This is a trip to the historical India/Hindustan/Bharat. Have you ever wondered how did India get its several names? Where did the word Hindustan or India or Bharat come from? What exactly is Hindu? This trip to the ancient India will make you wonder about several things and may answer a few questions you might have had.
Long ago, there was a civilisation that was prospering near Sindhu river. That civilisation is popularly known as Indus civilisation. It had over 5 million population and over 1,056 cities, as found in 1999. Who were these people? They were Dravidians. I know, many of you must be thinking but aren’t they South Indians?
The reason why they are said to be Dravidians is because the language and scriptures found in Indus civilisation is very much like of the modern South Indian languages. During this period, some Indo-Iranian had settled around them who were called Aryans. Now, Aryans were not a race but it was self-designation of being “noble”.
Aryans and Dravidians had cultural exchange where Aryans borrowed many words and cultural practices from Dravidians while Dravidians borrowed a few from the Aryans. Remember Shiva was a Dravidian and Gauri was an Aryan and their marriage had happened in Dravidian way. Their marriage has been glorified in our scriptures for that was the mark of first inter-caste marriage and the beginning of the first cultural exchange between the two.
Eventually, there was a draught in the Indus / Sindhu river which had forced the people of that civilisation to move eastwards. The Dravidians had eventually started ruling the lands which covered a big part of the Asia, from South India to Southeast Asia including Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Thailand. Aryans took hold of the central India, Punjab, the land of give rivers and the lands that were evacuated by the Dravidians earlier.
When Dravidians were a part of Indus civilisation, the Persians used to call them Hindus. Now, Hindu was not actually a religion, it meant the people of Sindhu basin. Their pronunciation for “S” was “H” which actually was a silent alphabet, which is why Sindhu was called Indus. Hinduism is a term that came later on as a religion however that was supposed to mean the cultural practices of the people of Indus civilisation and the term Hindustan was given by Persians to the land and the cities of Indus civilisation. Hindustan was not a land of Hindu religion but a land around the Indus river.
The Europeans got to know about Indus civilisation through the Arabian countries and termed the people of the civilisation as Inde, which later became India, a civilisation developed on the basins of Indus river. Both Hindustan and India are foreign words for the land that was flourishing around the river.
Even though Aryans have had cultural trades with Dravidians and had borrowed a lot of things from Dravidians, still they were self-designated noble and considered Dravidians low in status. One of the perfect example is again from Shiva-Gauri marriage where Gauri’s father was displeased with daughter’s decision of marrying a Dravidian. When the Aryans told the stories of their marriages, they went to the extent of saying that Shiva was accompanied by ghosts and demons to his marriage, even though those were the people of Shiva’s tribe.
When Aryans were ruling the lands ranging from Punjab to Bengal, covering most of the northern India, the land was called Aryavrata which means land of Aryans. Aryavrata had seen the rise of a great emperor named Bharata, under whose rule, Aryavrata prospered and thus Aryavrata became Bharatvarsha, which means the land of king Bharata.
Now, throughout the ancient India, few things that I find worth noticing:
- Hindu was not a religion.
- Hindustan was not a land of people who followed Hinduism.
- Hindu, Hindustan, India are foreign terms for Dravidians and those who were settled in the Indus valley.
- The original Hindus were Dravidians and not Aryans.
- Aryans were self designated noble people who used to dislike Dravidians for they were darker and did not look like them.
- Aryans were so discriminatory that they went to the extent of calling Dravidians ghostly and demonic.
- King Bharata was one of the great kings in Aryavrata because of which the northern India was once known as Bharatvarsha.
- Oh, and did I mention Kauravas and Pandavas were from Bharata’s lineage which had led to Mahabharata, the biggest war in the land of King Bharata?
After knowing all of this, let’s come to a bit recent history of our country. When the nation was formed, all the rulers that were brought under the democratic rule under the name of Republic of India, their lands combined to form one big India / Hindustan / Bharat. The regions that were brought under this republic was one of the biggest republic union the world has seen because the lands occupied by those rulers were a big portion of Asia.
The history of ancient India shows us that there had been cultural differences, there had been discrimination, there had been rivalries however, at the same time, there had been cultural exchanges, trades, inter-caste/tribe marriages, the attempts to form a union between the two tribes.
Even though today, these two tribes have been united under the republic of India, we Aryans, still somewhere in our minds believe that we are above others, we still have that self designated feeling of being noble. The reason why North East and South India are still discriminated is because they all were Dravidians who did not have facial features or skin color like us and we, Aryans thought of them as Dasas.
One of our patriotic songs, “Saare jahan se achchha Hindustan humara” has a verse that says, “Muzhab nahi sikhata aapas me baer rakhna”, which means the religions don’t teach us to fight with each other. I find it interesting though why this line was included in the song. Here’s what I believe:
Throughout this blog, you must have noticed there’s no mention of any religious difference. The differences are based on looks, status, culture but not religion. Aryans were Indo-Iranians, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc were all a part of Indus civilisation. Then why our patriotic song had to mention the religion? Where does this sudden surge of religious differences come from? Did I mention that there were Buddhists, Jains, etc used to live with the other religious groups with no conflicts on religious views in ancient India?
When British army invaded India, they had adopted Christianity and they were told to follow religious beliefs so much that if they don’t, their lands will be burnt by the Lord, while we were still enjoying our freedom and prospering. The British rulers noticed that India was enjoying all sorts of freedom and there was peaceful coexistence amongst various religious beliefs.
They started dividing the people on the basis of religion because there was nothing else to divide the country on. The moment the people started getting divided, it became easier for them to take over and rule and exploit us and our resources, eventually leading to our downfall. The peaceful coexistence was brought down to chaos that still hasn’t gone over.
Here’s one thing you can take back home from this history, and they say you learn your lessons from your past:
As long as we learn to accept each other with our differences, let each other be as long as no one interferes in your personal life or causes any harm to you and once again live a life with peaceful coexistence, we can prosper together as a nation much stronger, undivided, a home, an abode for weak and strong individuals as one like the good old days. But if we continue to fight like we are, we are going to go down like we have been since the time of British policy of divide and rule.
Let’s see how wise are you.
I hope you enjoyed this journey through the ancient Indian history.