Chapter 10 – The Story of Sadhu Gandhara Part 1 of 4

Story of Sadhu Gandhara, Explorer, Lover, Reformer, Warrior & Chief of Afghanistan

Frontiers of Bharat Varsha (5,000 BCE) With account of how Afghanistan (Avagana) became a part of Bharat Varsha
Selected extracts from Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani, published by Penguin Books, India, ISBN 0-14- 024053 – 5
(Main Reference Pages: 223 to 255; 257 to 258 from Return of the Aryans)

Territory Of Bharat Varsha

Gidwani’s ‘Return of the Aryans’ shows that the territory of Bharat Varsha in 5,000 BCE was extensive – far more than the present-day combined territory of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – as additionally, it included:

  • Avagana (Afghanistan), after Sadhu Gandhara established his Ashram at a place which in his honor was called Gandhara (now known as Qandhar), and later at Hari Rath (now known as Herat).
  • From Afghanistan, Bharat Varsha extended to parts of Iran, beyond Lake Namaskar (now known as Namaksar), where many Hindu hermits resided;
  • In North, Bharat Varsha territory went across the soaring peaks of Himalayas to Tibet to reach Lake Mansarovar, Mount Kailash, to the source of mighty Sindhu and Brahmaputra rivers, and beyond;
  • Bharat Varsha included also Land of Brahma (Burma) and beyond;
  • Also Bharat Varsha included Kashmir; Lands of Sadhu Newar (Nepal); Bhoota (Bhutan); and Land of Vraon (Sri Lanka).

It was not by conquest or war that that these lands came together as Bharat Varsha. It was, as the story in ‘Return of the Aryans’ will show, the graciousness, chivalry and diplomacy combined with fair mindedness that led to the meeting of hearts resulting in formation of this extensive Union. Yet skirmishes, battles and wars came and the people of Bharat Varsha proved themselves as great and gallant warriors. And to the lands and peoples of their conquest, they extended, fully and fairly, the rights, dignity and freedoms of Sanatan Dharma. Theirs was the firm belief in the ideals of Sanatan Dharma and among those were: recognition of spiritual nature of man wherever he is from; acceptance of every culture as an expression of eternal values; and man’s obligation to respect and protect environment, and all creatures, tame and wild. Thus, Gidwani’s ‘Return of the Aryans’ speaks of beauty and universality of the roots of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma), and respect for all faiths – with the assertion that “Whatever god you choose, He is that God, and Dharma (Righteousness) is His Will”

Return of Sadhu Gandhara to Bharat Varsha

Bharat, the nineteenth Karkarta (elected supreme Chief of the Sanatan Dharma clan) had retired as a hermit on reaching sixty years of age. Dhrupatta was elected as the twentieth Karkarta.

Shortly after Dhrupatta’s election as Karkarta, a long-lost sadhu arrived. He was Dhrupatta’s father, Gandhara, who had left his home at the age of thirty-four, to become a wandering sadhu. Now at last he had returned, with a young lad, twelve years old, who could not speak their language but had a captivating smile.

From all over, people cam to listen to Sadhu Gandhara’s tales of the faraway land of Avagana (Afghanistan).

Actually, Gandhara was not a sadhu in the traditional mould. His ambition was to travel to the end of the earth. Somehow, he wanted to reach the earth’s edge, if there was one, and discover what else lay beyond. He wondered: does one fall off the edge of the earth into an unending abyss? Or does one jump over or walk straight from there to the other side? If there is the other side, is it visible, or are we all covered within a huge dome, in which the earth, sky and heavenly bodies are enclosed, with no possibility of reaching out? Or is it an open dome, where we simply move in circles, with no beginning and no end? Many such questions haunted his mind. But his years of traveling had shown him that the earth was unending, in so far as his feeble body could carry him, and if the edge of the earth existed, it was beyond his reach.

Later, the sadhu gave up his wanderings to settle in Avagana (Afghanistan). He spoke of its cool climate, luscious fruits and friendly people. They loved him there and called him a teacher. But it was not of the gods of the Hindus that he taught. Basically, he trained them to domesticate animals, instead of merely hunting them. From him, many learnt that wild cows produce milk only for their own offspring, undomesticated hens cannot produce surplus eggs and that it was better to have wool from domestic sheep than kill animals for their skin. Patiently, he showed them how to obtain milk, eggs and wool by the domestic breeding of animals. He taught them how to build huts with wood, stone and clay, instead of having to live in caves or tents propped up with animal skin. He also taught them how to make sauces and wines from fruit.

Sadhu Gandhara described plains and meadows in that land, fertile with fruit trees. He felt that the land was ideal for farming of grain too. But he did not know how to go about producing wheat or rice. Nor did he know how to grow cotton, make textiles or weave baskets.

Now the ‘teacher’ returned to his land, bringing a boy who would learn these arts and take back his knowledge, seeds and implements.

For himself, the Sadhu had no real wish to return. His wanderlust was exhausted. No one was surprised; surely, a father would retrace his steps to be with his own son, at the last moment.

Karkarta Dhrupatta was lost in the wonder of having his father back. He had questions only about his father’s well-being and asked little about Avagana. It was Nandan (a Council member and a prominent, respected citizen) who had questions about metals, marble and precious stones in that distant land. With enthusiasm, the sadhu described the terrain, rock formations, and its ups and downs.

But as Nandan’s probing questions continued, the sadhu became evasive. He saw the hunger in Nandan’s eyes. Was it the expression of a well-fed predator stalking a site for a future kill?

Later, Nandan visited the sadhu often, with many friends. But the sadhu exercised the privilege of his old age by promptly going to sleep. Their questions, he feared, arose from greed.

The sadhu’s wish that the land of Avagana and the land of his birth should come closer together, evaporated.

Sadhu Gandhara was dying. He sought a promise from Dhrupatta about the boy, Kush, who had come with him. ‘Send Kush back when I am gone. He will know how to return.’

Dhrupatta objected. ‘But Father, did you not say earlier that he must learn the arts here? He can be with us. I shall look after him personally, I promise you.’

‘No. He will learn the arts here but he will learn the ways of your people too. Your people are sometimes greedy. There, we have no slaves.’

‘Greedy! No slaves!’ Dhrupatta repeated, surprised.

The sadhu’s words were now proud, triumphant. ‘There are no salves – not within forty yojnas (200 miles) of my home. I bought them all.’

‘You bought them!’ Dhrupatta was losing the drift of the conversation.

‘Yes, I bought slaves in exchange for the huts I built and animals I domesticated. I set slaves free and they worked with me to build more huts and domesticate more animals so as to gain freedom for more slaves. They built better huts than I could but they didn’t know that. Like a lord, I only supervised.’ There was a merry twinkle in the sadhu’s eyes, but now his tone was serious. ‘Let your brother go back. He knows the way. Your mother will be lonely without him.’

‘My mother! My brother!’

‘Kush is your brother, acknowledge him or not. He is born form my wife whom I married, a long time ago.’

Dhrupatta put his arm around the boy and took his father’s emaciated hand, ‘I acknowledge him as my brother and his mother as my own.’

‘Then I shall die happy, for I leave no one lonely,’ the sadhu said.

The boy bent his ear to the sadhu’s lips, who said much to him. When it was over, the boy tearfully addressed Dhruputta. The words were foreign but Dhrupatta understood. The boy was acknowledging him as his brother, but as the boy’s hand gestured to the door, he thought the boy wanted the family to be brought in to meet his father. Actually, Kush was simply acknowledging Dhrupatta’s family as his own.

Dhrupatta opened the door to let the family in. The sadhu smiled and said, ‘I thought I would leave you all today – but no, not today when you are all welcoming a new member of the family, Kush. God has agreed to give me till tomorrow to bid farewell to all of you.’

Sadhu Gandhara died the next day.

Dhrupatta was twelve years old when his father, Gandhara, became a wanderer. Gandhara was a builder of huts, houses, granaries and temples. His wife had gone to visit her father’s family. On her return, an accident in the river drowned her along with her brothers and sisters. Her parents, left childless, begged that their grandson Dhrupatta remain with them. Gandhara agreed. They adopted Dhrupatta.

Gandhara built a tree house for his son and left for regions unknown. There was no reason to call him a sadhu. But they did.

Now that he had returned to pass his last days in their midst, and died at a ripe old age, where was the need for sorrowing! The custom was that when a person died at an advanced age, food would be distributed, donations made to temples, and a dinner given on the third and twelfth day of death for family and friends; and speaking of the dead was not forbidden so long as there was something good to say or even to laugh at. It was not to be a festive occasion but tears did not flow and anguish remained unexpressed.

But they saw the grief of the twelve-year-old son who came with the sadhu. He did not know their customs and saw no need to suppress his tears.

Already, Kush felt that he did not belong there. When Gandhara’s body was cremated and his ashes sprinkled in the Sindhu, the boy jumped into the water and scooped up some ashes into his hands. The priest shouted to him to return the ashes to the river. The boy was about to strike the priest who made the mistake of reaching for his hand to recover the ashes. Further ill omen! – when the priest leaned back, away from the infuriated boy, the grain, flowers and fruits for prayers fell down. Dhrupatta intervened and allowed Kush to keep the ashes. The priest’s cry was silenced by the gift of a cow from Dhrupatta’s wife. In fact, from then on the priest ceased to regard the event as an ill omen. She was certain that with two cows, the priest would even have seen some real, spiritual merit in those events. But then, she was not feeling too generous.

Dhrupatta heard the complaint, with a ‘sympathetic’ remark from the pujari that none could blame Dhrupatta’s wife for her small gift, as she hardly knew here father-in-law. Dhrupatta was surprised, since his wife was normally generous. He however did not intervene, as such matters were entirely within his wife’s domain.

Dhrupatta remembered his promise that his twelve-year-old brother would go back. But how can I send him alone! Whom should I send with him? He recalled his father’s distrust – ‘Your people are greedy for land, for slaves.’ Dhrupatta regarded his father’s judgment as unduly harsh. Even so, he decided to go himself, with his brother. Surely his father trusted him, whatever his reservations about others!

Also, Dhrupatta decided to take a team of farmers, potters, weavers and artisans who would teach their crafts to those in Avagana.

Nandan favoured the expedition but insisted that Karkarta must not lead it. Nor should the expedition be privately funded. The clan should sponsor it. Besides, it must include fighting men who could lay claim to the land and anything valuable found around Avagana.

Dhrupatta shivered. His father’s warning of his people’s greed cam to him anew. Nandan accepted Dhrupatta’s rejection calmly, ‘Well, have it as you like. There will be opportunities in future.’

A chill wind blew through Dhrupatta. What future opportunities! To enslave Avagana? To take their land? Was that his father’s fear?

For days, Dhrupatta isolated himself in his house – natural for a son who had recently lost his father. But quietly, he saw many.

At the joint session of the Council and Assembly, Dhrupatta proposed a policy resolution. Those, not in the picture expected merely a simple announcement of his intention to lead an expedition to Avagana. Instead, came a long resolution, and its substance was :

‘From my late father, Sadhu Gandhara, I have learnt the route to Avagana and beyond. From him I have also learnt of routes available to other unknown lands and destinations in many directions. While I myself shall proceed to Avagana, I plan to send other expeditions along other routes. Exploration of one route might itself lead to the discovery of other regions and I thus foresee an era of exciting and fascinating exploration and discovery. Think of the secrets to be revealed! Think of the expansion to the frontiers of our knowledge!

‘True, new lands have, often, come under the sway of our clan, but this was sometimes achieved by aimless wanderings and also because of those who attacked us form their lands forcing us to march into their lands. Fortunately, the wise policies of Karkarta Bharatji brought us not only more land, prosperity and plenty, but also peace and harmony on our borders, with none to threaten us and none threatened by us.

‘In peace, therefore, we must begin this journey and in peace only, should such steps continue.

‘Let us now declare, for all time to come, that in all our explorations, we shall be guided strictly by the policy of peace and certain definite principles – and amongst them will be :

  • No land or goods or property belonging to another shall be taken over by us, by force, fraud, trickery or even purchase, if the price is not fair or the seller is unwilling to sell;
  • Except for the seven deadly crimes, no person shall be enslaved in these new lands; his custody too shall be with people of those lands and in no way shall we profit from his slavery;
  • No person form our clan shall buy or acquire a slave in discovered lands except for the purpose of setting him free, forthwith;
  • Violation of these conditions shall attract serious penalties; all land and gains obtained by such expedition, or its members, shall be regarded as illegal. Such lands and gains may thereupon be delivered to the local population or the charities of the clan and amongst them will be a new fund administered by Karkarta for purchase of slaves in order to set them free.’

Dhrupatta received a standing ovation from many. Some suspected that it was pre-planned and reluctantly rose to join the others.

Indeed, everyone’s heart was set on discovering new lands, but there were those like Nandan who did not appreciate the need for such conditions. What was the sense in the effort, expense and danger of an expedition, if you could take neither slaves nor their property!

But already, speaker after speaker was supporting Karkarta’s resolution. Even those who never usually spoke were now making long speeches of support. Nandan was fuming but did not wish to break with Dhrupatta. He realized that Dhrupatta would carry the day, unless he encouraged those who wished to oppose.

Nandan spoke. His manner was friendly, even silky. He complimented Dhrupatta on his forward-looking policies. He added that he would not object to the specific conditions proposed by Karkarta as he had not, within the time available, considered them fully, but his doubt was of a different kind. What he feared was that establishing conditions for future would limit Karkarta’s own freedom to deal with situations as they arose.

Nandan’s remarks inspired a few questions : ‘Is it not unwise, even illegal, to legislate for the unknown future?’

Dhrupatta’s retort was simple. He said, ‘Surely we legislate only for the future and not for the past.’

But some rose to denounce the measure which would tie the future into knots and thundered that a future Assembly would undoubtedly reverse the measure, which was thoughtless, hasty and ill-conceived.

There were some with no strong views. Still other who were upset that Dhrupatta had consulted some privately but ignored them. They seemed ready to abstain, while Nandan’s friends thundered out their objections.

To the surprise of many, a youth rose. It was not his turn to speak, for Dhrupatta had an order of speakers in mind. But there was applause from the spectator’s gallery when the youngster rose. He was the son of a head of the Council who had recently died. In his place, Dhrupatta had appointed Nandan as Council head. The Assembly seat vacated by him went to the son who was elected unopposed, which was, in a way, ironic because his own father had once proposed that the rule that prevents Karkarta’s family members from succeeding as Karkarta, should be equally applied to all Assembly elections as well. He did not want public offices to be degraded to a father-to-son succession. His proposal was defeated and his own son eventually profited from its defeat. The other amusing aspect was that the youngster looked so boyish that some wondered if he had reached the legal age for standing for elections, although he was actually older.

Now as the youngster rose, everyone applauded in memory of his father and also as this would be his maiden speech. They just wanted to encourage him, knowing that speakers often suffered form nervousness when making their first speech.

Dhrupatta had not waved him to speak. The youth simply rose. Dhrupatta who heard the applause and remembered that the youth had just lost his father, did not have the heart to lecture him on the procedure followed when intervening in debates. He simply allowed him to speak. In his heart though Dhrupatta wondered where this loose, unguided arrow would go.
Link to Chapter 10 – Part 2 of 4