Saturday, 20 October 2012

THE SANSKRIT CONNECTION - MT. NEMRUT, TURKEY

The 7000 ft high Mt. Nemrut in Turkey, is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Historically, it was the location of King Antiochus's temple sanctuary, which he constructed in 62 BC. Today it remains a large but little visited necropolis on Turkey's tourism map.

Mount Nemrut lies south of Malatya (ancient name, Milidia), and 40 km north of Kahta and Adiyaman in Turkey. Malatya has been identified as 'Melid', an ancient city on the Tohma River, a tributary of the upper Eupharates rising in the Taurus mountains. The name Melid and Milidia is described in Hittite texts which mention that etymologically this area was named 'melid' which meant 'honey' in the language of the Hittites. That there is a close association between 'Melid' and the Sanskrit 'madhul' (मधूल) meaning 'honey' is of course obvious.

Nearby was the town of Adiyaman. Adi (आदि) translates from Sanskrit as 'the beginning' or 'commencement'. 'Yaman' (यामन्) translates as 'the approach to God'.

King Antiochus wanted to see his name and that of his  dynasty preserved. His tomb was built in order for his vassals to worship him after his death. A Greek inscription reveals that he was buried at Nemrut in the temple sanctuary surrounded by colossal statues of Gods, as a sign of his parity with the Gods. The fact that the mountain is named Nemrut (नमृत) which means 'not dead' or 'alive' in Sanskrit is therefore not surprising.

King Antiochus' original name was Mithridate; he assumed the name Antiochus when he ascended the throne. The word Mitra (मित्र) means 'friend' or 'ally'. 'Datta' (दत्त), meaning 'giver' or 'the honoured one', and often kings in India would add 'datta' to their names as an achievement epithet.

There are interesting references to King Antiochus in the Sanskrit inscriptions of ancient sites in India. The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany, Volume 27, 1838, in the chapter named 'Important Historical Discoveries in the Inscriptions of India', page 208, mentions Sanskrit shlokas (verses) about King Antiochus. The shlokas were found in the ancient rock inscriptions of Girnar in Gujarat, and, in the rock inscriptions of Dhauli, in Cuttack in Orissa (now Odisha) state of India.

Here is a translation from an ancient edict of Emperor Ashoka of India which makes a passing reference to King Antiochus. Of course the verse is about the glory of Emperor Ashoka and his fame around the world and the knowledge emanating from India being passed around to other civilizations, but it mentions King Antiochus nevertheless. Here it is:

"Everywhere withing the conquired provinces of Raja Priyadarshi (Ashoka), the beloved of the Gods, as well as in parts occupied by the faithful, such as the Cholas, ....the Ketalputras, or even as far as Tambapanni (Sri Lanka) ..... and moreover, the dominion of Antiochus the Greek, everywhere, the Heaven-Beloved, Raja Priyadarshi's double system of Medical Aid is established....".

Check King Antiochus in Emperor Ashok's Edicts for the original verses.
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