SWAMI SHANKARATILAKA

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DHARMA IN HINDUISM

Rigvedic_geographyby Swami Shankaratilaka

SINDHU . HINDU . INDIA

SINDHU, THE RIVER WHOSE NAME WAS GIVEN TO A SUBCONTINENT AND CULTURE

Location

The Sindhu river begins in Tibet which currently belongs to China, in the high plains close to the famous Mansarovar lake which leads to certain glaciers and comes into India through the region of Ladakh and runs through Pakistan where in comes out in the Arabian sea close to the port of Karachi.

The sediment of the western mountainside of Tibet in the Arabian Sea, indicates that the Sindhu river has run from its current basin for 45.000.000. It is one of 25 rivers in the world with the largest amount of aquiferous influx and the second largest in sediment overflow, in this case, coming from the Karakoram mountains in the Himalayan Mountain range, which gives a special colour to the Sindhu river waters.

The Sindhu valley, arid and with hardly any vegetation, is an extreme example of deforestation and desertification caused by human beings, therefore the large amount of fish farms and the irrigation dependency from the labour camps in Pakistan and the region of Punjab cause an ecosystem overload in the Sindhu river that critically positions it in danger for the future.

The mythic Sindhu River honours the fertile earth of Punjab. Punjab is the vital heart of great mystic heroes from the cultural tradition of India and of the Dharma Sister of the Sikh religion inspired in the mystic Gurunanak. Punjab is the derivation of the vernacular term derived from the Sanskrit pañcâpas, “panj”, meaning “five rivers” which comes form the enunciation of the five rivers that flow through them: Jhelum, Chenam, Ravi, Beas and the Sutlej. These five Punjabi rivers are rich influxes from the Sindhu river.

In the tradition

Sindhu, is a Sanskrit word. Sanskrit is a language spoken by the Aryan people and was used to write the Vedas. The Vedas are sacred scriptures that collected the sacred teachings of the Yogi Patriarchs from the Ancient times. “Sindhu” has different curious meanings: river, sea, ocean, torrent, flood. Another more common word used in Sanskrit to designate a river is nadī.

The Sindhu River was very crucial and important in the ancient and remote Aryan and Dravidian civilization, so much so that “Sindhu” in itself is associated with the idea of “The River, the Ocean”. There was no other river so important as the Sindhu. Having as its heart the banks, along with those of the Ghaggar-Hakra, Ganges-Yamuna rivers, in its immense valley, a great civilization was developed known as the “Sindhukush” or the “Valley of Indus”. In this fertile valley the famous cities of Harappa, Mehrgarh, Lothal and Mohenjo-Daro were established.

The most important of the four Vedas, the Rik, mentions the Sindhu River almost in all of its Mandalas; groups or books. The Brahmana priests of the Vedas dedicated a number of invocation hymns to it and compared it with the fertility of the sacred cows and their mystic purity to help with the rectification of karma. Sometimes it appears associated with the mysterious and mythic Saraswati River that evokes the crucial Devata Sarasvati that presides over the enlightening understanding of the Vedas.

In the epic Mahabharata, which is included in the Bhagavad Gita, the essence of Vedic Dharma, Sindhu was a very important kingdom, founded by the king Vrisadarbha, and from which the capital received its name: Vrisadarbhapuram, also known as Sindhu and which corresponds to the actual city in the south of Punjab called Mithankot. The crucial hero of the Kurukshetra war narrated in the Mahabharata Itihasa, Jayadratha, a family member of the prince Duryodhana, leader of the Kauravas, was the king of the Saindhavas. The Saindhavas were the inhabitants of the kingdom of Sindhu. Jayadratha and his Sindhavas pauravas were the most famous lancers and war carriage drivers that infringed huge losses to Arjunas Pandavas, Krishnas disciple in the Bhagavad Gita who killed Arjunas son Abhimanyu. Arjuna deeply detested Jayadratha and the Sindhus whom he considered depraved and cruel fighters.

The hymns from the Rik Veda mentions the Sindhu River amoung the Sapta Nadî or 7 Sacred Rivers that lead to the mystic gifts that the sacred scriptures declare and perfectly correlate:

  1. Ganga nadî, who’s Devata of Divine Power is connected to Shiva, the transmutation of life and death.
  2. Godavari nadî, who´s Devata of Divine Power is connected with Râma, the establishment of perfect Dharma.
  3. Yamuna nadî, who´s Devata of Divine Power is connected with Krishna, success in Yoga.
  4. Sindhu nadî, who´s Devata of Divine Power is connected with Hanuman, the journey of a devoted yogi.
  5. Sarasvati nadî, who´s Devata of Divine Power is connected with Ganapati, the destruction of the impediments of sadhana, spiritual life.
  6. Kaveri nadî, who´s Devata of Divine Power is connected with Dattatreya, the mastery of Enlightenment.
  7. Narmada nadî, who´s Devata of Divine Power is connected with Durga, the protection of life.

Each sacred river contains the siddhi of the mystical power of the charkas of the sacred earths that favour the communication with the gods or supernatural powers and the spiritual transformation of the seekers of the truth. These seven rivers are selected by yogis to do tapasyas, advanced disciplines to favour their growth in Enlightened Yoga.

A river is water, it is âpas. Âpas is one of the “Five Great Elements”. It is a conductor of life, and the path that takes us towards the Light of Liberation from Samsara, continuous transformation. Sacred water is used daily for a vedic devotee topurify the 3 bodies and 5 sheathes.

THE FIRST FOREIGN CHRONICLERS: THE GREKS

Alexander in India

Lucius Flavius Arrianus, the roman citizen of Greek origin was a famous historian and chronicler of the life and work of Alexander Magnus who wrote about his military campaigns which took the great conqueror to the valley of Sindukush and to the sacred Sindhu river.Indica was the famous book written by Arrianus about the commander Nearchus, Head expeditionary for the conquering of Alexander from the Valley of Sindhu to the Persian Golf. “Indica” is the singular work that narrates the history, geography and culture of the ancient subcontinent of today´s India. Nearchus, who learnt the language of Sindukush had been sent by Alexander Magnus as a expeditionary to inform them about the Sindhu as he had planned to return to Babilonia after the conquest of Ancient India.

Meghastenes was a Greek ethnographic that also wrote a chronicle essay called “Indica” that Arrianus used as a source of documentation. Meghastenes was an ambassador in the court of the emperor Chandragupta Maurya, of the splendid Pataliputra (India). He crossed India from the Sindhu to Madurai, from the Himalyas to Shri Lanka around the years close to 288 A.C.

“Indica” makes an interesting description of the geography of India locating it on the banks of the Sindhu valley and Ganges and compares its riches with those of the Nile and Danube. During centuries Indica served as a reference to Greeks and Romans about how the inhabitants of India were, their culture and geography. Curiously, in the work, the findings in India of Heracles (Hercules) and Dionysios (son of Zeus) are mentioned.

The Muslim invaders of the Sindhu

Many centuries after the western Greek invasions, the Muslim armies of distinct origins invaded the subcontinent of India in the VII century AD.

▪                Muhammad bin Qasim conquered the Sindhu and Punjab and gave it over to Califato of Umayyad (Damascus) who had also conquered Hispania (Spain) and would later give origin to Caliifato of Cordoba in AL-Andalus (Andalusia in Spain), under their government the fundamentals of Islamic law that would govern and transform India until the establishment of the British rule were established.

▪                Mahmud Ghazni, Persian by origin but established in Afghanistan

▪               Sultan Shahāb-ud-Din Muhammad Ghori, established the Ghorida dynasty that reined over what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the north of India. Afghan by birth but of Persian origin, he won over the former Muslim governments. He invaded Gujerat (the ancient kingdom and actual state of the modern India Union), the kingdom of the ancient Alexander of Indopotamo or Alexandria of the Indus, in the junction of the rivers of Punjab with the Sindhu river also called the Uch Sharif, which is the actual Bawalpur in Pakistan and in ancient times was a hugely famous University in Asia for Islamic studies and a large centre for sufi studies. Muhammad Ghori was also the conqueror of the famous city of its age Mulasthana, later called Multan by the Muslims, located in Pakistan where it is known as the “city of the Sufis and mosques”.

▪               Tamerlan-Timur, of turc-moghul origin, initiator of the Ottoman Empire

▪               Zahir ud-din Muhammad Babur, established the bases of the Moghul Empire in India that he governed until the creation of the British empire.

The fame collected in the Indian chronicles of the Greeks and the attraction of riches and beauties from the fertile effluents of the River Sindhu, invited the great Muslim conquerors of the age to invade India, cross over natural barriers from the East of the Indica, formed by the river. These invasions forever changed the culture of Dharma and saw the end of vedic society which disappeared forever from the world. Only Nepal maintained itself as a “hinduist” state until the transformation of the country in a republic.

 

THE ORIGIN OF THE WORD “HINDU”. THE NAME OF INDIA: “BHARATA”. THE RETURN OF THE EUROPEAN INVADERS  

The Greeks

It was Meghastenes who gave the name “Indica” to the region of the Valley of the River Sindhu and from there extensively to all the knowledge that he had from the subcontinent. The Sanskrit word Sindhu (river) was changed by the Greeks to the word: Indu, leaving out the letter “s”.

The Persians

The Persian invaders of Mahmud Ghazni with their difficulties of pronunciation substituted the letter “s” for “h” and this is how the name “hindhu” appeared and initially designated the population in the valley of the River Sindhu, including the geographic inhabitants of the whole subcontinent.

The Arabs

The Arab invaders from the XIII century also derived the name “Al-hind” and it was the first time that it was called so and excluded all the inhabitants of the subcontinent that were not Muslims and so the wrong name began to spread to designate the religious spirituality of the Vedics for not being Muslims even when they lived thousands of kilometres from the Sindhu Valley.

The Spanish

The Spaniards that knew about the subcontinent because of the Greek Indica chronicles named the whole territory “India” and “indios” to the inhabitants, for this reason Christopher Columbus began an adventure to go around the world navigating the oceans to arrive to the land of abundance and the spices of India that were known for their condiments and silks and gold from the classic times and by the Muslims who had invaded Spain and Europe. When Columbus discovered the territories that we call America, he called them India, and he named the variety of islands and continental territories he discovered “The Indias”. And so he began the continuous confusion that persists today of calling the Native Americans “Indians” and also the citizens of the country of India. The Spanish opened the path that would be followed by the Portuguese.

The Portuguese

The Spanish and Portuguese that formed the same kingdom at the end of the XVI century, after the annexation of Portugal for Spain, also arrived to the subcontinent in the XVI century on the hand of the Portuguese and where the ones that definitively fixed the term “India” to the subcontinent and “hindu” to the settlers of India. Being Christians they extended the denomination “Hinduism” to the practices and religious beliefs of the inhabitants of India.

The Dutch

At the beginning of the XVII century, the Dutch established their first colonies in the south of India which they eventually lost in favour of the British in the first quarter of the XIX century to facilitate the creation of their empire.

The French

Almost at the end of the XVII century, the French established themselves in the south of India in Pondicherry and established several commercial colonies that extended from Bengal to Kerala, with an immense area of influx toward the inland part of the south of India and the flat Deccan Plaines. The scarce military presence only dedicated to defence and its initial commercial focus, allowed the arrival and after the definitive establishment of the British, which ended up evacuating the French except in the enclave of Pondicherry.

The British

The British opened up India in the middle of the XVIII century and progressively during the XIX century they had complete control of India converting it in part of its empire and they allowed a divided India (Pakistan, Shri Lanka, India) to be converted into a state. The English used the term “Hindusthan” and “India” indistinctively to designate their possessions and called “hinduism” the religion of India and “hinduists” its followers. The Spanish called them Indostán and they still call the indica region that groups the modern countries of India, Pakistan, Shri Landka (Ceyloan) and Bangladesh this way.

The Hindus and Bharata

The Hindus call their country by two different names. One is “India” and the other is “Bharata Ganarajya”. It was called India because of historic inertia from the foreign invaders and so therefore “hindus” and sometimes “Indian”. Bhârata means “the descendents of Bharata”. Bharata was a rishi, the epithet of the vedic legislator Manu, the denomination of one of the tribes-clans of ancient vedic rishis, the ancient vedic yogi was a very important puranic king from the legends known as one of the twelve universal emperors.Religiously, the Hindus called vedic religion in a common and patriotic way: Hinduism, which makes indirect allusion that all those born of biological hindu origin (racial) can access their beliefs and in this way identify with their followers that are also called in the same way as the inhabitants of the country India: “Hindues”. By calling Dharma Vedic religion as a nationalist statement, the true denomination has been lost, Dharmâsthika, or Vedic.

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