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Why Is The Year Of Alexander’s Death Important To Indian History?

The major problem with the events in ancient Indian History is not so much as their historicity but as their chronology. That is the reason that the dates of the Mahabharata war, the date of Nirvana of the Buddha or of Mahavira or even of Sankara are still matters of debate, study and research.

Although the ancient Indians were great calculators of time, they, somehow, did not standardize the dates of important events in a uniform manner. That might have been because  the ancient India, except for the two relatively brief imperial periods of the Mauryas and the Guptas, 321 BCE  to 185 BCE  and 320 AD to 467 AD , for  rest of the period  was largely politically and culturally fragmented into regional segments. There were  also numerous ancient Indian calendars, each with its own commencement year, which were used by different dynasties or religious communities or regions.

The chronology, which we now refer to, was put in place during the later years of the 18th century (around the year 1793) largely due to the efforts of Sir William Jones. It was built around two factors: One, the date of the death of the Alexander the Great; and two, the identification of Sandrocottus mentioned in the Greek accounts with Chandragupta Maurya.

Of the two, the former, that is, the date of the death of Alexander the Great is verifiable from other sources. However, it is the identity of Sandrocottus with Chandragupta Maurya that is still a matter of debate.

Thus the chronology of Indian History, as we now follow, is supported on one leg by a fact and on the other by an assumption.

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This was, broadly, how the chronology was worked out.

The first fixed point in this chronology was the year 326 BCE, when according to the Greek writers Plutarch and Justin a young Indian prince Sandrocottus met Alexander then camping at Taxila. After the death of Alexander in 323 BCE, his empire broke up and Sandrocottus of Palibothra established himself and ruled over a large region.

Now, the Indian scholars of 18th century identified Sandrocottus with Chandragupta Maurya and Palibothra with Pataliputra (in the region of present day Patna), because of the phonetic similarities.

That was how the death of Alexander and equating Sandrocottus with Chandragupta Maurya became the sheet anchor of the ancient Indian chronology.

The working of the dates of the Buddha, Asoka and others was attempted along the following lines.

1. Alexander the Great died in the year 323 BCE (taken as an undisputed date).

2. Sandrocottus equated with Chandra Gupta Maurya began his reign in the year of Alexander’s death (323 BC).

3. According to the list of Kings given in the Puranas, Chandragupta Maurya ruled for 24 years, so did his successor Bindusara (323 -24-24 =275 BCE)

4. Asoka came to the throne some years after the death of his father Bindusara because of the succession wars (275 -6 = 269 BCE), Asoka ruled for 36 years (269-36 = 233 BCE).

5. According to the Sinhalese chronicles, Asoka’s coronation took place 218 years after the death of the Buddha. Therefore, the Buddha’s Nirvana might have taken place in the year 487 BCE (269 + 218).

6. The Buddha lived for about 80 years. He therefore might have been born around 567 BCE. His date might therefore be between 487 BCE and 567 BCE.

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Another method was also employed. The king Bimbisara (Vidhisara) was a contemporary of the Buddha. Bimbisara sent his personal physician Jivaka to attend on the Buddha. His son Ajathashatru of the Sisunaga dynasty of Magadha succeeded Bimbisara. When Ajathashatru came to the throne, the Buddha was 72 years of age. The Buddha died 8 years later. All generally accept these events.

According to these events and with reference to the Puranic records the time of Bimbisara is reckoned as 580 – 552 BCE and that of Ajathashatru as 552 – 527 BCE.

Since the Buddha died 8 years after Ajathashatru came to throne, the year of the Buddha’s death is taken as 544 BCE. And, the life of the Buddha is therefore taken as between 644 and 544 BCE.

***

The dates of the Buddha’s birth and death are still uncertain .The most commonly used dates are between 644 BCE to 544 BCE. Yet, all dates within 20 years of either side are also acceptable.

In any case, the Buddha’s period is in the sixth century BCE.

***

Identifying Sandrocottus with Chandragupta Maurya, though looks rather convenient, has given rise to a number of unanswered questions. It sometimes looks as though Sandracottus might not have been Chandragupta Maurya afterall.

1. According to the Greek accounts, Sandrokottus deposed Xandrammes and Sandrocyptus was the son of Sandrokottus. In the case of Chandragupta Maurya, he had opposed Dhanananda of the Nanda dynasty and the name of his son was Bindusara. Both these names, Dhanananda and Bindusara, have no phonetic similarity with the names Xandrammes and Sandrocyptus of the Greek accounts.

1. a. Some scholars surmise that Sandracuttos mentioned by the Greek writers might actually refer to Chandragupta of the Gupta dynasty. The kings before and after Chandragupta Gupta were Chandramas and Samudragupta. The phonetic similarity is quite apparent for Chandragupta Gupta and not Maurya.

Chandragupta of Guptas is now placed in fourth century AD. In case he is indentified with Sandracottos, then the entire chronology will shift back by about eight hundred years .Then the Buddha might as well have been in the 14th century BCE.

2. The Greek accounts cover the period from 4th century BC to 2nd century AD. None of them has mentioned the names of Kautilya or Asoka. It was with Kautilya’s assistance that Chandragupta had come to the throne. Asoka’s empire was bigger than that of Chandragupta and he had sent missionaries to the Yavana countries. However, both of them are not mentioned. The Greek writers did not say anything about the Buddhist Bhikkus though that was the flourishing religion of that time with the royal patronage of Asoka. The Indian scholars wonder why the Greek accounts are silent on Asoka and Buddhism.

The ancestry of Chandragupta is still shrouded in mystery and not known for certain. There are divergent views regarding the origin, and each view has its own set of adherents. Please check the following site for further discussions on the issue. Please also visit Talk: Ancestry of Chandragupta Maurya

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancestry_of_Chandragupta_Maurya

Please check the following for the other side of the issue:

http://www.salagram.net/aryaninvasion-page#12. Chandragupta, the Sandrocottus

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The another reference point that is often relied upon is the work of the famous astronomer Aryabhatta who wrote his definitive mathematical work in 499 AD. Aryabhatta through his astronomical calculations,  claimed that the year of completion of his work (499 AD) also marked 3,600 years of the Kali Yuga. It , indirectly,  meant, that Kali Yuga commenced in or around 3101 BC.

The other method was calculating the dates from the start-year of the Islamic lunar calendar (622 AD). According to that reckoning, Mahmud of Ghazni attacked India in 1000 AD.

But again, the modern European system of dating is not entirely accurate either.  That is because,   Christ was born at least four years before what we consider to be its start-year of 1 AD , supposedly the year of his birth. Apart from that ,  there have also been both slippages of days and days added artificially by the Church  at different times in European history.

Nevertheless, the present dating system is commonly accepted; and, is compared with many Indian calendars.  Of course, one needs to be constantly reminded that all dates of ancient Indian history are somewhat fluid; and,  in the dating of some events one has to accommodate  a certain ‘give and take’ of a few decades or even a couple of centuries , at times .

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Talking of chronology in Indian History, Shri Niraj Mohanka (not a professional historian) has produced a remarkable set of spreadsheets – 23 columns wide, 350 rows deep and over 8,000 cells in MS Excel – basically on the chronology of Indian history. The like of which I had not come across. As the chronology in Indian History is always a matter of debate, one may quarrel a bit with the dates indicated by Shri Mohanka, this way or that. But that does not, in any manner, take away the sheen from the dedication and the amount of scholarship and work that has gone into producing the document.

Please check : http://www.newdharma.org/royal_chron.htm

In the webpage, the following link opens up a Microsoft Excel file that contains four spreadsheets (see the four lower Tabs when you open up the Excel file):

1) Royal Chronology of India (Columns K through P on the right-hand side describe other civilizations – Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Iran and China).  On Page 21 of this file is a Population Chart of India from 8000 B.C.E. to 2200 C.E.  On Page 42 is a list of assumptions and sources used to build the timeline.

2) The History of World Religion- major religions [Eastern AND Western] have roots in the Vedas

3) Comparison of All Religions

4) Festivals of India

In the webpage please click on the above picture

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in General Interest, History

 

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Indian History by a Schoolboy !!!

You have read many scholarly, educative and enlightening articles on HISTORY on this site. You have grown wiser reading the articles posted by Subash Kak, Rajeev Malhotra, azygos and Riverine and of the ilk.

None of that holds a candle to the one you are about to read. It is educative and entertaining. It takes the cake. It is written by a schoolboy! It is not surprising; the Indian kids are the brightest in the world. (What they turnout to be when they grow up is a different matter.)

This is a delight.

Indian History by a Schoolboy !!!

The original inhabitants of ancient India were called Adidases, who lived in two cities called Hariappa and Mujhe-na-Daro. These cities had the best drain system in the world and so there was no brain drain from them.

Ancient India was full of myths which have been handed down from son to father. A myth is a female moth. A collection of myths is called mythology, which means stories with female caricatures. One myth says that people in olden times worshipped monkeys because they were our incestors.

In olden times, there were two big families in India . One was called the Pandava and the other was called the Karova. They fought amongst themselves in a battle called Mahabharat, after which India came to be known as Mera Bharat Mahan.

In midevil times, India was ruled by the Slave Dienasty. So named because they all died a nasty death. Then came the Tughlaqs who shifted their capital from Delhi because of its pollution.

They were followed by the Mowglis. The greatest Mowgli was Akbar because he extinguished himself on the battlefield of Panipat which is in Hurryana. But his son Jehangir was peace loving; he married one Hindu wife and kept 300 porcupines. Then came Shahajahan who had 14 sons. Family planning had not been invented at that time. He also built the Taj Mahal hotel for his wife who now sleeps there.

The king sent all his sons away to distant parts of India because they started quarrelling. Dara Seiko was sent to UP, Shaikh Bhakhtiyar was sent to J & K, while Orangezip came to Bombay to fight Shivaji. However, after that they changed its name to Mumbai because Shivaji’s sena did not like it. They also do not like New Delhi , so they are calling it Door Darshan.

After the Mowglis came Vasco the Gama. He was an exploder who was circumcising India with a 100 foot clipper. Then came the British. They brought with them many inventions such as cricket, tramtarts and steamed railways. They were followed by the French who brought in French fries, pizzazz and laundry. But Robert Clive drove them out when he deafened Duplex who was out-membered since the British had the queen on their side.

Eventually, the British came to overrule India because there was too much diversity in our unity. The British overruled India for a long period. They were great expotents and impotents. They started expoting salt from India and impoting cloth. This was not liked by Mahatma Gandhi who wanted to produce his own salt. This was called the Swedish moment. During this moment, many people burnt their lion cloths in the street and refused to wear anything else. The British became very angry at this and stopped the production of Indian testiles.

In 1920, Mahatma Gandhi was married to one wife. Soon after he became the father of the nation. In 1942, he started the Quiet India moment, so named because the British were quietly lootoing our country. In 1947, India became free and its people became freely loving. This increased our population. Its government became a limited mockery, which means people are allowed to take the law in their own hands with the help of the police.

Our constipation is the best in the world because it says that no man can be hanged twice for the same crime. It also says you cannot be put in prison if you have not paid your taxis. Another important thing about our constipation is that it can be changed. This is not possible with the British constipation because it is not written on paper.

The Indian parlemint consists of two houses which are called lower and higher. This is because one Mr. Honest Abe said that two houses divided against itself cannot withstand. So Pandit Nehru asked the British for freedom at midnight since the British were afraid of the dark. At midnight , on August 15, there was a tryst in parlemint in which many participated by wearing khaki and hosting the flag.

Recently in India , there have been a large number of scams and a plaque, it can be dangerous because many people died of this plaque in Surat . Scams are all over India . One of these was in Bihar where holy cows were not given anything to eat by their elected leader. The other scam was in Bofor which is a small town in Switzerland . In this, a lot of Indian money was given to buy a gun which can shoot a coot.

Presently, India has a coalishun government made up of many parties, left, right and centre. It has started to library the economy. This means that there is now no need for a licence as the economy will be driven by itself.

India is also trying to become an Asian tiger because its own tigers are being poached. Another important event this year was the Shark Meeting at Malas Dive. At this place, shark leaders agreed to share their poverty, pollution and population.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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THE MIRACLE THAT IS INDIA

The cultural diversity of the Indian subcontinent

The diversity in the Indian cultural scene is not merely in its ethnic or racial composition. It is spread to every walk of life. Starting with geographical features and climatic conditions there are vast regional and intra regional differences. It is often said our strength lies in harnessing these diversities. Let us dwell on that.

1. Prof. Arnold Toynbee defines civilization as a pattern of interactions between challenges and responses. The challenges may come from different directions; say from environment or from social and cultural stresses. To these, the people living in a land mass over a great period of time develop their responses to ensure individual and collective survival. What is important in such situations is, the responses should always be individually satisfying and socially relevant. The web and warp of these responses and corrections, over a period, weave the cultural pattern of a society. The story of the Indian subcontinent is no different.

2. Bharatha Varsha

2.1. Indians in their daily prayers still refer to themselves as those belonging to the land -mass of Jambu-Dwipa (Sanskrit) a geographical area comprising the present day India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria and Corinth. Within this vast stretch of land, Indians identify themselves as those residing in Bharatha Varsha. They call it a country situated to the north of the ocean and to the south of the Himadri, the snowy mountains, and where the descendants of Bharata (a distant ancestor of Rama) dwell.

2.2..Rig Veda mentions Bharathas ruled the land that spread over the banks of the rivers Parushni (Ravi) and Vipasa (Beas) .Kautilya (c. 350-283 BC), the renowned author of the Artha shastra, names Bharatha Varsha as the land that stretched from Himalaya to Kanyakumari ; he also called it Chakravarthi –Kshetra ( the land of the Emperor). An epigraph of Kharavela (209 – 179 B. C?) who ruled over the region of the present day Orissa, found in Hathigumpha (near Bhubaneshwar in Orissa) uses the nomenclature of Bharatha Varsha. There are, of course, innumerablereferences to Bharatha Varsha in various Puranas.

3. Composite Culture

3.1. Rig Veda often regarded as the source, if not the beginning, of Indian culture repeatedly refers to the composite character of its society and to its pluralistic population. The other ancient records also state that even from the early years of its history Bharatha Varsha, the Indian land mass, has been multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-lingual. For instance , its society included , among others , Bhalikas ( the Balks) ,Kiratas( hill tribes), Bhotas ( Tibetans), Hunas (from Jungara),Sakas(Scythians),Parasikas ( from Persia), Airakas( from Iraq),Yavanas (from Iona), Maidas ( from Media) and Kambhojas ( from North western region ).

This composite culture was the result of continuous influx of people from other regions and a dynamic interaction with them.

4. The influx

4.1. The influx of foreigners continued down the ages. About 500 years B.C.E the Greeks, the Sakas (Scythians) came to India. The Persians have of course been a part of the Indo-Aryan heritage even from the times of the Rig Veda. In the early centuries before the present era, the Kushans from Central Asia entered through the North-West. In the first Century A.D., the Spanish Jews as also St.Thomas, the Apostle, reached the Malabar Coast in South of India. This process continued with the arrival of Huns in the fifth century, Arabs in the eighth century, and with the Mughals who invaded and settled in 15th century. Around the same period, Portuguese landed on the coast of their home. On the other side of the sub continent, the Mongoloid Shans entered Assam while Mongolians inhabited the upper tracts of the North. Thereafter the western traders such as the Dutch, the French and the British vied with each other to get a foothold in India. Eventually the British prevailed not only over its rivals but also over the native Indian rulers. The British Empire lasted in India for nearly a century thereafter. The continuous influx of foreigners over a long period rendered Indian scene complex and colorful.

5. Assimilation and Amalgamation

5.1. The much-hailed composite culture did not come easily. It demanded its price. The several foreign invasions and aggressions caused large-scale cultural stress. Indigenous populations were exposed to cultural and social influences that were altogether alien to them. They had to under go untold hardship and misery. There were long periods of political subjugation, economic exploitation and religious suppression and there was general degeneration in the quality of man and his life. The ordinary man in India was no longer at peace with himself, his age-old style of life was shaken rudely and his view of his fellow beings and life was confused .The process of assimilation and amalgamation spread over a long period is still going on. It is an on –going dynamic process.

5.2. A number of Scholars and various Commissions have studied the racial and social amalgamation in India.

Meghasthenes (350 B.C.E to 290 B.C.E) a Greek traveler and Geographer, in his book Indika wrote “It is said that ,India being of enormous size when taken as a whole, is peopled by races both numerous and diverse, of which not even one was originally of foreign descent, but all were evidently indigenous”. He gives a detailed classification of the ethnic groups in of his time. The racial groups described are too numerous to be mentioned here. Please check the following link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_groups_in_India_(historical_definitions)#Risley.27s_Racial_Classification_of_India

5.3. Among the other studies on the subject, in the recent past, the report of the British anthropologist Sir Herbert Hope Risley, the Census Commissioner for India in 1901, is fairly well known. Let me add a word of caution here; Risley’s theories and classifications are now only of historical interest. The Government of India and the National Census of independent India do not recognize any racial groups in India. The erstwhile group names are generally considered as linguistic terms, rather than ethnic terms.

Risley’s account of racial characteristics of Indian population provides an interesting aspect of the composite nature of the Indian populace.

Turko-Iranian (the frontier provinces)

Indo-Aryan (punjab, Kashmir, Rajasthan)

Scytho-Dravidian (Madhya Pradesh, Saurastra)

Aryo-Dravidian (U.P, Rajasthan,Bihar)

Mangolo_Dravidian (Bengal,Orissa)

Mongoloid (Nepal,Assam,Himachal Region)

Dravidian (South India, M.P, Chota Nagpur)

Negrita (Kadars and Mala-pantarans of Kerala)
Proto-Austalaid (tribes)

6. Cultural Diversity

6.1. The reasons for cultural diversity may lie in the combination and interdependence of geographical, economic and ethnic factors. Toynbee’s thesis of the “challenge of environment” mentioned earlier, might explain to some extent why and how unique cultures developed in certain regions. This may even pertain to a region such as the Indian subcontinent.

6.2. The diversity in the Indian cultural is not merely in its ethnic or racial composition. It is in every walk of its life. Starting with the geographical features, climatic conditions, and the vast regional and intra regional differences one can go on to religion , customs ,attitudes, practices, language , food habits, dress , art , music , theatre and notice that no two regions are alike in these matters. Each group, each sub group has its own set of identities. Then, what is it that holds India together ?.

When the Indian nation was formed not many Western observers and academicians thought it would survive long because the land mass encompassed too many variables. The newborn nation tried to rope in a variety of people who spoke different languages, .who followed many faiths, who were culturally and racially divergent; and to bind them into a nation looked unnatural.

For instance Aldous Huxley, the famous thinker, wrote in 1961, “When Nehru goes, the government will become a military dictatorship—as in so many of the newly independent states, for the army seems to be the only highly organized centre of power”.

In the year 1967, The London Times wrote, “The great experiment of developing within a democratic framework has failed. (Indians will soon vote) in the fourth—and surely last—general election”.

These fears have, of course, been belied.

6.3 Mr. Ramachandra Guha, a scholar of modern day India, in his brilliant essay “The miracle that is India ” discusses the complexity of the Indian situation and comes up with his views on why India as a nation survives amidst apparent contradictions. I try to sum up his views briefly.

-The pluralism of religion was one cornerstone of the foundation of the Indian republic. A second was the pluralism of language. Linguistic pluralism has worked. Instead of dividing, as elsewhere in the world, it tamed and domesticated secessionist tendencies.

– It has sustained a diversity of religions and languages. It has resisted the pressures to go in the other direction, to follow by favoring citizens who follow a certain faith or speak a particular language.

– That unity and pluralism are inseparable in is graphically expressed in the country’s currency notes.Denominations on the Indian currency note are given not just in Hindi and in English but in all Indian languages

– The economic integration of is a consequence of its political integration. They act in a mutually reinforcing loop. The greater the movement of goods and capital and people across India, the greater the sense that this is, after all, one country

– As a modern nation, India is simply sui generis. It stands on its own, different and distinct from the alternative political models on offer—be these Anglo-Saxon liberalism, French republicanism, atheistic Communism, or Islamic theocracy

– One might think of independent India as being Europe’s past as well as its future. It is ‘Europe’s past, in that it has reproduced, albeit more fiercely and intensely, the conflicts of a modernizing, industrializing and urbanizing society. But it is also its future, in that it anticipated, by some 50 years, the European attempt to create a multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, political and economic community

– The future of as a nation-state lies not in the hands of God but in the mundane works of its men women. So long as the Constitution is not amended beyond recognition, so long as elections are held regularly and fairly and the ethos of secularism broadly prevails, so long as citizens can speak and write in the language of their choosing, so long as there is an integrated market and a moderately efficient civil service and army, and—lest I forget—so long as Hindi films are watched and their songs sung, India will survive

6.4. M. C. Chagla, a legal luminary and a statesman, said there is an Indian- ness and an Indian ethos, brought about by the communion and intercourse between the many races and many communities that have lived in this land for centuries. He said, there is an Indian tradition, which overrides all the minor differences that may superficially seem to contradict the unity. This, according to him, is what holds India together.

7. Unity in Diversity

Heinz Werner Wessler says India ’s traditional multi-cultural society that came into being in the pre-modern context, is probably the most important resource for a political and cultural vision of “Unity and Diversity”. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Independent India’s first Prime Minister, often said India’s strength is “the unity in diversity”. While a majority accepts this motto, some lay stress on its inevitability. Because, they remark, the motto may imply to mean that while we recognizes the actually existing diversity we also appreciate the need for unity. Hence, they say, unity and diversity are not contradictory but complementary. At the same time, the modern state in principle always approves of diversity and looks for ways to enable minorities to identify themselves with the state as much as possible. This is a complex situation.

8. Concept of a Nation

8.1. Nations are, in the words of Ernest Renan, ultimately a consensus among people who wish to be included in a nation. Over the centuries, the notion of an nation has exerted a powerful influence on the peoples who make up India. However, it was not easy to turn it in to a reality because of several constraints. India was not a homogeneous country, by any classification. In addition, the boundaries of India changed very often. It was difficult to sustain the image of a nation since the four famous criteria of the State viz. land; people, government, and sovereignty were not always present. An amorphous feeling of belonging may bring together people of different culture, language, and even religion. However, that alone will not transform them into a nation. There has to be a political awareness of belonging to a single entity. That solidarity and commitment to the concept and reality of nation is essential. In India, the essentials for a nation did not materialize until recently.

8.2. Whatever may be the debate about political unity and cultural diversity in India, the fact is the diverse peoples of India have developed a peculiar type of culture far different from any other type in the world and have learned to live together as one people. This unity transcends the countless diversity of blood, color, language, dress, manners, sect et al.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in General Interest, History

 

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