(hereunder IS A free-rendering of an Article Muzaffar Hussain contributed to the Hindi daily. Ranchi Express, dated Sunday, 27 February 2000)
The very kandhar city in Afghanistan which was recently the secently the scene of a perilous hijack by Muslim / militants, of nearly 200 persons in an Indian aeroplance. Even less than 50 years ago the Hindu population in kandhar was 150,000/- While the Sikhs Numbered 25,000.
Kandhar is the current matpronunciation of the Sanskrit term Gandhar which was the capital of a flourishing ancient Hindu kingdom. Gandhari belonged to the region.
After their dafeat their defeat in the Mahabharat war,many of the kaurva descendants settled in the kandhar region which was their maternal home. From there they gradually moved to what are currently know as iraq and Saudi Arbia.. in ancient Times Arab horses were welknown for their fine breed (Arva in Sanskrit signifies a horse. Consequently the Sanskrit term Arvasthan / currently mal-prounced as Arbastan) signifies ‘a land of horses.’)
Being warriors. Kaurvas highly appreciated the well-bred horses of the region. That is why they named the region as Arvasthan.
God Shiva was the deity worshipped in that entire region. Conversion to islam led to the extnction of Shiva and Sun- Worship in the region.
Shiva worship was widespread in Afghanistan too. But later the spread of Buddhism ledto the gradual extinction of Shiva worship. Since Buddhism was an indigenous sprout its religious practices were akin to those in in vogue earlier. But the new religions (Christianity and islam) being forged and forced on the inhaitants of West Asian regions being intolerant, they led to the extinction of the earlier Vedic and Buddhist cultures in West Asia. Perhaps that was the result of contrasting soils. India being a fertile region, the religions and cultures there were tolerant and loving, while the religions and cultures originating in hot, desert lands of West Asia were intolerant and cruel.
Graduaily Afghanistan was occupied by Muslims invaders. Arab, Turk and Mongol invasions led to the gredual extinction of Hindu, Vedic, Buddha culture. One wonders how long can any vestige of its original, tolerant Hindu, Vedic culture can survive in Afghanistan when that entire region is a victim of waves of Muslim militants sheltering isama-bin-Lden, an intoleant Muslim Leader. Thus the history of Afghanistan is the history of the rise and fall of Shiva worship that was prevalent for long in the region.
There was a time when the entire region was replete with hundreds of shiva temples celebrating Shiva – parvati worship and abuzz with Shiv chants, prayers, legends and worship. Archaeological excavations in this region conducted by Sir Estine (an East India Company official) led to the recovery of uncountable idols and inscriptions. He has authored four books on that topic featuring photos of icons, icons and inscriptions discovered. The photos show a sun temple and a Ganesh idol too. An Islamabad University professor Abdul Rehman has authored two books on those finds recalling the glory and prosperity of those times. Regimes of two Hindu rulers kusham and kidara lasted for fairly long periods. During their rule a number of Shiv temples were erected not for fairly long periods, During their rule a number of shiv temples were erected not only in Afghanistan but in other West Asian regions too. Uzbekistan and Takzikistan Formed part of the Afghan kingdom in those times. Tashkent has one of those ancient Shiv temples standing even today. Professor Abdul Rehman states that Bukhara region Was known as shah Vihar in ancient times. It was ruled by an Hindu king. When Arabs invaded that kingdom its queen traveled to Kashmir to seek military help. Arab chronicles mention her as Khatoon, meaning ’Woman’ Kalhan, the ancient Hindu historian of Kashmir has mentioned that the army of the then Hindu ruler of Kashmir had a battle with a vast army of thye Arab Khalifa Mamoon whose headquarters was Baghdad. At that time Bukhara had been under Muslim rule. He had invited a number of feading Hindu experts to Baghdad. An Anyurvedic practitioner of varansi (alias Benares) had treated the Khalifa for some alilment afficting the alatter. In those days it was Hindu Ayurvedic practitioners who were eagerly sought by Arab patients. A number of Arabs had translated Sanskrit Ayurvedic texts into Arabic. A list of those translated Sanskrit texts appears in a Volume known as al Frisht.
Baku (capital of the Azerbaijan region) known for its underground petroleum yields has still an ancient Hindu temple of the Divine Flame generated by the subterraneas petrol and gas). During the Czar regimes in Russia a Punjabi priest officiated at that temple. The walls display some religious stanzas written in Punjabi Gurumakhi script. The market there also had Hindu merchants. Nearby was a locality too of Hindu inhabitants. Baku in Azerbaijani language actually signifies a Goddess. Therefore obviously Baku derives its name from a very ancient Vedic Goddess temple there.
Kenduj a province of Afghanistan, ruled by a king had a Hindu prime minister. This is mentioned in history books. Albirruni’s travel account contains details of ancient Hindu Afghanistan, He mentions a Hindu king, Khingla whose coins bore the imprint of God Shiva. The first ruler of that dynasty was viahitagni. History mentions a Shiva temple in Gardej township, which was plundered by Arab invaders. That dynasty ruled the region from 666 to 843 A.D. From 843 to 850 A.D. a Brahmin Minister ruled the region. The kalkaa community of Brahmins had ancquired promince in those times. They were later known as kallers. A township of that name exists in Punjab. Prominent among them who find a mention in later history are samantdev, Bheemdev, jaipaldev, Anandpal and Trilochan , Jaipaldev suffered a defeat in 1002 when Mohammed Ganzavi invaded India. Unable to bear that defeat Jaipaldev committed suicide.
Arabs began invading Afghanistan around, 155A.D. A Persian chronicle TARIKH-E-SISTAN records that invasion and the plunder and devastation of a shiva temple there The invader ibn-e-Samurah carried away the gold idol of Shiva among other Valuables. When ibn Samurah invaded kandhar he carried out a general massacre.
Abbasi Khalifas repeatedly invaded Kabul. The notorious khalifa yajid, at whose beheast Sindh province ruled by Raja Dalhir, was invaded by Arab forces, his army commander invaded the Hindu Kingdom of Kabul-that proved to be a disastrous misadventure, because, in the fierce battle fought in Kabul the Arab army suffered a humiliating defeat.
Dr. Rehman’s book carries photos of the coins and temples of Hindu rulers of Afghanistan. Along with them are reproduced photos of smashed idols of shiv and Durga from temples destroyed in Gardej. The book mentions that temples in the kherkana area of Kabul of Kabul sufferd great devastation. Idols of Shiva. Durga and the sun are very attractive. Some of the coins recovered in excavations bear the names of the Hindu rulers there in Sanskrit. At Hudud on the banks of the Attack river, stood a very massive fort of Hindu rulers. Excavations conducted in that township have revealed inscriptions concerning the regimes of Seemadex, jaipal, Rajkumari, Ratnamanjari, and Maharani Kameshwari Devi. All those are on display in the Musecums at Lahore, Kabul and peshwar. The inscription alluding to the reign of Jaipaldev, ruler of Kabul has 13 lines in that Sharda script of Sanskrit language.
That Afghanistan where in times bygone Hindu and Buddhist flags, signifying peace. Piety, prosperity and progress, held sway, is now the scene pf cjaptoc slaughter and destruction. Looking at Mulla umar’s current directives and the slaughters rampant in Afghanistan these days, memories of Afghanistan’s ancient peaceful, noble and prosperous times seem to fade out of one’s memory.
(We are grateful to Shree Muzaffar Husein, who wrote that article, and to Dr. Shreekrishna Simha Sondh of Chittarpur who vigilantly mailed it to us. The Sistam region obviously is the Sanskrit term Shiv sthan, an area of sacred Shiv worship.)