Afghanistan

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Afghanistan once lay between two great ancient civilizations, the Indian and the Persian (Iranian) which both influenced the region.  For instance, it is believed that the pre-occupation with the veiling of women stems from pre-Islamic Persian practices which had an impact on life in ancient Greece, and later, even Rome.  

And Greek interests in the Persian territories, most notably with the incursion by Alexander of Macedon in the 4th century BCE, carried Hellenism right to India's mountainous frontier with Afghanistan. 

Cultural ties between Afghanistan and India go back at least to 4500 BCE.  There is evidence, in the ruins of the Indus Valley cities that once flourished by the now-vanished Saraswati River, of cultural and trade relations between the two regions.  Vedic deities such as the Maruts also have links to Afghanistan.  Tribal names of Afghanistan today can be traced to mentions of the Ten-King or Arya-Dasa conflicts of the Rig Veda that occurred in Seistan, a province of southern Afghanistan.  The purs destroyed by Indra were mounds formed in the region due to erosion from the Bad-i-sad-o-bist, ie. the 120-day winds.

The Brihatsamhita (11.61) by Varahmihira (6th century CE) refers to a group called the Avagana that co-existed with the Huns and the Chinese.  The Pakhtun are a dominant group in Afghanistan, and the Rig Veda, one of the world's most ancient collections of scripture refers to enemies who had formed a federation against King Sudasa that included Pakhtha, Bhalanasa, Alinasa, Visani and Siva tribes. 

Panini, the great Sanskrit grammarian was a Pathan by birth. A resident of what is the Northwestern Frontier Province  of India, his grammar  contains several references to places, tribes and geographical landmarks in the region.  The Abhiras tribes mentioned by him are those defeated by Nakula in the Great War of The Mahabharata (MHB Sabha 32.9-10).  There are language similarities, too, of course.

The Mahabharat mentions the veiling of princess, Gandhari;  her brother, Shakuni became the ruler of Gandhar.  She is reputed to have borne "a hundred sons." The contemporary city of Kandahar is named for that kingdom of Gandhar, founded by Taksha,  grandson of Bharat of Ayodhya.  Its borders once extended from Takshashila (Taxila) to Tashkent (Taksha Khand) in present day Uzbekistan. 

Northern Afghanistan lay on the famous Silk Route, and that commercial activity may have facilitated the spread of Buddhism which led to closer ties with  India. 

The -stan suffix derives from a Sanskrit derivative meaning land of.  There are several  other nearby regional names with the suffix -stan [also written, -sthan] such as Baluchistan, Kurdistan, Siwisthan, Arvasthan and Turgasthan, ie. Turkestan -- homeland of the Turkic tribes > Turkey.) 

Until the 10th century CE, Hindu kings ruled Afghanistan and later, parts of it.  The writings of scholar-historian Al-Biruni (973-1048 CE) say the kings of India continued to have coronations in Kabul even when the city had passed out of their hands. 

At its peak in the 1800s, an Indian empire extended from Kabul to Burma (with cultural colonies farther east before then, eg. Indo-nesia.)  Even when Afghanistan had become a separate nation, it continued to regard India as "the mother country."  ~ S. Londhe's interesting site.

"Northwest Frontier" (Pakistan-India Border region) also has historical links to Tibet

 

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NB.  Alexander of Macedon, called The Great, is known in Asia as Iskander. Former aerial surveyor, A. Denis N. Fernandes, a Fellow of the Royal Society, points out that the etymology of Ghandara may, in fact, derive from that version of the Macedonian's name.   For more about the Bamiyan figures and similar, but smaller ones known as the Augana, Aukana or Awkana (transliterations of the Persian form of Afghan) Buddhas, in South India.  The Bamiyan statue was 180ft. high while those of Sasseruwa and Kalawewa are 39 ft. tall. 

 

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