


Alexander honoured with splendid obsequies those who had fallen in battle, and made the customary offerings to the gods in acknowledgement of the victory and held the usual games and contests. He founded two cities, Nikaia, the city of victory, on the battlefield, and Boucephala on the opposite bank of the river, whence he had put out to cross the river at dawn and where Alexander’s stalwart old horse Boucephalus had met his end. It was his fixed policy to knit the various provinces of his far-flung empire by means of these cities of European men. Craterus was left behind with a part of the army to build and fortify the new cities. Later, Alexander seems to have struck a coin to commemorate the battle, showing him on a galloping horse in pursuit of Porus’ elephant; two specimens of the coin are known so far.1 [See the Note on Early Foreign Coins in India (below).]

After Jhelum

When Alexander took the field again with a select division of horse and foot, he invaded the land of the Glausai or Glauganikai (Glauchukayanas) as they were called, a free tribe on the western bank of the Akesines (Chenab) living in thirty-seven cities of between five and ten thousand inhabitants each and a multitude of villages. These people were now placed under the rule of the Paurava against whom they had maintained their independence for so long. From here Taxiles, now reconciled to Porus, was sent back to his capital. The Raja of Abhisara, who could not join the Paurava before the battle of the Jhelum, now sent his brother with forty elephants and a money present to renew the protestations of his friendship to Alexander and offer the surrender of himself and his kingdom into his hands; Alexander demanded the presence of Abhisares in person, adding that if he failed to come Alexander might go himself with his army to look for him. Envoys came also from another Porus across the Chenab, perhaps  a relative, but no friend, of the great Paurava. Here too Phrataphernes, the satrap of Parthia, joined Alexander with the Thracian troops that had been left with him. At the same time urgent messages reached him from Sasigupta at Aornos stating that the Assakenoi had risen in rebellion against their governor Nicanor and slain him; Tyriespes, the Iranian satrap of the neighbouring province on the west, and Philip, perhaps the same as was satrap of Takshasila, were asked to go and quell the insurrection and restore order. Here was a warning that the empire was becoming too unwieldy for effective control.

Keeping close to the hills to avoid wide crossings of the streams, Alexander still found the Akesines (Chenab) difficult to cross; it was July and the rains were in full swing; the strong current of the river over a rocky bed, somewhat less than two miles in width, caused some losses to Alexander in the crossing; it is said that the other Indian name of the river, Chandrabhaga, sounded ominously in Greek ears.1 [Alexandrophagus, devourer of Alexander.] And he had to leave Koinos behind to manage the rest of the transport across, and to send the Paurava home to recruit fresh troops and elephants and rejoin him with these. Alexander now pressed on to the next river, Hydraotes (Ravi), ‘not less in breadth than the Akesines, but not so rapid', leaving garrisons at suitable places along his route to secure his communications. From the banks of that river he despatched Hephaestion with enough troops into the territory of the younger Porus, who had abandoned his country with a handful of followers when he learned of the esteem of Alexander for the other Paurava. Hephaestion was to reduce the territory of the fugitive Porus and of all the independent tribes on the banks of the Ravi, and add it to the kingdom of the great Paurava; he was also to build the walls of a city on the Chenab where Alexander was to settle some of his war-worn veterans on the return.

Alexander crossed the Ravi and entered the land of the Kathaians (Kathas), who were among the best fighters in the Punjab and had gathered their allies for the defence of their fortified capital, Sangala (not yet identified). These warlike Kshatriya tribes had proved their mettle a short time before against Porus and Abhisares when they marched against them; would they prevail against the new-comer from farther west? Within two days of his crossing the Ravi, Alexander had received the submission of Pimprama (unidentified), the city of the Adraistai (Adhrshtas or, according to Jayaswal, Arishtas), But the Kathaians of Sangala camped under shelter of a low hill outside the city and offered a determined resistance from behind a triple barricade of wagons. Finding his cavalry of no avail against the enemy, Alexander led the infantry on foot and after much hard fighting, compelled the Indians to seek refuge behind the city walls. Alexander now closely invested the city, and Porus joined him with a force, of 5,000 Indians and several elephants; the besieged made a plan of escape by night across a shallow lake on one side of the city, but it was betrayed to Alexander, who fell upon the fugitives and forced them back into the city, after inflicting losses on them. Military engines then began to batter the walls, but before a breach was effected, the Macedonians carried the walls by escalade. The city was taken, many of the Kathaians were killed, and more taken prisoner. The desperate nature of the fighting is clear; the Greek accounts admit an unusually large number of slain and wounded in Alexander’s army; and Alexander razed the city to the ground. The inhabitants of two neighbouring cities, the allies of the Kathaians, escaped a similar fate by abandoning their cities in good time.

On the Beas

Alexander asked Porus to garrison the country and himself pushed on to the Hyphasis (Beas), beyond which, it was reported, lay an exceedingly fertile country inhabited by brave agriculturists enjoying an excellent system of government under an aristocracy which exercised its power with justice and moderation; besides, the land was well stocked with elephants of superior size and courage. While he was encamped on the Beas, Alexander was told by a chieftain named Bhagala (Panini knew the name) about the extent and power of the Nanda empire, and Porus confirmed his statements. Such information whetted Alexander’s eagerness to advance further; but his troops, especially the Macedonians, had begun to lose heart at the thought of the distance they had travelled from their homes and the hardships and dangers they had been called upon to face after their entry into India. And at the Beas the army mutinied and refused to march further. Alexander convoked an assembly of the officers and sought to rouse their enthusiasm by recounting the glory of their past achievements, by demonstrating how very near they had come to dominion over the whole world, what rich rewards awaited them at the completion of their task, and what dangers might imperil their young empire if they left some nations unconquered; he cajoled and flattered them,—all in vain. After a long and painful silence, Koinos summoned up courage to speak for the whole army. ‘You see yourself’, he said, ‘how many Macedonians and Greeks started with you, and how few of us are left. From our ranks you sent away home from Baktra the Thessalians as soon as you saw they had no stomach for further toils, and in this you acted wisely. Of the other Greeks, some have been settled in the cities founded by you, where all of them are not willing residents; others still share our toils and dangers. They and the Macedonian army have lost some of their numbers in the fields of battle; others have been disabled by wounds; others have been left behind in different parts of Asia, but the majority have perished by disease. A few only out of many survive, and these few possessed no longer of the same bodily strength as before, while their spirits are still more depressed. All those, whose parents are still living, have a yearning to see them—a yearning to see their wives and children—a yearning to see were it but their native land itself, a desire pardonable in men who would return home in great splendour derived from your munificence and raised from humble to high rank, and from indigence to wealth. Seek not, therefore, to lead them against their inclinations, for you will not find them the same men in the face of dangers, if they enter without heart into their contests with the enemy.’ He exhorted Alexander to return home first, and then form a fresh expedition if he wished it. He also uttered an ominous warning against the visitations of the deity which no man can foresee and guard against. The army applauded the speech, Alexander resented it, and in his wrath announced that he was going forward himself with those who would follow him willingly while the rest might go home and tell their friends that they had left their king in the midst of his enemies. He withdrew into his tent and shut himself in for three days. The mood of the soldiers did not change, and Alexander recognised that after Jhelum and Sangala his army had no desire to meet another Aratta people across the Beas, who had more and better elephants than Porus. It was a severe blow to Alexander, who saved his face by offering a sacrifice preliminary to crossing the river and finding the omens unfavourable to the enterprise. He then proclaimed his decision to return, and the army received it with tears of joy and grateful shouts.

The Return

Alexander built twelve colossal altars to the gods who had led him thus far as a conqueror, and then, after a solemn sacrifice and games, he began to retrace his steps to the Ravi and the Chenab. Plutarch records, it is not clear on what authority, that even in his day the kings of Magadha continued to hold these altars in veneration. All traces of them have disappeared long since.

The country west of the Beas was committed to the charge of Porus—‘Seven nations in all, containing more than 2,000 cities’. While he was making preparations on the Chenab for his voyage to the sea, he received another embassy from Abhisares accompanied by Arsakes, ruler of the neighbouring country of Urasa; Abhisares himself was ill and could not come, as the ambassadors Alexander had sent to him attested. Abhisares was now made satrap of his own dominions and Arsakes placed under him. Here too Alexander received welcome reinforcements, comprising 5,000 Thracian cavalry, 7,000 infantry sent by Harpalus, the king’s cousin and satrap of Babylon, and 25,000 suits of armour inlaid with silver and gold which were at once distributed to the troops who badly needed them. After another sacrifice he recrossed the Chenab and reached the Jhelum where he repaired the damage caused by the rains to his two new cities and attended to other affairs of the country.

Somewhere near the land of the Kathaians lay the country of Saubhuti, the king who issued the well-known series of silver drachms bearing his name in Greek as Sophytes; the name of his country Subhuta is mentioned by Panini. Its exact location is uncertain; Arrian puts it on the Hydaspes, while others place it farther East. Curtius records a dramatic interview between the tall and handsome Saubhuti and Alexander in which Saubhuti offered his submission to the conqueror, whom he entertained with splendour afterwards. The famous hunting dogs of his country were exhibited to the foreigners who were greatly impressed by them.

On the Jhelum Alexander completed his fleet, by impressing all available country craft and constructing a large number of galleys, with the excellent timber that was ready, and the necessary transports for horses. In the end there were 800 ships in all. As these preparations were being made, Koinos fell ill and died, a loss both to Alexander and the army. Alexander took with him on the ships all the hypaspists, the archers, the Agrianians and the corps of the horse-guards. The rest marched in three divisions, Craterus on the right bank, Hephaestion with the elephants on the left, and Philip, satrap of the territory west of the Jhelum, following at an interval of three days; the Nysian cavalry were now sent back to Nysa. The naval squadron was commanded by Nearchus, Alexander’s own ship being piloted by Onesicritus. The start was made early in November 326 with due solemnity and in proper order as Alexander poured libations out of a golden bowl to the Hydaspes, the Akesines and the Indus, and to Heracles and Ammon. The vast procession moved towards the sea as the wooded banks of the river echoed the shouts of the rowers and the beats of the oars. The people who had thronged the banks to see the strange spectacle followed the fleet to a considerable distance, for they had never before seen horses on board ship; and the extraordinary mixture of races and garbs among the crews must have furnished a picturesque sight.

On the third day Alexander halted at a place where Craterus and Hephaestion had pitched their camps each on his side of the river. All of them waited there for two days till Philip joined them and then he was sent off to the Akesines in advance, the other generals being instructed to follow him. The Malloi (Malavas) and the Oxydrakoi (Kshudrakas) were getting ready to give a hostile reception to the invader, and Alexander wanted to press on quickly and attack them before they completed their dispositions. On the fifth day after starting again from that place, Alexander came to the confluence of the Hydaspes and the Akesines. The courses of rivers in the Punjab and Sindh have changed so completely that it is altogether impossible to follow the descriptions of the ancient historians with the aid of modern maps. The confluence of the two rivers which most probably occurred much, earlier in their course in Alexander’s time than at present, was a thundering rapid on a narrow bed full of dangerous eddies and whirlpools; the very noise of the waters unnerved the sailors and the best exhortations of the pilots were of no avail; many ships were damaged, and two of them sank with the greater part of their crew. But soon the river began to widen out and the fleet was moored in safety in a roadstead on the right bank, away from the current. The damaged crafts were repaired and Nearchus was ordered to sail downward till he reached the confines of the land of the Malloi where all the troops were to gather together and await orders.

Republican Tribes

Alexander himself landed with a body of picked troops and made an inroad against the Siboi (Sibis) and the Agalassoi (Agrasrenis) to prevent their joining the powerful confederacy of the Malloi lower down the river. The Sibis, a wild people clad in skins and armed with clubs, who claimed descent from the soldiers of Hercules, made their submission when Alexander encamped near their capital. Their neighbours, the Agalassoi, were not so amenable; they had mustered an army of 40,000 foot and 3,000 horse and offered battle. They fought in the field and in the streets of their city, and many Macedonian soldiers fell; this roused the fury of Alexander, who set fire to the city and massacred large numbers of the inhabitants, condemning many others to slavery; a bare 3,000 sued for mercy and were spared.1 [Diodorus xvii, 96.] Alexander then rejoined the fleet.

From his camp below the confluence of the Jhelum and the Chenab, Alexander planned a great drive against the tribal confederations of the Malavas, and their allies, the Kshudrakas who lived farther to the East along the Beas. While he himself with his favourite troops would deliver the main attack, Hephaestion, who had gone in advance, and Ptolemy, who was to follow behind, would prevent the enemy's attempts to escape in either direction. Nearchus was to take the fleet to the next confluence of the Chenab with the Ravi, where all forces were to assemble again at the end of the campaign.

Alexander struck across fifty miles of waterless desert and completely surprised the first city of the Malavas he came against; the men, who were abroad in the fields unarmed, offered no resistance and were simply butchered; the rest were shut up in the city, guarded by a cordon of cavalry round the walls till the infantry came up. Then Perdiccas was sent forward to the next city, which he was to invest without attempting to storm the place till Alexander came up. The first city was now carried by assault, the citadel in the centre of it holding out somewhat longer; practically all the garrison were killed. Meanwhile Perdiccas reached the city against which he had been sent, and found it deserted; he rode in hot pursuit of the fugitives and overtook and killed some, but the bulk of them managed to escape him to the marshes of the river and beyond.

Soon Alexander came up and joined the pursuit; many of the Malavas were overtaken and slain while crossing the Ravi, but others, made good their escape to a position of great natural strength which was also strongly fortified; here they were attacked by Peithon, who carried the fortress by assault and made slaves of all who had fled to it for refuge. The next place to be attacked was a city of the Brahmins to which the Malavas had flocked; here the resistance was desperate and most of the five thousand defenders sold their lives dear, only a few being taken prisoners. After a day’s rest for the army, Alexander resumed the pursuit and, when he found the cities empty, he had the jungles scoured for fugitives, and his soldiers had instructions to kill everyone that was caught, unless he surrendered voluntarily.
He himself marched against the chief city of the Malavas; learning that they had recrossed the Ravi and were ready to obstruct, his passage, Alexander hastened to where they had dawn up in battle array, some 50,000 in numbers according to Arrian, on the right bank of the Ravi; he plunged into the stream with his horse, and the Malavas, not aware of the weakness of the force which Alexander took with him, withdrew from the bank without opposing the passage; when they saw the true position they returned to the fight. But Alexander kept them engaged with light charges till his infantry came up. The Malavas now withdrew into the nearest stronghold, being hotly pursued by the enemy. In the assaults that followed the next day, the main walls of the city were yielded with little resistance; the citadel held out, and in the assault on it Alexander exposed himself in a way that nearly cost him his life; scaling ladders were few, and Alexander got up one of them, being the first to appear on the wall, a conspicuous target because of his shining arms; to escape the danger, he jumped within the citadel and only a few of his companions could join him there at once; they maintained an unequal contest for some time, but the arrows of the Malavas killed some of them, and Alexander himself was deeply wounded in the chest, and fainted with loss of blood when the arrowhead was pulled out by Perdiccas. Possibly Alexander adopted the desperate expedient to keep up the morale of his troops in this difficult war. The danger to their king maddened the Greek troops and when they managed to gain the citadel by scrambling up the earthen walls and breaking In the gates, they did not spare man, woman or child.

When Alexander was still here, recovering from the wound, the rumour spread to the main camp that he had died of it. Even when he had himself conveyed to their midst in a few days, they still doubted if he was really alive; to carry conviction to his soldiers, he rode a horse when he should have been conveyed in a litter and walked some distance to his tent, and there was universal joy and relief in the camp. Curtius gives a long account (IX 6) of the generals' friendly impeachment of Alexander’s rashness, and his defence; 'I measure myself not by the span of age, but by that of glory'.

What was left of the Malava people after the decimation of the war sent in their submission now, and the Kshudrakas, who had been holding aloof so long as the swiftness of Alexander’s movements left them no chance of going to aid the Malavas, also sent their representatives with full authority to conclude a treaty with the invader. These ambassadors, a hundred in number, says Curtius, all rode in chariots and were men of uncommon stature and of a very dignified bearing. Their robes were of linen and embroidered with inwrought gold and purple. Alexander accepted their excuses and entertained them on a sumptuous scale before he sent them back; they returned in a few days ‘with presents for Alexander which consisted of 300 horsemen, 1,030 chariots, each drawn by four horses, 1,000 Indian bucklers, a great quantity of linen cloth, 100 talents of steel, some tame lions and tigers of extraordinary size, the skins also of very large lizards, and a quantity of tortoise shells’. Alexander, demanded, according to Arrian, a thousand of their best men as hostages, and when they came, he did not like to keep them but sent them back. The two nations which had thus formally submitted were attached to the satrapy of Philip. But the campaign against the Malavas was no unalloyed success. As a record of mere slaughter it stands out unique even in the blood-stained annals of Alexander’s Indian campaigns. The deep wound in his chest, the result of a desperate expedient, left him weakened and indirectly hastened his end. The stout opposition encountered among the Brahmins of the Punjab and the cities of the Malavas was indeed the beginning of the reaction that was soon to wipe out all traces of Alexander from India and to establish the empire of the Mauryas.

Voyage along the lower Indus

The progress of the flotilla down the Chenab and the Indus cannot be traced; nor can the confluences of the rivers mentioned by the Greek writers be identified. Arrian mentions the junctions of the Ravi with the Chenab, and of the combined stream with the Indus. More ships were built, and more tribes submitted along the course, the Abastanoi, (Ambashthas), Xathaoi (Kshaitiyas) and Ossadioi (Vasatis). The confluence of the Indus and the Chenab was fixed as the southern boundary of the satrapy of Philip; a city was founded there and dockyards constructed. Complaints reached about this time against Tyriespes, the satrap of Paropamisadai, and he was replaced by Oxyartes, the father of Roxana, Alexander's favourite wife.

The country below the last confluence differed from the Punjab in its political and social conditions, which have been noted with surprise by the Greek writers. There were no free tribes here, but principalities ruled by kings whose Brahmin counsellors had great influence with them and the people. Alexander first sailed down the river to the ‘royal seat’ of the Sogdoi, where he founded another city with dockyards for the future trade of the city. He appointed Peithon, the son of Agenor, satrap of the lower Indus valley and the sea-board.

The greatest king of this region was known to the Greeks by the name Musicanus (Muchukarna ?). He did not offer his submission or even send presents, but when surprised by the sudden arrival of Alexander in his country, he adopted the course of prudence, tendered his submission and was confirmed in his territory though a garrison was installed in the citadel of his capital (Alor?), which Craterus was to fortify adequately. Alexander then took a number of cities with much booty, all from a chieftain named Oxycanus who was made prisoner. Sambus had abandoned his capital Sindimana when he heard that Alexander had made friends with his arch-enemy Musicanus; his relatives explained the situation to Alexander and offered presents, which were accepted. But the most irreconcilable enemies of the foreigners in this region were the Brahmins (Brahmanako nama Janapadah-Patanjali) and one of their cities was carried by storm and all its inhabitants put to death. Meanwhile Musicanus, acting probably on the advice of his ministers, threw off his allegiance; Peithon who was sent against him suppressed the revolt with a strong hand. He destroyed some cities and placed garrisons in others; he took Musicanus captive and produced him before Alexander, who ordered that he should be executed along with his instigators.

Then came the ruler of Patala and the delta country and offered his submission.
He was sent back to his capital with orders to prepare for the reception of the expedition. Diodorus states that in this region there were two hereditary kings and a council of elders; if that was so, one of them set out to meet Alexander and gain time, while the other was preparing for a flight; for Alexander found Patala totally deserted when he came to the city. From here, Craterus was sent away with a large section of the army with all the elephants by the route leading through the Mula pass, Arachosia (Kandahar) and Drangiana (Seistan). With the rest of the army Alexander continued his course downstream and reached Patala in the middle of July 325 B. C.; when he found the city deserted, he sent his emissaries to overtake the fugitives and persuade them to return in safety to their lands and cultivate them as formerly, and so most of the people did return to their homes.

At Patala the Indus divided into two large rivers. Alexander foresaw a big future for the city and Hephaestion was directed to build a citadel and a harbour there. Alexander set out with some ships to explore the western arm of the river; the task was rendered difficult by lack of knowledgeable pilots, the whole country having been deserted by its inhabitants, and by the damages to his fleet due to a storm and the bore, the tidal wave that rushes with great violence up the mouths of some Indian rivers. Some native pilots were at last discovered and the vessels were steered to the open sea. Alexander offered sacrifices in two islands in the river to some gods as prescribed by the Egyptian oracle of Ammon, and in the open sea he sacrificed bulls to the sea god Poseidon and after pouring a libation he flung the golden goblet into the sea, praying for the safety of Nearchus and his fleet in the ensuing voyage. When he returned to Patala, he found that Peithon, who had been left behind to settle colonists in the newly fortified cities and suppress the last embers of rebellion, had arrived after completing the task.

Exploration and return to Babylon

Alexander now explored the eastern branch of the river, found that it gave easier access to the sea, and came by a large sized lake, on the shore of which he caused a harbour to be built, as a starting point for Nearchus; he ordered wells to be dug along the coast and provisions to be collected. The exact location of this lake is not easy to decide; it may have been the Rann of Cutch or the Samarah lake to the west of Umarkot. Alexander returned to Patala and completed his plans for leaving India. The Cretan Nearchus, who had successfully navigated the rivers during a long voyage of little less than a year, was to bring the fleet from the mouth of the Indus along the coast into the Persian Gulf and rejoin him at the mouth of the Euphrates, while he himself would march with the army by land across Gedrosia keeping as close to the fleet as practicable; he is said to have chosen this difficult route because no one had traversed it except the legendary Semiramis and Cyrus, who escaped with just a few followers and he wanted to surpass them.

Nearchus was timed to start with the N.E. monsoon (late October); but the local tribes became threatening after Alexander’s departure and he sailed down the eastern arm of the Indus late in September and had to cut his way across a sand bar at the western mouth; contrary winds detained him for twenty-four days at ‘Alexander’s harbour’, somewhere near Karachi. When the monsoon arrived he sailed again, moving continuously along an unknown hostile coast where he had to land often for water and provisions. After traversing about a hundred miles, he came to a good harbour at the mouth of the Hab river; beyond it he coasted along the country of the Oreitai, and at a place called Kokala he came by a store of provisions deposited for the fleet by Alexander, and established contact with Leonnatus, who was fresh from an important victory against the Oreitai. There was an exchange of men between them, and the fleet was repaired and victualled before Nearchus sailed again.

Alexander started in September for his famous march through Southern Gedrosia (Mekran). His plan was to support the fleet, which needed support, by digging wells and forming depots of provisions at convenient points. When he reached the Arabios (Hab) he found the country deserted, as the Arabitai tribesmen had fled in terror. Crossing the river, he entered Las Bela, the land of the Oreitai, who offered a slight and ineffectual opposition to his progress. One of their villages, Rambakia, pleased Alexander by its situation and Hephaestion was instructed to colonise it with Arachosians (Curtius). When he passed on to the country of the Gedrosi, he appointed Apollophanes satrap over the Oreitai and leit Lenonnatus to reduce the country and help in the scheme of colonisation. Leonnatus fought a pitched battle with the tribesmen, inflicting great losses on them, and the satrap designate, Apollophanes, was among those who fell on his side. Alexander with the rest of the army crossed into Gedrosia, and kept as close to the coast as possible to be able to serve his fleet. The route lay across a burning arid desert, and the obstacle of the mountain range ending in Cape Malan seems to have forced him into a more appalling region inland, up the valley of the Hingol. 'The blazing heat and the want of water’, says Arrian, ‘destroyed a great part of the army, and especially the beasts of burden, which perished from the great depth of the sand, and the heat which scorched like fire, while a great many died of thirst’. The guides lost the way, and marching was possible only by night on account of the day's heat; ‘they ate the baggage-animals and burnt the carts for firewood.' At last they worked their way to the coast near the harbour of Pasni, where they found good drinking water. They reached Pura, the capital of the Gedrosians, sixty days after they had left the country of Oreitai, and then the army had some rest.

Alexander was advancing into Karmania, when tidings reached him that Philip, the satrap of the Indian country, had been murdered by his rebellious mercenaries; he heard also that the Macedonian body-guards of Philip had put his murderers to death. He could then do no more than send a message to Taxiles and Eudemus, a Thracian commander, asking them to assume charge of the province until he could send a satrap to govern it. About this time Craterus joined him with his division of the army and the elephants. Here also Alexander’s anxiety about the fleet was allayed by Nearchus coming over to meet him and tell him of his strange encounters with whales and savages and of the safety of all the fleet except four vessels lost in the voyage. At the reunion all the past hardships were forgotten and some days were given to a round of feasting and sports. Then the army and the fleet proceeded to Susa, which they reached in the spring of 324 B.C. The death of Alexander in Babylon in the following year put an end to his project of world empire.

Results

The consequences of Alexander’s invasion of India have been exaggerated out of all proportion by some writers and altogether denied by others. That Alexander meant to rule his Indian conquests as integral parts of his empire is clear from his division of the country into satrapies on the Persian model and from the great care he bestowed on the settlement of colonies of his followers at strategic points and on the location of dockyards and harbours along the Indus to foster the growing trade of the future. Arrian’s account, as we have seen, enables us to distinguish five separate divisions of the conquered country; first there was the Paropamisadae with an Alexandria, under the Caucasus for its capital, ruled at first by Tyriespes and later by Oxyartes; the second was under Philip, the son of Machatus, at first satrap of Takshasila, in charge net only of the principality of Ambhi but also of what had been the satrapy of Nicanor in the lower Kabul valley; to his charge was also given all the territory up to the Jhelum on the east and the confluence of the Indus and the Chenab in the south; the third province was the extended dominion of the Paurava where he was both king and satrap; the fourth was the satrapy of Peithon, the son of Agenor, which covered the Indus valley below the confluence and extended to the Hab on the west; lastly, there was the territory, of Abhisara in Kashmir in a somewhat less intimate relation to the empire. We can hardly doubt that, if Alexander had lived to a normal age, the connection of the satrapies with the rest of the empire would have been maintained and developed. As it is, we do not know if Alexander even appointed a permanent successor to Philip as he intended. His generals recognised, soon after his death, that they were not equal to the task of maintaining their hold on all the territories that Alexander had brought under his sway; perhaps even Alexander felt the need for readjustments in the face of growing troubles in India after his return. In withdrawing from the Indian provinces and transferring Peithon to the west of the Indus in the second partition of the empire (321 B.C.) his successors evidently carried out what they knew to have been his own wish in the matter. The garrisons of European soldiers and the colonists in the different cities found their surroundings becoming more and more uncongenial and they rapidly faded from most of the stations. Only Eudemus at the head of the Thracian band of soldiers continued for some time as leader of the Hellenes in India; but even he quitted the scene by 317 B.C., taking with him the war elephants of Porus whom he had slain treacherously. Taxiles also disappeared from view soon after, we do not know how. And some years afterwards Seleucus surrendered his distant provinces to the Indian emperor in exchange for war-elephants.

But the invasion itself, though it lasted less than two years, was too great an occurrence to leave things just as they were. It showed clearly that an emotional love of independence was no match to the disciplined strength of a determined conqueror, though we should not fail to note that in this instance the states of North-Western India had to contend against one of the greatest generals of the world. It left the warrior tribes of the Indus river system weakened and broken, and thus paved the way for the easy extension of Mauryan rule. It demonstrated the need for a wiser political policy on the part of the Indian rulers. Who can doubt that the lessons of the invasion and the example of Alexander go far to account for the career of Chandragupta and the establishment of his empire? At any rate the role of Taxiles does not recur in Indian history for the next fifteen centuries. Lastly, though India was not Hellenized at any time in the sense in which Western Asia was, there was much active contact between India and the Hellenistic kingdoms, and in the realms of art, currency and astronomy India became a debtor; the fine silver coins of Sophytes with their Greek legends and their Attic weight standard are among the earliest witnesses to this development.  On the European side, the expedition of Alexander brought a vast increase in the knowledge of India of which was for the most part carefully recorded by contemporaries, and availed of by later writers now accessible to us. ‘Not a few of Alexander’s officers and companions were men of high attainments in literature and science, and some of their number composed memoirs of his wars, in the course of which they recorded their impressions of India and the races by which they found it inhabited’ (M’Crindle). Some wild tales indeed gained currency, but when all subtraction is made, the extent of new knowledge acquired was considerable. But even here exaggeration is easy; it has been said that the age of Alexander must take rank with that of Columbus as a time when a new world was discovered to Europe. (But Alexander did not discover an unknown world; Greece and India had known each other for many generations, and trade contacts and other relations had long been established through the medium of the Persian empire.) And Craterus in his journey from the Indus valley to Karmania evidently followed an already established route, though the navigation of the Indus, and the rounding of the coast of the Makran and the Persian Gulf by Nearchus, were a distinct gain to geography and trade, and the march of Alexander across Gedrosia a marvellous achievement of daring and leadership. The actual gain in the knowledge about India was much greater under Alexander’s successors than in his own day; but he founded the empire which, even when it broke up, long retained in its parts, the impetus his genius had given it.
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Seleucus I Nicator
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Seleucus I Nicator
A Roman copy of a Greek statue of Seleucus I found in Herculaneum. Now located at the Naples National Archaeological Museum.
Basileus of the Seleucid Empire
Reign: 305[1] – September 281 BC
Successor: Antiochus I Soter
Co-king: Antiochus I Soter (~292-281 BC)
Born: c. 358 BC, Europos, Macedon
Died: September 281 BC (aged c. 77), Thrace
Spouse: Apama of Sogdiana; Stratonice of Syria
Issue: Apama; Antiochus I Soter; Achaeus; Phila; Helena
Dynasty: Seleucid dynasty
Father: Antiochus
Mother: Laodice
Religion: Greek polytheism

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Seleucus I portrait on Antiochus I tetradrachm

Seleucus I Nicator (/səˈljuːkəs naɪˈkeɪtər/; c. 358 BC – September 281 BC; Ancient Greek: Σέλευκος Νικάτωρ, romanized: Séleukos Nikátōr, lit. 'Seleucus the Victor') was a Greek general and one of the Diadochi, the rival generals, relatives, and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death.[A] Having previously served as an infantry general under Alexander the Great, he eventually assumed the title of basileus (king) and established the Seleucid Empire, one of the major powers of the Hellenistic world, which controlled most of Asia Minor, Syria, Mesopotamia, and the Iranian Plateau until overcome by the Roman Republic and Parthian Empire in the late second and early first centuries BC.

After the death of Alexander in June 323 BC, Seleucus initially supported Perdiccas, the regent of Alexander's empire, and was appointed Commander of the Companions and chiliarch at the Partition of Babylon in 323 BC. However, after the outbreak of the Wars of the Diadochi in 322, Perdiccas' military failures against Ptolemy in Egypt led to the mutiny of his troops in Pelusium. Perdiccas was betrayed and assassinated in a conspiracy by Seleucus, Peithon and Antigenes in Pelusium sometime in either 321 or 320 BC. At the Partition of Triparadisus in 321 BC, Seleucus was appointed Satrap of Babylon under the new regent Antipater. But almost immediately, the wars between the Diadochi resumed and one of the most powerful of the Diadochi, Antigonus, forced Seleucus to flee Babylon. Seleucus was only able to return to Babylon in 312 BC with the support of Ptolemy. From 312 BC, Seleucus ruthlessly expanded his dominions and eventually conquered the Persian and Median lands. Seleucus ruled not only Babylonia, but the entire enormous eastern part of Alexander's empire.

Seleucus further made claim to the former satraps in Gandhara and in eastern India. However these ambitions were contested by Chandragupta Maurya[??], resulting in the Seleucid–Mauryan War (305–303 BC). The conflict was ultimately resolved by a treaty[??] resulting in the Maurya Empire annexing the eastern satraps. Additionally, a marriage alliance between the two empires was formalized with Chandragupta[??] marrying Seleucus' daughter. Furthermore, the Seleucid Empire received a considerable military force of 500 war elephants with mahouts, which would play a decisive role against Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC. In 281 BC, he also defeated Lysimachus at the Battle of Corupedium, adding Asia Minor to his empire.

Seleucus' victories against Antigonus and Lysimachus left the Seleucid dynasty virtually unopposed amongst the Diadochi. However, Seleucus also hoped to take control of Lysimachus' European territories, primarily Thrace and Macedon itself. But upon arriving in Thrace in 281 BC, Seleucus was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus,[2] who had taken refuge at the Seleucid court with his sister Lysandra. The assassination of Seleucus destroyed Seleucid prospects in Thrace and Macedon, and paved the way for Ptolemy Ceraunus to absorb much of Lysimachus' former power in Macedon. Seleucus was succeeded by his son Antiochus I as ruler of the Seleucid Empire.

Seleucus founded a number of new cities during his reign, including Antioch (300 BC) and Seleucia on the Tigris (c. 305 BC), a foundation that eventually depopulated Babylon.

Youth and family

Seleucus was the son of Antiochus. Historian Junianus Justinus claims that Antiochus was one of Philip II of Macedon's generals, but no such general is mentioned in any other sources, and nothing is known of his supposed career under Philip. It is possible that Antiochus was a member of an upper Macedonian noble family. Seleucus' mother was supposedly called Laodice, but nothing else is known of her. Later, Seleucus named a number of cities after his parents.[3] Seleucus was born in Europos, located in the northern part of Macedonia. Just a year before his birth (if the year 358 BC is accepted as the most likely date), the Paeonians invaded the region. Philip defeated the invaders and only a few years later utterly subdued them under Macedonian rule.[4] Seleucus' year of birth is unclear. Justin claims he was 77 years old during the battle of Corupedium, which would place his year of birth at 358 BC. Appianus tells us Seleucus was 73 years old during the battle, which means 354 BC would be the year of birth. Eusebius of Caesarea, however, mentions the age of 75, and thus the year 356 BC, making Seleucus the same age as Alexander the Great. This is most likely propaganda on Seleucus' part to make him seem comparable to Alexander.[5]

As a teenager, Seleucus was chosen to serve as the king's page (paides). It was customary for all male offspring of noble families to first serve in this position and later as officers in the king's army.[3]

A number of legends, similar to those told of Alexander the Great, were told of Seleucus. It was said Antiochus told his son before he left to battle the Persians with Alexander that his real father was actually the god Apollo. The god had left a ring with a picture of an anchor as a gift to Laodice. Seleucus had a birthmark shaped like an anchor. It was told that Seleucus' sons and grandsons also had similar birthmarks. The story is similar to the one told about Alexander. Most likely the story is merely propaganda by Seleucus, who presumably invented the story to present himself as the natural successor of Alexander.[3]

John Malalas tells us Seleucus had a sister called Didymeia, who had sons called Nicanor and Nicomedes. It is most likely the sons are fictitious. Didymeia might refer to the oracle of Apollo in Didyma near Miletus. It has also been suggested that Ptolemy (son of Seleucus) was actually the uncle of Seleucus.[6]

Early career under Alexander the Great

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Seleucus led the Royal Hypaspistai during Alexander's Persian campaign.

In spring 334 BC, as a young man of about twenty-three, Seleucus accompanied Alexander into Asia.[2] By the time of the Indian campaigns beginning in late in 327 BC, he had risen to the command of the élite infantry corps in the Macedonian army, the "Shield-bearers" (Hypaspistai, later known as the "Silvershields"). It is said by Arrian that when Alexander crossed the Hydaspes river on a boat, he was accompanied by Perdiccas, Ptolemy I Soter, Lysimachus and also Seleucus.[7] During the subsequent Battle of the Hydaspes (326 BC), Seleucus led his troops against the elephants of King Porus. It is unknown the extent in which Seleucus participated in the actual planning of the battle, as he is not mentioned as holding any major independent position during the battle. This contrasts Craterus, Hephaistion, Peithon and Leonnatus – each of whom had sizable detachments under his control.[8] Seleucus' Royal Hypaspistai were constantly under Alexander's eye and at his disposal. They later participated in the Indus Valley campaign, in the battles fought against the Malli and in the crossing of the Gedrosian desert.

At the great marriage ceremony at Susa in the spring of 324 BC, Seleucus married Apama (daughter of Spitamenes), and she bore him his eldest son and successor Antiochus I Soter, at least two legitimate daughters (Laodice and Apama) and possibly another son (Achaeus). At the same event, Alexander married the daughter of the late Persian King Darius III while several other Macedonians married Persian women. After Alexander's death (323 BC), when the other senior Macedonian officers unloaded their "Susa wives" en masse, Seleucus was one of the very few who kept his wife, and Apama remained his consort (later Queen) for the rest of her life.[9]

Ancient sources mention Seleucus three times before the death of Alexander. He participated in a sailing trip near Babylon, took part in the dinner party of Medeios the Thessalian with Alexander and visited the temple of the god Serapis.[citation needed] In the first of these episodes, Alexander's diadem was blown off his head and landed on some reeds near the tombs of Assyrian kings. Seleucus swam to fetch the diadem back, placing it on his own head while returning to the boat to keep it dry. The validity of the story is dubious. The story of the dinner party of Medeios may be true, but the plot to poison the King is unlikely.[clarification needed insufficient details and context] In the final story, Seleucus reportedly slept in the temple of Serapis in the hope that Alexander's health might improve. The validity of this story is also questionable, as the Graeco-Egyptian Serapis had not been invented at the time.[10]

Senior officer under Perdiccas (323–321 BC)

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Ptolemy I Soter, an officer under Alexander the Great, was nominated as the satrap of Egypt. Ptolemy made Ptolemaic Egypt independent and proclaimed himself Basileus and Pharaoh in 305 BC.

Main article: Diadochi

Alexander the Great died without a successor in Babylon on June 10, 323 BC. His general Perdiccas became the regent of all of Alexander's empire, while Alexander's physically and mentally disabled half-brother Arrhidaeus was chosen as the next king under the name Philip III of Macedon. Alexander's unborn child (Alexander IV) was also named his father's successor. In the "Partition of Babylon" however, Perdiccas effectively divided the enormous Macedonian dominion among Alexander's generals. Seleucus was chosen to command the Companion cavalry (hetairoi) and appointed first or court chiliarch, which made him the senior officer in the Royal Army after the regent and commander-in-chief Perdiccas. Several other powerful men supported Perdiccas, including Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Peithon and Eumenes. Perdiccas' power depended on his ability to hold Alexander's enormous empire together, and on whether he could force the satraps to obey him.[10]

War soon broke out between Perdiccas and the other Diadochi. To cement his position, Perdiccas tried to marry Alexander's sister Cleopatra. The First War of the Diadochi began when Perdiccas sent Alexander's corpse to Macedonia for burial. Ptolemy however captured the body and took it to Alexandria. Perdiccas and his troops followed him to Egypt, whereupon Ptolemy conspired with the satrap of Media, Peithon, and the commander of the Argyraspides, Antigenes, both serving as officers under Perdiccas, and assassinated him. Cornelius Nepos mentions that Seleucus also took part in this conspiracy, but this is not certain.[11]

Satrap of Babylonia (321–316 BC)

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Damaged Roman copy of a bust of Seleucus I, Louvre

The most powerful man in the empire after the death of Perdiccas was Antipater. Perdiccas' opponents gathered in Triparadisos, where the empire of Alexander was partitioned again (the Treaty of Triparadisus 321 BC).[12]

At Triparadisos the soldiers had become mutinous and were planning to murder their master Antipater. Seleucus and Antigonus, however, prevented this.[13] For betraying Perdiccas, Seleucus was awarded the rich province of Babylon. This decision may have been Antigonus' idea. Seleucus' Babylon was surrounded by Peucestas, the satrap of Persis; Antigenes, the new satrap of Susiana and Peithon of Media. Babylon was one of the wealthiest provinces of the empire, but its military power was insignificant. It is possible that Antipater divided the eastern provinces so that no single satrap could rise above the others in power.[12]

After the death of Alexander, Archon of Pella was chosen satrap of Babylon. Perdiccas, however, had plans to supersede Archon and nominate Docimus as his successor. During his invasion of Egypt, Perdiccas sent Docimus along with his detachments to Babylon. Archon waged war against him, but fell in battle. Thus, Docimus was not intending to give Babylon to Seleucus without a fight. It is not certain how Seleucus took Babylon from Docimus, but according to one Babylonian chronicle an important building was destroyed in the city during the summer or winter of 320 BC. Other Babylonian sources state that Seleucus arrived in Babylon in October or November 320 BC. Despite the presumed battle, Docimus was able to escape.

Meanwhile, the empire was once again in turmoil. Peithon, the satrap of Media, assassinated Philip, the satrap of Parthia, and replaced him with his brother Eudemus as the new satrap. In the west Antigonus and Eumenes waged war against each other. Just like Peithon and Seleucus, Eumenes was one of the former supporters of Perdiccas. Seleucus' biggest problem was, however, Babylon itself. The locals had rebelled against Archon and supported Docimus. The Babylonian priesthood had great influence over the region. Babylon also had a sizeable population of Macedonian and Greek veterans of Alexander's army. Seleucus won over the priests with monetary gifts and bribes.[14]

Second War of the Diadochi

Main article: Second War of the Diadochi

After the death of Antipater in 319 BC, the satrap of Media began to expand his power. Peithon assembled a large army of perhaps over 20,000 soldiers. Under the leadership of Peucestas the other satraps of the region brought together an opposing army of their own. Peithon was finally defeated in a battle waged in Parthia. He escaped to Media, but his opponents did not follow him and rather returned to Susiana. Meanwhile, Eumenes and his army had arrived at Cilicia, but had to retreat when Antigonus reached the city. The situation was difficult for Seleucus. Eumenes and his army were north of Babylon; Antigonus was following him with an even larger army; Peithon was in Media and his opponents in Susiana. Antigenes, satrap of Susiana and commander of the Argyraspides, was allied with Eumenes. Antigenes was in Cilicia when the war between him and Peithon began.[15]

Peithon arrived at Babylon in the autumn or winter of 317 BC. Peithon had lost a large number of troops, but Seleucus had even fewer soldiers. Eumenes decided to march to Susa in the spring of 316 BC. The satraps in Susa had apparently accepted Eumenes' claims of his fighting on behalf of the lawful ruling family against the usurper Antigonus. Eumenes marched his army 300 stadions away from Babylon and tried to cross the Tigris. Seleucus had to act. He sent two triremes and some smaller ships to stop the crossing. He also tried to get the former hypasiti of the Argyraspides to join him, but this did not happen. Seleucus also sent messages to Antigonus. Because of his lack of troops, Seleucus apparently had no plans to actually stop Eumenes. He opened the flood barriers of the river, but the resulting flood did not stop Eumenes.[16]

In the spring of 316 BC, Seleucus and Peithon joined Antigonus, who was following Eumenes to Susa. From Susa Antigonus went to Media, from where he could threaten the eastern provinces. He left Seleucus with a small number of troops to prevent Eumenes from reaching the Mediterranean. Sibyrtius, satrap of Arachosia, saw the situation as hopeless and returned to his own province. The armies of Eumenes and his allies were at breaking point. Antigonus and Eumenes had two encounters during 316 BC, in the battles of Paraitacene and Gabiene. Eumenes was defeated and executed. The events of the Second War of the Diadochi revealed Seleucus' ability to wait for the right moment. Blazing into battle was not his style.[17]

Escape to Egypt

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Tetradrachm of Seleucos I. Obv Idealized portrait of Seleucos with a helmet covered with a leopard skin and decorated with a bull's ear and horns. Seleucus wears around his throat another leopard skin, knotted in front. Rev Winged figure of Nike (Victory). Nike holds a wreath over a trophy of arms including a helmet, a cuirass (breast-and-backplate) with leather straps and skirt, and a star-adorned shield, hung on a tree trunk. This a possible symbol of the Battle of Ipsus (301 BC). Legend "Seleucus" and "Basileus" (king).[18]

Antigonus spent the winter of 316 BC in Media, whose ruler was once again Peithon. Peithon's lust for power had grown, and he tried to get a portion of Antigonus' troops to revolt to his side. Antigonus, however, discovered the plot and executed Peithon. He then superseded Peucestas as satrap of Persia.[19] In the summer of 315 BC Antigonus arrived in Babylon and was warmly welcomed by Seleucus. The relationship between the two soon turned cold, however. Seleucus punished one of Antigonus' officers without asking permission from Antigonus. Antigonus became angry and demanded that Seleucus give him the income from the province, which Seleucus refused to do.[20] He was, however, afraid of Antigonus and fled to Egypt with 50 horsemen. It is told that Chaldean astrologers prophesied to Antigonus that Seleucus would become master of Asia and would kill Antigonus. After hearing this, Antigonus sent soldiers after Seleucus, who had however first escaped to Mesopotamia and then to Syria. Antigonus executed Blitor, the new satrap of Mesopotamia, for helping Seleucus. Modern scholars are skeptical of the prophecy story. It seems certain, however, that the Babylonian priesthood was against Seleucus.[21]

During Seleucus' escape to Egypt, Macedonia was undergoing great turmoil. Alexander the Great's mother Olympias had been invited back to Macedon by Polyperchon in order to drive Cassander out. She held great respect among the Macedonian army but lost some of this when she had Philip III and his wife Eurydice killed as well as many nobles whom she took revenge upon for supporting Antipater during his long reign. Cassander reclaimed Macedon the following year at Pydna and then had her killed. Alexander IV, still a young child, and his mother Roxane were held guarded at Amphipolis and died under mysterious circumstances in 310 BC, probably murdered at the instigation of Cassander to allow the diadochs to assume the title of king.

Admiral under Ptolemy (316–311 BC)

Main article: Third War of the Diadochi

After arriving in Egypt, Seleucus sent his friends to Greece to inform his fellow Diadochi Cassander (ruler of Macedon and overlord of Greece) and Lysimachus (ruler of Thracia) about Antigonus. Antigonus was now the most powerful of the Diadochi, and the others would soon have to face him. Ptolemy, Lysimachus and Cassander formed a coalition against Antigonus. The allies sent a proposition to Antigonus in which they demanded shares of his accumulated treasure and of his territory, with Phoenica and Syria going to Ptolemy, Cappadocia and Lycia to Cassander, Hellespontine Phrygia to Lysimachus, and Babylonia to Seleucus.[22] Antigonus refused, and in the spring of 314 BC, he marched against Ptolemy in Syria.[23] Seleucus acted as an admiral to Ptolemy during the first phase of the war. Antigonus was besieging Tyre,[24] when Seleucus sailed past him and went on to threaten the coast of Syria and Asia Minor. Antigonus allied with the island of Rhodes, which had a strategic location and a navy capable of preventing the allies from combining their forces. Because of the threat of Rhodes, Ptolemy gave Seleucus a hundred ships and sent him to the Aegean Sea. The fleet was too small to defeat Rhodes, but it was big enough to force Asander, the satrap of Caria, to ally with Ptolemy. To demonstrate his power, Seleucus also invaded the city of Erythrai. Polemaios, a nephew of Antigonus, attacked Asander. Seleucus returned to Cyprus, where Ptolemy I had sent his brother Menelaos along with 10,000 mercenaries and 100 ships. Seleucus and Menelaos began to besiege Kition. Antigonus sent most of his fleet to the Aegean Sea and his army to Asia Minor. Ptolemy now had an opportunity to invade Syria, where he defeated Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, in the battle of Gaza in 312 BC. It is probable that Seleucus took part in the battle. Peithon, son of Agenor, whom Antigonus had nominated as the new satrap of Babylon, fell in the battle. The death of Peithon gave Seleucus an opportunity to return to Babylon.[25]

Seleucus had prepared his return to Babylon well. After the battle of Gaza Demetrius retreated to Tripoli while Ptolemy advanced all the way to Sidon. Ptolemy gave Seleucus 800 infantry and 200 cavalry. He also had his friends accompanying him, perhaps the same 50 who escaped with him from Babylon. On the way to Babylon Seleucus recruited more soldiers from the colonies along the route. He finally had about 3,000 soldiers. In Babylon, Peithon's commander, Diphilus, barricaded himself in the city's fortress. Seleucus conquered Babylon with great speed and the fortress was also quickly captured. Seleucus' friends who had stayed in Babylon were released from captivity.[26] His return to Babylon was afterwards officially regarded as the beginning of the Seleucid Empire[2] and that year as the first of the Seleucid era.

Satrap of Babylonia (311– 306 BC)

Conquest of the eastern provinces

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The kingdoms of Antigonus, Seleucus I, Ptolemy I, Cassander and Lysimachus

Soon after Seleucus' return, the supporters of Antigonus tried to get Babylon back. Nicanor was the new satrap of Media and the strategos of the eastern provinces. His army had about 17,000 soldiers. Evagoras, the satrap of Aria, was allied with him. It was obvious that Seleucus' small force could not defeat the two in battle. Seleucus hid his armies in the marshes that surrounded the area where Nicanor was planning to cross the Tigris and made a surprise attack during the night. Evagoras fell in the beginning of the battle and Nicanor was cut off from his forces. The news about the death of Evagoras spread among the soldiers, who started to surrender en masse. Almost all of them agreed to fight under Seleucus. Nicanor escaped with only a few men.[27]

Even though Seleucus now had about 20,000 soldiers, they were not enough to withstand the forces of Antigonus. He also did not know when Antigonus would begin his counterattack. On the other hand, he knew that at least two eastern provinces did not have a satrap. A great majority of his own troops were from these provinces. Some of Evagoras' troops were Persian. Perhaps a portion of the troops were Eumenes' soldiers, who had a reason to hate Antigonus. Seleucus decided to take advantage of this situation.[27]

Seleucus spread different stories among the provinces and the soldiers. According to one of them, he had in a dream seen Alexander standing beside him. Eumenes had tried to use a similar propaganda trick. Antigonus, who had been in Asia Minor while Seleucus had been in the east with Alexander, could not use Alexander in his own propaganda. Seleucus, being Macedonian, had the ability to gain the trust of the Macedonians among his troops, which was not the case with Eumenes.[28]

After becoming once again satrap of Babylon, Seleucus became much more aggressive in his politics. In a short time he conquered Media and Susiana. Diodorus Siculus reports that Seleucus also conquered other nearby areas, which might refer to Persis, Aria or Parthia. Seleucus did not reach Bactria and Sogdiana. The satrap of the former was Stasanor, who had remained neutral during the conflicts. After the defeat of Nikanor's army, there was no force in the east that could have opposed Seleucus. It is uncertain how Seleucus arranged the administration of the provinces he had conquered. Most satraps had died. In theory, Polyperchon was still the lawful successor of Antipater and the official regent of the Macedonian kingdom. It was his duty to select the satraps. However, Polyperchon was still allied with Antigonus and thus an enemy of Seleucus.[29]

Response

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Seleucus I coin depicting Alexander the Great's horse Bucephalus

Antigonus sent his son Demetrius along with 15,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry to reconquer Babylon. Apparently, he gave Demetrius a time limit, after which he had to return to Syria. Antigonus believed Seleucus was still ruling only Babylon. Perhaps Nicanor had not told him that Seleucus now had at least 20,000 soldiers. It seems that the scale of Nicanor's defeat was not clear to all parties. Antigonus did not know Seleucus had conquered the majority of the eastern provinces and perhaps cared little about the eastern parts of the empire.[30]

When Demetrius arrived in Babylon, Seleucus was somewhere in the east. He had left Patrocles to defend the city. Babylon was defended in an unusual way. It had two strong fortresses, in which Seleucus had left his garrisons. The inhabitants of the city were transferred out and settled in the neighbouring areas, some as far as Susa. The surroundings of Babylon were excellent for defence, with cities, swamps, canals and rivers. Demetrius' troops started to besiege the fortresses of Babylon and conquered one of them. The second fortress proved more difficult for Demetrius. He left his friend Archelaus to continue the siege, and himself returned west leaving 5,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry in Babylon. Ancient sources do not mention what happened to these troops. Perhaps Seleucus had to reconquer Babylon from Archelaus.[31]

Babylonian War

Main article: Babylonian War

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Coin of Lysimachus with an image of a horned Alexander the Great

Over the course of nine years (311–302 BC), while Antigonus was occupied in the west, Seleucus brought the whole eastern part of Alexander's empire as far as the Jaxartes and Indus Rivers under his authority.[2]

In 311 BC Antigonus made peace with Cassander, Lysimachus and Ptolemy, which gave him an opportunity to deal with Seleucus.[32] Antigonus' army had at least 80,000 soldiers. Even if he left half of his troops in the west, he would still have a numerical advantage over Seleucus. Seleucus may have received help from Cossaians, whose ancestors were the ancient Kassites. Antigonus had devastated their lands while fighting Eumenes. Seleucus perhaps recruited a portion of Archelaus' troops. When Antigonus finally invaded Babylon, Seleucus' army was much bigger than before. Many of his soldiers certainly hated Antigonus. The population of Babylon was also hostile. Seleucus, thus, did not need to garrison the area to keep the locals from revolting.[33]

Little information is available about the conflict between Antigonus and Seleucus; only a very rudimentary Babylonian chronicle detailing the events of the war remains. The description of the year 310 BC has completely disappeared. It seems that Antigonus conquered Babylon. His plans were disturbed, however, by Ptolemy, who made a surprise attack in Cilicia.[33]

We do know that Seleucus defeated Antigonus in at least one decisive battle. This battle is only mentioned in Stratagems in War by Polyaenus. Polyaenus reports that the troops of Seleucus and Antigonus fought for a whole day, but when night came the battle was still undecided. The two forces agreed to rest for the night and continue in the morning. Antigonus' troops slept without their equipment. Seleucus ordered his forces to sleep and eat breakfast in battle formation. Shortly before dawn, Seleucus' troops attacked the forces of Antigonus, who were still without their weapons and in disarray and thus easily defeated. The historical accuracy of the story is questionable.[34][35]

The Babylonian war finally ended in Seleucus' victory. Antigonus was forced to retreat west. Both sides fortified their borders. Antigonus built a series of fortresses along the Balikh River while Seleucus built a few cities, including Dura-Europos and Nisibis.

Seleucia

The next event connected to Seleucus was the founding of the city of Seleucia. The city was built on the shore of the Tigris probably in 307 or 305 BC. Seleucus made Seleucia his new capital, thus imitating Lysimachus, Cassander and Antigonus, all of whom had named cities after themselves. Seleucus also transferred the mint of Babylon to his new city. Babylon was soon left in the shadow of Seleucia, and the story goes that Antiochus, the son of Seleucus, moved the whole population of Babylon to his father's namesake capital in 275 BC. The city flourished until AD 165, when the Romans destroyed it.[34][36]

A story of the founding of the city goes as follows: Seleucus asked the Babylonian priests which day would be best to found the city. The priest calculated the day, but, wanting the founding to fail, told Seleucus a different date. The plot failed however, because when the correct day came, Seleucus' soldiers spontaneously started building the city. When questioned, the priests admitted their deed.[37]

King of the Seleucid empire (306–281 BC)

The struggle among the Diadochi reached its climax when Antigonus, after the extinction of the old royal line of Macedonia, proclaimed himself king[2] in 306 BC. Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Cassander and Seleucus soon followed. Also, Agathocles of Sicily declared himself king around the same time.[34][38] Seleucus, like the other four principal Macedonian chiefs, assumed the title and style of basileus (king).[2]

Chandragupta[??] and the Eastern Provinces

Main article: Seleucid–Mauryan war

Seleucus soon turned his attention once again eastward. The Persian provinces in what is now modern Afghanistan, together with the wealthy kingdom of Gandhara and the states of the Indus Valley, had all submitted to Alexander the Great and become part of his empire. When Alexander died, the Wars of the Diadochi ("Successors") split his empire apart; as his generals fought for control of Alexander's empire. In the eastern territories, Seleucus I Nicator took control of Alexander's conquests. According to the Roman historian Appian:

[Seleucus was] always lying in wait for the neighboring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus.

— Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55


The Mauryans then annexed the areas around the Indus governed by the four Greek satraps: Nicanor, Phillip, Eudemus and Peithon. This established Mauryan control to the banks of the Indus. Chandragupta's[??] victories convinced Seleucus that he needed to secure his eastern flank. Seeking to hold the Macedonian territories there, Seleucus thus came into conflict with the emerging and expanding Mauryan Empire over the Indus Valley.[39]

In the year 305 BC, Seleucus I Nicator went to India and apparently occupied territory as far as the Indus, and eventually waged war with the Maurya Emperor Chandragupta Maurya.[??][citation needed]

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Seleukos I Nikator. 312–281 BC. AR Stater (22 mm, 16.88 g, 12 h). Susa mint. Struck circa 288/7 BC. Head of Zeus right, wearing laurel wreath / Elephant advancing right; above, spearhead right; K below

Only a few sources mention his activities in India. Chandragupta[??] (known in Greek sources as Sandrokottos), founder of the Mauryan empire, had conquered the Indus valley and several other parts of the easternmost regions of Alexander's empire. Seleucus began a campaign against Chandragupta[??] and crossed the Indus.[39] Most western historians note that it appears to have fared poorly as he did not achieve his goals[citation needed], even though what exactly happened is unknown. The two leaders ultimately reached an agreement,[40] [Kosmin, Paul J. (2014). The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in Seleucid Empire. P. 98.]
The course of Seleucus’ campaign against this Indian emperor is not known in detail – an obscurity that has tempted modern historians to political allegory and forgery. Certainly, Seleucus crossed his forces over the river Indus, so invading India proper, but whether Seleucid and Mauryan armies fought a pitched battle is still debated. Whatever happened, at some point, in a momentous and foundational act of the new world order, Seleucus and Chandragupta[??] decided to make peace. The ancient historians Justin, Appian, and Strabo preserve the three main terms of what I will call the Treaty of the Indus...

-- Chapter 1: India – Diplomacy and Ethnography at the Mauryan Empire, Excerpt from "The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire", by Paul J. Kosmin

... and through a treaty[??] sealed in 305 BC,[41] [John Keay (2001). India: A History. Grove Press. pp. 85–86.] Seleucus abandoned the territories he could never securely hold in exchange for stabilizing the East and obtaining elephants, with which he could turn his attention against his great western rival, Antigonus Monophthalmus.[40] The 500 war elephants Seleucus obtained from Chandragupta[??] were to play a key role in the forthcoming battles, particularly at Ipsus [42] against Antigonus and Demetrius. The Maurya king might have married the daughter of Seleucus.[43] [Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra (2003) [1952]. Ancient India. P. 105.]
The otherwise inexplicable silence of the classical writers, as well as the net result of the expedition, however, clearly indicate that Seleucus met with a miserable failure. For he had not only to finally abandon the idea of reconquering the Panjab, but had to buy peace by ceding Paropanisartai, Arachosia, and Aria, three rich provinces with the cities now known as Kabul, Kandahar and Herat respectively as their capitals, and also Gedrosia (Baluchistan), or at least a part of it. The victorious Maurya king probably married the daughter of his Greek rival, and made a present of five hundred elephants to his royal father-in-law. Some Greek writers have represented this gift as the price of the rich provinces ceded by Seleucus, which is of course absurd. It is difficult to believe that Seleucus would have readily agreed to part with his rich provinces for such paltry gifts unless he were forced to do so. It is therefore legitimate to hold that Seleucus was worsted in his fight with Chandragupta.[??]

-- Ancient India, by Ramesh Chandra Majumdar

According to Strabo, the ceded territories bordered the Indus:

The geographical position of the tribes is as follows: along the Indus are the Paropamisadae, above whom lies the Paropamisus mountain: then, towards the south, the Arachoti: then next, towards the south, the Gedroseni, with the other tribes that occupy the seaboard; and the Indus lies, latitudinally, alongside all these places; and of these places, in part, some that lie along the Indus are held by Indians, although they formerly belonged to the Persians. Alexander [III 'the Great' of Macedon] took these away from the Arians and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus [Chandragupta[??]], upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange five hundred elephants. — Strabo 15.2.9[44]


From this, it seems that Seleucus surrendered the easternmost provinces of Arachosia, Gedrosia, Paropamisadae and perhaps also Aria. On the other hand, he was accepted by other satraps of the eastern provinces. His Iranian wife, Apama, may have helped him implement his rule in Bactria and Sogdiana.[45][46] This would tend to be corroborated archaeologically, as concrete indications of Mauryan influence, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Ashoka which are known to be located in, for example, Kandhahar in today's southern Afghanistan.
The Kandahar Edict clearly shows Asoka as the master of Arachosia, whereas the coins indicate that Diodotus was the sovereign of this region. The problem can be resolved only by assuming that Asoka was the same as Diodotus-I. Asoka died exactly when Diodotus died; Asoka's Edicts stopped appearing in 245 BC[xxxix] the year of Diodotus' death. According to Wheeler, the first Edicts were inscribed 'in and after 257BC'. A.K. Narain and others maintain that Diodotus proclaimed himself as king by about 256 BC. The great Indologist F. W. Thomas noted that in his Edicts Asoka did not mention Diodotus Theos who should have been his neighbour[xl]. It is difficult to imagine that the man whose religious overtures won the heart of nearly the entire civilized world failed to impress upon his god-like neighbour. Asoka does not mention Iran also in his Edicts; the nearest foreign king that he mentions being Antiochus. This may indicate that the Syrian King stationed at Seleucia near Babylon was indeed his neighbour. Asoka does not refer to Devadatta because he was Devadatta himself.

-- An Altar of Alexander Now Standing at Delhi [REDUCED VERSION], by Ranajit Pal

Some authors say that the argument relating to Seleucus handing over more of what is now southern Afghanistan is an exaggeration originating in a statement by Pliny the Elder referring not specifically to the lands received by Chandragupta[??], but rather to the various opinions of geographers regarding the definition of the word "India":[47]

Most geographers, in fact, do not look upon India as bounded by the river Indus, but add to it the four satrapies of the Gedrose, the Arachotë, the Aria, and the Paropamisadë, the River Cophes thus forming the extreme boundary of India. According to other writers, however, all these territories, are reckoned as belonging to the country of the Aria. — Pliny, Natural History VI, 23[48]


Nevertheless, it is usually considered today that Arachosia and the other three regions did become dominions of the Mauryan Empire.[citation needed]

Now the countries which lie to the east of the Indus I take to be India Proper, and the people who inhabit them to be Indians. [In limiting India to the eastern side of the Indus, Arrian expresses the view generally held in antiquity, which would appear to be also that of the Hindus themselves, since they are forbidden by one of their old traditions to cross that river. [Kala pani taboo] Much, however, may he said for the theory which would extend India to the foot of the great mountain ranges of Hindu Kush and Parapamisos.]...

On the west the boundaries of India are marked by the river Indus all the way to the great ocean into which it pours its waters... The Indus in like manner makes an Indian delta, which is not inferior in area to the Egyptian, and is called in the Indian tongue Pattala....[Ritter] says: — "Patala is the designation bestowed by the Brahmans on all the provinces in the west towards sunset, in antithesis to Prasiaka (the eastern realm) in Ganges-land: for Patala is the mythological name in Sanskrit of the under-world, and consequently of the land of the west."


-- Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes and Arrian; Being a Translation of the Fragments of the Indika of Megasthenes Collected by Dr. Schwanbeck, and of the First Part of the Indika of Arrian, by J.W. McCrindle, M.A.


The alliance between Chandragupta[??] and Seleucus was affirmed with a marriage (Epigamia). Chandragupta[??] or his son may have married a daughter of Seleucus, or perhaps there was diplomatic recognition of intermarriage between Indians and Greeks.

Having punished with a stern hand the misrule of his satraps, Macedonian and Persian alike, Alexander began to carry out schemes which he had formed. He had unbarred and unveiled the Orient to the knowledge and commerce of the Mediterranean peoples, but his aim was to do much more than this; it was no less than to fuse Asia and Europe into a homogeneous unity. He devised various means for compassing this object. He proposed to transplant Greeks and Macedonians into Asia, and Asiatics into Europe, as permanent settlers. This plan had indeed been partly realised by the foundation of his numerous mixed cities in the Far East. The second means was the promotion of intermarriages between Persians and Macedonians, and this policy was inaugurated in magnificent fashion at Susa. The king himself espoused Statira, the daughter of Darius; his friend Hephaestion took her sister; and a large number of Macedonian officers wedded the daughters of Persian grandees. Of the general mass of the Macedonians 10,000 are said to have followed the example of their officers and taken Asiatic wives.

-- Chapter XVIII: The Conquest of the Far East, Excerpt from "History of Greece for Beginners", by J. B. Bury, M.A.

The Mahavamsa states Chandragupta married a daughter of Seleucus.
The Dipavamsa, on the other hand, names Bindusara as the son of the king Shushunaga.The prose version of Ashokavadana states that Bindusara was the son of Nanda and a 10th-generation descendant of Bimbisara. Like Dipavamsa, it omits Chandragupta's name altogether.

-- Bindusara, by Wikipedia

As well, an Indian Puranic source, the Pratisarga Parva of the Bhavishya Purana, also described the marriage of Chandragupta with a Greek ("Yavana") princess, daughter of Seleucus (Suluva[49] in Indian sources).[50]
The title Bhavishya means "future" and implies it is a work that contains prophecies regarding the future, however, the "prophecy" parts of the extant manuscripts are a modern era addition and hence not an integral part of the Bhavishya Purana. Those sections of the surviving manuscripts that are dated to be older, are partly borrowed from other Indian texts such as Brihat Samhita and Shamba Purana. The veracity and authenticity of much of the Bhavishya Purana has been questioned by modern scholars and historians, and the text is considered an example of "constant revisions and living nature" of Puranic genre of Hindu literature.

-- Bhavishya Purana, by Wikipedia

In addition to this matrimonial recognition or alliance, Seleucus dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to the Mauryan court at Pataliputra (Modern Patna in Bihar state).[51] Only short extracts remain of Megasthenes' description of the journey.[41]

The two rulers seem to have been on very good terms, as classical sources have recorded that following their treaty[??], Chandragupta[??] sent various presents such as aphrodisiacs to Seleucus.[52][53]

Seleucus obtained knowledge of most of northern India, as explained by Pliny the Elder through his numerous embassies to the Mauryan Empire:

Image
The Hellenistic world view after Seleucus: ancient world map of Eratosthenes (276–194 BC), incorporating information from the campaigns of Alexander and his successors[54]

The other parts of the country [beyond the Hydaspes, the farthest extent of Alexander's conquests] were discovered and surveyed by Seleucus Nicator: namely

• from thence (the Hydaspes) to the Hesudrus 168 miles
• to the river Ioames (Yamuna) as much: and some copies add 5 miles more therto
• from thence to Ganges 112 miles
• to Rhodapha 119, and some say, that between them two it is no less than 325 miles.
• From it to Calinipaxa, a great town 167 miles-and-a-half, others say 265.
• And to the confluent of the rivers Iomanes and Ganges, where both meet together, 225 miles, and many put thereto 13 miles more
• from thence to the town Palibotta 425 miles
• and so to the mouth of the Ganges where he falleth into the sea 638 miles. — Pliny the Elder, Natural history, Book 6, Chap 21[55]

Seleucus apparently minted coins during his stay in India, as several coins in his name are in the Indian standard and have been excavated in India. These coins describe him as "Basileus" ("King"), which implies a date later than 306 BC. Some of them also mention Seleucus in association with his son Antiochus as king, which would also imply a date as late as 293 BC. No Seleucid coins were struck in India thereafter and confirm the reversal of territory west of the Indus to Chandragupta[??].[56]
Chandragupta had defeated the remaining Macedonian satrapies in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent by 317 BCE.

-- Chandragupta Maurya, by Wikipedia

Seleucus may have founded a navy in the Persian Gulf and in the Indian Ocean.[34]

Battle of Ipsus

Main article: Diadochi § Fourth War of the Diadochi, 308-301 BC

Image
Tetradrachm of Seleucus from Seleucia. Obverse: the head of Zeus, Reverse: Athena with elephants

The war elephants Seleucus received from Chandragupta[??] proved to be useful when the Diadochi finally decided to deal with Antigonus. Cassander, Seleucus and Lysimachus defeated Antigonus and Demetrius in the battle of Ipsus. Antigonus fell in battle, but Demetrius escaped. After the battle, Syria was placed under Seleucus' rule. He understood Syria to encompass the region from the Taurus mountains to Sinai, but Ptolemy had already conquered Palestine and Phoenicia. In 299 BC, Seleucus allied with Demetrius and married his daughter Stratonice. Stratonice was also the daughter of Antipater's daughter Phila. Seleucus had a daughter by Stratonice, who was also called Phila.[57]

The fleet of Demetrius destroyed Ptolemy's fleet and thus Seleucus did not need to fight him.[58]

Seleucus, however, did not manage to enlarge his kingdom to the west. The main reason was that he did not have enough Greek and Macedonian troops. During the battle of Ipsus, he had less infantry than Lysimachus. His strength was in his war elephants and in traditional Persian cavalry. In order to enlarge his army, Seleucus tried to attract colonists from mainland Greece by founding four new cities—Seleucia Pieria and Laodicea in Syria on the coast and Antioch on the Orontes and Apameia in the Orontes River valley. Antioch became his chief seat of government. The new Seleucia was supposed to become his new naval base and a gateway to the Mediterranean. Seleucus also founded six smaller cities.[58]

It is said of Seleucus that "few princes have ever lived with so great a passion for the building of cities. He is reputed to have built in all nine Seleucias, sixteen Antiochs, and six Laodiceas".[59]

Defeat of Demetrius and Lysimachus

Image
Coin of Demetrius, with the text ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ (King Demetrius)

Seleucus nominated his son Antiochus I as his co-ruler and viceroy of the eastern provinces in 292 BC, the vast extent of the empire seeming to require a double government.[2] In 294 BC Stratonice married her stepson Antiochus. Seleucus reportedly instigated the marriage after discovering that his son was in danger of dying of love sickness.[60] Seleucus was thus able to get Stratonice out of the way, as her father Demetrius had now become king of Macedonia.

The alliance between Seleucus and Demetrius ended in 294 BC when Seleucus conquered Cilicia. Demetrius invaded and easily conquered Cilicia in 286 BC, which meant that Demetrius was now threatening the most important regions of Seleucus' empire in Syria. Demetrius' troops, however, were tired and had not received their payment. Seleucus, on the other hand, was known as a cunning and rich leader who had earned the adoration of his soldiers. Seleucus blocked the roads leading south from Cilicia and urged Demetrius' troops to join his side. Simultaneously he tried to evade battle with Demetrius. Finally, Seleucus addressed Demetrius personally. He showed himself in front of the soldiers and removed his helmet, revealing his identity. Demetrius' troops now started to abandon their leader en masse. Demetrius was finally imprisoned in Apameia and died a few years later in captivity.[58]

Lysimachus and Ptolemy had supported Seleucus against Demetrius, but after the latter's defeat the alliance started to break apart. Lysimachus ruled Macedonia, Thracia and Asia Minor. He also had problems with his family. Lysimachus executed his son Agathocles, whose wife Lysandra escaped to Babylon to Seleucus.[58]

The unpopularity of Lysimachus after the murder of Agathocles gave Seleucus an opportunity to remove his last rival. His intervention in the west was solicited by Ptolemy Keraunos, who, on the accession to the Egyptian throne of his brother Ptolemy II (285 BC), had at first taken refuge with Lysimachus and then with Seleucus.[2] Seleucus then invaded Asia Minor and defeated his rival in the Battle of Corupedium in Lydia, 281 BC. Lysimachus fell in battle. In addition, Ptolemy had died a few years earlier. Seleucus was thus now the only living contemporary of Alexander.[58]

Administration of Asia Minor

Image
Silver coin of Seleucus. Greek inscription reads ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΕΛΕΥΚΟΥ (King Seleucus).

Before his death, Seleucus tried to deal with the administration of Asia Minor. The region was ethnically diverse, consisting of Greek cities, a Persian aristocracy and indigenous peoples. Seleucus perhaps tried to defeat Cappadocia, but failed. Lysimachus' old officer Philetairos ruled Pergamon independently. On the other hand, based on their names, Seleucus apparently founded a number of new cities in Asia Minor.[58]

Few of the letters Seleucus sent to different cities and temples still exist. All cities in Asia Minor sent embassies to their new ruler. It is reported that Seleucus complained about the number of letters he received and was forced to read. He was apparently a popular ruler. In Lemnos he was celebrated as a liberator and a temple was built to honour him. According to a local custom, Seleucus was always offered an extra cup of wine during dinner time. His title during this period was Seleucus Soter ("saviour"). When Seleucus left for Europe, the organizational rearrangement of Asia Minor had not been completed.[58]

Death and legacy

Image
A tetradrachm of Seleucus I Nicator, minted 295–280 BC

Seleucus now held the whole of Alexander's conquests except Egypt and moved to take possession of Macedonia and Thrace. He intended to leave Asia to Antiochus and content himself for the remainder of his days with the Macedonian kingdom in its old limits. He had, however, hardly crossed into the Thracian Chersonese when he was assassinated by Ptolemy Keraunos near Lysimachia in September (281 BC).[2][61]

It seems certain that after taking Macedonia and Thracia, Seleucus would have tried to conquer Greece. He had already prepared this campaign using the numerous gifts presented to him. He was also nominated an honorary citizen of Athens.[62]

Antiochus founded the cult of his father. A cult of personality formed around the later members of the Seleucid dynasty and Seleucus was later worshipped as a son of Zeus Nikator. One inscription found in Ilion (i.e., Troy) advises priests to sacrifice to Apollo, the ancestor of Antiochus' family. Several anecdotes of Seleucus' life became popular in the classical world.[63]

See also

• Chronology of European exploration of Asia

Endnotes

1. The word Diadochi is the Latin form of the Greek word Διάδοχοι (diadochoi), meaning "successors".

Citations

1. Boiy "The Reigns of the Seleucid Kings According the Babylonian King List." Journal of Near Eastern Studies 70(1) (2011): 1–12.
2. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Bevan, Edwyn Robert (1911). "Seleucid Dynasty". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 603–604.
3. Grainger 1990, p. 2
4. Grainger 1990, pp. 4–5
5. Grainger 1990, p. 1
6. Grainger 1990, p. 3
7. Arrian Anabasis 5.13.1
8. Grainger 1990, pp. 9–10
9. Grainger 1990, p. 12
10. Heckel p. 256
11. Grainger 1990, pp. 20–24
12. Grainger 1990, pp. 21–29
13. Bosworth p. 211
14. Grainger 1990, pp. 30–32
15. Grainger 1990, pp. 33–37
16. Grainger 1990, pp. 39–42
17. Grainger 1990, p. 43
18. Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Tetradrachm of Seleucus I". http://www.metmuseum.org.
19. Grainger 1990, p. 44–45
20. Boyi p. 121
21. Grainger 1990, pp. 49–51, Boiy p. 122
22. Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica XIX 57,1.
23. Grainger 1990, pp. 53–55
24. Jona Lendering. "Alexander's successors: The Third Diadoch War". Livius.org. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
25. Grainger 1990, pp. 56–72
26. Grainger 1990, pp. 74–75
27. Grainger 1990, p. 79; Boyi p. 126
28. Grainger 1990, p. 80
29. Grainger 1990, p. 81
30. Grainger 1990, pp. 82–83
31. Grainger 1990, p. 83; Boiy p. 127
32. Grainger 1990, p. 86
33. Grainger 1990, pp. 89– 91
34. Grainger 1997, p. 54
35. Polyaenus. "The Babylonian war". Livius.org. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
36. Boiy p. 45
37. Grainger 1990, s.101
38. Bosworth p. 246
39. Kosmin 2014, p. 34.
40. Paul J. Kosmin 2013, p. 98.
41. John Keay (2001). India: A History. Grove Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-0-8021-3797-5.
42. Kosmin 2014, p. 37.
43. Majumdar 2003, p. 105.
44. Strabo, Geography, xv.2.9
45. Vincent A. Smith (1998). Ashoka. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 81-206-1303-1.
46. Walter Eugene Clark (1919). "The Importance of Hellenism from the Point of View of Indic-Philology", Classical Philology 14 (4), pp. 297–313.
47. Debated by Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India, p. 100
48. Pliny, Natural History VI, 23
49. Hindu Nationalism, A Reader, Christopher Jeffrelot, Princeton University Press, 2007 p.90
50. Foreign Influence on Ancient India, Krishna Chandra Sagar, Northern Book Centre, 1992, p. 83. The paragraph of the Pratisarga Parva mentioning this marriage is: "Chandragupta[??] married with a daughter of Suluva, the Yavana king of Pausasa. Thus, he mixed the Buddhists and the Yavanas. He ruled for 60 years. From him, Vindusara was born and ruled for the same number of years as his father. His son was Ashoka."Pratisarga Parva p.18. Original Sanskrit of the first two verses: "Chandragupta[??] Sutah Paursadhipateh Sutam. Suluvasya Tathodwahya Yavani Baudhtatapar".
51. Mookerji 1988, p. 38.
52. Kosmin 2014, p. 35.
53. "And Theophrastus says that some contrivances are of wondrous efficacy in such matters [as to make people more amorous]. And Phylarchus confirms him, by reference to some of the presents which Sandrakottus, the king of the Indians, sent to Seleucus; which were to act like charms in producing a wonderful degree of affection, while some, on the contrary, were to banish love" Athenaeus of Naucratis, The Deipnosophists, i.32
54. Source
55. Pliny, Natural History, Book 6, Chap 17 also Pliny the Elder, Natural history, Book 6, Chap 21 Archived 28 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
56. Coinage of Seleucus and Antiochus in India
57. John Malalas, viii.198
58. Grainger 1997, p. 55–56
59. This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Easton, Matthew George (1897). Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons. Missing or empty |title= (help)
60. http://virtualreligion.net/iho/antiochus_1.html Antiochus I Soter entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith
61. "Seleucus I Nicator". Livius.
62. Grainger 1997, p. 57
63. Graham Shipley (1999). The Hellenistic World. Routledge. pp. 301–302. ISBN 978-0-415-04618-3.

References and further reading

• Kosmin, Paul J. (2014). The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in Seleucid Empire. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-72882-0.
• Mookerji, Radha Kumud (1988) [first published in 1966]. Chandragupta Maurya[??] and his times (4th ed.). Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-0433-3.
• Waterfield, Robin (2011). Dividing the Spoils - The War for Alexander the Great's Empire (hardback). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-957392-9.
• A. B. Bosworth (2005). The Legacy of Alexander. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-928515-0.
• Grainger, John D. (1997). A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-10799-1.
• Grainger, John D. (1993). An Empire Builder—Seleukos Nikator. History Today. 43. pp. 25–30.
• Grainger, John D. (1997). Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04701-3.
• Grainger, John D. (1990). Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-04701-2.
• Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra (2003) [1952]. Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-0436-4.
• Boiy, T. (2004). Late Achaemenid and Hellenistic Babylon. Peeters Publishers. ISBN 978-90-429-1449-0.
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Seleucid–Mauryan war
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 6/22/21

Image
Seleucid–Mauryan War
Alexander the Great's Satrapies in Northern India.
Date 305–303 BCE
Location
Northwestern India; Chiefly the Indus River Valley
Result: Mauryan victory[1][note 1]
Treaty of the Indus[4]; Seleucid Empire's eastern satrapies ceded to Mauryan Empire; Seleucus gives the hand of his daughter to Chandragupta, founding a dynastic alliance; Chandragupta gives 500 war elephants to Seleucus; Establishment of diplomatic relations
Belligerents:
Maurya Empire / Seleucid Empire
Commanders and leaders:
Chandragupta Maurya; Chanakya / Seleucus I Nicator
Strength:
Unknown / Unknown
Casualties and losses:
unknown / unknown


The Seleucid–Mauryan War was fought between 305 and 303 BCE. It started when Seleucus I Nicator, of the Seleucid Empire, sought to retake the Indian satrapies of the Macedonian Empire which had been occupied by Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, of the Maurya Empire.

The war ended in a settlement resulting in the annexation of the Indus Valley region and parts of Afghanistan and Iran to the Mauryan Empire, with Chandragupta securing control over the areas that he had sought, and a marriage alliance between the two powers. After the war, the Mauryan Empire emerged as the dominant power of the Indian Subcontinent, and the Seleucid Empire turned its attention toward defeating its rivals in the west.

Background

Main article: Conquest of the Nanda Empire

Image
Territorial evolution of Magadha and the Maurya Empire between 600 and 180 BCE, including territorial gains from Seleucid-Mauryan War, 303 BCE.

Chandragupta Maurya established himself as ruler of Magadha around 321 BCE. He decided to conquer the Nanda Dynasty, rulers at the time of the Gangetic Plain. He fought the empire for eleven years with successful guerrilla campaigns, and captured the Nanda capital of Pataliputra. This led to the fall of the empire and the eventual creation of the Maurya Empire under Emperor Chandragupta Maurya.

The Persian provinces in what is now modern Afghanistan, together with the wealthy kingdom of Gandhara and the states of the Indus Valley, had all submitted to Alexander the Great and become part of his empire. When Alexander died, the Wars of the Diadochi ("Successors") split his empire apart; as his generals fought for control of Alexander's empire. In the eastern territories one of these generals, Seleucus I Nicator, was taking control and was starting to establish what became known as the Seleucid Empire. According to the Roman historian Appian, Seleucus,

always lying in wait for the neighboring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus.

— Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55


Alexander had appointed satraps in control of his territories. Similarly satraps were appointed to govern the Indus Valley. The Mauryans had annexed the areas governed by four such satraps: Nicanor, Phillip, Eudemus and Peithon. This established Mauryan control to the banks of the Indus. Chandragupta's victories convinced Seleucus that he needed to secure his eastern flank. Seeking to hold the Macedonian territories there, Seleucus thus came into conflict with the emerging and expanding Mauryan Empire over the Indus Valley.[5]

War

Details of the conflict are lacking. Per Appian,

Seleucus crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship. Some of these exploits were performed before the death of Antigonus and some afterward.

— Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55


It is unknown if there was in fact a pitched battle.[4] Military historian John D. Grainger has argued that Seleucus, upon crossing the Indus, "would find himself in a trap, with a large river at his back and a hostile continent before him," and consequently could not have advanced much farther than the Indus. According to Grainger, the details of the conflict are unclear, but the outcome clearly must have been "a decisive Indian victory," with Chandragupta driving back Seleucus' forces as far as the Hindu Kush and consequently gaining large territories in modern-day Afghanistan.[6] According to Wheatley and Heckel, the level of friendly Maurya-Seleucid relations established after the war imply that the hostilities were probably "neither prolonged nor grievous".[3]

Consequences

Seleucus Nicator ceded the Hindu Kush, Punjab and parts of Afghanistan to Chandragupta Maurya.[7] In consequence of their arrangement, Seleucus received 500 war elephants from Chandragupta Maurya, which subsequently influenced the Wars of the Diadochi in the west. Seleucus and Chandragupta also agreed to a marriage alliance, probably the marriage of Seleucus' daughter to Chandragupta. According to Strabo, the ceded territories bordered the Indus:

The geographical position of the tribes is as follows: along the Indus are the Paropamisadae, above whom lies the Paropamisus mountain: then, towards the south, the Arachoti: then next, towards the south, the Gedroseni, with the other tribes that occupy the seaboard; and the Indus lies, latitudinally, alongside all these places; and of these places, in part, some that lie along the Indus are held by Indians, although they formerly belonged to the Persians. Alexander [III 'the Great' of Macedon] took these away from the Arians and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus [Chandragupta], upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange five hundred elephants. — Strabo 15.2.9[8]


Image
Sophytes may have been the Mauryan Empire satrap of Arachosia, succeeding Sibyrtius, after Seleucus had ceded the Hellenistic territory of Arachosia to Chandragupta Maurya in the Seleucid–Mauryan war (305–303 BCE).[9]

From this, it seems that Seleucus surrendered the easternmost provinces of Arachosia, Gedrosia, Paropamisadae and perhaps also Aria. On the other hand, he was accepted by other satraps of the eastern provinces. His Iranian wife, Apama, may have helped him implement his rule in Bactria and Sogdiana .[10][11] This would tend to be corroborated archaeologically, as concrete indications of Mauryan influence, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Ashoka which are known to be located in, for example, Kandhahar in today's southern Afghanistan.

Some authors claim that the argument relating to Seleucus handing over more of what is now southern Afghanistan is an exaggeration originating in a statement by Pliny the Elder referring not specifically to the lands received by Chandragupta, but rather to the various opinions of geographers regarding the definition of the word "India":[12]

Most geographers, in fact, do not look upon India as bounded by the river Indus, but add to it the four satrapies of the Gedrose, the Arachotë, the Aria, and the Paropamisadë, the River Cophes thus forming the extreme boundary of India. According to other writers, however, all these territories, are reckoned as belonging to the country of the Aria. — Pliny, Natural History VI, 23[13]


The arrangement proved to be mutually beneficial.[14] The border between the Seleucid and Mauryan Empires remained stable in subsequent generations, and friendly diplomatic relations are reflected by the ambassador Megasthenes, and by the envoys sent westward by Chandragupta's grandson Ashoka. Chandragupta's gift of war elephants "may have alleviated the burden of fodder and the return march"[5] and allowed him to appropriately reduce the size and cost of his large army, since the major threats to his power had now all been removed.[15]

With the war elephants acquired from the Mauryas, Seleucus was able to defeat his rival, Antigonus, along with his allies at the Battle of Ipsus. Adding Antigonus's territories to his own, Seleucus would found the Seleucid Empire, which would endure as a great power in the Mediterranean and the Middle East until 64 BCE.

Mauryan control of territory in Afghanistan helped guard against invasion of India from the northwest.[16] Chandragupta Maurya went on to expand his rule in India southward into the Deccan.[7]

Notes

1. Hartmut Scharfe (1971) had argued that Seleucus had gained the upper hand and retained overlordship of the eastern satrapies, which were put under Chandragupta's charge in exchange for the elephants as tribute; but according to Trautmann,[2] no other scholars have agreed with this conclusion; Wheatley and Heckel state that Scharfe's argument "does not convince."[3]

References

1. Grainger 2014, pp. 108–109: "Such fighting as there was produced a decisive Indian victory. [...] There is little or no evidence for the [detailed] account [...] The career of Chandragupta is as unclear as that of Seleukos in the east."
2. Trautmann 2015, p. 235.
3. Wheatley and Heckel 2011, p. 296.
4. Kosmin 2014, p. 33.
5. Kosmin 2014, p. 34.
6. Grainger 2014, pp. 108–109
7. [R.G. Grant: Commanders pg. 49https://books.google.com/books?id=tFQcwH2StsMC&q=chandragupta#v=snippet&q=chandragupta&f=false]
8. Strabo, Geography, xv.2.9
9. Bernard, Paul; Pinault, Georges-Jean; Rougemont, Georges (2004). "Deux nouvelles inscriptions grecques de l'Asie centrale". Journal des Savants. 2 (1): 301 ff. doi:10.3406/jds.2004.1686.
10. Vincent A. Smith (1998). Ashoka. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 81-206-1303-1.
11. Walter Eugene Clark (1919). "The Importance of Hellenism from the Point of View of Indic-Philology", Classical Philology 14 (4), p. 297-313.
12. Debated by Tarn, "The Greeks in Bactria and India", p. 100
13. Pliny, Natural History VI, 23
14. Kosmin 2014, p. 33–34.
15. Grainger 2014, p. 110.
16. Grainger 2014, p. 108,110.

Sources

• Grainger, John D. (2014), Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom, Routledge, ISBN 978-1-317-80099-6
• Kosmin, Paul J. (2014), The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in Seleucid Empire, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-72882-0
• Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra (2003) [1952], Ancient India, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0436-8
• Trautmann, Thomas (2015), Elephants and Kings: An Environmental History, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0-226-26453-0
• Wheatley, Pat; Heckel, Waldemar (2011), ""Commentary (Book 15)"", Justin: Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Volume II, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-927759-9
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Part 1 of 3

Lumbini On Trial: The Untold Story
Lumbini Is An Astonishing Fraud Begun in 1896

by T. A. Phelps
© T. A. Phelps
2008

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Highlights:

There are compelling reasons for believing that the site of Lumbini is an extraordinary hoax. The details of its discovery in 1896 reveal a tale of deception and intrigue, which is now told for the first time...

[T]he finds made at Piprahwa, in Basti District, Uttar Pradesh...that of Tilaurakot and its surrounding sites, in the Western Tarai of Nepal... neither of these claims can be considered as acceptable, and ... equal doubt attaches to the present site of Lumbini also...

[A]ny attempt to assess the reliability of the present identifications should begin by taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding their discovery. Chief among the participants in those events... was the notorious figure of Dr Alois Anton Fuhrer, a German archaeologist employed by the (British) Government of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh between 1885-98, and co-discoverer of the present Lumbini site.

Modern Indologists, while aware of Fuhrer’s unsavoury reputation, have neglected to conduct any really close scrutiny of his activities, fondly believing that these have long since been satisfactorily catalogued and assessed, and that Fuhrer may be safely consigned to oblivion in consequence. Unfortunately, this is far from being the case. Fuhrer, in fact, drove a coach and horses through critical areas of Indological research, and his deceptions continue to have far-reaching consequences for world history to this day. He was a prolific plagiarist and forger (who worked, alarmingly, on the first two volumes of the Epigraphia Indica) and I have good reason to believe that his deceptions were sometimes condoned, even exploited, by the Government of the day, for imperial reasons of their own...

Fuhrer’s first venture into fraudulent activity appears to have occurred in 1892, when he copied inscriptions from Buhler’s articles on Sanchi and Mathura, reworked them, and wrote the results into the report of his own excavations at the site of Ramnagar. This wholesale deception appears to have passed completely unnoticed during this period, including, apparently, by Buhler himself, with whom Fuhrer was then in correspondence. He also incised Brahmi inscriptions on to stone exhibits in the Lucknow Museum at this time...

Fuhrer found a pillar near the Nepalese village of Nigliva. An Asokan inscription was reportedly discovered by Fuhrer on a broken piece of this pillar, the main shaft of which lay close by...

The inscription referred to Asoka’s enlargement of the stupa of the ‘previous Buddha’, Konagamana, which according to Fuhrer was situated close by, ‘amidst vast brick ruins stretching far away in the direction of the southern gate of Kapilavastu’. Fuhrer gave extensive details of this ancient and impressive structure, declaring that it was ‘undoubtedly one of the oldest Buddhist monuments in India’, and stating that ‘on all sides of this interesting monument are ruined monasteries, fallen columns, and broken sculptures’.

All this was pure moonshine however, as later surveys soon revealed. The stupa didn’t exist, and it was found that Fuhrer had copied its elaborate details (including those ‘ruined monasteries, fallen columns, and broken sculptures’) from Alexander Cunningham’s book ‘Bhilsa Topes’...two years before Fuhrer’s visit -- Hoey had commissioned the local Governor, Khadga Shamsher, to take rubbings of the pillar inscriptions in this area, ‘but these were not of Asoka lettering’. Fuhrer also lied when he claimed that the inscribed portion of this pillar was ‘resting on a masonry foundation’, the precise measurements of which he also gave; this didn’t exist either, this broken piece being merely stuck into the ground at the site. Indeed, Hoey declared that Fuhrer had ‘lied and lied on a grand scale’ concerning his alleged Nepalese discoveries, adding that ‘one is appalled at the audacity of invention here displayed’.

Finally, the Divyavadana describes how Asoka was conducted to Lumbini for the first time by his spiritual preceptor, Upagupta, who pointed out to the king the spot where the Buddha was born. Though the Lumbini pillar inscription states that this visit occurred during the twentieth year of Asoka’s reign, the nearby Nigliva inscription states that Asoka ‘increased for the second time the stupa of Buddha Konagamana’ when he had been reigning for only fourteen years. This is absurd. Why would Asoka decide to enlarge the Konagamana stupa -- and for the second time -- six years before he had even set foot in the Lumbini area?...

(1896) found Fuhrer back in Nepal once more, this time ‘to explore the whole neighbourhood of Taulihawa as far as Bhagvanpur, where there is said to exist another Asoka Edict pillar’... V. A. Smith had obtained rubbings from it ‘a dozen years’ earlier, and had found only ‘mediaeval scribblings’ on its exposed portion at that time.

The site was supposedly called ‘Rummindei’, this being considered to be a later variant of the name ‘Lumbini’...it appears that neither the Nepalese officials nor the hill-men called it 'Rummindei'...

The Indian Survey map of 1915 lists the spot as ‘Roman-devi’; it should be noted that another ‘Roman-devi’ exists about 30 miles WSW of the Nepalese site, near the Indian town of Chandapar. Today, the site is situated in the ‘Rupandehi District’ of Nepal...

The subsequent excavations around the pillar reportedly disclosed an Asokan inscription about a metre below ground, and level with the top of a surrounding brick enclosure...

Fuhrer had supposedly left the site just before any excavations had begun, leaving the Governor and his ‘sappers’ to do the digging. In his official letter on the matter, Fuhrer stated that he had advised the Governor ‘that an inscription would be found if a search was made below the surface of the mound’ on which the pillar was situated. Since there was no previous historical reference to such an inscription, one wonders at Fuhrer’s remarkable prescience on this occasion...

The appearance of this inscription in 1896 marked its first recorded appearance in history...

In Watters’ book ‘On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India’ (prepared from an unpublished manuscript after his death) the following statement is found with reference to the Lumbini site:
‘Yuan-chuang, as we have seen, mentions a stone pillar, but he does not say anything about an inscription on it. The Fang-chih, however, tells us that the pillar recorded the circumstances of Buddha's birth’.

The Fang-chih -– a shortened version of Yuan-chuang’s account -- does nothing of the sort...

It was a posthumous interpolation into Watters’ original text by its editors, Rhys Davids, Bushell, and Smith...

Fuhrer was later found to have fraudulently laid claim to the discovery of about twenty relic-caskets at sites close to Lumbini, which allegedly bore Asokan, and even pre-Asokan inscriptions. One of these items supposedly contained a tooth-relic of the Buddha, which Fuhrer illicitly exchanged for gifts with a Burmese monk, U Ma (the correspondence between these two makes for lamentable reading, with Fuhrer exploiting U Ma’s gullibility quite unmercifully). Following an official enquiry into the matter, this tooth-relic was found to be ‘apparently that of a horse’ : Fuhrer had explained its large size to an indignant U Ma by pointing out that according to ‘your sacred writings’ the Buddha was nearly thirty feet in height!

According to Fuhrer, this ‘Buddhadanta’ had been found by a villager inside a ruined brick stupa near Tilaurakot, and was ‘enshrined in a bronze casket, bearing the following inscription in Maurya characters: “This sacred tooth-relic of Lord Buddha (is) the gift of Upagupta” (the mentor of Asoka). Having obligingly parted with the relic, the villager had refused to part with the inscribed casket itself ‘which is still in his possession’. Fuhrer reported finding this bogus Asokan inscription during the selfsame visit which saw the discovery of the Asokan inscription at Lumbini. Moreover, according to Fuhrer, the Lumbini inscription included words which were supposedly spoken by Upagupta whilst showing Asoka the Buddha’s birth-spot: ‘It would almost appear as if Asoka had engraved on this pillar the identical words which Upagupta uttered at this place’, he tells us, all wide-eyed. However, what with a bogus Upagupta quote on the casket, an Upagupta quote on the pillar, and Fuhrer’s keen taste for forging Brahmi inscriptions, we may here recall that he had fraudulently incised Brahmi inscriptions on to stone four years earlier (see ‘Fuhrer's Early Years’). And indeed, this pillar inscription ‘appeared almost as if freshly cut’ when Rhys Davids examined it in 1900, a view echoed by Professors N. Dutt and K. D. Bajpai, who noted that ‘it appears as if the inscription has been very recently incised’ when they examined it fifty years later. W. C. [William Claxton] Peppe observed that ‘the rain falling on this pillar must have trickled over these letters and it is marvellous how well they are preserved; they stand out boldly as if they had been cut today and show no signs of the effects of climate; not a portion of the inscription is even stained’.

Inscriptions on other Asokan pillars located at sites associated with the Buddha’s life and ministry -- Sarnath and Kosambi, for example -- contain no references to their Buddhist associations, as this pillar so conspicuously -- and twice -- does; and no other inscription makes reference to any erection of a particular pillar by Asoka (as this one does) either...

There is an additional mystery here. As noted above, Fuhrer had supposedly left the site just before the inscription was unearthed. Yet he had travelled up from Lucknow, crossed the Nepalese Tarai to Nigliva by elephant -– a difficult and laborious undertaking -- and then been further redirected to the ‘Rummindei’ site, where he had been officially appointed to superintend the excavations. The existing accounts state that having finally arrived at the site, Fuhrer identified the pillar as Asokan, assured Khadga Shamsher that an Asokan inscription would be found after further excavation, and then, astonishingly, left before the inscription was exposed. This is frankly unbelievable...V. A. Smith stated that a nearby landowner, Duncan Ricketts, ‘had the good fortune to be present while the inscription was being unearthed. Dr Fuhrer arrived a little later’. But Smith’s statement ignores Fuhrer’s earlier presence at the site; and since the accounts which were furnished by Fuhrer and Khadga Shamsher make no reference to Ricketts anyway, one assumes that Fuhrer had alerted him to these excavations after this mysterious departure (Ricketts lived just a few miles away). So what’s to stop Fuhrer from forging the inscription, reinterring the excavated soil (a common archaeological practice) and then notifying Ricketts of events at the site, an action which would have served to remove any subsequent awkward questions on the matter? Only this scenario, it seems to me, can explain Fuhrer’s sudden absence at this critical moment - by far the most important in his entire archaeological career - and it is evident that skulduggery was very much at work here.

Fuhrer also refers to a ‘pilgrim's mark’ on the upper part of this pillar, and whilst providing no photograph of it, still less any details of its language, script, or content, he dates it at around 700 AD. He states that since this item was visible above ground whilst the Asokan inscription lay hidden beneath the soil, this somehow explains Yuan-chuang’s failure to notice the latter during his visit to Lumbini around 635 AD. However, since there is no such ‘pilgrim's mark’ on this pillar anyway -- this was yet another Fuhrer lie –- it is evident that this was merely another clumsy attempt by Fuhrer (as with the phony Nigliva stupa) to add credence to this Asokan inscription also...

There are, moreover, serious epigraphical problems with the pillar inscription itself...

More damaging still, however, is the presence of the term ‘Sakyamuni’ in this inscription. Simply put, it shouldn’t be there. ‘Sakyamuni’ is a later, Sanskritised form of this term, and thus has no place in an allegedly Asokan Brahmi inscription...There would thus appear to be no epigraphical support for the presence of ‘Sakyamuni’ in this Asokan Brahmi inscription, and I shall charge that this exposes it as yet another Fuhrer forgery...

In 1994, I photographed an official notice at the present Lumbini site (see Fig. 1 ) the text of which ran as follows:
‘The famous Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang says:- “Lumbini is on the bank of the River Telar where an Asokan pillar (with a split in the centre), the Mayadevi Temple, the Sacred Tank, and a few stupas are situated”.’

Yuan-chuang, alas, makes no such statement, and like Fa-Hsien, his account makes no mention whatsoever of any ‘Mayadevi Temple’ at Lumbini. He is also, as we have seen, quite specific about the stupas at the site, and of their significance, and his account mentions only a ‘little river of oil’ and not the River Telar (which runs about a kilometre away from the present site anyway). As for the ‘Mayadevi Temple’ itself, I can find nothing to connect this structure with Lumbini, let alone with anything Buddhist. Neither pilgrim makes any reference to it as I have noted, and the present item is an entirely modern affair anyway, beneath which lay the remains of an earlier structure exposed by P.C. Mukherji in 1899. The ornately-carved bricks which formed part of this earlier edifice were identical to those found in structures at the nearby Sivaite sites of Sagarwa and Kodan, these being dated by Debala Mitra at ‘not earlier than the eighth century AD’.

Similarly, the sandstone image in this ‘temple’ (see Fig. 2) supposedly of Mayadevi giving birth to the Buddha, appears equally dubious on a close examination of its origins. This bas-relief, in which the figures are so defaced as to be unrecognisable (see Fig. 5) formed part of the remains of various broken statues which Mukherji found during his visit to the site in 1899. These items consisted of Hindu deities such as Varahi, Durga, Parvati, Ganesh, etc -- nothing Buddhist -- and it is noted that the supposed image of Mayadevi bears a striking resemblance to figures of yakshis and devatas also...all of these items -- the so-called ‘Mayadevi’ figure included -- were associated with the earlier structure found by Mukherji, and are therefore of mediaeval Hindu provenance. There is thus nothing Buddhist about the ‘Mayadevi Temple’ at all, and it is not a temple either.

In January 1898, W. C. [William Claxton] Peppe, manager of the Birdpur Estate in north-eastern Basti District, U. P., announced the discovery of soapstone caskets and jewellery inside a stupa near Piprahwa (see map) a small village on this estate. An inscription on one of these caskets appeared to indicate that bone relics, supposedly found with these items, were those of the Buddha. Since this inscription also referred to the Buddha’s Sakyan kinsmen, these relics were thus generally considered to be those which were accorded to the Sakyas of Kapilavastu, following the Buddha’s cremation...

• Peppe had been in contact with Fuhrer just before announcing the Piprahwa discovery (Fuhrer was then excavating nearby, at the Nepalese site of Sagarwa: see map). Immediately following Peppe's announcement, it was discovered that Fuhrer had been conducting a steady trade in bogus relics of the Buddha with a Burmese monk, U Ma. Among these items -– and a year before the alleged Piprahwa finds -- Fuhrer had sent U Ma a soapstone relic-casket containing fraudulent Buddha-relics of the Sakyas of Kapilavastu, together with a bogus Asokan inscription, these deceptions thus duplicating, at an earlier date, Peppe’s supposedly unique finds. Fuhrer was also found to have falsely laid claim to the discovery of seventeen inscribed, pre-Asokan Sakyan caskets at Sagarwa, his report even listing the names of seventeen ‘Sakya heroes’ which were allegedly inscribed upon these caskets. The inscribed Piprahwa casket was also considered to be both Sakyan and pre-Asokan at this time -- though its characters have since been shown to be typically Asokan -- and no other Sakyan caskets have been discovered either before or since this date.

• The bone relics themselves, purportedly 2500 years old, ‘might have been picked up a few days ago’ according to Peppe, whilst a molar tooth found among these items (and retained by Peppe) has recently been found to be that of a pig. The eminent archaeologist, Theodor Bloch, declared of the Piprahwa stupa that ‘one may be permitted to maintain some doubts in regard to the theory that the latter monument contained the relic share of the Buddha received by the Sakyas. The bones found at that place, which have been presented to the King of Siam, and which I saw in Calcutta, according to my opinion were not human bones at all’....

• The caskets appear to be identical to caskets found in Cunningham’s book ‘Bhilsa Topes’ (see Figs. 7-12) a source also used by Fuhrer for his Nigliva deceptions. A photograph of the ‘rear’ of the inscribed Piprahwa casket, taken in situ at Piprahwa in 1898 (and never published thereafter) discloses that a large sherd was missing from the base of the vessel at this time (see Fig. 8). Having closely examined this casket in 1994, I noted that a piece had since been inserted into this broken base, and that this had been ‘nibbled’ in a clumsy attempt to get this piece to fit. The photograph also reveals a curious feature on the upper aspect of the casket; this, I discovered, was a piece of sealing-wax (since transferred to the inside) which had been applied to prevent a large crack from running further. From all this, it is evident that this casket had been badly damaged from the start, a fact not mentioned in any published report. But is it likely, one is prompted to ask, that this damaged casket, supposedly containing the Buddha’s relics, would have been deposited inside the stupa anyway? Or is this the broken casket, ‘similar in shape to those found below’, which was reportedly found near the summit of the stupa, and which had vanished without trace thereafter? This casket -– also damaged -- was the first of the alleged Piprahwa finds; so did Peppe take it to Fuhrer, and did Fuhrer then forge the inscription on it? Is the Piprahwa inscription simply another Fuhrer forgery? As Assistant Editor on the Epigraphia Indica, Fuhrer would certainly have had the necessary expertise to do this, quite apart from his close association with the great epigraphist, Georg Buhler (who may have unwittingly provided Fuhrer with the necessary details, according to the existing accounts).

• On his return to the U.K., Peppe was contacted by the London Buddhist Society, and agreed to answer readers’ questions on his finds. Shortly afterwards however, the Society was notified that Peppe had suddenly been taken seriously ill, and was therefore unable to answer any questions as proposed. The Society declared the matter to be ‘in abeyance’ in consequence; but Peppe died six years later, leaving all such questions still unanswered.


-- Lumbini On Trial: The Untold Story. Lumbini Is An Astonishing Fraud Begun in 1896, by T. A. Phelps


Contents:

• Introduction
• Fuhrer’s Early Years
• The Nigliva Discovery
• The Lumbini Discovery
• The Lumbini Pillar Inscription
• The Location of The Lumbini Pillar
• The Mayadevi Temple
• The Piprahwa Discoveries
• The Kapilavastu of the Chinese Pilgrims
• Will the Real Kapilavastu Please Stand Up?
• Lumbini
• The Rama Stupa
• From Rama to Kusinara
• Kusinara
• Postcript
• References
• Illustrations

Introduction

There are compelling reasons for believing that the site of Lumbini is an extraordinary hoax. The details of its discovery in 1896 reveal a tale of deception and intrigue, which is now told for the first time.

At present, controversy continues to surround the location of Kapilavastu, the Buddha’s native town, with both India and Nepal promoting bids for this historically significant site. The Indian claim is based on the finds made at Piprahwa, in Basti District, Uttar Pradesh; the Nepalese, by that of Tilaurakot and its surrounding sites, in the Western Tarai of Nepal. It is my intention in this paper, however, to demonstrate that neither of these claims can be considered as acceptable, and to show that equal doubt attaches to the present site of Lumbini also. I further propose to nominate what I consider to be the correct locations for these and other major Buddhist sites, and to give detailed evidence in support of these proposals.

An old French saying declares that to know a river you should know its source, and any attempt to assess the reliability of the present identifications should begin by taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding their discovery. Chief among the participants in those events -- and in my view central to them all -- was the notorious figure of Dr Alois Anton Fuhrer, a German archaeologist employed by the (British) Government of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh between 1885-98, and co-discoverer of the present Lumbini site.

Modern Indologists, while aware of Fuhrer’s unsavoury reputation, have neglected to conduct any really close scrutiny of his activities, fondly believing that these have long since been satisfactorily catalogued and assessed, and that Fuhrer may be safely consigned to oblivion in consequence. Unfortunately, this is far from being the case. Fuhrer, in fact, drove a coach and horses through critical areas of Indological research, and his deceptions continue to have far-reaching consequences for world history to this day. He was a prolific plagiarist and forger (who worked, alarmingly, on the first two volumes of the Epigraphia Indica) and I have good reason to believe that his deceptions were sometimes condoned, even exploited, by the Government of the day, for imperial reasons of their own. Following Fuhrer’s resignation in 1898, the Secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces remarked, in a letter to central Government, that ‘His Honor fears it must be admitted that no statement made by Dr Fuhrer on archaeological subjects, at all events, can be accepted until independently verified’. Unfortunately this verification was by no means as rigorous as one might perhaps have wished, as we shall shortly see.


Fuhrer’s Early Years

Fuhrer was appointed to the position of Curator at the Lucknow Provincial Museum in 1885, and became Archaeological Surveyor to the Government of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh shortly thereafter. In 1889, he challenged the accepted identification for the site of Kapilavastu (then thought to be Bhuila Dih in Basti District) an event which should be borne in mind whilst reviewing later developments in his career.

Fuhrer’s first venture into fraudulent activity appears to have occurred in 1892, when he copied inscriptions from Buhler’s articles on Sanchi and Mathura, reworked them, and wrote the results into the report of his own excavations at the site of Ramnagar. This wholesale deception appears to have passed completely unnoticed during this period, including, apparently, by Buhler himself, with whom Fuhrer was then in correspondence. He also incised Brahmi inscriptions on to stone exhibits in the Lucknow Museum at this time, forgeries which should also be noted in the light of subsequent events.
Ramnagar failure (1891)

In 1891, Führer started excavations at the Ramnagar site of Ahichchhatra. The excavations were quite disappointing. Pressured by the need to get results, Führer started to report invented discoveries, such as ancient dated inscriptions that never existed, and non existent Jain inscriptions. Heinrich Lüders would later be able to show that the supposed Jain inscriptions were fakes compiled from earlier real inscriptions found in Mathura. In 1912 Lüders summarized "As all statements about epigraphical finds that admit of verification have proved to be false, it is very likely that no inscriptions at all have turned up".

In 1912, the German Indologist Heinrich Lüders identified in the Lucknow Provincial Museum forged inscriptions in Brahmi on artifacts belonging to Führer's excavations at Mathura and Ramnagar, forgeries which he attributed to Führer himself. Some of the forged inscriptions were direct copies of inscriptions on other objects, previously published in Epigraphia Indica.


-- Alois Anton Führer, by Wikipedia

The Nigliva Discovery

In 1893, Fuhrer reported that Jaskaran Singh, a wealthy landowner from Balrampur, had found an inscribed Asokan pillar at Bairat, a deserted spot near the Indo-Nepalese border. Two years later, Fuhrer ‘left for Balrampur...to look up the Asoka pillar’ which Singh had reported, but ‘it turned out that the information furnished by Major Jaskaran Singh was unfortunately misleading as to the exact position of this pillar’, and ‘after experiencing many difficulties’, Fuhrer found a pillar near the Nepalese village of Nigliva (see map). An Asokan inscription was reportedly discovered by Fuhrer on a broken piece of this pillar, the main shaft of which lay close by. Though the local villagers supposedly told him that ‘other inscriptions were hidden beneath the soil’ in which this stump was partly buried, Fuhrer was refused permission to excavate, and he was thus ‘compelled to content myself with taking impressions and paper moulds of the lines visible above ground’. Permission to excavate was granted two months later, but as this was ‘without any results whatsoever’, it is evident that the inscription was that of ‘the lines visible above ground’ on Fuhrer's arrival. This is most important, as we shall shortly see.

The inscription referred to Asoka’s enlargement of the stupa of the ‘previous Buddha’, Konagamana, which according to Fuhrer was situated close by, ‘amidst vast brick ruins stretching far away in the direction of the southern gate of Kapilavastu’. Fuhrer gave extensive details of this ancient and impressive structure, declaring that it was ‘undoubtedly one of the oldest Buddhist monuments in India’, and stating that ‘on all sides of this interesting monument are ruined monasteries, fallen columns, and broken sculptures’.

All this was pure moonshine however, as later surveys soon revealed. The stupa didn’t exist, and it was found that Fuhrer had copied its elaborate details (including those ‘ruined monasteries, fallen columns, and broken sculptures’) from Alexander Cunningham’s book ‘Bhilsa Topes’.
Moreover, Fuhrer’s statement that this Asokan inscription was ‘visible above ground’ on his arrival raises further grave doubts. For in a later report by Drs. Hoey and Waddell, it emerged that in 1893 -– i.e. two years before Fuhrer’s visit -- Hoey had commissioned the local Governor, Khadga Shamsher, to take rubbings of the pillar inscriptions in this area, ‘but these were not of Asoka lettering’. Fuhrer also lied when he claimed that the inscribed portion of this pillar was ‘resting on a masonry foundation’, the precise measurements of which he also gave; this didn’t exist either, this broken piece being merely stuck into the ground at the site. Indeed, Hoey declared that Fuhrer had ‘lied and lied on a grand scale’ concerning his alleged Nepalese discoveries, adding that ‘one is appalled at the audacity of invention here displayed’.
Nigali-Sagar pillar of Ashoka (1895)

The Nigali Sagar pillar (also called "Nigliva" pillar) was initially discovered by a Nepalese officer on a hunting expedition in 1893. In March 1895, Führer inspected the Nigali Sagar pillar, one of the pillars of Ashoka, and identified a Brahmi inscription said to be also from the time of Ashoka.

Besides his description of the pillar, Führer made a detailed description of the remains of a monumental "Konagamana stupa" near the Nigali Sagar pillar, which was later discovered to be an imaginative construct. Furher wrote that "On all sides around this interesting monument are ruined monasteries, fallen columns, and broken sculptures", when actually nothing can be found around the pillar. In the following years, inspections of the site showed that there were no such archaeological remains, and that, in respect to Führer's description "every word of it is false". It was finally understood in 1901 that Führer had copied almost word-for-word this description from a report by Alexander Cunningham about the stupas in Sanchi.


-- Alois Anton Führer, by Wikipedia

Finally, the Divyavadana describes how Asoka was conducted to Lumbini for the first time by his spiritual preceptor, Upagupta, who pointed out to the king the spot where the Buddha was born. Though the Lumbini pillar inscription states that this visit occurred during the twentieth year of Asoka’s reign, the nearby Nigliva inscription states that Asoka ‘increased for the second time the stupa of Buddha Konagamana’ when he had been reigning for only fourteen years. This is absurd. Why would Asoka decide to enlarge the Konagamana stupa -- and for the second time -- six years before he had even set foot in the Lumbini area?
The Divyāvadāna or Divine narratives is a Sanskrit anthology of Buddhist avadana [Buddhist literature correlating past lives' virtuous deeds to subsequent lives' events] tales, many originating in Mūlasarvāstivādin vinaya texts... The stories themselves are therefore quite ancient... but this particular collection of them is not attested prior to the seventeenth century. Typically, the stories involve the Buddha explaining to a group of disciples how a particular individual, through actions in a previous life, came to have a particular karmic result in the present. A predominant theme is the vast merit (puṇya) accrued from making offerings to enlightened beings or at stupas and other holy sites related to the Buddha.

-- Divyavadana, by Wikipedia

The Lumbini Discovery

The following year (1896) found Fuhrer back in Nepal once more, this time ‘to explore the whole neighbourhood of Taulihawa as far as Bhagvanpur, where there is said to exist another Asoka Edict pillar’. Fuhrer had referred to this other ‘Asoka Edict pillar’ in his 1895 report, though there was then no reason for believing that this pillar -- the present Lumbini pillar -- was Asokan; V. A. Smith had obtained rubbings from it ‘a dozen years’ earlier, and had found only ‘mediaeval scribblings’ on its exposed portion at that time.

The site was supposedly called ‘Rummindei’, this being considered to be a later variant of the name ‘Lumbini’.
But as E. J. Thomas observed:
‘According to Fuhrer, “this deserted site is still locally called Rummindei” (Monograph, p. 28). This statement was generally accepted before Fuhrer’s imaginativeness was discovered, and is still incautiously repeated. Yet he admitted that it was not the name used by the present Nepalese officials. “It is a curious fact (he says) that the true meaning of this ancient Buddhistic name has long been forgotten, as the present Nepalese officials believe the word to signify the sthan of Rupa-devi”. V. A. Smith said “the name Rummindei, of which a variant form Rupadei (sic) is known to the hill-men, is that of the shrine near the top of the mound of ruins”. This gives no further evidence for Fuhrer’s assertion, and it appears that neither the Nepalese officials nor the hill-men called it Rummindei’.

The Indian Survey map of 1915 lists the spot as ‘Roman-devi’; it should be noted that another ‘Roman-devi’ exists about 30 miles WSW of the Nepalese site, near the Indian town of Chandapar. Today, the site is situated in the ‘Rupandehi District’ of Nepal.

The Lumbini Pillar Inscription.

Whatever the event, in December 1896 Fuhrer met up at this Nepalese ‘Rummindei’ with the local Governor, Khadga Shamsher, ‘a man with intrigue in his bones’, who having assassinated one Prime Minister of Nepal and plotted against two others, eventually fled to British India and sanctuary.
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Commanding-General His Highness Raja Khadga Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana (Nepali: खड्ग शमशेर जङ्गबहादुर राणा) or Khadga Shamsher Jang Bahadur Kunwar Rana previously known as Khadga Shamsher Kunwar Rana was Nepalese politician, military general, governor and courtier in the Kingdom of Nepal. He was born in the Rana dynasty as third son of Commander-In-Chief of the Nepalese Army Dhir Shamsher Kunwar Rana. He was influential in the family coup of 1885 that led to the political rise of his Shamsher faction through the murders of then ruling Prime Minister of Nepal and his uncle Maharaja Ranodip Singh Kunwar, Ranodip's favourite nephew and would-be-successor Jagat Jang Rana and his other politically rival non-Shamsher cousins. On the aftermath of the coup, he secured the position of the Commander-In-Chief of the Nepalese Army and was second-in-line to Prime Minister Maharaja Bir Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana before he was removed out of the roll of the succession of Ranas in 1887. Afterwards, he served as Governor of Palpa and constructed the renowned Rani Mahal. In December 1896, he together with German archaeologist Dr. Alois Anton Führer discovered the Lumbini pillar inscription of Ashoka that proved Gautam Buddha's birthplace as Lumbini.

-- Khadga Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana, by Wikipedia

The subsequent excavations around the pillar reportedly disclosed an Asokan inscription about a metre below ground, and level with the top of a surrounding brick enclosure.

The credit for the discovery of this inscription later prompted an official enquiry, since Fuhrer had supposedly left the site just before any excavations had begun, leaving the Governor and his ‘sappers’ to do the digging. In his official letter on the matter, Fuhrer stated that he had advised the Governor ‘that an inscription would be found if a search was made below the surface of the mound’ on which the pillar was situated. Since there was no previous historical reference to such an inscription, one wonders at Fuhrer’s remarkable prescience on this occasion.
However, since this inscription provides the basis for the identification of this place with Lumbini, I propose to deal with it before passing on to other features at this site.

The appearance of this inscription in 1896 marked its first recorded appearance in history. The noted Chinese pilgrims, Fa-hsien and Yuan-chuang, make no mention of it in their accounts of the Lumbini site (though Yuan-chuang does give a detailed description of a pillar) and as Thomas Watters observed:
‘We have no records of any other pilgrims visiting this place, or of any great Buddhists residing at it, or of any human life, except that mentioned by the two pilgrims, between the Buddha’s time and the present.

In Watters’ book ‘On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India’ (prepared from an unpublished manuscript after his death) the following statement is found with reference to the Lumbini site:
‘Yuan-chuang, as we have seen, mentions a stone pillar, but he does not say anything about an inscription on it. The Fang-chih, however, tells us that the pillar recorded the circumstances of Buddha's birth’.

The Fang-chih -– a shortened version of Yuan-chuang’s account -- does nothing of the sort, since though it also refers to a stone pillar at Lumbini, no inscription ‘recording the circumstances of Buddha’s birth’ is mentioned in this text either. Watters, a great Sinologist, was referred to by V. A. [Vincent Arthur] Smith as ‘one of the most brilliant ornaments’ of Chinese Buddhist scholarship, and it is inconceivable that he would have made this critical mistake. Indeed, when Smith asserted that the Lumbini pillar inscription ‘set at rest all doubts as to the exact site of the traditional birthplace of Gautama Buddha’, Watters acidly retorted that ‘it would be more correct to say that the inscription, if genuine, tells us what was the spot indicated to Asoka as the birthplace of the Buddha’. Note that ‘if genuine’: this shows that Watters not only had his doubts about this inscription, but that he was also prepared to voice those doubts in public. Moreover, according to Smith, ‘Mr Watters writes in a very sceptical spirit, and apparently feels doubts as to the reality of the Sakya principality in the Tarai'. From all this, it will clearly be seen that this Fang-chih ‘mistake’ was totally at variance with Watters’ ‘very sceptical spirit’ regarding these supposed Nepalese discoveries (Lumbini included); and I shall therefore charge that it was a posthumous interpolation into Watters’ original text by its editors, Rhys Davids, Bushell, and Smith. If this charge is correct –- and I am quite sure that it is -- then the reasons behind this appalling deception can only be guessed at, I need hardly add.
It has been demonstrated that the caretakers of the Pali tradition systematically expunged references to various ideas and practices to which they objected, especially things thought to be non-Indian (Sven Bretfeld, p.c., 2012). (Bretfeld, Sven 2003. Visuelle Reprasentation im sogenannten "buddhistischen Yogalehrbuch" aus Qizil. Veroffentlichungen der Societas Uralo-Altaica 61 (Indien und Zentralasien: Sprach-und Kulturkontakt): 168-205) (Google translate: Visual representation in the so-called "Buddhist yoga textbook" from Qizil. Publications of Societas Uralo-Altaica 61 (India and Central Asia: Language and Culture Contact): 168-205)).

-- Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter With Early Buddhism in Central Asia, by Christopher I. Beckwith

Fuhrer was later found to have fraudulently laid claim to the discovery of about twenty relic-caskets at sites close to Lumbini, which allegedly bore Asokan, and even pre-Asokan inscriptions. One of these items supposedly contained a tooth-relic of the Buddha, which Fuhrer illicitly exchanged for gifts with a Burmese monk, U Ma (the correspondence between these two makes for lamentable reading, with Fuhrer exploiting U Ma’s gullibility quite unmercifully). Following an official enquiry into the matter, this tooth-relic was found to be ‘apparently that of a horse’ : Fuhrer had explained its large size to an indignant U Ma by pointing out that according to ‘your sacred writings’ the Buddha was nearly thirty feet in height!
The work ended rather as it had begun, with a long quotation from a Buddhist text in which the ascetic Vacchagotta addresses the Sakyamuni and compares his teaching to a mighty sal tree that loses all its dead branches, twigs and bark, and yet stands 'neat and clean in its strength. It is as if, oh Gautama, one were to set up that which was overturned; or were to disclose that which was hidden; or were to point out the way to a lost traveller; or were to carry a lamp into a dark place, that they who have eyes might see forms. Even so has Gautama Buddha expounded the Doctrine in many ways.'

It is hard to find a kind word to say about this extraordinary book. Either it was written by someone far out of his academic depth who resorted to padding on a grand scale, or it is the work of someone not quite in touch with reality, so desperate to see what Faxian and Xuanzang had seen centuries ago that he willingly suspended disbelief.

If the proofs of Antiquities were indeed received by Buhler in Vienna and read by him they must have troubled him greatly. And if Buhler ever got the opportunity to compare those proofs with Anton Fuhrer's 'preliminary brief report' on his most recent excavations in the Nepal Tarai he would have realised that his old student's claims to have discovered Kapilavastu — claims which he, Professor Georg Buhler, had fully endorsed and lauded in print — were bogus.

That 'preliminary brief report' was written in March 1898 as soon as Fuhrer got back to Lucknow. It contained two indisputable successes: Fuhrer's identification of Sagarwa lake as the site of the Sakya massacres visited by the Chinese pilgrims; and his identification of the Asokan column at the village of Gotihawa as the Buddha Krakuchanda memorial pillar seen by Xuanzang. But, crucially, what it never explained was where exactly the city of Kapilavastu was or what Fuhrer had found there. His impressive sounding map references — 'lat. 27°32'-38' N. and long. 83°3'-10' E: — meant that Kapilavastu city covered an area in excess of sixty square miles, not the twenty-eight that Fuhrer himself implied.

What Fuhrer's report also highlighted was that the copper reliquaries recovered from the seventeen Sakya stupas at Sagarwa bore the names 'of the following Sakya heroes, viz. Kundakumara, Junahakamara, Dhammapalakumara, Aljunakamara, Mahimsaasakumar, Yudhitthakurnar, Guttilakumara, Nandisena, Surasena, Sugaragutta, Aggidatta, Cetaputta, Giridanta, Sutasoma, Akitti, Lipananda, and Sabbadatta.'

These names, Fuhrer claimed, were 'for the most part engraved in pre-Asoka characters on the outside of the caskets, in two instances written in ink inside the lid, and in three cases they are carved in the bricks forming the relic chambers.' And as well as these seventeen inscribed caskets of the slaughtered Sakyas there was also the casket covered with an ornamented copper lid found in the ruined great stupa at Sagarwa, 'on which was incised in pre-Asokan characters the following: "Relics of the Sakya Mahanama", the successor to King Suddhodana of Kapilavastu.'

Despite the presence of a capable draftsman who produced accurate drawings of the stupas' bricks with their inscribed weaponry (see p. 109), and despite a camera on hand, Fuhrer's final report contained not a single drawing or photograph of any of these inscriptions. Fuhrer had made his claims knowing that the Nepalese Captain had confiscated all the caskets and that it was extremely unlikely that they would ever be seen again.

'If the alleged inscriptions had been found,' was Vincent Smith's subsequent comment, 'he would of course have photographed them.... They were coated with verdigris (secured by oxidation) and no inscriptions on them could possibly have been detected without very careful cleaning. ... There can, therefore, be absolutely no doubt that the alleged inscriptions were absolute forgeries! In fact, Smith was wrong: these were not forgeries, which implies physical existence; they were plain lies.
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Verdigris

Professor Buhler certainly received at least one communication from Fuhrer while the latter was still in Nepal. On 21 February he wrote from Zurich to Rhys Davids in England asking for his help over the word Sukitti or Sukiti, occurring on an inscription found by an English planter and sent to him by Fuhrer, adding that: 'The account, sent by Fuhrer, of the result of the Nepalese excavations at Kapilavastu and the neighbourhood is very good. Nothing must be said about it in public. He has been ordered to send a preliminary report ten days after his return.' Fuhrer was back in Lucknow at the beginning of March, so that his preliminary report should have been completed by mid-March. If Prof. Buhler ever saw a copy of that preliminary report the sheer audacity of Fuhrer's claims to have found and read no less than eighteen pre-Asokan inscriptions must have set the alarm bells ringing....

On 2 February 1898 — that is to say, when Fuhrer was still deeply entrenched in his main dig at Sagarwa — the Government of Burma wrote to the Government of the NWP&O concerning complaints it had received from a monk named U Ma. These involved a certain Dr. A. A. Fuhrer, Archaeological Surveyor to the Government of the NWP&O. Shin U Ma had first taken the complaints to a local government official in Burma, Brian Houghton, and had then backed them up with tangible evidence in the form of letters received from Dr. Fuhrer. Houghton had duly passed U Ma's complaints and copies of his letters on to government headquarters in Rangoon, as a consequence of which they arrived on the desk of the Chief Secretary to the Government of the NWP&O, who passed them on to the Secretary of the Department of Revenue and Agriculture, Archaeology and Epigraphy. From there they made their way to the desk of the Commissioner of Lucknow.

As soon as he returned to his offices at the Lucknow Museum in early March Fuhrer was confronted with the communication from Burma and asked to explain himself. According to the file, his letters to the Burmese monk went back as far as September 1896, when he had written to U Ma about some Buddhist relics he had sent him, allegedly obtained from Sravasti. The contents of this first letter indicate that the two had met while the Burmese was on a pilgrimage to the holy sites in India and had struck up a friendship ...

Dr. Fuhrer and U Ma had then come to some arrangement for the one to send the other further relics. On 19 November 1896 Fuhrer wrote again to U Ma to say that:
The relics of Tathagata [Sakyamuni Buddha] sent off yesterday were found in the stupa erected by the Sakyas at Kapilavatthu over the corporeal relics (saririka-dhatus) of the Lord. These relics were found by me during an excavation of 1886, and are placed in the same relic caskets of soapstone in which they were found. The four votive tablets of Buddha surrounded the relic casket. The ancient inscription found on the spot with the relics will follow, as I wish to prepare a transcript and translation of the same for you.

This letter of 19 November 1896 was written more than a year after Fuhrer's first trip into Nepal made in March 1895 (during which he made his discovery of the Asokan inscription on the stump at Nigliva Sagar), but just before he set out on his second foray into Nepal (where he would meet up with General Khadga Shumsher Rana at Paderiya on 1 December 1896). Yet already, it seems, he had found Kapilavastu. In the year referred to in his letter — 1886 — he was still a relative newcomer to the NWP&O Archaeological Department and had yet to conduct his first excavation.

Fuhrer's next letter to U Ma was dated 6 March 1897, three months after his much trumpeted Lumbini and Kapilavastu discoveries. In it he referred to more Buddha relics in his keeping which he would hold on to until U Ma returned to India. Seven weeks later, on 23 June, there was a first reference to a 'tooth relic of Lord Buddha', and five weeks on, on 28 August, a further reference to 'a real and authentic tooth relic of the Buddha Bhagavat [Teacher, thus Sakyamuni]' that he was about to post to U Ma.

The letters now began to come thick and fast. On 21 September Dr. Fuhrer despatched 'a molar tooth of Lord Buddha Gaudama Sakyamuni ... found by me in a stupa erected at Kapilavatthu, where King Suddhodana lived. That it is genuine there can be no doubt.' The tooth was followed on 30 September by an Asokan inscription Fuhrer claimed to have found at Sravasti. Then on 13 December Fuhrer wrote to say that he was now encamped at Kapilavastu, in the Nepal Tarai, where he had uncovered 'three relic caskets with dhatus [body relics] of the Lord Buddha Sakyamuni, adding that he would send these relics to U Ma at the end of March. What is most odd here is that on 13 December 1897 Fuhrer had not yet entered the Nepal Tarai, having been given strict instructions that he was not to do so until 20 December....

The arrival in Burma of the Buddha's molar tooth seems to have been too much for the hitherto credulous Burmese monk, who soon afterwards wrote what sounds like a very angry letter protesting at the remarkable size of the tooth in question. This letter was evidently forwarded from Lucknow to Basti and then probably carried by mail runner to Fuhrer's 'Camp Kapilavastu' at Sagarwa. It was replied to on 16 February 1898, when the Archaeological Surveyor was still encamped at Sagarwa. Writing at some length, Fuhrer went to great pains to mollify the Burmese, declaring that he could quite understand why `the Buddhadanta [Buddha relic] that I sent you a short while ago is looked upon with suspicion by non-Buddhists, as it is quite different from any ordinary human tooth' — as indeed it was, since it was most probably a horse's tooth — 'But you will know that Bhagavat Buddha was no ordinary being, as he was 18 cubits in height [18" x 18 = 27 feet] as your sacred writings state. His teeth would therefore not have been shaped like others: In a further bid to shore up the credibility of the tooth, Fuhrer went on to say that he would send U Ma —
an ancient inscription that was found by me along with the tooth. It says, 'This sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha is the gift of Upagupta.' As you know, Upagupta was the teacher of Asoka, the great Buddhist emperor of India. In Asoka's time, about 250 BC, this identical tooth was believed to be a relic of the Buddha Sakyamuni. My own opinion is that the tooth in question is a genuine relic of Buddha.

This supposed Asokan inscription was afterwards found to be written in perfectly accurate Brahmi Prakrit, its most obvious models being the many similar relic inscriptions found at Sanchi and other Buddhist sites, with which Fuhrer was very familiar through his work on Epigraphia Indica....

[T]he fact is that the file of the Fuhrer-U Ma correspondence was going the rounds of the concerned departments of the Government of the NWP&O in Allahabad in the spring of 1898. Because it touched on matters in Burma, which at that time came under the authority of the Government of India, it must also have been known and talked about in Government House, Calcutta. The professional opinions of senior members of the Asiatic Society of Bengal may well have been sought, the most respected among them being the editor of Asiatic Researches, the journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. This was the Swiss philologist Dr. Augustus Hoernle, a leading authority on early Central-Asian languages, who was at this time working on the decipherment of Khotanese texts written in Brahmi script (and whose own reputation was about to be badly dented by his acceptance of the forgeries of the notorious Islam Akhun of Kashgar, exposed by Aurel Stein in 1901). Philologists formed a tight circle and if Dr. Hoernle knew of the Fuhrer-U Ma correspondence, he may well have communicated his concerns to Vienna. Whether or not Dr. Hoernle was involved, it would have been surprising if whispers of the U Ma scandal had not reached London and Vienna by the end of March or the first week of April 1898.

As for Anton Fuhrer, nemesis was now fast approaching in the person of Vincent Smith, who corresponded with Dr. Hoernle in February and March while working with Willie Peppe on his article on the Piprahwa excavation for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. No mention of the U Ma scandal can be found in the surviving correspondence of any of these parties, but there is just a hint of a growing desperation on the part of Dr. Fuhrer in a letter written by him to Willie Peppe on 31 March from Lucknow Museum. Fuhrer had been expecting him in Lucknow on the 26th, together with the Piprahwa stone coffer and its contents, but Peppe had not come and he had heard nothing from him:
The long looked for 26th March has come and gone, and I am sorry to say I had not the pleasure of seeing you here. If you are still coming do kindly allow me to prepare coloured drawings of all the objects found in your excavations. I shall be very happy to send a man to Birdpore on any day you mention, so that he could bring a part of the valuables here, in order to prepare an illustrated report. Or, if you do not mind, you could send the things by registered post (unpaid), and I shall return all objects with as little delay as possible.

But Peppe prevaricated, and a month later Fuhrer had still not received the promised relics. On 21 April he wrote again to Peppe to say that he would be 'glad to receive your relics in small instalments when ever you can spare them; adding that he had 'sent Prof. Buhler at Vienna copies of the photographs and a correct impression of the [urn?] inscription. He will send you soon a printed copy of [his article in the Journal of?] the Academy of Sciences at Vienna.' This suggests that when Fuhrer wrote this letter on 21 April he had not received any recent news from Vienna.

A few days later Fuhrer received a polite but firm letter from General Khadga Shumsher Rana in answer to his appeal for support against Dr. Waddell. The General agreed that he, Dr. Fuhrer, 'certainly had a good share in identifying the birthplace of Buddha' — but not the major role he had publicly given himself.

At this point, no doubt thoroughly fed up with all the public bickering that had long gone on between two government servants — Drs. Waddell and Fuhrer — the Lieutenant-Governor of the NWP&O himself stepped in to order that 'discussions of a controversial nature regarding claims to the merit of prior discovery' should be excluded from all future publications. As far as Sir Antony MacDonnell was concerned, 'Dr. Fuhrer's share in the discovery was confined to the deciphering of the inscriptions [on the columns at Lumbini and Nigliva Sagar],' and that was it.

As Anton Fuhrer's star began to fade so Vincent Smith's rose. In mid-March 1898, having refused to accept his resignation, the Lieutenant-Governor now offered him an immediate promotion to the post of Commissioner of Faizabad Division, to be taken up at the end of the year, and in the meantime a temporary 'acting' post as Chief Secretary to the Government of the NWP&O. This more than salved Smith's wounded pride and he accepted with alacrity. His promotion came with the additional bonus of a hot weather spent away from the open furnace of the plains in the cooling lakeside air of Naini Tal, in the foothills of the Kumaon Himalayas.

Just as Simla served as the summer capital of the Government of India so Naini Tal filled the same role as the summer capital of the Government of the NWP&O, an Elysium to which all the province's departments and headquarters staff migrated in mid-March, only returning to the plains in October. As acting Chief Secretary, Smith now found himself at the very centre of things, in direct touch with every senior government official in every department, and with the ear of the Lieutenant-Governor himself, Sir Antony MacDonnell.

Spoken of behind his back as 'our Fenian friend' because he was an Irish Catholic with nationalist sympathies, MacDonnell was a dedicated administrator but disliked and even feared by his more junior ICS colleagues on account of an ill-temper which he combined with a steely exterior. It was said of him by a friend that 'If Antony and another are cast away in an open boat and only one of them can live, it will not be Antony who is eaten'. These qualities had earned him the nickname of the 'Bengal Tiger' during his years in the Bengal secretariat and as acting Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal. A little later, Lord Curzon, as Viceroy, was to describe MacDonnell as 'a strange creature, by far the most able administrator we have in this country but .. destitute of human emotion' and regretted that 'so conscientious a worker and so able an official should not hit it off better with his own subordinates and should be, as is alleged, so suspicious and so severe towards any excepting the few whom he trusts among his own men'. Whether this was a fair assessment or not, it seems that in the case of his acting Chief Secretary the Lieutenant-Governor set aside his suspicious nature and came to rely on his judgement.

Anton Fuhrer also took to the hills. He had long been due some local leave, which he took in early April, although in his case it meant going by train with his family to the more distant but less expensive hill-station of Mussoorie. He was still on leave in Mussoorie when he heard of the distressing news from Vienna.

-- The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer: An Archaeological Scandal, by Charles Allen
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

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According to Fuhrer, this ‘Buddhadanta’ had been found by a villager inside a ruined brick stupa near Tilaurakot, and was ‘enshrined in a bronze casket, bearing the following inscription in Maurya characters: “This sacred tooth-relic of Lord Buddha (is) the gift of Upagupta” (the mentor of Asoka). Having obligingly parted with the relic, the villager had refused to part with the inscribed casket itself ‘which is still in his possession’. Fuhrer reported finding this bogus Asokan inscription during the selfsame visit which saw the discovery of the Asokan inscription at Lumbini. Moreover, according to Fuhrer, the Lumbini inscription included words which were supposedly spoken by Upagupta whilst showing Asoka the Buddha’s birth-spot: ‘It would almost appear as if Asoka had engraved on this pillar the identical words which Upagupta uttered at this place’, he tells us, all wide-eyed. However, what with a bogus Upagupta quote on the casket, an Upagupta quote on the pillar, and Fuhrer’s keen taste for forging Brahmi inscriptions, we may here recall that he had fraudulently incised Brahmi inscriptions on to stone four years earlier (see ‘Fuhrer's Early Years’). And indeed, this pillar inscription ‘appeared almost as if freshly cut’ when Rhys Davids examined it in 1900, a view echoed by Professors N. Dutt and K. D. Bajpai, who noted that ‘it appears as if the inscription has been very recently incised’ when they examined it fifty years later. W. C. Peppe observed that ‘the rain falling on this pillar must have trickled over these letters and it is marvellous how well they are preserved; they stand out boldly as if they had been cut today and show no signs of the effects of climate; not a portion of the inscription is even stained’.

Inscriptions on other Asokan pillars located at sites associated with the Buddha’s life and ministry -- Sarnath and Kosambi, for example -- contain no references to their Buddhist associations, as this pillar so conspicuously -- and twice -- does; and no other inscription makes reference to any erection of a particular pillar by Asoka (as this one does) either. And with the exceptions of Sarnath and Sanchi, where only broken bases of pillars have been found, the surfaces of all other inscribed Asokan pillars are almost covered with inscriptions, whereas this pillar, and the nearby Nigliva pillar, display only single meagre inscriptions of 4 -5 lines each, and as J. F. Fleet has pointed out, they are not really edicts at all.

There is an additional mystery here. As noted above, Fuhrer had supposedly left the site just before the inscription was unearthed. Yet he had travelled up from Lucknow, crossed the Nepalese Tarai to Nigliva by elephant -– a difficult and laborious undertaking -- and then been further redirected to the ‘Rummindei’ site, where he had been officially appointed to superintend the excavations. The existing accounts state that having finally arrived at the site, Fuhrer identified the pillar as Asokan, assured Khadga Shamsher that an Asokan inscription would be found after further excavation, and then, astonishingly, left before the inscription was exposed. This is frankly unbelievable. Are we really to believe that after several days’ arduous efforts to reach this site, and declaring that this world-shaking discovery was close at hand -– a couple of hours’ excavation away at most -– Fuhrer would then simply walk away, leaving Khadga Shamsher to expose the inscription in his absence? This is like believing that Howard Carter would choose to walk away from the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb; it was, after all, a defining moment not just of Indian archaeology, but of world history also. V. A. Smith stated that a nearby landowner, Duncan Ricketts, ‘had the good fortune to be present while the inscription was being unearthed. Dr Fuhrer arrived a little later’. But Smith’s statement ignores Fuhrer’s earlier presence at the site; and since the accounts which were furnished by Fuhrer and Khadga Shamsher make no reference to Ricketts anyway, one assumes that Fuhrer had alerted him to these excavations after this mysterious departure (Ricketts lived just a few miles away). So what’s to stop Fuhrer from forging the inscription, reinterring the excavated soil (a common archaeological practice) and then notifying Ricketts of events at the site, an action which would have served to remove any subsequent awkward questions on the matter? Only this scenario, it seems to me, can explain Fuhrer’s sudden absence at this critical moment - by far the most important in his entire archaeological career - and it is evident that skulduggery was very much at work here.

Fuhrer also refers to a ‘pilgrim's mark’ on the upper part of this pillar, and whilst providing no photograph of it, still less any details of its language, script, or content, he dates it at around 700 AD. He states that since this item was visible above ground whilst the Asokan inscription lay hidden beneath the soil, this somehow explains Yuan-chuang’s failure to notice the latter during his visit to Lumbini around 635 AD. However, since there is no such ‘pilgrim's mark’ on this pillar anyway -- this was yet another Fuhrer lie –- it is evident that this was merely another clumsy attempt by Fuhrer (as with the phony Nigliva stupa) to add credence to this Asokan inscription also. Why else would Fuhrer invent it?

There are, moreover, serious epigraphical problems with the pillar inscription itself. The term ‘silavigadabhi,’ which occurs in this inscription, appears to have baffled all attempts at translation thus far. According to Pischel, vigadabhi is "literally, ‘not so uncouth as a donkey'" (a translation which Fuhrer cheerfully endorsed) though quite how this phrase might relate to the birthplace of the Buddha remains unclear.

Since ancient times the donkey has been the symbol of the physical body as the bearer of the spirit, but the donkey represents the physical body as it became after the Fall, serving the spirit only reluctantly, both lazy and tough, difficult to guide, yet full of endurance when laden, clever and stubborn. In Isis and Osiris Plutarch tells that the god Osiris -- who corresponds to what is higher and divine in man -- was suffocated by Seth Typhon in a casket which had the form of a human body. This Seth Typhon is portrayed with a donkey's head. Here already the donkey appears as the symbol of the living physical body. When the human body became hardened, and grew to be the casket of the soul, man began to develop material understanding, but became cosmically dull. St. Francis of Assisi called the physical body brother donkey.

-- The Pictorial Language of Hieronymus Bosch, by Clement A. Wertheim Aymes


When you have seen the one who makes the grass green, it's like meeting your own father in a crowd -- you'll have no doubt whatsoever.

Nasruddin went galloping through Baghdad one day on his donkey. He went up every street and into every alley and across every plaza. Every place he goes, an unending race, a hunt and search. Everybody got curious, everybody came out of their houses, and they were all yelling, "Nasruddin, Nasruddin, what are you looking for?" He said, "I lost my donkey, and I'm looking for it."

The donkey represents what everybody is looking for, which is a mystical school. It's the answer to all the riddles of the universe. And you hunt for east, west, north, south, up, down, everywhere you can imagine, and all the time it's carrying you around. It's the human nervous system which takes out of the infinity of the universe the little reality tunnel that you consider reality, which is your creation, which you think is the whole of the universe, unless you went to a Sufi school, or studied General Semantics, or did a lot of Zen meditation, or dropped LSD once or twice. Then you realize the universe is much bigger and more complicated than any little map we can make of it. The map is not the territory. The words that describe the map are not the territory, are even further from the territory.

What I've been trying to do is put the donkey on your back in such a way you'll never forget the master, the great magician who makes the grass green, the one who creates the whole universe you live in.

-- Maybe Logic -- The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson


"And thou thyself, thou old pope, how is it in accordance with thee, to adore an ass in such a manner as God?"

Better to adore God so, in this form, than in no form at all! Think over this saying, mine exalted friend: thou wilt readily divine that in such a saying there is wisdom.

Mine old heart leapeth and boundeth because there is still something to adore on earth.

The old God liveth again.

"And thou," said Zarathustra, "thou bad old magician, what didst thou do! Who ought to believe any longer in thee in this free age, when THOU believest in such divine donkeyism?

Perhaps I dare not believe in God: certain it is however, that God seemeth to me most worthy of belief in this form.

Thou thyself -- verily! even thou couldst well become an ass through superabundance of wisdom.

"And thou thyself, finally," said Zarathustra, and turned towards the ugliest man, who still lay on the ground stretching up his arm to the ass (for he gave it wine to drink).

A little valiant nonsense, some divine service and ass-festival, some old joyful Zarathustra fool, some blusterer to blow your souls bright.

Forget not this night and this ass-festival, ye higher men! THAT did ye devise when with me, that do I take as a good omen, -- such things only the convalescents devise!

And should ye celebrate it again, this ass-festival, do it from love to yourselves, do it also from love to me! And in remembrance of me!

-- Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche


Frequently [Monsignor Escriva] talked to us about cleaning and especially about cleaning his room. He insisted that his room was simply a kind of corridor, which was true in a way. His office, however, was not simply a corridor, nor was the room where he ordered that special glass cases be constructed to keep all the donkeys and at a later stage ducks that men and women numeraries from all over the world sent him as presents. The collection was picturesque and varied. It was based on the story that one day he prayed to the Lord: "I am a poor mangy donkey" and heard an answer from heaven saying, "A donkey was my throne in Jerusalem." Hence, on occasion when he gave someone his photograph, he would inscribe "Ut iumentum" (Like a donkey). During the time that Alvaro del Portillo was Opus Dei prelate he continued the practice. There is no word yet on what the current prelate, Javier Echevarria, will do.

-- Beyond the Threshold -- A Life in Opus Dei, by Maria del Carmen Tapia


More damaging still, however, is the presence of the term ‘Sakyamuni’ in this inscription. Simply put, it shouldn’t be there. ‘Sakyamuni’ is a later, Sanskritised form of this term, and thus has no place in an allegedly Asokan Brahmi inscription. Its earliest appearance occurred when the north-western Prakrit inscriptions began to show Sanskrit influence –- so-called Epigraphical Hybrid Sanskrit, a development which arose two or three centuries after Asoka -- and before this it was always written as ‘Sakamuni’, in both Brahmi and Kharosthi inscriptions. There would thus appear to be no epigraphical support for the presence of ‘Sakyamuni’ in this Asokan Brahmi inscription, and I shall charge that this exposes it as yet another Fuhrer forgery. Though it occurs in a few Pali texts, these were also written down much later, and as J. F. Fleet observed:

‘The inscriptions of India are the only sure grounds of historical results in every line of research connected with its ancient past; they regulate everything that we can learn from coins, architecture, art, literature, tradition, or any other source.


A similar caution has been expressed by Richard Salomon:

‘...there can be no question that in Buddhological studies as a whole the testimony of the inscriptions has not generally been given the weight it merits, and that the entire field of the history of Buddhism, which has traditionally been dominated by a strongly text-oriented approach, must be re-examined in its light.


The Location of the Lumbini Pillar

The pillar at the present Lumbini site is in the ‘wrong’ place; that is, it is in a very different position, relative to the so-called ‘Sacred Pool’, from that given by Yuan-chuang (and the pillar rests upon a support-stone, it should be noted here). According to this pilgrim, a decayed ‘Asoka-flower’ tree lay twenty-five paces to the north of the pool at Lumbini, marking the birth-spot of the Buddha. To the east of this lay an Asokan stupa, marking the spot where ‘two dragons’ bathed the newly-born prince; to the east of this were two more stupas, close to two springs; to the south of these was another stupa; close to this were four more stupas; and close to these was the stone pillar itself, broken in half and lying near to a little ‘river of oil’. A little elementary geometry will disclose that the pillar thus lay -- apparently at some distance -- to either the east or to the south-east of the pool. At the present site, however, the pillar (on its support-stone, remember) stands a mere 75 metres or so to the north-north-west of the pool, a position diametrically opposed to that given by Yuan-chuang in his carefully-detailed account.

The Mayadevi Temple

In 1994, I photographed an official notice at the present Lumbini site (see Fig. 1 ) the text of which ran as follows:

‘The famous Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang says:- “Lumbini is on the bank of the River Telar where an Asokan pillar (with a split in the centre), the Mayadevi Temple, the Sacred Tank, and a few stupas are situated”.’


Yuan-chuang, alas, makes no such statement, and like Fa-Hsien, his account makes no mention whatsoever of any ‘Mayadevi Temple’ at Lumbini. He is also, as we have seen, quite specific about the stupas at the site, and of their significance, and his account mentions only a ‘little river of oil’ and not the River Telar (which runs about a kilometre away from the present site anyway). As for the ‘Mayadevi Temple’ itself, I can find nothing to connect this structure with Lumbini, let alone with anything Buddhist. Neither pilgrim makes any reference to it as I have noted, and the present item is an entirely modern affair anyway, beneath which lay the remains of an earlier structure exposed by P.C. Mukherji in 1899. The ornately-carved bricks which formed part of this earlier edifice were identical to those found in structures at the nearby Sivaite sites of Sagarwa and Kodan, these being dated by Debala Mitra at ‘not earlier than the eighth century AD’.

Similarly, the sandstone image in this ‘temple’ (see Fig. 2) supposedly of Mayadevi giving birth to the Buddha, appears equally dubious on a close examination of its origins. This bas-relief, in which the figures are so defaced as to be unrecognisable (see Fig. 5) formed part of the remains of various broken statues which Mukherji found during his visit to the site in 1899. These items consisted of Hindu deities such as Varahi, Durga, Parvati, Ganesh, etc -- nothing Buddhist -- and it is noted that the supposed image of Mayadevi bears a striking resemblance to figures of yakshis and devatas also (see Figs. 2-4). It is by no means certain that the all-important top piece of this ‘Mayadevi’ figure, with its raised arm holding a tree-branch, was originally associated with the torso either. This feature was absent when Hoey first saw the image in 1897, being later added by Mukherji from among the broken pieces mentioned above. During a subsequent visit, Landon noted that among various examples of Mukherji's careless assembly of these pieces was one showing a head of Ganesh placed on ‘the headless body of a female deity’ (see Fig. 6). Whatever the event, all of these items -- the so-called ‘Mayadevi’ figure included -- were associated with the earlier structure found by Mukherji, and are therefore of mediaeval Hindu provenance. There is thus nothing Buddhist about the ‘Mayadevi Temple’ at all, and it is not a temple either.


The Piprahwa Discoveries

In January 1898, W. C. Peppe, manager of the Birdpur Estate in north-eastern Basti District, U. P., announced the discovery of soapstone caskets and jewellery inside a stupa near Piprahwa (see map) a small village on this estate. An inscription on one of these caskets appeared to indicate that bone relics, supposedly found with these items, were those of the Buddha. Since this inscription also referred to the Buddha’s Sakyan kinsmen, these relics were thus generally considered to be those which were accorded to the Sakyas of Kapilavastu, following the Buddha’s cremation. The following year, these bone relics were ceremonially presented by the (British) Government of India to the King of Siam, who in turn accorded portions to the Sanghas of Burma and Ceylon. Concerning this discovery, however, the following points should be noted:

Peppe had been in contact with Fuhrer just before announcing the Piprahwa discovery (Fuhrer was then excavating nearby, at the Nepalese site of Sagarwa: see map). Immediately following Peppe's announcement, it was discovered that Fuhrer had been conducting a steady trade in bogus relics of the Buddha with a Burmese monk, U Ma. Among these items -– and a year before the alleged Piprahwa finds -- Fuhrer had sent U Ma a soapstone relic-casket containing fraudulent Buddha-relics of the Sakyas of Kapilavastu, together with a bogus Asokan inscription, these deceptions thus duplicating, at an earlier date, Peppe’s supposedly unique finds. Fuhrer was also found to have falsely laid claim to the discovery of seventeen inscribed, pre-Asokan Sakyan caskets at Sagarwa, his report even listing the names of seventeen ‘Sakya heroes’ which were allegedly inscribed upon these caskets. The inscribed Piprahwa casket was also considered to be both Sakyan and pre-Asokan at this time -- though its characters have since been shown to be typically Asokan -- and no other Sakyan caskets have been discovered either before or since this date.

• The bone relics themselves, purportedly 2500 years old, ‘might have been picked up a few days ago’ according to Peppe, whilst a molar tooth found among these items (and retained by Peppe) has recently been found to be that of a pig. The eminent archaeologist, Theodor Bloch, declared of the Piprahwa stupa that ‘one may be permitted to maintain some doubts in regard to the theory that the latter monument contained the relic share of the Buddha received by the Sakyas. The bones found at that place, which have been presented to the King of Siam, and which I saw in Calcutta, according to my opinion were not human bones at all’.
Bloch was then Superintendent both of the ASI [Archaeological Survey of India] Bengal Circle and the Archaeological Section of the Indian Museum, and would presumably have drawn not only upon his own expertise in making this assertion, but also that of the zoologists in the Indian Museum itself. This museum -– formerly the Imperial Museum -- was then considered to be the greatest in Asia.

The caskets appear to be identical to caskets found in Cunningham’s book ‘Bhilsa Topes’ (see Figs. 7-12) a source also used by Fuhrer for his Nigliva deceptions. A photograph of the ‘rear’ of the inscribed Piprahwa casket, taken in situ at Piprahwa in 1898 (and never published thereafter) discloses that a large sherd was missing from the base of the vessel at this time (see Fig. 8). Having closely examined this casket in 1994, I noted that a piece had since been inserted into this broken base, and that this had been ‘nibbled’ in a clumsy attempt to get this piece to fit. The photograph also reveals a curious feature on the upper aspect of the casket; this, I discovered, was a piece of sealing-wax (since transferred to the inside) which had been applied to prevent a large crack from running further. From all this, it is evident that this casket had been badly damaged from the start, a fact not mentioned in any published report. But is it likely, one is prompted to ask, that this damaged casket, supposedly containing the Buddha’s relics, would have been deposited inside the stupa anyway? Or is this the broken casket, ‘similar in shape to those found below’, which was reportedly found near the summit of the stupa, and which had vanished without trace thereafter? This casket -– also damaged -- was the first of the alleged Piprahwa finds; so did Peppe take it to Fuhrer, and did Fuhrer then forge the inscription on it? Is the Piprahwa inscription simply another Fuhrer forgery? As Assistant Editor on the Epigraphia Indica, Fuhrer would certainly have had the necessary expertise to do this, quite apart from his close association with the great epigraphist, Georg Buhler (who may have unwittingly provided Fuhrer with the necessary details, according to the existing accounts).

On his return to the U.K., Peppe was contacted by the London Buddhist Society, and agreed to answer readers’ questions on his finds. Shortly afterwards however, the Society was notified that Peppe had suddenly been taken seriously ill, and was therefore unable to answer any questions as proposed. The Society declared the matter to be ‘in abeyance’ in consequence; but Peppe died six years later, leaving all such questions still unanswered.

So I went to the phone book, and I looked up “Tibet.” Now in London, there’s 12 million people, the phone book is in four volumes, but I looked up in the “T’s,” and there was only one entry that began with the word “Tibet.” And that was “The Tibet Society of the United Kingdom.”

So I saw that, and noted down the address -- I think it was 58 Eccleston Square -- and I didn’t think of phoning. I thought, “Well, I’ll go in person to see what happens.” ...

[S]o I got in the car, and I knew where Eccleston Square was, and I managed to find a parking place ... And it was sort of a Victorian townhome. And I went up the steps and there was a brass plate that said, “Buddhist Society.” And I thought, “Ha, that’s a good sign.” And underneath it it said, “Tibet Society.” So I pressed that bell push, the buzzer sounded, the door opened, and I went in.


-- Richard Arthure on Meeting Chogyam Trungpa, by The Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche


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TIBETAN REFUGEES

Sir. – Recent devastating events in Tibet caused over 15,000 Tibetans to cross the perilous Himalayas into India. It may be a long time before these unfortunate people can safely return to their overrun country. Our own consciences should allow us neither to neglect nor forget them.

The Indian Government has manfully coped with this addition to its own problems at home. In this country we are bound in honour to help relieve needs of the Tibetan refugees, because from 1905 to 1947 there was a special relationship between Tibet and the United Kingdom – a relationship handed on to the new India.

On balance we think it wisest to concentrate chiefly on collecting money which can be used for the benefit of the refugees, not least in the purchase of necessary antibiotics and other medicaments. The Tibet Society has opened a Tibet Relief Fund for which we now appeal in the hope of a generous response. Donations should be sent to the address below or direct to the National Bank Ltd. (Belgravia Branch), 21 Grosvenor Gardens, S.W.I.

Yours faithfully,

Thubten Jigme Norbu; F.M. Bailey;Birdwood; J.D. Boyle; [Indian Foreign Secretary Sir] Olaf Caroe; Clement Davies; A.D. Dodds-Parker; Peter Fleming [Master of Deception: The Wartime Adventures of Peter Fleming, by Alan Ogden]; Thomas Moore; [Esmond Harmsworth, 2nd Viscount Rothermere] Harmsworth; Marco Pallis; Hugh E. Richardson; Francis Napier Beaufort-Palmer, Chairman; Major J.C.W. Napier-Munn [Tac HQ Calcutta (Advanced HQ ALFSEA)], Hon. Secretary; D.C. Nicole, Hon. Treasurer, The Tibet Society.


-- The Tibet Relief Fund, 58 Eccleston Square, S.W. I., Letter to the Times, July 31, 1959, p.7.


-- Tibet Relief Fund: About Us, by Tibet Relief Fund


• The declassified ‘Secret’ political files of the period reveal the disquiet felt by the Government of India over French and Russian influence at the Siamese royal court at this time. Hence, no doubt, this bequest!

In 1972 an Indian archaeologist, K. M. Srivastava, made the startling claim to have discovered yet further relics of the Buddha in a ‘primary mud stupa’ below the Peppe one. According to him, the ‘indiscriminate destruction’ caused by Peppe meant that the 1898 bone relics could not be safely determined to be those of the Buddha, and the inscribed casket somehow ‘pointed’ to those relics allegedly found (by him) lower down, which were thus the real relics of the Buddha as mentioned by the casket’s inscription. Since this bizarre proposal thus rests upon the notion that the 1898 inscription is genuine –- hardly likely, as we have seen -– then this claim becomes equally improbable in consequence. I also note that Srivastava makes no mention, in any of his publications on his alleged finds, of the earlier bequest of the Peppe relics to Siam. Naturally, one wonders why.

(For a fuller exploration of this vexed question, see my website ‘The Piprahwa Deceptions: Setups and Showdowns’ at http://www.piprahwa.org.uk).

The Kapilavastu of the Chinese Pilgrims

It is thus with a certain sense of relief that one turns to the testimonies of the two great Chinese pilgrims, Fa-Hsien and Yuan-Chuang, since not only did these pilgrims actually visit Lumbini and Kapilavastu, but their accounts reveal precisely how they got there also. These accounts remain the definitive guides to the whereabouts of ancient Indian Buddhist sites, and as Cunningham, Beal, and other authorities have declared:

‘…the voyages of the two Chinese travellers, undertaken in the fifth and seventh century of our era, have done more to elucidate the history and geography of Buddhism in India than all that has hitherto been found in the Sanskrit and Pali books of India and the neighbouring countries’.


Now not only did the pilgrims agree on the location of Kapilavastu (and thus serve to confirm each other’s testimony) but since they both actually went to Kapilavastu, then this must surely settle any question regarding its whereabouts. From the city of Sravasti, both pilgrims placed Kapilavastu in a south-easterly direction, and at a distance of 500 li (Yuan-chuang) or 12 yojanas (Fa-Hsien). This is between 84-90 miles. Yet neither of the present identifications for Kapilavastu shows the slightest accordance with the pilgrims’ bearings. Piprahwa lies only fifty-five miles east of Sravasti, whilst Tilaurakot lies east-north-east at around the same distance (see map). Having acknowledged the impossibility of reconciling these locations with the pilgrims’ accounts, V. A. [Vincent Arthur] Smith then attempted to ‘solve’ the problem by relocating Sravasti itself into Nepal (see map). Later excavations reconfirmed Cunningham’s identification of Sravasti with the Indian site of Sahet-Mahet however, and this intractable problem has remained ever since (though discreetly ignored by all later researchers, I note). But we must search for Kapilavastu where the pilgrims found it -– regardless of any present claims to the contrary -- and prior to Fuhrer’s Nepalese identifications this was thought to be ‘well within the Basti District’, an area, like the neighbouring Gorakhpur District, rich in ancient Buddhist sites, still largely unexcavated and unexplored.

‘…our knowledge about the position of Kapila may be reduced to this: that it lay on the route from the Buddhist cities of eastern Gorakhpur to the Buddhist Sravasti of Gonda; and that that route probably passed between the Ghagra and Rapti rivers’.


Before proceeding further, it will be necessary to point out that most traces of the original Kapilavastu site will have long since disappeared anyway. As Herbert Härtel has pointed out:

‘The hope to recover the original structures and ruins of a town or habitation of the time of the Buddha, let us say Kapilavastu, is almost zero’.


The problem being that the earliest burnt brick buildings found in India date to the second century BC (with the exception of the Harappan sites, which need not concern us here) and any earlier remains would have long since returned to clay in consequence. This being so, we are thus compelled to rely upon the pilgrims’ accounts together with whatever local traditions may tell us, and this in an area where the threads of all such traditions were systematically broken, and Buddhist sites were either abandoned to the jungle or converted into Hindu sites instead. Astonishingly, however, one such tradition has survived; and I now propose to examine this in detail, since it would appear to hold the key to the Kapilavastu problem at last.

Will the Real Kapilavastu Please Stand Up?

Between the Ghagra and Rapti rivers, at the correct distance from Sravasti (about 84 miles) and in the right direction also (south-east) lies the pilgrimage site of Maghar, about sixteen miles west of Gorakhpur (see map). At present this site is visited by Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim pilgrims, since it marks the final resting-place of the great poet/saint Kabir, who died at this spot in 1518 AD. Kabir’s sayings disclose that he had not only received his spiritual enlightenment at Maghar, but that he had also elected to die there, in deliberate defiance of contemporary Brahmin teachings. These declared that Maghar was ‘accursed’, and held that whilst dying in Varanasi assured rebirth in heaven, death at ‘barren’ Maghar meant rebirth in hell, or as an ass, etc... Such dire fulminations from the Varanasi Brahmins against Maghar -– a small village, 200 kms. distant -- constitute a sure indication that this place was once an important rival religious site, which they found it necessary to discredit. But why would anyone have wished to die at Maghar anyway? The answer is not far to seek. According to Buddhist tradition, ‘the Buddha was, after his parinirvana, in some sense actually present at the places where he is known to have formerly been’, and ‘a devout death that occurred within the range of this presence assured for the individuals involved -- and these were both monks and laymen -- rebirth in heaven’. Since, as we shall now see, there is compelling evidence to show that Maghar was formerly the site of Kapilavastu itself, then the reason for people electing to die there then becomes abundantly clear, as indeed, does Brahmin hostility towards this place.

For A. C. L. [Archibald Campbell] Carlleyle, who did archaeological tours of this area in the 1870s, tells us not only that the Maghar site is ‘very ancient’, but that it was ‘reputed to have been the seat of Buddhist hierarchs for some time after Kapilavastu was destroyed’. Kapilavastu was destroyed during the Buddha’s lifetime, by the king of Sravasti; yet when the Chinese pilgrims visited the Kapilavastu site a thousand years later, they still found Buddhist monks in residence (and these would doubtless have included ‘Buddhist hierarchs’). One also notes ‘the prominent association of this place with Buddhism’, together with the curious tradition that with the arrival of Kabir, a dried-up local stream began to flow once more. This is more likely to refer to the reawakening at Maghar, of the anti-Brahmin, anti-caste tradition of Buddhism by the similar teachings of Kabir, one feels, than to any sudden and supernatural antics of the local River Ami. And just who was the protective ‘Lord’ of the (Buddhist) Tharus -- the earliest recorded inhabitants of Maghar -- whose place of worship (beneath a tree) was called the ‘Thakur-dih’, or high place of the Lord, but upon whose name ‘tradition is silent’?. On visiting this site in 2005, I was twice informed by local sources that Chinese travellers had also visited long ago, and that they had stayed in the area for a while. The remains at the deserted ‘Thakur–dih’ site -– which include ancient walls and wells -- call for detailed and careful archaeological examination, as do various mounds in the vicinity.

From all this it can clearly be seen that ‘very ancient’ Maghar was once a major Buddhist site. Just as the Chinese pilgrims found Buddhist monks living at the Kapilavastu site a thousand years after its destruction, so we are told that Maghar was also occupied by important Buddhist monks ‘after Kapilavastu was destroyed’. We have direct historical evidence, from Kabir, that people deliberately chose to die at this place, and whilst the Varanasi Brahmins cursed it, and declared that choosing to die there meant rebirth in hell, Buddhists believed that to die in a place where the Buddha had once walked meant rebirth in heaven. And since Maghar lies around 84 miles south-east of Sravasti, and is thus in perfect agreement with the location which was given by both of the Chinese pilgrims for Kapilavastu, there can surely remain no doubt that this is indeed the place where Kapilavastu itself once stood.

Lumbini

From the palace-city of Kapilavastu, Yuan-chuang travelled to the Arrow Well. He states that this lay 32 li (between 5-6 miles) to the southeast of the city, a bearing which agrees with that given by Fa-hsien. From here, Yuan-chuang travelled ‘80 or 90 li north-east’ -- about 15 miles -- to the Lumbini Garden, though he gives no direct distance between Kapilavastu and Lumbini. Fa-hsien, however, states that he went directly from Kapilavastu ‘50 li east’ to Lumbini (about nine miles) but this distance is impossible to reconcile with Yuan-chuang's triangulation. If Yuan-chuang's bearings are correct -- and they are usually more precise than those of Fa-hsien -- then Lumbini must have been just a few miles further on.

According to the Buddhist scriptures, the Rohini River constituted the border between the Sakyan clans of Kapilavastu and Koliya, and the Lumbini pleasure-park was used by these clans for their mutual recreation. From this it would appear that they thus regarded Lumbini as a territorially ‘neutral’ site, which presumably lay on or close to this river border.

‘About one and-a-half miles to the north-west of Gorakhpur, close to the junction of the Rohini with the Rapti, is a large and high mound, the ruins of the ancient Domangarh, said to have been founded by, and to have received the name from, a ruling tribe called Dom-kattar. The bricks which compose the interior or oldest portion of the ruins of Domangarh are very large and thick, and of a square shape. During the construction of the Bengal and North-West Railway, in 1884, a relic-casket was discovered near this khera containing an amulet of thin plate gold, representing Yasodhara and Rahula, the wife and son of prince Siddhartha, as well as the ornaments of a child. The relics are deposited in Lucknow Provincial Museum.’


The interment of a relic-casket at Domingarh reveals that it was once a sacred Buddhist place (there are stupa remains still present at the site). The representations on the amulet are of interest, whilst the large size and square shape of the oldest bricks strongly suggest that they are Mauryan, and may therefore be part of the Asokan stupa mentioned by Yuan-chuang at Lumbini. Kushan terracottas (1st-3rd centuries AD) and Northern Black Polished Ware (500-100 BC) have recently been discovered at Domingarh, these artefacts being housed in the Purvayatan Museum at Gorakhpur University. These latter finds push the dating of this site’s occupation back to a very ancient period indeed, the NBP Ware finds being possibly contemporaneous with the Buddha himself.

Domingarh lies about 14 miles east of Maghar (see map) bearings which would accord with those travelled by Yuan-chuang between Kapilavastu and Lumbini. Moreover, its position is in precise agreement with the bearing -– 35 miles east -– which was given by both pilgrims for their next place of visit, which was that of the Rama Stupa (which I take to be the Ramabhar Stupa, for reasons given below) and it is, indeed, directly en route from Maghar to this stupa. Domingarh lies on the Rohini river (which as noted above, marked the border between the Sakyan clans of Kapilavastu and Koliya) and since - before the railway – the site became an island in this river during the rains, it would thus have been regarded as a ‘neutral’ recreational place by the two neighbouring Sakyan clans in consequence. It is still a pleasant place to visit, being on a slightly elevated stretch of ground with fresh air and good views, and local Europeans even built a sanatorium -- a place of healing -- upon it, and would visit it for purposes of recreation. Close to it, curiously, is a village called Koliya, and the great mediaeval saint, Gorakhnath (whom many regard as a crypto-Buddhist) chose a nearby site for his ashram. Local information has it that Domingarh was named after a queen ; this may link with Yuan-chuang’s version of ‘Lumbini’ as ‘La-fa-ni’ (‘beautiful woman’) whilst other accounts state that Lumbini was named after a Koliyan queen.

The Rama Stupa

Both pilgrims report that having left the Lumbini Garden, they travelled east 200 li / 5 yojanas (about 35 miles) to ‘Lan-mo’ (Rama) where they found an Asokan stupa, with its attendant vihara, situated beside a lake. Earlier traditions regarding the Rama stupa are mentioned by both pilgrims in considerable detail. One of these traditions declared that it was the only stupa containing relics of the Buddha which had remained untouched by Asoka, whilst another tradition held that wild elephants had repeatedly paid homage at the stupa with gifts of flowers.

Taking Domingarh as Lumbini, we find the Kasia site about 35 miles due east, bearings which match those given by both pilgrims from Lumbini to the Rama Stupa. By far the oldest structure at the Kasia site -- the bricks are deemed to be Asokan -- is the Ramabhar Stupa (see map) which, like the Rama stupa of the pilgrims, is situated beside a lake. Whilst this name -– ‘Ramabhar’ -– has always been a puzzle to scholars, I take it to signify the stupa of Rama and its attendant vihara (since ‘bhar/bihar’ = ‘vihara’ ). At this site, a life-size statue of a seated Buddha (the ‘Matha-Kuar’) bore an inscription – now abraded - which began with the words ‘Rama rupa’ (a rupa being an image of the Buddha).. During excavations of 1904-5 a plaque was discovered, also bearing a seated Buddha, showing a row of elephants carrying flowers, precisely as depicted in the tradition mentioned by the pilgrims for the Rama stupa. Most of the votive offerings which were found at the Kasia complex were found at the Ramabhar stupa, a fact which attests to the stupa’s position as the central sacred feature at this site. Since, according to tradition, the Rama stupa’s Buddha-relic was left untouched by Asoka, this relic would signify the Buddha's ‘parinirvanic presence’ at Kasia, thus explaining the ‘parinirvana’ statue, the ‘parinirvana’ copperplate, and the sealings of the ‘monastery of the Mahaparinirvana’, all of which were found at this location.. At present, Kasia is identified with the site of Kusinara, where the Buddha died; but if this identification were correct, and we then backtracked from Kasia using the pilgrims’ accounts, we would find Kapilavastu situated somewhere northwest of Allahabad, and Sravasti located northwest of Lucknow. Nobody, I trust, would seriously attempt to support such proposals.

From Rama to Kusinara

From the Rama Stupa, both pilgrims travelled 100 li / 3 yojanas (about 21 miles) east to the spot where Siddhartha sent back his charioteer, Khanna, following the flight from the palace. The scriptures state that having left by the eastern gate of Kapilavastu at midnight, the prince crossed the Anoma River at daybreak, and thus found safety within the neighbouring kingdom of the Mallas. Having instructed Khanna to return to Kapilavastu, Siddhartha then cut his hair, changed his royal robes for those of an ascetic, and spent a few days at a nearby mango-grove before heading south.

Both of the Chinese pilgrims followed the prince’s escape route from Kapilavastu, and their accounts reveal that not only had Siddhartha travelled directly eastwards to reach this place of renunciation (hence his well-known exit from the eastern gate of Kapilavastu) but that in doing so he had left both his father’s domain, and also –- rather daringly -- crossed Koliya, the domain of his in-laws. Since both of these Sakyan territories were then part of Kosala -- and were in turn, subject to the rule of the king of Sravasti - it would thus appear that the young prince had resolved to leave Kosala entirely, and to flee to a place from which he could not be compelled to return. Authorities agree that the eastern border of Kosala was then the Great Gandak river. From the Rama Stupa, the Chinese pilgrims travelled 3 yojanas / 100 li (21 miles) eastwards to this ‘Place of Renunciation’, and since this distance and direction also equate precisely with those from the Ramabhar Stupa to the Great Gandak (see map) it seems evident enough that this great river border was also the Anoma River of the scriptures.

Kusinara

From Siddhartha’s ‘Place of Renunciation’, both pilgrims travelled 180 li / 4 yojanas southeast to the Ashes Stupa of the Moriyas of Pipphalivana (bearings which would indicate the Siwan District of western Bihar: see map) and from there, having travelled through a ‘great forest’ (Yuan-chuang) they arrived at the site of Kusinara, where the Buddha died. Now while Fa-hsien gives ‘12 yojanas east’ (about 84 miles) from the Ashes Stupa to the Kusinara site, Yuan-chuang, contrary to his usual custom, gives no distance, but corrects Fa-hsien’s direction to ‘northeast’. This overall distance and direction is confirmed by the ‘Fang-chih’ moreover, which gives 500 li northeast -- also about 84 miles - for this journey. These bearings take us to the ancient Champaran area of north-western Bihar, an historically fascinating area, now sadly strife-torn and neglected, which nevertheless ‘presents an immense field for research’ according to V. A. Smith. The Champaran gazetteer, whilst referring to Yuan-chuang’s ‘great forest’, also mentions Champaran’s glorious Vedic past:

‘Legendary history, local tradition, the names of places and archaeological remains, all point to a prehistoric past. Local tradition asserts that in the early ages Champaran was a dense primeval forest, in whose solitude Brahman hermits studied the aranyakas, which, as their name implies, were to be read in silvan retreats; and the name Champaran itself is said to be derived from the fact that the district was formerly one vast forest ( aranya ) of Champa (magnolia) trees... it was a place of retreat for Hindu ascetics, where, removed from worldly ambitions, they could contemplate the Eternal Presence in the silence of a vast untrodden forest. Various parts of the district are connected by ancient tradition with many of the great Hindu rishis ... such as Valmiki, in whose hermitage Sita, the banished spouse of Rama, is said to have taken shelter. This great sage is reputed to have resided near Sangrampur, and the village is believed to be indebted for its name (which means the city of the battle) to the famous fight between Rama and his two sons, Lava and Kusha ... it seems probable that Champaran was occupied at an early period by races of Aryan descent, and formed part of the country in which the Videhas settled … and founded a great and powerful kingdom. This kingdom was in course of time ruled over by king Janaka ... under his rule according to Hindu mythology, the kingdom of Mithila was the most civilized in India. His court was a centre of learning, and attracted all the most learned men of the time; Vedic literature was enriched by the studies of the scholars who flocked there; his chief priest, Yajnavalkya, inaugurated the stupendous task of revising the Yajur Vedas; and the speculations of the monarch himself, enshrined in the sacred works called the Upanishads, are still cherished by the Hindu community.’


These details recall that in response to Ananda's plea not to die in this ‘little wattle-and-daub town’, the Buddha replied that ‘long ago’ -- also a reference to Vedic times -- Kusinara had once been a great royal city called Kushavati. The Champaran area is noted for having what are believed to be the only Vedic remains ever discovered in India (thought to be royal tombs) at the site of Lauriya Nandangarh, where an Asokan pillar also stands. Here several great burial mounds were found, in one of which were coffins containing ‘unusually long skeletons’, presumably of ancient warrior-kings. I believe that this was the region into which the young Siddhartha had first ventured, seeking wisdom from its forest rishis, and that it was also the area towards which he later struggled, despite sickness and pain, as his deliberately-chosen place to die. There is compelling evidence to show that this event -- the parinibbana, or passing-away of the Buddha - occurred at the site of Rampurva (see map) near the present Indo-Nepalese border.

Both pilgrims agree with the Mahaparinibbana Sutta in stating that the Buddha died on the bank of the river Hiranyavati (or Ajitavati) between two sal trees, Yuan-chuang adding that Asoka had commemorated the spot with a stone pillar. This pillar Yuan-chuang locates four li -- about a kilometre -- northwest of the town of Kusinara at the time of his visit. Another stone pillar was located to the north of the town, and marked the place of the Buddha's cremation; this pillar he places ‘300 paces’ from the river's edge. He also mentions a ‘yellowish-black’ soil at the site, which he believed might contain relics.

The Asokan site of Rampurva still awaits proper excavation, most of it having disappeared beneath the alluvial deposits left by successive inundations from a nearby large river. This river I take to be the one mentioned by the two Chinese pilgrims. When they were discovered in 1877, the two Asokan pillars at this site were situated 300 yards apart -- exactly as mentioned by Yuan-chuang for the two Kusinara pillars -- and were also placed in similar bearings to those given by this pilgrim, one being situated slightly to the west of the other. The pilgrims mention only two sites at which two Asokan pillars were found - those of Sravasti and Kusinara -- and Rampurva is the only site in India where there are two Asokan pillars (there are none, I should add, at Kasia). The so-called ‘Southern Pillar’ at the Rampurva site I therefore take to mark the place of the parinibbana, whilst the ‘Northern Pillar’ marked the Buddha's cremation-spot. At the time of its discovery, the ‘Southern’ pillar was situated between two mounds ; these mounds marked the locations of the two sal trees. The material which covered these mounds was a yellowish kankar, or lime, not known in this vicinity (it was also found in the Lauriya Nandangarh mounds mentioned above); this I take to be the curious ‘yellowish-black soil’ mentioned by Yuan-chuang at the Kusinara site. Sir John Marshall declared that the ‘Southern’ pillar at Rampurva ‘appears to have been wilfully mutilated, perhaps with the purpose of destroying some inscription on it’ and a large section of this pillar’s surface has indeed been deliberately hacked away, a fact which doubtless accounted for its breakage at this point (see Fig. 13). This is clearly damage which is wholly commensurate with the removal of an inscription, and I shall assume that this deed was perpetrated by later enemies of Buddhism who believed, as Yuan-chuang’s guides informed him, that it mentioned the details of the Buddha’s final passing at this spot.

Finally, I note that Fa-hsien gives 12 yojanas - about 84 miles - as the distance between Kusinara and a stone pillar near Vaishali. If this refers to the famous Asokan lion-pillar near this place -- and no other pillar has been found near there -- then this distance matches that between Rampurva and Vaishali (see map). V. A. Smith noted that Yuan-chuang ‘expressly states that Vaishali lay on the road from Pataliputra to Nepal. Basar (Vaishali) lies on the ancient royal road from the capital (Pataliputra) to Nepal, marked by three of Asoka’s pillars, which passed Kesariya, Lauriya Araraj, Betiya, Lauriya-Nandangarh, Chankigarh, and Rampurva, entering the hills by the Bhikna Thori Pass’. This ‘ancient royal road’ is clearly marked, with a double broken dotted line, on the 1" to 1 mile Survey of India maps. It was, I believe, the ancient via regis that was trodden by the Buddha to Kusinara (Rampurva), the same route being followed thereafter by Asoka, and later, by the Chinese pilgrims themselves.

POSTCRIPT

India should now reclaim her greatest son, Siddhartha Gautama (at present, he’s Nepalese). Unfortunately, despite the worldwide prestige -– not to mention the revenue -– which this tremendous prize may bring, I believe that India will implacably reject it as a poisoned chalice. After all, the Brahmins fought Indian Buddhism for centuries before its final downfall, and they’re certainly not about to welcome it back, as the ongoing struggle for the control of Bodh Gaya grimly demonstrates. And what, too, about Kabir? He is generally considered to be the greatest Indian religious figure for a thousand years, and since everybody appears to want a piece of him –- Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus alike –- then they’re not going to welcome the proposal that he chose to die at the site of the Buddha’s home town either. And what effect might this tremendous homecoming have on all those feisty Buddhist Dalits, or on all those modern young Indians who know that Buddhism is now ‘cool’, and is much admired throughout the West? Small wonder then that there would now appear to be an Indian conspiracy of silence upon these findings, and that everyone is still trying to proceed as before, ‘wrapt in the old miasmal mist’. Buddhists, however, should be well aware of this silence, for if the conclusions which are set out above are correct –- and some important people now think that they are - then these critical sites of world history (which include two of the Four Holy Places of Buddhism) have now been rediscovered following fifteen hundred years of darkness, and there may not be another chance to set the record straight. It really is as simple as that.

© T. A. Phelps, 2008. Comments on this article would be most welcome, and should be sent to taphelken@hotmail.com
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Part 3 of 3

References

1. H. Luders, ‘On Some Brahmi Inscriptions in the Lucknow Museum’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (UK) 1912, fn., p. 167. Fuhrer was then Assistant Editor (to Burgess) on the Epigraphia Indica. See ref. 4 also.
2. Proceedings of the Government of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, Public Works Department, B. & R. Branch, ‘Miscellaneous’, Aug. 1899, Proceeding no. 100 (India Office Library, London).
3. A. A. Fuhrer, ‘The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur’ (1889), Archaeological Survey of India Reports (New Imperial Series) Vol. 11, p. 69.
4. See ref. 1, pp. 161-8. Luders neglects to mention that Fuhrer had supplied Buhler with the details of these and other inscriptions –- almost 400 in all –- for Buhler’s assessment in the Epigraphia Indica, and epigraphists will now have the unenviable task of establishing the authenticity of these items. Immediately following Fuhrer’s exposure in 1898, Buhler drowned in Lake Constance in mysterious circumstances, and since he had enthusiastically endorsed all of Fuhrer’s supposed discoveries, one cannot help but wonder whether this tragedy was accidental.
5. See ref. 1 (Luders) pp. 176-79, and ‘Catalogue of Archaeological Exhibits in the United Provinces Museum, Lucknow’ (Part 1: Inscriptions) by Pandit Hirananda Shastri, 1915, fn. 4, p. 39.
6. ‘The Pioneer’ newspaper, Allahabad, 15th September, 1893, p. 3 ; J. Burgess, ‘The Academy’ (London) 44 (October 14th, 1893) p. 324 ; Annual Progress Report (A. Fuhrer) Arch. Survey of India, N-W. P. & Oudh Circle, y/e 1894, para. 22 ; and P. C. Mukherji, ‘A Report on a Tour of Exploration of the Antiquities in the Tarai, Nepal’, Archaeological Survey of India Reports, New Imperial Series, Vol. 26 (1901) p. 2 (n. b. not of V. A. Smith’s ‘Prefatory Note’ to this work).
7. Annual Progress Reports, Archaeological Survey, N-W. P. and Oudh Circle, Epigraphical Section, y/e 1895 and 1897. It would appear that Singh had redirected Fuhrer to Nigliva (where Singh owned some villages) in 1895, but Fuhrer’s earlier reports differ widely on the location of Singh’s supposed find. The first public notification was Fuhrer’s 1893 ‘Pioneer’ item (see ref. 6). According to this, Singh’s discovery was near Bairat, a village 21 miles north of Bahadurganj in Nepal, but Fuhrer's 1894 Progress Report then alters this to a spot near Nepalganj, 100 miles west of Singh's reported location. So why did Fuhrer revise Singh’s account so drastically? Moreover, according to Fuhrer’s 1893 ‘Pioneer’ account, Singh had discovered an Asokan ‘lion-pillar’ bearing all of of the seven known Asokan pillar inscriptions as well as two exciting new ones in a new script, these supposedly being ‘addressed to the Buddhist clergy of the Visas, the early predecessors of the Bais of Nepal’. All this was, of course, complete nonsense, and the pillar at Nigliva (1895) bore not the slightest resemblance to this ‘lion-pillar’ with its nine Asokan inscriptions (which has never been found, I need hardly add). But why didn’t Singh himself promptly protest the untruthfulness of Fuhrer’s report when it appeared in the ‘Pioneer’? Since this newspaper was noted for its links to intelligence, and Singh was a relative of the Maharajah of Balrampur (a powerful zamindari family which had aided the British during the Mutiny) one wonders whether the original (1893) report was some sort of ‘plant’, designed to further British ‘forward’ imperial interests in Nepal. Whatever the event, this paved the way for all the other alleged Asokan discoveries in the Nepalese Tarai (‘Rummindei’ included) but an increasingly paranoid Nepalese Government soon put an end to these archaeological intrusions into its territory, and the border became firmly closed to all such ‘surveys’ shortly thereafter (cf. Smith’s fulminations on the matter in the JRAS (UK) 1897, pp. 619-21).
8. Annual Progress Report for N-W. P. and Oudh, Epigraphical Section, (Fuhrer) y/e 1895, p. 1. The Architectural Section of this Report was mistaken in stating that ‘In March 1895 the Architectural Surveyor accompanied Dr Fuhrer on a short trip to Nigliva, Tahsil Tauliva, in the Nepal Tarai, to procure photographs of a new Asokan edict pillar which was discovered there in 1893 by Major Jaskaran Singh of Balrampur’. The photographs mentioned –- which accompanied both this Progress Report and Fuhrer’s later ‘Monograph’ (1897) –- show the inscribed Nigliva pillar stump after excavation, and as Fuhrer himself states that Nepalese permission for this excavation was only given for May, this shows that the Architectural Surveyor’s ‘short trip’ (which could hardly have included Fuhrer’s Balrampur visit to Singh) had also occurred in May, i.e. two months after Fuhrer’s initial arrival at Nigliva.
9. ‘A Monograph on Buddha Sakyamuni’s Birthplace’, by A. A. Fuhrer (1897) Arch. Surv. of Northern India Reports, Vol. 6, p. 25 (reprinted in Varanasi (1972) as ‘Antiquities of Buddha Sakyamuni’s Birthplace’). See also ref. 8, p. 2.
10. See ref. 6, Smith’s ‘Prefatory Note’ to Mukherji’s report, fn., p. 4.
11. See ref. 2, Aug. 1899, Proceedings nos. 90-91, pp. 29-33 (India Office Library, London). The same details are also disclosed in the Government of India Proceedings (Part B), Department of Revenue & Agriculture, Archaeology & Epigraphy, April 1899, File no. 6 ; see ‘Enclosure 1’ (Report) of letter no. 53A, and also letter no. 41A in this file. (National Archives of India, New Delhi). This report by Waddell and Hoey, detailing the results of their own (1899) excursion into the Tarai, led to the Government suppression of Fuhrer’s ‘Monograph on Buddha Sakyamuni’s Birthplace’ shortly thereafter. In a letter accompanying this report, Waddell stated that the alleged stupa of Konagamana ‘did not in reality exist -- it was a pure fabrication to reconcile this false identification with the descriptions of the Chinese pilgrims’. There is, however, good reason to believe that the deception also extended to the inscription itself. Hoey stated that following his appointment at nearby Gorakhpur in 1892, he had ‘employed an agent who travelled over these parts and the Nepal Tarai, and brought me notes of the pillar at Nigali Sagar and other remains including Piprahwa and Rumindei’. In 1893 Hoey befriended Khadga Shamsher, the Governor of this Tarai area, who ‘sent me rubbings from pillars, but these were not of Asoka lettering’. From this it is evident that since Hoey knew about the Nigliva pillar before Fuhrer’s arrival (and according to Fuhrer this pillar was ‘known far and wide to the people of the Tarai’) it would also have been included in Khadga Shamsher’s earlier examinations on Hoey’s behalf. But whereas Shamsher found no Asokan inscription in 1893, Fuhrer supposedly arrived at Nigliva in 1895 and found an inscription ‘visible above ground’, and without any need for excavation. And if, as Fuhrer states, the local villagers were aware of this inscription also, then why hadn’t they alerted the Governor to it during his earlier examination of the site?
12. See ref. 9 (Fuhrer, Monograph ) pp. 33-4.
13. See ref. 7, y/e 1896, p. 2.
14. See ref. 8 (Fuhrer) and ‘The Birthplace of Gautama Buddha’, by V. A. Smith, JRAS (UK) 1897, fn., p. 617.
15. ‘The Rummindei Inscription’, by V. A. Smith, Indian Antiquary, Vol. 34 (1905) p. 1.
16. ‘The Life of Buddha’, by E. J. Thomas (1927) fn., p. 18.
17. See ref. 6 (Mukherji) pp. 4, 43, and Plate 1. See also V. A. Smith, Annual Progress Report, Archaeological Survey Circle, N-W. P. & Oudh, y/e 1899, p. 8.
18. ‘Nepal’, by Perceval Landon (1928) Vol. 2, p. 76.
19. ‘Nepal under the Ranas’, by Adrian Sever (1993) p. 469. See also ‘Princess’, by Vijayaraje Scindia (1985) pp. 5-8.
20. See ref. 2, Aug. 1899, proc. no. 12 (p. 5).
21. ‘Kapilavastu in the Buddhist Books’, by Thomas Watters, JRAS (UK) 1898, p. 563.
22. ‘On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India’, by Thomas Watters, Vol. 2 (1905) p. 17.
23. See ‘She-Kia-Fang-Che’, trans. by P. C. Bagchi (Calcutta, 1959) p. 69. A noted Sinologist, who has consulted a recent Chinese variorum of the Fang-chih, assures me that Bagchi’s translation, whilst ‘not very good’, is nevertheless correct upon this most important point. There is no mention whatsoever of any inscription on the Lumbini pillar in the Fang-chih text, and Watters was far too good a scholar to have made such an absurd blunder.
24. See ref. 14 (Smith) p. 619.
25. See ref. 21 (Watters) p. 547.
26. See ref. 6 (Smith’s ‘Prefatory Note’) p. 17.
27. In the Preface to Watters’ book, Rhys Davids wrote that ‘We have thought it best to leave Mr Watters’s Ms. untouched, and to print the work as it stands’. This statement was yet another demonstrable lie. Rhys Davids was evidently unaware that Watters had already published a considerable portion of this work in an earlier series of articles entitled ‘The Shadow of a Pilgrim’ (there are extracts from these online) in ‘The China Review’, Vols. 18-20 (1890-92). A comparison of the text of these articles with that of the book discloses that these posthumous editors of Watters had, in fact, substantially tampered with his original text, omitting entire paragraphs and radically rearranging others. Unfortunately, these ‘China Review’ articles stop just short of Yuan-chuang’s account of his visit to the Kapilavastu area, so we will never know just exactly what Watters did write in this subsequent section of his work. I also note that although Watters tentatively referred to the Lumbini inscription in his earlier ‘Kapilavastu in the Buddhist Books’ (JRAS 1898, pp. 533-71) he made no mention of this phony ‘Fang-chih’ reference in this article. But then, this was published while he was still alive.
28. A. A. Fuhrer, Annual Progress Report, Archaeological Survey, N. -W. P. & Oudh Circle. y/e 1898, p. 2. See also ref. 6 (Smith’s 'Prefatory Note' to Mukherji's report) p. 4, and also ref. 17 (Smith, Ann. Prog. Rep. 1899) pp. 1-2.
29. Government of India Proceedings (Part B), Department of Revenue & Agriculture (Archaeology & Epigraphy section), Aug. 1898, File no. 24 of 1898, Proceedings nos. 7-10. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).
30. Ibid. See also ref. 6 (Smith’s ‘Prefatory Note’ to Mukherji’s report) p. 4.
31. See ref. 7, y/e 1897, p. 3; and ref. 9 (Fuhrer, Monograph) Chapter 5, concluding paragraph.
32. ‘Lumbini’, by T. W. Rhys Davids, ‘Encyclopaedia of Religion & Ethics’, Vol. 8, p. 196.
33. ‘Development of Buddhism in Uttar Pradesh’, by N. Dutt and K. D. Bajpai, (Lucknow, 1956) p. 330.
34. ‘Asokan Pillars: A Reassessment of the Evidence (2)’, by John Irwin, Burlington Magazine, Vol. 115, p. 714 (Nov. 1973) ; J. F. Fleet, ‘The Rummindei Inscription and the Conversion of Asoka to Buddhism’, JRAS (UK) 1908, p. 472. The remarks on the ‘Lumbani’ pillar by W. C. Peppe are taken from his initial draft of the JRAS account of his alleged Piprahwa discoveries, which was privately printed in Calcutta (n. d.) by J. H. H. Peppe. A copy of it can be seen in the few Peppe Papers which are in the custody of the Department of South Asian Studies at Cambridge University, and it offers a markedly different version of the Piprahwa events from that seen in his July 1898 JRAS account, which was heavily edited by the ubiquitous V. A. Smith before publication.
35. ‘The Birthplace of Gautama Buddha’, by V. A. Smith, JRAS (UK) 1897, p. 618.
36. See ref. 9, pp. 27-8, and Fuhrer’s Annual Progress Report, Archaeological Survey, N. -W. P. and Oudh Circle, Epigraphical Section, y/e 1897, pp. 3-4. This is not, of course, the 12 th century Tapu Malla inscription near the top of the pillar, nor the Tibetan ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ inscription close to it. And despite returning to the site with his draughtsman (who appears to have been unaccountably absent when Fuhrer first appeared at the site) no photograph or drawing was made of this most important item, and nobody else has since made any reference to it either.
37. Epigraphia Indica, vol. 5, p. 5 (Buhler) and ref. 9, p. 34 (Fuhrer).
38. Commenting on an inscription on the Wardak Vase (2nd century AD) N. G. Majumdar writes that ‘the name is Sankritized as Śakyamuni’ (Epigraphia Indica, Vol. 24, p. 2). Though I can find no other instance of sakyamuni - as distinct from sakamuni – in any other Brahmi inscription, the term occurs in ten Kharosthi inscriptions. Of these, six also show sakamuni, while the four showing sakyamuni – those on the Avaca, Kurram, and two Wardak caskets – were all found in the Gandhara area, viz, north-western Pakistan / eastern Afghanistan, being written in the Kharosthi script and utilising the Gandhari Prakrit.
39. J. F. Fleet, ‘Inscriptions’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 14, 11th edn. (1911) p. 622.
40. ‘Indian Epigraphy’, by Richard Salomon (1998) p. 242.
41. See article ‘Asokan Pillar at Lumbini : Additional Information’ (in Nepali) by Tara Nanda Mishra, published in the Saturday supplement to the ‘Gorkhapatra’ newspaper, Kathmandu, 27 Baisakh, 2043 (1986) and ‘Evolution of Buddhism and Archaeological Excavations in Lumbini’, by Tara Nanda Mishra, in ‘Ancient Nepal’, no. 155, June 2004.
42. See ref. 6 (Mukherji) pp. 35-6 and Plates 21 & 22. The former ‘modern, mean construction’ (Fuhrer, 1897) has recently been removed from the face of the earth, and has since been replaced by a larger (and even more modern) construction.
43. ‘Buddhist Monuments’, by Debala Mitra (Calcutta, 1971) p. 251.
44. See ref. 6 (Mukherji) p. 36 and Plates 24, 24a, and 26.
45. ‘Nepal’, by Perceval Landon, Vol. 1, pp. 9-10.
46. V. A. Smith, ‘The Piprahwa Stupa’, JRAS (UK) 1898, p. 868. See also Mahabodhi Society Journal (Calcutta) May 1900, pp. 2-3.
47. Govt. of India Proceedings (Part B), Department of Revenue & Agriculture, (Archaeology & Epigraphy section), Aug. 1898, Proceedings no. 15, File no. 30 of 1898, p. 2. (National Archives of India, New Delhi).
48. See ref. 29. In a letter to U Ma dated 19th November, 1896, Fuhrer writes : ‘My Dear Phongyi, The relics of Tathagata, sent off yesterday, were found in the stupa erected by the Sakyas of Kapilavastu over the corporeal relics (saririka-dhatus) of the Lord. The relics were found by me during an excavation in 1886, and are placed in the same relic-casket of soapstone in which they were found. The four votive tablets of Buddha surrounded the relic-casket. The ancient inscription found on the spot with the relics will follow, as I wish to prepare a transcript and translation of the same for you’. Since Peppe was deemed to have made an identical discovery a year later (viz., that of an inscribed soapstone casket containing those relics of the Buddha that were accorded to the Sakyas of Kapilavastu after the Buddha’s cremation) it would appear that this earlier deception was thus merely a ‘dry run’, as it were, for the supposed Piprahwa finds of 1898. From this letter it will also be seen that Fuhrer sent a bogus soapstone relic casket to U Ma, but no details can now be traced about this item - its appearance, how Fuhrer obtained it, or its subsequent fate - and no details of the alleged inscription can now be traced either. Fuhrer’s letters to U Ma - there are eleven of them, stretching between 1896 to 1898 - have never seen the public light of day, and make for instructive and entertaining reading. For their details, see ref. 29.
49. See ref. 28 (all refs. quoted).
50. W. C. Peppe', ‘The Piprahwa Stupa, containing relics of Buddha’, JRAS (UK) 1898, p. 576.
51. Charles Allen, ‘The Buddha and Dr Fuhrer’ (2008) p. 260. See also ‘ The Sunday Times Magazine’ article cited in ref. 53.
52. ‘Notes on the Exploration of Vaisali’, by Theodor Bloch, ASI Annual Report, Bengal Circle, y/e April 1904, p. 15.
53. See Buhler’s ‘A Preliminary Note on a Recently Discovered Sakyan Inscription’, JRAS (UK) 1898. Having received an early copy of the inscription from Fuhrer, Buhler wrote back and ‘begged Mr Peppe to look if any traces of the required I in the first word, of the medial I in the second, and of a vowel-mark in the last syllable of bhagavata are visible’, all these additional details being duly present when the final copy of the inscription was published. The caskets (including the inscribed item) are now in the custody of the Indian Museum, Calcutta. No drawing or photograph was ever made of the missing (summit) casket however, the earliest of the supposed finds. It is absent from the Indian Museum’s collection (and Accession List) of the Piprahwa items, and no mention of it occurs in Smith’s detailed list of the Piprahwa finds either (see ref. 46 (Smith) pp. 868-70). Of the twenty drawings of the Sagarwa and Piprahwa items which were listed in Fuhrer’s 1898 Progress Report, the three Piprahwa drawings are now missing from the ASI archives at Agra (including the drawing of the inscribed casket). As for the Piprahwa jewellery, Smith stated that ‘Mr Peppe has generously placed all the objects discovered at the disposal of Government, subject to the retention by him, on behalf of the proprietors of the estate, of a reasonable number of duplicates of the smaller objects’ (see ref. 47, Smith's reference to those ‘duplicates’ being later repeated in the JRAS : see ref. 46). Since recent events have shown, however, that Peppe retained one-third - 360 pieces - of the original items of Piprahwa jewellery, it is evident that this proposal to ‘place all the objects discovered at the disposal of Government’ was not met, and the question thus arises as to whether these items were unlawfully retained thereafter (see ‘The Sunday Times Magazine’ (UK) March 21st, 2004, pp. 36-42). One also wonders why Smith found it necessary to lie - to central Government, no less - upon the matter of those ‘duplicates’.
54. ‘Buddhism in England’ (Journal of the Buddhist Society, London) July 1931, pp. 61-4; Oct. 1931, p. 78; Mar- Apr. 1932, p. 180.
55. ‘Political and Secret’, Home Correspondence, 1898 (India Office Library, London). The official correspondence immediately following this discovery (see ref. 47) draws attention to the political advantages to be gained from awarding the relics to surrounding Buddhist countries, and also makes various pointed references to the presence in India at this time of a Siamese crown prince, Jinavarmavansa - a cousin to the King - who soon showed a keen interest in acquiring the bone relics for Siam.
56. See ‘Discovery of Kapilavastu’, by K. M. Srivastava (1986), ‘Buddha's Relics from Kapilavastu’ (same author) 1986, and ‘Excavations at Piprahwa and Ganwaria’ (1996). He also claimed to have discovered - precisely as Debala Mitra had earlier predicted - clay sealings bearing the word ‘Kapilavastu’, in monastic remains adjacent to the stupa (though neither Peppe nor Mukherji had found a single instance of these when they had earlier excavated at these selfsame remains). Alarmed by these claims however, that doyen of Buddhist archaeologists, Herbert Härtel, declared sharply at the 14th International EASAA Conference in Rome (1997) that ‘it is high time to set a token of ‘scientific correctness’ in this extremely important matter’, but his call for action went unheeded, authorities worldwide preferring to maintain a deafening silence instead (see Herbert Härtel, ‘On the Dating of the Piprahwa Vases’, in ‘South Asian Archaeology 1997’, Rome, 2000). In 2006, a conference was held under the auspices of the Royal Asiatic Society at Harewood House, in England, in an attempt to ‘clear the air’ over the vexed problem of Piprahwa, but it was decided not to publish the findings that were then disclosed (some of which have been published in this paper) the authorities electing, yet again, to discreetly close the lid on this particular Pandora’s box. It is, in fact, high time that this tiresome old ‘relic of Empire’ was finally put to bed, but since many powerful agendas are at stake here – religious, political, financial, and academic - this is unlikely to happen at present.
57. ‘The Travels of Fah-Hian and Sung-yun’, by Samuel Beal (1869) page before Preface.
58. Throughout this essay I have utilised Sir H. M. Elliot’s conclusion that the yojana of Fa-hsien was ‘as nearly as possible’ 7 miles, as revealed by the distances between known sites, e. g. Vaishali to Pataliputra (Patna) - 35 miles - which is given by Fa-hsien as 5 yojanas ; Elliot cites further examples also (‘Memoirs of the History, Folk-lore, and Distribution of the Races of the North-Western Provinces of India’, by Sir H. M. Elliot (1869) Vol. 2, pp. 195-6). This, in turn, shows the li of Yuan-chuang to have been about 308 yards, since this pilgrim cites 40 li to the yojana.
59. ‘Sravasti’, by V. A. Smith, JRAS (UK) 1900, pp. 6-7.
60. ‘Kausambi and Sravasti’, by V. A. Smith, JRAS (UK) 1898, pp. 520-31.
61. ‘The Site of Sravasti’, by J. Ph. Vogel, JRAS (UK) 1908, pp. 971-5, and ‘Archaeological Exploration in India, 1907-8’, by J. H. Marshall, JRAS (UK) 1908, pp. 1098-1104.
62. H. C. Conybeare, ‘Statistical, Descriptive and Historical Account of the North-Western Provinces of India’ (Vol. 6) 1881, p. 716.
63. ‘Archaeological Research on Ancient Buddhist Sites’, by Herbert Härtel, in ‘The Dating of the Historical Buddha’ (Pt.1) p. 62, (ed. Heinz Bechert, 1991).
64. ‘A Weaver Named Kabir’, by Charlotte Vaudeville (1993) pp. 56 and 61-2. According to Kabir, Maghar was ‘haramba’, from the Arabic ‘haram’, meaning ‘forbidden’ (the word ‘harem’ derives from the same root). Interestingly, a young Hindu at nearby Gorakhpur told me that his mother declared that it was unlucky to think of either Maghar or the (Buddhist) Kasia site in the early morning, a tradition also indicative of the ‘forbidden’ Buddhist nature of both places.
65. Gregory Schopen, ‘Burial ‘Ad Sanctos’ and the Physical Presence of the Buddha in Early Indian Buddhism’: Religion, Vol. 17, pp. 193-225 (1987). The issue of the Buddha’s ‘parinirvanic presence’ in stupas, images, relics, places, etc., is also examined in ‘Embodying the Dharma’, ed. by K. Trainor and D. Germano (New York, 2004) and ‘Relics of the Buddha’, by John S. Strong (Princeton University Press, 2004). See also ref. 84 (below).
66. ‘Report of Tours in Gorakhpur, Saran, and Ghazipur in 1878-80’, by A. C. L. Carlleyle, Archaeological Survey of India Reports (Old Series) Vol. 22, p. 72, (1885). See also ref. 64 (Vaudeville) p. 61-2. It is noteworthy that Carlleyle himself made not the slightest attempt to follow the implications of this extraordinary statement (and alas, gave no indications of its origin either) but his use of the word ‘reputed’ suggests that this information came from a local source. Even more extraordinary is the fact that nobody has since made the glaringly obvious connection between Carlleyle’s statement and the location of Kapilavastu, given the bearings which are cited by the pilgrims. Here, surely, was the key to the real whereabouts of Kapilavastu staring everyone right in the face.
67. See ref. 22 (Watters) p. 1., and ‘Travels of Fa-Hsien’, by H. A. Giles, p. 36 (1926). The pilgrims also visited the so-called ‘Scene of the Sakyan Massacre’, where Sakyan youths were said to have beem slaughtered in a vain attempt to ward off the attack on Kapilavastu. Since both pilgrims place this site to the north-west of the city, this provides yet further evidence of the fact that Kapilavastu lay to the south-east of Sravasti, from whence the attack came. Yuan-chuang also noted the remains of around 1000 ruined monasteries and ten ruined cities in the Kapilavastu region. Whilst such features appear to be absent from the areas around the present nominations for the site of Kapilavastu, Carlleyle noted that the remains at Tameshwar, near to Maghar, appeared to be those of ‘an ancient city of considerable size and importance... (with) many Buddhist viharas and monasteries’. Similar nearby sites were also noted by Carlleyle at the time of his visits in the 1870s - Koron-dih, Mahasthan, Bakhira-dih, etc. All still await excavation.
68. See ref. 64, pp. 61-79.
69. ‘The History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India’, (usually referred to as ‘Eastern India’) by Francis Buchanan-Hamilton (ed. R. M. Martin) Vol. 2, p. 393 (1838). The ‘Thakur-dih’ area is behind the very northernmost houses of the village, immediately to the south of the Gorakhpur-Basti road, and can be accessed from an old road/track which runs to the east of the main turn off into Maghar. It is near to Ghanshiampur. I would welcome any further information on this site (see my email address at the end of this paper). According to a recent website, Buddhist pilgrims are now increasingly visiting Maghar (presumably as a result of reading my conclusions) and the UP government has proposed that a park be built there in consequence. If so, it is much to be hoped that archaeological considerations are held uppermost in any such ‘development’.
70. This information, it should be noted, emerged quite spontaneously, and with no prompting from me. Such local traditions often persist strongly in rural areas. On rediscovering the remains of the ‘lost’ 7th century Chinese Nestorian Christian monastery of Da Qin in 1998, Martin Palmer discovered that local sources were also perfectly well aware of the former existence of the place, the tradition having persisted there for 1400 years.
71. ‘A Manual of Budhism’, by R. Spence Hardy (1853) p. 144. Since the present Lumbini site lies 27 kms. west of this river border, this would thus have located it deep inside any former Kapilavastu territory, and it would hardly have been considerd ‘neutral’ in consequence.
72. ‘Monumental Antiquities and Inscriptions of the North-Western Provinces’, by A. A. Fuhrer (1891) p. 242. See also Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Part 1) p. 56 (1884), and Minutes of the Managing Committee (North-Western Provinces and Oudh Provincial Museum) Vol. 1, 1885-6, Appendix A (p. 107). Since Lucknow Museum has informed me that neither this casket nor its associated items can now be traced, no date for this deposit is presently available (though since coins were also found, this strongly suggests a Kushan provenance). For earlier topographical accounts of the site, see ref. 69 (Buchanan-Hamilton) pp. 352-3, and ref. 66 (Carlleyle) pp. 64-7. Buchanan-Hamilton referred to the presence of ‘many small detached heaps’ at the site during his visit in the early 1800s : were these votive stupas, one wonders? He also mentions two ancient shrines of Mohammedan holy men at Domingarh. Doubtless these were Sufi pirs, remarkably eclectic in their spiritual outlook, whose cult ‘often developed by taking over an old Buddhistical site’ according to Prof. Vaudeville (as Kabir did at Maghar). Though the decline of Buddhism in India often saw the conversion of remaining Indian Buddhists to Islam, this was done largely for pragmatic social reasons, and Buddhist sites and beliefs were by no means promptly abandoned by such conversions.
73. See ref. 77 (Sastri).
74. ‘Archaeological Geography of the Ganga Plain’, by Dilip Chakrabarti (2001) p. 219. Chakrabarti states that this was ‘personal information’ from Krishnanand Tripathi, of the Department of Ancient History at Gorakhpur University. When I telephoned Tripathi however, he chose not to answer my questions, referring me instead to Dr P. N. Singh of the Banaras Hindu University. A colleague of his, Dr R. N. Singh, promised to supply me with further details on the matter, but has signally failed to do so, referring darkly to unspecified ‘socio-political problems’ instead. I have thus been unable to obtain details of the BHU dig, when it was conducted, or by whom, and if anyone can obtain further details on these finds, please let me know (my email address is given above). Equally inexplicable – given the important 1884 discoveries noted in ref. 72 - is the absence of any earlier excavation at this site, particularly given the continued presence of both V. A. Smith and Hoey at Gorakhpur during the 1890s. An old bed of the Rohini formerly ran to the east of the Domingarh mound (cf. Yuan-chuang’s ‘little river of oil’) and if my conclusion that Domingarh was Lumbini is correct, then any Asokan pillar remains should be sought in this area. A road has recently been driven through the site, though it obviously warrants careful, prompt, and extensive archaeological excavation. As noted above however, the 1884 relic-casket find was made during the local railway construction, and the records show that great difficulty was had in providing support for the bridge across the Rohini. One suspects that the Domingarh site may thus have been plundered for ballast purposes, and like much else of ancient India, now lie lost forever beneath such works.
75. See ref. 22 (Watters) p. 15, and also ref. 69 (Buchanan-Hamilton) vol. 2, pp. 352-3: ‘It is called the Domingarh, or the castle of the Domlady’.
76. See ref. 22 (Watters) p. 20, and ref. 67 (Giles) p. 39.
77. Hirananda Sastri, Annual Report, Archaeological Survey of India (Northern Circle) 1910-11, p. 69. Sastri mentions ‘the very heavy square bricks of the Mauryan type of which it is mostly built’. Cf. the oldest bricks, ‘very large and thick, and of a square shape’, found at the Domingarh site mentioned earlier, and the similar bricks found at Rampurva (see section below on ‘Kusinara’) which Daya Ram Sahni identified as ‘the remnants of an extensive floor laid in Asoka’s time’ (‘Excavations at Rampurva’, ASI Director-General’s Report, 1907-08, p. 183).
78. The Ramabhar Tal (lake) : see A. Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India Reports (Old Series) Vol. 1, Plate 27, and also ref. 77 (Sastri) p. 69. I note that in an 1893 letter to Hoey, L. A. Waddell had likewise concluded that ‘Kasia and the Ramabhar Chour (sic) is Ramagram’ (Papers of V. A. Smith, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, Bodleian Library, Oxford University). See ref. 89 also.
79. The stupa appeared to be ‘the centre of a group of religious buildings’; see ref. 77 (Sastri) p. 70.
80. See ‘Kusinara or Kusinagara’, by V. A. Smith, JRAS (UK) 1902, p. 153 ; ‘Bihar ( = vihara)’. The State of Bihar is also said to have drawn its name from Muslim chroniclers, who noted the large number of Buddhist viharas in the province.
81. See ref. 69 (Buchanan-Hamilton) pp. 357-8. Sastri mentions an inscribed stone found at the south-eastern aspect of this stupa, which ‘has some five lines of writing on it which is much worn’ (ASI Annual Report, Northern Circle, 1911-12, p. 140). Unfortunately, he gives no date, script, or possible content of this inscription, and the stone itself now appears to have been either buried or removed. Was this the inscription seen by Yuan-chuang, which purportedly mentioned the appearance of the naga from the lake during Asoka’s visit?
82. J. Ph. Vogel, Annual Report, Archaeological Survey of India (Punjab and United Provinces Circle) 1904-5, p. 47. What is decipherable of the ‘inscription, greatly obliterated,’ which is found on this plaque?
83. See ref. 77 (Sastri), p. 72 (‘Miscellaneous’, no.17).
84. ‘Simply put, the presence of relics is equal to the presence of the Buddha. This is confirmed by early inscriptions.’ (‘Buddhist Reliquaries From Ancient India’, by Michael Willis, p. 14, British Museum Publications, 2000). See also ref. 65.
85. See ref. 22 (Watters) pp. 25-6, and ref. 23 (Bagchi) p. 70. It should always be borne in mind, I feel, that for Fa-hsien ‘east’ could mean anywhere east of a north-south axis (ditto with regard to other directions also) whilst for Yuan-chuang, similarly, ‘north-east’ meant anywhere between north and east. On the fascinating question of how the pilgrims navigated between sites, it must be remembered that the Chinese had utilised the lodestone as early as the 4th century BC, and that this had been improved by the introduction of a magnetized needle by 600 AD (which may account for Yuan-chuang's greater accuracy in these matters). As monks they would also have stayed in monasteries en route, where the resident monks would doubtless have supplied them with advice, guides, etc for their onward journey.
86. Champaran District Gazetteer (1907) by L. S. S. O’Malley, pp. 14-15.
87. Mahaparinibbana Sutta.
88. See ref. 80 (Smith) pp. 154-5, ref. 78 (Cunningham) p. 70, and Bengal Administration Reports for 1868-69, para. 273. The reports on this intriguing find are somewhat garbled, one saying ‘leaden coffins’, another an ‘iron coffin’. Were these perhaps Malla ( = ‘athlete’) skeletons, one wonders? The Buddha’s body was cremated inside two ‘iron vessels’, according to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.
89. Having arrived at this conclusion by the simple expedient of following, on a map, the distances and directions from Sravasti to Kusinara which are given by the Chinese pilgrims, I was intrigued to note that L. A. Waddell, presumably using the same process, had arrived at a similar conclusion : ‘I believe that Kusinagara, where the Buddha died, may be ultimately found to the north of Bettiah, and in the line of the Asoka-pillars which lead hither from Patna (Pataliputra)’ (‘A Tibetan Guide-book to the Lost Sites of the Buddha's Birth and Death’, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1896, p. 279). Rampurva lies thirty-odd miles north of Bettiah along the Narkatiaganj-Gawnaha Road railway line, and about 3 kilometres s/w of the latter station. According to an unpublished 1897 report, Waddell deputed P.C. Mukherji to ‘search for the site of the Buddha’s Parinirvana in the jungly tract from Rampurva, where is an inscribed Asoka pillar, to Bhikna Thori’. Waddell and I thus arrived at identical conclusions regarding the whereabouts of both the Ramagrama and Kusinara sites simply by following the pilgrims’ directions, and though he elected to choose Lauriya Nandangarh, I am quite certain that he would have chosen nearby Rampurva if he had known that there were two pillars at the site (a fact discovered later). Moreover, one suspects that Sir John Marshall entertained similar notions also, particularly after the reconfirmation of Sahet-Mahet as Sravasti : hence, presumably, his evident interest in the apparently ‘missing’ inscription at Rampurva (see ref. 97, below). The Mukherji/Waddell report is among V. A. Smith’s papers at the Bodleian Library, Oxford (see ref. 78).
90. See ref. 22 (Watters) p. 28.
91. Ibid, pp. 39-42.
92. Ibid, p. 39.
93. Daya Ram Sahni, ‘Excavations at Rampurva’, Archaeological Survey of India, Director-General's Report (1907-8) p. 182 : ‘Up to the depth of 7 feet the digging was quite easy, for we were digging through layers of clay alternating at irregular intervals with sand, deposited obviously by some large river...’
94. See ref. 66 (Carlleyle) : the orientation arrow on Plate 6 (map) would appear to confirm this. See also ref. 93 (Sahni) p. 185. Since the pillars were subsequently moved to the top of the western mound near the ‘Southern’ pillar (see Ann. Rep., Arch. Surv. of India, Eastern Circle, 1912-13, p. 36) their original find-spots presumably await rediscovery at the site. Whilst the pillars at Sravasti have never been found, a correspondent informs me that in 1976 he saw part of one in use as a sugar-cane crusher in a nearby village, though on a later visit it had disappeared.
95. See ref. 66 (Carlleyle) p. 53.
96. See ref. 22 (Watters) pp. 39-40, and Theodor Bloch, Archaeological Survey of India (Eastern Circle) Annual Report, 1906-7, p. 121.
97. ‘Archaeological Exploration In India, 1907-8’, by J. H. Marshall, JRAS (UK) 1908, p. 1088. Since the upper part of this pillar was found lying on the Asokan flooring at the site (which is about ten feet below the surface) other researchers have concluded that it was broken at an early date, but I see no particular necessity to endorse this proposal. The lion-capital on the ‘Northern’ pillar would appear to have been deliberately - and literally – ‘defaced’ also (a notorious Muslim practice) and Cunningham records that a Muslim raiding-party, returning from Bengal, took cannon pot-shots at the nearby Lauriya Nandangarh lion-capital in 1660, damaging it in the mouth. The pillars at Rampurva could thus have been damaged along with these later events, and with the entire site being heavily waterlogged – ‘a morass’, according to Carlleyle and Garrick - the broken pieces from the ‘Southern’ pillar could easily have sunk down through the silt thereafter. Long trenches, over two metres deep, which were dug by Carlleyle in 1877, had silted over when Garrick visited the site a mere three years later.
98. V. A. Smith points out - quite correctly, in my opinion - that Fa-hsien's account regarding the location of this ‘leave-taking’ pillar (which this pilgrim states was inscribed) is in error, and that Yuan-chuang’s account is the more reliable in placing it close to Vaisali (see ref. 80 (Smith) pp. 146-9). Since the present Vaisali pillar appears to have sunk under its own vertical weight, its shaft has yet to be fully revealed in its entirety, and the question of whether it is inscribed remains unresolved in consequence.
99. ‘Vaisali’, by V. A. Smith, JRAS (UK) 1902, pp. 270-1. See also ref. 66 (Carlleyle) p. 50. The maps are available in the Map Room of the British Library, London, and the road is also shown on Plate 1 of the ASI Reports (Old Series) Vol. 16. Doubtless, the long-lost villages mentioned in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta lay along it - Kotigama, the Nadikas, Bhandagama, Hatthigama, etc - and presumably lay about 1 yojana (7 miles) apart.

Illustrations

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Fig. 1. Sign at present Lumbini site, 1994

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Fig. 2. P.C. Mukherji's 1899 drawing of the 'Mayadevi' sculpture (compare with Fig. 5). Note the dubious join of the top piece, and the Sivaite trident on the left.

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Fig. 3. Chulakoka (devata). (Bharhut Stupa).

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Fig. 4. Chanda (yakshini). (Bharhut Stupa).

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Fig. 5. Photograph of Fig. 2.

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Fig. 6. Landon's photograph (taken ca. 1920) showing P.C. Mukherji's assembly of a head of Ganesh on the torso of a female deity. Is this the correct torso for the 'Mayadevi' head? (see Figs. 2 and 5)

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Fig. 7. The sonari (Bhilsa) casket. Compare with Fig. 8.

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Fig. 8. The inscribed Piprahwa casket, photographed at Piprahwa in 1898. Note the appearance, on both caskets, of the final two characters above the inscriptional line.

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Fig. 9. The Mogallana casket (from one of the Sanchi stupas) as shown in Alexander Cunningham's book, 'Bhilsa Topes.'

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Fig. 10. The small (uninscribed) Piprahwa casket. Compare with Fig. 9 item.

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Fig. 11. The Sadhara (Bhilsa) casket Copyright The Trustees of The British Museum.

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Fig. 12. The lota from Piprahwa, photographed in 1898. Note double bands of incised rings (top and middle) as on Fig. 11 item. The vessels are also of identical size.

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Fig. 13. The 'Southern' pillar at Rampurva.

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Part 1 of 2

Historical Dates From Puranic Sources
by Prof. Narayan Rao
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-- A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature So Far As It Illustrates The Primitive Religion of the Brahmans, by Max Muller, M.A., Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford: Correspondant de l'Institut Imperial de France; Foreign Member of the Royal Bavarian Academy; Honorary Member of the Royal Society of Literature; Corresponding Member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and of the American Oriental Society; Member of the Asiatic Society of Paris, and of the Oriental Society of Germany; and Taylorian Professor in the University of Oxford, Printed by Spottiswoode and Co., 1859

-- Discourses Delivered Before the Asiatic Society: And Miscellaneous Papers, on The Religion, Poetry, Literature, Etc. of the Nations of India, by Sir William Jones, 1824

-- Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes and Arrian; Being a Translation of the Fragments of the Indika of Megasthenes Collected by Dr. Schwanbeck, and of the First Part of the Indika of Arrian, by J.W. McCrindle, M.A., Principal of the Government College, Patna, Member of the General Council of the University of Edinburgh, Fellow of the University of Calcutta, With Introduction, Notes and Map of Ancient India, Reprinted (with additions) from the "Indian Antiquary," 1876-77, 1877

-- Errors in Arrian, by A. B. Bosworth

-- Bias in Ptolemy's History of Alexander, by R. M. Errington

-- Chandragupta Maurya, by Purushottam Lal Bhargava, M.A., Shastri, With a Foreword by Dr. Radha Kumud Mookerji, M.A., Ph.D., P.R.S. 1935

-- Who was Sandrocottus: Samudragupta or Chandragupta Maurya?, The Chronology of Ancient India, Victim of Concoctions and Distortions, by Vedveer Arya

-- Astronomical Dating of the Mahabharata War, by Dieter Koch


Highlights:

Sheet Anchor Date

Professor Max Muller improved upon the work of Sir William Jones by trying to correlate the Indian history with Greek history. One ancient event the date of which is well known in the Christian era is the invasion of Alexander. However, there is no mention whatsoever of Alexander or anything connected with his invasion in any Purana or any other ancient Indian account including the Buddhist Chronicles.

Professor Max Muller then searched the Greek accounts and the narrations of the other classical European writers for the name of any Indian ruler who could be located. One such name is Sandrocottus. He is said to have succeeded Xandramese who was a contemporary of Alexander. Sir William Jones had suggested that Chandragupta of Mudra Rakshasa could be the Sandrocottus of Greek history. Professor Max Muller confirmed this identification. His main purpose was to arrive at a chronology acceptable to the intellectuals of the nineteenth century. In fact his motives and methods are best described in his own words. In his “History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature (Allahabad Edition 1859 A.D)” Professor Max Muller writes as follows …

There is but one means through which history of India can be connected with that of Greece, and its chronology be reduced to its proper limits. Although we look in vain in the literature of the Brahmanas or Buddhists for any allusion to Alexander’s conquest, and although it is impossible to identify any of the historical events, related by Alexander’s companions, with the historical traditions of India, one name has fortunately been preserved by classical writers who describe the events immediately following Alexander’s conquest, to form a connecting link between the history of the East and the West. This is the name of Sandrocottus or Sandrocyptus, the Sanskrit Chandragupta.

We learn from classical writers Justin, Arrian, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Quintus Curtius and Plutarch, that in Alexander’s time, there was on the Ganges a powerful king of the name of Xandramese, and that soon after Alexander’s invasion, a new empire was founded there by Sandrocottus who was succeeded by Sandrocyptus. These accounts of the classical writers contain a number of distinct statements which could leave very little doubt as to the king to whom they referred.

Indian historians, it is true, are generally so vague and so much given to exaggeration, that their kings are all very much alike, either all black or all bright. But nevertheless, if there ever was such a king of the Prasii, a usurper, residing at Pataliputra, called Sandrocottus; it is hardly possible that he should not be recognized in the historical traditions of India. The name of Chandragupta and the resemblance of this name with the name of Sandrocottus was first, I believe, pointed out by Sir William Jones. Dr. Wilford, Professor Wilson and Professor Lassen have afterwards added further evidence in confirmation of Sir William Jone’s conjecture; and although other scholars and particularly M. Troyer, in his edition of the Rajatarangini, have raised objections, we shall see that the evidence in favor of the identity of Chandragupta and Sandrocyptus is such as to admit of no reasonable doubt.


From this identification, the coronation of Mourya Chandragupta around the year 327 B.C. was taken as the sheet anchor date for Indian chronology. Though most of the modern scholars of Indian history do not know it, all the dates of ancient Indian history have been arrived at by calculating backward and forward from this sheet anchor date. For example Lord Buddha (according to some of the Buddhist chronicles) was born nearly 340 years before the coronation of Mourya Chandragupta. Accordingly his year of birth was fixed as 567 B.C.

Later, as more and more Puranic and Buddhist documents were discovered, those which did not conform to the aforesaid chronology were either ignored or stated to be unreliable. For example among the different documents on Lord Buddha the Ceylonese chronicles have been accepted as most reliable though those were written much later in the Christian era in Pali language. The orientalists who have continued the research after Professor Max Muller have only tried to add to the earlier chronology without questioning its validity.

Having worked out a chronology acceptable to the Europeans, the indologists started looking for archeological and other evidence to confirm it and this they thought they found in plenty in the form of stone inscriptions attributed to emperor Ashoka ... Their failure to arrive at the correct dates and details of the events was only due to the firm belief among the intellectuals of their time that the universe is less than 6000 years old. Unfortunately, in the process they have altered certain verses and otherwise mutilated the texts of the Puranas in their editions, such as Wilson’s Vishnu Purana, which are today most widely read.

The Christian missionaries have also been unintentionally guilty of such vandalism as they have often destroyed some of the manuscripts of Puranas which fell in their hands. They were doing so with the firm belief that by such destruction they are saving the posterity from these sin-provoking documents....

According to Puranic evidence, there had expired 1500 odd years after Parikshit, when Mahapadmananda was coronated.

Between Parikshit and the Nandas, there were 3 royal dynasties, namely the Brihadratha, Pradyota and Sisunaga families. The ten kings of the Sisunaga dynasty ruled for 360 years, beginning from 1994 BC and ending with 1634 BC At this time, an illegitimate son, Mahapadma-Nanda, of the last Sisunaga emperor, Mahanandi, ascended the throne of Magadha. The total regnal period of this Nanda dynasty was 100 years. After this with the assistance of Arya Chanakya, Chandragupta Maurya ascended the throne of Magadha, in the year 1534 BC.

The Mauryas ruled for a total of 316 years, and were replaced by the Sungas. The Kanvas, who succeeded the Sungas, were themselves overthrown by one of the Andhra chiefs, which dynasty reigned for a period of 506 years. Then followed the reign of the Sri Guptas for a period of 245 years, a period also referred to as the (last of the) golden ages of Bharata. It was Samudragupta of the Sri Gupta dynasty, who was known as Asokaditya Priyadarshin. The inscriptions of Asoka belong to this Gupta emperor and not to the Asoka Maurya who came to power 218 years after the Buddha....

The Hypotheses Of Sir William Jones...

That the Sandracottus mentioned in Megasthenes’ Indika was Chandragupta Maurya. He based this on two observations of Megasthenes: one, that Pataliputra was situated at the confluence of two rivers which he wrongly read to be the Sone and the Ganges. There are two wrong inferences made in this statement: a) Megasthenes never mentions Pataliputra, but he uses the term Palibothra as the capital and b) Megasthenes mentions the two rivers as the Ganga and the Erannoboas, which was the Greek word for Yamuna. The equivalent Sanskrit name of Yamuna was Hiranyabahu, as prevailed in those times. While Megasthenes mentions the Sone elsewhere in his work, he clearly does not associate it with Palibothra. But Sir William deliberately chose to associate the capital Palibothra with the confluence of the Sone and the Ganga, and hence read it as Patliputra...

After studying the fragments of Megasthenes’ Indika in detail, Pandit Bhagavad Datta offers another similar plausible explanation, and concludes: “Yamuna was flowing thru Palimbothra, known in ancient times as Paribhadra, the capital of the Prassi kingdom. Palimbothra was 200 miles from Prayag on the way to Mathura. The Kshatriyas were known as Paribhadrakas or Prabhadrakas. Their King was Chandraketu. The capital city of Paribhadra was near Sindhu Pulinda, which is in Madhya desa and is today known as Kali-Sindha. The Karusha reservoir was between Sindhu Pulinda and Prayag.”

However, after Sir William’s announcement, notwithstanding the aforesaid facts, Max Mueller anointed the identification of Sandracottus with Chandragupta Maurya and proceeded to declare Alexander’s invasion, and the subsequent visit of Megasthenes, as the sheet anchor of Indian History, neither of which events are of great significance in Indian history....

What Does Megasthenes Say About The Kings Who Ruled

1. He calls Sandracottus the king of the Prassi and he mentions the names of Xandramus as predecessor and Sandrocyptus as successor to Sandracottus. There is absolutely no resemblance in these names to Bindusara (the successor to Chandragupta Maurya) and Mahapadma Nanda, the predecessor.

2. He makes absolutely no mention of Chanakya or Vishnugupta, the Acharya who helped Chandragupta ascend the throne.

3. He makes no mention of the widespread presence of the Baudhik or Sramana tradition [Rishi tradition] during the time of the Maurya empire.

4. He claims the capital is Palimbothra or Palibothra, and that the city exists near the confluence of the Ganga and the Eranaboas (Hiranyabahu). But the Puranas are clear that all the 8 dynasties after the Mahabharata war had their capital at Girivraja (Rajagriha), located in the foothills of the Himalayas. There is no mention of Pataliputra in the Puranas. So, the assumption made by Sir William that Palimbothra is Pataliputra has no basis in fact and is not attested by any piece of evidence. If the Greeks could pronounce the first P in (Patali) they could certainly have pronounced the second p in Putra, instead of bastardising it as Palimbothra. Granted the Greeks were incapable of pronouncing any Indian names, but there is no reason why they should not be consistent in their phonetics.

5. The empire of Chandragupta was known as Magadha Empire. It had a long history even at the time of Chandragupta Maurya. In Indian literature, this powerful empire is amply described by its name but the same is absent in Greek accounts. It is difficult to understand as to why Megasthenes did not use this name “Magadha” and instead used the word Prassi, which has no equivalent or counterpart in Indian accounts....

That a person with such a scant knowledge of Sanskrit would have the audacity to rewrite the entire history of the Indian Civilization, based merely on scraps and remnants of a travelogue, written by an individual who is not even highly regarded by more revered Greek historians, is astonishing...

Surely such a sloppy, baseless conjecture would be reason enough to discredit the thesis. The Indics should have cringed when they were told that the undecipherable scrap of paper left of “Indika” was more credible than the Puranas written in a language with very little ambiguity; but such are the depths to which the Indic has sunk. He is apt to believe the words of a conqueror, who is not qualified to tell the story with any degree of accuracy and who is himself qualifying his proposal as something of a speculation, than the words of the great Rishis of yore, who wrote in the precise language of Sanskrit...

Megasthenes (ca. 350 BC – 290 BC) was a Greek traveler and geographer from Ionia in Asia Minor or present day Turkey. He became an ambassador of Seleucus of Syria to the court of Sandracottus (mistakenly believed to be Chandragupta Maurya) of India, in Pataliputra. However the exact date of his embassy is uncertain. Scholars place it before 288 BC. Arrian explains that Megasthenes lived in Arachosia, with the satrap Sibyrtius, from where he visited India: “Megasthenes lived with Sibyrtius, satrap of Arachosia, and often speaks of his visiting Sandracottus, the king of the Indians.” Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri.

We have more definite information regarding the parts of India which Megasthenes visited. He entered the country through the district of the Pentapotamia of the rivers, of which he gave a full account (thought to be the five affluents of the Indus, forming the Punjab region), and proceeded from there by the royal road to Pataliputra. There are accounts of Megasthenes having visited Madurai (then, a bustling city and capital of Pandya Kingdom), but appears to have not been to any other part of the country. His observations were recorded in Indika, a work that served as a source to later writers such as Strabo and Arrian. He describes such geographical features as the Himalayas and the island of Sri Lanka.

Megasthenes also mentioned the country’s caste system, more in terms of profession, status and personality descriptor. But the problem from an Indic perspective is that very little of the Indika survives intact today and we are left with second hand accounts of Greek historians. In fact McCrindle, in “Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arian,“ says that the Greek writers such as Megasthenes were not highly regarded and were prone to lying. Strabo was of the opinion that Megasthenes simply created fables and as such no faith could be placed in his writings. In Strabo’s own words: “Generally speaking the men who have written on the affairs of India were a set of liars. Deimachos is first, Megasthenes comes next.”

Diodorus also held similar opinions about him...

The Greek records mention Xandramas and Sandrocyptus as the kings immediately before and after Sandracottus. These names are not in any way phonetically similar to Mahapadma Nanda and Bindusara, who were respectively the predecessor and successor of Chandragupta Maurya. However, if Sandracottus refers to Chandragupta “Gupta”, Xandramas could be his predecessor Chandrashree alias Chandramas (the last of the main dynasty of Andhra Satavahana Kings) and Sandrocyptus to be Samudragupta. The phonetic similarity becomes quite apparent and other supporting evidence too confirms the identity of Sandracottus with Chandragupta Gupta...

In the Puranic and other ancient texts, there is no allusion to any invasion or inroad into India by foreign people up to the time of Andhra kings. The only person who bore a name similar to “Sandracottus” mentioned by the Greeks, who flourished at the time of Alexander, was Chandragupta of the Gupta dynasty, who established a mighty empire on the ruins of the already decayed Andhra dynasty. His date from puranic records is 2811 years after the Mahabharata War, which corresponds to 328 B.C. His current place on the historical dateline is 4th Century AD, which is an obvious error.

It is also interesting to note that the accounts in the life of Sandracottus of the Greeks, the political and social conditions in India at that time, match with those of Chandragupta Gupta era. Therefore, the Greek and Puranic accounts agree only with the identity of Chandragupta Gupta and Sandracottus...

The truth of the matter is that the proto-historical thought prevailing in entire Western world until 18th Century was circumscribed by the Biblical premise: God’s creation was begun about 4000 BC! Nobody was without this limiting perspective while interpreting historical evidence -– written, oral or archeological. Jones remained true to the Biblical dogma of Genesis, which he took to be a literal account. His chronology for ancient India, including the dating of Chandragupta Maurya to the period of Alexander’s invasion of India, was dictated at least in part by the Biblical dogma....

As may be the case, there are two major disservice that Jones did to the Indic Civilisation. One was the possible misdating of Chandragupta Maurya by several centuries and the other was postulating the assumption of a PIE [Proto Indo European], which implied an Urheimat (ancestral home) from where the Indo Europeans fanned out to the four corners of the Eurasian landmass. By so doing, he laid the seeds for a fractured historical narrative for the Indics, which was not supported by any Indian legend, tradition or folklore. In short, he saddled the Indics with perpetually having to refute dual falsehoods: a false chronology and an imposed ‘Aryan Invasion’ or what has been light heartedly called the “Aryan Tourist theory.”

When it came to synchronism, the only significant data that Sir William could utilise was the Greek invasion under Alexander. This was the earliest date that he could come up with, and the data he had was the notes kept by Megasthenes, the ambassador sent to India by Seleucus Nikator, one of the generals of Alexander who broke away from the main Alexandrian empire to set up his own Satrapy....

Jones’ speech informs us of his fancies: that he has found a classical but nameless Sanskrit book of about 2,000 years before; that, Chandragupta Maurya was no other than the very Sandracottus who is described by Megasthenes to have made a treaty with Seleucus around 312 BC; and, to establish that Chandragupta belonged to the Maurya dynasty, he mentions about some poem by Somdev which speaks of the murder of Mahapadma of the Nanda dynasty and his eight sons by Chandragupta in order to usurp the kingdom.

In this way Jones created an arbitrary and fictitious connection between Chandragupta Maurya and Sandracottus.


-- Historical Dates From Puranic Sources, by Prof. Narayan Rao


Sheet Anchor Date

Professor Max Muller improved upon the work of Sir William Jones by trying to correlate the Indian history with Greek history. One ancient event the date of which is well known in the Christian era is the invasion of Alexander. However, there is no mention whatsoever of Alexander or anything connected with his invasion in any Purana or any other ancient Indian account including the Buddhist Chronicles.

Professor Max Muller then searched the Greek accounts and the narrations of the other classical European writers for the name of any Indian ruler who could be located. One such name is Sandrocottus. He is said to have succeeded Xandramese who was a contemporary of Alexander. Sir William Jones had suggested that Chandragupta of Mudra Rakshasa could be the Sandrocottus of Greek history. Professor Max Muller confirmed this identification. His main purpose was to arrive at a chronology acceptable to the intellectuals of the nineteenth century. In fact his motives and methods are best described in his own words. In his “History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature (Allahabad Edition 1859 A.D)” Professor Max Muller writes as follows …


There is but one means through which history of India can be connected with that of Greece, and its chronology be reduced to its proper limits. Although we look in vain in the literature of the Brahmanas or Buddhists for any allusion to Alexander’s conquest, and although it is impossible to identify any of the historical events, related by Alexander’s companions, with the historical traditions of India, one name has fortunately been preserved by classical writers who describe the events immediately following Alexander’s conquest, to form a connecting link between the history of the East and the West. This is the name of Sandrocottus or Sandrocyptus, the Sanskrit Chandragupta.

We learn from classical writers Justin, Arrian, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Quintus Curtius and Plutarch, that in Alexander’s time, there was on the Ganges a powerful king of the name of Xandramese, and that soon after Alexander’s invasion, a new empire was founded there by Sandrocottus who was succeeded by Sandrocyptus. These accounts of the classical writers contain a number of distinct statements which could leave very little doubt as to the king to whom they referred.

Indian historians, it is true, are generally so vague and so much given to exaggeration, that their kings are all very much alike, either all black or all bright. But nevertheless, if there ever was such a king of the Prasii, a usurper, residing at Pataliputra, called Sandrocottus; it is hardly possible that he should not be recognized in the historical traditions of India. The name of Chandragupta and the resemblance of this name with the name of Sandrocottus was first, I believe, pointed out by Sir William Jones. Dr. Wilford, Professor Wilson and Professor Lassen have afterwards added further evidence in confirmation of Sir William Jone’s conjecture; and although other scholars and particularly M. Troyer, in his edition of the Rajatarangini, have raised objections, we shall see that the evidence in favor of the identity of Chandragupta and Sandrocyptus is such as to admit of no reasonable doubt.


From this identification, the coronation of Mourya Chandragupta around the year 327 B.C. was taken as the sheet anchor date for Indian chronology. Though most of the modern scholars of Indian history do not know it, all the dates of ancient Indian history have been arrived at by calculating backward and forward from this sheet anchor date. For example Lord Buddha (according to some of the Buddhist chronicles) was born nearly 340 years before the coronation of Mourya Chandragupta. Accordingly his year of birth was fixed as 567 B.C.

Errors In Dating

Later, as more and more Puranic and Buddhist documents were discovered, those which did not conform to the aforesaid chronology were either ignored or stated to be unreliable. For example among the different documents on Lord Buddha the Ceylonese chronicles have been accepted as most reliable though those were written much later in the Christian era in Pali language. The orientalists who have continued the research after Professor Max Muller have only tried to add to the earlier chronology without questioning its validity. Certain observations about the sheet anchor date are given in Appendix II.

Having worked out a chronology acceptable to the Europeans, the indologists started looking for archeological and other evidence to confirm it and this they thought they found in plenty in the form of stone inscriptions attributed to emperor Ashoka (and some other kings such as Kharabela). Here it must be emphasized that the European indologists deserve all the credit for their efforts to work out a detailed history of ancient India. Their failure to arrive at the correct dates and details of the events was only due to the firm belief among the intellectuals of their time that the universe is less than 6000 years old. Unfortunately, in the process they have altered certain verses and otherwise mutilated the texts of the Puranas in their editions, such as Wilson’s Vishnu Purana, which are today most widely read.

Many of the extant manuscripts were written on palm leaf or copied during the British India colonial era, some in the 19th century. The scholarship on Vishnu Purana, and other Puranas, has suffered from cases of forgeries, states Ludo Rocher, where liberties in the transmission of Puranas were normal and those who copied older manuscripts replaced words or added new content to fit the theory that the colonial scholars were keen on publishing.

-- Vishnu Purana, by Wikipedia


The Christian missionaries have also been unintentionally guilty of such vandalism as they have often destroyed some of the manuscripts of Puranas which fell in their hands. They were doing so with the firm belief that by such destruction they are saving the posterity from these sin-provoking documents.

Because...the content of this literature is partly extremely unpleasant... it is precisely for that reason that it is all the more desirable that the original and the old are emphasized. -- August Blau

-- Frederick Eden Pargiter: Excerpt from The Puranas, by Ludo Rocher


However, sufficient number of the different versions of the different Puranas is still available in the monasteries in India, as well as the libraries in Great Britain, Germany, America and other countries for a complete and correct chronology of Indian history to be worked out.

In calculating the dates from the Puranas the following procedure should be adopted to rectify the errors and discrepancies.

1. Proper distinction should be made between the Puranas and the other ancient texts. For example, Abhigyana Shakuntalam, Mudra Rakshasa, Raghu Vansa, Harsha Charita etc. are magnificent literary works and not historical documents.

2. In some Puranas the dates are given in more than one era. In such cases comparison should be made to detect any possible error. Possible grammatical errors as well as the consistency and continuity of the verses should be carefully checked.

3 The dates of events worked out from different Puranas should be tallied and compared with the dates worked out from astronomical data.

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The iron pillar in the Qutb complex near Delhi, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indian History And Its Historians

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Coin of the Gupta king Chandragupta II

Part IV: Who Ruled North India During Megasthenes’ Visit? (contd)

According to Puranic evidence, there had expired 1500 odd years after Parikshit, when Mahapadmananda was coronated.

Mahapadma Nanda (IAST: Mahāpadmānanda; c. 4th century BCE), according to the Puranas, was the first Emperor of the Nanda Empire of ancient India. The Puranas describe him as a son of the last Shaishunaga king Mahanandin and a Shudra woman, and credit him with extensive conquests. The different Puranas variously give the length of his reign as 28 or 88 years, and state that his eight sons ruled in succession after him.

The Buddhist texts don't mention him, and instead name the first Nanda ruler as robber-turned-king Ugrasena, who was succeeded by his eight brothers, the last of whom was Dhana Nanda.


-- Mahapadma Nanda, by Wikipedia


Between Parikshit and the Nandas, there were 3 royal dynasties, namely the Brihadratha, Pradyota and Sisunaga families. The ten kings of the Sisunaga dynasty ruled for 360 years, beginning from 1994 BC and ending with 1634 BC At this time, an illegitimate son, Mahapadma-Nanda, of the last Sisunaga emperor, Mahanandi, ascended the throne of Magadha. The total regnal period of this Nanda dynasty was 100 years. After this with the assistance of Arya Chanakya, Chandragupta Maurya ascended the throne of Magadha, in the year 1534 BC.

The Mauryas ruled for a total of 316 years, and were replaced by the Sungas. The Kanvas, who succeeded the Sungas, were themselves overthrown by one of the Andhra chiefs, which dynasty reigned for a period of 506 years. Then followed the reign of the Sri Guptas for a period of 245 years, a period also referred to as the (last of the) golden ages of Bharata.
It was Samudragupta of the Sri Gupta dynasty, who was known as Asokaditya Priyadarshin. The inscriptions of Asoka belong to this Gupta emperor and not to the Asoka Maurya who came to power 218 years after the Buddha.


Narahari Achar of Memphis University has confirmed several of these dates, including that of the Buddha, using the Planetarium software that has its algorithms based on Celestial Mechanics. The method has established that the Puranic dates are correct based on the sky observations that were recorded by the ancients. This must be regarded as an independent verification since the principles of celestial mechanics were unknown to the ancient Indic.

The eighteen major and eighteen minor purāṇās make up an enormous body of Sanskrit literature, not easy to read, much less to synthesize to see the common cultural threads linking them to the Ṛgveda... All the important purāṇas describe the night sky and present ancient astronomical models based on Meru and the Pole Star. In a few of the available texts the nucleus of this sky model can be traced back to the Vedas. The BP one of the earliest among the eighteen purāṇa explains the waxing and waning of moon as part of its astronomy...

Since, at present, the texts are inflated and have many errors due to transmission and copying problems, it is difficult to discuss the numbers mentioned differently in some of these texts....

It is known that no absolute dates can be put forth for any of the eighteen Purāṇa texts, which have grown over time with bulky additions. But, all or most of them retain the story of Dhruva as the Pole Star with variant readings. This is a clear indication of the branching of the Purāṇas from a nucleus which lies in the Vedic texts such as the TA and the ekāgni-kāṇḍa which knew the prominent constellation Śiśumara with 14 stars, the fixed Dhruva and the Meru connecting the earth with the NCP. Among the Purāṇas it is in BP we find matter of fact statements about Dhruva. As far as ancient astronomy and cosmology are concerned, BP preserves the original concepts, out of which the Viṣṇu, Vāyu, Lińga and Matsya Purāṇa have bifurcated with further variations. This chronological perspective finds support in the works of a few indologists also...

In the identification of the equinox day, BP mentions that when Sun is in the first quarter of kṛttikā (Alcyone) and Moon in the fourth quarter of viśākha (α-Libra), the day and night are equal. Similarly when Sun is in the third quarter of viśākha and Moon is at the beginning of kṛttikā it is viṣuvam (equinox). This statement appears in several of the Purāṇas and hence cannot be ignored as spurious. This has been discussed in detail in relation to other ancient astronomical statements by Koch123, to show that the record preserved in the Purāṇas holds valid for 1885-1645 BCE.

-- Ancient Indian Astronomy in Vedic Texts, by R.N. Iyengar


The Hypotheses Of Sir William Jones

He made the following inferences from the work of Megasthenes, which were in retrospect colossal errors …

1. That the puranic chronology was completely erroneous.

2. That the Sandracottus mentioned in Megasthenes’ Indika was Chandragupta Maurya. He based this on two observations of Megasthenesa : one, that Pataliputra was situated at the confluence of two rivers which he wrongly read to be the Sone and the Ganges. There are two wrong inferences made in this statement : a) Megasthenes never mentions Pataliputra, but he uses the term Palibothra as the capital and b) Megasthenes mentions the two rivers as the Ganga and the Erannoboas, which was the Greek word for Yamuna. The equivalent Sanskrit name of Yamuna was Hiranyabahu, as prevailed in those times. While Megasthenes mentions the Sone elsewhere in his work, he clearly does not associate it with Palibothra. But Sir William deliberately chose to associate the capital Palibothra with the confluence of the Sone and the Ganga, and hence read it as Patliputra.

It seems necessary to fix with precision the sense in which we mean to speak of advantage or utility....nor should we wholly exclude even the trivial and worldly sense of utility, which too many consider as merely synonymous with lucre, but should reckon among useful objects those practical, and by no means illiberal arts, which may eventually conduce both to national and to private emolument. With a view then to advantages thus explained... [and] consistent with our chief object already mentioned, we may properly begin with the Civil History of the Five Asiatic Nations, which necessarily comprises their geography, or a description of the places where they have acted, and their astronomy, which may enable us to fix with some accuracy the time of their actions...

In the first place, we cannot surely deem it an inconsiderable advantage that all our historical researches have confirmed the Mosaic accounts of the primitive world; and our testimony on that subject ought to have the greater weight, because, if the result of our observations had been totally different, we should nevertheless have published them, not indeed with equal pleasure, but with equal confidence; for truth is mighty, and, whatever be its consequences, must always prevail; but, independently of our interest in corroborating the multiplied evidences of revealed religion, we could scarce gratify our minds with a more useful and rational entertainment than the contemplation of those wonderful revolutions in kingdoms and states which have happened within little more than four thousand years...

That no Hindu nation but the Cashmirians, have left us regular histories in their ancient language, we must ever lament; but from the Sanscrit literature, which our country has the honour of having unveiled, we may still collect some rays of historical truth, though time and a series of revolutions have obscured that light which we might reasonably have expected from so diligent and ingenious a people. The numerous Puranas and Itihasas, or poems mythological and heroic, are completely in our powers and from them we may recover some disfigured but valuable pictures of ancient manners and governments; while the popular tales of the Hindus, in prose and in verse, contain fragments of history; and even in their dramas we may find as many real characters and events as a future age might find in our own plays, if all histories of England were, like those of India, to be irrecoverably lost. For example: A most beautiful poem by Somadeva, comprising a very long chain of instinctive and agreeable stories, begins with the famed revolution at Pataliputra, by the murder of king Nanda with his eight sons, and the usurpation of Chandragupta; and the same revolution is the subject of a tragedy in Sanscrit, entitled, the Coronation of Chandra, the abbreviated name of that able and adventurous usurper. From these once concealed, but now accessible, compositions, we are enabled to exhibit a more accurate sketch of old Indian history than the world has yet seen, especially with the aid of well attested observations on the places of the colures....Now the age of Vicramaditya is given; and if we can fix on an Indian prince contemporary with Seleucus, we shall have three given points in the line of time between Rama, or the first Indian colony, and Chandrabija, the last Hindu monarch who reigned in Bahar; so that only eight hundred or a thousand years will remain almost wholly dark...while the abstract sciences are all truth, and the fine arts all fiction, we cannot but own, that in the details of history, truth and fiction are so blended as to be scarce distinguishable.

By collating many copies of the same work, we may correct blunders of transcribers in tables, names, and descriptions.

Geography, astronomy, and chronology have, in this part of Asia, shared the fate of authentic history; and, like that, have been so masked and bedecked in the fantastic robes of mythology and metaphor, that the real system of Indian philosophers and mathematicians can scarce be distinguished: an accurate knowledge of Sanscrit, and a confidential intercourse with learned Brahmens, are the only means of separating truth from fable; and we may expect the most important discoveries from two of our members, concerning whom it may be safely asserted, that if our Society should have produced no other advantage than the invitation given to them for the public display of their talents, we should have a claim to the thanks of our country and of all Europe. Lieutenant Wilford has exhibited an interesting specimen of the geographical knowledge deducible from the Puranas, and will in time present you with so complete a treatise on the ancient world known to the Hindus, that the light acquired by the Greeks will appear but a glimmering in comparison of that he will diffuse; while Mr. Davis, who has given us a distinct idea of Indian computations and cycles, and ascertained the place of the colures at a time of great importance in history, will hereafter disclose the systems of Hindu astronomers, from Nared and Parasar to Meya, Varahamihir, and Bhascar; and will soon, I trust, lay before you a perfect delineation of all the Indian asterisms in both hemispheres, where you will perceive so strong a general resemblance to the constellations of the Greeks, as to prove that the two systems were originally one and the same, yet with such a diversity in parts, as to show incontestibly that neither system was copied from the other; whence it will follow, that they must have had some common source.

The jurisprudence of the Hindus and Arabs being the field which I have chosen for my peculiar toil, you cannot expect that I should greatly enlarge your collection of historical knowledge; but I may be able to offer you some occasional tribute; and I cannot help mentioning a discovery which accident threw in my way, though my proofs must be reserved for an essay which I have destined for the fourth volume of your Transactions. To fix the situation of that Palybothra (for there may have been several of the name) which was visited and described by Megasthenes, had always appeared a very difficult problem, for though it could not have been Prayaga, where no ancient metropolis ever stood, nor Canyacubja, which has no epithet at all resembling the word used by the Greeks; nor Gaur, otherwise called Lacshmanavati, which all know to be a town comparatively modern, yet we could not confidently decide that it was Pataliputra, though names and most circumstances nearly correspond, because that renowned capital extended from the confluence of the Sone and the Ganges to the site of Patna, while Palibothra stood at the junction of the Ganges and Erannoboas, which the accurate M. D'Ancille had pronounced to be the Yamuna; but this only difficulty was removed, when I found in a classical Sanscrit book, near 2000 years old, that Hiranyabahu, or golden armed, which the Greeks changed into Erannoboas, or the river with a lovely murmur, was in fact another name for the Sona itself; though Megasthenes, from ignorance or inattention, has named them separately. This discovery led to another of greater moment, for Chandragupta, who, from a military adventurer, became like Sandracottus the sovereign of Upper Hindustan, actually fixed the seat of his empire at Pataliputra, where he received ambassadors from foreign princes; and was no other than that very Sandracottus who concluded a treaty with Seleucus Nicator; so that we have solved another problem, to which we before alluded, and may in round numbers consider the twelve and three hundredth years before Christ, as two certain epochs between Rama, who conquered Silan a few centuries after the flood, and Vicramaditya, who died at Ujjayini fifty-seven years before the beginning of our era.

-- Discourse X. Delivered February 28, 1793, P. 192, Excerpt from "Discourses Delivered Before the Asiatic Society: And Miscellaneous Papers, on The Religion, Poetry, Literature, Etc. of the Nations of India", by Sir William Jones, 1824


We quote the following passage of Sunil Bhattacharya from his paper:

“Even though Megasthenes had specifically mentioned Sone separately, yet Sir Jones conveniently stated that Megasthenes mentioned about Sone negligently. But there was none in those days to protest against such horrendous accusation hurled at Megasthenes. Present day well-informed historians know that there was indeed the city of Pratisthanpur at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna, which was also mentioned by the great poet Kalidasa of the 8th century BCE, in his drama “Vikramorvashiya”. The city of Pratisthanpur was destroyed completely about one thousand years ago by a devastating fire and from that time onward that city has been known as Jhusi (or Jhunsi), a name derived from the Hindi word Jhulasna or “to burn.” Megasthenes stated that in those days all buildings / houses near rivers and the sea were made of wood and Palibuthra, being at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna, was no exception; and that the structures with brick and clay were built only in places far away from the rivers and the sea. Thus it appears possible that the fire destroyed all the traces of the ancient wooden structures, if any of these at all survived till the time of the devastating fire. Jhusi is located towards the east of Allahabad, just across the river Ganga. Archaeologists have found grains and other artifacts in the mounds of Jhusi, which dates back to before the 4th century BCE. The Asoka pillar found in Jhusi had inscriptions of Samudragupta and it was shifted to the Allahabad Fort and the emperor Jahangir also made his inscription on it. The Asoka inscription on it was of Samudragupta, after he had converted to Buddhism and had assumed the name of Asokaditya. All the Gupta kings had their second names ending in “-aditya”.'


After studying the fragments of Megasthenes’ Indika in detail, Pandit Bhagavad Datta offers another similar plausible explanation, and concludes: “Yamuna was flowing thru Palimbothra, known in ancient times as Paribhadra, the capital of the Prassi kingdom. Palimbothra was 200 miles from Prayag on the way to Mathura. The Kshatriyas were known as Paribhadrakas or Prabhadrakas. Their King was Chandraketu. The capital city of Paribhadra was near Sindhu Pulinda, which is in Madhya desa and is today known as Kali-Sindha. The Karusha reservoir was between Sindhu Pulinda and Prayag.”

However, after Sir William’s announcement, notwithstanding the aforesaid facts, Max Mueller anointed the identification of Sandracottus with Chandragupta Maurya and proceeded to declare Alexander’s invasion, and the subsequent visit of Megasthenes, as the sheet anchor of Indian History, neither of which events are of great significance in Indian history.

Troyer did not agree with this conclusion and noted this fact in the introduction to his translation of Rajatarangini of Kalhana. He even communicated his views to Prof. Max Mueller in a letter but did not receive a reply. Max Mueller ignored the objections of Troyer and Colebrook, and hailed the discovery and Sir Jones’ inferences as authentic!


What Does Megasthenes Say About The Kings Who Ruled

1. He calls Sandracottus the king of the Prassi and he mentions the names of Xandramus as predecessor and Sandrocyptus as successor to Sandracottus. There is absolutely no resemblance in these names to Bindusara (the successor to Chandragupta Maurya) and Mahapadma Nanda, the predecessor.

2. He makes absolutely no mention of Chanakya or Vishnugupta, the Acharya who helped Chandragupta ascend the throne.

3. He makes no mention of the widespread presence of the Baudhik or Sramana tradition [Rishi tradition] during the time of the Maurya empire.

4. He claims the capital is Palimbothra or Palibothra, and that the city exists near the confluence of the Ganga and the Eranaboas (Hiranyabahu). But the Puranas are clear that all the 8 dynasties after the Mahabharata war had their capital at Girivraja (Rajagriha), located in the foothills of the Himalayas. There is no mention of Pataliputra in the Puranas. So, the assumption made by Sir William that Palimbothra is Pataliputra has no basis in fact and is not attested by any piece of evidence. If the Greeks could pronounce the first P in (Patali) they could certainly have pronounced the second p in Putra, instead of bastardising it as Palimbothra. Granted the Greeks were incapable of pronouncing any Indian names, but there is no reason why they should not be consistent in their phonetics.

5. The empire of Chandragupta was known as Magadha Empire. It had a long history even at the time of Chandragupta Maurya. In Indian literature, this powerful empire is amply described by its name but the same is absent in Greek accounts. It is difficult to understand as to why Megasthenes did not use this name “Magadha” and instead used the word Prassi, which has no equivalent or counterpart in Indian accounts.


The Colossal Error In Indian Historiography

This is indeed a remarkable tale even when viewed from the different perspectives of the Indic and the Occidental. That a person with such a scant knowledge of Sanskrit would have the audacity to rewrite the entire history of the Indian Civilization, based merely on scraps and remnants of a travelogue, written by an individual who is not even highly regarded by more revered Greek historians, is astonishing and bespeaks a degree of hubris that matches the grandeur of the Himalayas. In fairness to Sir William, it must be said that he himself may be utterly surprised at the seriousness with which his speculations were received and subsequently anointed by scholars at home. This is in addition to the great weight that is given to Greek historians’ writing about India, despite their atrocious bastardisation of Sanskrit terms.

And even if Sir William believed he had a good cause to stand by, what of the Indics of the modern era? Have the Indics taken leave of their senses? Surely such a sloppy, baseless conjecture would be reason enough to discredit the thesis. The Indics should have cringed when they were told that the undecipherable scrap of paper left of “Indika” was more credible than the Puranas written in a language with very little ambiguity; but such are the depths to which the Indic has sunk. He is apt to believe the words of a conqueror, who is not qualified to tell the story with any degree of accuracy and who is himself qualifying his proposal as something of a speculation, than the words of the great Rishis of yore, who wrote in the precise language of Sanskrit.

There is a palpable sense of frustration when we see that more than 50 years after Independence we still teach the chronology that was erroneously derived from the torn fragments of Indika.

… to be continued
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Part 2 of 2

Indian History And Its Historians

Part III: WHO WAS RULING IN INDIA DURING THE VISIT OF MEGASTHENES


In order to examine these hypotheses we must digress to the characterisation of Megasthenes by Greek historians such as Arrian, Strabo and Diodorus.

Megasthenes (ca. 350 BC – 290 BC) was a Greek traveler and geographer from Ionia in Asia Minor or present day Turkey. He became an ambassador of Seleucus of Syria to the court of Sandracottus (mistakenly believed to be Chandragupta Maurya) of India, in Pataliputra. However the exact date of his embassy is uncertain. Scholars place it before 288 BC. Arrian explains that Megasthenes lived in Arachosia, with the satrap Sibyrtius, from where he visited India: “Megasthenes lived with Sibyrtius, satrap of Arachosia, and often speaks of his visiting Sandracottus, the king of the Indians.” Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri.

We have more definite information regarding the parts of India which Megasthenes visited. He entered the country through the district of the Pentapotamia of the rivers, of which he gave a full account (thought to be the five affluents of the Indus, forming the Punjab region), and proceeded from there by the royal road to Pataliputra. There are accounts of Megasthenes having visited Madurai (then, a bustling city and capital of Pandya Kingdom), but appears to have not been to any other part of the country. His observations were recorded in Indika, a work that served as a source to later writers such as Strabo and Arrian. He describes such geographical features as the Himalayas and the island of Sri Lanka.

Megasthenes also mentioned the country’s caste system, more in terms of profession, status and personality descriptor. But the problem from an Indic perspective is that very little of the Indika survives intact today and we are left with second hand accounts of Greek historians. In fact McCrindle, in “Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arian,“ says that the Greek writers such as Megasthenes were not highly regarded and were prone to lying. Strabo was of the opinion that Megasthenes simply created fables and as such no faith could be placed in his writings. In Strabo’s own words: “Generally speaking the men who have written on the affairs of India were a set of liars. Deimachos is first, Megasthenes comes next.”

Diodorus also held similar opinions about him.
So who and what should we believe? It was Dr. Schwanbeck who, we are told, had collected all the fragments that were extant at that time, and who finally comes to the conclusion that Megasthenes can be largely vindicated of the charge of mendacity (that was leveled at a host of other Greek historians).

The Greek records mention Xandramas and Sandrocyptus as the kings immediately before and after Sandracottus. These names are not in any way phonetically similar to Mahapadma Nanda and Bindusara, who were respectively the predecessor and successor of Chandragupta Maurya. However, if Sandracottus refers to Chandragupta “Gupta”, Xandramas could be his predecessor Chandrashree alias Chandramas (the last of the main dynasty of Andhra Satavahana Kings) and Sandrocyptus to be Samudragupta. The phonetic similarity becomes quite apparent and other supporting evidence too confirms the identity of Sandracottus with Chandragupta Gupta. The correction also settles the ridiculous start of Vikram Era from 58 BC, while Vikramaditya himself is placed about four centuries later!

The Puranas transmit the Hindu tradition and historical records to successive generations. In fact we are told in the Mahabharata that ‘the Vedas are afraid of him who has not studied the Epics and the Puranas, for he would indeed kill them with his ignorance of the truth propounded in them.’

The Puranas are a class of literary texts, all written in Sanskrit verse, whose composition dates from the time of Veda Vyasa, who lived at the time of the Mahabharata War. The Puranas are regarded by some as the Veda when studied under a magnifying glass. The word “Purana” means “old” and in fact Panini assigns the meaning “complete” (cognate with purna). Generally they are considered as following the chronological aftermath of the epics, though sometimes the Mahabharata, which is generally classified as an Itihaasa (history), is also referred to as a Purana.

Some scholars, such as van Buitenen, are inclined to view the Puranas as beginning around the time that the composition of the Mahabharata came to a close. Certainly, in its final form the Mahabharata shows puranic features, and the Harivamsa (appended to the Mahabharata), wherein the life of Krishna or Hari is treated at some length, has sometimes been seen as a purana. The special subject of the Puranas is the powers and works of the gods, and one ancient Sanskrit lexicographer, Amarasinha, regarded by some as a Jain and by others as a Buddhist, reputed to be a courtier of Vikramaditya, defined a purana as having five characteristic topics, or pancalaksana:

• The creation of the universe, Sarga;
• Its destruction and renovation, Prati-sarga;
• The genealogy of gods and patriarchs, Vamsa;
• The reigns of the Manus, forming the periods called Manavantaras;
• The history of the Solar and Lunar races of kings, Vamsanucharita.

No one purana exhibits in detail all five of these distinguishing inclusions, but some regard the Vishnu Purana as most close to the traditional definition. Vyasa composed the Puranas in 400,000 “Grantha”. A Grantha is a stanza consisting of 32 syllables. Of these, the Skanda Purana alone accounts for 100,000. It is perhaps the world’s biggest literary work. The remaining 17 Puranas add up to 300,000 Granthas. Apart from them, Vyasa composed the Mahabharata, which contains nearly 100,000 Granthas.

Each Purana is devoted to a particular deity. There are Saiva, Vaisnava and Sakta Puranas. The 18 Puranas are: Brahma Purana (Brahma), Padma Purana (Padma), Narada Purana (Naradiya), Markandeya Purana, Visnu Purana (Vaisnava), Siva Purana(Saiva), Bhagvata Purana, Agni Purana (Agneya), Bhavisya Purana, Brahma-Vaivarta Purana, Linga Purana, Varaha Purana (Varaha), Skanda Mahapurana, Vamana Purana, Kurma Purana (Kaurma), Matsya Purana (Matsya), Garuda Purana (Garuda) and Brahmanda Purana.

In the Puranic and other ancient texts, there is no allusion to any invasion or inroad into India by foreign people up to the time of Andhra kings. The only person who bore a name similar to “Sandracottus” mentioned by the Greeks, who flourished at the time of Alexander, was Chandragupta of the Gupta dynasty, who established a mighty empire on the ruins of the already decayed Andhra dynasty. His date from puranic records is 2811 years after the Mahabharata War, which corresponds to 328 B.C. His current place on the historical dateline is 4th Century AD, which is an obvious error.

It is also interesting to note that the accounts in the life of Sandracottus of the Greeks, the political and social conditions in India at that time, match with those of Chandragupta Gupta era. Therefore, the Greek and Puranic accounts agree only with the identity of Chandragupta Gupta and Sandracottus.
A complete picture of the Dynastic lists and the names of individual Kings of the Magadha Empire is furnished here below:

1. Birth of Bhishma ………………….. ………………………………..3396 B.C
2. Birth of Vedavyasa…………………. ………………………………3374 ,,
3. Age of Vysampayana…………………. ……………………………3300 ,,
4. Age of Yaajnavalkya………………… ……………………………..3280 ,,
5. Kanwa Rishi……………………….. …………………………………..3250 ..
6. Bodhayana (Sutrakara)………………. ………………………….3200 ,,
7. The Saptarshis (or the Great Bear) entered Magha…3176 ,,
8. Coronation of Yudhistira at Sakraprastha … …………..3176 ,, (before the War)
9. Yudhistira lost his Empire in the game of Dice……….. 3151 ..
10. Murder of Keechaka by Bhimasena……………………… 3139 ,,
11. Date of Mahabharata War…………….. ……… 3138 ,,
12. Coronation of Yudhistira……………. …………………………3138 ,,
13. Yudhistira Era begins………………. …………………………..3138 ,,
14. Birth of Parikshit…………………. ……………………………….3138 ,,
15. Coronation of Brihatkshana, king of Ayodhya ……… 3138 ,, (Ikshwaku Dynasty)
16. Coronation of Maarjaari / Somadhi, king of Magadha 3138 ,, (after the War)
17. Coronation of Gali (king of Nepal) …………………….. …3138 ,, (after the War)
18. Coronation of Gonanda-II, king of Kashmir ………….3139
19. Sri Krishna Nirvana ……………….. …………………………..3102 ,,
20. Kali Era begins (Cycle year Pramaadhi)… 3102 ,,
21. Submersion of Dwaraka-Nagara…………. ………………3102 ,,
22. Annihilation of Yadava Dynasty……….. …………………3102 ,,
23. Coronation of Parikshit……………… ………………………..3101 ,,
24. Jayabhyudaya Yudhistira Saka begins…… …………..3101 ,,
25. Yudhistira Kaala (or Death of Yudhistira)…………….3076 ,,

1 Death of Parikshit………………………. …………………………3041 B.C
2 Coronation of Janamejaya…………………. ………………….3041 .,
3 Janamejaya’s Gift Deed (Cycle year Plavanga).. ……3012 ,.
4 Age of Aryabhatta……………………….. ……………………….2742 .,
5 Yudhistira Saka of the Jains……………… ………………….2634 ,,
6 Birth of Buddha…………………………. ……….. 1887 ,,
7 Niryana of Buddha……………………….. ………………………1807 ,,
8 Coronation of Mahapadma Nanda…………….. ………….1634 ,,
9 Coronation of Chandra Gupta Maurya……. 1534 ,,
10 Coronation of Asoka……………………… …………………..1472 ,,
11 The Yayana king ‘Amtiyoka’……. ………………………..1472-36 (of Maurya inscriptions)
12 Age of Panini……………………………………….. ……………1400 ,,
13 End of reign of Salisuka of the Maurya dynasty… 1320 ,,
14 Age of the Yavana king “Milinda” …….. ………………1320-1307 ,,
15 Nagarjuna Yogi………………………….. ……………………..1294 ,,
16 Kanishka……………………………….. ………………………….1294-1234 ,,
17 Coronation of Pushyamitra Sunga…………… …………1218 ,,
18 Age of Patanjali………………………… ……………………….1218 ,,
19 Malava-Gana-Saka………………………… ………………….725 ,,
20 Birth of Vardhamana-Maha·Vira…………….. ………..599 ,,
21 Birth of Kumarila Bhattacharya……………. …………..557 ,,
22 Saka Bhupa Kala (Cyrus Era)………………. ……………550 ,,
23 Niryana of Vardhamana Maha Vira…………… ………528 ,,
24 Kumarilabhatta pushed out from the terrace…. …525 ,,
25 Birth of Adi Sankara……………………. …. 509 ,,
26 Upanayana of Adi Sankara………………… ……………..504 ,,
27 Death of Siva Guru, Sankara’s Father……… ……… 501 ,,
28 Authurasanyaasa of Sankara……………….. ………….500 ,,
29 Krama sanyasa of Sankara…………………. ……………499 ,,
30 Death of Aryamba (Sankara’s mother)………. ……493 ,,
31 Niryana of Govinda Bhagavatpada…………… ……..493 ,,
32 Meeting of Sankara with Kumarilabhatta…….. …493 ,,
33 Death of Kumarila. (Self Immolation)………. ……..493 ,,

1 Sanyasa of Mandana Misra(Sureswaraeharya)…. 491 B.C.
2 Establishment of Dwaraka Peetha …………………… 491 B.C.
3 Sankara’s Visit to Nepal……………………………… …….488 B.C.
4 Jyothir Mutt in the Himalayas…………………………. 486 B.C.
5 Govardhana mutt (Puri)……………………………….. …485 B.C.
6 Sarada Mutt (Sringeri )………………………………. ……484 B.C.
7 Kamakoti Peetha(Conjeevaram)…………………….. 482 B.C.
8 Niryana of Sri Sankara……………………………….. 477 B.C.
9 Era of Sri Harsha………………. ………………….. 457 B.C.
10 Coronation of Chandragupta of Gupta Dynasty…………….. 327 B.C.
11 Gupta Era Begins ……………………………………. 327 B.C.
12 Invasion of Alexander ……………………………….. 326 B.C.
13 Birth of Vikramaditya Ujjayani ………… ………….101 B.C. (Panwar dynasty)
14 End of Gupta dynasty ………………………………… 82 B.C.
15 Coronation of Vikaamaditya at Ujjain…………….. 82 B.C.
16 Era of Vikramaditya………………. ………………… …………..57 B.C.
17 Kalidasa , Varahamihira and others, …………….. 57 B.C. (nine gems in Vikramaditya’ court)
18 Era of Salivahana……………………………………. …….78 A.D.
19 Bhattotpala…………………………………………. ……..338 A.D.
20 Bhaskaraoharya ……………………………………… ..486. A.D.
21 Coronation of Bhoja Raja (Panwar Dynasty.). 638 A.D.
22 Birth of Ramanujacharya………………………….. 1017 A.D.
23 Birth of Madhvacharya…………………………….. 1119 A.D.
24 Death of Ramanujacharya………………………… 1137 A.D.
25 Battle of Staneswar…………………………………… 1193 A.D. (Ghori vs Prithviraj)

[Source: http://trueindianhistory-kvchelam.blogs ... ishma.html]

Readers are requested to have a good look at these precisely stated dates with details, and ask the question: Is there any reason for us to disbelieve the entire information?

… to be continued

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A symbol of the eight fold path “Arya Magga” (the noble path of the dhamma) in early Buddhism.

Indian History And Its Historians

Part II: Sir William Jones, Founder, Royal Asiatic Society


The real pioneer of European Indology was Sir William Jones (1746–1794), reputedly a scholar, gifted linguist, founder of the Royal Asiatic Society and, by all accounts, a man of superior intellect. He was a judicial officer in the East India Company and, it appears, a confidante of Warren Hastings (1732-1818.).

Jones ostensibly became an ardent admirer of India. He wrote, “I am in love with Gopia, charmed with Crishen (Krishna), an enthusiastic admirer of Raama and a devout adorer of Brihma (Brahma), Bishen (Vishnu), Mahisher (Maheshwara); not to mention that Judishteir, Arjen, Corno (Yudhishtira, Arjuna, Karna) and the other warriors of the Mahabharata appear greater in my eyes than Agamemnon, Ajax and Achilles appeared when I first read the Iliad.”

The truth of the matter is that the proto-historical thought prevailing in entire Western world until 18th Century was circumscribed by the Biblical premise: God’s creation was begun about 4000 BC! Nobody was without this limiting perspective while interpreting historical evidence -– written, oral or archeological. Jones remained true to the Biblical dogma of Genesis, which he took to be a literal account. His chronology for ancient India, including the dating of Chandragupta Maurya to the period of Alexander’s invasion of India, was dictated at least in part by the Biblical dogma.

Jones may not have had an ulterior motive in doing this, since these were the times prior to advent of Charles Darwin. All the same, his disinclination to apply a more critical eye while setting up a dateline benchmark on rather flimsy data gives us a reason to recall his prejudice for the deep Biblical, which in turn belief renders his intent suspect. In 1786, while delivering his third lecture, Sir William made the following statement which aroused the curiosity of many scholars and finally led to the emergence of comparative linguistics. Noticing the similarities between Sanskrit and the Classical Languages of Europe such as Greek and Latin he declared:

“The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine all three of them, without believing them to have sprung from some common source which, perhaps, no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanskrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family…”


There is cognitive dissonance in this stance of Sir William who, on the one hand, praises the Sanskrit language and its significance while, at the same time, not inviting a single Indian to participate in the deliberations of the Royal Asiatic Society. In fact, Indians were effectively barred from such participation. He had a good understanding of Vedanta and its the fundamental nuance between existence and its perceptibility: that, matter cannot be denied but had no essence independent of our mental perception of it; that “existence and perceptibility are convertible terms.”

But we [are] rushing ahead. We must understand the milieu of the times, to fathom the motivations of the individuals on the stage then, who took momentous decisions on our behalf. Who were these people who came to India so eagerly? What motivated them to do so? Prodosh Aich has documented the real story behind the study of Indology, the subject that Sir William was credited with initiating. There are many questions that he answers in the book Lügen mit Langen Beinen (Lies with Long Legs).

For example, individuals who served in upper echelons of the British East India company were awarded the title Sir (or a Knighthood) before being sent to India, presumably to impress the Indians. A gentleman with the title “Sir” was a Knight of the British Empire, reminiscent of the Knights of King Arthur. A Knight did not belong to the hereditary nobility, except on rare occasions. In order to become a Lord and sit in the House of Lords, one had to own a substantial estate; but land was scarce in England and hence, while it was possible to impress the Indian by awarding a Sir, it rarely resulted in their elevated to Peerage.

We mention this to emphasise that the vast majority of officials who came to India were from modest circumstances and only became wealthy after their stay in India. In other words, the instances were rare when the individual was already famous as an achiever or was a scholar of some repute before he came to India. So it was in the case of Sir William, whose primary motivation in coming to India was to attain wealth, at a [more] accelerated pace than he could hope for in his own country.

As to his mastery of languages, it appears to be considerably exaggerated. He is credited with knowing 32 languages! He apparently knew Greek and Latin, and had learned Arabic and Persian. But so great was his ignorance of Indic languages that he was unable to distinguish any of the languages spoken in Bengal when he arrived in Calcutta, in 1782. He was advised by Charles Wilkins to learn Sanskrit, upon which he is quoted as saying ‘Life is too short and my necessary business too long for me to think at my age –- he was 38 then –- of acquiring a new language, when those which I have already learned have such a mine of curious and agreeable information.’ Thus began the study of Indo European languages as one family. Such a study falls under the rubric of a field known as Philology.

Philology is the study of ancient texts and languages. The term originally meant a love (Greek philo-) of learning and literature (Greek -logia). In the academic traditions of several nations, a wide sense of the term describes the study of a language together with its literature, historical and cultural contexts, which are indispensable for a complete understanding of the literary works. Philology thus comprises the study of the grammar, rhetoric, history, interpretation of authors, and critical traditions associated with a given language. Such a wide-ranging definition is becoming rare nowadays, and “philology” tends to refer to a study of texts from the perspective of historical linguistics.

Inadvertently, Sir William set in motion a chain of events beginning with the search for a Proto Indo-European language (PIE). What puzzles us is that it never occurred to him, as far as we are aware, that possibly Sanskrit itself could be the grand ancestor to all Indo-European languages. Until then, Europeans had assumed that the oldest language related to the European languages was Hebrew. Given the anti-Semitic feelings that simmered underneath the surface in European hearts, there was a general relief among all when Sir William’s study informed them that the roots of their heritage lay elsewhere than in Hebrew. But even as it did, the pioneer realised that transferring that origin onto the “unwashed millions” of a subject people would perhaps be equally unacceptable. Indeed, it would have been prohibitive and preposterous to even think, much less admit, that India possessed the linguistic technology (in Panini’s Ashtadhyayi) to explain the grammar of their own languages.

As may be the case, there are two major disservice that Jones did to the Indic Civilisation. One was the possible misdating of Chandragupta Maurya by several centuries and the other was postulating the assumption of a PIE [Proto Indo European], which implied an Urheimat (ancestral home) from where the Indo Europeans fanned out to the four corners of the Eurasian landmass. By so doing, he laid the seeds for a fractured historical narrative for the Indics, which was not supported by any Indian legend, tradition or folklore. In short, he saddled the Indics with perpetually having to refute dual falsehoods: a false chronology and an imposed ‘Aryan Invasion’ or what has been light heartedly called the “Aryan Tourist theory.”

When it came to synchronism, the only significant data that Sir William could utilise was the Greek invasion under Alexander. This was the earliest date that he could come up with, and the data he had was the notes kept by Megasthenes, the ambassador sent to India by Seleucus Nikator, one of the generals of Alexander who broke away from the main Alexandrian empire to set up his own Satrapy.


We will assume for the moment that the accepted date of the invasion, when Alexander was in the Indus valley, is indeed 326 BCE. There are severe difficulties with this dating. At the outset, the name “Alexander” rings no bells in India; it does not appear in any Indian literary text and is therefore, from Indian perspective, a “manufactured” event … hardly a judicious choice for historical synchronism pertaining to this land. Sir William however is delighted with his discovery, of Megasthenes being the ambassador of Seleucus Nikator to the Maurya Empire. We quote Sir William from his discourse on February 28, 1793, while marking the tenth anniversary of the Asiatic Society:

“I cannot help mentioning a discovery which accident threw in my way, (I) thought my proofs must be reserved for an essay which I have destined for the fourth volume of your Transactions. To fix the situation of that Palibothra which was visited and described by Megasthenes, had always appeared a very difficult problem.”

“… but this only difficulty was removed, when I found in a classical Sanscrit book, near 2000 years old, that Hiranyabahu, or golden-armed, which the Greeks changed into Erannoboas, or the river with a lovely murmur, was in fact another name for the Son itself, though Megasthenes, from ignorance or inattention, has named them separately. This discovery led to another of greater moment; for Chandragupta, who, from a military adventurer, became, like Sandracottus, the sovereign of Upper Hindostan, (and) actually fixed the seat of his empire at Pataliputra, where he received ambassadors from foreign princes; and was no other than that very Sandracottus who concluded a treaty with Seleucus Nicator; so that we have solved another problem, to which we before alluded, and may in round numbers consider the twelve and three hundredth years before Christ.”


Jones’ speech informs us of his fancies: that he has found a classical but nameless Sanskrit book of about 2,000 years before; that, Chandragupta Maurya was no other than the very Sandracottus who is described by Megasthenes to have made a treaty with Seleucus around 312 BC; and, to establish that Chandragupta belonged to the Maurya dynasty, he mentions about some poem by Somdev which speaks of the murder of Mahapadma of the Nanda dynasty and his eight sons by Chandragupta in order to usurp the kingdom.

In this way Jones created an arbitrary and fictitious connection between Chandragupta Maurya and Sandracottus. He says in his speech,


“A most beautiful poem by Somadev, comprising a very long chain of instructive and agreeable stories, begins with the famed revolution at Pataliputra, by the murder of King Nanda with his eight sons, and the usurpation of Chandragupta; and the same revolution is the subject of a tragedy in Sanscrit, entitled the Coronation of Chandra.” (p. Xxviii)


These were the basic points of his speech that was called “the Discovery” of the identity of Chandragupta Maurya as Sandracottus.

But the problem is that such a formulation was completely erroneous in all historical aspects and there are several hypotheses that he makes that are no longer valid. What are these?

… to be continued

Journal : A Page From History

Source: http://archive.org/stream/chandraguptam ... p_djvu.txt



Chandragupta Maurya has been praised by Indian and foreign authors alike for bestowing prosperity upon his country. Thus, Visakhadatta, the author of the Mudrarakshasa, has treated him as a deity descended upon earth to restore peace in the country, then troubled by barbarians.

Among foreign writers the only one who has accused Chandragupta of tyranny is the Roman historian Justin. But his opinion is in contradiction with the earlier account of Megasthenes, who everywhere refers to the prosperity of the Indian people.


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Chandragupta Maurya1

Chandragupta distinguished himself in many dimensions. He was the conqueror of a vast territory, the emancipator of his country, the capable administrator of a great empire, and the harbinger of peace to his people. Considered to be the first historical emperor of India, he was undoubtedly the mightiest ruler of his time and one of the most lustrous stars in the firmament of monarchy.

It is not easy to embark upon a comparison, but as it is one of the best ways of understanding a person, it would be worthwhile to compare Chandragupta with three of the world’s greatest kings: Alexander, Akbar and Napoleon.

Alexander the Great was undoubtedly a great conqueror. We are bound to be dazzled when we recall to mind his wide conquests in a brief space of time, for he died quite young. Yet the truth is that much of what Alexander accomplished had already been planned by his father, Philip, a man of uncommon ability. Alexander had found his field prepared by his father, and thus had little difficulty to face at the outset of his career. In the words of Mr. H. G. Wells ”the true hero of the history of Alexander is not so much Alexander as his father Philip."

Moreover, the countries conquered by Alexander gained nothing by the change of masters. It may be argued that he had schemes of organisation which were frustrated by his early death. But this is hardly borne out by his career. His vanity was insuperable, and his purpose seems to have been to dazzle the world by his valour. His purpose accomplished, he literally drank himself to death.

Chandragupta, on the other hand, was a man of a different metal. As brave and courageous as Alexander himself, his sole purpose seems to have been to bring peace and honour to his country. He had no advantages of birth and was actually an exile at the outset of his career. He too was a young man when he came on the scene, but in a brief space of time he had not only conquered but thoroughly organized a vast empire, giving all the advantages of a good government to his people.

Akbar, the Moghul monarch, was indeed much like Chandragupta. He has often been compared with Asoka, but in many respects his genius was more aligned with that of Chandragupta. Like Chandragupta, he was a man of ‘blood and iron’. Like him again, he was a great conqueror and a great administrator. But it must be remembered that Akbar had inherited the resources needed for forming a great empire as against Chandragupta who struggled from poverty and exile to power.

The success of Akbar’s administration was more due to the personal qualities of his ministers than to his thorough organisation and even Dr. Vincent Smith has admitted that ”Akbar’s machine of government never attained the standard of efficiency reached by the Mauryas eighteen or nineteen centuries before his time.”

Napoleon certainly was one of the most brilliant figures in history. He resembles Chandragupta in as much as he also rose by dint of merit, and not by virtue of his birth. In his early youth he dreamt of an independent Corsica, much as Chandragupta seems to have dreamt of the independence of his country. Later though, Napoleon intent coiled up around mere ambition for conquest, and he actually failed to maintain the consequent empire. In fact, his country gained nothing by his splendid exploits.

Chandragupta was thus, on the whole, an uncommon genius. He was the founder of the greatest Hindu dynasty, to which also belonged the most famous Buddhist and Jain monarchs.

“In regard to slavery, Kautilya’s attitude stands apart as a glowing light of liberalism and humanity in a barbaric age. While his contemporary Aristotle was justifying slavery as a divine and a beneficent human institution not only sanctioned by nature, but justified by the circumstances of social existence, Kautilya denounced it and strove to abolish it, characterising it as a custom which could exist only among the savage Mlecchhas (a term for Greeks in his time).

“He boldly enunciated that among Aryas (free-born) none should be unfree or enslaved. His definition of the Arya was not narrow. According to him, the Sudra was equally an Arya, along with members of the higher castes/’ Chanakya (as Kautilya, came to be known) was one of the pioneers to include the Sudra within the Aryan fold, and his motive must have been to strengthen Aryavarta, the country of Bharata.

“His view on other social matters are also generally liberal and commendable. He was, hence, not without admirers, for Kamandaka, the author of Nitisara, has praised him highly.”

-- Provision In Respect Of Slavery in Arthashastra: A Manual For Social, Political & Economic Administration, by Kautilya, Chandragupta’a Prime Minister


* * *

According to Megasthenes, Greek King Seleukos Nikator’s ambassador in Chandragupta’s court, all Indians were free and not one of them was a slave. But in the light of Arthasastra, we have to modify this statement. As a matter of fact, slavery did exist but a perusal of Arthasastra makes it clear that it was so different from the slavery which prevailed in the west, that a Greek could hardly notice it.

It was forbidden to sell an Arya or freeman (including Sudra) into slavery except at the person’s own option and dire necessity.

“It is no crime," says Kautilya, “for Mlecchhas to sell or mortgage the life of their own offspring, but never shall an Arya be subjected to slavery." He then proceeds to say that if a man is enslaved for inevitable reasons, he should be soon redeemed.

“But in order to tide over family troubles, to find money for fines or court decrees, or to recover the (confiscated) household implements, if the life of an Arya is mortgaged, they (his kinsmen) shall as soon as possible redeem him (from bondage); and more so if he is a youth or an adult capable of giving help."

Moreover, a slave in the west had no personal rights; his person was dead. In India, a dasa was little worse than a servant as long as he was not redeemed. His offspring were free even during his period of bondage. A dasa could even earn independently if he had time from his master’s work, and could regain his Aryahood if his independent savings became equal to the value for which he was purchased.

If a man abused or caused hurt to his slave, or employed the latter to do an ignoble work, the slave became free. Thus it is clear that although there were dasas in India, the kind of slavery prevalent in the west was non-existent in India.

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Part 1 of 4

Ancient Indian Astronomy in Vedic Texts
by R.N. Iyengar
Distinguished Professor
Centre for Ancient History and Culture
Jain University, Bangalore
(Formerly Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore)
[email: RN.Iyengar@jainuniversity.ac.in]
Written for Presentation at
IX International Conference on Oriental Astronomy
November 15-18, 2016, Pune, India 

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"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

-- Law of the instrument, by Wikipedia



 
Preface

Astronomy in popular perception is about stars, planets, sun, moon, eclipses, comets, meteorites and associated observable phenomena. Something of all of these was known to our ancients though not in the same form and detail as it is available now. In the context of India, the question is what was known, in what detail and when. For the siddhānta period, roughly starting with the Common Era, (CE) such questions have been fairly well answered. This has been possible since several texts of the period, specifically devoted to astronomy are available for systematic study. But for the more ancient period we have no exclusive texts other than Lagadha’s Vedānga Jyotiṣa (c 1400 BCE) which is a calendar with no reference to eclipses or planets. Hence when one talks of Vedic Times several precautions are necessary. Firstly even though for the pre-siddhāntic period many texts are available, they are neither specific to astronomy nor are they by particular authors. Second, the texts were all orally transmitted by memory for generations before they were scripted on palm leafs. This knowledge tradition has come down to us mainly in Sanskrit. Three broad classes of BCE texts can be identified namely Vedic, Purānṇic and Śāstraic. Texts of the first group including the ancillaries such as the Sūtras and the Pariśiṣṭas are preserved unchanged in their original form with practically no variation with time. The same cannot be said about the two Epics, the eighteen and more Purāṇas, Samhitās of Parāśara and Vṛddha Garga which have undergone changes in CE also. Texts on grammar, prosody, dramas of Bhāsa, Kauṭilya’s Arthaśāstra, Bharata’s Nāṭyaśāstra, Jaina and Buddhist literature making up the third group are relatively late. But these also provide insights into Indian astronomy before CE. In addition to the above clarification it is essential to bear in mind the time frame of development of the above class of literature which spans some three to four thousand years starting from an unknown past to the first millennium BCE. Hence we have to also address the question of chronology consistent with whatever verifiable information that can be found.

It is generally observed that Vedic culture personified celestial objects and their actions. Hence the texts carry a background that has to be deciphered for extracting the archaic models of the visible sky. When we read that a demon (asura) fell from the sky and went underground, we can safely infer that this picture should have been probably correlated in time and space with a meteorite fall. Similarly when it is said that an āsura covered Sun, we may suspect this event to be an eclipse. This allegorical approach was known to the Vedic tradition as recorded by Yāska (c 700 BCE) who records three types of interpretations for several hymns of the Ṛgveda. These are the adhiyajña, adhyātma and the adhidaiva; the sacrificial, philosophical and celestial (divine) meanings respectively. For example the adhidaiva meaning of the word Soma is Moon, whereas in a Vedic sacrifice as per the adhiyajña, Soma is a creeper of that name. In the Upaniṣads the philosophical meaning of Soma is manas or mind. The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (ŚB) has the esoteric statement:

candramā vai somo devānāmannam tā pourṇamāsyāmabhiṣuṇvanti || (ŚB. 11.1.5)
Moon is Soma the food of gods; they approach him on Full Moon.


But, Yāska, quite clearly says in the Nirukta (11.4-5) that Soma is Moon whom no gods literally eat. It is easy to see that the reference in such cases is to the waning moon said to be consumed by gods on a daily basis starting from Full Moon. The Vedic seers personified celestial objects as they beheld some cosmic transcendental unity and pattern through observable natural phenomena. Hence it should not be surprising to find in Vedic sacrifices, Hindu religion and Vedānta philosophy reflections of ancient sky pictures, however hazy they might seem now. This type of modelling sky observations by our Vedic ancestors can be called scientific naturalism.

Scientific naturalism is a view according to which all objects and events are part of nature, i.e. they belong to the world of space and time. Therefore everything, including the mental realm of human beings, is subject to scientific enquiry.

-- Naturalistic theories, by https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/han ... 8/041.html


The sky descriptions become more interesting especially when numbers are associated with the celestial divinities. In the following four articles we investigate briefly how comets, meteorites, and eclipses were experienced and pictured in the Vedic texts. Over a long period of time the effect of precession was also felt as with the loss of importance for the constellation Śiśumāra (Draco) and shifting of the Pole Star Dhruva. The astral descriptions and the religious lore behind the above astronomical entities provided the inspiration for the development of observational and mathematical astronomy in India.

Some portion of the present study has appeared in the Indian Journal of History of Science (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012) in the form of papers. However, considerable new information, beyond the published material, can be found in the following pages.

1. Comets and Meteorites in the Ṛgveda

Introduction


The Ṛgveda Samhitā is the most ancient literature of India available for our study. The three other Vedas namely the Yajurveda, Sāmaveda and the Atharvaṇaveda along with their ancillary texts are closely linked to the Ṛgveda in several ways. The remote antiquity of the Ṛgveda and the live tradition of oral transfer of the Vedas by complex linguistic artifices are evidences for the utmost importance attached by Hindus in preserving the original information as precisely as possible. It is an attested fact that even after several millennia, RV containing 10 books (maṇḍala) with 1028 hymns (sūkta) totaling 10552 verses (mantra) is learnt and recited with exactly the same content and sequence all over India. This is the primary source for finding the most ancient celestial observations made in the Indian skies. Even though RV is not a book on astronomy or on natural sciences, it is a collection of hymns covering a large variety of themes ranging from the physical to the spiritual, human to the superhuman, religion to philosophy, individual to the collective, earth to the sky to the universe. It spans several centuries in its compositional spread and represents a wide area of land also in its coverage with names of rivers, mountains, lands and lakes. The language of RV is by definition, Vedic Sanskrit and its style can at best be described as inspired poetry emanating out of spontaneous intuition, revelation or contemplation. Hence explaining the text strictly through analytical methods of grammar, etymology, dictionaries and linguistics will make us miss the forest for the trees.

Any one approaching RV faces the daunting problem of extracting the meanings of the hymns. This difficulty is known since the time of Yāska who already noted that RV hymns can be interpreted in several different ways. Due to the archaic nature of the Vedic language, precise meanings may remain unknown, but the overall contextual implications when read with other similar hymns should be reasonably clear.
Hence when a particular event or deity is described more number of times, a clear picture of what the ancient composers meant emerges. To approach RV in this fashion, we have to follow the ancillary texts and the traditional Sanskrit commentaries, instead of going by modern day translations. This helps us to find whether the origin of a later Vedic ritual can be traced to the sky pictures of RV. Among the various editions of RV available, the Mysore Palace edition of the Ṛgveda (abbr. MPRV) is versatile1. This gives in thirty six volumes an exhaustive introduction, the text, traditional meaning, ritual application, grammatical explanation, and the complete Sanskrit commentary of Sāyaṇa along with the ancillary texts needed to follow the Ṛgveda. The translations and interpretations of the hymns given here follow closely the commentary of Sāyaṇa and the traditional explanations given by the compilers of the MPRV edition.

Ketu in the Vedas

Astronomy is popularly understood as a subject about the sun, the moon, the planets, eclipses and comets. While the sun and the moon, even when they are lauded as deities, can be easily recognized as celestial objects it may not be so clear for a modern reader whether other objects are described in the Vedic texts. A further difficulty arises as the Hindu socio-religious pluralistic tradition in constant flux tends to attribute different meanings to the same word. A case in point is the word ketu that appears some eighty times in the RV with the following distribution in the ten books.

[I:19; II: 0; III:10; IV: 3; V: 8; VI: 7; VII: 8; VIII: 4; IX: 3; X: 18]


What strikes here as significant is the absence of the word in the second book and its increased use in the first and the tenth books. This word is interpreted in the Nirukta as knowledge, flag, herald, insignia, and as a memory trigger. Hence the RV word dhūmaketu which means comet in almost all Indian languages is taken by Sāyaṇa to mean an epithet for the sacrificial fire with a smoke banner. This is a typical example of the adhidaiva meaning [the foremost, preserver or “god” of all natural phenomena] getting masked in the orthodox adhiyajña tradition [relating to a sacrifice]. The Atharvaṇaveda (AV) has a famous hymn in which dhūmaketu is mentioned along with sun, moon and rāhu, indicating that in Vedic parlance too the word ketu should have primarily referred to a visible celestial object2. The text of the RV contains a cryptic statement yādṛgeva dadṛśe tādṛgucyate (V.44.6) that is; the seers say what they saw. Thus it would be interesting to investigate whether Comets and such other transient celestial objects were the inspiration behind some of the RV hymns.

The specific word dhūmaketu meaning literally smoke- or dust-banner occurs seven times in the RV but, only in I, VIII and X books, which are considered to be relatively later compositions in comparison with the other books. According to traditional interpretation this word qualifies agni the (sacrificial) fire. One wonders, if this were to be the unique meaning, why this epithet is absent in the other family books which also profusely refer to agni. Is it possible the word dhūmaketu with two meanings, fire (agni) and anomalous event (utpāta), as listed in the Amarakośa could be traced to RV, when in ancient times a comet with a (dusty) smoky extension, like the earthly fire which has smoke for its insignia inspired the composers of some hymns? The word utpāta denoting anomalous natural events does not appear in RV. But the word adbhuta which stands for strange and unusual objects or events is used in RV as an epithet for agni the fire. Could this adbhuta in some sense point to strange fiery transient objects observed in the sky? The Ṣaḍvimśa Brāhmaṇa of the Sāmaveda has a chapter called Adbhuta Brāhmaṇa. This deals with special rituals to be observed during unusual events, grouped as somadevatyāni adbhutāni. This includes shooting stars, meteorites and comets (ketavaḥ)3. It is notable that the Nirukta (1.6) interprets adbhutam as abhūtam, that is, unprecedented. Thus, prima-facie there is a case for dhūmaketu to be an unexpected comet or a fireball similar to a strange fire with a smoky extension.

Dhūmaketu

Now we consider the seven RV hymns with the word dhūmaketu in the order of the books in which they appear. Hymn (I.27) starts comparing agni to a tailed horse4. In the second verse of the hymn this object is qualified as having wide motion (pṛthupragāmā). In the sixth verse this agni is called citrabhānu, that is one having varied colors. This fire is qualified in the tenth verse as rudra, one with ferocious form. This is followed by a prayer with a specific name for the fire in question.

sa no mahān animāno dhūmaketuḥ puruścandraḥ |dhiye vājāya hinvatu || (I.27.11)

May the great, illimitable, brilliant dhūmaketu (smoke-banner) be pleased with our rite and inspire us.


MPRV aptly points out that there can be no special similarity between agni and a tailed horse as in this hymn, even as a figure of speech. The hymn is clear that the object of its attention is stationed in the sky. If this agni were to have a tail, have perceptible movement, be large without specific measure (mahān animāno) and look like a big bright celestial herald (viśpatiḥ daivyaḥ ketuḥ bṛhadbhānuḥ| v.12) it could as well have been a comet described aptly by the word dhūmaketu. The epithet viśpatiḥ signifies the object to be closely connected with maruts, who are called viś in the RV. This point will be considered later.

Next we come across this word in a hymn by Praskaṇva of the Kaṇva family to which belong the authors of the eighth book.

adyā dūtam vṛṇimahe vasum agnim purupriyam | dhūmaketum bhāṛjikam vyuṣṭiṣu yajñānām adhvaraśriyam || (I.44.3)

We choose today at day break as messenger the good agni, the beloved of many, the smokebannered, who shines with his brightness and who is the protector of the doer of sacrifice.


Here the action of selecting agni as messenger (dūtam) is in the first person. This agni is qualified as dhūmaketu and bhārjika. The word bhārjika means shining according to Yāska5. This may mean one who is shining or may mean one who is famous as Bhā. This agni is addressed in (v.4) as guest (atithi), highlighting his transient nature. In (v.10) agni is referred also as purohita and as vibhāvasu who had shone previously at many dawns (pūrvā anu uṣaso vibhāvaso didetha). MPRV interprets purohita traditionally as, one (the fire) who is installed in the east of the sacrificial altar in the āhavanīya pit. This hymn ends in (v.14) with a request to the fire-tongued maruts to be heard (sṛṇvantu marutaḥ agnijihvāḥ). This hymn appears to be closely related with hymns of the 8th book of RV. The transient nature of the fire, named vibhāvasu or bhā with links to maruts, amply hints at this object to be a comet. As per the MPRV explanation, this hymn is an invocation to the celestial agni, the comet deity, already deified from previous tradition.

In the RV hymn (I.94) to agni every verse ends with the refrain let us not suffer injury as we have friendship with you. (agne sakhye mā riṣāmā vayam tava ). This is a prayer to agni seeking protection particularly from the fiery maruts. The first verse refers to agni as jātavedas. MPRV describes the technicalities of this word quoting the Bṛhaddevatā (BD) an important ancient authority on preserving the tradition of RV6. As per this, RV seers call terrestrial fire agni, fire in the mid-space jātavedas and fire in the sky vaiśvānara. There is a mystic meaning to the word jātavedas, but the localization of this fire is again mentioned in BD with the extra information that this fire is known to all (or seen by all) created again and again in mid-space7. This agni is thought about at every syzygy by offerings (v.4). The next verse (v.5) is interpreted differently by Sāyaṇa and Skandasvāmin. MPRV provides both the meanings, the one by Skandasvāmin reads more realistic. As per this, agni is seen all through the nights in different colours and is brighter than even the light at day break (uṣaso mahān). In (v.7) agni is praised as one who is seen to be similar from all places (viśvataḥ sadṛńg asi). Even though he is really at a distance (in the sky) he seems to be near. In (v.9), agni is requested to kill with his weapons the enemies of the devout. The next verse is

yad ayukthā aruṣā rohitā rathe vātajūtā vṛṣabhasyeva te ravaḥ |ādinvasi vanino dhūmaketunāgne sakhye mā riṣāmā vayam tava || RV(I.94.10)

When you have yoked the wind driven red (animals) to the chariot, your roar is like that of a bull. You cover forest trees by a banner of smoke. Let us not suffer injury as we have friendship with you.


Here the word dhūmaketu seems to be used in the sense of a smoke cover. However the agni addressed in this hymn has for its background not any ordinary terrestrial fire but the one in mid-space significantly coloured red. The next verse (v.11) mentions that the drops of this agni eat grass (drapshāḥ yavasādaḥ). The word yavasādaḥ literally means one who eats (burns) yavasa which is taken to be grass by tradition. But this may as well refer to destruction of grain fields. Sāyaṇa likes to interpret drapsāḥ as flames, but in the context of a fire from above, dropping of fiery matter would be apt. This is followed by a request to mitra and varuṇa to protect the poet from the strange fury of the maruts who live in the mid-space. The description of maruts is picturesque as,

avayātām marutām heḷa adbhutaḥ|| (I.94.12)

The cry (rumbling sound) of the descending maruts is strange (unprecedented).


Sāyaṇa explains this to mean, the anger of the gods known as maruts moving below the heavens happens to be severe. In the above hymn the word dhūmaketu is not used directly to refer a comet. But the hymn is about agni that is between the earth and the visible sky. The prayer is to ward off the danger posed directly by maruts, with ritualistic connotations linked to earthly fires ignited by atmospheric agents. The weapons of agni that could kill enemies, but from which protection is sought by the poet, can be conjectured to have been showers of stony meteoritic debris. This interpretation would be consistent with the action of maruts at other places in RV.

Image
Agni...is conceptualized in ancient Hindu texts to exist at three levels, on earth as fire, in atmosphere as lightning, and in the sky as sun.

-- Agni, by Wikipedia


The only family book using the word dhūmaketu is the 8th book of the Kaṇvas. The first verse of hymn (VIII.43) declares this to be a laudation to agni the uninterrupted doer of sacrifice. The third verse mentions agni to be burning the forests. The immediate next two verses are

harayo dhūmaketavaḥ vātajūtā upadyavi | yatante vṛthagagnayaḥ ||
ete tye vṛthagagnayah iddhāsaḥ samadṛkṣata | uṣasāmiva ketavaḥ || (VIII.43.4,5)

Individual forms of swift wind-impelled smoke-bannered fires move in the sky.
These separated fires shining in the front appear like heralds of the dawns.


In the next verse (v.6) the black dust raised by the feet of jātavedas as he travels, when fire spreads on earth, is described. The physical implication of the above verses would be that the composer is describing one or more celestial fiery objects with smoke or dust trails seen before dawn. These celestial fires are linked to fire on ground, which may indicate either a cause effect relation or a poetic similarity. The objects are many and said to be emphatically separated and moving. As a physical picture this fits the description of a meteor swarm encountered by earth while passing through the trail of a comet. Here the word dhūmaketu is used to indicate swiftly moving objects in the sky. Since the word dawn is used in plural (uṣasām), perhaps this spectacle could be seen for several days before day break in the eastern sky. The next hymn (VIII.44) is also about agni. Here in (v.7) this agni is called ancient (pratnam) and invoker (hotāram) and the guest of honour in sacrifices (adhvarāṇām abhiśriyam). This ancient agni is the object named as Dhūmaketu Vibhāvasu.

vipram hotāram adruham dhūmaketum vibhāvasum |yajñānām ketum īmahe || (VIII.44.10)


Tradition interprets the word vibhāvasu as one having light for wealth (dīptidhanam) and identifies him with agni. If here also dhūmaketu meant the sacrificial fire of the humans, why once again the composer refers to agni as the banner of sacrifices? On the other hand the matter-of-fact meaning would be:

We pray to the wise guileless invoker, the comet (dhūmaketu, the smoke-bannered) vibhāvasu, the banner of (divine) sacrifices.


It is seen that in the 8th book the word dhūmaketu refers to visible transient objects that might have included meteors and comets in a general sense. In the tenth book the hymn (X.4) is about agni the link between men and gods, who traverses in between (v.2). In the next verse (v.3) he is said to be eager to come to sacrifices on earth looking down from above with a desire to return. There appears considerable difficulty in interpreting the 5th verse with the word dhūmaketu. MPRV takes the first part as a question and constructs a meaning with which the commentator is not satisfied. The text and the interpretation are as follows.

kūcijjāyate sanayāsu navyo vane tasthau palito dhūmaketuḥ |asnātāpo vṛṣabho na praveti sacetaso yam praṇayanta martāḥ || (X.4.5)

Where is the new agni born? He is present in the old plants, grey haired, smoke-bannered. Though not needing a bath, as he is pure, he rushes to water like a bull….


This interpretation reads strained and forced. The simple meaning based on the context of the preceding and succeeding verses would be of a fire that is white in colour, seen above a forest. Its rush towards water may be a real event of a fireball entering a water body. This matches with agni being called jātavedaḥ later in (v.7), the technical meaning of which is fire in mid-space. Even though the meaning of the word dhūmaketu in this hymn remains ambiguous, it is still linked to a fiery object that approaches a water body, from above. The last appearance of the word dhūmaketu in RV is in

devo devān paribhūr ṛtena vahā no havyam prathamas cikitvān | dhūmaketuḥ samidhā bhāṛjīko mandro hotā nityo vācā yajīyān || (X.12.2)


Here, the word is used in the sense of sacrificial fire with no direct relation to the sky except for the qualification bhāṛjikaḥ as in (I.44.3). This completes a brief discussion on the seven occurrences of the word dhūmaketu in RV. It is noted that all the above hymns are addressed to agni, a prominent deity in RV. Interestingly in the tenth book agni is called bhāsāketu that means light-bannered, which is nearly the opposite of dhūmaketu, the smoke-bannered.

yamāsā kṛpaniḷam bhāsāketum vardhayanti | bhrājate śreṇidan || (X.20.3)


Sāyaṇa interprets the word bhāsāketu, as flame bannered fire or one who gives out light. It is not clear why this should not have been the name of a celestial object, for, in the very next verse this fire is described as who when he moves up penetrates the ends of the sky, illumining the firmament. Further the hymn lauds this fire as one that is standing above the sacrificial altar. Traditionally the phrase sadma minvan puraḥ eti in (v.5) is interpreted to mean that this fire measures the fireplace by his movements. This description would be more suitable for a bright celestial object that was stationary for some time and then started moving as though measuring the sky. Sāyaṇa’s explanation of this as representing the sacrificial fire amply indicates that the Vedic sacred fire on earth is a symbol or simulation of a visible bright celestial object ritualistically invoked through special hymns. In (v.9) this fire is described to move straight in a big car showing colours, white, black, red and crimson. A cosmological background is also indicated here, since the car of bhāsāketu was fashioned by the Creator. On the whole this hymn is consistent in describing a comet-like celestial object, out of which some aspect of the terrestrial religious fire, as described in the later Yajurveda Samhitā and Brāhmaṇa texts, has been modeled. Similarly the word vṛṣāketu may be related with an object seen in the night sky. This name appears in the hymn RV (X.92) attributed to Śaryāta son of Manu.

yajñasya vo rathyam viśpatim viśām hotāram aktoratithim vibhāvasum |śocan śuṣkāsu hariṇīṣu jarbhuradvṛṣāketuryajato dyām aśāyata || (X.92.1)


This ketu has some connection with vibhāvasu who was described in the hymn (I.44) considered previously. Here also vibhāvasu is called the guest of the night similar to (I.44). Sāyaṇa interprets the first half as a call to gods for worshipping vibhāvasu. His statement paricarati iti śeṣaḥ is an assumption. The second half is independently taken to mean the giver of desires (vṛṣā), the banner (ketuḥ) reposes in heaven. In line with Sāyaṇa, MPRV gives the meaning of the above verse as

You (gods, adore) the charioteer of the sacrifice, the lord of men, the invoker of the gods, the guest of night, the resplendent (agni). Blazing amid the dry (bushes) preying upon the green, the showerer of desires, the banner (of light), the adorable, reposes in heaven.


Since vibhāvasu is a guest of night (aktoḥ atithim) with its location in the sky (dyām asāyata), the word vṛṣāketu most probably refers to a comet of that name.

Maruts

The above brief review brings out the major physical characters of agni called dhūmaketu, but clearly in relation with two other celestial objects namely maruts and vibhāvasu. Maruts are well known Vedic deities, taken to be representing winds and thunder storms inducing rain by traditionalists as well as by modern scholars. However, their explicit relation with dhūmaketu provides a clue to their correct decipherment as meteoritic storms. Maruts are a group of deities, usually known as the sons of Rudra and occasionally directly as Rudrāḥ. The key discriminatory feature of maruts is that they are a collection of individuals who could be seen and hence countable in some sense. They are said to be separated among themselves. They increase by two and three and their count varies from twenty-one (I.133.6) to forty-nine (VIII.28.5) to sixty-three (VIII.96.8). They could even be seen in waves of thousands (I.168.4). If these properties were to be reconciled with a physically possible natural object, maruts have to be taken as a shower of meteors. No doubt there are hymns associated with maruts that refer to lightning, rain, wind, thunderous sound and consequent shaking of trees, people and mountains. However, seen in the perspective of a celestial agni called dhūmaketu being a comet, the above actions of maruts are more valid for a swarm of meteors rather than for a monsoon thunder storm.

Maruts are closely associated with Indra in many hymns and these read like recollection of past events for a ritual. There is palpable spontaneity in the hymns to maruts with the figures of speech and epithets picturesquely describing a rare spectacle. In all, thirty-three full hymns are devoted exclusively to maruts and these deities are mentioned more than five hundred times by name in RV. Hence it is not possible here to discuss all the occurrences and the differing nuances of this word, used always in the plural, spread over the ten books of RV. Interest here will be limited to descriptions of maruts that are graphic and hence appear like direct observations or recollections of some past episodes.

Maruts come (to earth) along with agni from above. They are brilliant with terrible forms and kill people. Maruts sit as deities in heaven, above the luminous vault. They move the mountains and disturb the oceans (I.19.6, 7). Here, following Sāyaṇa, MPRV argues that however strong a wind may be it cannot possibly shake hills, and hence the word parvatān should be taken as clouds and not as mountains. But if maruts are taken naturally for what they are, namely extra terrestrial objects, they could have shaken mountains with air blasts and impacts. In the next verse maruts are described as widening with their light (raśmibhiḥ tanvanti| I.19.8) and storming the oceans with their power. The earliest ańgiras was agni, to support whom maruts were born with their glittering spears (I.31.1). Here traditionalists take maruts to be winds with the assumption that the word raśmibhiḥ should mean sūryaraśmibhiḥ. That this is an uneasy explanation is clear when we note that MPRV says that vāyu and maruts are distinctly different deities not only in the text of RV but also in the practice of Vedic rituals.

Three hymns (I.37-39) dedicated to maruts highlight their meteoritic nature, as being self luminous and spotted. The poet says in first person that he can hear from where he is located, the roaring sound of maruts (I.37.1-5).
In the next verse the poet wonders, who could be the strongest among the maruts, since they shake heaven and earth like mere trees? The common man is said to be protecting his dwellings from the (impact of) maruts.

nivo yāmāya mānuṣo dadhra ugrāya manyave | jihīta parvato giriḥ || (I.37.7)

To withstand your ferocious journey man has strengthened his dwelling with columns. Even rugged hills get crushed (at your approach).


Maruts have mowed down men on earth and have made mountains fall. Wherever the group of maruts goes, everyone is sure to hear their roaring sound (I.37.12, 13). Maruts come from the sky to the earth, but not the other way round (I.38.2). That maruts could not go back from earth is ingeniously expressed as,

yadyūyam pṛśnimātaro martāsaḥ syātana | stotā vo amṛtaḥ syāt || (I.38.3)

Children of Pṛśni! You may become mortals, but let those who laud you remain not dead.


Maruts are sure to bring airless showers to deserts (I.38.7). MPRV wonders why the word airless (avātām) has been used to describe showers (miham). This doubt arises if miham is taken as ordinary rain. An intense meteoritic shower can make the target region airless for some time, which fact was known to Vṛddha Garga a later astronomer8. It is repeatedly said that people were afraid of maruts. If these deities were really harbingers of monsoon rainfall, the following descriptions read out of place.

adha svanāt marutām viśvam ā sadma pārthivam | arejanta pra mānuṣāḥ || (I.38.10)

At the roar of the maruts, every house on the earth shook. The people also trembled.

parāha yatsthiram hatha naro vartayathā guru| vi yātana vaninaḥ pṛthivyā vyāśāḥ parvatānām|| (I.39.3)

When you overthrow what is stable and whirl away what is heavy, your course is through the forests and the mountains.

ā vo makṣū tanāya kam rudrā avo vṛṇīvahe |gantā nūnam no’vasā yathā puretthā kaṇvāya bibhyuṣe || (I.39.7)

Sons of Rudra! We pray to you for the quick protection of our progeny. Like you came once previously, come for the sake of frightened Kaṇva.


The April 2015 Nepal earthquake (also known as the Gorkha earthquake) killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000. It occurred at 11:56 Nepal Standard Time on 25 April 2015, with a magnitude of 7.8Mw or 8.1Ms and a maximum Mercalli Intensity of VIII (Severe). Its epicenter was east of Gorkha District at Barpak, Gorkha, and its hypocenter was at a depth of approximately 8.2 km (5.1 mi). It was the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake. The ground motion recorded in the capital of Nepal was of low frequency, which, along with its occurrence at an hour where many people in rural areas were working outdoors, decreased the loss of property and human lives.

The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing 22, making 25 April 2015 the deadliest day on the mountain in history. The earthquake triggered another huge avalanche in the Langtang valley, where 250 people were reported missing.

Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese were made homeless with entire villages flattened, across many districts of the country. Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Patan Durbar Square, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the Changu Narayan Temple, the Boudhanath stupa and the Swayambhunath stupa.
Geophysicists and other experts had warned for decades that Nepal was vulnerable to a deadly earthquake, particularly because of its geology, urbanization, and architecture. Dharahara, also called Bhimsen Tower, a nine-storey 61.88-metre (203.0 ft) tall tower, was destroyed. It was a part of the architecture of Kathmandu recognized by UNESCO.

Continued aftershocks occurred throughout Nepal at the intervals of 15–20 minutes, with one shock reaching a magnitude of 6.7 on 26 April at 12:54:08 NST. The country also had a continued risk of landslides.

A major aftershock occurred on 12 May 2015 at 12:50 NST with a moment magnitude (Mw) of 7.3. The epicenter was near the Chinese border between the capital of Kathmandu and Mount Everest. More than 200 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured by this aftershock, and many were left homeless.

-- April 2015 Nepal earthquake, by Wikipedia


Nodhā Gautama in hymn (I.64) describes maruts as having fearful forms. They are drop-like (falling objects) and shining like suns (asurāḥ ghoravarpasaḥ drapsiṇaḥ sūryā iva śucayaḥ | I.64.2). It is indicated that maruts induced winds and rains before their arrival. This seems to have been the reason for the traditional interpretation of maruts as storm deities before rainfall. In the hymns (I.86, 87 & 88) Gotama Rāhugaṇa mentions that maruts were worshipped by people since many years seeking protection. Maruts are described as having wheels of gold and rushing like boars with tusks of iron (ayodamṣṭrān vidhāvato varāhūn). The epithet asurāḥ above does not indicate any ethnic group but just that maruts as deities in the sky threw stones and other objects towards earth. The word asura is derived traditionally, as explained by Sāyaṇa, from the root asu kṣepaṇe (to throw).

Hymns (I.166) onwards by Agastya further reveal the physical side of maruts. All creatures on earth along with their dwellings shake in fear that they might get hit by the weapons of maruts. The tearing weapons of maruts hit animals like well aimed darts. Maruts are visible at a distance shining like stars (dūre dṛśo ye divyā iva stṛbhiḥ| I.166.11). Their visible hairlike extension is figuratively described as Rodasī, their companion with disheveled hairs (viṣita stukā I.167.5). Maruts, although formless, seemingly have a form. They are self born and always tremble in their path. They come in thousands like waves on water (I.168.4). They came down to earth together effortless, with burning looks and shook the mountains (svayuktaḥ divaḥ vṛthā ava āyayuḥ…bhrājadṛṣṭayaḥ dṛḷhāni cit acucyuvuḥ || v.5). The next verse, indirectly mentions that they enter the sea. Maruts on their approach gleam like serpents (ahi bhānavaḥ). The material of the weapons of maruts is made clear by Agastya as,

Far be from us, your impetuous shaft. Far from us be the stone you hurl (1.172.2)


In the second book, sage Gṛtsamada prays to Rudra

…….mā naḥ sūryasya sandṛśo yuyothāḥ…….||
pariṇo heti rudrasya vṛjyāḥ paritveṣasya durmatirmahī gāt|| (II.33.1 & 14).

….O, father of maruts, do not exclude us from seeing the sunlight…. Let not Rudra’s quoits have us as targets. Let his frightening anger avoid us.


Even though maruts poured in, the material they rained is not said to be ordinary water. It is described as Soma, ghee, milk, honey or a liquid coloured like honey. Maruts showered medicines which were accepted by Manu the ancestor of the poet (II.33.13).

If one agrees to the principle of internal consistency as an approach to understand RV, one can not assign different meanings to the same word used in very similar contexts. Doubts arise about the words parvata and giri occurring in connection with maruts. Traditionalists take this to be mountains in some verses but as clouds in other places. A typical example of this ambiguous interpretation is in hymn (III.26) attributed to Viśvāmitra. Sāyaṇa assumes maruts produce a rain of water and hence takes the word parvatān to mean clouds, where as there is nothing in the three verses (III.26.4-6) to indicate ordinary rainfall. The statement marutaḥ pravepayanti parvatān should normally mean maruts shake the mountains. This remains consistent in all places if maruts are understood to be representing meteorites or fragments of extra terrestrial objects falling on earth.

Ten of the thirty-three hymns devoted to maruts are found in the 5th book. These are important since tradition holds hymns (V.52-61) to be the inspired composition of seer Śyāvāśva. Hymn (V.52) is a laudation in which maruts are said to be capable of exceeding the nights in their travel, which means they were visible in day light also. In (V.52.7) they are praised as seen in the sky, on earth and in the rivers. Specifically they are found in River Paruṣṇī (v.9). Maruts dug a well for Gotama (v.12), as in RV (1.85.10-11) which in physical terms would mean creation of an impact crater. This hymn ends in (52.17) referring to River Yamunā. The next hymn (V.53) starts wondering who knows the origin of maruts? They release their treasury for their devotee (v.6) and help release parjanya (rain water?). Further, in (v.9) six more rivers Rasā, Anitabhā, Kubhā, Krumu, Sindhu and Sarayū are linked with maruts. The prayer in (v.13, 14) is for the material showered by maruts namely, seeds (bījam) and water (āpaḥ). Hymn (V.54) is a laudation to the force or power behind the group of maruts, who with stony weapons (aśma didyavaḥ) disturb mountains. They, children of Rudra, shake everything like a boat on water, day and night, and disturb forts difficult to enter (durgāṇi). Hymn (V.55) is a prayer in which maruts are described to make a shower out of the sea (samudrataḥ). The material carried by them is called purīṣa, which is not rain water, but assumed to be so by Sāyaṇa. Hymn (V.56) is an invocation to maruts to come down to earth from above. Effortlessly, maruts bring down the rocks of the mountains. In (V.57) they are called vāśimantah, as in (I.87.6). As per Yāska this refers to weapons made of stones or to voice. Clearly, this epithet refers to stony meteorites making rumbling sound as they approached earth at high speed. Maruts are in the form of large drops (purudrapsāḥ) and carry the name amṛtam. Hymn (V.58) contains verses in which maruts are associated with water. But in (v.5) maruts are described to be of equal measure like spokes (in wheels) and (length of) days. Traditionalists take the first verse of hymn (V.59) to describe rainfall, by stretching the word arṇava to mean clouds. However, direct reading of the verse only indicates a shower of bright materials getting into the seas. The next verse (V.59.2) does not refer to rainfall, but to the trembling earth compared to a shaking boat. Hymn (V.60) is similar to others in highlighting the power of maruts to disturb the mountains.

parvatścinmahi vṛddho bibhāya divaścitsānu rejate svane vaḥ | yatkrīḷatha maruta ṛṣṭimanta āpa iva sadhryañco dhavadhve || (V.60.3)

Hey maruts! When you start playing, even the ancient big mountain fears your sound. The lofty regions of the sky tremble. Carrying spears you rush together like a stream of water.


The comparison āpa iva in the above verse, should put to rest doubts about maruts being agents of rainfall. Their stormy shower was only like a water stream.

In the sixth book of RV, hymn (VI.66) describes maruts as samānam in the first verse. Sāyaṇa explains, maruts are always of the same form (marutaḥ sadā samānarūpāḥ) and quotes RV (V.60.5) to emphasize that there are no elders and youngsters among them (ajyeṣṭhāso akaniṣṭhāsa ete). The next verse (VI.66.2) mentions that maruts shine like fires and increase by two and three. They are dustless and created with gold, wealth and power. The MPRV meaning for the word girayaḥ in (VI.66.11) as clouds unnecessarily negates the above realistic description of maruts as visible transient objects.

The lauds to maruts in the seventh book by Vasiṣṭha are similar to the hymns by other seers. May your weapons be far from us, is the constant prayer (VII.57.4). The birth of maruts was with great commotion. They were fast, fierce and wrathful. The whole world was afraid to look at them during their brightened travel (VII.58.2).

In the eighth book there is some further interesting information about maruts. The seventh hymn describes maruts in the same way as in other books, but is emphatic on the hills and peaks getting physically affected. Like hills control themselves (bend) at the arrival of maruts, even rivers control their flows (VIII.7.5). This meaning is acceptable to Sāyaṇa also. The last three verses of this hymn show that maruts should have been extra terrestrial objects hitting hill peaks. These were thought to be connected with a celestial object, referred by the generic name agni.

girayścinni jihate parśānāso manyamānā | parvatāścinni yemire ||
ākṣṇayāvāno vahantyantarikṣeṇa patataḥ | dhātāraḥ stuvate vayaḥ ||
agnirhi jāni pūrvyaścchando na sūro arciṣā | te bhānubhirvitasthire || (VIII.7.34-36)

(As the maruts arrive) hills get hit and disturbed from their position. Even mountains are controlled. Speedy carriers bear the flying maruts through space. They are givers of riches to the worshipper. Agni was born previously (among gods) bright like the sun. Then the maruts stood surrounding him with their lights.


The above rendering closely follows Sāyaṇa, with the word girayaḥ here being taken as hills by him also. The word ākṣṇayāvāno is explained by Sāyaṇa as traveling faster than the eyes. There is one more hymn lauding maruts in the eighth book by Sobhari Kāṇva. In this we find a reference to maruts disturbing islands and deserts (VIII.20.4). In this hymn the 13th verse informs that even though maruts are many and extend widely like a sea, they are known by only one name as per ancestral tradition. In (VIII.20.17), maruts are qualified as sons of Rudra (rudrasya sūnavaḥ) and as asurasya vedhasaḥ. The word asuraḥ is explained by Sāyaṇa at many places as one who throws, derived from the root asu kṣepaṇe (to throw). However in the present verse he interprets asuraḥ as creator of clouds, which hardly fits the context. The direct meaning of one who throws (stones/missiles) is appropriate here also, since the falling objects would have been like stones.

In the tenth book hymns (X.77 & 78) are devoted to maruts. These appear to have been composed after the status and position of maruts in the sacrifices had been finalized. Oblation to maruts is mentioned in (X.77.7), which is not so conspicuous in the other books of RV. An interesting highly technical simile describes the motion of maruts as, like the nave of a wheel with spokes (rathānām na ye arāḥ sanābhayaḥ | X.78.4). Sāyaṇa explains this in detail as; even though maruts are several, they move equally spaced like spokes connected at the center of a wheel9. The descriptions of maruts in the various hymns are broadly similar, with minor differences which indicate repetition of the same natural event with variation in the details. Inducing rain was not the main function of RV maruts, as assumed by the tradition and later classical Sanskrit literature. Relation with water is a minor detail mentioned in the 5th book, but otherwise the majority of the hymns uniformly describe maruts as a collection of bright objects that moved in swarms, appearing even in day times. They made a characteristic sound inducing fear in men. They were known to bring stones hitting the hills and the ground. At least once they created a crater with water for Gotama. This poetic but nevertheless realistic description cannot possibly be valid for any event other than a cluster of meteorites or fragments of an asteroid hitting the earth.

Then the Guru marched onward, and readied U-yug-bre- mo-snar, where the twelve bstan-ma furies hurled thunderbolts at him, and tried to crush him between mountains; but the Guru evaded them by flying into the sky, and with his "pointing-finger" charmed their thunderbolts into cinders. And by his pointing-finger he cast the hills and mountains upon their snowy dwellings. Thereupon the twelve bstan-ma, with all their retinue thwarted and subdued, offered him their life-essence, and so were brought under his control...

Then the Guru, proceeding onwards, arrived at the northern Phan- yul-thang, where the three Injurers — sTing-lo-sman of the north, sTing-sman-zor gdon-ma, and sTing-sman-ston— sent hurricanes to bar the Guru's progress. On which the Guru circled "the wheel of fire" with his pointing-finger, and thus arrested the wind, and melted the snowy mountains like butter before a red hot iron. Then the three gNod-sbyin, being discomfited, offered up their life-essence and so were subjected.


-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism With Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in its Relation to Indian Buddhism, by Laurence Austine Waddell, M.B., F.L.S., F.R.G.S., Member of the Royal Asiatic Society, Anthropological Institute, etc., Surgeon-Major H.M. Bengal Army


Vibhāvasu

Our study of the word dhūmaketu shows that this fire in the sky was related with maruts and also with vibhāvasu. From a detailed study of RV text it is seen that maruts, beyond reasonable doubt, must have been showers of meteors and/or meteorites. Since comets and meteor showers can have causal connections, it appears that vibhāvasu in some places of RV refers to a comet. This word is interpreted in the tradition of Sāyaṇa as fire qualified as wealth of the night, which is the literal meaning obtained by breaking the word into its two components vibhā and vasu. Even in this sense it retains in its name a significant comet image. The word vibhāvasu occurs in the first (I.44.10), third (III.2.2) and the fifth (V.25.2, 7) books. Next it is used five times in the eighth book, twice in the 9th book and thrice in the 10th book.

In the second verse of the agni-vaiśvānara nivid (III.2) by Viśvāmitra, the birth of agni is described. As per the Bṛhaddevatā, nivids indicate the qualities of the deities addressed in such hymns. Agni is here described as brightening heaven and earth at his birth. He is qualified also as viśām atithiḥ vibhāvasuḥ. This is taken as guest of men, affluent in radiance.

Since the word viś means maruts in several other places, here also the agni referred must be related with maruts. As per the Bṛhaddevatā vaiśvānara is fire in the sky, jātavedas fire in the mid-space and agni the fire on earth. In the 14th verse of (III.2) the prayer is to the fire seen at daybreak, emblem of the sky, a big horse (uṣarbudham divaḥ ketum mūrdhānam vājinam brhat|). The implied meaning of the hymn is that, vibhāvasu was a horse-like fire seen in the eastern sky early in the morning (rochanasthām). This leads to the inference that the word here stands for a comet.

In RV (V.25.2) the reference is to the fire praised as vibhāvasu who was kindled in the past by gods and seers. Further in (v.7), this agni is addressed as vibhāvaso, because from him riches come out. Quite interestingly in the 8th verse this fire is lauded as self effulgent in the sky, making thundering sound and is said to be like a huge rock (bṛhat grāveva ucyate). It is generally observed that the word Vibhāvasu is used in RV with differing meanings, but it refers to a celestial figure, identifiable as a comet in a few places.

Many More Comet Images

The reference to dhūmaketu identifiable as Comet appears in the relatively late books of RV namely, the first, eighth and the tenth maṇḍalas. However, there are distinct references in the earlier books of RV to an ancient fire in the sky correlated with agni, vaiśvānara, mātariśvan, arvan, ajaikapāt, ahirbudhnya, pūṣan and other deities. Hence, in the earlier layers of RV transient celestial objects might have been described using nomenclature the original physical meanings of which might have been forgotten. The only way to address this issue is to see how likely such celestial fires match with known modern comet and/or meteor images. To keep the discussion brief, only three such instances are considered here.

The famous hymns (I.162 & I.163) on Aśva by Aucathya are traditionally taken to refer to the Horse-sacrifice (Aśvamedha). But these hymns primarily describe a bright horse-like moving object in the sky. This event in a slightly different form appears also in the Mahābhārata10. In hymn (I.162), the celestial horse, a replica of which is sacrificed in the Aśvamedha is described. This is the medhyāśva (sacrificial horse) born out of tvaṣṭā (I.162.19). This particular verse has two meanings referring to both the divine horse which was killed by gods and the terrestrial animal which is to be similarly sacrificed by men. MPRV quotes the Taittiriya Samhitā to clarify the close relationship between tvaṣṭā and arvan11. The deity called arvan was the first born in the sky, making sound, with wings of falcon and ankles of deer (I.163.1). This horse given by Yama was harnessed by Trita for Indra to ride. Here the word Yama is interpreted in the Nirukta as agni, which as per Sāyaṇa would indicate the simultaneous birth of agni and Indra. In (v.3) this arvan is said to be threefold with three bonds in the sky (trīṇi divi bandhanāni). Sāyaṇa interprets these three bonds to be similar to the three ropes with which an earthly horse is held12. Further, the seer describes the sequence in which he saw the horse. In (v.5) he says; I saw your reins (te bhadrā raśanā apaśyam). Next the poet saw the head of this horse. MPRV reports two types of arranging the words of (v.6), to yield meanings applicable to the earthly horse and the heavenly horse respectively. In the derived meaning, the horse is said to be going from the earth by way of heavens to the sun. The primary meaning is; the poet in first person says that he saw the head of the horse in the sky flying down towards the earth (divā avaḥ patayantam patatri….. śiraḥ apaśyam || I.163.6). This is continued in the next verse to inform: I beheld your best form at the cow’s foot (te rūpam uttamam apaśyam……ā pade goḥ|). Sayaṇa takes the word goḥ pade to mean the sacrificial place on earth, which is the secondary meaning of the hymn suited to the sacrificial tradition. However, primarily for an object seen in the sky it should have been natural to mention its location with respect to the stars and hence one should take cow’s-foot as the nakṣatra with that meaning which is proṣṭhapada (Pegasi). Reference to this location appears again in RV (III.39.5 & IX.71.5). The hymn which so far described a single object, refers in the next verse (v.10) to multiple celestial horses comparing their flight to that of a line of swans (hamsā iva śreṇiśo yatante|). This picture is a plain indication of transient celestial objects flying like birds in a line. This simile is again used in (III.8.9) to describe the arrival of yūpāḥ, the sacrificial columns of gods in the sky, which has an inbuilt comet image.

The 48th hymn in the 6th book is about agni and maruts. The sixth verse in this hymn describes the sight of agni moving in the night sky along with smoke. He with attractive colours becomes visible pushing aside the darkness and stays through the night (dhūmena divi dhāvate…śyāvāsu ūrmyāsu tamaḥ tiraḥ ā dadṛśe|). From (v.11) onwards maruts are praised to bring riches from above. In (v.21) the poet mentions that maruts cover the sky with their brightness like the sun and are the cause of killing vṛtra. The last verse mentions that the earth and the sky got created only once. Similarly the milk of pṛśni, namely maruts, showered only once. Pṛśni is the night sky dotted with stars, compared to a spotted cow. This hymn is inspired by a special sky event to sing a prayer to agni and maruts.

The hymn to keśins (X.136) has definite comet imagery. This hymn is about bright, long hairy objects in the sky. However, the hymn also reflects deeper mystical and philosophical thoughts. This hymn has the earliest reference to the concept of vātaraśanāḥ, which in later Indian astronomy became the invisible air-strings of force holding the planets in their position. This hymn perhaps indicates a cosmic view emerging out of traditional knowledge and new observations.
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