Tuesday, November 06, 2007


This is a story I wanted to share wid u all for long; posting it today.
It is pretty long, but I feel..well worth the time spent reading it.


The original Farsi word is “iitr”. “Iitr” means "essence". If this essence has food value then the word ruh is used in Farsi, and in the case of a pleasing scent iitr is used. The word a'tar came into use due to distortion and confusion, but in subsequent times the word gained acceptance through usage.

Koh means "mountain". The mountain of iitr or sweet scent is known as kohiitr (koh + i + iitr). This kohiitr is the name of a well-known variety of mango from Murshidabad. We mistakenly say kohitur. Iitr was first discovered by Empress Nu'rja'ha'n. Ja'ha'n means vishvabrahma'n'd'a*. Nu'r means "light". Koh-i-nu'r means "mountain of light".

I think it is important to mention here that the diamond which is known as kohinu'r was the locket [pendant] on Shrii Krs'n'a's jeweled necklace. After many battles and campaigns it came into the hands of Nadir Shah, and after that, Punjabkesharii Ranjit Singh. After him, Jhindan got it, and finally it came into the hands of the East India Company. They had it cut and polished in Holland and then had it set in the British Royal Crown, although some people are of the opinion that it was not set in the crown but was preserved in a different place. Whatever may be, Krs'n'a's aostu'bhaman'i and the kohinu'r are one and the same.

Now let us come back to the actual subject. By mixing rose essence with water, Nu'rja'ha'n invented the process of preparing rosewater. It is said that she used to bathe daily in rosewater. By mixing rose essence with sandalwood oil she invented rose iitr. Later she started to prepare other types of iitr by using flowers other than rose.

Nu'rja'ha'n was a Persian lady. This uncommonly beautiful woman was sold by her father in India. Her real name was Meher-Un-Nisa'. During Akbar's time, Burdwan was the capital of Bengal. It was during this time that she was married to the governor (or subedar) of Bengal, Sher Afgan. Selim, the son of Akbar's Rajput wife (later known as Ja'ha'ngiir after ascending the throne), put pressure on Sher Afgan to surrender Meher-Un-Nisa' to him but Sher Afgan did not agree and so there was a fierce battle in Burdwan between Sher Afgan and the Mughal army.** Sher Afgan was slain in the battle (his grave is still in Burdwan city) and Ja'ha'ngiir forcibly abducted

Meher-Un-Nisa' by force. At first Meher-Un-Nisa' refused to marry her husband's killer, Ja'ha'ngiir, but later, under the pressure of circumstance, she agreed. At that time Burdwan was given the name Shariifa'ba'd or Ba'r-e-Diiva'n, however, ultimately the name did not last. In the pre-Jain era the city's name was A'stikanagar or Atthinagar. Since the Jain era it has been called Vardhama'na [British spelling Burdwan] after Vardhama'na Maha'viira.

This battle took place between Curzon Gate and what is now the railway station of present-day Burdwan. There was a great loss of life and for a long time afterwards the people used to be afraid to go there alone after dark.

After her marriage to Ja'ha'ngiir her new name became Nu'rja'ha'n. Ja'ha'ngiir was an unstable drunkard; India was actually ruled by Nu'rja'ha'n. Both Ra'jiya' Begum during Pathan rule and Nu'rja'ha'n during Mughal rule, became famous as especially skilled female administrators.

But the name of Nu'rja'ha'n is more famous for iitr. Nu'rja'ha'n was also a highly skilled poet* in the Farsi language. Kavi [poet] in feminine gender is kavya' or kavii.

Speaking about iitr reminds me of an experience from the old days. I was staying in an average hotel in the city of Gaya doing research on the culture and civilization of Magadha. At the time I was working in the hilly wilds around Gaya searching for the deep, hidden similarities between the pre-Buddhist Magadha civilization and the ancient civilization of Rarh.

I had found a striking similarity between the two and had never before felt such excitement and enthusiasm in my research. In terms of my river valley research I was concentrating then on the Naerainjana'-Mohaniya'-Phalgu River basin.

The hotel was small but neat, clean and orderly, as if someone's house had been turned into a hotel. I arrived there about six in the evening, took a good look at the bedroom and the bathroom, and then, after finishing some important work, I retired early, tired after the day's labours. Sleep came on quickly. Ah yes, before sleeping I noticed a white stone iitr-pot in one corner of the dressing table, a Gayan artifact of ancient Ma'gadhii culture.

I could tell that the iitr-pot had not been used in a long time because it did not smell at all of iitr. Sometime later, I'm not sure exactly what time it was, I was awakened by a strange sensation just above the ankle. There was a dim light in the room --the rest of the lights I had turned off before going to bed. What did I see in that dim light when I looked down but what looked like a pair of hands catching me just above the ankles! I freed my legs with a jerk and called out in Magahii: "Who are you? Why have you come into my room like this? This is not good."

The two hands drew back. Then I saw a shadowy figure slowly move back into the dark part of the room and lose itself behind the dressing table. I quickly got up, turned on the lights and thoroughly searched the bedroom and the bathroom as well as the closet but no one was there. The door was still locked from the inside as I had left it, which meant that nobody had come in from outside. Then what was it? Whose hands was it with their indistinct touch? And those hands had left the scent of jasmine essence!

Keeping the light on I lay down and called out mentally: "Hey, bodiless one, have courage, come out once again. I never do anyone any harm, so there is no possibility of you being harmed by me. Come and tell me your untold story." But nothing or no one came out.

Then suddenly I see . . . what is this? Astonishing! Smoke is rising out of that abandoned iitr-pot. But how? And that smoke was filled with the scent of jasmine. I was dumbfounded. Gradually the smoke began to twist into coils. They became denser and denser, but what was behind those coils of smoke could not be seen or understood.
After a short time the smoke began to thin and what did I see behind the coils but a young man of good breeding, perhaps twenty-four or twenty-five years old.

He looked at me and greeted me politely with folded hands, stood silently for a while, then softly made his way towards the door. He opened the locked door and quietly went outside. I found this all very mysterious.He went down the stairs from the first floor to the ground floor but his footsteps were completely silent. He was walking but no sound was coming. I also followed silently behind him, determined not to leave him until I found out who he was . . . for what reason he had entered my room at one in the morning . . . what it was he wanted to say.

The main entry door to the hotel was locked, but he opened it and went straight out into the street. I was following right behind him but he never turned back to look. The city was dead quiet. Not even a dog was awake and about. He walked on and so did I. Not far from the hotel was the Phalgu River, and after a short time he reached the river and stopped. He stood there silently for a short time, then turned around to look at me and said in Magahii: "I have given you trouble . . . quite a lot of trouble . . . please don't mind."

"What trouble have you given me?" I replied. "I followed you of my own accord. I wanted to see what your destination would be." "I entered and left your room abruptly and came here for no other reason than that you would follow behind me."
"I have come to hear what you have to say," I said. "Tell me briefly whatever it is you want to say."

He looked around once carefully in all directions and then began. "At the
moment there is no one here besides the two of us; in these surroundings my
words will make a stronger impression.

"I am a child of Magadha. History has never done full justice to this land of Magadha. Every dust particle of its villages and markets is mixed with the gold-dust of its heritage but no one has properly recognized it or recorded it. The little that has been written about it has been written by foreign historians -- some out of sport, some out of merriment.

The shrivelled Phalgu that you see today was not always in this condition. The
hills of southern Magadha were once covered with dense forests. Beyond the mountains, from the north to the south, the Ma'gadhii river valley was also covered with thick forests. Even a portion of the plains and the banks of the river were also forested. This heavily-forested Magadha used to enjoy an abundance of rainfall and thus the rivers were full of water twelve months out of the year.

Because of the abundance of forests there was no problem of soil erosion, and because the forests contained the water there was very little severe flooding. Seeing the Magadha of today, it is difficult to imagine the lush green Magadha that once was.
"You are certainly aware of the fact that Magadha was once a vast empire.

At the time of Ashoka and Samudragupta it was probably the largest empire in the world but nothing lasts forever. Those glorious days came to an end and a cimmerian darkness descended over Magadha. The most difficult days in Magadha's history drew nigh during the reign of Skandagupta."

"Tell me a little more, in brief." He went on. "Skandagupta was one in a string of unworthy sovereigns to occupy the throne of Magadha . At that time the empire had disintegrated and the kingdom was on the point of collapse, confined to its ancient borders.

To the north was the Ganges and north of that Mithila, which was at one time part of the empire of Magadha and which Rarh's King Shasha'unka had wrested from the hands of Magadha. To the east were the Grdhraku't'a and Cakravarttii mountains. In the eastern region of the Grdhraku't'a Mountains was Angadesha and the Magadha Empire. King Shasha'unka of Rarh also took possession of these areas. In the eastern regions of the Cakravarttii Mountains was the land of Rarh, which came under Shasha'unka's direct rule.

The southeast corner's border was Sametashikhar. After that was ancient Rarh, which the king of Rarh had conquered. The southern portion of the Ramgarh Mountains to the south and the western portion of the Shon'a River to the west were first controlled by the king of Kashii, Citrasena. After his fall, this entire area was controlled by the royal house of Tha'niishvar. Magadha did not have a direct struggle with Prabha'karavarddhana but rather with Ra'jyavarddhana and Hars'avarddhana." I've gone on quite a bit about the borders of Magadha at that time. I hope you didn't mind. Without it the picture would not be complete."

"Go on," I said. "I am enjoying listening." "Magadha had lost all its previous power and glory," he continued. "King Skandagupta was a weak-minded, vacillating drunkard. He did very little of what we normally consider great deeds; rather he led Magadha to the brink of destruction.

"Of course, nothing in this world is completely one-sided. No matter how much historians blame him, Skandagupta did some good also. This city of Gaya, which we are standing in the heart of, was designed by him. He founded Sanskrit schools and training centres in various parts of Magadha, such as Dva'dashavarddhaka' (Va'ravigha), Brhaddhika' (Var'ahiya'), Madhukamadha' (Moka'ma'), Urubilva (Araba'l), Grdhraku't'a (Gidhaor'), and so forth, which endured for quite some time. He was the first to introduce the use of the Ma'gadhii language of that time (Western Demi-Ma'gadhii) in government service alongside Sanskrit. Still, he watched the Magadha Empire crumble in front of his eyes. He died watching an entire empire fall apart due to his own incompetence.

"At that time there was a fierce struggle going on for the capture of Magadha between King Ra'jyavarddhana of the royal house of Tha'niisvar and Rarh's King Shasha'unka. Tha'nisvara's kings used to repeatedly move their capital from place to place, but Shasha'unka did not. Rather, he would enlarge his capital according to necessity and befitting the times.

He founded Paincagaorh [the five ancient parts of Bengal] after capturing Anga and Mithila' and then North Bengal (Barendra), Central Bengal (Samatat') and East Bengal (Vaunga). That is, during his time Bengal was divided into five political divisions: (1) Rarh, (2) Mithila', (3) Samatat', (4) Barendra, and (5) Vaunga-D'aba'k (East Bengal or Shriibhu'mi or Cat't'al was then included in Bengal) -- but he kept his capital at Karn'asuvarn'a.* * In Birbhum, at the Rarh-Murshida'ba'd border, on the present-day Nalhati-Azimaganj line.

"There were several reasons for the war between Ra'jyavarddhana and Shasha'unka. Ra'jyavarddhana's aims were to plunder Magadha's wealth and to take possession of Angabhumi. Shasha'unka's main aims were to take possession of Angabhu'mi and to root out the Buddhist religion and culture from Magadha. Although Ra'jyavarddhana put on a show of liberality he was really narrow-minded. In actual fact, he never treated the Shaivite religion as equal to the Buddhist religion. Shasha'unka was a staunch follower of Shaivism and completely against Buddhism. He openly declared that as long as one drop of blood remained in his body, he would not allow Buddhism the right to enter either Rarh nor Paincagaorh,** or Bengal.

** Although Shasha'unka was the king of Paincagaor'a or Bengal, he started off as the king of Rarh. Thus he was better known as the king of Rarh. "I am sure you are familiar with Ambabhu'mi,*** which is situated in the western part of our Magadha. Ambabhu'mi was the ancient name of that fertile region (modern name Moka'ma T'a'l) composed of the western areas of what is now Monghyr District -- Surajagar'a', Laks'miisara'i, Va'ravigha', Var'ahiya', and so on; the eastern portion of Patna district, especially Moka'ma' and surrounding areas; the eastern part of present-day Na'landa District; and the northeast areas of present-day Nawada District. There was no other region in all of India which was as fertile and as affluent at that time. Thus everyone had their greedy eyes set on Ambabhu'mi. Ra'jyavarddhana and hasha'unka were no exceptions.

*** Even today, the Kayasthas of Ambabhu'mi still use Ambas't'ha as a surname.

"Their style of attack, however, differed. Ra'jyavarddhana wanted to plunder wealth, so he would set fire to people's houses and ransack them. Shasha'unka's aim was to destroy Buddhist monasteries (what are now called gar'a in modern Magahii) and Mahayana Buddhist images and idols. You are certainly aware of the fact that, according to social and religious regulations, idols can no longer be used for worship once there is any defect or deformation in them.

So Shasha'unka had the different statues of Buddhist gods and goddesses deformed with a chisel. Today you will find that most of the ancient Buddhist religious statues still in existence have had their noses broken off.

"Foreign historians claim that they were damaged during the time of Baktiar Khiljii, or Ka'la'pa'ha'r'.* Although there is a grain or two of truth in this, it is, for the most part, a false assertion.

They were actively fostering conflict between the Hindus and Muslims of our country, because they followed the policy of `divide and rule'. Actually Shasha'unka was responsible. He was not interested in looting. In this way, with Ra'jyavarddhana burning his way from the west and Shasha'unka applying pressure from the east, the two of them brought Magadha to its last gasp.

* His former name was Kalimuddin Khan. At one time he was a zamindar of Bengal. His original name was Ka'la'ca'nd Ray (Vandyopa'dhya'ya)."Now the sacred banyan tree that you were sitting under yesterday was not the real Bodhi Tree where Siddhartha attained enlightenment. Ashoka's son, Mahendra, took a branch from the original tree and brought it to Sri Lanka.

That branch grew into a second Bodhi Tree in Sri Lanka and a branch was taken from that second tree and brought here and planted. This Bodhi Tree was produced from that branch. Shasha'unka not only extirpated that ancient Bodhi Tree, he also dug a deep ditch around it afterwards and filled it with honey so that the ants would come and eat whatever remained of the roots while they devoured the honey; as a result that Bodhi Tree could not grow back again.

"This is the history of my Magadha of those times." "You can't be very old," I said. "One could say that you are still a lad, so how is it you know so much? There was no clear or formulated system of studying or teaching history in those days. The study and teaching of history in India was first provided for by Emperor Na'siruddiin during Pathan rule and by several foreign travellers during the Mughal era. Thus there were no history books in either Sanskrit or any of the Pra'krta languages. The real beginning of the teaching and study of history came during the time of British rule. So the things you have been talking about have never been properly recorded."
"I am not saying all this myself," he replied. "I am thinking about you and whatever you are thinking about is coming out through my mouth."

"I appreciate your competence and erudition very much," I said. "As a result of the clash between Shasha'unka and Ra'jyavarddhana," he continued, "the amount of harm that Magadha suffered was doubled. It would be a mistake to say that neither one wanted to see the other; neither one of them could even stand hearing the other's name. Shasha'unka, in an unexpected development, captured Ka'nyakubja, slew its king, Cakra'yu'dha (in some people's opinion, Inra'yudha), the husband of Ra'jyavarddana's sister, Ra'jyashrii, and installed his own nephew from Rarh, Keshariivijaya, on the throne, giving him the name Indra'yu'dha (some say Cakra'yu'dha). Ra'jyashrii returned to her father's house and instigated her brothers, Ra'jyavarddhana and Hars'avarddhana, to turn against Rarh. As a result, Magadha, which lay between those two lands, had to suffer many outrages. This is our Magadha.

"Mag means `he who moves about independently', that is, one who does not follow the Vedic injunctions. Dha means 'follower'. The land which follows the anti-Vedic, Buddhist doctrine is magadha. The Sanskrit dha is transformed into ha in Pra'krta. Thus magadha becomes magaha -- the name of the language is magahii. Following the Buddhist era, the language of all of eastern India was this Magahii Pra'krta. Lord Buddha, The Enlightened, made his appearence in this land.

"Our Magadha is situated in the northeast corner of the prehistoric Gondwanaland. Since Gondwanaland is the oldest land on earth, it is also the original home of human beings, the birthplace of human civilization. Rarh is in eastern Gondwanaland. In the prehistoric era, human beings came from Rarh to make their home in Magadha and they brought with them the current of their civilization and culture. Just as the geography of Magadha slopes downwards from north to south and the rivers flow from north to south, similarly the culture and civilization flowed from south to north. Thus the people of Rarh and Magadha are fundamentally one. Like the people of Rarh, the common people of Magadha are dark-skinned. Magadha borders Rarh along its south-east border. The skin and bodily structure of the people of Rarh and Magadha are identical. There is also a noticeable similarity between their languages.

"Earlier I told you that in those days Magadha was full of forests and had abundant rainfall so there was no need of irrigation. The pre-Aryan people of Magadha used to believe that their land received rainfall due to the grace of the sun-god. Thus they used to worship the sun-god according to their ancient local customs, once during the autumn paddy harvest and again during the spring sun harvest (chaetii harvest). This sun-worship of pre-Aryan Magadha is known today as chat' pu'ja'.

This worship was not performed according to Aryan rules. It was a completely local Magadha practice. The people of Magadha did not bow their heads and submissively accept any of the Aryan practices. For that reason the Aryans called the land magadha. They were afraid of Magadha and used to pay it respect. Thus, to satisfy their grudge and vent their spite, they declared Magadha an unholy land. They said that if a man died there he would not go to heaven and they made efforts to forcibly impose their language, culture and civilization on Magadha. It is up to the historians and social scientists to consider just how successful they were in their efforts.

"Magadha did not accept the Aryan civilization. In ancient Magadha there was no custom of racial or caste divisions. The caste system in Magadha came much later due to the influence of the Aryans. Even after the advent of the caste system, the Kraoincadviipii and Magadha's Shrotriya Brahmins did not like the severity of caste divisions. For this reason the Kraoincadviipii and Magadha's Shrotriya Brahmins were not recognized by the Brahmins of northern India."

The boy looked at me and said with a choked voice, "You know, today Magadha is torn apart by caste differences. I want to hear from your lips if Magadha has a future or not."

"Why are you weeping?" I asked. "Why are you thinking in this way? I tell
you, Magadha has a bright future. Magadha will once again break down the walls of narrow-mindedness and hold its head high in the world community.

Magadha's past was bright and its future will be radiant." He was consoled and happy.
"It was an unbelievable and unforgettable happening. Nearly two and a half thousand years ago two great spiritual leaders appeared on the earth at about the same time on the soil of Magadha to sow there the seeds of their spiritual teachings. One was Vardhama'na Maha'viira and the other was Gaotama Buddha. Gaotama Buddha was the son of the feudal king of the central terai, Shuddhodana (Malla dynasty, Sha'kya branch of the Ks'attriyas), and his wife Ma'ya'devii. He practised austerities for a long time in Magadha in the areas of the Bara'bar, Brahmayoni and Grdhraku't' mountains. His Guru in Sa'm'khya philosophy, A'ca'rya Sainjaya (Nawada district), was also from Magadha. Although what is called avidya in his philosophy is not the same as pradha'na or prakrti in Sa'm'khya, there is some similarity between the Buddha's concept of avidya and the Sa'm'khya concept of pradha'na.

"The Buddha attained enlightenment in the village of Urubilva, located on the bank of the river Naerainjana' (Urubilva is called Bodhgaya today). That Suja'ta' who fed him ks'iira [rice pudding] and saved his life at that moment when the period of his radiant austerities had brought him to the point of death, was Buddha's cousin and the wife of a certain feudal king of Magadha. One should remember here that at that time the Naerainjana' river coming from the south joined the Mohanika' (Mohaniya') river near Urubilva and flowed together as the Phalgu river from there, later joining the Ganges near Modhukamadha' (Moka'ma'). About 2000 years ago the two rivers underwent some physical changes due to a huge earthquake and for that reason the
Phalgu river of today is much smaller than it was.

"At any rate the prince of the Shakyas, Gaotama, attained enlightenment on Magadha soil. Many say that Buddha first introduced the Buddhist dharmacakra [wheel of dharma] and initiated his first disciple near Benares in the Is'ipattana Migada'ba (Rs'ipattana deer grove, alias Sa'rangana'th or Sa'rana'th).

Although this is partially correct, it is not the complete truth. It is certainly true that he introduced the dharmacakra in the Is'ipattana deer grove and that his five disciples, Kaon'd'inya (Kaon'dilya), Bappa (Vapra), Bhaddiiya (Bhadreya), Moha'na'ma, and Ashsha'ji (Ashvajit), were present there. But he gave his first initiations on Magadha soil -- to Sa'riputta, the son of Ru'pasa'ri, and Maha'moggallan Arhan, the son of Maha'moggalii.

"In those days Magadha's matriarchal system still retained some influence alongside the patriarchal system. So Buddha's first two disciples in Magadha were known by their mother's names. The merchant that the city of Pa't'aliiputra was named after due to his philanthropy also carried his mother's name in accordance with the matriarchal system. The name of the merchant's mother was Pa't'alii.

"Varddhama'n Maha'viira was born in Vaesha'lii in a Vaeshya family. His father's name was Siddha'rtha and his mother's name was Trishala'. Like the Buddha, however, he did not proprogate his teachings first in his native land but came to Magadha to do so.
"One does not have to go far to find the reason why both of them selected Magadha as the proper place for their work. Magadha was not bound hand and foot with the bonds of the Vedic religion. Their natural liberal mentality gushed forth in all aspects of their lives. Buddha was successful in spreading his spiritual teachings there because they were based more on logic than on superstition and belief.

Of course, the spirit of revolt against conventionality was present in Varddhanama'na Maha'viira's teachings also, but in the opinion of the Magahii people his doctrine of ahim'sa' [non-violence] did not accord well with reality so they were not able to accept it easily. Of course, some people did accept it, but others considered him an unrealistic theoretician and tried to bring him down to earth by using occult powers. Thus he felt the need to go elsewhere to propagate his new religion.

"At that time the most famous city for progressive thinking, education and culture was A'stikanagar (Atthinagar), the capital of Rarh. Varddhama'n Maha'viira went there and stayed nearly eight years. There he managed to fit his doctrine of ahim'sa' into a somewhat realistic framework. Some prominent merchants of A'stikanagar accepted his doctrine and they renamed the city Varddhama'n [Burdwan] after him. Thus it is said that the Jain religion was first established in Rarh.

"Thereafter he took the road back to Magadha from Burdwan and stopped for a short time in a small village named Sva'miistha'na (Sva'miistha'n >> Sa'inchittha'n >> Sa'inchithiincha' >> Sainthiya') on the banks of the Mayu'ra'ks'ii River to preach his gospels. By then he was an elderly man, while Gaotama Buddha was still a young man. He breathed his last in Pa'va'purii on Magadha soil. "There were many in North India who did not appreciate this free mentality of Magadha. They did not spare any efforts to belittle Magadha in the eyes of the people but Magadha was not discouraged by this.

"The seven Pra'krta languages that arose after the demise of Sanskrit were as follows:

1. Maha'ra's't'rii Pra'krta which was the forerunner of Konkan'ii,Ma'ra't'hi,
Vaedarbhii (Va'ra'rii), etc.

2. Ma'lavii Pra'krta which was the forerunner of Gujra'tii, Saora's't'rii,Kacchii,
Ma'lavii, Meva'rii, Har'aotii and Ma'rava'rii.

3. Saendhavii or Saobiirii Pra'krta which gave rise to Sindhii and Mu'lata'nii.

4. Pa'shca'ttya Pra'krta which was the forerunner of Pashtu, Ka'shmiirii, Uzbekii,
Ta'za'kii, etc.

5. Paesha'cii Pra'krta which was the forerunner of D'ogrii, Pa'ha'rii, and Punjabi.

6. Shaorasenii Pra'krta which was the forerunner of Hindi, Abadhii, Bundelii,
Ba'ghelii, and Vraja.

7. Ma'gadhii Pra'krta which was the forerunner of Magahii, Bengali, Oriya, Angika,

Assamese, Na'gpurii, Maethilii, Chatrishgar'ii and Bhojpurii.

"This Ma'gadhii Pra'krta had two daughters -- Eastern Demi-Ma'gadhii and Western Demi-Ma'gadhii. Western Demi-Ma'gadhii later gave birth to the Magahii language.

At one time Ma'gadhii Pra'krta was used not only in eastern India, but in central India as well among the educated community for the exchange of thoughts. Educated people used to show the same zeal for learning Ma'gadhii Pra'krta as they showed for learning Sanskrit.

The structure of the Ma'gadhii Pra'krta language is both straighforward and easy. The grammar is also not complex. Both Maha'viira and Buddha gave their teachings in the Ma'gadhii Pra'krta of that time which many people today call Pa'li. A great deal of literature was composed in the Pa'li language and its successor Occidental Demi-Ma'gadhii. Magadha also had its own script. Inscriptions in that ancient Ma'gadhii script can still be found in certain places in Bodhgaya. It is the younger sister of the Shriihars'a script and closely related to modern Maethilii (Tirahutii) script and Bengali script."

The young man looked at me and smiled. "You know what the sad thing is?

Today many educated people in Magadha are ashamed of speaking their mother tongue. They think that it is perhaps a rustic language, unsuitable for respectable society. Yet this Ma'gadhii -- Occidental Demi-Ma'gadhii -- was once the language of state administration. Who else can I tell this sad tale to?

"Just as Magadha's language has its own style of pronunciation and syntax, its popular culture also shines with originality. Today this popular culture is being swept away but do you know what is even sadder? At one time Magadha had a sound economic infrastructure but since the time of Skandagupta that infrastructure has crumbled. Today, wherever you look, you see a stark picture of poverty and distress. There is no plan for economic development.

The young people of Magadha do not have any economic legs to stand on. Magadha has not been built up; rather, for 1500 years it has been hammered into the dust."
The young man looked at me again and said in a tearful voice: "You know it maddens me to think about Magadha. Anyhow, as I was saying, the war was going on between Rarh and Tha'nishvara, and Magadha, lying between the two, was being destroyed. Shasha'unka was an intelligent and courageous man.

He built a large army through whatever means he had at his disposal and took Ra'jyavarddhana by surprise when his adversary was temporarily absent from his capital, taking possession of the city. After this he waged a fierce war against Ra'jyavarddhana in which Ra'jyavarddhana was defeated and slain.

Some people claim that under the pretence of a truce, Shasha'unka extended an invitation to Ra'jyavarddhana, and then either stabbed or poisoned him when he came. One can say what one wants in this matter but there is no sound historical evidence that Shasha'unka killed Ra'jyavarddhana unfairly.

"After Shasha'unka retuned to Rarh, Ra'jyavarddhana's brother, Hars'avarddhana, liberated his kingdom once again and continued the struggle with Shasha'unka. As long as Shasha'unka was alive the war against Tha'nishvara continued without pause. And so there was no end to Magadha's distress.

"After Shasha'unka's death his widow, Jayashankarii (in some people's opinion, Trigun'a'shankarii), ruled Rarh along with Paincagaorh or Bengal after installing his under-age son, Mrga'nkashekhara, as the crown prince.

Har'savarddhana did not let this opportunity go by and struck a powerful blow against Rarh War ensued and after two sanguinary battles at Nalha't'i and Parkat'iipur (Pa'kur'), Rarh fell under Hars'avarddhana's control. The same Hars'avarddhana who has achieved everlasting fame in India, who, as legend has it, was known for his generosity and who, in some people's opinion, was the founder of the Kumbhamela' and the Ma'ghamela', also killed Rarh's Queen Jayashankarii and her under-age son, Mrga'nkashekhara, with his own hand, and utterly exploited Magadha, tossing it aside like a worn-out banana peel. According to the scriptures, the elderly, women, the sick, the disabled, consciencious dissenters, under-age men, and emmissaries must not be killed.

Hars'avarddhana blatantly violated this scriptural injunction.Both the people of Bengal and the people of Magadha condemned and censured him for this."As long as Shasha'nka was alive he did not allow the Buddhist religion into Rarh. After the defeat of Bengal by Hars'avarddhana, Buddhism, despite not enjoying his open support, became predominant, due to the tremendous indirect support he gave it.

In their hearts the people remained Shaivites but on the outside they became Buddhists. Later on, during the time of Shankaracharya, a small number of Rarh's Jains and large numbers of Buddhists throughout Bengal accepted the Puranic religion. This may have been because in Rarh there was some similarity between the traditions of the Puranic religion and the Digambar Jain doctrine of that time.

So,Hars'avarddhana dealt a strong blow to the religious thought of Rarh, as well as Bengal, and by exploiting Magadha brought it to its lowest point." The boy looked at me again and said in a choked voice: "Now tell me, who can I express this to? Today I've poured out my heart to you."

"Go on, go on," I said. "Don't hold anything back." "Magadha's misery is not a recent thing. It dates back to the time of Hars'avarddhana. The people of Magadha have tried to pull themselves up from time to time but after so many blows they've had their back broken. Now they can no longer stand up straight at all."

"I am really moved by your sincerity, overwhelmed. There should be more boys like you all over Magadha ."He continued. "While returning back after defeating Bengal, Hars'avarddhana tried to pulverize Magadha into submission even more. He knew about Magadha's tradition and was afraid that Magadha might overthrow his throne.

At that time Magadha's last general, Agnimitra, and his younger brother,Chandraketu, were directing its final efforts to resist Hars'avarddhana and a great war ensued. In the battle of Bara'bar Hill, near the city of Gaya,

Magadha's army was utterly routed and destroyed. Even then Agnimitra did not accept defeat. His final confrontation with Hars'avarddhana was at Brahmayoni Mountain in Gaya; in this battle Agnimitra was killed."

The young man stopped again, then continued falteringly. "You know, people say that Agnimitra's relatives, friends and neighbours offered sesame, water and so forth to the gods so that his soul would go to heaven but Agnimitra did not attain salvation. As long as Magadha does not regain its lost glory, Agnimitra will not get salvation. Even if he gets it he will not accept it."

He went on in a halting voice. "You know, it was in this very spot that the
funeral pyre burned for Agnimitra's cremation. The boy stopped speaking. I looked at him but somehow he had vanished and a funeral pyre was burning in his place. The flames of the pyre were rising from the soil of Magadha and scattering these words on the winds: "I will never let Magadha die."

I looked around but there was no one there. Seeing no reason to remain there I started back for the hotel. I met no one on the way; not even the animals were awake. The main entry door of the hotel was open. I went inside and closed it, then went up to the second floor and headed for my room. I went inside, locked it and laid down unperturbed.

I lay there thinking for a while and began feeling sleepy. Then I seemed to hear a voice coming from the direction of the incense burner on the dressing table. "Do you know, I forgot to tell you. I am Agnimitra. I can't tell you how happy I am that you are doing research on my Magadha. I took hold of your leg so that I would have a chance to talk to you. Please forgive my audacity. I would like to request you to come back to Magadha as often as you can. Try to awaken the consciousness of its people. Talk about it, write about it, and promise me"

-- his voice surged with emotion -- "that my Magadha will survive." "That Magadha which has given birth to noble persons such as yourself," I replied, "will never perish. There is no power on earth that can destroy it."

This article is sent by Chandan Singh, Patna.
Chandan workes as Executive Diector in GreenPower, a Canada based MNC.


Manoj said...

one of the best story/history of Magadh, I have ever read. Thanks for sharing this knowledge with us.

Let's hope/pray that Magadh and Bihar will gain it's lost charm and position soon.



Thanks Manoj. Comments from readers like you keep us going.Please keep visiting this space frequently.If you would like to contribute to space please feel free to send your articles to me anytime.