Gandhara to Kandahar: Importance of Vedic history of Afghanistan

In this important article Vedic Management teacher U. Mahesh Prabhu along with renowned Vedic scholar Dr David Frawley and explain as to why is Vedic history of Afghanistan crucial to understanding & resolving its current crisis.

The United States’ abrupt departure from Afghanistan is being perceived around the world as a sign of weakness, an inability of the world’s main superpower to hold to its resolve and win the fight it had begun. Leftist historians are increasingly pointing to it as if it were a death blow to the American superiority. Afghanistan is regarded as a “Graveyard of Empires,” with the United States as most recent example.

Nevertheless, the American departure from Afghanistan cannot simply be blamed on the US armed forces or its civilians who worked on the Afghanistan project. The blame for the evacuation calamity must go to the current American Biden administration. His opposition is certainly highlighting this but including members of his own party and his previous supporters. Major diplomats criticizing him include Colin Power, Henry Kissinger, Richard Hass of CFI and Meghan McCain, John McCain’s daughter.

Nevertheless, the American departure from Afghanistan cannot simply be blamed on the US armed forces or its civilians who worked on the Afghanistan project. The blame for the evacuation calamity must go to the current American Biden administration. His opposition is certainly highlighting this but including members of his own party and his previous supporters. Major diplomats criticizing him include Colin Power, Henry Kissinger, Richard Hass of CFI and Meghan McCain, John McCain’s daughter.

American policy makers about Afghanistan over the last twenty years have failed to look at the past of this unusual landlocked nation and its ancient past. Most historians look at Afghanistan as a nation that came into being after the advent of Islam or even a few centuries ago. Most do not go beyond the time of Alexander’s brief foray into the region. This ignorance of the past has made those who invaded this barren mountainous terrain incur some of the greatest blunders.

American policy makers about Afghanistan over the last twenty years have failed to look at the past of this unusual landlocked nation and its ancient past. Most historians look at Afghanistan as a nation that came into being after the advent of Islam or even a few centuries ago. Most do not go beyond the time of Alexander’s brief foray into the region. This ignorance of the past has made those who invaded this barren mountainous terrain incur some of the greatest blunders.

What we must recognize is that Afghanistan as a name or nation such as we know today is a new phenomenon. Afghanistan was essentially a part of the Akhanda Bharatha or Undivided India for thousands of years. From the Rig Veda until Vyasa’s Mahabharata, it was often referred to as Gandhara and its rivers like Kubha were also mentioned. Kautilya’s version of the ancient Arthashastra refers to Gandhara as the “westernmost frontier” of the land of the Maurya Dynasty.

Now some may interject that “If Gandhara is modern day Kandahar, the name of a city, then it is but only a city, not a nation.” However, it is important to know that after the death of legendary king Bharata’s successor Bhumanyu, India was said to be divided into many kingdoms, and each kingdom was recognized by the city that served as its capital. For example, Vikramaditya was called as Ujjain-Naresh (Naresh implies king, so King of Ujjain), but his kingdom went far beyond the limits of the city of Ujjain, which continues to be inhabited in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

According to Vyasa’s Mahabharata the wife of Dhritarashtra – blind king of Hastinapur, was Gandhari. The Vedic Sanskrit word Gandhari literally translates to Daughter of Gandhar.

Vyasa in Adi Parva mentions Gandhara as a land of tall, mighty and the brave; land which came under the aegis of Hastinapur after a successful siege by Bhishma. Dhritarashtra was married to Gandhari as a pact for peace, owing to diplomatic move by the grandsire of KuruBhishma himself.

Gandhara was always a loose end in the grand Akhanda Bharata. Yet, generations of successive rulers until the Mauryas fought and retained it since it was an important trade connection. It was a prosperous state with deep rooted traditions of art, music, and architecture until the advent of Islam which subjugated the people and destroyed any relics of their past.

Gandhara often produced fine women who served as queens and mother to many kings from Bharat. These political marriages played an important role in connecting the land to India as a whole.

This connection to the Indian landmass was however was never simple. The political arrangements were often complicated. Although then an affluent land since at the center of ancient trade, Afghanistan depended on the India for defense and its trade-based economy. Whenever Afghanistan was in danger the mainland of India would come to its defense.

Similarly, whenever the land was suffering an economic decline, mainland India would send financial aid. This was because, the collapse of Gandhara could mark the collapse of Bharata. If you observe the history, Akhanda Bharata began to weaken when it lost its socio-economic connection with Afghanistan. The making of Pakistan by the British has cost not just India dearly but the entire world, Afghanistan particularly.

Similarly, whenever the land was suffering an economic decline, mainland India would send financial aid. This was because, the collapse of Gandhara could mark the collapse of Bharata. If you observe the history, Akhanda Bharata began to weaken when it lost its socio-economic connection with Afghanistan. The making of Pakistan by the British has cost not just India dearly but the entire world, Afghanistan particularly.

If Afghanistan is a failed state today, it is principally owing to the advent of militant Islam which was imposed on the people of the land by the Pakistan army (then led by General Zia-ul-Haq) with aid by the United States to counter the Soviet Union.

When the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, they came with the naïve idea of implementing democracy in a war torn and religiously indoctrinated nation. While they talked about instituting a secular education, they did little to confront the religious zealots dominating the country. Every million they poured into their policy of “modernization” they somehow ended up strengthening their enemy.

So, what should the United States have done? We must understand that United States “withdrawal” from Afghanistan is clearly a withdrawal from a direct approach of confrontation. It can always send in planes, drones, and mission specific commando units into the country to attain its objectives. Confrontation with people who care little about the mundane world and seek a paradise in the next world which they believe can be achieved only after death cannot work. Hence, in a sense it is better that the Americans have left.

With China swiftly moving in, Afghanistan could as well become a field for a new menace that is threatening the political and economic world order. Hence it could be just a right time for the United States to use covert tactics of the ancient Vedic Art & Science of Kootaneeti to bring stability and peace to the region.

Kootaneeti is how many Vedic kings managed to keep Gandhara as a part of Bharat. When student of Kautilya, Sharanga, was made the head of the military and intelligence unit of the Mauryas, he was given the work to integrate every kingdom from the Gandhara to Kamboja (modern day Cambodia) and from Himalayas until the Oceans. Legend has it that he began his work from the west. This was because after the collapse of the Greeks and withdraw of the empire created by Greek General Seleucus, future threats would be certain to come from the west. Without a strong hold on the west, the empire of Mauryas would never be safe.

On entering the Gandhara the first thing Sharanga did was to assess the situation. Interestingly, just like today’s Afghanistan, the land was divided between the warring factions baying for each other’s blood. What Sharanga did was to fuel this feud by making one faction to fight against the other, without being seen himself. When every faction was deprived of its leadership, he swiftly brought the Mauryan army into the region, getting the weakened factions to swear allegiance to the Mauryas and rule a divided land as satraps.

On entering the Gandhara the first thing Sharanga did was to assess the situation. Interestingly, just like today’s Afghanistan, the land was divided between the warring factions baying for each other’s blood. What Sharanga did was to fuel this feud by making one faction to fight against the other, without being seen himself. When every faction was deprived of its leadership, he swiftly brought the Mauryan army into the region, getting the weakened factions to swear allegiance to the Mauryas and rule a divided land as satraps.

It is important to know that Mauryas did nothing to stop the warring factions except to demilitarize them and paralyze their ability to wage wars outside their lands. And when the land was invaded by invaders, the Mauryas would swiftly send in reinforcements to protect the land.

The Mauryan empire was weakened by the advent of Buddhist Ashoka. Against, contrary belief Ashoka was born a Buddhist to a Buddhist mother. Like the United States presidents today, he too chose to reinforce peace through imposing violence. And as history shows post-Ashoka there was neither Mauryas nor Gandhara. Losing Afghanistan marked the end of Mauryas.

The Mauryan empire was weakened by the advent of Buddhist Ashoka. Against, contrary belief Ashoka was born a Buddhist to a Buddhist mother. Like the United States presidents today, he too chose to reinforce peace through imposing violence. And as history shows post-Ashoka there was neither Mauryas nor Gandhara. Losing Afghanistan marked the end of Mauryas.

The inability of successive US presidents and policy makers to learn from the Vedic past of Afghanistan, particularly the failed policies of last Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, and thereby implement similar failed policies has cost not just the US but people of the free world to lose Afghanistan. Clearly, “those who cannot learn from their past are doomed to repeat it…”

Authors

  • Udupi Mahesh Prabhu is a seasoned media, management & political consultant. He is a Founder and Chairman of Vedic Management Center and Vivaswaan. A fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, London (UK) and member of the International Federation of Journalists(USA), he also holds a Masters in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing. For more info visit www.indiamahesh.com

  • Popularly known as Acharya Vamadeva Shastri is one of the towering scholars on Vedic knowledge and wisdom. Founder and Director of American Institute of Vedic Studies, he is also the recipient of India's third highest civilian honor Padma Bhushan.

1 responses on "Gandhara to Kandahar: Importance of Vedic history of Afghanistan"

  1. Gandharas apartheid to Hinduism can be analysed in three different methods. First, the tendency for conflict diminishes inside conscience of great civilisation .Hinduism being a great civilisation War and brutality become a forgotten lesson. That is the reason the Harappan city-state fell into the hands of barbaric forces. Second, the nature of the Islamic ideology doesn’t bear the characters of a religion. Which is not evolved spontaneously from the Universe, but simply an imitation of Judaism. However, Judaism was spontaneous and its pivot pines in racial purity. As Islam is not spontaneous religion they have to rely on brutal power to implement its ideology. An ideology or Religion which is not consistent with the natural flow of law will have to maintain a Permanent mechanism for cohesion. This retained Islamic ideology as a terminal seed for the other cultures. Gandhara is an illustration for the contention. Third democracy is an ideology inconsistent with the laws of nature. Hence the question in front of the world is: Whether our own country and culture shall be slain ourselves for the sake of the demo-crazy.

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