Friday, 23 November 2018


Sculptures of Vedic Gods from the Panchapura Temple, at Pinjore in Haryana, destroyed by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. In its place stands Pinjore Garden, rather insipid in appearance in comparison to what must have been once a magnificent temple at this site. For more pictures scroll down.
Pinjore is a town in Haryana set at about 1800 feet above sea level in a valley overlooking the Shivalik hills. Unfortunately, Pinjore is now known only for Pinjore Gardens- a garden built by the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb's brother - on the foundations, plinth and ruins of a fabulous ancient Hindu temple. The site was known as Panchapura. There are many stories about the history of Pinjore but this blog states the story that geography of the region and sculptural stones of the temple speak.

Panchpura, lies close to the present day town of Panchkula. Panchkula did not exist then, but its name describes the geography of the region. In the vicinity of Panchkula (literally five rivers), flow the tributaries of the once mighty Saraswati. Today these rivers are not more than rivulets (except in the monsoons when the streams are flooded) and are named Tangri (Dangri), Markanda (Martand), Kaushalya, Chautang (Drsadvadi) and the Gaggar-Hakra, a corruption of the Sanskrit names Gagara-Sagara. Haryana is of course the region where the ancient rishis of India recorded the Vedas on the banks of Sarasvati. Kurukshetra, the site of the Mahabharata saga, also lies in Haryana.

The architectural style of this temple at Panchapura or Pinjore, was the Panchayatana, similar to the architectural style of the Khajuraho temples. It was built on the incline of a Shivalik hill and had many platforms. The entrance was located at the bottom of the hill. A walk up the steps would take one to the highest platform where the garbha griha was located and housed the principal deity. The bottom most steps of this temple were probably washed by the waters of the Kaushalya river, one of the tributaries of the Saraswati. The Kaushalya still flows nearby.

Today the entrance as well as the exit to this once magnificent temple, now the site of Pinjore Garden, is at the uppermost platform. The ruined temple is now known as Bhimadevi which certainly is a name given to it at a much later time than when it was first constructed.

The temple ruins have identifiable statues of gods and goddesses, apsaras and ghandharvs, but none of Bhimadevi. This temple is said to have been constructed between 8th and 11th century. However the erosion of its quartz statues tell a different story. Some of the statues are heavily eroded indicating that the temple complex is probably much older than what is generally accepted. Quartz is a sturdy and stable stone and erodes far slower than sand stone. The temples of Khajuraho are carved from sand stone, yet look far less eroded than the temple complex at Pinjore, suggesting that this temple is probably older than the Khajuraho temples, and certainly older than its 1000 year known history. It is said that the Pandavas during the period of their exile visited Panchapura which is highly likely because of the proximity of Kurukshetra to Panchapura. A temple either already existed here in those times or perhaps Panchpura became a sacred site once the Pandavas visited it. It is said that the town got the name Panchapura (the town of five) after the visit of the five Pandavas. Others say that the town got its name from the Panchayatana architecture style of the temple.

A Panchayatana style temple is one where the main shrine is surrounded by four subsidiary shrines. The origin of the word Panchayatana stems from two Sanskrit words, Pancha (five) and ayatana (containing). An example of a Panchayatana style temple is the Kandariya Temple at Khajuraho. Below is the floor plan of Kandariya temple which is the same as the temple in Pinjore. You will also notice that the Pinjore garden itself, built by ruining the earlier temple that existed at this spot, has exactly the same floor plan and design.

The Pinjore garden was built by Aurangzeb's brother, on the ruins of the Panchpura temple which had the same foundation plan as the Kandariya Temple of Khajuraho shown above. In a temple of this style the entrance would be at Ardha Mandapa. When the Mughals constructed the Pinjore garden, they reversed the entrance.  The entrance now is at what is marked 6 in this diagram which was once the garbha griha of the temple. 

Pinjore garden was built by Aurangzeb's brother by ruining a
Panchayatana architectural styled Hindu temple on
a hill in the Shivalik mountain, its foot washed by the Kaushalya river. The
river has since then moved its course though it still flows nearby.
The ruins and remains of this temple were dumped in an area adjacent to the Pinjore Garden. A largely unimpressive museum, which is not visited by most people who come to Pinjore (since there are no signages), houses the statues of this once magnificent temple.

Some of the remnant statues are placed in small rooms, others are placed in an unkempt lawn of the museum premises and look rather uninteresting because of poor presentation. Quite a few of statues from this site are placed in museums around India and are hence scattered. Unfortunately, since no one place houses all the remnants of this majestic temple, its glory is diluted. This is an immense loss to the cultural history of Pinjore.

Here are pictures of some of the remains of what was definitely a spectacular temple in antiquity. The craftsmanship of the ancient sculptors is far superior to the Mughal period masons who were directed to, perhaps too hastily, build walls and platforms with the material procured from the ruined temple. The Mughals were crafty enough to leave intact the foundations of all the Hindu structures that they destroyed. Those served as the foundations of the Mughal-Islamic structures that they laid atop the Hindu structures. This saved not only labour and time but also offered a ready made architectural blue print and design. Take a look:

A standing Lord Shiva, Panchapura Temple, Pinjore which was constructed in the vicinity of the Kaushalya River- a tributary of the Sarasvati River

Seated Shiva Panel, Panchpura Temple, Pinjore
The Temple Ruins are now given the name Bhimadevi Complex
The ancient most name of the temple is lost in history.
The Uma-Maheshwara Panel, Panchpura Temple, Pinjore
The Panchpura Temple was constructed in the Panchayatana
architectural style. The temples at Khajuraho are built in the same architectural style.
Goddess Chandwardharini, Panchpura Temple, Pinjore.
These statues are made of sturdy quartz.
The erosion of the quartz points to the antiquity of this very ancient temple
Bust of Lord Surya, Panchpura Temple, Pinjore
Most of the statues were destroyed by Aurangzeb's onslaught. 

Another statue of Lord Siva's avatara called Ishana. Panchpura Temple, Pinjore.
Very few of these have survived. None are left undamaged.
A damaged statue of Lord Ishana, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, 
from Panchapura Temple, Pinjore.

A heavily damaged sculpture of Parvati and Ganesha.
Panchapura Temple, Pinjore
Lord Ganesha Panel, Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.
A panel of two gods, Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.
Goddess Brahmani, Panchapura Temple, Pinjore. 
Sri Hari Hara, Panchapura Temple, Pinjore.
Goddess Saraswati, Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

A Gandharva , Panchapura Temple, Pinjore.

Lord Ganesha, Panchapura Temple, Pinjore.

A broken shikhara of one of the temple mandapas, Panchapura Temple, Pinjore.
Lord Lakulish avatara of Lord Shiva and Parvati,
Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.
Lord Shiva Panel, Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

An Eroded Shivainga, Temple pf Panchapura, Pinjore

Apsara Carvings at Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.
Eroded Gandharva Carving, Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

A panel of dancing apsaras and gandharvas.
Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.
Another panel of dancing apsaras and gandharvas.
Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.
The Temple of Panchapura at Pinjore is also sometimes called Khajuraho of north India for its erotic sculpture.
Fragments of broken walls of Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore.

The wall fragments of the Temple of Panchapura even in their ruined state  
are much more artistic than the walls of Pinjore Garden made by the razed material of the temple.
Another wall fragment of the destructed Temple of Panchapura, Pinjore. 

Thursday, 8 November 2018


Notes from Michel Danino's  - The Lost River, On the Trail of River Saraswati:

On 29th June 2002 BBC News ran a program on 'India's Miracle River'. The Sarasvati river's dry bed, it announced,  had been traced in the Rajasthan desert, and there was "startling new evidence that it may not have been a myth after all'. But that wasn't news at all to many Indians.

Most people today, because of information that has come to the fore in the last one decade, are aware that Sarasvati was not a mythical river. What is less well known is that traditionally too, people in India have extensively remembered and recalled the existence of the Sarasvati, calling it by various names such as Ikshumati in the times of the Ramayana, or in later times as Gargara in the upper Himalayan reaches and the Sagara in its lower run. It is currently called Gaggar-Hakra, the names deriving from the Sanskrit Gargara (गर्गर), meaning 'churn' and Hakra a distortion of the Sanskrit Sagara (सागर) meaning 'ocean', an indication that it was well known that the river, rather than disappearing into the desert sands as it later did, had at one time flowed into the ocean in its lower course.

Not surprisingly then, researches too have long known about the existence of the Saraswati in antiq
uity and also visited and explored its river bed, detailed information about which has been recorded by European as well as Indian explorers for at least two centuries.

In the year 1855 French explorer Louis Vivien de Saint Martin recorded, "The trace of the ancient river bed was recently found, still quite recognizable, and was followed far to the west. [This discovery] confirmed the correctness of the tradition."

In 1893 C.F. Oldham stated, "Although the river below the confluence (with the Ghaggar) is marked in our maps as Gaggar, it was formerly the Saraswati; that name is still known amongst the people."

The fact also remains that the existence of the dried river bed of Sarasvati had been known to the invaders of India such as Masod I, the son of Mahmoud Ghazni who used the dried river bed of Sarasvati to get to the heart of India when he invaded India reaching Sonipat in the year 1035 AD. Later Hyder Ali in the year 1305 used the dried river bed of Sarasvati in his approach when he attacked Jammu.

Aryan Invasion Theory and the composing of the Vedas by so called Aryan invaders runs into a dead end mainly because the same researchers including Max Mueller who state that the Saraswati dried up by 1900 BC also state that the Aryans came to India in 1500 BC. But why would they settle down on a dried river bed and not on the banks of any of the five major rivers, Indus (Sindhu), Jhelum (Vitasta), Sutlej (Shatadru), Ravi and Beas (Vipasha) that they would have crossed to get to the dried river Sarasvati? Does not make any sense. This is another major point that questions the validity of the Aryan Invasion Theory.

Friday, 5 October 2018


Historians such as Edward Pococke and Edward Moor had put forth the view that the city of Damascus gets its name from Dhammiska, an extension of the Pali word Damma, which itself is a distortion of the Sanskrit word Dharma, meaning duty, a code by which the Indian monks lived. Many such historians who have not attained the kind of prominence they deserve because of an inherent bias against 'Out-of India' theory and a propensity towards the now outdated Aryan Invasion Theory. There is much legitimacy to their contention, if one were to study the etymology of the names of other ancient cities and towns, mountains and rivers in the vicinity of ancient places such as Babylonia, Damascus, Mesopotamia and so on. But this post is about Hindu and Buddhist monks who as early as since at least the times of the Mahabharata and later under the patronage of Emperors such as Puru and Ashoka sent embassies to various kingdoms around the world. These monks and their knowledge had a tremendous impact in a variety of ways on the lives of people they made contact with.

We begin this post with the story of one such Indian monk who lies buried in Athens in a tomb that exists till today. His story was recorded by a Greek historian and philosopher by the name Nicolaus of Damascus.

Nicolaus of Damascus was born around 64 BC and his name is derived from that of his birthplace Damascus. In his works Nicolaus of Damascus describes an embassy sent by the Indian king Porus (or Puru as he is known in Indian texts), to the Emperor of the Roman Empire Caesar Augustus who reigned from 27 BC to 14 AD. The embassy traveled with a diplomatic letter addressed to Caesar Augustus, and one of the members was a Sramana (Buddhist monk) by the name Zarmanochegas. The monk is said to have burned himself alive to display the faith he had in his tradition. The incident took place in Athens in the year 22 or 21 BC. The incident is described by historians like Strabo and Dio Cassius.

Based on the different ways Strabo and Dio Cassio render the name (Zarmanochegas, Zarmarus) modern scholars attempted at interpreting Strabo's version as a combination of two Sanskrit words, 'shraman' (श्रमण) or monk', and acharya (आचार्य) or 'teacher'.

A tomb was constructed for the monk at Athens. The inscription on the tomb indicated that the monk came from Barygaza near the north bank of the Narmada River. Barygaza was known as Bhrighu-Kutcch, the name being derived from one of the ancient Rishis (Bhrigu) who lived there. Today the city is known as Bharuch.

The tomb of Zermanochegas at Athens

Greek geographer Strabo (64 BC-24 AD) makes a mention of this incident in his famed work Geographia as follows. he states," From one place in India, and from one king, namely Pandian, or, according to other Porous, presents and embassies were sent to Augustus Caesar. With the ambassadors came the Indian Gymnosophists, who committed himself to the flames at Athens."

Buddhist monks on the patronage of Emperor Ashoka were travelling from India across Asia spreading 'Dharma' or the teachings of the Buddha as early as 3rd century BC. The monks scattered in all directions on the Silk Route and spilled into many ancient cities including Khotan in China, Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch in Greece.

Alexandria in Egypt was inhabited by a
great number of Buddhist monks during
the rule of Emperor Ashoka in around 250 BC. 
'Dharma' (धर्म) is a Sanskrit word which means 'duty' and at its earliest appears in the name 'Sanatan-Dharma', the Vedic religion of the land that is today known as India. In Pali, the language of Buddhism, 'Dharma' distorts to 'dhamma'. The most ancient ancient school  Buddhism was known as Stavira Nikaya'. Sthavir  (स्थविर) has the meaning of "elder' in Sanskrit. Later the name Sthavir distorted to 'Theravada' in Pali but has the same meaning of 'Elder'.

The Buddhist monks who arrived in Egypt set up their community in Alexandria. In his research paper 'The Possible Indirect Influence of Buddhism on Christian Monasticism: an Assortment of Facts in Support of the Hypothesis", author P. A. Martin says, " There is also evidence that a number of Buddhists were living in Alexandria sometime between 300 BCE and 100 CE, and this was a large site of Therapeutae. The Therapeutae were an ancient order of mystical ascetics who lived in many parts of the ancient world but were found especially near Alexandria, the capital city of Ptolemaic Egypt.

Zacharias P. Thundy, Professor Emiretus of the Northern Michigan University made the observation that the name 'Therapeutae' arises from the Sanskrit/Pali word 'Thervada' which means 'Elder'. He says, " 'Therapeuta' is the Hellenization of the Sanskrit/Pali word 'Thervada'; they were probably the successors of the missionaries whom Emperor Ashoka sent to Egypt, to the kingdom of Ptolemy in the 3rd century as Thervada medical missionaries. Greek, which does not have have corresponding sounds for the labio-dental 'v' and the apico-dental 'd', changed the Indian v & d to p & t ....." Hence, 'thervada' changed to 'therapeuta'.

The evidence for the fact that the Buddhist monks who were sent by Ashoka to various kingdoms within India and abroad were professional healers comes from Ashoka rock edict at Girnar in Gujarat. It states, "Everywhere within the dominion of His Sacred & Gracious Majesty the King & likewise among the frontages such as the Cholas, Pandyas, Sativaputra, the Keralaputra, what is known as Tamrapani, the Greek King Antiochs, and those kings who are neighbors of that Antiochs - everywhere have been instituted by His Sacred majesty two kinds of medical treatment - medical treatment of man and medical treatment of beast. Medical herbs also, those wholesome for man and those wholesome for beast, have been caused to be planted in all place where they did not exist.....".

Ashoka's Rock Edict at Girnar in Gujarat states that medical treatment was instituted by Buddhist monks or 'thervadas' as far as Antioch in Greece.The language of the edict engraving is Pali. The script is Bramhi.
Western sources trace they etymology of 'therapy' and 'therapeutic' to Latin and Greek sources with obscure arguments to support their view that the 'theraputae' were pre-Christian or Jewish ascetics but these arguments have no cultural or historical collateral. 

Friday, 20 July 2018


There is a debate on the etymology of the country name 'Croatia' which is officially knowns as the Republika Hrvatska. Some theorists who have researched the source of the name 'Hrvatska' say that the name is probably related to Russian 'khrebet' or 'mountain chain'. ' The Russian word 'khrebet' has its origins in Sanskrit 'parvat' or 'mountain'. But that does not tell the entire story.

Others scholars have put forth the view that the present day name Croatia, which is a distortion of Hrvatska, itself is a derivation of the native ethnonym, Xъrvatъ or Xrvat, pronounced Shravat.

So what is the source of the name Xrvat or Shravat? The first attestation of the term is contained in the 'Latin Charter of Duke Trpimir' dated 852 AD. Trpimir was the Duke of Croatia from 845 to 864 AD.

The oldest stone inscription with the engraving of this name is in the 'Latin Branimir Inscription', found in Sopot near Benkovac in Croatia, where Duke Branimir reigned from 879 to 892 AD. The earliest written monument in Croatian language, containing the ethnonym Xrvat is the 'Baska Tablet' dated 1100 AD.

The exact origin and meaning of the ethnonym Hrvat is not known. Common theories from the 20th century derive it from an Iranian origin, postulated by scholars such as Ranko Matasovic who discussed the subject in his 'A Comparative and Historical Grammar of Croatian' (2008). He states that the root word for Hrvat is a shortened distortion of the name Khoroathos or Khoroathos which derive from the Middle Persian, 'Xwarasan'.

'Xwarasan' itself had its roots in Old Persian 'xaraxwat'. attested by the toponym, (i.e. a name derived from the topography of a region), Harahvait, the native name of what appears in Greek texts as Arachosia. Harahvit or Archosia, the texts say, lay geographically between the region of India and Iran. In Old Persian inscriptions, the region is referred to as Harahuvatis.

Croatian Linguist, Indo-Europeanist and Indologist, Radoslav Katicic states that Harahuvatis in Indo Iranian actually means "one that pours into ponds", which derives from the name of the Sarasvati River of the Rig Veda.

In Avestan and Persian the 's' distorts to 'h' and words such as 'soma' (elixir) changed to 'homa' and therefore the first distortion of the word 'Sarasvati' would be akin to 'Harahvati' leading to Harahuavati.

To sum it up the name Croatia, officially calle Hrvatska derives from the name Sarasvati. Croatia's native name was Xъrvatъ or Xrvat, pronounced Shravat, derived from Persian 'xaraxwat' ultimately from 'Saraswati'. The Sanskrit meaning of the compound word Sarasvati is: sara 'a water body' and 'vati', 'that which is endowed with'. In other words Sarasvati means 'that which has water aplenty'. 

The Indo-Iranian or Avestan equivalent for Harahuvatis, Hrvatska should therefore be 'that which has water aplenty', rather than the generally accepted 'that which flows into many ponds'.

It is not only Sarasvati that exists in the Croatian culture, the river names are all Sanskritic with appropriate and relevant meanings. There is the Sava, the Drava, the Kupa, the Danube, the Sutla and Una. Sava is Sanskrit 'Srava' (स्राव) or 'that which oozes', Drava is 'drava' (द्रव) meaning 'liquid', and Kupa is 'kupa' (कूप) or 'water-well'.

About the river names Sava and Sutla it is accepted that the names are related. It is also said that these names have an Indo-European root. Some state that source word might be the Sanskrit 'sukara'. But that means 'swine' and is highly inappropriate. The root word for Sutla is more likely 'su' (सु) or 'good' and 'tala' or 'surface'. Or the name may derive from the 'sutla' (सुतल ) meaning 'great depth'.

The name 'Danube' is said to derive from Proto-Indo-European, a language reconstructed from European & Indic languages. In Sanskrit, the word 'Danu" (दानु) has many meanings. It means 'dew, dew drops, fluid, valiant and courageous'. 

The name 'Una' also has Sanskritic origins. The root word 'und' means flow and words such as 'unatti' (उनत्ति) that derive from the root 'und' mean 'flow' or 'spring' or 'issue out' or 'bathe', all related to water.