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Healthcare and the Medical Profession:

The increasing cost of medical treatment, the lack of effective checks by the state casts doubt on the level of ethics in the medical profession. The healthcare industry doing so admirably in India only enhances these worries. The editorial looks into what might be going wrong when a profession/ industry thrives but there is no improvement in the development indicators associated with it –infant mortality, life expectancy etc.
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The Tree of Life
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India’s ‘Foreign Policy’: A Long way from Bandung

Under External Affairs minister SM Krishna, India’s foreign affairs activity seems to have become restricted to registering protests of various sorts – at the indignities suffered by Indians in Australia, at a Russian court’s ban on the Bhagwad Gita in remote Siberia and at SRK being detained for two hours in a US airport. Are India’s foreign policy initiatives directed outward as they should be or are they directed towards influential private interests?
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Home > Contents > Article: Jaidev Raja
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A Concise History of God in Twenty Paragraphs
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Jaidev Raja

The attractions, in accounting for a key historical conflict, of reducing a plethora of causes to a single one are very strong. Perhaps the most enduring of conflicts has been the religious one between polytheism and monotheism. Could there have been a single external cause to account for the schism between these two kinds of belief? This is a highly speculative piece based on a broad and eclectic reading of a variety of historical accounts which tries to trace all religion in the old world to a single event in the physical world. There must, after all, be something outside Man, to which he owes faith.

  1. The natural way for humankind to look at the world is to regard it as a flat multilayered disk with the dome of the sky covering it. Humans and gods live on the top layer of the disk, the 'underworld' being in one of the lower layers. Gods occupy high mountain peaks like Olympus or Kailash and interact regularly with men and women often engendering demigods like Achilles or the Pandavas. Sometimes like Ares (Mars) in the Iliad, they fight with human heroes like Diomedes and can be wounded. The planets and stars including the anthropomorphic sun and moon travel in specific orbits around the earth. In the Koran Sura 18, for example, the hero Zulqarnain (Alexander the Great) travels to the “setting place of the sun” which is a spring of muddy water; and Abdul Aziz ibn Baaz, the grand mufti of Mecca declared (1993) that the earth is flat and anyone denying it is an atheist worthy of death.

  2. This picture was rudely disturbed about three millennia ago when mankind made its most important discovery after fire – namely the precession of the equinoxes. This phenomenon is now known to be caused by the slow wobbling of the earth’s axis which causes the spring equinox to occur slightly earlier each year with respect to the zodiac. As popularized by the 1960s musical “Hair” the age of Aquarius has now dawned – i.e., the spring equinox now occurs “in” the zodiac sign Aquarius instead of Pisces. This may not be as absurd as it sounds – after all solar astrology plays an important part in Christian myth – for instance the birth of the solar hero Jesus Christ occurs just after the winter solstice when the dying sun revives. As it takes about 2100 years for the equinoxes to 'precede' from one constellation of zodiac to the next, the Christian era as we know it may well have been the result of the dawn of the Age of Pisces – fish being a symbol often associated with Christ even today in bumper stickers and rear windscreen decals.

  3. We know that the ancient 'Chaldeans' were renowned for their astronomical/ astrological expertise and that the biblical patriarch Abraham came from 'Ur of the Chaldees'. Ur of course was the metropolis of the old Sumerian civilization – and it is possible that the

    Sumerian Ziggurat
    observations on the precession of the equinoxes first made by this civilization were passed down the generations. It was not till the time of Hipparchus (2nd c BCE) that a rational treatment of this phenomenon was given but its effects must have been clearly observable over the centuries to ancient astronomers for whom the annual agricultural cycle, sowing and harvest festivals, and the calculations of ‘auspicious‘ astrological dates were important parts of their jobs.

  4. Ancient astronomers observing the position of stars at the spring equinox in ancient times would have been shocked to see that the dome of the sky was being slowly rotated as it were from the outside. This would mean there is some entity or supreme god outside the universe who is doing the turning – and that he is more powerful than any of the merely local – and all too human – deities. In the province of Fars in Iran this idea led to an important religious revolution – namely the ascension/ invention of the Zarathustran Ahura

    Mazda as the supreme god of the universe. There is no need to believe that Zarathustra was a historical figure – ideas similar to his would have been floating around in the environment long before his supposed life in the 8th century BCE. What is clear, however, is that some time around the 9th century BCE a religious schism did take place between believers in the ancient gods of the Aryan pantheon and the monotheists. This is reflected in the Hindu myth of the war between the devas and the asuras. We know
    that the Punjab plain had been occupied by an invading tribe (or a ‘nation’ of tribes) who called themselves “Arya” or “noble” – and the name Iran was the one given to the land of the Aryas. The Punjab plain, then, as now, was a part of Central Asia - the Hindu Kush has always been a porous border. It is possible  that the Aryans who had migrated around 1400 BC to the Punjab plain remained polytheists and gradually acquired knowledge of the religious schism in Iran which they incorporated into their own mythology as a battle between the devas and the asuras.

  5. ‘Ahura’ of course is the same as the Sanskrit ‘asura’ – and the battle between the asuras and the devas for control of “heaven” is an important puranic myth. In this myth the ‘devas’ are exiled from heaven after an invasion by the ’asuras’.  They regain their heaven after churning the ocean with the mountain Meru and obtaining the nectar of immortality - the god Vishnu having incarnated himself as a tortoise to provide a base for the mountain. It is significant that in Zoroastrian mythology 'deva' means a demon and the demonization of the old deities is a standard practice – vide Milton's Paradise Lost Bk II or Ibn Al Kalbi's “Book of Idols”.  In heaven as it is on earth – this formula would indicate that the divine battle actually reflects or allegorizes a historical reality – i.e. the worshippers of the devas and the worshippers of the newfangled supreme god Ahura coming into conflict. The 'devas' are defeated – temporarily, in the myth, as they regain their devaloka after much struggle. But in real life the estrangement of the polytheistic Aryans from the heavenly plateau of Iran was permanent – the exiles having to settle for the next best thing, the Punjab plain – or Brahmarishidesa, according to ancient geography.  Here the scions of the deva worshippers could live their eternal lifestyle – or sanatana dharma - unmolested by the “asuras”. That the relationship between the devas and asuras was not consistently antagonistic is seen from the ambiguous status of the god Siva - he has important asura devotees, the most prominent among them being Ravana. Is Siva the Indian version of Ahura Mazda since he is addressed as Maheshwara or Mahadeva (Great God)? Siva cults in India today – like the Veerasaivas in Karnataka – are as close to monotheism as is possible in Hinduism because they worship virtually no other god.

  6. The Hellenistic writers Arrian and Strabo, basing their accounts of India on Megasthenes, noted the differences between the brachmanes and the garmanes (sramana or Buddhists).  His account of the caste system and religion of India are entirely different from what we now call Hinduism - for instance he says that Dionysus is worshipped in the hills and Herakles in the plains. Clearly in Mauryan times the vedic religion was confined to the rather small group of people known as brahmanas. Others may seek their salvation as best they could but there was no effort to mobilize them under a single faith. We see the Mauryan emperors either embrace Jainism or Buddhism – both non-Vedic atheistic religions. Both the Buddha and Mahavira were aristocrats but there is no record that they belonged to a kshatriya caste. In Megasthenes’ account, the warrior caste is not named and they are just one among other professions like farmers and shepherds. The mobilization of people into varnas may be taken to indicate the beginning of Hinduism and the assigning of different caste statuses to people of different professions with the kshatriyas being the highest after the brahmanas because they wielded power. There is no evidence that either Chandragupta Maurya or Ashoka converted “from” something called “Hinduism”. For Ashoka, dhamma was Buddhism – there was no other dhamma he knew of.

  7. Historical “Hinduism” - with its fourfold varna system, its control of all stages of life by elaborate Vedic sacraments, and its multiple deities ranging from thirty three to three hundred and thirty million - this Hinduism is not a very ancient religion. It would appear to have originated around the 1st centuries CE – i.e. after Buddhism and Jainism as suggested earlier.  Classical Sanskrit (as the name implies – samskrta or refined/ manufactured as against prakrta – or the natural dialects of the people) was not a commonly used language and was clearly not in common use in the time of Asoka. Whereas

    Ashokan Edict
    Asoka addresses his Greek speaking subjects in good classical Greek in his inscriptions, he never used Sanskrit when addressing his other subjects – rather, he used Pali, a commonly spoken Prakrit throughout his empire. However, on a rock on which his 3rd century BCE Pali inscriptions are found, four centuries later Rudradaman the Saka satrap of Ujjayani uses classical Sanskrit – addressing the same people for the same purpose on the same rock. Clearly classical Sanskrit became the universal language some
    time between Asoka (3rd century BCE) and Rudradaman (2nd century CE). Sanskrit was a language manufactured for ‘pan-Indian’ communication amongst an elite because the various regional prakrits had become mutually unintelligible over the centuries. It was manufactured by upgrading prakrit words and modifying the old language of the vedas, which had become obsolete. If we arbitrarily date the dominance of Sanskrit as beginning around the 1st or 2nd centuries CE, we are left with the conclusion that, with the exception of the vedas (which are written in a specific pre-Sanskritic dialect), the entire corpus of religious literature in Sanskrit is a late redaction. This would include such revered texts as the Bhagavad Gita. That the Mahabharata as it exists is a late creation is evident from the text itself– in the battle between Vashishta and Viswamitra the troops mentioned include the Pahlavas, the Yavanas and the Hunas. Krishna is praised by Arjuna as (among other things) the conqueror of Kaiseruman king of the Yavanas – i.e. the Byzantine Caesar (Kaiser) of Rome.

  8. What then was the relationship of the brahmanas with the rest of the population in pre-‘Hindu’ times? If we are to take, as a vestigial survival, the example of Malabar where the Aryan Namboodiris led a life distinct from the Nair aristocracy we may get a clue. The Namboodiri families followed the ancient Aryan system of male primogeniture – i.e., the eldest son inherits the family property. The eldest son can only marry a Namboodiri girl – the younger sons may marry into the aristocratic non - Namboodiri tharawaads (or manorial houses) but their children would then be considered as belonging to the mother's caste and family – inheritance of name and property being matrilineal. It is possible that the conflict in the Mahabharata was really about how inheritance of the kingdom is to be reckoned – whether through the lineage of the promiscuous pagan princess Kunti and her children or through the patrilineal Aryan system which would favor Duryodhana.  Female ultimogeniture – property passing to the youngest daughter - is still practiced in India's north-east. It cannot be a coincidence that pre-Aryan practices continue in the farthest corners of present day India.

  9. It would seem that the Sakas or Scythians whose dynasty ruled India in the first centuries BCE and CE had a key role in the manufacture as it were of “Hinduism”. The Saka era is still taken as the standard Hindu calendar. A new calendar often marks the beginning of a new ideological system – e.g. the Christian era, the Hijri era of the Muslims and the year 1 following the French Revolution.  Could it be that the Saka era actually inaugurated the birth of “Hinduism” - the classical religion about which we have records?  This Hinduism accommodated the landed aristocracy as well as the bourgeois merchant class as “varnas” provided they were properly subordinate to the brahminical heirarchy. Why was this religion developed? Apparently the Brahmins found themselves losing out politically to the widely popular religion of Buddhism and hence the need to make common cause with the political powers that be and the economically powerful classes of people. This strategy appears to have been successful - over the centuries Buddhism all but disappeared from mainland India - to survive in outlying Sri Lanka. The 11th century CE temples at Khajuraho contain the repeated motif of a lion killing an elephant - the lion of course being Vishnu incarnation Narasimha and the elephant the vision of Queen Maya before she gave birth to the Buddha. ‘Hinduism’ thus spread across the subcontinent pushing vestigial non-Aryan practices to the extreme ends of the subcontinent.

  10. Turning to the other end of the Achaemenid (Zoroastrian) Empire we see that the Babylonian exile of the Jews was terminated supposedly by the Persian Emperor Cyrus and his successor Darius who helped and supported the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of Solomon. This temple had been destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who also transported the Jews to exile in Babylon. (In the Book of Isaiah Cyrus is called the messiah or the Lord's anointed). Even according to Kings and Chronicles not all the inhabitants of Judea were exiled to Babylon – only the aristocracy and the elite were taken away. It was the standard practice in the Ancient Near East to remove a defeated elite from their home ground and transplant them in other parts of the empire – where their client status and dependence on the imperial power for survival would prevent them making common cause with the locals in rebellion. The Samaritans are supposed to be people thus transplanted by the Assyrians in the place of the lost ten tribes of (northern) Israel. It is difficult to think that the ruthless Achaemenid emperors would take a special interest in a minor population of a desert outcrop. An explanation is that the “exiles” were brainwashed colonists from another region of the empire – brainwashed that is, into the imperial religion. The real reason for colonizing and garrisoning the town of Jerusalem was to keep a close eye on the rebellious province of Egypt which had just been conquered by the Persians. In the Bible Egypt is portrayed as the source and origin of all evil - a perception that persists in Hollywood ‘mummy mythology’. This may have been inculcated

    by the Persians who were adversaries of the Egyptians and instilled these feelings in those they had conquered together with a mythology. The Jews are supposed to have escaped from Egypt under the leadership of Moses and settled in Canaan. Elaborate Egyptian records contain no mention whatever of this Exodus. Archeological research in Israel shows no evidence of a sudden influx of Hebrews at any time in history either. Apparently the Old Testament is less founded in fact than designed to convince the people that their real enemy was in Egypt. Further, histories like Samuel, Kings and Chronicles are a continuous litany of how the kings of Israel led their people to divine punishment and exile because of their backsliding from strict monotheism. This suggests that monotheism was an inculcated belief that needed to be kept alive.

  11. The right place to start reading the Bible (to understand it as a historical document) is perhaps not at Genesis or Exodus but at the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (which are actually

    Ezra Reading out the Law
    two parts of a single book). These books describe the “return” of “exiled” Jews from Babylon under the patronage of the Achaemenid emperor and under the leadership of “Ezra”. Two things strike the unbiased reader as bizarre.(A) Considering that the Jewish population of “returners” under Ezra is arriving in Jerusalem after an exile of a mere seventy years, their attitude to the local population (Amm ha Eretz or people of the land) is one of racist contempt
    and disdain. When some of his “exiles” marry local women Ezra takes great pains to force them to divorce! There is a striking similarity here with the attitudes of white men in their colonies and the fear of miscegenation or “going native”.  (B) Also, when Ezra reads out “the Law” to the local population they weep and Ezra has to console them. Why should this be so if the law was the Law of Moses which they and their ancestors had been following all their lives? Clearly, the books of Ezra and Nehemaiah describe a process of colonisation and the law is the law of the Persian emperor.  The people weep because they know they are going to be subject to an onerous taxation system under their new colonial masters. The returning “exiles” along with Nehemiah (a little later) are described as being escorted by a sizeable body of soldiers – surely strange for people who are merely returning to their native land! Moreover, when the local population offers to help in rebuilding the Temple of

    Temple of Solomon
    Solomon, they are rudely snubbed. The truth is perhaps that the original inhabitants of Israel - the amm ha eretz -were polytheistic. Even Solomon, the wisest of men, is described as having introduced false deities into his temple at the behest of his many wives, and his descendants were unapologetic polytheists, resulting in their punishment at the hands of a jealous god. It is only post exilic Jews who are uncompromisingly monotheistic under the influence of their masters in Iran.

  12. Zoroastrianism does not aim to convert people of other races – it is limited only to those of

    Cyrus the Great
    pure Persian descent. One has to go no further than the present day Bombay Parsees to see this. Non-Persian subject peoples of the Persian Empire were therefore encouraged to develop their own local religions on the Zoroastrian model as long as they acknowledged that there is only one true god and that the Shahenshah of Persia is the viceroy of that true god. The prophet Isaiah goes so far as to call Cyrus the Lord's Anointed or Messiah.

    13.   To summarize the argument so far: because of the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes by the ancient astronomers a monotheistic creed began to take shape in the Ancient Near East around the 9th century BCE. A theological dispute over polytheism/ monotheism led to the expulsion or voluntary exile of the followers of the ancient polytheistic religious system. These people
    moved to the Indian subcontinent where, interacting with the local population (including others who had their origins in Iran) and its beliefs over the ages, the classical religion of “Hinduism” was evolved during the first two centuries C.E. On the other side of the empire, subject populations were “encouraged” to develop local religions which imitated the monotheistic Zoroastrianism. This was done with the political purpose of keeping the locals obedient to the Persian emperor. One such religion was Judaism – a local monotheistic religion imposed on the peasant population of Palestine. This religion however, partly due to its fortunate status in being located at the cusp between two civilizations, morphed into two major faiths that have dominated the world.

  13. 14.    Christianity is an obvious compromise between Judaism and the old paganism of Europe – one has only to consider the festivals of Easter or Christmas to realize this. The idea of a virgin-born dying and resurrected god finds similarities in Greek and other pagan mythologies. The following mythological characters were all believed to have been born to divinely impregnated virgins: Romulus and Remus, Perseus, Adonis, and Dionysus. The pagan belief in unions between gods and women, regardless of whether they were virgins or not is even more common. Many characters in pagan mythology were believed to be sons of divine fathers and human females. The Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God born to a virgin is typical of Greco-Roman belief. Many of the ancient pagan gods and goddesses are given places in the pantheon of saints in the form of, for instance, St. Dennis (Dionysus) and St. Brigid of Ireland. Most ancient churches from St Peters in Rome to York Minster in England are built on ancient pagan temples or mithraeums and the rituals of the catholic church betray signs of old pre-Christian practice – note the cannibalistic implications of the Roman Catholic mass.

    15.   The theme of a divine or semi-divine being sacrificed against a tree, pole or cross, and then being resurrected, is very common in pagan mythology.  In particular it is found in the mythologies of Osiris and Attis, both of whom were often identified with Tammuz, an ancient Sumerian deity. Osiris ended up with his arms stretched out on a tree like Jesus on the cross. This tree was sometimes shown as a pole with outstretched arms - the same shape as the Christian cross. The Romans never used this traditional Christian cross for crucifixions; they used crosses shaped either like an X or a T. The hieroglyph of a cross on a hill was associated with Osiris. This hieroglyph stood for the "Good One," in Greek "Chrestos," a name applied to Osiris and other pagan gods. The confusion of this name with "Christos" (Messiah, Christ) strengthened the confusion between Jesus and the pagan gods. At the Vernal Equinox, pagans in northern Israel would celebrate the death and resurrection of the virgin-born Tammuz-Osiris. In Asia Minor (where the earliest Christian churches were established) a similar celebration was held for the virgin-born Attis. Attis was shown as dying against a tree, being buried in a cave and then being resurrected on the third day. We thus see where the Christian story of Jesus's resurrection may come from.

    16.    Ancient beliefs die hard. Horace said you may drive out nature with a pitchfork but it will always return. Exactly the same is true of the ancient gods – they tend to return in the form of the supernatural and syncreticism. The Islamic creed says there is none worthy of worship except Allah but it does not deny the existence of supernatural entities, and the Koran describes in detail the machinations of the Jinn who are chased away by a bombardment of meteors.

    17.   Throughout the Koran and hadith, which are ‘traditions of the prophet and his companions'. (The hadith are recorded memories of the prophet’s companions, about how he lived, what he said, what he commanded, what he permitted, what he forbade and what he was silent about without actually forbidding it, plus what his closest companions also did, commanded etc.) the pagan heritage of Islam is never concealed. The rituals connected with the Haj pilgrimage are also clearly pagan - such as the 'stoning of the devil' at Mina, the 'running' between Saffa and Marwah hills and the kissing of the idolatrous black stone of the Kaaba. Radical reformists like the eleventh century Qarmatians actually invaded Mecca, destroyed the Kaaba and took away the black stone as being an un-Islamic idolatrous object. It had to be restored by the decadent Abbasid caliph only after paying a hefty ransom although it is uncertain if it is the same stone which was taken away. When it comes to Shia beliefs the compromise with paganism is even more visible - ancient myth being recast as elaborate mourning for the Prophet’s grandsons and the belief in the last imam in ‘occlusion’ who will return to restore the kingdom of God.

    18.    The Koran itself is a document which reflects these contradictions. It is a disorganized compendium of mystical poetry, military commands, threats of hellfire, ancient biblical notions, remnants of polytheism and legal maxims. All this is scattered in no particular order throughout the text. Moreover, the doctrine of 'abrogation' renders some of the text necessarily obsolete – with no clue as to what is obsolete and what is not. That later texts abrogate earlier ones makes sense only if we know which is later and which earlier – and the Koran itself gives no hint in this regard. We can infer it only through the traditions or hadith – which 19th c European scholars like Hurgronje have shown to be tendentious rather than factual. The great scholar Bukhari apparently selected 6000 ‘authentic’ hadith from as many as 600,000 which were considered suspect. Several of these are repetitions and the truly ‘authentic’ Bukhari collection consists of less than 3000.

    19.    Monotheism should more accurately be called ‘supertheism’ – the belief that there is a supreme god. It does not exclude other gods – they merely appear in disguise as saints, spirits, angels etc. All ancient religious history is later redaction – this is clearly evident in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) where the events are supposed to have happened 'a very long time ago' – thus proving that the book was composed as a fraudulent pseudepigraphical text at a very late date.  The revisionist Islamic scholars Patricia Crone and Michael Cook have argued in their path breaking book Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World that ‘Islam’ as a religion did not exist before the second or third Islamic century following the Arab conquest of the middle eastern lands.  The linguist ‘Christoph Luxenberg’ has shown in his book The Syro Aramaic Reading of the Koran that difficult and obscure passages in the Koran can be better understood if we treat them as originally in Syro-Aramaic, a pre-Arabic language used by Christian Arabs. Indeed Luxenberg derives the word ‘koran’ from the Syro-Aramaic ‘keryana’ or ‘lectionary’ – a collection of writings containing biblical stories to be read out to the congregation during divine service. Is this the reason that both the vedas and the Koran are considered as not having a history but co-eternal with the universe itself? They date from a time before the historical memory of their civilizations.

    20.    The arguments given above are of course speculative - there is no evidence that the  discovery of the precession of the equinoxes led ancient astronomers and thinkers to invent a monotheistic supreme god. We have no clear picture of Indian civilization in the centuries before the Christian era and Indians will claim that the ancient vedic culture of India existed since the dawn of civilization, just as those with Judeo-Christian origins will assert that monotheism has always existed since the time of the patriarch Abraham.

TIMELINE (The sections with headings in italics pertain to events of more doubtful historicity)

2900 - 1900 BCE: The Sumerians
The Sumerians almost certainly observed the precession of the equinoxes because they knew about the Platonic year (25920 earth years or nearly 26000). This is the time it takes the equinoxes to precess one whole cycle and return to the starting point. Since the equinoxes precess by 1 degree every 72 years it takes 72 x 360 years to complete one cycle. The disc of the sun imparts an angle of half a degree so over 36 years the sun can be seen to have shifted one sun disc diameter with respect to the zodiac. It takes about 2100 years for the equinoxes to precess from one zodiacal constellation to the next.

1700 - 1400 BCE: The Aryan Migrations
These are hugely problematic and according to present estimates there were three different waves. They were originally from what is now Central Europe, moved into Iran and then drifted into the Punjab plain from over the Hindu Kush over several centuries.

1500 - 1300 BCE: Mitanni
An Aryan people who ruled over southern Turkey and the Levant. The first ever writing existing in an Indo European language is a treaty document written by them. They worshipped Indra, Mitra, Varuna and Nasatyas (Ashwins). They had kings called Tushratta (Dasharatha), Warad-sin (Bharat – and since Sin is the name of a West Semitic moon goddess this translates as Bharatchandra) and Rama-sin (Ramachandra).

13th C BCE: Exodus
No archaeological evidence exists for this anywhere. The 'laws' given in the Exodus Deuteronomy etc. are also inappropriate for nomads wandering in the Sinai desert – which is how the Exodus makes the Jews seem. Moses did not make it to the ‘Promised Land’ which he was only allowed to see. The only one from Egypt to be allowed to reach the Promised Land was Moses’ deputy Joshua, who became the leader of the Jewish people – those he converted to the Laws of Moses.

10th C BCE: David
After Moses led his people from Egypt his people fought the local tribes over a long period of time. They eventually named Saul as their king. When Saul erred in God’s eyes, David became king. The legendary fight between David and Goliath (when Saul was the ruler) mirrors a struggle with the other tribes. All this would be true if the Exodus had happened but it was perhaps constructed much later after the Jews returned from their exile in Persia because of Cyrus.   

10th C BCE: Solomon
By all anthropological evidence Solomon (son of David) was also a tendentious later day creation. After his rule, the united kingdom of Israel split into the northern and southern kingdoms with 10 of the twelve tribes occupying the northern kingdom and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin occupying the southern kingdom around Jerusalem. Since it was the practice of invaders/ colonists to take away local tribes and resettle them, the Assyrians apparently resettled the 10 tribes – whose whereabouts remain mysterious to this day (‘the ten lost tribes’). The temple of Solomon was later ‘rebuilt’ but there is little evidence that an original one ever existed.  

1365 - 612 BCE: Assyrians
They were a highly advanced civilisation and maintained an extensive library of clay tablets from which we get a whole lot of details.  Some of the kings had names with Assur prefixed - Assurnasirpal, Assurbanipal. They destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel around 750 BCE. The lost ten tribes of Israel were replaced by the Samaritans – people from another conquered territory.

1000 BCE: Composition of the Rig Veda (1000 BCE):
Difficult to put a date on it but the language employed in it is apparently similar to Gathic Persian which was prevalent around 800 BCE.  

800 BCE: The likely birth of monotheism in Iran
Struggle between mono theists and polytheists reflected as that between the 'devas' and asuras'. They are supposed to have descended from twin ancestresses called Aditi and Diti and so, in some sense, are related.

600 BCE: Birth of 'Zarathustra'.
Zarathustra was invented by the Seleucids who arbitrarily said he lived 258 years before Alexander conquered Persia. Plutarch said he lived around 6000 BCE. He was most likely a mythical creation or a title like ‘Shankaracharya’. The biblical Ezra may be 'Zara' or Dara (like Dara Shroff) since the Semitic languages didn't have vowels. The books Ezra/ Nehemiah have important officials called Sheshbazzar and Zerubabel who are certainly not Jews and probably Persians. A distinct possibility is that the so called Zarathustran ideas prevailed over a period of time and finally crystallized into the classical Zarathustran religion.

604 - 550 BCE: Babylonian empire
Babylon existed as an independent entity from 11th c BCE onwards. Renowned for astronomical knowledge which almost certainly was inherited from others like Egyptians, etc. These are the Chaldeans of the bible though Abraham was supposed to have come at an earlier date from 'Ur of the Chaldees' - Ur was the capital city of Sumer (vide ooru in South Indian languages). Nabuchadnazzar destroyed the 'Temple of Solomon' in Jerusalem and took the Jews into Babylonian captivity.

597 - 538 BCE: ‘Babylonian captivity’ of the Jews. 520BCE: Ezra returns from Babylon.
This appears to be around the same time as the Persian conquest of Egypt. ‘Reconstruction’ of the Temple of Solomon begins but is burnt down after a local rebellion.  480 – 430 BCE: Nehemiah is sent to Jerusalem with Persian soldiers for second ‘reconstruction’ of the Temple of Solomon. The ‘colonization’ of Jerusalem around 520- 430 BCE by the Persians may have gone hand in hand with Persia’s efforts at conquering or holding on to Egypt. The story of Moses and the Exodus may have originated at this point and contributed to these efforts at creating a common enemy in Egypt.  

550 - 330 BCE: Achaemenid (1st Persian) Empire:
Cyrus is supposed to have enabled the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. While the exiled Jews might have been repatriated, there is also the possibility is that they were exiles from some other place forcibly settled in Palestine. The word for non-Zoroastrian is Juddin and the word Yahudi or Jew probably comes from it. In other words, a 'Jew' is basically a non-Zoroastrian with faith in monotheism. Around 538 BCE the Jews return from captivity. This seems to have happened in waves over a period of time under Cyrus, Darius, etc. Not clear which Darius is meant but it was almost certainly not Darius the Great but maybe Darius II (around 430 BCE). There seems to have been some problem meanwhile because the construction of the temple was stopped and had to be restarted with some effort. Most likely this was due to a rebellion in Egypt under one of the Persian generals and hence the need to garrison a place overlooking Egypt. A possibility is that the story of Moses and the Exodus was constructed around this period.  

330 BCE: Persian Empire destroyed by Alexander the Great.

321 - 180 BCE: Mauryan Empire
180  BCE:  Last Mauryan Emperor assassinated by his general Pushyamitra Sunga. The earliest inscription ever found in classical Sanskrit mentions the 6th descendant of Pushyamitra.

2nd Century BCE: - 4th C CE Saka Empire in India.
Origin of organized Hinduism with varna system and extension of Aryan notions to other than the Brahmanas. 

130 CE - 150 CE: Rudradaman the Saka Satrap of Western India.

1 CE: Birth of Jesus Christ - start of the Christian era.

The start of the era probably has to do with the astrological age of Pisces because the dates given in the bible for Jesus are inconsistent.

570 - 632 CE: Life of Prophet Muhammed.

The Muslim era starts in 622 CE. Phalanx Spacer

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Jaidev Raja is an inveterate reader of history.

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