The loss of substantial sacred Hindu geographies is a civilisational, cultural, and most importantly, a spiritual loss
In the previous part of this series, we noticed how loss of geography is also loss of narrative memory that occurs at all levels. The first place to start examining the various facets and ramifications of this memory loss is with the oldest surviving literary and spiritual work: the Rg Veda. Let’s look at a beautiful verse:
This beautiful verse composed at least seven thousand years ago, lists twenty rivers. Two questions arise. The first is that in the Vedic rituals and routine Pujas performed even today, this verse is chanted indicating the preservation of this memory in human and textual form. The second is more important: of the twenty rivers listed, how many are in India today, either partially or fully?
In no particular order, we have partially lost the following rivers to Pakistan:
1. Indus (Sindhu)
2. Raavi (Iravati or Parushni)
3. Sutlej (Shutudri)
4. Jhelum (Vitasta)
5. Chenab (Asikni).
In other words, together, these five rivers constitute the ancient and hallowed region known as the Panchanada Kshetra or Punjab, large parts of which are now in Pakistan.
Then we have the river today known as Zhob in Baluchistan, which was known as याव्यवति (Yavyavati) in the Vedic period. The Gomati river now known as Gomal is located near the Rehman Dheri in Pakistan. The river Kubha is now in Kabul; indeed, the name Kabul is itself derived from "Kubha." The river Krumu is now in the Kurram district of Pakistan. All these name changes constitute a critical civilisational point as we shall see.
At a high level, we can look at a brief list of the fifty-six Deshas mentioned in the Mahasankalpa which we had seen in the previous part of this series. Of these fifty-six Deshas, we have permanently lost the following to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh:
1. Parts of the Vanga Desha (Bengal) to Bangladesh
2. The original Gurjara-Saurashtra region included the renowned Shaktipeeta, Hingulaja: this is the renowned Hingjlaj Mata which is near-totally lost its original Sanatana character and is today located in the Balochistan province.
3. Kambhoja: At various points in its protracted history, this region lay between (undivided) Punjab and to the South of the Balkh or Bahlika or Bactria. Now, except for a small part in Punjab, the entire region is no longer part of Bharatavarsha.
4. Saakala or Sagala, now known as Sialkot, is in Pakistan.
5. Vahlika or Bahlika or Bactria or Balkh is in Afghanistan.
6. Vakranta or Makran lies in Baluchistan.
7. ShIlahatta or Sylhet is in Bangladesh.
8. Kekaya is in Afghanistan
9. Madra is in Pakistan
10.Sauvira: Parts of this region include today’s Multan.
11.Mulasthana: Or Multan. This sacred pilgrimage site of Sanatana Dharma where the magnificent Aditya Temple stood for centuries was one of the first cities to be attacked by Muhammad bin Qasim. The Aditya Temple itself was burnt to the ground in the 9th or 10th century. Not coincidentally, Multan is home to the largest concentration of Sufi monuments in one place.
12. Saindhava. Parts of this region are in Sindh, Pakistan.
The twelve places listed so far provides a representative idea of the nature and impact of the aforementioned memory loss. Apart from the fifty-six Deshas, the other well-known method of classifying our ancient geography was the well-known Shodasha Mahajanapadas or the 16 Great Republics of the Buddhist and early Mauryan period, which roughly correspond to the fifty-six Deshas. Of these, we have permanently lost six: Kambhoja, Gandhara, Pushkalavati (nothing remains of it today, except a mound that lies about 28 kilometres from Peshawar), Kekaya and Madra.
Perhaps the most devastating of all losses is the permanent loss of our Tirtha-Kshetras or spaces of Sanatana pilgrimage. Again, let's look at a brief list.
1. Aapagaa: This was a famous Tirtha on the banks of the Sindhu river. Now it’s in Sialkot and quite obviously, is no longer a Tritha. In fact, until I did research for this series, I had no idea such a place even existed.
2. Arjikiya: This is the Rg Vedic river in the Nadi Sukta. It is now in Haro in Khyber Pakhtunwa.
3. Bhiimaayaa-Sthanam: Now called Takht-i-Bahai in Peshawar.
4. Devika: This is now located near Multan though it is hard to pinpoint the exact location.
5. Gomati: The same Gomal river in Afghanistan.
6. Hlaadin: This Tirtha was once in the Kekaya Desha, and is now in Afghanistan.
7. Iravati: Parts of this famous Vedic river are now in Lahore.
8. Krumu: As we noted earlier, this is now called Kurram, in Pakistan.
9. Kuba: The Rg Vedic river from which the name Kabul is derived. Now in Afghanistan.
10. Mujawat: This is a mountainous region, the renowned Mujawat Parvata where the Soma plant grew in abundance, and was used in Vedic rituals. This is now in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
The number of such sacred Tirtha-Kshetras that we have permanently lost is easily in hundreds when we consider the fact that the total area of Pakistan and Bangladesh includes thirty-three percent of the landmass of undivided India.
The loss of these substantial number of Tirtha-Kshetras is not an ordinary loss. It is a fundamental civilisational, cultural, and most importantly, a spiritual loss. And it throws an extremely important light to truly understand the forgotten Hindu history of Pakistan.
So what is the picture we get, today, when we think of all these lost sacred places? This is the picture: it is the total absence of any kind sanctity—sanctity for a higher spiritual yearning, the timeless Sanatana ideal, and sanctity towards our Devatas who no longer inhabit these sites. Even at a mundane level, there is absolutely no reverence for something as basic as nature in these places.
We can consider a very routine illustration to drive home this point deeper: the Panchangam or the Hindu calendar/almanac. Apart from giving details about things like Tithi, Muhurat, etc, the Panchangam also provides important geographical details, specifically, about festivals, celebrations, Utsavs, etc conducted at various Tirtha-Kshetras across Bharatavarsha. Why for example, does the Mysore Panchangam give such elaborate details about Kashi, Prayag, Gaya, Ayodhya, Mathura, etc? At some point in the past, our Panchangams would have included similar details about Hindu Tirtha-Kshetras which are now located in Pakistan. The logical question thus arises: have these places in Pakistan and Afghanistan remained as Tirtha-Kshetras today? And what has been the civilisational, cultural and human cost of this permanent loss spread over so many agonising centuries?
These are questions Hindus must ask themselves because the cost of this neglect has been the decimation of Sanatana civilisation itself in these regions.
To be continued