Exploring ancient Kashmir
Published on December 11, 2016

Exploring ancient Kashmir

Exploring ancient Kashmir

What happened to Kashmir after the downfall of Mauryan empire? Did any local tribe rise to the power? Did Sungas of Maghda annex it? Did any other external power capture it? Who were Yavanas and Malechas? Did the Alexander ever visit this land? Who built the temples of Martand, Paraspura, Naran Nag and Bunyar? These are certain important questions bearing on our ancient historiography.

I, in my book titled, Ancient Greeks in Kashmir have attempted  to reply few queries encountered during my critical  review of Rajtarangni vis-à-vis the archaeological materials. 

 I under took a scientific study of ancient coins, artifacts, archaeological sites and ancient monuments of Kashmir and  deciphered several outstanding evidences of ancient Yavana and Malcehas and recorded them.

I tried to to establish the missing links of ancient Kashmir. The book provides a fresh and systematic study of ancient Greek, Scythian and Parthian evidences found in Kashmir. It is an illustrated work incorporating the investigations and results of recent and fresh archaeological finds of the state. The book gives a detailed description of recent finds of Greco Buddhist terracotta and sculpture art of Kashmir.

Although there is no mention of Kashmir in the records of Alexander the Great, but he is mentioned in the ancient records of this land  and  in its folklore.

The first mention of ancient Kashmir is found in the records of King Darius (542-586bc). He is recorded to have invaded the region of Indus some time in 518BC. In fact Alexander is recorded to have invaded India from its north western side, defeated King Porus at battle of Hydapes in 326 BC. While invading the Indian parts he has adopted a route which historians believe comparatively laid near to the confines of Kashmir. Kashmir during the period is said to be under the rule of the chief of Abhisara (Poonch and Nowshera). Alexander crossed the Indus near Ohind (modern Und Attock) in the spring of 326BC.

Numismatists claim to have found a coin type which depicts motif of two rajas  fighting one another. One of the rajas is shown  on the elephant and other on the horse back. These are identified as Raja Porus and Alexander respectively.

Abhisaras the king of Poonch and Nowshehra who is believed to have held Kashmir is recorded to have surrendered to the Alexander. Porus was made the in-charge of the whole area which Alexander conquered . The area lay between the Beas and the Jhelum. King of Texila, Ambhi was given the territories west of Jhelum while Abhisara’s authority was extended upto Kashmir. Abhisara’s  authority over Kashmir is not testified by any other source. However, Alexander’s numismatic finds in Kashmir justify  his campaign of the areas bordering the beautiful valley and the possibility of his visit to the land which since times immemorial was attractive for visitors

Alexander before his return allowed his certain people which mostly consisted of Greek garrisons to settle in the land he conquered. Several frontier tribes of Kashmir who live on its bordering areas of northern and western sides are believed to be the descendants of Greece. Kalhana has named them Yavanas, but the term yavana is still in use in rural Kashmiri which means  handsome or beautiful. When they have to refer a beautiful, they would say yava. For them yava  is  one who has got a fairly complexion and had blue eyes which is the characteristic feature of Grecian people.   The famous tribes of Gupis and Brokpas of Hunza and Ladakh Brokpas are of this complexion. They are believed to be the descents from Greece.

Another invasion noted  in  the local records of Kashmir is of Malechas who are   identified with Bactrian Greeks. There is mention of two famous Greek princes, one is Demetrius and the other is Manender. Demetrius has been described as the king of the empire, which included Southern parts of Kashmir While as Menander  is recorded to have held a discussions  with the Buddhist monk  at a place which was only  12 Yogenas from Kashmir which means that the place was only 12 yogenas from Srinager  because  in ancient times Srinagar was known by the name of Kashmir. Milndaphana records a discussion with Nagasena, the Buddhist saint, the place where the discussion was held can be identified as Harwan which is about 19 km from present Srinagar. The other Greek princes whose evidences have been found here included: Appollodotus, Menandar Strato, Zoiles, Hippostrates  Antialkadas, Helikels, Agathoceles, Pantaloon, Hermous and Antrinachur.

 Besides, ancient coins terracotta tiles found at Harwan and more recently at Kotbal in the Anantnag District; the motifs of dancing girls in few of these tiles are the motifs of dancers influenced by the Hellenistic style and costumes.  The Hellenistic art influence is found in the  ancient remains of  the Martand  and  Avantipura  and other monuments of that period.

Though there have been individual efforts  to reconstruct the ancient history of Kashmir  but what is required  is to take steps at institutional level to explore the ancient history of this land and its people.

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