Wednesday, 3 April 2013

SUDAN - THE SANSKRIT CONNECTION

The ancient Nubian Civilization was located in Northeast Africa, what today is within the political boundaries of Sudan. The land of the Nubians was referred to as Nubia, or the Kingdom of Cush or even Ethiopia (not to be confused with what is modern day Republic of Ethiopia).

Biblical sources trace the earliest ancestory of the Nubians to Noah, and later to Noah's son Ham. Ham was the father of the greatest ever Nubian ruler Cush, who ruled from his capital city Kerma. The Genesis says, "The country Cush was named after the man Cush, the first son of Ham, son of Noah" - (Genesis 10:6). The existence of Cush's reign is tentatively estimated  at around 3000 BC.

The Nubian names Ham and Cush have lead some to conjecture that their legend might have its source in the ancient Indian epic, the Ramayana. The Ramayana is the story of the great ancient Indian God-King, Sri 'Ram', who is said to have ruled the world from the city of Ayodhya. Interestingly, Sri Ram had a son by the name 'Kush'.

The Ramayana traces the lineage of Sri Ram to Manu, the first man on earth, much like how later the Nubian texts trace the lineage of Ham to Noah, the first man. 


Sri Ram had two sons, Kush and Lava. In Sanskrit, 'Kush' is translated as 'grass'. It is said that 'Kush' was 'created' by Rishi Valmiki (also the author of Ramayana) from 'grass'. One morning, Valmiki is requested by Sita, the mother of Lava, to look after Lava when she goes out to the river. Valmiki is absorbed in composing the Ramayana. Noticing his pre-occupation, Sita considers it best to take Lava along as she goes out. Valmiki soon realizes that Lava is missing. Before Sita's return from the river, Valmiki creates a clone of 'Lava', from grass twigs. The clone gets the name 'Kush' (कुश), Sanskrit for 'grass'. What is interesting is that in ancient Indian texts, Africa was known as 'Kusha-dwipa' (कुश द्वीप), 'the island of grasslands'.

In the Nubian texts, the name 'Cush' has not been deciphered. However, it has been suggested that 'Cush' might mean 'dark skinned'. Some sources say that 'Cush' might mean 'spindle' but no particular reason is given for this. Uncannily, the Nubian king, Cush had a grandson by the name 'Ramaah'.

The capital city of the Sudanese Kingdom of Cush was known as 'Kerma' (dates vary from 3000 BC to 1785 BC). The name 'Kerma' is probably a distortion of the Sanskrit 'Karma' (कर्म) meaning 'action'. A close cognate 'Kurma' (कूर्म) means 'turtle' or 'tortoise'. 'Kurma' is the second incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the Indian Puranic context. 'Kurma Purana'  contains a description of the self-begotten Manu, and his dynasty, the Ikshvaku's of which Lord Rama and Kush were the later descendants.

Biblical sources say that the name of the father of 'Cush' was 'Ham'. It is highly likely that these sources are inadvertently referring to Lord Rama. The name 'Ham' has never been deciphered. In Sanskrit, Rama (राम) means 'charming', 'pleasing', 'beautiful or handsome' and 'delightful' which summarizes the qualities of the God-King Rama. In fact, it has also been argued that the name 'Ham' was originally spelled as 'Rham' and later with time the letter 'H' was dropped.

Another important Nubian city was 'Meroe'. A close cognate of 'Meroe is 'Meru' (मेरु) which translates as 'Divine Mountain' from Sanskrit. Meroe is the site of the 35 ancient pyramids which were discovered in the 2010 in Sudan. The link between Meroe and Meru is not that far-fetched considering that Tanzania too has a mountain by the name of Mt. Meru, the second highest peak after Mt. Kiliminjaro.  

'Uttara Ramayana' (the Indian text that traces the story of Luva and Kush) mentions that Kush had a great great grandson by the name' Nabha'. In Sanskrit , NAbha (नाभ) means 'centre', and, Nabha (नभ) means 'sky'. Many scholars from India have argued that Lord Rama's sons, Kusha expanded his empire westward. Though his capital city was 'Ayodhya', Kush also made a city by the name 'Kushapur'. 

What is interesting is that there is yet another Kush in the lineage of the Ikshvaku's, the dynasty  to which Lord Rama belonged. And he precedes the birth of Lord Rama. In fact, the Valmiki Ramayana, considered the oldest text in the world, says that  Lord Brahma, the creator of the world had a son by the name 'Kusha', referred to as the one with the 'Highest Soul'. Kusha had four sons, who he encouraged to rule and govern piously. Kusha's four  sons developed four cities including one that was named Kusha Nabha. The source of the word 'Nubia' is not clear, and it is difficult to say whether or not the word Nubia has a link to 'Kusha Nabha'. 

Up north from Sudan in Egypt lies the ancient archaeological site by the name 'Nabta Playa'. Nabta Playa is an ancient stone observatory aligned to the Sun and constellation Orion. The entire sky can be mapped from Nabta Playa, and therefore the link with Sanskrit word 'Nabha' which means 'sky' is conclusively ascertained..

The Sudanese culture too has been greatly influenced by the Indian culture and much has already been written about it.


A Nubian Lady from Sudan
dressed in a sari-like wrap called 'thobe',
wearing a 'tika' and a 'nose-ring'.
Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia


Henna on the hands of a Sudanese Bride.
The hand jewelery is identical to what is
prevalent in the Indian Sub-continent culture
Photo Courtesy : tumbir.com

Suggested Links:
1. 'None but India' by Jagat Motwani
2. About Nubia
3. Ancient Kingdoms in Land of War
4. Ancient Sudan : Nubia
5.Dravadin, Mande and Elamite by Clyde Winters
6. Nubia and Nubians
6.Son of Ham: Cush
7. http://w045b.htmlww.ccg.org/english/s/p
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