India and Central Asia had close contracts in various fields of human activities from the earliest times. Archaeological excavations of stone and bronze cultures in Central Asia have brought to light a similarity with cultures existing in northwest India of the same time. There are striking similarities between the finds from Altyntepe in southern Turkmenistan and the relics of Harappan Culture in northwest India. More concrete historical evidence can he found during Kushana period. These relations became closer in the medieval times because the founders of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire in the 13th and 16th centuries respectively hailed from Central Asian lands. Along with conquerors and founders of the ruling dynasties came the scholars, poets, scientists and Sufi saints. Religious influence spreading from one direction to the other set in motion a process of reciprocal cultural enrichment. There was also unhindered overland trade carried by merchant caravans.
Like Indo-Central Asian relations, Indo-Russian relations also go back to remote past. There have been deep and abiding links because of geopolitical and strategic considerations. However, Central Asia has been continuously a vital link in relations between India and Russia.
The present volume aims to trace these contacts and gives an overview of the origin, historical development, present state of relationship and future challenges.
India, Central Asia, and Russia represent a certain harmony of originally distant and distinct cultures and civilizations finding a certain post-ideological affinity based on geography, historical links and common technological and economic challenges. The core of this conceptual agreement and its policy consequences is in pluralism, secularism, multi-ethnicity and cultural synthesis.
Prof. D.N. Tripathi retired as Head, Department of Ancient History, Archaeology and Culture, and as Director, Rahul Peeth, Gorakhpur University, Uttar Pradesh. He was Fellow of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla from 1999 to 2002; and during September-October 2003, he was Visiting Professor, British Academy, UK. He was Chairman, ICHR, from 2004 to 2007.
Professor Tripathi, a postgraduate in Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology from Allahabad University (1958), studied Greek in 1970s and took Doctorate on Bronzework of Greece, from Southampton University (UK) in 1976. Besides various foreign scholarship and participation in interanational conferences and seminars, he has organized important national and international seminars. Having taught for four decades and guiding doctoral and post-doctoral scholars, he has authored a number of research papers and books on Indian and Greek studies, and delivered series of lectures in Universities in UK, USA and Greece. His books include Bronzework of Mainland Greece from 2600 BC to 1450 BC (1987), Archaeology and Tradition (1988), Cultural Interactions Between India and Greece (1996), and Hinduism and Hellenism (2004).
The present book includes most of the papers presented in the international seminar on “India, Central Asia and Russia: Three Millennia of Contacts” held in New Delhi on 6-8 November 2001. These papers have been meticulously edited by Dr. R.C. Agrawal and Dr. P.K. Shukla, former Member-Secretaries of the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi. I am convinced that the papers included in this book are still relevant for any further study in this field.
The idea of Central Asia as a distinct region of the world was introduced in 1843 by the geographer Alexander von Humboldt. The borders of Central Asia are subject to multiple definitions, and no one definition is universally accepted. Despite this uncertainty in defining borders, it does have some important overall characteristics. For one, Central Asia has historically been closely tied to its nomadic peoples and the Silk Road. As a result, it has acted as crossroad for the movement of people, goods and ideas between Europe, West Asia, South Asia, and East Asia.
Central Asia is the core region of the Asian continent and stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east and from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north. In the modern context, all definitions of Central Asia include five republics of the former Soviet Union: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Other areas included are Afghanistan, northern Iran, Mongolia, and Sometimes Xinjiang in western China and southern Siberia in Russia.
Central Asia and the ancient Indian subcontinent have long traditions of social-cultural, religious, political and economic contact since remote antiquity. The two regions have common and contiguous borders, climatic continuity, similar geographical features and geo-cultural affinity. There has always been uninterrupted flow of people, material and ideas between the two regions. So much so, some ancient literary sources trace common lineage for Indians, Pakistanis, Afghans, and other nationalities of Central Asia.
The archaeological excavations in the Amu valley in southern Uzbekistan, in Afrasiab on north-eastern edge of Samarkand and some other places in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Tak-mak in Kyrghizstan provide evidence of the existence of links between ancient India and Central Asia since remote antiquity. Further, extensive excavations have been carried out with remarkable results at Kara Tepa, Fayaz Tepa, Dalverzin Tepa, Yer Kurgan, AK-Beshin, Kranayerezka and Isyk-Ata. The discovery of manuscripts in Xinjiang (China) and many other valuable finds of excavation substantively establish that India and eastern Central Asian region of Xinjiang were also in extensive political, cultural and religious intercourse with each other. Dynasties of India came from Central Asia as invaders and dynasties of Indian origin also ruled in Khotan and other places in Central Asia. Quite recently, in Turkmenistan, a treasure of 1515 coins of Vasudeva, Kushana king (III-IV AD), have been found.
Immigration of peoples and tribes from Central Asia into India, as well as expansion of Central Asian empires into India, is a recurring theme in the history of the region-from the Bronze Age Indo-Aryan migration to the Iron Age Kushan Empire, the Indo-Scythians, the Indo-Greeks (via Bactria) and the medieval Islamic conquest of the Indian subcontinent. Intrusion is typically across the Hindukush, and influence of the intrusive population is first established in the Punjab and the Indus Valley, and sometimes further expanded into the Ganges Plains.
In the Neolithic epoch, most of the territory of Central Asia, Kazakhstan and northern India was part of a large area inhabited by agricultural cultures which were close to each other and went through similar processes of social development.
Comparable research of the Neolithic cultures of Kazakhstan, India and Central Asia allows us to review in detail the sources of the agricultural cultures of the south of Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the northern India, particularly to observe stages of development of pre-Harappan and Harappan settlements. Archaeological excavations in the north-western regions of India, in the centres of the Harappan Civilisation, display an existence of inter-tribal exchange of goods in the ancient times. From Central Asian towns the Harappan civilization acquired gems. In turn, Harappan handicrafts have been discovered in Central Asia. These facts display that there were processes of different goods exchange in Central Asian and Indian regions in the third-fourth millennium BCE. The recent researches of archaeological relics point towards the existence of contacts between towns of Sindh River Valley and Central Asian and Kazakhstan settlements. These discoveries belong to the period of golden age of the Harappan culture. Some items are similar with those of the Harappan culture (metal goods, beads made of faience, pottery, ivory). Handicrafts from India as well as the local items that had obvious signs of Indian influence were discovered in Central Asia.
There are extensive references to people of Central Asia in Indian literature like Atharvaveda, Vamsa Brahmana of Samveda, Aitareya Brahmana, Satapatha Brahmana, Puranas, Manusmiriti, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Raghuvamsa, BrihatKatha-Manjari, Katha-Saritsagara, Rajaratarangini, Mudrarakshasa, Kavyamimansa and host of other old Sanskrit literature. In classical Indian tradition, clans of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Paradas, etc. are also attested to have been coming as invaders from Central Asia to India in pre-Christian times. They were all finally absorbed into the community of Kshatriyas of Indian society. The Sakas were formerly the inhabitants of trans-Hemodos region-the Shakadvipa of the Puranas or the Scythia of the classical writings. The Kambojas and Pahlavas are known to have their original settlements in the east Iranian regions in Central Asia. Some allege the existence of some of their settlements in post-Christian times in southwest/southern India also.
The Common Era saw more invaders such as the Kushanas, Hunas, Turks, Mongols and Pashtuns coming to the subcontinent. They have all been absorbed into various South Asian communities, leaving, in some cases, no sign of clear-cut identification.
The Silk Route, which connected China, Europe and India, passed through Central Asia. A lot of cities were established along the Silk Route. In those cities, Indians settled and lived their own life; they had their own social and political organisations, language, scripts, literature, art, architecture and religion. Discoveries from Central Asian sites include remains of hundreds of Buddhist shrines, stupas and monasteries of designs inspired by India; numerous Buddhist texts in Sanskrit, Prakrit or local languages, largely in the Indian scripts, Brahmi and Kharoshthi; Sanskrit dramas and texts on medicine, astronomy and astrology written in Brahmi; hundreds of documents of administrative, commercial, legal and miscellaneous kinds, drafted in Sanskrit, Prakrit or Central Asian dialects written in Indian scripts; and tablets of complete Brahmi script. Kharoshthi documents in Prakrit language on wooden tablets amounting 764 leather pieces and silk fragments throw much light on the social, religious and political conditions of the Central Asia during early centuries of the Christian era. Aurel Stein's collection from Xinxiang also included Central Asian art objects including paintings from 'Thousand Buddha Temple' in Tun-Huang.
Presence of many Buddhist temples and centres in Central Asia and Kazakhstan is a nice example of mutual contacts and gives evidences of the Buddhist tradition being spread over Central Asia and Kazakhstan under the Kushanas. Spreading of Buddhism in Central Asia under the Kushans was accompanied not by blind acceptance of the ideas of ancient Indian culture, but by their understanding and combination with local cultural traditions. The most interesting from archaeological discoveries are the Buddhist Sanskrit manuscripts written in Brahmi and Kharoshthi. Palaeographically they are close to Gilgit manuscripts of Pragyanparmita literature (Vinayapitaka) and dated approximately in ca. 7th-8th ACE.
According to the inscriptions discovered in Central Asia, in the Kushan and Gupta periods, Indians settled there built large temple complexes. There are also written evidences of the direct contact between Central Asia and India. These are Buddhist manuscripts on birch bark and palm leaves, which were found in Central Asia. Central Asian Kazakh Buddhist painting has an image of Indian heavenly body that is sun (Surya). We find a parallel to this in images of sun chariot in the sculpture of Bodha-Gaya (c.1st BCE) and in Bamian painting (c. 5th ACE). There are parallels of winged lions in the Indian art (e.g. sculptural disk from Bharhut).
India's relations with Central Asia in early medieval times correspond with the spread of Buddhist teaching and worship. This initiated one of the greatest cultural movements in history-the passage of Buddhist thought and philosophical ideas from one civilisation to another and also the movement of Buddhist missionaries. Researches of Central Asian scholars reveal that Central Asia knew different schools of Buddhism. For example, Kyrgyz researches say that Kyrgyz people knew Tibetan version of Buddhism-Lamaism. Lamaist terminology may be found in "Manas" epic. And nowadays, a section of Kyrgyzs in China confesses Lamaism. With introduction of Islam, Buddhism as religion disappeared from Central Asia. A vast amount of literature is now available in Russian and local Central Asian languages on Buddhist monuments in Central Asia. But there is still a great field for research on the theme: what legacy has Buddhism left on Central Asian peoples' thinking and local philosophical and moral thinking, and how much of this legacy have been included into Islamic thought in Central Asia? From the Soviet researches we know that in Tibetan culture Jatakas occupied very important role. They were not preserved in mummified form but were used as basic material by local writers and poets for illustrations of Lamaist dogmatics understandable to local people. The same was the case in the whole Central Asia also. With removal of Buddhism from the scene its ideas and thinking could not disappear from the minds of the people. Buddhist ideas and thoughts may be found in Central Asian epics, folklore and even fairy tales.
Indian links with Central Asia and vice versa has not been completely continuous, for some centuries they were interrupted, sometimes very intense, as in the case of Kushana period, and sometimes feeble. Zia ul-Din Nakhshabi, the author of Tutinameh ("Book of Parrot") was born in central Asia. Al-Beruni came here, learnt Sanskrit and wrote Tarikh-i Hind(The History of India). Abdurazzak Samarkandi also came here. Ibn Sina and Al-Khorezmi were acquainted with Indian scientific works. Two-way movements for trade and culture continued during Mughal rule and after. Alexander Burnes, the British agent, wrote that turbans of Punjabi white cloth were used by "whole of the natives of Bokhara and Toorkistan" during 1830s. There were about eight thousand Indian settlers in 19th and early 20th century in Central Asia. Every market and village had Hindu moneylender in Turkestan in 1860s according to an observer. Indians had monopoly of book trade there.
Another splash in relations between India and Central Asia was during the reign of Mahmood Ghaznavi and during the times of Delhi Sultanate. That was the time when Persian language and literature were introduced to India. And mostly it has been done through Central Asia. Central Asia was conquered by Islam not by military means, but the Islamic missionaries mostly from Persia introduced Islam in Central Asia. It was at that time when many Sufi scholars, poets and saints came from Central Asia and settled in Delhi, Kashmir and elsewhere in India. This coincided with the return of many Buddhist thoughts and ideas back to India. The Delhi sultanate was the beginning of intensive penetration of Turkic culture into India.
We may mention two way road of cultural exchange between India and Central Asia. It is connected with Temurlang and his successors. But there was difference between Temurlang and his successors. Temur brought to Delhi great disaster: many buildings were burnt and looted; thousands of people were killed, except craftsmen and masons. Temur came to India to conquer and get enormous wealth. He took with him back to Samarqand Indian masons where they should learn also Persian art of building. It is believed that they constructed world famous architectural treasure of Samarqand-Gur-Emir mausoleum and other monuments in Samarqand and Bukhara.
The empire of the Great Moguls emerged in the northern part of India in 1526. Emir of Ferghana Zahir ud-din Muhammad Babur (1526-1530) started this dynasty. Establishment of a strong and organised state in India governed by Turkic-Muslim dynasty intensified penetration of new traditions, which were connected with culture and art of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, into this region. The Great Moguls have returned their enriched skills back to India and these masons combined these two traditions and invented the higher skill that is now widely known to the world as Indian-Islamic architecture. During this period, great traditions of cultural intercourse and contacts of Central Asia and Great Mogul Empire existed. Central Asia played special role in promotion of Indian culture. From the beginning of the 16th century Indian merchants from northern India started trading in the north to Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia and Kazakhstan. Temur came to India for some time, his successors came forever and presented to the world the epoch of the greatest splendour. Their royal court was filled with scientists, writers, musicians and poets.
And still there are about 250 manuscripts on history and literature of Central Asia, mostly in Arabic and Persian in the museums and libraries of India. Khuda Bakhsh Library, Patna, is very rich in this matter. Important information is available in written sources of Indian historiography such as Bukharnama, Tarih-i-Rashidi, Akbarnama, Alamgirnama and others. In this connection, it is necessary to pay attention to these manuscripts and archival materials, which are in custody of India and abroad, particularly in India Office in the Great Britain, which are yet to be studied properly. Baburnama and a book got compiled by Akbar has a lot of material on India and Central Asia. This is a great source for researches on Central Asian-Indian relations in medieval period.
Exactly under the Mogul Empire, India was dramatically affected by the Turkic culture and the Turkic people. The Turks promoted the golden age of Muslim culture in India. Literature and lyrics in the Persian developed, elements specific for the Muslim architecture appeared, and basis of the Indian miniature school were founded. From the time of the Turkic appearance under the leadership of Babur, Indian culture developed in absolutely different way.
Miniature painting of Central Asia developed as a secular art in the medieval period. By the time of emergence of the Mongolian school, miniatures of Central Asia had been developed and improved for a long time, and thus its influence on the Indian painting was natural. However, several decades later, it got an impulse for development from the Mongolian miniatures. There was fruitful process of mutual enrichment and renewal. Achievements of the Indian and Central Asian schools, each of them having its own old traditions, always were accepted creatively.
The slow Russian conquest of the heart of Central Asia began in the early 19th century. Until the 1870s, for the most part, Russian interference was minimal, leaving native ways of life intact and local government structures in place. With the conquest of Turkestan after 1865 and the consequent securing of the frontier, the Russians gradually expropriated large parts of the steppe and gave these lands to Russian farmers, who began to arrive in large numbers. This process was initially limited to the northern fringes of the steppe and it was only in the 1890s that significant numbers of Russians began to settle farther south. The main opposition to Russian expansion into Turkestan came from the British, who felt that Russia was growing too powerful and threatening the northwest frontiers of British India. This rivalry came to be known as' The Great Game', where both powers competed to advance their own interests in the region. It did little to slow the pace of conquest north of the Ox us, but did ensure that Afghanistan remained independent as a buffer state between the two Empires.
During the First World War, the Muslim exemption from conscription was removed by the Russians, sparking the Central Asian Revolt of 1916.
When the Russian Revolution of 1917 occurred, a provisional Government of Jadid Reformers, also known as the Turkestan Muslim Council, met in Kokand and declared Turkestan's autonomy. This new government was quickly crushed by the forces of the Tashkent Soviet, and the semi-autonomous states of Bukhara and Khiva were also invaded. The main independence forces were rapidly crushed, but guerrillas known as basmachi continued to fight the Communists until 1924. Mongolia was also swept up by the Russian Revolution and, though it never became a Soviet Republic, it became a communist People's Republic in 1924.
The Second World War sparked the widespread migration of Soviet citizens to the rear of the USSR. Much of this movement was directed to Soviet Central Asia. These migrations included official, state-organised evacuations and deportations as well as the non-sanctioned, panicked flight from the front by both general citizenry and important officials. The evacuation of Soviet citizens and industry during World War II was an essential element of their overall success in the war, and Central Asia served as a main destination for evacuees.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was formally dissolved on December 25, 1991. This left all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union as independent sovereign states. The dissolution of the world's largest communist state also marked an end to the Cold War. Between August and December, 10 republics declared their independence, largely out of fear of another coup. The final collapse of the USSR was one of the most sudden and dramatic territorial losses that has befallen any state in history. Between 1990 and 1992 Kremlin had lost direct government control over about one-third of Soviet territory-most of it acquired in the period between 1700 and 1945-which had about one-half of the Soviet population by the time of the dissolution. From 1988 to 1992, a free press and multiparty system developed in the Central Asian republics as perestroika pressured the local Communist parties to open up. What Svat Soucek calls the "Central Asian Spring" was very short-lived, as soon after independence former Communist Party officials recast themselves as local strongmen. Political stability in the region has mostly been maintained, with the major exception of the Tajik Civil War that lasted from 1992 to 1997. The year 2005 also saw the largely peaceful ousting of Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev in the Tulip Revolution and an outbreak of violence in Andijan, Uzbekistan.
The roots of ethnicity have assumed importance over the past three decades in Europe and Russia. Both the countries have been driven by ethnic rivalries of a kind, which we had all fervently hoped had disappeared forever with the end of the Second World War. In what for many years seemed the stable nation-state of Yugoslavia, we see today live hostilities in which atrocities are ceaselessly committed in the name of ethnic identity. Just as the National Socialists developed ethnic theories about Aryans and Semites (where they drew distinctions mainly of a racial nature, in terms of genetic descent, supplemented by cultural and linguistic ones), so we see the so-called undertaking what they call "ethnic cleansing" in the name of an ethnic concept. Likewise, in the former Soviet, Union we see different ethnic groups in conflict: in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan. Again, the fighting parties are groups, each of which claims allegiance to an essentially ethnic cause.
My essential claim is that these ethnic groups are no impermeable entities whose roots go back far into the past. They are all constructs, some of them recent, some of them many centuries old. But they are not timeless and eternal. It is quite likely that the sort of fiercely self-identifying ethnicity, which we have seen re-awakened in Europe over the past few years, is something which first arose here during the "Iron Age", in the first millennium Be. With the Roman imperium it diminished to some extent, but re-emerged with the decline in Roman power in the fifth century AD. Many European "ethnicities" emerged in the millennium that followed. Their roots may go deep. Linguistic diversity may be the most important factor, with genetic diversity (despite the Nazi delusions) not being a very important one. Both are complicated by the religious diversity, which accompanies the conflicting claims of the world religions.
India has been closely related, both politically and culturally, with the newly carved out states of Soviet Central Asia. We have to study this problem seriously as regionalism is becoming an important issue day by day in the Indian political scenario.
Strictly speaking history knows no end. Every age rewrites its history. Every generation, beset with new issues, problems and questions, looks back to its history, reinterprets, and renews its past. As such, I am confident that the publication of this volume will not only add to the existing knowledge on the subject but also prove useful to researchers, academia and the policy makers interested in this area. I am grateful to Professor Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, former Chairman, ICHR and Dr. Ishrat Alam, Member Secretary, ICHR for their support and efforts to bring out this publication. A special apology is needed for the inadequate attention given to various areas of Central Asia because of the regrettable paucity of Indian specialists in the languages of those areas. While we own the shortfalls in the book, we regret to record that all papers could not be included in this publication for some compelling technical reasons.
The present book is an effort to look into the cultural, economic and political contacts Central Asia had for the last 3000 years with India, Russia and China to a certain extent. Chapters of this book view the matter and discuss the interaction between these countries from various perspectives. These form the papers presented in the international seminar on Central Asia held in New Delhi on 6-8 November 2001, under the Cultural Exchange Programme between India and Russia. Most of the papers presented at the seminar are included in this book.
The papers of the seminar are classified into four sections, based broadly on the period each author covers while dealing with the three millennia of contacts. The sections include: Section I: Ancient Period, Section II: Medieval Period, Section III: Modern Period, and Section IV: Contemporary Period. The last one carries papers covering the modern period, which deals with late twentieth century and the current period, and hence named 'contemporary', distinguishing it from the modern period.
Besides the Introductory Note by AK. Damodaran, the volume has, in all, 26 papers divided into four sections, as mentioned above. As AK. Damodaran remarked while inaugurating the seminar, the millennium before Common Era is full of nostalgia and memories, though details are lacking, as far as India and Russia are concerned. While the first millennium of the Common Era provided direct contacts between the two civilisations, the last millennium made the relationship continuous and intimate. According to AK. Darnodaran, twentieth century and particularly its second half coinciding with post- independent India, is of genuine interest to us. He reminds us of the prehistoric linguistic evidences, Buddhist influence, Orthodox Church, Sufism and Sikhism, the Great Game of British and Tsarist Empires, Soviet alliance with national movements, Gandhi's emulation of Tolstoy, and Tashkent agreement.
Section I begins with D.P. Chattopadhyaya's paper titled 'Convergence and Cross-currents of Civilisation in and around Central Asia'. Chattopadhyaya considers the territory between China in the east and the Fertile Crescent (around the Euphrates and the Tigris) in the west and beyond comprising the extended Hellenic World, Russia and Ukraine in the north, and Pakistan and India in the south as a Eurasian cultural continuum. Since time immemorial, the peoples of these countries have been moving to and from different directions. While talking about the cultural cross-currents and intellectual exchanges, the author takes into account their contributions in the field as well as researches in different areas such as archaeology, iconography, maritime studies, astronomy and mathematics.
In his paper, 'Central Asia and Indo-Aryans', D.N. Tripathi discusses the continuously disputed issue of the homeland of Aryans. After giving a broad history of the debate, by dwelling into references about the people in the Vedic and Puranic literature, as well as through Western scholarship on the subject, he pinpoints the discussion on the question whether Aryans are from Central Asia or from India itself. Giving a thorough consideration of Aryans as Indo- Europeans, Indo-Iranians and Indo-Aryans, he finally concludes them as autochthonous to the Sapta-Sindhu region and argues that the Rigvedic culture reflecting their life 'has to be placed at least in Chalcolithic phase, if not earlier'.
The contacts between South Asia and Central Asia go much beyond three millennia; it is difficult to cross this limit if we include Russia. To be more precise, as A.K. Narain thinks, one cannot go beyond eighth-seventh centuries BC and the earliest contacts are related to the movements of the Sakas or the Scythians, the names by which they were known in the eastern and western world, respectively. Many scholars in the fields of Indo-European linguistics and antiquities tend now to look at South Russia either as the homeland of the Iranian speaking peoples, or as the secondary centre of their migrations, and more and more scholars now consider the Cimmerians as one of the Iranian speaking peoples. In the extreme form, Diakonow, considered the Cimmerians only as an individual tribal group within the vast Scythian ethnic groups. Khazanov, who finds this opinion cautious and acceptable, think that the Scythian invasion from Asia in the eighteenth century BC was apparently not the first appearance of the Iranian element in Europe, but only one of the movements of Northern Iranian nomadic tribes. Such movements repeatedly also took place later on. However, they did not result in drastic changes of population.
There is no doubt in respect of the ritual drinking, or revering, of haoma: or soma by these Sakas. Offering of hoama was evidently of great importance in the pagan Iran. So was the offering of soma of Vedic religion. Together with animal and human sacrifices, it played an integral role in the development of their ideology and culture. There is ample evidence to indicate a link between the pre-Zoroastrian Daeva worship of the pagan Iranians and the Vedic religious beliefs and rituals. The linguistic closeness between the Rigveda and the Gathas is now a recognized fact. Disagreeing with B.K. Thapar, Narain is of the view that certain features of the Swat Grave Culture and related information about the region from various sources are sufficient to point at the Saka presence and their participation in the early phases of Vedic society and rituals. The soma-drinking Sakas, though eclipsed in between by the Mauryas and Indo-Greeks, were a continuity of Vedic culture.
Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan reminds one, even without any substantial historical grasp, of the advent of Buddhism in Central Asia. S.M. Haldhar traces its history in Afghanistan, Bactria and Parthia. The author agrees with other writers that Buddhism lost to Zoroastrianism in Persia. The Kushana Empire stimulated the spread of Buddhism in Central Asia. Kubha (Kabul) had a strong presence of Buddhist intellectuals, including Vimalaksha and Kumarajiva.
Aloka Parasher-Sen enters into a discussion on the people who travelled around a millennium ago, out of necessities of life, across the upper Indus Valley, where three mountains meet the Western Himalayas, the Karakorum and the Hindukush. The sources are the rock art and inscriptions discovered in Pakistan, and these cover both Buddhist and Islamic periods (after prehistory).
The section on medieval period starts with R.L. Hangloo's paper, 'Indo- Central Asian Contacts: A Turkoman Initiative in the Medieval Period'. The exchange of people's ideas, epitomised by the millennia of contacts, produced and reproduced the cultures of India and Central Asia from time to time and is now too strong to be broken, according to R.L. Hangloo. The process of medieval Indian state formation owes much to Central Asian politics and its origin has to be sought partly in response to the developments in Central Asia. India also had to adopt its political organisation according to the exigencies of Central Asian influence. For example, in introducing Persian as the official language, the Delhi Sultanate, the Bahmani Sultanate in Deccan, and the Shahmir Sultanate in Kashmir, underlined the enduring importance of Central Asian culture to Indian states and also highlighted the central position of Indian relationship with Central Asia.
From very early times, Indian culture was acting at the popular level as an autonomous entity, expanding, contracting and submitting to outside influences. Under the Turkomans, it was again subjected to a process of reconstruction. Therefore, the Indians also saw the onset of thirteenth century as part of the continuous process that had been going on from early Bronze Age. But in the process, this time the Central Asians including the Turkomans felt themselves unquestionably superior to the caste-based society at popular level. They blended Central Asian military, administrative, technological, and cultural expertise of their heritage and Sufism with principles of peaceful coexistence of Indian religious systems.
Outside Central Asia and particularly in India, the Central Asians in general and Turkomans in particular proved themselves a desirable cultural asset representing skill and strength for shaping the Sultanate, which was the ultimate product of the convergence of these contacts. When a relationship lasts for such a long time, it is bound to encourage a process of acculturation. In India, this process of acculturation appeared in so many forms and one needs to be selective because the different aspects of polity, society, economy, history and culture are so deftly interwoven that it becomes difficult to separate one from the other.
G.D. Gulati's presentation narrates in a nutshell the hospices and hospitality that Ibn Battuta witnessed during his travels through Central Asia. Caravan serais and hospices (small lodging facilities), and the hospitality en route had impressed the Arab (Moroccan) traveller. Ibn Battuta visited the Turkish city, Khwarizm (modern Khiva), Bukhara, Nakhshab (Nafa), which is 100 miles southeast of Bukhara, Samarkand, Tirmidh, Balkh (in Khurasan), Herat, al- Jam, Tus, Sarakhs, Zawa, Naiasabur, Bistan, Hindukhir (Andakhuih, 100 miles west of Balkh), Qunduz, Baghlan, Andar (Andarab), Parwan (45 miles north of Kabul), al-Charkh, Ghazni, Kabul, Karmash, Shashnagar (Hashtnagar) and reached Indus River from where he, along with his party, was taken to the court of Muharnmad-bin-Tughluq.
A.K. Bag deals on the status of Sine Tables in India and Central Asia during medieval times. Among the Arabic astronomers, al-Fazari (AD 796), Abu'l-Hasan al-Ahwazi (AD 771), Umar ibn al Farrukhan al-Tabari (died in AD 815), al-Khwarizmi (AD 825), Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi (AD 886), Al-Biruni (died in AD 1050), al-Zarkali (Toledan Tables, c. AD 1080) and many others, became more or less acquainted with the sine-cosine concepts, sine table and astronomical theories of the Indians. The Greek work, Almagest of Ptolemy was also translated into Arabic during the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid (AD 786-808) and became well known during the reign of Caliph al-Mamum (AD 813-33). The Greeks used chord in a half-circle taking 180 degrees arc as the basis whereas Indians used half-chord (known as jya) in a quarter-circle taking 90 degrees arc as the basis. Indian process was much more simpler and of course had a natural advantage. Nallino, the great historian of Arabic history, states that the Arabs learnt from the Indian works the calculation of the movement of the stars and other matters of astronomical importance. Michio Yano, who has studied both Greek and Indian sine tables, remarked about 'the far greater convenience of the latter' in geometrical calculations.
The terms, sine and cosine, are derived from two Sanskrit technical words, jya and kojya (complementary to jya), respectively. Many Indian astronomers give the shadow tables of different places on equinoctial day for gnomon of 12 angulas. David Pingree has traced five such tables in the Sanskrit collections of America and Europe, which according to him, were mainly used for finding latitude of places, preparation of local pancangas, etc. The shadow tables for gnomon are also found in many medieval Central-Asian astrolabes of fifteenth and sixteenth century AD. As an example, the reverse of the Muhammad Muqim's astrolabe contains shadow lengths for 7 feet (Greek tradition) and 12 angula gnomon (Indian tradition).
While analyzing Indo-Central Asian trade relations, Mansura Haider describes also the pattern of trade between Russia and Central Asia. Central Asia, which had earlier been one of the important regions on the old 'Silk Road', is said to have become commercially a 'subdued phenomenon' during the sixteenth century. European travellers observed with dismay that in sixteenth century there was no hope of good trade in any part of the country, and that trade in Persia and Tartaria alike was of 'little utterance and small profit'. To the early medieval Persian chronicler, Ibni Hauqal, however, the brisk commercial transactions at various entrepots of Central Asia seemed to show no decline.
In Babur's time, there were two trade marts on the land routes between India and Khurasan, namely, Kabul and Kandahar. The caravans came to Kabul from Kashgar, Farghana, Turkestan, Bukhara, Samarkand, Balkh, Hesar and Badakshan, and the merchants made big profits in Kabul, as it was an excellent trading centre. Clavijo says that from India were brought to Samarkand the costly spices of the kind such as nutmeg, cloves, mace and cinnamon. Every year the caravans of ten, fifteen or twenty thousand heads of houses bringing slaves, white cloth, sugar candy, refined and common sugars and aromatic roots came to Kabul from Hindustan and many traders were not content with a profit of 30 or 40 on 10 (i.e., 300 to 400 per cent).
The privileges granted to English merchants in 1569 by Tsar authorized them 'to be and abide freely, to barter and bargain freely all wares of sale without custom of people' not only in Russia but also to pass through its land to Boghar, Persia, Caspian and other countries. The trading communities in Central Asia were Sarts, Tajiks and Jews. In later centuries, the Bukhara Jews held the wholesale trade in silkworms in the Khanates. Although the existence of credit operations, letters of credit (suftan or suftaja) pay order within a time and khatti sarraf (cheques for local transactions) in the form of 'dumb bartering' are mentioned in the sources, no detailed information about the working of these is available.
Sheikh Saleem Ahmed discusses the Naqshbandiyya Sufi order and its link between India and Central Asia. Naqshbandiyya constitutes one of the leading Sufi order in the Muslim world. Its history dates back to the fourteenth century Bukhara in Khurasan. Kh. Mohammed Bahauddin Naqshbandi (1318- 1389) was considered its founder. By the sixteenth century Naqshbandiyya became a worldwide organisation spreading over major areas of Sunni Muslim world like Western and Central Asia, Ottoman Society, Indian subcontinent and China.
Bahauddin Naqshbandi and Abdul Khaliq Gujdwani were the early leading personalities who formulated rules for the order and made efforts to establish its centres in the whole of Central Asia, Herat, Balkh, Badakshan and India. The conquest of India by Babur in 1526 gave considerable impetus to the development of the Naqshbandi order in India. Many Sufis like Aziz Koka, harem's women like Gulrukh Begum and Salima Sultan, and Babur sought allegiance to Mohammad Naqshband or Khwaja Ahrar because they too belonged to their ancestral homeland.
Khwaja Baqi Billah (1564-1603) who was a disciple of Khwaja Ahrar came to India during the time of Akbar. He established Naqshbandi order in India. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi (1564-1624) entitled Mujaddid Alfsani, was an original thinker, known for his wisdom and learning. He was also involved in the social and political affairs of his times. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi felt uncomfortable to see the increasing alien, non-Muslim and Shia influence in the Muslim society of India. His concern was the supremacy of pure and pristine Islam and he wanted to revive the period of Khulfae Rashidin (first four caliphs).
When he came to know about the new invention in the field of physics being carried out in the West, he remarked that physics was not helpful in our religious affairs. Sirhindi expressed his dislike about modern sciences in his letters too and one of his friends ridiculed algebra. All the orthodox revivalist movements of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, whether it was the declaration of India as darul harb by Shah Abdul Aziz or Wahabi movement of Syed Ahmed Shaheed and Shah Ishmael, author of Taqwiatul Iman or Jamat- e-lslami, Tabiligh-i-lamat or Deoband Seminary, all owe their origin to Mujaddid thoughts.
K.N. Pandita discusses the Indo-Tajik relations from a medieval context. He says that travellers from Bukhara coming to India in medieval times often carried with them excellent copies of important treatises on theology, medicine, veterinary science, astronomy and exegesis, which were copied and distributed among local scholars. India, therefore, owes much to Bukhara in the proliferation of Islamic sciences. Besides, the contribution of Bukharans in the fields of music, particularly Sufiana music, architecture, laying of gardens and other aspects is commendable. The construction of dome, a speciality of the Mughal architecture was adopted from the Bukhara dome architecture. The double dome model of Taj Mahal is precisely the one we find in the dome of the Samanid king, Nasr bin Ahmad in Bukhara.
It should be remembered that at the Mughal court, there were more nobles and grandees of Central Asian, meaning Tajik, extraction than of Iranian extraction. The word velayat for the Mughals meant Central Asia and not Iran. They did not use Tajikistan as a geographical entity though they did use Tajiks as a people. Therefore, when we speak of Indo- Tajik relations, we have to take into account all those people in Central Asia who have affinity to Indo-Aryan stock.
Section III dwells on the Modern Period. M.R. Ryjenkov studies the image of India and Indians in the Russian perception, as part of the Russo-Indian relations. From eleventh to nineteenth century, India was understood as a country of 'treasures, miracles and natural fertility'. In Tsar Paul's design to plunder India (which did not materialize, as he was assassinated), the treasures were to be rewarded to the Cossacks. The military and political authority during Tsar Alexander I believed in India's deep conviction in the invincibility of British fleet. Strangely, this was just before the 1857 mutiny in India. The Crown Prince Nicolai Alexandrovitch was reported to have gathered diverse knowledge about the 'proficiency of the Europeans, who are commanding Asia'.
Using mostly Russian and French sources, T.W. Zagorodnikova tries to assess the activities of Ramchandra Balaji, nephew of Nana Sahib, the hero of 1857 mutiny. She narrates his life, mostly in exile, and particularly in Russia. Though his stepmother was wife of a British officer, slowly he became a nationalist and organised activities against the British. Zagorodnikova evaluates him as aristocratic, though nationalistic.
Z.U. Malik analyses briefly the social life and economic situation in Eastern Turkestan (Kashgar and Yarqand) and the diplomatic relations between British India and the ruler of Kashgar, Yaqub Beg, during 1871-72. The essay is based on the eyewitness account of Robert Berkley Shaw, a political agent of the British government.
Bir Good Gill studies the British Indian and Persian trade with Afghanistan during the reign of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan. Both Russia and Britain were vying with each other in their Great Game of finding markets and areas of political influence and, in the progress, Afghanistan became a buffer state. The Amir's ban of silver and gold export out of Afghanistan, monopolising of certain items into state sector for finding increased revenues since 1891, increased demand for Indian tea (kokchi) in Central Asia, Chinese tea more or less replacing Indian tea with the Chinese re-occupation of Eastern Turkestan, and Russia's improved position of trade with the expansion of railway network constitute the major aspects of this chapter.
Devendra Kaushik talks on the role of Central Asia in Indo-Russian relations. Like Indo-Central Asian relations, Indo-Russian relations also go back to the remote past. In a way, they are even much older as far as indirect relations are concerned. However, Central Asia has been continuously a vital link in the relations between India and Russia. For being the core of the Eurasian landmass, it is but natural for Russia to put up with itself as part of both Europe and Asia. Because of the absence of a physical barrier on the space between the Urals and the Black Sea resulting in the extension of the Russian steppes to Central Asia, the latter has ideally served as a bridge between Russia and South Asia. Nevertheless, it will be improper to exaggerate the significance of the geo-cultural ties among India, Central Asia and Russia, which though imparting a tenacity to demand types of traditional goods, could not completely counteract the political barriers created by British and Tsarist colonialism. The near monopoly of the British over Indian trade and destruction of Indian handicrafts and manufacturing inhibited the development of trade among India, Central Asia and Russia. The restrictions imposed by the Tsarist administration on Indian trade through Bukhara also adversely affected the growth of economic ties between them. The construction of Indo- Volga Railway Line, joining Orenburg with Samarkand and Peshwar as an extension of a line from Lisbon to Orenburg, was continuously turned down by the Tsarist authorities fearing penetration of British and West European goods into Central Asia.
Devendra Kaushik argues that New Delhi could explore the possibility of reaching an agreement with Beijing for use of its road to Kyrgyzstan through Xinjiang province. India can use this road by constructing a small link road in Ladakh joining the Tibet-Xinjiang road, passing through the disputed Aksai Chin territory. Ladakh is already linked with the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The Central Asian Republics can gain access to the Indian seaport of Kandla in Gujarat through this overland route through Xinjiang and Ladakh.
Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui discusses the emergence of the Mangit dynasty under Shah Murad and the socio-economic conditions in the Emirate of Bukhara as well as its relations with India and Russia during nineteenth century, in the backdrop of break-up and decline of the Mughal Empire by the second half of the eighteenth century. The author uses mainly the travel accounts of Alexander Burnes and Mohan Lal Kashmiri. Warikoo discusses the political overtones along with the trade relations between Kashmir and Russian Turkestan during the nineteenth century in the context of Russo-British imperialist rivalry. The presence of Russian and Central Asian merchants in Kashmir during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for purpose of shawl trade is testified by such eye-witness accounts as that of Bernier, Yefremov, Abdul Karim, Forster, Moorcroft and other sources. The shawl goods of Kashmir and the pashm (fine wool) yielding goats of Ladakh stimulated the Russian interest in developing trade with adjacent countries in Asia. This trade intensified in the wake of enforcement of the continental blockade by Napoleon in Europe. Tsarist Russia sent several missions to the Khanates of Bukhara and Kokand to secure their consent in the free movement of Russo-Chinese trading caravans from Russia to Kashgar via Bukhara and Kokand and vice versa. Once this was achieved, Russia could and did think of extending her commercial relations with Ladakh, Kashmir, and Punjab.
In a bid to meet the growing Russian threat to the Central Asian Khanate of Kokand, the Khan of Kokand despatched his emissaries to India for securing British support. Since the Kashgar- Yarkand-Leh route was practically free from robbers, the Central Asians preferred it to the troublesome Kabul route for entering India. It was in 1837 that an envoy from Kokand arrived at Ladakh who had been deputed by the Khan of Kokand to present a pair of rubies and horses to the Governor General of India with a view to establishing friendly relations with the British government.
While measuring the Russian response to the overtures made by Maharaja Ranbir Singh of Kashmir, we need to bear in mind that the Russian policy was not to get involved in the internal affairs of British India. Kashmir's overtures to the Russians in Central Asia need to be viewed in the context of Anglo-Russian rivalry. Though Russia was not strong enough to move beyond the Oxus in the south and Pamirs in the east, yet its military successes in Central Asia had earned it a definite advantage in respect of the psychological influence created on Asian peoples. The disgruntled Indian princely rulers who were already annoyed with the increasing British interference in their domains, derived a sort of moral encouragement from the appearance of Russia close to the British Indian frontiers, which stimulated their anti-British aspirations. On their part, the Russians reciprocated Ranbir Singh's friendly sentiments but they steered clear of any active involvement in internal affairs of British India, which could have led them to a direct conflict with the British. Sneh Mahajan discusses the political exigencies behind Anglo-Russian bargain on the Wakhan corridor, part of Afghanistan. In Durand and the Pamirs agreements in the 1890s (in 1893 and 1895, respectively) deciding the northern, eastern and north-western boundaries of Afghanistan, which had no ethnic basis, are understood as part of the Great Game played between these two empires on the Pamirs in Central Asia.
T. Shaumian analyses the Tibetan dimension of British India's perceived threat of Russia. Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, saw a Russian conspiracy of getting involved in Tibet through the Russian Buryat, Dorjieff, attached to the then Dalai Lama, in the first decade of twentieth century. Shaumian briefs the communications and diplomatic efforts that took place preceding the British army expedition under Younghusband deployed by Lord Curzon. Historical records show continuous exchange of visits by Indians and Central Asians to each other's territories at least for the last six centuries.
Indians travelling to Central Asia were adherents of different faiths, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism Islam, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. Surendra Gopal discusses on the Indians in Central Asia in the early decades of twentieth century. While doing so, he finds that, from the second half of the nineteenth century, the nature of Indo-Central Asian contacts have undergone qualitative changes. European colonial powers became entrenched in both these areas: Great Britain in India and Tsarist Russia in Central Asia. Eventually, it affected the nature of contacts between Central Asians and Indians. Along with scholars, travellers, traders and soldiers from India who went to Central Asia, groups of Indians belonging to the lowest rung of the social order also entered Central Asia. The Soviet Indologist Oranskii discovered a group of Pariah in Tajikistan who spoke in a language akin to Punjab and who with great zeal had preserved their language. Of course, they had forgotten from where their ancestors had originally arrived.
The last section deals with the contemporary period (largely covering the second half of twentieth century onwards), of contacts among India, Russia and Central Asia. This section begins with Tabasum Firdaus's article 'India and Central Asia: An Overview of Relationship'. She overviews India's relationship with the Central Asian Republics, which were earlier part of the Soviet Union. After analyzing the Pan-Turkish Programme and export of religious fundamentalism by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran, the author presents India's secular approach of promoting cultural exchanges and trade, and above all Russia's leading role through CIS and support of anti- Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Kirill Vasilyevich Novikov, the first Soviet Ambassador to India, presented a report to the Foreign Policy Commission of the CC of CPSU on 5 July 1949, classified as 'top secret'. V.P. Kashin analyses this document, which deals with the political situation in India, affairs of CPI, British-Indian relations and the spread of Soviet publications. He says that the Ambassador could not discover a revolutionary situation in India, to the 'great disappointment of the Commission members'. It should be remembered that Soviet-Indian relationship greatly improved after Nehru's unsuccessful 1949 visit to USA and the subsequent Soviet offer of food help to India following the latter's request.
V. Chernovskaya analyses the Rupee-Rouble trade in the Soviet period, the decline in Indian business with the collapse of Soviet Union, and the prospects of Indian trade now in the Russian regions. Over 80 per cent of Indian exports were to the Soviet Union and the trade turnover between the _ two countries was 8,000 crores in 1990-91. The major actors were public sector units and state trading corporations. With the break-up of planned Rupee- Rouble trade, the trade turnover declined drastically. In late nineties and the beginning of the twenty-first century, the trade is slowly picking up, despite some Indian brands becoming suspect. As the author reports, the political and business leaders of the regions in Russia such as Sverdlovsk oblast, Voronezh, Ryazan, Vladivostok, etc. and republics such as Bashkhortostan, Tatarstan, etc. have shown interest in Indian business. Indian goods are facing stiff competition from Western goods and cheap Southeast Asian goods.
S.P. Singh looks into the regional and strategic dimensions of political Islam in Central and Southwest Asia. The Islamisation of society and politics, which was undoubtedly intensified in the inordinately vast Muslim region of Central Asia and Southwest Asia during the West-sponsored and Pale-supported 'Jihad' against the Soviets in Afghanistan, has now enveloped several parts of Central Asia. The US administration pumped in eight billion dollars into the 'Afghan pipeline' and allowed the CIA-ISI combine to manage this arsenal. Conscriptions were allowed from the various Muslim countries in the world to take part in this 'Holy War'. The professed aim of this game plan was to defeat the so-called 'evil empire'.
After the withdrawal of the Soviets, the military hawks of Pakistan and the warlords of Afghanistan seized these lethal arms and made use of the opportunity to suppress their adversaries and become paramount political power. Subsequently, the Islamists have caused the virtual destabilisation of the buffer state regions into one 'arc of crisis' and exported Islamic fundamentalism. With the help of drug-money and cross-border terrorists, they have seriously menaced several well-established secular regimes in the sprawling Central Asiatic region and threatened the territorial integrity of Russia in the adjoining areas. These very elements have also fought the decade-long proxy war in the Indian state of Kashmir in order to seize it by forceful means. By many available accounts, it may even escalate into an all- out nuclear confrontation.
While objectively analysing the highly complex issues of conflict and the mercurial role of the various regional actors, which have turned this enormously vast region into a murky battleground, it is important to further discuss how these forces, with the prime purpose of completely Islamising this area, are impinging upon the security scenarios of the vast areas from Central Asia to Southwest Asia, from the Caucasus to Kashmir, Xinjiang to Afghanistan and Iran to Pakistan.
The last article in this volume is on Russo-Indian strategic partnership. Doubting the emergence of unipolar world, as the 9/11 developments have demonstrated the hegemony of the so-called 'core' as unrealistic, Andrei Volodin argues for Russo-Indian strategic partnership and considers its emergence as a historical necessity. He considers the role of the 'superlarge' states, namely, Brazil, China, India and Russia as significant in a newly emerging international community of horizontal ties. Pointing out the long-term trends in the common geopolitical perspective of India and Russia, Volodin proposes cooperation between them on the four basic areas, viz. food security, energy security, economic security, and military security.
Overall, this collection will definitely provide an intellectual feast to the scholars of politics and international relations in general, and the students of the area studies, geopolitics and defence and strategic studies in particular. Moreover, the collection gives hints to the working of the international forces of terrorism and the hidden forces of stakes and global domination behind them operating in Central Asia, Southwest Asia, Eurasia, and the Caspian and the border regions of Xinjiang and Kashmir.
Art & Culture (702)
Emperor & Queen (478)
Mahatma Gandhi (264)
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