Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Mother Goddess

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In the year 416 BCE, a young man of Greek descent left his native Cnidus on the mainland of what is now Turkey to take up employment with the Achaemenian king, Artaxerxes (Ardeshir). Ctesias, as the young man was named, was from the family of Hippocrates, known to us as the Father of Medicine, and himself a trained medical practitioner. For the next few decades, he served the Persian King of Kings as an archiater.

Now Ctesias was evidently a rather inquisitive individual. He appears to have been acquainted with The Histories, the magnum opus of Herodotus, published about forty years earlier, and was a trifle miffed by its disregard of Indian history. Ctesias therefore took it upon himself to learn as much of India as was possible. But his duties looking after royal health perhaps did not give him time enough to go wandering off to the Land of the Sindhu River, so he did the next best thing: He quizzed every Indian visitor to the court about their country.

Confronted by the doctor, notebook and pen in hand, our ancestors — traders, diplomats, scientists, artists, musicians, writers and craftsmen — at the Persian court came into their own as storytellers. They told Ctesias tales. Some of these were plain hogwash, invented when the teller with mischief in his mind tested the gullibility of the westerner. Ctesias faithfully noted everything down and years later, upon returning home, wrote a book titled Indika.

Among other fanciful tales, this book tells of dog-faced men who barked or others who had huge, flapping ears that they used a mattress and a coverlet (recall our Gog-Magog tradition of such a race). But it is not all twaddle. The discerning reader and one who knows this great and wonderful land can find in the pages of the Indika bits of historical truths as well.

Ctesias tells us of a “sacred spot in the midst of an uninhabited region which [the people] venerate in the name of the Sun and the Moon”. This sacred spot, he goes on, lies fifteen days’ journey from mountains that produce onyx and sardine stones — obviously the Himalayas and Hindu Kush. Here, for the thirty-five days of the festival, the sun cooled down so as not to scorch the worshippers. The uninhabited region, the thirty-five days of celebrations and the coolness of the sun are the Cholistan Desert where the festival still lasts forty days at a time when the sun is just sufficiently cool to be comfortable.

Remember, Ctesias was writing of a time when the Hakra River had been dead for fifteen hundred years and its great cities were smothered by sand dunes. When the Aryans arrived, the memory of those cities and of the worship of Dharti Mata by the banks of the river was still fresh in the minds of the aboriginal people. Even the exact spot where the goddess was worshipped would have been known. The Aryans therefore preserved the holiness of the spot. Only, they assigned to it their own gods: Surya and Chandra.

The collective memory of the earlier worship of the fertility goddess persisted, however. Over the centuries, the various deities, the pre-Aryan Mother Goddess, Surya and Chandra, separately or even together, were worshipped at the spot where the ugly dome now marks the burial of a saint who never was. The persistence of the Mother Goddess cult at some point led the Aryans to incorporate her into their own pantheon as Dharti Mata. Spring, the season favoured by the timeless Mother Goddess of the Sindhu valley, was retained as the time of worship of the new deities.

That was how things stood, until Muslim sensibilities dictated converting the cult to Islam. Dharti Mata, the giver of sons and wealth, retained her powers as Channan Pir. Even her shrine was ordained to remain open to the sky and her festival is observed in spring when the earth rejuvenates itself. The worship of Chandra took the name of the new saint and as before his festival continues for six weeks during spring. This was the time of year that Dharti Mata preferred for her festival and that Surya and Chandra did too, as Ctesias tells us.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,

3 Comments:

At October 18, 2014 at 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sir,

Interestingly, the early Sumerians identified Indus Valley Civilization as Badimin/Bad Imin (identified by Sumeriologist S.N. Kramer in 1952), which means the land of seven high places or seven enclosed places or seven cities or seven rivers. This is identified with the Avasta (language of Zoroastrian Persia) as Hapta Hindva or Sapta Sidhava in Sanskrit.



Later the Akkadians identified the same region as Meluhha, which is more commonly used for the people of Indus Valley.



Asko and Simon Parpola, Finnish scholars are amongst many others, who indicate that Meluhha is identified as Mlechha in Sanskrit language which means, barbarians speaking unintelligible language. If the people of Meluhha were Mlechha or Barbarians speaking unintelligible language for the people of Gangetic valley and its adjoining plains, how can their Gods be the same.



To many scholars, Indians as well as Western, the people of Indus Valley Civilisation were Asuras (Demons) of Vedas. Interestingly, the Gods of Avestan (Scripture of Zoroastrians) are identified as Demons in Rig Veda and the Gods of Rig Veda are identified as the Demons in Avestan.



The language and the religion of Indus Valley Civilization have not been identified as yet and therefore identifying the religion of these people with Avestan, Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist or Jain religions/cultures may be speculatory at this juncture.



Regards.

Sufyan.

 
At October 18, 2014 at 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sir,

Interestingly, the early Sumerians identified Indus Valley Civilization as Badimin/Bad Imin (identified by Sumeriologist S.N. Kramer in 1952), which means the land of seven high places or seven enclosed places or seven cities or seven rivers. This is identified with the Avasta (language of Zoroastrian Persia) as Hapta Hindva or Sapta Sidhava in Sanskrit.



Later the Akkadians identified the same region as Meluhha, which is more commonly used for the people of Indus Valley.



Asko and Simon Parpola, Finnish scholars are amongst many others, who indicate that Meluhha is identified as Mlechha in Sanskrit language which means, barbarians speaking unintelligible language. If the people of Meluhha were Mlechha or Barbarians speaking unintelligible language for the people of Gangetic valley and its adjoining plains, how can their Gods be the same.



To many scholars, Indians as well as Western, the people of Indus Valley Civilisation were Asuras (Demons) of Vedas. Interestingly, the Gods of Avestan (Scripture of Zoroastrians) are identified as Demons in Rig Veda and the Gods of Rig Veda are identified as the Demons in Avestan.



The language and the religion of Indus Valley Civilization have not been identified as yet and therefore identifying the religion of these people with Avestan, Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist or Jain religions/cultures may be speculatory at this juncture.



Regards.

Sufyan.

 
At December 15, 2014 at 8:03 PM, Blogger the ethical man said...

I don't agree with the Aryans theory of invading India..this is a hog wash by colonials, European supremacy

 

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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days