Gal samhaj leye te rola ki
E ram rahim te maula ki

In our petty attempts to entrench ourselves deeper into a presumed cultural/social/religious identity, we often forget how closely the mythologies, languages and cultures of the world are intertwined and connected.

Take the example of the oldest recorded civilization from the history of this land – the Indus Valley Civilization, of whose language, social structure and belief system we know hardly anything. What little we do know about this most elusive and mysterious of civilizations is that it apparently stretched from the Northern Areas of Pakistan and Tibet of today down till the Indus Delta, and connected the upper reaches of the Ganges in the East with the Makran coast and parts of Afghanistan in the West.

Hardly any ancient weapons have been found in the several excavation sites of the Indus Valley, famous amongst which are Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Mehergarh, Kalibangan and Kot Diji; but what has been found are remnants of incredibly advanced city structures with sewerage systems, which Pakistan today can be envious off; as well as pots, utensils, tools, toys, sculptures and several clay tablets and seals with inscriptions and depictions of various animal and human figures.

One of the most famous of depictions amongst these tablets is of a horned figure sitting in a cross-legged posture surrounded by wild animals. This figure has also been called the proto Shiva Pashupati by historians and Indologists, because of the resemblance with the later god of Hindu Mythology, Shiva the lord of beasts.

But even more striking and uncanny is the resemblance of this figure with a deity from Celtic mythology known as Cernunnos, the god of nature and fertility, across the globe in Western Europe.

Another ancient symbol which first originated in the Indus valley, was adopted by Hinduism and Buddhism, and is also found in ancient Europe during the Greco-Roman culture, is the Swastika (su-astika in Sanskrit means good fortune or well being), the four-spiraled cross, which was reused and misused in modern times by Hitler’s Third Reich.

According to the most widely accepted theory, the Indus Valley was later believed to have been colonised by an Indo European people known as the Aryans, who brought the Vedas to India and the Avestas to Persia. “Arya”, which in Sanskrit means “noble”, is also found in the roots of the names of both Ireland (ancient name: Eire) and Iran today.

The two major deities of the ancient Indian Vedic mythology are Varuna, the god-priest of the sky and the upholder of the law; and Indra, the god of warriors and thunder who wields the ‘Vajra’ or lightening bolt in his hands.

Across the world in Northern Europe these correspond with the two main deities of Nordic mythology, Odin and Thor – Odin being the god of wisdom and prophesy and upholder of the cosmic order; and Thor being the god of war who makes thunder with his magical hammer, Mjolnir.

Even closer to the Vedic deities are the gods Uranus and Zeus of Greek mythology – Uranus, the god of order and sky and Zeus, the god of thunder, who wields the lightning bolt in his hands.

As the warrior classes started to usurp the power of the scholars, druids and holy men, thus did the later mythological tales around the world begin to change; Varuna and Uranus became lost in the obscure past while Indra and Zeus gained popularity and became kings of the gods in the minds of men.

Even the mythology of the Abrahamic religions is further back connected to a larger world mythology. Take the story of the Ark for example. Before it appears in the Bible, it appears in the ancient Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh, when Utnapishtim recounts his story of the flood and the Arc to the Babylonian hero king.

The story of the deluge also exists in ancient Indian mythology as the story of Manu who, together with the seven Rishis or sages, is rescued by the Matsya Avatar of lord Vishnu in the form of a fish, in order to begin a new cosmic cycle of the universe; as well as amongst most indigenous people of Central and South America.

Plenty of books have been written and lots of films made on the recurrent patterns of myths between different cultures. There are endless examples if one starts investigating – such as similarities between the attributes of the Egyptian god Horus, the Greek Dionysius, the Persian Mithras and the Christian Jesus; the recurrence of the trinity in different cultures or other numbers (such as the seven colors of the rainbow, seven heavens in various mythologies, seven notes of the scale), etc. Some even believe in conspiracy theories that such recurring myths are constantly being reinforced amongst civilizations so that a small powerful group of people can govern and control the minds of the masses.

I personally don’t take stock in conspiracy theories. I rather tend to believe that certain objective truths or realities exist, which people try to interpret and express according to their own subjective understanding, using whatever forms of expression they have learnt or been conditioned into. To quarrel and fight over whose version of the story is the correct one, means to lose touch with the actual evolving/self-realising nature of the truth.

Arieb Azhar is a singer songwriter based in Islamabad. He studied Philosophy and Indology from the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where he also used to lead an Irish Celtic World Music band. Learn more about him here.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (51)

Naz
July 2, 2013 2:13 pm

Bingo....

In the Indian Vedas, there is a verse that many quote.... " The truth that exists is one, the learned oens interpret it varied ways.."

You rightly said... that interpretation has ot be unique to suit ones mental development. I think the abrahamic religions are only ones that calaim exclusivity...(mine is best and one way of truth etc..) Almost all other religions of the world dont speak this language....hence the ysurvive... where ever therei s exclusivity, there is a conflict... and this is seen obviously today in the world. i ncurrent civilization...

Sanity
July 2, 2013 2:21 pm

Beautiful.

gopal
July 2, 2013 2:22 pm

''Hardly any ancient weapons have been found in the several excavation sites of the Indus Valley, famous amongst which are Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Mehergarh, Kalibangan and Kot Diji; but what has been found are remnants of incredibly advanced city structures with sewerage systems, which Pakistan today can be envious off; as well as pots, utensils, tools, toys, sculptures and several clay tablets and seals with inscriptions and depictions of various animal and human figures.''

How can you convince the average Pakistani that India never in her history has invaded any smaller countries. India considered the Muslims as a problem and hence '' this strategy of load shedding by Nehru, Patel and their like could at best be called clever.'' (Dawn, 19th Feb, 2013)

Greek mythology was influenced to a large extent by Indian mythology. Both the Greeks and Indians worship Sun, Water, Air and Earth as they take these elements as the basics of human lives. Alexander came to India, but before and after him, many Greek philosophers stayed in the ancient Indian universities of Taxila and Nalanda.

Pakistanis always take pride in those people who destroyed those ancient centres of learning (Hassan Nisar), and then they wonder, after sixty odd years, why on earth the nationalism did not take root in Pakistan?

Dinesh
July 2, 2013 3:49 pm

Well said Azhar bhai! sara rola te na-samhajan ne machaya hai :)

anon
July 2, 2013 4:04 pm

Most Pakistanis simply consider pre-Islamic history as kufr, what is the use of teaching them, all this. They are Islamic supremacists. Introspection does not come easily to them,

Sunny
July 2, 2013 4:13 pm

Muslim arrogance makes it impossible for Muslims to be honest. They claim that only Islamic versions are true and divine and all the rest are falsifications. Islam is a totalitarian imperialist ideology.

Sunil
July 2, 2013 4:50 pm

Good article. However, author should be aware of the fact that Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) has been conclusively debunked by recent elaborate genetic studies. AIT is just a myth. No mass migration from Europe to Indian subcontinent had occurred, ever.

Supposedly Aryan people are indeed indigenous with overwhelming genetic similarities with so called 'Dravidians'.

Samar B
July 2, 2013 5:51 pm

This article shows ignorance on the author's part on ancient migrations. When the author reads a bit and discovers that the Punjab area was home to massive waves of outward ancient migration to Europe, to Central Asia, to China, Siberia and to North America, it might dawn upon him that the commonality of thought among ancient peoples has a more direct answer: they had a common source in ancient India, much earlier than any of us can imagine. The author seems totally ignorant of the discrediting of the Aryan "Invasion" Theory, in favor of a homeland in India.

Amar
July 2, 2013 6:29 pm

We see several common myths among the Abrahamic religions too - such as the myths from the Old Testament, Adam & Eve, Abraham sacrificing his son, Moses parting the sea, Jesus being born to a virgin, resurrection of Jesus, etc.

Propagation of myths has been going on since millenia.

Ibrahim
July 2, 2013 6:45 pm

@Sunny : It's the muslim arrogance in the subcontinent that deludes them from other historical realities that have existed in these lands. Islam itself has no part to play in the concocted beliefs of such Muslims. They have been converted, bred, and raised under the same culture and atmosphere of the dominant hindu-esque scope which itself refuses to accept that the former 'Hindustan' or the subcontinent has long become home to over half a billion Muslims and the number will only grow in the foreseeable future. While the Muslims have chosen to blind themselves of the past, the non-muslim population is blinded from the future.

Abbastoronto
July 2, 2013 6:44 pm

Myths and Symbols arise out of the reality around us to answer the Primal Question of Existence – Survival, Growth, Evolution.

A symbol can be closed or open, linear or non-linear and that embodies a System / Religion / Nation precisely, succinctly, and fully.

For example, Star of David is linear, closed. Judahism is static, shrinking. Christian cross is linear, open. They are growing. Crescent of Islam is non-linear, open. Complex, everlasting growth.

In almost every culture the circle is a symbol for perfection. Hajj is circulation around a cube – onward to perfection using the real 3-dimensional World, the reality.

India’s flag has a wheel – closed. Pakistan’s star and crescent – aiming high and permanent growth and evolution. Muslim flags have a moon or a star or both – nearer moon first, distant star later. A more realistic path. Islam is acceptance of Reality. Allah is the Ultimate Reality.

Religions are tied to economy, so are their myths. Judahism is the religion of pastoral economy, Christianity of agrarian, and Islam of trade (Moses was a shepherd, Jesus an artisan in the Fertile Crescent, and Mohammed AS a businessman trader). The immaculate conception of Jesus without a father embodies a new economy where seed is planted in earth’s womb requiring no pollination or copulation (as in Old Testament economy).

The myth of Oedipus relates a son killing his father, opposite of Abraham sacrificing his son. So the Hellenic West is declining but the Abrahamic way (Christianity, Islam) are growing. The answers and symbols that a Society engenders determines its future survival, growth, evolution.

Ibrahim
July 2, 2013 6:46 pm

@Sunny : and to call Islam a totalitarian ideology is beyond ignorance.

Bilal
July 2, 2013 8:18 pm

@Sunny : I agree. Muslims think they are 'on the right path' while everyone else is not. This ideology has to change because we forget how to value other human beings. For instance, in Pakistan, no one eats in the plates of Christians just like in India no one eats from the same plates as Muslims. Islam means nothing and it is not a solution to our lives, its only a so called way of life. I was named after an african slave Bilal, just like my Jewish friend Lavi was named after one of joseph's brothers. It's all the same...religion is what you make of it.

Bilal
July 2, 2013 8:23 pm

@anon: Yes, 'age of ignorance' leaves us ignorant of history and makes it easy for god to not to be questioned. let's question him so we know who he is instead of writing He He He, let's just talk if hes there or not

BRR
July 2, 2013 8:21 pm

Good article of a relatively open-minded individual. Readers would be wise to read Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myths".

MIP
July 2, 2013 9:09 pm

My Allah guide you all, Aameen.

Riaz Ahmad
July 2, 2013 9:16 pm

In the absence of scientific knowledge of things, religion provided some explanation according to the knowledge and wisdom of the time. With the advent of scientific knowledge, reason and rationality, there has been an unimaginable explosion in human knowledge, religion has become totally out of date.

irony
July 2, 2013 9:28 pm

no offence but features from indus valley civilization havent been incorporated to hinduism. Indus valley civilization followed hinduism. The name hinduism has been coined much later, but it is safe to say that IVC was practicing hinduism and no one can rebut it.

Riaz Ahmad
July 2, 2013 9:29 pm

@Sunil: Aryan invasion was a myth invented to support European supremacy. It has no scientific foundation in its support. False interpretations of past reality always end up in the dust bin of history, simple because reality cannot be concealed in a veneer of wishful thinking for long, sooner or later, the veneer fades away exposing the truth underneath.

Riaz Ahmad
July 2, 2013 9:35 pm

@Sunny : Your selectiveness of Islam is either due to your lack of knowledge or due to your inner prejudice. It is not only Islam, Judaism and Christianity are guilty of the very same arrogance; in fact Christianity borrowed it from Judaism and passed it on to Islam. All three monotheistic religions believe in the same irrational paradigm.

anup
July 2, 2013 10:15 pm

Enjoyed the article...please write more of such:-)

S. rao
July 3, 2013 12:15 am

The 'Aryan invasion' theory has been debunked by latest archaeological finding and testing of DNA markers. M17, the so called 'Caucasian' DNA marker find its most variety in indian gene pool(perhaps author's too unless he came to india with pakistani hero gaznavi), strongly suggesting India being the origin of the caucasians. Please, don't claim indus and buddhist civilization as pakistani, world did not know existance of pakistan until some 65 years ago. Pakistan's true cultural heritage middle east and their hero gaznavi $ co. being a pakistani i thought you knew it.

Rocky
July 3, 2013 1:00 am

In preIslamic times, there was a lot more trade among civilizations. As a results, ideas and religions traveled freely up and down the trade highways. Budhism, for instance, spread without a single head been chopped.

justforcarp
July 3, 2013 1:45 am

Although all religions are based on a myth -- that there is a GOD -- Muslims and Christians never use the word Mythology when describing their religions but have no hesitation in describing other religions like Hinduism as religions based on mythologies. Why is that?

Bharat
July 3, 2013 4:06 am

This is not Islamic - It has no place in your newspaper. It is akin to blasphemy.

DoesItMatter
July 3, 2013 5:18 am

Completely ridiculous.. baseless ... and far far from facts and evidence.

wasim anwar
July 3, 2013 6:05 am

diversity is the fact of life, without it no one can live, this article presents a picture where it seems the history of mankind is connected and is common to human race, well, in a way it can be, but it narrates a possible connection between cultures which i am sure is viable and possibel in a human span of thousands of year. What we need to know as a human race and our roots is that mankind never lacked the imagination and possiblity to enhance itself, which we find in the history of civilizations and even now, we human race have to move on and stay on the course. Well Aryans or not, Indus civilization has been a well advanced culture of its time, influenced by natives, religion, and culture. Diversity and possibilites are the necessary for any society to survive. As the people traveled and mingled with other things slowly started to make its way in other cultures which led to a commoness of things which the author mentions like the number 7, oneness of God,

kml
July 3, 2013 6:17 am

vedic mythologies ,,,according to muslims scholars are stories of MALIAK(angels) narrated by prophets of those times and of course changed over time.Abrahamic religions preach monotheism and guidance to humanity .

ssf
July 3, 2013 9:16 am

@Sunil: You are completely off beat the research by famous scholars have shown that migration of Aryan took place from central Asia to India and that you can see from the features of North Indians. Now some Indians because of their inferiority complex they want show that migration was from India to other countries. They are forcing many schools in the U.S. to follow this theory.

avirattam
July 3, 2013 10:35 am

The author's credentials are very impressive. Few comments on the article: the Aryan invasion theory has been questioned, nobody is quite sure how the Indus Valley Civilization came to an end. It would be hoped, however, that more such articles appear in the Pakistani press, which might help in pealing off the many layers of myths that the Pakistani narrative appears to be cocooned into.

Yousaf
July 3, 2013 12:54 pm

Amazing. This part of the history needs to be taught in Pakistani schools.

Rai
July 3, 2013 1:15 pm

Five thousand years ago human population was a fraction of what it is today. It is entirely feasible that humanity was much more integrated previously than it is today, and that people carried on with their shared norms and traditions even after migrating to far off lands. After all, we all came out of Africa. Apparently, the Brahmin chants of South India that have been passed orally down the ages, predate spoken language. If those sounds can survive, why not beliefs?

gary
July 3, 2013 1:53 pm

http://www.dawn.com/2011/09/19/cultural-zealots.html/comment-page-1#comment-273375

''The Pakistani society at various points seems inhumanely conservative. In the view of most of the world perhaps it is religion that defines our lives. However, there is one thing that supersedes religious values, ethics, morality, and justice – it is culture. It is a culture that has been thrust upon us since generations upon generations, a thought process that has been ingrained into our very souls. It is the culture of the Hindu. Not that this particular culture has everything bad in it, it comes with thousands of years of wisdom and it has been evolving over the centuries, but it doesn't merit these values to supersede our faith nor should they.''

The author, an educated man, acknowledges Hindu culture has thousands of years of wisdom, and yet his religious beliefs does not let him sleep in peace. This is the dilemma of every Muslim in the sub continent, from Bahawalpur to Bhagalpur. Neither does he want to accept that his forefathers were direct descendants of the Hindus and hence he is very much a son of the soil, nor can he deny the openness of Hindu culture which gives him so much pleasure in their films, books and songs.

Akhlesh
July 3, 2013 2:46 pm

@Abbastoronto: "A symbol can be closed or open, linear or non-linear and that embodies a System / Religion / Nation precisely, succinctly, and fully." What nonsense!

Dr. Azam Gill
July 3, 2013 6:54 pm

Thank you for a very interesting article. However, there are two points to be made: one of omission and the other of commission, and then a post scriptum. Commission: you say "According to the most widely accepted theory, the Indus Valley was later believed to have been colonised by an Indo European people known as the Aryans, who brought the Vedas to India". This Aryan Invasion theory ( an over-interpretation of Max Muller eventually taken up by the Nazis!) has been retired since the 1980s, and no Indo-European scholar propounds it any more. Sanskrit and the Vedas are indigenous to India, and the Saraswati dried out 1900 BC. Omission: the Deluge, Noah and the Ark are also, to the best of my knowledge, mentioned in the Holy Qura'an. Post Scriptum: Ark, with reference to Noah (Hazarat Nooh) is with a 'K', except perhaps in the Indian Jones movie, although that one, if found, might not float on water!

Rumpa
July 3, 2013 7:22 pm

@Rocky: It's more to do with the face that monotheistic religions were not orevalent. Polytheistic religions win converts by the word, while monotheistic religions win converts by the sword.

M J Syed
July 3, 2013 7:54 pm

@S. rao: My friend you are mistaken. Heritage is a complex matter. Including many other factors factors, the geographical location plays a major role. Pakistanis can proudly claim that the name India originated from the land which is now Pakistan. Relax and enjoy it.

Pankaj Patel
July 3, 2013 9:54 pm

Amazing,I have been doing some reserch of my own on this subject and being not an atheist but not faithful of any religion I have liberty to reason.What difference I observed is all these religions evolved with the down of civilization and they never tried to impose themselves on others.It was Greeks when they ruled Egypt added their Gods with those of Egyptians and then Romans added their Gods without destroying any temple.It started only when monolithic religions arrived on the scene destruction started. When I was in Greece one lady asked me how many Gods you have? I told her hundred thousand and she was amazed to hear that.I told her that you too had many Gods before these temples were turned ruined,we are fortunate to have many Gods to choose from.She asked what happens when there is dispute between believers of different Gods,I replied that makes lot of noise the way it makes in our parliament but no blood is spieled.We can add all of these Greek Gods without any problem because figure of God is in human imagination.

Tamilnet
July 4, 2013 12:29 am

Sunil, have you done any study on it. The Aryan migration theory is a myth written couple of centuries back by vested interest such as European missionaries who treated the entire continent as second class citizens and came up with Aryan invasion theories. Please reserch and make statements.

Abdi
July 4, 2013 1:55 am

@Abbastoronto: And ignorance is bliss!

Hari
July 4, 2013 3:07 am

i was always curious about this, its good to see someone share the same opinion.

the population in those times was very small as compared to now & yet civilizations were connected & people moved around freely hence the resemble in art, religion & culture.

another deity of hindus/buddhis "Saraswati" is closelty related to greek Athena. it can be seen from japan to italy including thailand, india, china, combodia, egypt, iran, greece

Ajaya K Dutt
July 4, 2013 6:15 am

@ssf: They are "forcing" American universities to change the facts. - Excellent example of Pakistani psyche.

usaf najmi
July 4, 2013 10:09 am

great article, Great umayyed mosque in Demascus was shrine of john the Babtist a church, before a Roman temple and at first temple of Babilonian gods in last four thousand years. As the people changes so the culture, civilization, relegion and the god.

Binod
July 4, 2013 11:37 am

@Yousaf: How is it possible for such knowledge to florish when it is essensial to believe that to remain commited and faithful to one's faith one requires to take total divorce from one's past heritage and legacy. Is not that such belief system is among the root causes of present day Islamic societies wherever it iexists right from Morroco to Malaysia.

Hamza
July 4, 2013 11:44 am

@anon: what is the basis of your claim? If pre Islamic history is considered kufr then in essence you deny every single Prophet and messenger that came before Muhammad(SAW). A muslim is required to accept and believe in the Prophets and messengers that preceded Muhammad (SAW). @Bilal See what you're doing is setting a standard based on the subcontinent region. The Islam in Pakistan and most definitely in India is mutated way out of proportion. It's been infused with the hindu culture so badly that people dont know Islamic practices from the cultural practices. Islam preaches brotherhood and humanity, equality. Your name based on an african slave, that african slave was given more respect by muslims than any other religion or culture in the world. Islam gave more rights to people and women than any other religion in the world. It was and still is a progressive religion without ever needing to "evolve" over time. You might be better off if you looked into it with an open mind.

Ijaz
July 4, 2013 12:20 pm

@justforcarp:

God may be regarded as 'a' myth (though for those who understand, He is not a myth for them), but perhaps mythology is more than that. Mythology is division of the "Creative Power" behind universe, Hinduism may have a reference to one supreme power but does not hold it as the "Sole Power" which created and controls the universe - in mythology, after creation, things go out of the creator's control. Islam Christianity or other Monotheistic religions, in this respect, differentiate themselves from those part of mythologies. Later myths are part of political development around religions, not part of the original religion itself.

VP
July 4, 2013 2:50 pm

@Yousaf:Good Suggestion. They already teach us this In India.

nzaar
July 4, 2013 3:09 pm

Interesting perspective. Thank you.

shri
July 4, 2013 3:37 pm

Majority of Muslim population are blinded by religion n. It's almost impossible to teaches rational facts.......

Arvind
July 4, 2013 6:46 pm

@M J Syed:That is one reason Pakistan needs to come back into Indian fold. How can an area of great civilization be left to uncivilized uncultured people.Now enjoy & chill

Ramapithe
July 4, 2013 7:39 pm

@Ijaz: Your understanding of Hinduism is faulty. Hindus do not believe in the existence of a second power. In fact, it is Christians and Muslims who believe in the existence of a second power - the devil who goes against Gid and tempts humans. The Hindu believe that there is nothing but God. Expvery Hindu understands that the separate powers that you talk about are just different aspects of the One God.

As for myth, Hindus understand that any conception of God including a mental conception is idol worship. They don't have a problem with that since they let everyone approach God in their own way.

Whenever anyone including Muslims or Christians talk about God, they have already created a mental conception of God and that is idol worship. To say that someone doesn't do idol worship because they do not give a physical representation of God is a very superficial approach. The minute you talk about God, you are doing idol worship.

That is why some of the most profound sages in India like Ramana Maharshi have indicated Silence as the approach to God. Mental stillness, not keeping quiet.

Ask yourself, why don't Hindus convert anyone? Because what is found in every other religion is found in Hinduism.

India is a messed up country in many ways, but its ancient religion is quite magnanimous and tolerant.

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