How Islam’s greatness redounds to Indian religion


Reading a paper on Yemen made me realize something that is quite bizarre upon reflection: the greater the evidence of Islam’s transformative power, the greater the miracle and robustness of Indian religion in the face of its expansion. To me, Islam’s demographic impact is clear when it comes to Sub-Saharan African ancestry. Though some of the admixture into Near Eastern and Mediterranean populations predates the Islamic era, most of it always seems to date to the last 1,000 years.

Whatever the ideological merits of Islam, the Islamic civilization had massive economic, social, and demographic consequences as seen in the genes. It took the culture of Iran and transformed its religion.

Which takes me to India: the more impactful Islam seems to me, the more amazing it is that India remained 75% non-Muslim on the eve of partition. The most Islam-skeptic Indians tend to be pro-Hindu, but historical evidence of Islam’s power and influence actually suggest that Hinduism is something very special as a cultural complex.

Note: I say “Indian religion” to side-step semantic arguments about Hinduism. Ironically, I think modern elite Hinduism probably emerged and developed around the same time as Islam itself, though proto-Hindu beliefs are clearly very old.

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85 Replies to “How Islam’s greatness redounds to Indian religion”

  1. You are under-selling Hinduism’s resilience.

    Considering roughly 2/3’s of the Subcontinent’s Muslims come from areas outside of the traditional “Hindu India” (Kashmir, Punjab, Sindh, Bengal), and a significant number of the remaining 1/3 are descendants of West-Asian conquerors, you are left with quite a small demographic imprint Islam left on the Hindus.

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    1. :LOL:

      Can’t stop laughing. Keep going!

      No Sharada civilization to see. No Sharada Shaivite temples across Afghanistan, Kashmir, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Xinjiang more than 4 K years old to see!

      No Sharada. No Sharada. No Sharada, I miss you so. Don’t cry for me Sharada. I love you so.

      {PS. Please don’t tell my other boyfriends, girlfriends, lbgtq+ friends about lovely Sharada. I have found it works best when they don’t know about each other. Thank you. }

      # Stan in the Hood

      ++++++++++++++++++++

      PS. Please don’t tell my beautiful Sindhi friend (with her over 4 K year old temple playgrounds) about lovely Sharada. Don’t want to get hit. Thank you.

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      1. By your logic since numerous mosques were built across India and Muslim even ruled India for a period, most Indians therefore must have been Muslim?

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        1. your point is on point. but i do think think the ‘sacred geography’ of hindu civilization expands into parts of sindh and punjab.

          but i think we are arguing ‘names’ now….

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    2. Well I mean Bali still is majority Hindu. So the claim that these lands were formerly Hindu is not entirely without merit.

      But I think you need to understand is that all of the world’s countries where a majorit of the population follows a non-Abrahmaic religion are concentrated in the Indo-China region in Asia. All of them. Every single one.

      I would speculate that this is not due to some special resilience that the Indo-Chinese religions had to the Abarhamic memoplex, but rather intertia due to sheer population sizes and distance from the holy land.

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      1. But I think you need to understand is that all of the world’s countries where a majorit of the population follows a non-Abrahmaic religion are concentrated in the Indo-China region in Asia. All of them. Every single one.

        in biology you would do a phylogentic correction. ie this ia function of european colonialism. why is this insightful?

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        1. Replied to the wrong indthings comment. Meant to reply to this…

          “I know its important for Indians today to pretend everything from Afghanistan to the Philippines used to be Hindu, so they can romantically cast themselves as the hardy survivors of an ancient civilization…”

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  2. Shavism was important in northern-Punjab as well, and similar to Kashmir, even had a Shavite king briefly rule the region (both were unpopular).

    Most of the populace however were not adherents. They added some of the customs to the pantheon of Buddhism and local traditions that had prevailed for centuries, but that’s it.

    They probably would have become Hindus eventually, but Islam came in at the perfect time. The glory days of Buddhism in the region had faded, while Shavism was only just picking up steam. If Islam had been delayed only a few centuries, its possible the region may have finally been absorbed into Aryavarta, and thus safe from conversion.

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    1. “Most of the populace however were not adherents. They added some of the customs to the pantheon of Buddhism and local traditions that had prevailed for centuries, but that’s it.”

      Buddhism was more an elite religion than Hinduism. Beliefs were a lot more fluid in pre-Islamic India, but to argue that Kashmir & Punjab weren’t seen as core Indic lands is naff.

      Before Nalanda, the seat of higher learning in India was at Takshashila in Gandhara lands. And even Gandharis weren’t considered mlecchas.

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      1. Similar to Islam, while Buddhism was the religion of the elite in central-India, it was the religion of the masses on the peripheries (Punjab, Sindh, Kashmir, Bengal). This is attested to by travelers to these regions.

        I would certainly say these periphery regions were part of greater India, or Indic, or whatever. They just weren’t part of the Hindu sphere.

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        1. we’re quibbling about words. on the substance, if nailed down the differences are not large here.

          i think the distinction btwn religion of the masses vs. elites is much less substantive than everyone is making it too. part of the problem is post-wesphalian european confessional states are everyone’s model.

          (though disproportionate elite patronage of buddhism in west and east india, and jainism in the south, seems hard to dispute)

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  3. Most of the populace however were not adherents.

    this is the general problem with talking about religion in the premodern era…and why i said ‘indian religion.’

    otoh, this is also a ‘problem’ for islam. early ethnographies indicate that even in iraq during the abbassid period a lot of the peasantry was barely abrahamic. the first three centuries of islam in the ‘core’ arab-persian lands of islam practicing muslims as we’d understand it were a very small minority of the population (including dhimmis, but also large numbers of de facto pagans).

    there are definitions for ‘christian’ why suggest most western europeans were not christian until the 17th-century (some reformed theologians), others that indicate the 14th-15th-century (an empirical assessment of the effect reform movements), and others that date it to before 1000 AD.

    using some narrow definitions arguably even today most ‘hindus’ are not ‘hindu.’

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    1. Agree, to think that Punjab and Sindh, pre Islam was somehow following something separate from mainland India is laughable. They were as Hindus or non -Hindus as south India was in following “Hindu-ism” .

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      1. Agree, to think that Punjab and Sindh, pre Islam was somehow following something separate from mainland India is laughable. They were as Hindus or non -Hindus as south India was in following “Hindu-ism” .

        this is moronic. adi sankara was from kerala. it’s moronic to act like south india was not as hindu as north india (whatever that means) by the 8th-century.

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        1. “adi sankara was from kerala. it’s moronic to act like south india was not as hindu as north india”

          I was saying the same thing. To think that Punjab and Sindh were not part of Hindu-dom somehow, is laughable. Punjab and Sindh were part of mainstream Hindu culture/thought and not outskirt land as Afghanistan/Burma was.

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          1. It is hard to estimate the percentage of the African slave trade that went to the 13 US colonies

            there are plenty of estimates in the economic history. your qualitative assertion is right. mortality rates were much higher in carribean and brazil. american slavery was ‘self-supporting’

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          2. Saurav, I understood you to mean this too.

            BTW, why would you consider Afghanistan and Burma to be outskirt land? Many Afghan rivers are part of ancient Rig Veda Samhitas. Afghanistan is as core as it gets.

            Java also figures in ancient texts and poems. I suspect that Thailand or at least Southern Thailand were part of the Javanese Sumatra civilization. However I don’t think Burma was part of it.

            Burma is a bit of a mystery to many. Of course we know that “Myanmar” likely derived from “Brahmadesh” or the land of Brahma. But what about more than 4 K years ago? Could there have been other civilizations that are now extinct that we no longer know about?

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          3. Anan

            Afghanistan West of Peshawar, i am not sure how much was part of Hindu process, most of stuff told in Hindu mythos are East of it only.

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          4. Most economic historians are not super high resolution in my opinion.

            But I just learned a lot looking this up in the last few minutes. I had been just including slaves to the 13 main colonies through 1807. As it turns out I was ignoring a huge number of slaves that were imported into Spanish ruled Florida, the Louisiana purchase, and the Spanish empire that would later join the US. These slaves continued to be imported in large numbers after 1807.

            My estimates would be:

            30 million were part of the slave trade (some would say closer to 25 million. “slave trade” is defined as the export of sub-saharan slaves to Asia, East Africa, North Africa, Europe, Americas (North, South, Caribbean)

            Total 13 colony + Louisiana Purchase area + Spanish Florida + Spanish western USA slave imports would be 472,381. 310,000 of which were imported into the 13 colonies pre 1776 under British rule.

            This represents about 3.7% of the slaves exported to the Americas. Accounting for the the slaves exported to the rest of Africa, Europe and Asia the percentage drops to 2%.

            I found this wikipedia summary useful:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_United_States#Colonial_America

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          5. Punjab and Sindh are certainly part of a greater Indian sphere, as opposed to say, an Iranian or Turanian sphere. Nobody disputes that.

            They were just never majority Hindu. Politically, they were also rarely ruled by Hindu polities.

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      2. Its Hindus themselves who said Punjab and Sindh were “following something different from mainland India”.

        From the Aryan conquest up through the early Muslim period, we have Hindus from mainland India referring to these peoples as Mlecchas, condemning their lands as places where Vedic customs were ignored and Brahmans disrespected.

        I know its important for Indians today to pretend everything from Afghanistan to the Philippines used to be Hindu, so they can romantically cast themselves as the hardy survivors of an ancient civilization that invented plastic surgery, but its not tenable.

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        1. From the Aryan conquest up through the early Muslim period, we have Hindus from mainland India referring to these peoples as Mlecchas, condemning their lands as places where Vedic customs were ignored and Brahmans disrespected.

          it’s pretty obvious that the boundaries of aryavarta or whatever is varies with time so i don’t get why you are fixed on this idea aside from carving out a history separate from the ‘mainland.’ bengal was mleccha territory on the margin of history, but much of it became dominated by indo-aryan civilization at the elite levels by the early first millennium.

          but yeah, i have read some of the stuff you are talking about with regard to the northwest…but you know, people can have different opinions about things. *some* brahmins could say this, while other brahmins would disagree, presumably, those would include the brahmins of these lands (of which were many for long periods of time).

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        2. “we have Hindus from mainland India referring to these peoples as Mlecchas, condemning their lands as places where Vedic customs were ignored and Brahmans disrespected.”

          Wait. By whom? A lot of Sanskrit literature talks about mlecchas on the edges of Gandhara, or parts of India invaded by mleccha tribes who co-mingled but not their fellow Arya tribes.

          Brahmins from all over the subcontinent would make a trek to Takshashila for the education for instance…

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          1. Amey, many of the Mleccha were considered Arya tribes. Yavanas (Europeans) and Tushara (Chinese mid China or Xinjiang) are Arya tribes.

            Many Arya tribes did not follow the Vedas. That does not mean they were not Indian religion or eastern philosophy/culture.

            I like “Indian religion” better than Hindu because it avoids a lot of confusion.

            +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

            “Buddhism was more an elite religion than Hinduism.”

            Depends on what the meaning of “elite” is.

            Buddhist Sampradayas/Paramparas focused more on Mosksha than Dharma, Artha and Kama. Many other paramparas were also Moksha focused. Some other paramparas were more focused on improving physical health/mental health/intelligence, getting rich, enjoying life,

            Buddhists are sometimes seen as more a Jnaana Marg system similar to Advaita. However it is important to remember that in the most cannon and respected Buddhist texts Buddha taught all four major bundles of paths:
            —Wisdom Jnaana
            —Devotion Bhakti
            —Service Karma
            —Raja Yoga (brain and nervous system and technology centric?)

            Buddha’s path probably appealed most to meditators and people who had material success in the world but found success to be empty.

            I think Buddha was an iconoclast who smashed all conceptions and thought patterns. For example to those who believed in Atma, Buddha said there is no Atma. For those who did not believe in Atma, he said there was Atma.

            Whatever we think about the truth is wrong. So we need to smash everything and start from nothing or Shunya.

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          2. Vedic Arya tribes condemned their fellow Arya tribes in Punjab (and earlier in Bihar/Bengal) for being corrupted by Mlecchas. These Arya tribes, the native masses they conquered, and later conquerors from west/central Asia, were all considered Mlecchas.

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          3. This is a fucking joke, ok

            No where do tribes of Punjab and Sindh are considered Mlecha. Just pick some random stuff and extrapolate it to the whole thing. That looks like your MO.

            Bro your folks converted , no problem with that. There is no reason to justify it to us, by giving some random ass bull shit theory “oh we were considered mlecchas , we all were different and shit”

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          4. “Vedic Arya tribes condemned their fellow Arya tribes in Punjab (and earlier in Bihar/Bengal) for being corrupted by Mlecchas. ”

            Dude what are you talking about? You’re getting your chronology all mixed up. What period are you talking about? Vedas themselves are situated in modern day Punjab. Not a sanskritist, but studied it enough. I have *never* come across any source material that states this.

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          5. Saurav,

            I understand you’re upset, but similar to the Aryan Invasion, the bulk of the scholarship is against you here.

            Starting from the first Aryan intrusions into Punjab/Sindh, they were called mlecchas. During the Vedic period when Aryan tribes spread across North-India, the ones who remained in Punjab/Sindh were condemned as corrupted and called mlecchas. The following centuries of intermittent rule by various Central/West-Asian polities, they were called mlecchas. After they converted to Islam, they were still called mlecchas.

            There’s no questions the North-West and East of the Subcontinent are part of a common cultural and genetic “Indian” sphere. But they were never Hindu. Not according to what we consider Hindu to be today, and not according to what Hindus considered to be Hindu at the time.

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          6. People don’t start usually cursing at internet strangers unless they are triggered.

            Don’t worry. Like coming to grips with the Aryan Invasion, the shock of this too, will pass.

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          1. this is an exaggeration. indian, hindu, influence existed and was percolating northward (and probably through chams). but unlike cambodia or java unlikely that full panoply of indigenous hindu polities unfurled (as in champa).

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          2. Razib, I have gotten into discussions with Filipinos over the question of their Hindu-ness or Buddhist-ness.

            Several Filipinos insist that they were Hindus long before Christ. However, I am unaware of a reference to the Philippines in the old texts (which does not mean it does not exist.) I would like to see more evidence.

            The first time Filipinos told me that they were Hindus for thousands of years, I was shocked.

            I think some Filipinos feel that Indians disrespect them by not recognizing the Filipino contribution to Dharmic civilization and culture.

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          3. Karan, Java was considered part of the “in group” in the Ramayana. In other words they were part of greater India and Indian religion. Java were Arya and were not considered Mleccha.

            Javanese teaching Filipinos is like Indians teaching Filipinos.

            Why do you use the word “conversion”? I don’t recall reading about this in any ancient text in the Dharmic corpus pre 1800.

            People learn and practice new technologies, philosophies, religions while retaining the old. A common but not universal practice is to mentally thank all the previous Gurus and religions.

            Is it possible that Filipinos attended universities in Java (or Cambodia etc.) and then brought this knowledge to their home countries?

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        3. You seem too hung up on a passing reference to ‘mlechchhas’ without providing a single credible reference.

          In any case, most India ethnicities from Kashmiri Pandits to Sikhs to Rajputs to Tamil Brahmins to Banarsi priests to Bengali Bhadraloka to everything in between have some mythos of exceptionalism.

          If thinking of yourself as distinct from ‘mainland’ India floats your boat then so be it. It’s nothing unique.

          But I guess most Pakistanis have limited exposure to these other communities and hence never come out of this self-centred bias.

          (Not that most Indians do but they are more likely to. Or at least develop some sort of appreciation if they happen to live in a big urban centre)

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          1. INDTHINGS as the peddler of BS surpasses almost everyone else around here. Even the OIT people attempt to prove their theories through logic and evidence (cherrypicked though they may be) but he/she picks an offhand comment from some obscure text, misinterprets it and grows a theory around it.

            Pretty much every population group in Pakistani Punjab is an extension of groups in North/West India. I’m too lazy to give an exposition here, but this article illustrates this pretty well: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/view-most-pakistanis-are-actually-indians/articleshow/70811241.cms. TLDR: they are Jats, Rajputs, Gujjars, and though unnamed in the article, I believe there are Dalits/Chamars too. There were Brahmins as well, but they were either killed or migrated during Partition.

            Kashmir, Sindh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, all have similar clan dynamics. If INDTHINGS wants to claim that people who live in Pakistani Punjab were always considered mlecchas, then he/she will have to explain why their cousins who lived up to the middle of UP were not.

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    2. “using some narrow definitions arguably even today most ‘hindus’ are not ‘hindu.’”

      Razib, which historic Sampradayas or Darshanas thought this way?

      Almost all the academic scholarship comes with a marxist post modernist lens. They do not understand the actual Sampradayas and Darshanas.

      At worst they would have accused some Sampradayas of being Nastika Sanathana Dharma or Nastika Dharma. Of course most of the Nastika would say they were Astika. And plenty of Astika accepted them as so.

      The very ancient Darshanas that we have evidence for are three:
      —Jaina
      —Samkhya
      —Purna Mimaamsa

      The Agama Shaivite traditions were Purna Mimaamsa and Samkhya.

      Part of the issue is that there is no concept of religion. Rather people might simultaneously belong to many different Sampradayas and Darshanas.

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      1. Razib, which historic Sampradayas or Darshanas thought this way?

        most people are stupid and don’t know all this stuff. always been like that.

        i don’t give a shit about marxists so no need to namecheck them.

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        1. It is not that you or anyone else likes or reads marxists. But rather than virtually the entire global understanding of eastern philosophy comes from a marxist post modernist lens. Everything else is a citation loop from that.

          To try to rephrase . . . perhaps almost all modern Hindus (and Sikhs/Buddhists/Jains) today are what some might call “religion in the premodern era” or pre religion.

          They are “religion” in the way someone might talk about it 7,000 years ago, or the way the Nordics, Germanics, Greeks talked about it pre Abrahamic influence.

          The word and concept “religion” perhaps only meaning in an Abrahamic frame.

          +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

          On the shabda (word) “Mleccha”:

          Many of the soldiers on both the Pandava and Kaurava side were Mleccha. Mleccha does not mean that someone is not considered part of the broader tradition. What it means is that someone chooses to practice it differently. For example not memorize or chant any of the Vedas. Perhaps other things.

          The Yavanas (Europeans) and Tushara (China or Xinjiang or in between) would be considered part of the parivar (family) through Yayati. This is an intra-family issue as the ancient texts portray it. Families have inside squabbles. And many of the family members are “mleccha.”

          There are many stories of someone refusing food or water from a Mleccha and then being karmically punished for refusing it. “Bigotry” or “prejudice” is not the same as not regarding someone to be a member of the “in group.”

          The similarities between all the old Arya cultures across Europe and Asia are extreme. Couldn’t someone make the case that everyone was part of the “in group”?

          But this thread has got me thinking though.

          Egypt and Sumeria were deeply similar to Arya but perhaps unique civilizations. Is someone proposing the hypothesis that many in Turan (central Asia) belonged to a unique civilization of which we have no record? Or maybe even more speculatively were an offshoot of the old Sumerian culture?

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          1. But rather than virtually the entire global understanding of eastern philosophy comes from a marxist post modernist lens.

            don’t limit the understanding of others to your understanding of others. i am neither marxist nor postmodernist. you don’t see my own position because it is outside of your ken. there are plenty who have inquiries outside of the nature of what is dreamt in your philosophies.

            again, you end the comment with a long inquisition into the nature of a word. i have no interest in that so i won’t respond.

            finally, i am not talking about philosophy at all. very little is about philosophy. you keep talking about things which operate in a totally different dimension to what i am talking about, and continue to beat your head against that when you engage on your own terms.

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          2. The discussion of Mleccha was aimed at others on the thread and not directed towards you Razib.

            “finally, i am not talking about philosophy at all. very little is about philosophy. you keep talking about things which operate in a totally different dimension to what i am talking about, and continue to beat your head against that when you engage on your own terms.”

            This is useful. What are you speaking of? Culture (presume you consider art and poetics and language to be a subset of this)? Total factor productivity?

            If so, I don’t understand the difference between this and “philosophy”?

            I understand “philosophy” to be subset of neuroscience. Or a subset of how the brain and nervous system function. Therefore culture and total factor productivity would be subsets of philosophy.

            In the eastern system philosophy has four big components:
            —Dharma (yeah I don’t know what this means)
            —Artha (wealth of all kinds, including total factor productivity or technology, intelligence broadly defined, mental health broadly defined, physical health, and many other things I don’t understand . . . which makes this a subset of neuroscience?)
            —Kama (good desire I think . . . which makes this a subset of neuroscience?)
            —Moksha (definitely don’t know what this is . . . maybe complete conscious awareness of the brain and nervous system and transcending it in some way? And maybe I am 1000% wrong.)

            This is why I don’t understand the difference between philosophy, technology (total factor productivity, science, math), neuroscience, atheism (transcending all theisms) and awareness (or Satori/Tao/Samadhi).

            In general I find almost all analysis by homo sapien sapien modern to be very low resolution and confusing.

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    3. Razib, I find the idea of “Hindu” confusing.

      Many Hindus think everyone is a Hindu (which is why Gandhi use to say he was a Christian, Muslim, Zorastrian etc.). It is hard to explain to them that not everyone sees it that way.

      Isn’t anyone who says they are a Hindu, a Hindu? I have never heard any example of anyone being told that they are not a Hindu or not a Sanathana Dharmi or not a Dharmic person.

      Since there is no concept of conversion . . . what does it mean when someone becomes a Hindu?

      Part of the reason it is so confusing is that from a certain perspective there are thousands of quite unique religions that are broadly called Hindu.

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      1. look beyond the game of names. you are too fixated on the definition. the ontological proof is no proof. but you probably disagree, which is why there’s no point in engaging on this issue because points of substance for you are vacuous for me and vice versa.

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  4. I would humbly disagree with the Hinduism resilience bit. Even on twitter i see that on Omar’s thread. I understand the reason, for the Hindu right to oversell it. This is a upper class/caste expat Hindu phenomena , even within the secular ones. This view/desire that somehow a caste-less Hindu Mauryan empire (preferably upper caste) would have repelled those Ghaznavis and Ghouris. Since it didn’t happen , the next best thing is to talk about “Hindu resilience”, we were defeated but we didn’t surrender.

    Yes perhaps Islam did not achieve stupendous success it did in Iran and other (relatively less populated) areas. But roughly 30 percent pops for 600 years rule (1000-1600) and that too when you do not have uniform control over the whole territory, it is a good ratio.

    If you drill down and look at specific region where Islam did have uniform control (for long periods of time) , Punjab,Sindh, Bengal, Kashmir, the conversion rate hits the same figures as Iran and other places (70 percent and above).

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  5. If you drill down and look at specific region where Islam did have uniform control (for long periods of time) , Punjab,Sindh, Bengal, Kashmir, the conversion rate hits the same figures as Iran and other places (70 percent and above).

    are you are moron or just innumerate? muslims held the gangetic plain for longer than they held bengal (though not much longer). they held western bengal longer than the east. the vast majority of northern south asia was under muslim rule for the period after 1200 (at least nominally). the substantial majority remained hindu, in some areas overhwelmingly so.

    are you trying to insult me with the stupidity and vapidity of this comment?

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    1. Meh. Maharashtra and Gujarat fell to Delhi sultante simultaneously. And had uninterrupted rule for 350-400 years. There is no over-arching story here IMO.

      Kashmir seems to have turned Muslim pretty quickly under the reign of their “idol breaker” sultan.

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  6. To me, Islam’s demographic impact is clear when it comes to Sub-Saharan African ancestry.

    Typo?

    Did you mean northern Africa? (Non sub saharan).

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    1. no. there is a 5-25% sub-saharan african ancestry in many arab lands. this dates to mostly though not exclusively to the last 1,000 years. this is due to massive human slavery enabled by the machinery of the islamic empires.

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      1. Even more shocking is how so many of the slaves were made sterile. And how many of the slaves died early in life.

        It is hard to estimate the percentage of the African slave trade that went to the 13 US colonies. My best estimate is 2%. Many of the other 98% of slaves exported also had very difficult lives over many generations.

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  7. Saurav wrote:
    “Afghanistan West of Peshawar, i am not sure how much was part of Hindu process, most of stuff told in Hindu mythos are East of it only.”

    This is not my reading of the Rig Veda Samhita Mandalas:
    https://www.brownpundits.com/2018/07/14/afghanistans-history/

    I have seen many historians speculate that Balkh was part of ancient Gandhara.

    North of Gandhara was ruled by Sudakshina (king of the Kambojas) in the Mahabharata. In addition to Turan I suspect he might have ruled over what is now called Khorasan. Eastern Iran now has three Khorasan provinces.

    In addition, interestingly enough the Sakas fought under Sudakshina’s command during the Kurukshetra war (which does not mean Sudakshina ruled them . . . they may have marched together to Kurukshatra and decided to fight together in the great war). I suspect that the Sakas might have been from the Sistan and Baluchestan province of south eastern modern Iran.

    I know almost nothing. But I don’t think the Kambojas (or Sudakshina) ruled Xinjiang province. I think Xinjian had a separate name back then. Not sure what it was. Could Xinjiang have been ruled by the Tushara back then? Or did it have another name?

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    1. “turan is non-iran”

      Generally agree.

      I got access to a 12 volume translation of the Mahabharata and tried to estimate where all the place names were on the map. I am a bit of a map geek 🙂

      Just because the Mahabharata refers to a specific place such as Kamboja and a specific king such as Sudakhina is not evidence that the people of that geography shared an identical culture with their ruler or that a historic man named Sudakshina ruled them.

      I just like Sudakshina. He was tough as nails hard core. Loved his fighting. I was sad that Arjuna killed him on the 14th day. 🙁

      You like A Song of Ice and Fire. My childhood favorites were an interlocking set of several hundred sequel prequel books. The Mahabharata (12 volumes), Hari Vamsha, Valmiki Ramayana (7 volumes), Tulsi Ramayana, Kambar Ramavataram, 18 Mahapuranas (some of which were 12 volumes long too), and many other related texts. Not to mention that many of these stories appear directly in the Vedas!

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      1. I got access to a 12 volume translation of the Mahabharata and tried to estimate where all the place names were on the map. I am a bit of a map geek 🙂

        the mahabharata is not ‘proof text.’ i think it has insight about prehistory, like the iliad and odyssey do, but you can’t read it so literally as i feel u sometimes do…

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  8. It puts the lie to the Hindutva assertion that Islam gained converts by military force. The various Muslim rulers in the Indo-Gangetic plain wanted a quiet and obedient population they could extract rents from, not co-religionists. Conversion grew in the Punjab and Sindh due to the influence of Sufi saints who offered a version of Islam that was more in tune with Indic sentiment than orthodox religion. Sindhi Hinduism was heavily influenced by Islam and Sikhism and evolved to shed its caste-based pecking order. Their principal saint is Jhuley Lal who was a Hindu convert to Islam named Sheikh Tahir. His tomb today has both a mosque and a temple located in the grounds and is still visited by both faiths.

    1+
    1. The sindhi hindu migrant population in India have a very different story of Jhule lal.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jhulelal_(Hinduism)

      “According to tradition, a tyrannical ruler named Mirkh Shah from nearby Thatta ordered that local Hindus convert to Islam within 24 hours. Local Hindus, fearful of this edict, prayed at the banks of the Indus River, where they then saw a vision of the Hindu deity Varuna who informed the worshippers that he would re-incarnate himself as an infant to be born in Nasirpur in order to deliver them from their hardships.”

      Everything is not as syncretic as one would like to believe.

      5+
      1. Had some effect, communal violence in Sindh was minimal during the Partition era.

        Hindu exodus only started in 1948 after Muhajir refugees from the mainland kicked off riots in Karachi when forceably trying to seize their property.

        0
    2. The problem with attributing conversion to Sufis is that they were active within India as well. Yet only Punjab, Sindh, Kashmir, and Bengal experienced mass conversion to Islam.

      0
      1. Think only Kashmir could plausibly fall in the “mass conversion” category (because of some ruler in the 15th century). Conversions in Punjab and Sindh were a lot more gradual than that; happened over centuries, family by family, clan by clan.

        1+
      2. Those areas plus Gujarat and a number of urban centres in the mainland were heavy areas of Sufi activity. Punjab and Sindh in particular were heavily exposed to Persian and Central Asian Sufi influence and maritime travel down the Indus allowed for easy communication.

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        1. “Think only Kashmir could plausibly fall in the “mass conversion” category (because of some ruler in the 15th century). Conversions in Punjab and Sindh were a lot more gradual than that; happened over centuries, family by family, clan by clan.”

          I feel that when discussing spread of Islam, we often ignore fertility rates (mainly because we do not have rigorous census records).

          But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

          Western Punjab was for most of history an arid relatively sparsely populated region. It was only after the British came that it saw a population explosion of sorts due to canal colonies.

          In fact, IIRC the population of western Punjab grew something like 4x in a century under the British, while that of UP remained constant.

          Something similar might hold for Bengal. The eastern was historically less populated.
          (I don’t have data for the latter. Someone more familiar can confirm or correct me.)

          2+
    3. the sufi saint thing is true (speaking as a descendant of one from noakhali!), but a lot of times conversion happens through trickle down. once local elites convert, over time the peasants do. this seems to have been the case in iran, where the conversion of the rural gentry completed islamicization.

      in order of numbers i’d guess top-down greater than bottom-up (sufi saint, traders, intermarriage), but not by much. forced at point of a sword probably not too numerous (historically these groups would often rever to prior religion too, as happened several times in turan).

      1+
  9. How clearly demarcated was ancient Biddhism from ancient Hinduism prior to the arrival of Islam?

    Was it seen more like just another relogious sect or like a totally differnet religion and way of life to Hinduism?

    0
    1. Sumit, can you be more specific in your question?

      My understanding is that in the early days there were not 10 darshanas but 13. Buddhism was divided into 4 Darshanas.

      Mahayana was divided into Madhyamaka and Yogachaara.

      Teravada was divided into Vipassanaa and Pratiityasamutpaada

      Until 8th Century AD all the major Buddhist schools that I am aware of claimed to be Astika Sanathana Dharma. Other Sanathana Dharma Sampradayas were divided on whether these four darshanas and their subsidiary Sampradayas were Astika or Nastika.

      Now some Buddhist schools claim to Astika Sanathan Dharma. Others identify as Nastika Sanathan Dharma. Some identify differently.

      The 8 Sampradayas of Tibetan Vajrayani Madhyamaka Mahayana Buddhism might be closest to the other Sanathan Dharma Sampradayas I think. Perhaps partly because of geographical closeness? They collaborate with the Akhara to organize the Kumbha Mela.

      The Vajrayani Madhyamaka Mahayana recognize many Mahasiddhas that are dual hatted with Shaivite lineages (there are six famous ones). There are deep similarities in Tantra. Many of the Maha Siddhas revered by Madhyamaka Mahayana came from Bengal.

      Among the lineages with close ties to Tibetan Vajrayani Madhyamaka Mahayana might be:
      —Trika Kashmiri Shaivism
      —Nath Sampradaya
      —18 Siddhar Tamilian Tradition
      —Bengali Tantra traditions
      —Ties to Samkhya and Samkhya’s subset Yoga

      Mahayana Yogachara is closely related to other Yogic traditions:
      —Jaina Yoga
      —Samkhya and applied Samkhya or Yoga (of Patanjali vintage)
      —Trika Kashmiri Shaivism
      —Nath Sampradaya
      —18 Siddhar Tamilian Tradition

      Note that my friends read Yogachara. But I have only studied snippets of it. Yoga traditionally has four components (Raja, Mantra, Laya, Hatha). I don’t know the extent of Yogachara’s connections with them.

      I strongly suspect that Yogachara has influenced many other Yoga traditions. Including by forcing them to go more public and become less hidden.

      Many Sampradayas study the teachings of Buddha–which many regard as Apta Shabda Pramaana. Not just the Buddha. But great masters in his lineage such as Naagarjuna.

      I am less familiar with Teravada.

      When you say Hinduism are you referring to the 13 Darshanas (or 10 Darshanas if Buddhism is considered only one Darshana) of Sanathana Dharma? What does “Hindu” mean?

      1+
    2. @Sumit

      Yeah, I think there’s something to that, and as a corollary, I suspect what we think of as Hinduism today grew from a mix of common Buddhist practices and beliefs (vegetarianism or the eschewing of certain foods, belief in karma, reincarnation and consequent rigidity of the caste system) plus old Vedic rituals. Don’t have any theories for how and why the religious changes occurred, but probably nostalgia for the Vedas and other old texts struck at some point, and since Brahmins were the only ones with knowledge of those texts, they were given (or given back) a prime role in society.

      0
      1. thewarlock, there are deep similarities between IVC and living traditions alive today. So much so I don’t understand why people don’t regard IVC to be part of the eastern philosophical cultural system.

        What does genes have to do with civilizational cultures/philosophies? Genes relate to Jatis. These traditions or mind spaces are not about Jatis.

        ++++++++++++++++

        Numinous,

        I don’t understand what you mean by Hinduism or Buddhism. They were and are open ecosystems. There are thousands of sampradayas (religions) that are loosely called “Hindu”. Of these hundreds are loosely called Buddhist. Are you using these phrases as a synonym for pluralism, multiplicity and diversity?

        What they value most are mostly experiential studies and observation of the brain and nervous system. There is also a lot of pre religion included . . . possible ways to improve the brain and nervous system to make meditation and mystical experiences possible. There is also a lot of science, math and technology included under Artha. Which also relates to the brain and nervous system.

        If you are saying that Buddha had a massive effect on over a thousand “religions”. Then yes, this is true. Buddha was very influential. Much like Krishna and Rama before him. This is why Rama, Krishna and Buddha are considered the 7th, 8th, and 9th Avataaras.

        Buddha’s disciple paramparas grew rapidly. They were also respected by other schools. And interactively influenced each other. Note that most people who joined Buddhist Sampradayas probably also belonged to other Sampradayas. This is the eastern way. This is also why there are no clear separations.

        “vegetarianism”
        As far as I know, some people have always been vegetarian. Some have not. It depends on the Sampradaya and personal dharma they choose. Many people simultaneously join many Sampradayas. Krishna’s, Rama’s and Buddha’s families ate meet and drank alcohol.

        For people trying to go deep into meditation, vegetarianism facilitates meditation. Vegetarianism also helps people not feel guilty and depressed over killing animals. Which also facilitates meditation.

        “or the eschewing of certain foods”

        Assume you mean beef? Other than that, everything else was eaten. I think the issue with beef is that the cow is seen as “mother”. People drink the milk of their “mother.” People become emotional over eating their mother.

        “belief in karma”

        They would not have seen this as a belief. This was carefully studied over thousands of years. They came to the conclusion that when we hurt others we almost always hurt ourselves. The people we try to hurt may or may not be hurt. They often benefit from our trying to hurt them. But we are almost always hurt.

        The ancients rejected the concept of “oppression” (we benefiting from hurting others) as extremely unlikely in the real world.

        This is part of the concept of Karma. Another part relates to the way brains and nervous systems interact with each via a type of telepathy. This is a growing area of research in neuroscience and biology.

        “reincarnation”

        This can be thought of as a subset of the way brains and nervous systems around the world interact with each other via telepathy.

        “and consequent rigidity of the caste system”

        Don’t follow what this means. Are you asking when mobility across Varna became less common? It never fully stopped. I think the largest single factor was Islamist invasion. However it appears that the phenomenon started a few centuries earlier, albeit to a lesser degree.

        “plus old Vedic rituals”

        I am not sure this concept is well understood. There use to be many, many more Vedas and Agamas that are now lost. Almost all the Vedas are believed to be lost. Veda Agama rituals are voluntary. They are called “Karma Kanda”. They are thought to affect the brains and nervous systems of life forms.

        “Don’t have any theories for how and why the religious changes occurred, but probably nostalgia for the Vedas and other old texts struck at some point”

        Almost all the ancient texts were forgotten and lost. People think it was because the memory and intelligence of homo sapien sapien moderns dropped. As a result most of the old systems and technologies were lost.

        There was also the Islamist invasion and the destruction of almost all the libraries, universities and R&D centers.

        “Brahmins were the only ones with knowledge of those texts”
        Numinous is this a typo? Clearly many Kshatriyas and Vaishyas were also deeply knowledgeable about Veda Agama, Vedangas and other ancient texts and technologies.

        So were many other types of beings. Rakshashas. Yakshas. Nagas. Garudas. Pishacha, Kimpurushas, Vidyadharana, Kinnaras, Vanaras, Daityas, Danavas, Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Marut, Alakhilyas, Ganas.

        Many people appeared to have had access to them in the old days. Some of them tried to use technology to change the world and universe. Isn’t this what most of the old tales are about?

        Later some thought that science and technology, especially about how to improve the brain and nervous system, should not be given to people who might become demons and harm others. This led to many types of technology becoming classified.

        Buddha changed this and declassified a lot of ancient technologies.

        1+
    3. How clearly demarcated was ancient Biddhism from ancient Hinduism prior to the arrival of Islam?

      outside of india it was the indian religion, but within india it was an indian religion.

      2+
  10. Minean Arabia, the capital was Karana (now Qarn al-Manazil) – Serbian tribes from Crete came during the Mino dynasty.
    Sabeyska (Sabean) Arabia, south from Minean, (the capital was Saba) – Serbian tribes (names: Seba, Saba, Sabta, Sabteka mentioned in Old Testament: Job 1:13-15, Isaiah 45:14, and Joel 3:4-8 and the Quran Sura 34) came from Lycia in Asia Minor.
    Both, Minean and Sabean Arabia composed ‘Fortunate Arabia.’

    At its height Saba was one of the greatest kingdoms in antiquity and ruled over a land that, to many, was considered blessed by the gods.

    (The following text by Joshua J. Mark)

    “Saba (also given as Sheba) was a kingdom in southern Arabia (region of modern-day Yemen) which flourished between the 8th century BCE and 275 CE when it was conquered by the neighbouring Himyarites. Although these are the most commonly accepted dates, various scholars have argued for a longer or shorter chronology with the earliest date of c. 1200 BCE; most agree on the terminus of c. 275 CE, however.

    In its prime, however, Saba was known as a wealthy kingdom which grew rich through trade along the Incense Routes (also known as the Spice Routes) between southern Arabia and the port of Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the biblical and quranic references – including the tale of the famous queen – reference Saba’s wealth and success in trade.

    Irrigation of the farmlands was so successful that Saba was consistently remarked upon as a “green country” by ancient historians such as Pliny the Elder (c. 23-79 CE) who called the region Arabia Eudaemon (“Fortunate Arabia”), a term later used by the Romans as “Arabia Felix”. The dam, considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the ancient world, was built under the reign of the Sabean mukarrib Yatha’ Amar Watta I (c. 760-740 BCE).

    Prior to the 8th century BCE, trade in the area seems to have been controlled by the Mineans of the kingdom of Ma’in but c. 950 BCE the Sabeans dominated the region and taxed the goods heading north from their southern neighbors of Hadramawt, Qataban, and the port of Qani. Sabean trade suffered during the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt (323-30 BCE) when the Ptolemies encouraged sea routes over land travel, and Saba’s prestige declined until they were conquered by the neighboring Himyarites.

    In c. 575 CE the Ma’rib dam failed and Saba was flooded. The Quran attributes the flood to an act of God (Surah 34:15-17) as punishment for the Sabeans refusing to accept his gifts. If so, said punishment was severe and resulted in the abandonment of towns and cities as the people were forced to leave the area or starve. A more rational explanation for the dam’s failure is simply its age and lack of maintenance, although secular legends claim it was due to rats weakening the dam’s supports by chewing on them.

    Saba as a kingdom was long gone by the time the dam failed but the flood ensured that any coherent history of the culture would be wiped away for future generations. The Arab Invasion of the 7th century CE, establishing Islam, further obscured Sabean history which only began to attract the interest of scholars and archaeologists in the 19th century CE.”

    0
  11. Religion(its doctrinal matrix) is a Meme (the original definition).

    And It propagates through Political Power and also its own general refinement (i.e. how addictive/enticing it is to a given group of humans).

    Former (Political legitimacy/support of a certain level) is a pre-requisite.

    Hindu-ism (even before it became what it was) furthermore was set in another peculiar paradigm. That is, such a pluralistic setting can not happen if the Civilizational framework(pre-vedic and around) didn’t already have preexisting mechanisms which allowed for those changes to come in or considered them fair/acceptable to a certain spectrum.

    The 2nd part about its memetic power is in the absence of political power dynamic (or when it is normalized), how appealing it is to people.

    On that Indian thought had very high potency. Buddhism is part of this Hindu-ism doctrinal matrix. It spread because it was Not, to use colloquial term, Lame (though the Political pre-requisite of a certain degree was necessary still).

    Abrahamic mythos for example when contrasted with Indic or even East Asian mythos is down right amateur hour.

    We can make this statement (and not fall into the absolute of different people like different things) because it is about proportions/distribution.

    We even today rate works of literature, art and story telling. This is how the meme-nature of it is honed.

    Abrahamic doctrines just weren’t appealing on their own (when de-coupled from their Political weight). This is what helped retain Chinese/Indic civilizational traditions for so long. India more because it was exposed more. India is indeed unique int his. No human group on the face of this earth has been under outsider Elite subjugated for 8 centuries and at the end of that still retain its Civilizational core(even with relative change/spectrum this holds). That is not normal.

    5+
    1. Very good points. However, demographic heft was in my opinion a major factor. Unless you are willing to engage in a scorched earth policy where non-adherents are slaughtered, it takes time for a foreign mythos to replace a native one. Once political Islam decided that there was more to gain from exploiting the non-adherents in South Asia, the die was cast. The scale of population in South Asia meant that conversion was a slow process.

      IMO, Bollywood is a continuing extension of the Dharmic mythos, which accounts for its popularity and ability to go toe to toe against Hollywood.

      What is really interesting is the speed with which Western mythos has tended to replace the local mythos in China. Western music, dress, language, philosophy, and religion (Christianity) are in the ascendent. Marxism facilitated this, I guess. The CCP’s attempt to fund “Confucius Institutes” is bizarre, and likely a desperate counter attack.

      Sorry this is short and all over the place…..

      0
      1. Western music, dress, language, philosophy, and religion (Christianity) are in the ascendent.

        this superficial. all surveys show 2-5% of chinese are christian. and as someone whose kids are speaking/learning chinese and who has tried to navigate the chinese web, they are NOT learning western languages.

        stop making shit up.

        3+
        1. I agree with Razib.

          There is an enormous difference between westernized and western. India is becoming more westernized. China is different from India.

          China is becoming a symbiosis fusion of westernized plus reclaiming ancient roots plus new-ness. The New-ness is under appreciated.

          3+
  12. Hinduism has lot of influence from IVC. IVC was in mostly Sindh, Gujarat, Haryana, and Panjab.

    Does anyone know of Jainism has any cool genetic backstory? I was always curious. I can’t seem to find much of anything.

    1+
  13. Here is my addition to the debate regarding identities of ancient India & i disagree as well as agree with her on some aspects {For e.g. I disagree that Upper castes choose to discriminate against Untouchables for labor supply or her reading of Bhakti period but i do agree where she points to earlier period of convergence as well as divergences from Rig Vedic texts.} –

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIls3QmvwNg – Romila Thapar’s latest speech.

    1+
    1. We wuz multi-cellular organisms. Aryans were viruses, arguably not even living things. We all carry their mRNA in our genome from being infected.

      0
  14. “Which takes me to India: the more impactful Islam seems to me, the more amazing it is that India remained 75% non-Muslim on the eve of partition.”

    British India or the India we know today?

    0
  15. Re: Mleccha (i.e. mleča)

    ‘Mleccha’ is a Serbian word which was always used to name Venetians up to today. The name Venice (Venetia) is rarely used. In over 95% of the documents and books is used as the official name Mletacka (i.e. Mleccha) Republic. The Aryans considered ‘mleccha’ those who did not live under Aryans laws, who defied Aryans laws or fell under the influence of some other laws. The Venetians came under the influence of the Catholic Church and therefore they were called ‘mleccha’. The term is not pejorative although sometimes it can be sneering, used as ‘mleccici’ i.e. ‘mlečići’ i.e. ‘little mlecchas’.

    1+
  16. It is amazing how many commentators are fighting the culture wars of the Indian subcontinent of today in early / medieval history. The motivations are so deliciously effed up. Reminds me of the v real flamewars I have seen break out between Kirkers and Picarders 🙂

    PS: I love Razib’s no nonsense remarks as usual.

    0
    1. Some see fighting while others see ‘difference of opinion’ & some people add further info to add into the debate/discussion.

      We interact to learn & understand but sometimes strong opinions as well as judgement leads to misunderstandings.

      1+
  17. RE: Indus in Mauritania

    The leader of the second Aryan expedition, Serbon (in the Bible – Asur, for Greeks Heracles, for Romans – Hercules, for Jews – Melkart, also Suria, Asur, Sardan, Sandan, Serapis, Sardus, Sankus, Sabadius, Sarmandus, etc.), brought with him warriors from India, Media or Persia and from Asia Minor. In conquering North Africa, he settled the Medes, Perseus and Indus. He settled Indus in Mauritania. Ancient Moors are Indus in origin. Pomponius Mela mentions the Sardabal River in Numidia (Pomponius Mela: Oeuvres completes, J.J. Dubochet, Paris, 1845). Pliny referred this river as Sardabala and Claudius Ptolomei as Serbatis. The same writer mentions two more rivers in North Africa: Serbes and Savus (Claudious Ptolomaeus: Geographia, Francesco Berlinghieri, Florence, 1482). Serbes is today’s Iser. Around the Atlas Mountains were inhabited by tribes of the Serbian race and among them Getuli, which are actually the Serbian Gethas. That is why (M.Davezac: Le Ravennate, Jean Gravier, Rouen, 1888) says ‘Getulia, south of Mauritania’.

    Serbon also settled Iberians from Asia Minor and because this country is called Iberia. Asia Minor Iberians are also a Serbian tribe. That is why in ancient Iberia there are many names of cities, rivers and mountains in Serbian. Today’s Ebro River is Ibar (river in Kosovo). Ptolomey mentions the city of Sarabris near modern Zamora (Claudious Ptolomaeus: Geographia, Francesco Berlinghieri, Florence, 1482). Stephanus De Urbibus (Jacobi De Jonge, Amstel Dodami, 1678) mentioned the city of Sargantias which is in fact Sarbantia.

    1+

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