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I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

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Vijay Sazawal

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ancient Greeks in Kashmir

Iqbal's scholarly research answers some important questions about our heritage. If archaeological discoveries have thrown valuable light on the history of Kashmir, no less fruitful results have followed the close and systematic study of its old coins, gold, silver, copper and brass found in and outside the state

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 47, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numastics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Ancient Greeks in Kashmir

Literary sources to know Greek and Scythian history in the sub-continent are extremely scarce. There are no manuscripts available of that period to the historians. However, archaeologists and numismatists of old times have done a tremendous work in discovering and studying archaeological and numismatic materials of these ancient tribes. They have re-constructed such an interesting and informative picture of that period which was almost missing in ancient chronicles of this land.

Historians might have been searching for their ancient missing links but before them there was no data to build up their theory. Now numismatists and archaeologists, through their outstanding researchers, have provided a scientific account of Greek and Scythian events of the sub-continent. In view of these accounts Indian history was then reconstructed and a new picture of ancient Indian history was made available to the people.

The olden subject experts had done a great job in deciphering the early Greek and Scythian coins. These coins were inscribed in classical Greek and Kharoshti scripts, which carried names of its issuers, besides kings, religious symbols were also displayed on these coins. These things helped numismatists to interpret the coins. It was not an easy task to decipher these coins and read their legends. But Europeans experts with their extra-ordinary talent did this job. They deciphered and arranged the coins in a chronological order. The European experts to whom credit is due for this type of research are James Princap, Alexander Cunnigham, Mr. E. Theamas, Lasen Wilson and Brown. These were the olden numismatists who set up a tradition of coin decipherment.

It was on the basis of their researches that several monograms on such coins were authored by later scholars, the most interesting and perhaps the oldest monograph on the coins is that of Von Sallet whose scholarly acquirements and solid numismatic judgments have enabled heirs to correct on many points on the theories of his predecessors. Mr. James Forgusesson's and Prof. Cowell's researches have also been of the greatest value to the purpose. Nowadays, we have many catalogues available of Greek and Scythian coins, most of the numismatic collections which from Indian and Afghan ports reached to Europe stand there well documented and studied.

British museum has got its own well published catalogues of Greek and Scythian coins found in Indian and Afghanistan lands. Many a south-Asian museum has a good–collection of Greek, Scythian and Porthian tribes. Kabul Museum, Peshawar Museum, Punjab Museum, Indian Museum and Kashmir museum have got a collection of these coins. In few of these museums these coins are also well published but at most places of India Pakistan and Afghanistan, these coins are still to be studied. On the other hand the contemporary numismatists are not far behind. They are taking forward the mission of their predecessors. The result is that more monograms are coming to market with more scientific approaches and observations.

The difficult questions bearing on old studies have also been addressed well. Greeks in Bacteria and India by Narranian opened up new phases of research in Indian ports of Greek occupation. Dr. Macdowel, Dr. P.L. Gupta Michel Mitchnar, besides deciphering these coins have done a systematic study of these coins and documented their find spots. It was because of these researches based on scientific approaches that Greek and Scythian occupation of Indian parts during 2nd and 1st century B.C. was established and about thirty three Bactrian-Greek and Indo-Greek rulers were identified to have ruled over Indian parts.

Like other North Western parts of India, Kashmir was also very rich in archaeological and numismatic data. Thousands of coins were coming to light every year. I remember a olden blacksmith of Devsar (Kulgam) Mr. Ghulam Nabi, He once told me that when they were little boys, they used to collect "old paisa" from the Devsar Wooder during rainy days. The rains used to clean the wooder surface, from its dust, the old paisa then used to bright in the light and the boys would always go on the wooder and collect it. Another goldsmith of Bijbehara (Anantnag) revealed a similar story. He said that during rainy days we used to visit the Tutakshahi Wooder at Semithan and collected the old coins. C. Sanithan is the place which later on revealed the Grecian and Scythian coins in an excavation in 1983).

Lacs of coins are reportedly found in Kashmir. More than eighty thousand coins are reported to have been preserved in Kashmir's only museum at Srinagar. Every year coin hoards make their appearance here but unfortunately very few come into safe hands while others either go out of the land or get melted in the workshops of gold smiths. There are hardly any people who care for this heritage. I have seen one or two men who I found caring for historical value of coins. There are others who would always ask you about the antique value of these coins. The numismatic research in this land is nil. I could not see anybody except few old professors asking me about few coin types. The research is totally not done here, nor at individual level neither at the institutional level. Although this field has a very rich and interesting past here.

P. N. K. Bamzai writes in this regard, "If archaeological discoveries have thrown valuable light on the history of Kashmir, no less fruitful results have followed the close and systematic study of its old coins, gold, silver, copper and brass found in and outside the state". It means that though today no researches have been done in this field but in old days many studies have been done on the subject. While tracing the origin of numismatic researches in Kashmir, like other parts of India, you would once again find European experts forward on this track; neither Kashmiris nor Indians, neither Pakistanis.

General Cunningham was the first to take up the coin study of Kashmir. During his stay in the Valley he collected a large number of ancient coins and as a result of close study of these coins and other finds, he was able to elucidate a series of important questions having bearing on the chronological system of Rajtarangini and on the numismatic history of Kashmir. In a paper published in the numismatic chronicle for 1846 he communicated the results of his search for ancient Kashmirian coins and proved by their analysis the great value of numismatic evidence for the critical control of Kalhana and other records. He was the first numismatist who found a large number of Greek and Scythian coins on the banks of the Jehlum river in upper Jehlum valley.

Cunningham was followed in numismatic researches of Kashmir by C. J. Rodgers, Sir Aurel Stein and R.B.White Head. All these scholars were Europeans J.B. Blearby was another European expert who worked in the administration of Maharaja Pratap Singh. He had made extensive surveys of numismatic finds and collected number of Greek and Scythian coins from north western parts of Kashmir. In 1960, he was assigned the job of documenting the coins of SPS Museum at Srinagar. In the museum he is learnt to have prepared a list of more than 1500 coins. During my posting in the museum I could get a photo copy of that list which was preserved in museum's reference library. I was told by a senior officer of the museum that Blearby has also prepared a report an numismatic finds of the Valley and that report also stands published but I could not get a copy of that report.

However, a list of coins which the expert has prepared also lies with me. In this list blearby has documented hundreds of Greek and Scythians coins, whose mention you would find in the preaching chapters of the books. Besides preparing the list, he has arranged numismatic cabins in coin gallery of the museum at Lal Mandi, Srinagar. Unfortunately, the arrangement was later on disturbed by the new museum management who followed blearby and R.C. Kak. When I joined the museum I could also see in one of the coin cabins many silver coins of Greek and Scythian kings. The coins of following rulers were displayed in the cabin for the museum visitors:
1. Philip of Macedon
2. Alexander the Great
3. Alexander II of Macedon
4. Diodotus
5. Euthy demons
6. Mexander
7. Apollodotus
8. Hippostratus
9. Lysis
10. Azes
11. Azelises
12. Sapalarsis

R.C. Kak, the local archeologist of Kashmir authored few books on Kashmir archeology. In his book Kak also described few Scythian coins in his this book. Since then the subject remained more or less neglected. No systematic work was done on this subject. However, during times many a coin collectors were born who made coin collection a hobby. Peerzada Ghulam Ahmad Mehjoor has been one of the prominent coin collectors of the land. When I came to this world, the legendary poet had already left the world for heavenly abode. Although I could not get a chance to meet the famous Mehjoor, I did get a chance to meet has younger grand son, Mehjoor and his son Atif Mehjoor.

The father and son duo were learned men who told me the story of Mehjoor. I learnt from them that he had a good numismatic collection, where the majority of coins belonged to Greek and Scythian ages. Alexander Cunningham was the first numismatist who could discover Grecian and Scythian coins from the upper Valley of river Jehlum during his survey. Peerzada Mehjoor was basically a learned poet who worked in revenue department as Patwari. During his tenure as Patwari he had a chance to visit the distant lands and to inspect them. As he was already engaged with land records so he could find it interesting to go far coin collection. During his life he collected most of the coins from north western parts of Kashmir.

After his death, I have come to know that his son Ibni Mehjoor has offered this collection to state government and state has also agreed. The deal could not materialize because of dispute over valuation as the State reportedly did not agree to pay the amount as demanded by the collector. During my career as a museum official I met many coin collectors and also had a chance to see their respective collections. I was very much influenced by Mr. Javid's collection. He has selectively collected only few series, which include tribes, Scythians, Greeks, Parthians, Kushans and Panch Marka. In his collection I still remember there were many coins of king Menander, Apollodotus, Lysis, Apostrates, Azes, Azelises, Gondphories etc. He has disposed of several hoards and kept with him only few selected coins of which I could see majority of coins being of Indo-Greeks and Scythians.

The collector, Mr. Javed, told me that he has purchased few hoards of Indo-Greeks coins, one of which carried the small square type coins of Apollodotus bearing motif of bull and elephant on either side of the coin. He also showed me few miniature figures of Gracio-Bactrian art. These were some goddesses in terracotta, one of which he told is the sculpture of Apollo, a Greek deity. He confessed that most of Grecian artifacts were reaching to him from south Kashmir. Javid lived in old city of Srinagar. Another collector who was also a goldsmith by profession showed me several copper and silver coins of Scythian and Greek rulers. He was not basically a coin collector.

He purchased them for business; busying some, selling some. He lived in Samithan (Bijbehara) area where he had an easy access to this material. He confessed that he had sold thousands of coins to its buyers. Although he had no technical know how of differentiating various coin types, when I inquired I found he could well recognize the Scythian and Greek coins and would charge more for such purchases. He is still doing this job but flow of coins to him has now declined considerably.

Shah Maqbool Hussain, another coin collector of South Kashmir, has been collecting coins. I could see many Scythians coins lying with him. He has collected these coins from Malwan area of Kulgam district. One of my friends showed me a copper coin which he has collected from wooder near Dayalgam Anantnag. I could decipher that coin and found it was the coin of Indo-Greek King Artemidons.

Apart from state museum there are other institutions also, which have shown interest in preserving state heritage. The Kashmir University, for instance, has established Central Asian Museum in the Iqbal Library Complex. It was taken care of by a professional archeologist Shri Ajaz Ahmad Banday. Banday, who has done a P.G. in Archeology from Baroda University has set up a numismatic section in the Central Asian Museum and has arranged several Indo-Greek and Indo-Scythian coins in a coin cabin. I could also see these coins. The coins of many Indo-Greek and Indo-Scythian Kings found in Jhelum valley were arranged in a coin cabin of the museum.

Prof. Fida Mohammad Hassnain has authored about thirty two books on various aspects of Kashmir history. The fifth Gospel, In search of historical Jesus, Historic Kashmir, Kashmir will became focus of Asiatic Civilizations and Buddhist Kashmir are some of his publications that made him a scholar of international repute.

Fortunately, during my working in SPS Museum I could meet this scholar. I found that he was not only a good historian but a nice gentleman also. Later on I used to visit this professor at his Parraypora residence and we used to talk about the presence of Greeks and Jews in Kashmir during ancient periods.

Through his discourse I could find that he was a truly knowledgeable man. He had served the department of Archives, Archeology, Research and Museums in capacity of Director for a very long period. When I joined this department at an inferior level, the professor had left the department. Perhaps, he has got his retirement in year 1983, and I remember I joined the department in 1985, two years after his retirement. Prof. Hassnain has been fortunate enough to visit almost all the divisions of the state. His extensive surveys of Kashmir have enabled him to understand few mysteries of this land. During the discussion on the subject he told me that in his book Hindu Kashmir, he has hinted towards Grecian kings of Kashmir.

He said that he has identified about nine Grecian and Scythian Kings on their coins found often in Kashmir. He told me that in Lolab valley of Kupwara he came across few Greek and Kharoshti inscriptions but he could not decipher the writings. The Professor also claims to have seen such inscriptions in Khanmoh and Barusu Plateaus of Pulwama district also. When he came to learn about my project he was perhaps the first person who hailed my efforts. He also made many suggestions in dealing this subject which I took seriously. I still remember, he would say that ancient period of Kashmir history is fully shadowed with mystery, you have got a good technical qualification in coins and inscriptions, so you can deal this subject with scientific approach and bring out a clear picture of ancient period.

While attempting this monograme; first of its kind, I did two major things, I studied almost all the relevant historical accounts put forth by local historians, foreign accounts and besides continued to investigate the numismatic finds what I could see in private and public institutions. In the study of Nilmatpurana I came to know about few earlier settlers of this land. I could then identify the meaning of sakas and yavanas, whom I interpreted with Scythian and Grecian tribes. In Rajtarangini, I could find the term Melechas used for any external tribe, whether it refers to saka’s or yavanas is not clear? After that I studied the chapters of PNK Bamzai, the history of Kashmir, very clearly. There I could find mention of ancient Grecian Geographers, Great Warrior Alexander the Great, and few archeological and numismatic investigations pertaining to establishment of Indo-Greeks, Scythians and Kushans.

The writer of the book has done a great job while making a beginning of the periods, but at the same time due to non-availability of required data, the writer has been very careful in dealing the chapter regarding Greeks and Scythians. He has also been very careful in dealing with the Gracio-Bactrian art evidences on Kashmir terracottas, sculptures and on various architectures. You will feel yourself such lapses in this writer’s hypothesis. I have produced his observations in its original form in my this monogram, so that you can judge it very well. In studying few ancient architectural monuments of Kashmir, I could find something special.

I felt these architectures highly advanced. I thought that this could never be the job of Kashmiris who even in the 21st century are unable to deal properly with stone sculptures. Unfortunately, a man could not be master of all trades. Although I have got technical know how in numismatic and epigraphic field, in architecture field I was a layman, so I studied few architectural books. I learnt that the master ruins of Martand Awantipora and at some other places, built of massive lime stone with heavy columns were very much influenced by Grecian and Roman styles. I could understand that this tradition may have developed here during Indo-Greeks occupation of this land.

Like Gracio-Bactrian arts, in dealing with these architectural wonders, I found it worthwhile to reproduce those notices which had very earlier been put forth by respective subject experts, especially by General Alexander Cunnigham. S.L. Shali’s book, The Kashmir history and archeology through ages that was published by Indus publishing company, New Delhi in year 1993 is a fresh work on Kashmir history and archaeology. Prof. Shali perhaps worked in Kashmir University. I could never meet him. When I desired to meet him he had already left Kashmir for Delhi during Pandit’s migration from valley of Kashmir. Though I could not meet him, at the same time I was little bit fortunate in getting one copy of his book mentioned above. It was the first book where I could find a scientific method had been followed by any Kashmiri author.

Prof. Shali has attempted well in collection of archeological data and has put them in a systematic order, besides interpreting them in a nice way. Although he looks to have not been particular to any exclusive period of history and has dealt all periods alike, you would also find mention of Grecian and Scythian coins and other materials in his outstanding work. For the interest of readers I have in my this monogram reproduced few of his observations in its original form which you will come across in the forthcoming installments of this essay. Besides these indigenous records, I could found few fresh numismatic write-ups and monograms attempted by contemporary numismatists of Europe and America.

8 comments:

Perry said...

This very interesting article evokes many a questions.The most important to me ,is their any scientific evidence that confirms the existence of a greeko Kashmiri or a Macodonian-Kashmiri, civilization ever having flourished in parts of Kashmir,If so which time period would it roughly correspond to?Could any one kindly throw some light on this subject.

waniaslam said...

Absolute Rubbish! Never does the great history (Rajataringni) of Kashmir mention that Greeks ruled Kashmir valley. At times the kingdom of Kashmir was very large and stray coins minted outside Kashmir prove nothing. Though the Jews are trying to Semitize (by hook or crook) many parts of the world including Kashmir, Kashmir is likely the original home of the Aryan Race. Kashmiris are surely Aryans.

parimoo said...

WaniAslam is right in saying that Greeks never ever ruled Kashmir,I think that is an uncontested statement and will remain so,though ancient Indian History does mention that Greeks ruled Afghanistan,Punjab and Sindh for circa 250 years.The trade of these territories was natural and considerable with Kashmir and hence it isn't surprising to find hordes of Greek/Roman coins in Kashmir.What however is interesting and important is the fact that certain small Indo/Greek settlements did get established in various parts of Kashmir and gave rise to a community now scattered in western regions of Gujarat and Maharashtra,variously designated as Nagar Brahmans and Chitpavans

Kashmir Forum said...

Respected editor

Thanks , before this inquiry there was one another inquiry from another friend , unfortunately not welworesed in the computer applications i could not acces your bilong in time , besides i have no email ID in gmail .com. no doubt the second one has been to some extent impolite but i was really delighted to know that there are still people who take kashmir history so serious.to my first friend i tell him that it was in 1983 that a mound was investigated by ASI near Bijbehara Town At Semthian in south kashmir where the investigators could found enough cultural metrials in shape of pottery , inscriptions ,coins of the indo greeks period. earlier the British archeaologists and travellers also foun relics of ancient greeks from the upper valley of hydapas( jehleum)
to my another friend i say that undoubtly the Kalhana's Rajtarangni is the bistic literary source to our history which has been written in about 11th century AD but the events mentioned init about ancient or early historic periods needs to collaberated with the evidences put forth by the modern day archeaological researches. there are many such kings refered in this historic epic which are not attested by other sceintific sources. for example kalhana identifies Asoka as an local kashmeri charector and puts his date very earlier, but we all know that there was only one Asoka of maghda who had expanded his authority upon kashmir . similarly like ancient Greeks ,we have got archeaological evidences of kushans,kidhara kushans , scythians etc which are not mentioned in Rajatarangni. still these rajas have got a simple referances in that epic, about greeks kalhana calls them malchas and yovanas.kalhana tells us that Juluka the Son of asoka waged a war againest the malchas. if you have any more doubts you can read my book ancient greeks in kashmir and also help me to correct my self if i am wrong . thanking you all

Iqbal Ahmad

peejip said...

Many a thanks to Iqbal Sahib for a to the point and a detailed reply.I would like to know where his book can be obtained and also to have his e mail address.Mine is peejip@yahoo.co.in

lalitsjamwal said...

The authentic history of Kashmir the famous Rajataringini makes no mention of Greeks or Macedonians even near the Kingdon of Kashmir (let alone the Kashmir Valley),thus these stories are politically motivated and planted.

Unknown said...

No doubt that Alexander had kashmir, i still knw sm ppl stay behind from Alexander army to rule kashmir, these ppl cn still be found working as peasants in sm parts of kashmir. A well genetis study of mitochondrian study cn only revel the mistry. Nt all kashmiri bt sm of them do hv their origin back to greek and macedonia.

Venizel TruthSeeker said...

Congrattulations for your study on this field. I have personally researched similarily this subject and i have reached similar conclutions. However fortunately or unfortunately is not easy to present any new theories in regard of the history of a nation or tribe. I have personaly found information that if ever accepted would turn the earths historical theories upsidedown. For exaple, conventional history tells us that the first conduct of Greek and Asian civilasations occured with Great Alexander's invation of Asia but this is not the case according to some resources i have been through as it documented that Asians already knew and worshiped some Greek deities such as Dionisous and that is an indication that the two worlds might have been linked since before. Our friend waniaslam shares the opinion that Kasmiries are Aryans, but who were the Aryans. According to my conclutions the Aryans were one of the first human tribes to inhabit Earth/Gaia alongside with Drabides, Ganimides and Minies and this four tribes were the first prehistoric Pelasgic tribes that had similar civilazation and similar language. Also it is important to note that the prehistory of our world is far away from what they tell us. Some breef exaples of this are:
1. The Yunnan province of China. Contemporary history does not mention any ancient Greek influence there, but as the name sudjest (many Asian nations refer to Greeks as Yunnans and Greece Yunanistan) that area was influenced by Greeks. Additionaly excavations revealed more than 12 lost ancient Greek cyties in the area. Even today many tribes have some traditional customs that can only be found in Greek mainland.
2. Ainou tribe of Japan is the oldest tribe of Japan. Their appearance, customs and traditions are totally different from the rest of Japanese people. Also their name has to do with an ancient Greek tribe (Ionians).
3. Kalash people Hindu Kush. This tribe predates the present time Pakistany people of the area. This tribe it directly descents from G.Alexander's soldiers.
4. The Pashtoun/Pashto tribes even today, they have as tradition a dance called 'Attana' which is an ancient dance deticated to Goddess Athena and they too descent partly from Alexander's soldiers.
5. Maori tribe of New Zeland are again linked with Alexander the Great.
6. Even the Araucana people of the country of Chile believes that they have prehistoric connections with ancient Greek pelasgic tribes.
7. The Iskanderi Kouli tribe and Iskanderi Pamirof in Tajikistan Ouzbekistan borders.
8. Iskander is a person mentioned in the Holy Quran and eventhough is not accepted by many it refers to Alexander the Great.
9. Lastly speaking of Asia continent it is important to analyze the name. Asia was named as such by a hystorical person named Asios which was of Greek descent.
I personaly have no motives to disclose any of the above besides the fact that the information might be true, thus in that case the conventional hystory at present is almost totally false regarding the prehistory of the whole planet.
Additionally you wont find any most of this info in present hystoric sources and books but only in ancient scripts which are highly guarded.
My best wishes for your future progress.
Additional Note: Sometimes is not easy to accept facts that are in contradiction with what we were told as children as truths.