Vedic Influence in Muslim countries
like Iraq and Iran
If we go back to the time before Islam
was born, around third millennium BCE, India had some cultural bond
with Mesopotamian civilization, now Iraq and Iran. According to N. N.
Bhattacharya, an Indologist, history has several references to show
the contact between Indian civilization and the Islamic world. At one
time, in fact, Vedic tradition had taken roots in the land of Iraq.
The Indian trade with West-Asia, today is known as the Middle-East,
goes way back and history supports that too.
traditions were prominent even in Muslim countries like Iraq and Iran
the Rig Vedic age, Afghanistan and the neighboring countries were part
of ancient India, the Bharatvarsha, and ancient Iran was also an integral
part of India. Some parts of Vedic culture is also seen in the Western
Asia. Zenob, a Syrian writer, says, “there was an Indian colony
in the canton of Taron (in the region of modern day Turkey) on the upper
Euphrates, to the west of Lake Van, as early as the second century BCE.”
There were constructions of two huge temples with gigantic images of
Vedic divinities, which stood as large as 18 feet and as high as 22
pioneer British Assyriologist and linguist, Dr. Sayce says that the
trade by sea between India and Babylon was initiated at around 3000
BCE, when Ur Bagas, the first King of United Babylonia, ruled Ur of
the Chaldees. In the third millennium BCE, Indian teak wood was found
in the remains of Babylonian artifacts, and Hewitt says that the wood
must have come from the port of Malabar coast (Ref.: Mookerji, Indian
Shipping, p. 86). Babylonia also imported precious stones from India,
according to Herodotus (Ref: Cowell, Jataka, III, p.83). The Baveru
Jataka (no. 339) talks about the visit of Indian maritime traders to
the kingdom of Baveur (Babylonia), during the Seleucid empire, established
in 312 BCE.
ancient city of Babylon
Moreover, Indian traders exported sandalwood,
rice, and peacocks to Babylonia. The peacocks brought by Hiram’s
ships to Solomon were called tuki, derived from Tamil Tagai. Before
Islam had the roots, Arabia imported large amount of Indian spices from
India. The mart of Batene was imported lots of Indian wares. To add,
Arabic words like “Quaranful” has the roots in the Indian
words like “Karanphul”. Even the word “made of Indian
steel” is proverbial in the Arabic literature.
point of all this is to establish that there used to be trade relations
between India and Middle East from a long time, and some scholars even
argue that the trade interrupted the rise of Islam back in the days
Vedic Influence in Iran :
Known as Parthia or Persia in the past,
Iran had tribes connected with Vedic tradition settling in. They were
the Druhyus, Panis, Parsas, and Bisnois. They were practicing several
Vedic rituals like the fire ritual, the Sun worship, and many later
found their way in Zoroastrianism. Even the rulers supported these practices,
but later when Muslims took over, the practices started to fade away.
Parashuram defeated the Kshatriyas 21 times during the Vedic period,
those who lost refused to follow Vedic civilization and left India to
find their own places. They were known as Parshvas and later turned
into Zoroastrianism where they worshiped Asur Medha, or Asur Mahta,
or what was later known as Ahuramazda. They are known as Parsis today.
Dr. Poonai writes, “The doctrines
of the Vedas were therefore widely taught to the noble people of Iran,
also called Purusham Aryanam, a phrase which can be abbreviated to Parsianam
or Parthians or Persians.” There used to a Vedic axe warrior by
the name of Parashurama, and that is what he believes how the name Persia
Dr. Peter B. Clarke, editor of The World’s Religions (1993, p.
130), writes that the name Iran has been derived from Aryan and Aryans
had inhabited the ancient Iran. The old Iranian language was also very
similar to Sanskrit.
relations between this ancient Iranian and the language of the Veda
are so close that it is not possible satisfactorily to study one without
the other. It is quite possible to find verses in the oldest portion
of the Avesta, which simply by phonetic substitutions according to established
laws can be turned into intelligible Sanskrit.
is then summarized by Dr. Jagat K. Motwani :
clearly suggests that the Iranian Aryans and the Indo-Aryans were one
and the same people in ancient times when they ‘lauded the same
gods with the same hymns, and worshiped them with identical rites.’
The people may not have been known as Hindus or Persians at the time.
All the people of the subcontinent, including Indians, Iranians, Nepalese,
Bhutanese, Sri Lankans, Burmese, etc., must have been called Aryans,
as the country was known as Aryavarta, Aryadesh, or Aryabhoomi. The
unfounded theory of the Aryan Invasion–engineered in London and
guided by the world-known British policy ‘Divide and Rule’–seems
to have divided Indians and Iranians who, in ancient times, were one
and the same people.
Muller writes :
Zoroastrians were a colony from Northern India. They had been together
for a time with the people whose sacred songs have been preserved to
us in the Vedas. A schism took place and the Zoroastrians migrated westward
to Archosia and Persia.
more striking is the similarity between Persia and India in religion
and mythology. Gods unknown to any Indo-European nation are worshiped
under the same name in Sanskrit and Zend.
Iran, there is a ritual known as yazna. In this ritual, the festive
meal would take place where a god would be invited, and Houma, a fire,
and a sacred drink would be offered. All of this would carry out in
the open air outside and would be performed by the clan known as Magi.
After such performance and rituals, they believe that they would receive
blessings from gods.
tradition is quite similar to the Vedic ritual yajna, which is pronounced
as Yagya, and the homa ritual that has a central fire that would be
the vortex to the deity or the mouth of the deity. The drink is known
as soma and then consumed as prasada. They’re mostly performed
by the Brahmins.
is believed that this Iranian ritual has been carried forward from the
Huang, another Indologist, writes in the introduction to Aitareya Brahmana
(Vol I, page 23):
ancestors of the Brahmans and those of Parsis (the ancient Iranians)
lived as brother tribes peacefully together.
is an indicator of the time when Parsis came to India in 910 CE to escape
the prosecution from the hands of Muslims.
The spiritual philosophy and Vedic culture
in Persia was way before Zarathustra founded the Zoroastrian religion.
The Zend Avesta of Zoroastrianism is Chhanda Avasta, which has been
derived from Rigveda. Moreover, Shri Krishna used to be worshiped in
the region even after Islam found the roots. Arminius Vambery, a Hungarian
writer who traveled to several Muslim countries, writes that he went
to the village of Saadi, near the city of Shiraz in Iran, and found
that the name of the village has come from a poet who was buried there.
Saadi was a devotee of Vishnu, even though he was Muslim by birth. Vambery
“He even assumed the religion
of the worshipers of Vishnu in order to extend and increase his knowledge
of all things.”
Origins of Several Empires, Sir W. Drummond writes :
the early ages of the world, the inhabitants of Iran and India were
governed by the same laws and were united as one people under the same
quoted by Lt. General Charles Vallancy, Sir William Jones says :
has been proved by clear evidence and plain reasoning, that a powerful
monarchy was established in Iran, long before the Assyrian government,
that it was in truth a Hindoo monarchy that subsisted for many centuries
and that its history has been engrafted on that of Hindoos, who founded
monarchies of Ayodhya and Indraprastha.
Gordon Childe in his book The Aryans: A Study of Indo-European Origins,
V., writes :
we know that there existed among the Mitanni at this time a class of
warriors styled marianna which has suggested the comparison with the
Sanskrit marya, young men, heroes.
goes on to describes the dynasts in Mesopotamia region, which he thought
were Mitaani and Hittites :
it is clear enough that the dynasts installed on the Upper Euphrates
by 1400 B.C. were Aryans, closely akin to those we meet in the Indus
Valley and later in Media and Persia. But their subjects were non-Aryan
Asianics, and the rulers had adopted the native language and the Babylonian
script for their official correspondence, and apparently acknowledged
local gods besides their own.
The recent research of C.V. Vaidya shows how the lingual evidence in
Sanskrit and Avestan show that in ancient times, Indian Aryans and Iranians
lived together. They were also one people, and he gives the evidence
of Avestic Gathas and Rig Veda mantras that were very similar and at
times, identical to provide for it.
again in favor of a late date for the Rigvedic hymns is sought to be
derived from the extreme similarity of Avestic gathas and Rigvedic mantras
which are sometimes identical. There is no doubt that the Indo-Aryans
and the Iranians once formed one people and lived together.
naturally have some mantras in common. But we must remember that Zoroaster
did not himself compose these gathas. He only preserved what had come
down for centuries, and even if we take 550 B.C. as the date of Zoroaster,
that cannot be the date of those gathas. Indeed, as the Hindus have
preserved the Vedic mantras intact for thousands of years, because they
have become sacred, so also must the Avestic gathas have been preserved
intact for thousands of years before they were taken up by Zoroaster
for his new religion.
Influence in Iraq :
is the ancient name of Iraq and it is the land between the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, where records show that the area has some recognition
of Vedic gods. This is where Sumerian society was formed, followed by
Assryian, and later by Mitanni, Hittite and Kassites.
excavations at Ur goes back to 6th and 7th century BCE and shows Amazonite
beads, which could have only come from Nilgiri Hills in South India.
Even the area in Mesopotamia that became Iraq, Baghdad had become a
city of Vedic learning. The minister at that time was brought up in
India and received his education in Kashmir, before being appointed
as the Minister of the court in Baghdad.
Baghdad might come from the Sanskrit
word Bagh, which might resemble Bhag or Bhagavan and dad in Sanskrit
means “to give”. So, Baghdad, in Sanskrit terms, adds up
to “Gift of God” or “City of God”. Before that,
it was known as Madianul-as-Salam, which means “City of Peace”.
Now, it is more like a city of pieces.
city was founded and built by Caliph Al-Mansur in 145 A.D. (765-63 CE)
and was designed with the help of Indian engineers and architects. The
Indian engineers and architects made it with the Vedic fashion and was
one of the first Muslim cities with the circular design.
Some believe that in fact, it was a
Vedic city which was later captured by Muslims outside Saudi Arabia.
Capturing and renaming cities is a tradition
in the long history. For instance, Jarbavatu was renamed into Ahmedabad,
or Prayag was named into Allahabad, Agravan was renamed into Agra, Bhagyanagar
as Hyderabad and many others.
There are many other similarities between
India and Semitic world. The flood legends, cosmological stories, the
earth tales are some of them. If you see the legends and stories related
to mysteries of creation, life, and death, childbirth, death to the
Theogony that entered Western Asia, then one can see that many reflects
in the Islamic mythology and then changed, altered and adapted to suit
the local mood.
As we study Talmud and Midrash, some
stories can be found to be directly adapted from Indian sources. For
instance, the Puranas talks about the cosmographic conception of seven
firmaments and seven underworlds, which is quite similar to that in
Koran XLI, 8. It is also similar to the Hebrew concept of seven heavens
(Villon, Rakia, Shekhakim, Szebhul, Maon, Makhon, and Araboth) and the
seven underworlds (Eretz hatachtonch, Adamah, Arka, Ge, Neshia, Zija,
came into existence during the second half of the eighth century, and
they were inspired from the Indian wandering ascetics. Zuhd manifests
some earlier, or even that the asceticism is more of proto-Sufism. Before
that, Tasabhuf was followed by various sects like Zuh’ha’d,
the Kkas’sas, the Shak’khaun, the Nashmak, and many others.
Indian’s Islam, p. 149 :
presence of wandering Indian monks was a factor of practical importance
to the adherents of Islam as early as the time of Abbasid Caliphate.
of Vedic Thought by Early Muslims :
the early days, the Muslims were ready and open to learning from India
and even introspected the knowledge provided by the Vedic philosophy.
However, as Abbasid’s power declined during the ninth century
the tradition of exchanging culture between India and Baghdad got cut
Arabian power fell into the hands of Turks, the Islamic culture and
learning started to be decentralized and spread throughout, even in
the lands that were spread with Vedic thoughts. And the Turks were not
very respectful towards the Vedic culture like the Arabs were.
Pococke writes about the evidence that shows how Persia was built as
an extension of Bharatvarsha and Vedic culture:
ancient map of Persia, Colchis, and Armenia is absolutely full of the
most distinct and starling evidences of Indian colonization and what
is more astonishing, practically evinces, in the most powerful manner,
the truth of several main points in the two great Indian poems, the
Ramayana and Mahabharatha. The whole map is positively nothing less
than a journal of emigration on the most gigantic scale.
Premsukh, Origin of Civilization and Language, Dayton Beach, Florida,
Pearce Publishers, Inc.,1994, p.170.
Motwani, Jagat K., India Reborn: Bharat Mahan As Perceived by
Westerners, Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore & Others, 2012, p. 190.
Max, Science of Language ,Vol. II, p.170. Muller, Max,
Max, Chips From a German Workshop, Vol. I, p. 83.
John, The Ancient World, New York, Metro Books, 2013, p.124.
Niranjan, Iranians and Indians are Cousins, India Tribune, November
Childe, V. Gordon, The Aryans: A Study of Indo-European Origins,
Niranjan, Iraq–A Center of Vedic Civilization, India Tribune,
May 10, 2003.
Mrs. Medha Vishwas, India’s Cultural Links With Africa Since
Ancient Times, Afro-Hindu Vision, International Centre for Cultural
Studies, Nagpur, India, 1998, p.88.
W. H., India’s Contribution to Arab Civilization, India’s
Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Vivekananda Kendra
Prakashan Trust, Chennai, India 1970, p.586-7.
N. N., India’s Contribution to Islamic Thought and Culture,
India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Vivekananda
Kendra Prakashan Trust, Chennai, India 1970, p.575.
Edward, India in Greece; or Truth in Mythology, London, Richard
Griffin and Company, 1856, p.47.