Hinduism History in Afghanistan

The year 980 C.E. marks the beginning of the Muslim invasion into India proper when Sabuktagin attacked Raja Jaya Pal in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is today a Muslim country separated from India by another Muslim country Pakistan. But in 980 C.E. Afghanistan was also a place where the people were Hindus and Buddhists.

The name "Afghanistan" comes from "Upa-Gana-stan" which means in Sanskrit "the place inhabited by allied tribes".

This was the place from where Gandhari of the Mahabharat came from, Gandhar whose king was Shakuni. Today the city of Gandhar is known as Kandahar. The Pakthoons are descendants of the Paktha tribe mentioned in Vedic literature. Till the year 980 C.E., this area was a Hindu majority area, till Sabuktagin from Ghazni invaded it and displaced the ruling Hindu king - Jaya Pal Shahi.

Shiva worship was widespread in Afghanistan:

There was a time when the entire region was replete with hundreds of Shiva temples celebrating Shiva – Parvati worship and abuzz with Shiv chants, prayers, legends and worship. Archaeological excavations in this region conducted by Sir Estine (an East India Company official) led to the recovery of uncountable shrines and inscriptions. He has authored four books on that topic featuring photos of icons, icons and inscriptions discovered. The photos show a sun temple and a Ganesha statue too. An Islamabad University professor Abdul Rehman has authored two books on those finds recalling the glory and prosperity of those times. Regimes of two Hindu rulers “Kusham” and “Kidara” lasted for fairly long periods.

During their rule a number of Shiva temples were not only in Afghanistan but in other West Asian regions too. Uzbekistan and Takzikistan formed part of the Afghan kingdom in those times. Tashkent has one of those ancient Shiva temples standing even today. Professor Abdul Rehman states that Bukhara region Was known as “Shah Vihar” in ancient times. It was ruled by an Hindu king. When Arabs invaded that kingdom its queen traveled to Kashmir to seek military help. Arab chronicles mention her as 'Khatoon', meaning ’Woman’. “Kalhan“, the ancient Hindu historian of Kashmir has mentioned that the army of the then Hindu ruler of Kashmir had a battle with a vast army of the Arab Khalifa Mamoon whose headquarters was Baghdad. At that time Bukhara had been under Muslim rule. He had invited a number of leading Hindu experts to Baghdad. An Ayurvedic practitioner of Varansi (alias Benares) had treated the Khalifa for some ailment afflicting the latter. In those days it was Hindu Ayurvedic practitioners who were eagerly sought by Arab patients. A number of Arabs had translated Sanskrit Ayurvedic texts into Arabic. A list of those translated Sanskrit texts appears in a Volume known as al “Frisht“.

Baku (capital of the Azerbaijan region) known for its underground petroleum yields has still an ancient Hindu temple of the Divine Flame generated by the subterranean petrol and gas). During the Czar regimes in Russia a Punjabi priest officiated at that temple. The walls display some religious stanzas written in Punjabi Gurumakhi script. The market there also had Hindu merchants. Nearby was a locality too of Hindu inhabitants. Baku in Azerbaijani language actually signifies a Goddess. Therefore obviously Baku derives its name from a very ancient Vedic Goddess temple there.

Kenduj a province of Afghanistan, ruled by a king that had a Hindu prime minister. This is mentioned in history books. Albirruni’s travel account contains details of ancient Hindu Afghanistan, He mentions a Hindu king, Khingla whose coins bore the imprint of Shiva. The first ruler of that dynasty was Viahitagni. History mentions a Shiva temple in Gardej township, which was plundered by Arab invaders. That dynasty ruled the region from 666 to 843 A.D. From 843 to 850 A.D. a Brahmin Minister ruled the region. The Kalkaa community of Brahmins had ancquired promince in those times. They were later known as Kallers. A township of that name exists in Punjab. Prominent among them who find a mention in later history are Samantdev, Bheemdev, Jaipaldev, Anandpal and Trilochan. Jaipaldev suffered a defeat in 1002 when Mohammed Ganzavi invaded India. Unable to bear that defeat Jaipaldev committed suicide.

When Hsüan-tsang visited the region early in the 7th century CE, the Kabul valley region was ruled by a Hindu Kshatriya king, who is identified as the Shahi Khingal, and whose name has been found in an inscription found in Gardez.

The Hindu Shahi kings of Kabul and Gandhara may have had links to some ruling families in neighboring Kashmir and other areas to the east.

The place where Kabul's main mosque stands today was the site of an ancient Hindu temple and the story of its capture is kept alive in Islamic Afghan legend which describes the Islamic hero Sabuktagin who fought with a sword in every hand to defeat the Hindus and destroy their temple to put up a Mosque in its place.

The victory of Sabuktagin pushed the frontiers of the Hindu kingdom of the Shahis from Kabul to behind the Hindu Kush mountains Hindu Kush is literally "killer of Hindus" - a name given by Mahmud Ghazni to describe the number of Hindus who died on their way into Afghanistan to a life of captivity . After this setback, the Shahis shifted their capital from Kubha (Kabul) to Udbhandapura (modern Und in NWFP). Sabuktagin's son Mahmud Ghazni, kept up the attacks on the Shahis and captured Und. Subsequently, the Shahis moved their capital to Lahore and later to Kangra in Himachal.

The recovery and significance of the inscription, telling a story of the Hindu ruler Veka and his devotion to lord 'Siva', was told by leading epigraphist and archaeologist Prof Ahmad Hasan Dani of the Quaid-E-Azam University of Islamabad at the ongoing Indian History Congress here.

"The date of 138 of present inscription, should be equal to 959 AD which falls during the reign of Bhimapala", Dani said in a paper "Mazar-i Sharif inscription of the time of the Shahi ruler Veka, dated the year 138".

The inscription, with eleven lines written in "western Sarada" style of Sanskrit of 10th century AD, had several spelling mistakes. "As the stone is slightly broken at the top left corner, the first letter `OM' is missing", he said.

According to the inscription, "the ruler Veka occupied by eight-fold forces, the earth, the markets and the forts. It is during his reign that a temple of Siva in the embrace with Uma was built at Maityasya by Parimaha (great) Maitya for the benefit of himself and his son".

Dani said "the inscription gives the name of the king as Shahi Veka Raja and bestows on him the qualification of `Iryatumatu Ksanginanka'.... and (he) appears to be the same king who bears the name of Khingila or Khinkhila who should be accepted as a Shahi ruler".

Dani further said "he may be an ancestor of Veka deva. As his coins are found in Afghanistan and he is mentioned by the Arab ruler Yaqubi, he may be an immediate predecessor of Veka deva... Both the evidences of inscription and coins suggest that Veka or Vaka should be accepted as an independent ruler of northern Afghanistan.

"Thus we find another branch of the Shahi ruler in northern part of Afghanistan beyond the Hindukush. Veka is said to have conquered the earth, the markets and the forts by his eight-fold forces, suggesting that he must have himself gained success against the Arab rulers of southern Afghanistan".

Dani observed that going by the findings it seemed that during the rule of the Hindu Shahi ruler Bhimapala there was a break in the dynasty - one branch, headed by Jayapala, ruled in Lamaghan and Punjab, and another branch, headed by Veka, ruled in northern part of Afghanistan.

"The northern branch must have come to an end by the conquest of Alptigin in the second half of tenth century AD", he said.

India has developed a highly constructive, imaginative reconstruction strategy for Afghanistan that is designed to please every sector of Afghan society, give India a high profile with the Afghan people, gain the maximum political advantage with the Afghan government, increase its influence with its Northern Alliance friends and turn its image from that of a country that supported the Soviet invasion and the communist regime in the 1980s to an indispensable ally and friend of the Afghan people in the new century. 

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Lord Shiva the Absolute Image of Masculinity and Virility

In Hindu philosophy, destruction is considered to be an intense force that shatters delusions and inadequacies bringing forth constructive change through purification. The most powerful member of the triumvirate, Lord Shiva the Destroyer is observed as a complex godhead whose existence fuses conflicting elements. He is believed to be the core of the centrifugal forces of the cosmos due to his role in death and destruction. He dissolves elements in order to create and hence propels the cycle of birth and death. The most formidable deity of the Hindu pantheon is the ultimate seat of ‘Shakti’ and cataclysmic power. With multiple incarnations portraying different shades of Lord Shiva, each has cults which are present across India and South East Asia - in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and other places.

From the days of Mohenjodaro civilization’s prototype Lord Shiva representations to Vedic literature, Puranic literature and Tantric literature, all of which consist of renditions about Lord Shiva, the Pure One in some form or the other. Known for his feral passion and fearful temperament, Lord Shiva is said to be the greatest ascetic Mahayogi (the Patron God of Yoga and Meditation), passively refraining from all forms of desires and pleasures. At the other end of the spectrum, he exists as hedonist Bhole Nath or Bhole Shankar. Lord Shiva is given the title of the ultimate self-controlled entity abounding in serenity. Contrastingly he is the volatile dancing Nataraja engulfed by wafting flames. Whether Mahadeva or Pashupati, Kala Bhairava or Vishwanath, Mahesh or Bhava – the original rebel is truly the most fascinating Deva. He is the most potent energy in the universe despite being one of ambiguity and paradox. At the highest level he is infinite, transcendental and formless.

The oldest sect of Hinduism Shaivism regards Lord Shiva as all in all - the creator, preserver, destroyer, revealer and concealer of all that is in existence. The Lord of Destruction is generally worshipped in the an iconic form as a Lingam (phallus) but is personified as an ascetic on Mount Kailash or as a domestic partner to Goddess Parvati with two sons Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya and even as a cosmic dancer. His forms are thus both compassionate and terrifying. Shiva’s eternal wife Parvati is an incarnation of his consort Devi, the Mother-goddess. Devi has taken many forms such as Kali, the goddess of death and Sati, the goddess of material felicity and Durga, the invincible goddess, all of whom are linked to the various forms of Shiva.

Lord Shiva the absolute image of masculinity and virility is very distinct in his appearance. He is unlike any other god with his unique get up. His tresses are gloriously piled high on his head with the River Ganges gushing through his matted hair and a resplendent crescent tucked deftly into it. Coiled around his neck is the mighty serpent Kundalini, which is the spiritual energy within life. He wears circular hoop earrings and has a third eye on his forehead. The Transformer’s body is smeared with holy ash or ‘vibhuti’. The ashes embody the final truth that mortals face - the end of all material existence. Lord Shiva also wears his favorite ‘rudraksha’ beads, which is a representation of deep happiness. In his left hand Lord Shiva carries a small leather drum, known as ‘damru’ and on his right he holds a water pot. He sits upright on a gorgeous tiger skin, which denotes the conquering of lust. At other instances, the Lord of Destruction rides his famous ‘vahan’ Nandi, the bull, who is decorated with beautiful garlands.

In the sanctum sanctorum of most temples, the male phallic symbol the Lingam is housed. It is usually placed beneath the spire where it depicts the naval of planet earth. This symbolic image represents both the microcosmic and macrocosmic echelons of the energy that sustains life. It supports life on our planet and also constitutes the life force of the entire universe.

Lord Shiva’s sacred number is five. One of his supreme mantras (the chant na ma si va ya) has five syllables. The Great Benefactor’s body itself is composed of five mantras – called pancabrahmans. These are all forms of divinity with distinct names and iconography. Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Isana are represented by the five faces of Lord Shiva and are associated with the five elements, the five senses, the five organs of action and the five organs of perception.

Across India, Mahashivaratri is celebrated on the 13th night of the new moon in the Krishna Paksha of the month of Maagha or Phalguna of the Hindu lunar calendar. It marks the night of the original Tandava when Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati unite in holy matrimony. There are many special prayers and customs. Abhishekams are performed every three hours through the night with offerings like milk, yogurt, honey etc. Bael leaves are also offered ad they are a good sign for a successful life. These are placed much importance to the level of believing that even if those who do not seek blessings place these wreaths, they are endowed with a great life.

Since the Lord of Destruction is related a dark power. Hence to subside negative energy, he consumes opium. His form of Shiva, Bhole Shankar is oblivious to happenings. As per Hindu traditions, on the night of Mahashivratri, devotees especially men, prepare an intoxicating drink called Thandai made milk, almonds and cannabis while offering their prayers. They sing devotional songs and dance to the rhythm of damrus.

In fact dance is an import part of Indian culture. Lord Shiva is the master of the art form and is often referred to as the Lord of Dance. He is most active as a dancer as Nataraja and Dakshinamurthy. The rhythm of dance is an allegory for the delicate balance of the cosmos. His most famous dance is the tandav, the cosmic dance of death. He performs this at the end of every age or yuga.

In Indian spirituality, Lord Shiva commands a high position. He is wise and dynamic, fearless and fierce…the ultimate rebel who has charmed thousands of generations over annals of time.