The story of forgetting history due to the loss of geography also occurs in the change of names, a point we had briefly seen in a previous part of this series. This name change falls in the realm of not only places but tribes, people, flora, fauna, etc. In the case of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and large parts of the original Bharatavarsha that has survived, this cruel and tragic theme is even more glaring. And galling. Even the most fleeting glimpses of the protracted history of Bharatavarsha shows this fact: one of the immediate things that occur after a Muslim invasion is how the event purposefully and permanently erases all traces of a Hindu past in the immediate physical geography.
Neither is this fact limited only to an unprovoked invasion but even in wars of conquest. The terminal Battle of Talikota, one of the most disconsolate melancholies in world history reveals this barbaric facet. It was the climax of at least two centuries of hostilities between the grand Vijayanagara Empire and the ragtag crew known as the Bahamani kingdom. Yet, when Hampi fell at last to the cruel sword of a determined coalition united by nothing but Islamic fanaticism, what was the need to so thoroughly pulverise every symbol, monument, temple, tradition, and ways of life rooted in and inspired by Sanatana Dharma? It could have been a military victory, a theme so familiar in Hindu political and military history. The opponent could have made the Hindu king submit to and acknowledge the supremacy of the victor while allowing him and his citizens to retain their culture. When we visit Hampi even today, we can barely form, let alone fathom, a mental image of the geographical swathe it encompassed.
This is the true meaning of lost geographies and forgotten Hindu history.
Likewise, the Pancha-Nada Kshetra or Punjab, one of the cradles of Sanatana civilisation and culture has largely unrecognisable names today. Then there is the other vital aspect that continues to hide in plain sight: the name of the very region from which foreigners derived the name “India”: Sindh. Needless, the entire region of Sindh was pocketed by Pakistan in 1947. And anything that can even remotely be called Hindu has been wiped out there with clinical nonchalance before our own eyes.
It might come as a surprise to many but Bharatavarsha since time immemorial was perhaps the largest market for horse trading in the world. Yet, as early as the eighth century CE itself, this thriving horse trade in Bharatavarsha was completely taken over by the Arab Muslims. The consequence: Sanskrit names for various breeds of horses were replaced by Arabic equivalents. For example, the Sanskrit word, vollaha, which means, "chestnut-coloured horse" was used for the first time in the eighth century CE by the Jain mendicant and author, Haribhadra. It was the Arabic name for a horse breed.
To recall the Vijayanagara Empire again, even at the height of its glory, the Empire's budget allocated substantial sums under two major accounting heads: purchase of canons and gunpowder and high-quality breeds of Arabian steeds.
This is a good juncture to segue into the next facet of the forgotten Hindu history of Pakistan: the irretrievable loss of flourishing and prosperous business and trading hubs and routes in the region.
When we view it from this distance in both space and time, it’s truly incredible when we recall the fact that there was something known was the Grand Trading Route, or simply, The Grand Route (not to be confused with the Grand Trunk Road) in Northern India. To sketch but the barest outline of this Grand Route, here is the expanse it spanned: the Grand Route was the commercial and cultural artery that encompassed the whole of Asia: from the Caspian Sea to the borders of China; from Bahlika (Balkh) to Pataliputra (Patna). These memorable words of that colossal scholar, Dr. Moti Chandra on the subject evokes within us an admiration that is so profound that it is almost philosophical:
And so, when we use terms like Brihadbharata (Greater India), we must not be blind to or forget the fact that this was not a mere theoretical conception but was actually attained through a highly refined application of Sanatana cultural genius. It was these merchants and traders who played a substantial role in creating it. A sublime Sanatana conquest attained through the method of cultural persuasion. For example, if we take away the Ramayana, countries like Indonesia will be devoid of their national motifs. A starker contrast cannot be found: when America boasted in the late 1980s and early 1990s that it had defeated the USSR by forcing it towards bankruptcy, the native Sanatana consciousness finds it repellent: on the other hand, a 100% Muslim country like Indonesia has named its national airline after the vehicle of Mahavishnu. This sort of conquest--if that word can be applied--is the Sanatana way: Eternal. Everlasting. Evoking the majestic imagery of the Akshaya Vata Vriksha.
The immortal genius Chanakya-Kautilya mentions an important commercial sector in the aforementioned Grand Route. He calls it the Haimavat-Patha. But in a more contemporary idiom, we can call it the Balkh-Takshashila Sector. In passing, we can refer the interested reader to undertake further research on Kautilya’s division of the Haimavat-Patha into three sectors:
1. The Bactrian
3. Indian (i.e. mainland India, post-1947)
In general, some of the great and bustling business centers on the Grand Route included the following:
1. Pushkalavati or Peshawar: Now in Pakistan
2. Takshashila: Almost nothing remains of its former glory as one of the world's greatest educational centres and business hubs.
3. Mulasthana: Apart from being a preeminent Tirtha-Kshetra, Mulasthana was also a thriving business centre. Now in Pakistan.
4. Haarahoora or Herat: It was a starting point on the Grand Route from where trading caravans proceeded towards Baluchistan and Sindh. Now in Afghanistan.
5. Kohat: This was an intermediate business city en route from Herat to Baluchistan and had a thriving market. Its brave Hindu population comprising barely six percent in the 1920s was brutally massacred and ejected during the Khilafat genocide of Hindus. This tragic story has been fully narrated elsewhere on The Dharma Dispatch. Kohat is now in Pakistan.
6. The entire region of Sindh: The commercial importance of Sindh does not need repetition here. Needless, the entire region is in Pakistan.
7. Lahore: Same as Sindh.
8. Karachi or Loharani: Same as Sindh and Lahore.
9. Kapisa or Kapisi: It was historically known as a flourishing centre of wine export. For a long time, Kapisa was also a renowned melting pot of art: primarily, the Gandhara and the Mathura school of art. Now it languishes in Afghanistan.
Needless, this is just a partial list but sufficiently indicative of the magnitude of the permanent loss. Almost nothing survives of the glorious Sanatana past of this ample region. One wonders if even the word "loss" fully and accurately describes the phenomenon. Perhaps the word, "annihilation" is more appropriate.
This among others is one of the surest ways to get a proper perspective when we study the history of Islamic invasions of Bharatavarsha.
To be continued
The Dharma Dispatch is now available on Telegram! For original and insightful narratives on Indian Culture and History, subscribe to us on Telegram.