By M.S.N. Menon
Once they lived together as brothers?the Aryans?on both sides of the Hindu Kush. They had a common language, common gods and common customs. Varuna, the sky god, was common to both. So were Indra and Mitra.
Yayati, from this side, married Sarmishta, daughter of a king from the other side, and from her line were born the great heroes of Mahabharata. In the conflict between Vasishta and Viswamitra, the great Vedic sages, the Aryans on the other side of the Hindu Kush, took the side of Viswamitra. Kaikeyi (Ramayana) and Gandhari (Mahabharata) also belonged to the frontier kingdoms. And Panini, the great Sanskrit grammarian, we are now told, belonged to modern Afghanistan. But the Indus people and the Iranians drifted apart, perhaps over the excessive addiction of the Vedic Aryans to soma (drink) and animal sacrifice.
Zoroaster called upon the Iranians to give up the Indo-Iranian gods in favour of one God?Ahura Mazda (Ahura means Lord, Mazda means to think). The Vedic people put up Indra as their supreme God (in Iranian, ?S? is pronounced as ?H?. So Ahura becomes Asura in Sanskrit). The way was thus open to regular migrations of Iranian tribes to the land of Saptasindhu (Haptahindu).
The Achaemenians (one of the Iranian tribes) were the first to establish a universal empire. Darius conquered Punjab in 512 b.c. Punjab gave him a third of the empire'srevenue. And India provided cotton clothes for the soldiers of Darius.
India was also in contact with the civilisations of Sumeria and Assyria. The Sumerians remain a mystery to historians. The Old Testament says they came from the East. They were not Semitic. They contributed much to the civilisation of the entire region of Japan and Korea. Bamian, in Afghanistan, was a major centre of Buddhism, Saivism and Tantric cults. The Taliban will be remembered for one thing?for having destroyed the Bamian Buddhas.
The Kushan empire of Kanishka (Kushanas are said to have come from the region of Khotan) stretched from Central Asia to Yamuna. Kanishka became a Buddhist and held the fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir, which gave birth to the Mahayana School of Buddhism.
Charaka, the father of Indian medicine, lived in the court of Kanishka. Indian medical practices spread throughout Asia. The Sassanians and the Guptas brought Golden Ages to their respective countries.
The Arabs, a nomadic people, conquered Iran in a.d. 651 and destroyed the Iranian civilisation. The Afghans resisted Islam for as long as three centuries. With the advent of Islam in India, India'squest was arrested and its civilisation was almost destroyed.
We have all been prone to go out and change the world. Sometimes to kill and plunder; sometimes to carry our message. Let history judge: who has been helpful and who has been hurtful.