Wendell and Arjun
I met a woman on the street,
And slyly asked her, being discreet,
Whether she would like some verse,
While promising it would be terse.
But woe! She screamed and called a cop,
Who beat me on my head – bop, bop!
And ever since, my head's been saddled
With verses weird and gravely addled.
But Wendell, Arjun now agree
That verse, like air we breathe, is free.
At vapid verses, you can curse,
But we've a right to make them worse.
For laughter well and truly conquers,
When finally we see we're bonkers.
So come, let's ply the dames with verses,
And while they're yelling, pinch their purses.
And if the cops arrive in time,
Let's slip them up with metered rhyme.
Because it's so – well, out of style –
It might confound them for a while.
And while they're scratching heads and thinking,
We'll leave our heroes, dazed and blinking,
And run, with our stolen loot, to the Indus.
Canucks and Yanks may never find us!
But if they do, we'll bravely say.
"Oh gentlemen, you've made our day!
You've traveled far, from northern homes,
To be an audience for our pomes!"
And so, with Sindhi maidens comely
And others, who are somewhat homely,
We'll rise to dance and sing for cops
Who then might say, "You guys are tops!"
And if they don't, which might be likely,
We'll shrug and take their postures lightly.
For poets, who have turned to robbers,
Are not regarded well by coppers.
2015 April 24th Fri night
(four stanzas added 25th Sat. morning)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
Note on Sindh and more:
(THE VERY BRIEF NOTE BELOW IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION.)
The author wants to express his gratitude to the creators and enablers of content on the Internet, particularly to those who have contributed to Wikipedia articles, but to others as well. Without their help, this note would not have been possible. In that case, his readers might have been spared this infliction.
He promises to contribute to Wikipedia and/or other such resources once a year, until age, infirmity or death prevents him from doing that.
During the partition of the subcontinent along religious lines in 1947, the territory known as the Punjab was divided between two political entities that later became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of India. This resulted in an exchange of populations between the eastern and western halves of the Punjab (as well as other parts of the subcontinent) that was carried out amidst extreme violence.
After I had posted this, my friend Vivek Khadpekar drew my attention to a talk given by Rita Kothari, a daughter of Sindhi Hindus who had left Sindh to settle in Gujarat at the time of the Partition. Sindh, which went to Pakistan, remained undivided and did not then experience the sort of violence that occurred in Punjab and Bengal. Nor was Gujarat, which went to India, directly affected, at least at that time, by a high level of inter-ethnic violence.
Rita Kothari later married into a Hindu Gujarati family.
She describes, however, the great difficulties and the lasting prejudice faced by the immigrants in their new places of residence, their own reactions to these things, and the violence that later arose in part out of this.
She also touches on the economic pressures driving ethnic cleansing, as those departing leave behind farms, homes and other possessions in areas where these are scarce and so sought after, even as new arrivals come in, who are often destitute, homeless and of course landless.
This is the link to Rita Kothari's talk, given in 2006, at Southern Illinois Universtity, Carbondale:
The talk also mentions some of the differences in lifestyle and attitude between mainstream Sindhi and Gujarati Hindus. Sindh was the only part of the subcontinent to have been conquered by Arabs, in the early eighth century (at which time Buddhists were in the majority, in a region ruled by a Hindu rajah). From then on, many of the Hindus had lived in close contact with Muslims and so were on easy terms with them. There had been, to a degree, that natural fusion of cultures that prolonged contact tends to bring about. The Hindus in Gujarat, on the other hand, tended to be more wary of Muslims and were usually far more conservative in their traditions. Perhaps from the influence of Jainism, most Gujarati Hindus did not eat meat.
Some of the same differences may be found between Hindus from Kashmir and Bengal, both of which had long been Muslim-majority areas, and those from the interior parts of the subcontinent. As regards meat-eating, however, one should note that the different strains of Hinduism prevailing in each region also plays a large part.
The western half of the Punjab is now a province of Pakistan. The eastern half of the Punjab is in India and is currently divided between the Indian provincial states of Punjab and Haryana.
The river Sindhu --> Hindu --> Indus descends from the high Himalaya--the abode (aalaya) of snow (hima) and courses through the foothills and plains of the Punjab as one of its five (panj) rivers (aab). The root words for the name of the mountains derive from Sanskrit, while those for the name of the plains are from Farsi (Persian), a language descended from Old Persian, which is related to the Avestan of the Zoroastrians.
|the five rivers of the Punjab|
Both of these ancient languages, along with modern Farsi and its many siblings, which include Kurdish, Baloch and Pashto, are members of the Iranian group of languages. These are relatives of the ancient Vedic Sanskrit of the Indians and so also of the Indo-Aryan (or Indic) languages presently spoken in large areas of the Indian subcontinent. The Iranian languages are currently spoken in a region extending from the Persian Gulf in the south to the Caucasus, Caspian Sea and Central Asia in the north, and from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the east to the borders of Iraq, Turkey and Armenia in the west,
|a map of the subcontinent and some of its neighboring regions|
Click on the map for a larger view.
the current geographical distribution of the Iranian languages
Click on the image or on the link below for a larger view.
The root word in Iran is a cognate of the Sanskrit word Arya (a term which came to mean "noble", setting the Arya apart from those they had conquered and/or deemed inferior, however biased that view might have been). The Iranian and Indo-Aryan languages taken together constitute the south-eastern, Indo-Iranian subgroup of the Indo-European language family. This subgroup may be the largest one, both in the number of distinct, literary languages and in the number of native speakers.
|the present distribution of the branches of the Indo-Euroeam languages in Eurasia|
Click on the link below for the color coding
Some linguists consider Indo-Iranian to have at least two more branches. One of these is made up of the Nuristani languages, spoken in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. The Dardic languages would, for these linguists, be the fourth branch. These are spoken in Kashmir and adjacent mountainous regions of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In their northwestern ranges, they overlap with the Nuristani tongues. Most linguists, however, while conceding that the Nuristani tongues could be acknowledged as a third branch of Indo-Iranian, include the Dardic languages within the Indo-Aryan branch.
The Indo-Aryan languages of the subcontinent extend from the Karakorammountains in the north to Sri Lanka and the Maldive Islands in the south,
and from Sindh in the west to the Assam valley and the Arakan coast in the
east. The colors indicate the zones into which these languages have usually
been divided. Lahnda is a controversial term, as its zone is now considered
to be fragmented into Saraiki in the south and dialects of Punjabi in the
The Rohingya language of the Arakan coastal region of Myanmar is related
to the neighboring Chittagong dialect of Bengali.
of West Asia, North Africa and Europe are also Indo-Aryan languages,
but have picked up vocabulary and more along the migration routes that
led the ancestors of the speakers of these languages out of the subcontinent.
From the existence of archaisms and neologisms in their words, the amcestral
migrations out of the subcontinent appear to have occurred in large scale
over a thousand years ago. The distributions of these languages are of course
not shown on this map.
My neighborhood in Brooklyn includes some recent arrivals from the
subcontinent, such as myself, who have been here only for some decades or
less. But it also has the Roma, who have been making their way, for probably
quite some time, from Europe and beyond to the Americas.
The subcontinent is also home to many other languages and language groups. Among these, the Dravidian family, extending from Sri Lanka in the south to central India and beyond, is of particular importance, with hundreds of millions of speakers and a wide geographical range that may once have been even greater. It even has an outlier (Brahui), spoken in western Pakistan, southern Afghanistan, and southern Iran. It is unclear as to whether the Brahui or Brahvi people are a remnant population on the path of an ancient migration of Dravidian people into the subcontinent, or whether they were later migrants from the subcontinent to their present location.
|some of the Dravidian languages of the subcontinent|
Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages have the largest number of speakers in the subcontinent, but there are other several other language families that have a significant presence there, as shown in the map below.
|language groups of the Indian subcontinent|
Click on the image for a better view.
The Iranian family has already been discussed, whose speakers, in the subcontinent are concentrated on its mountainous western fringes. Along the northern, Himalayan fringe, and in the northeast, we have the Tibeto-Burman languages, the southern branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family.
|the Tibeto-Burman languages |
Click on the link below for the color codes
And then there are the Austro-Asiatic (South Asian) languages, which, as the name suggests, might represent the oldest linguistic substratum in the subcontinent, and perhaps even all of south and southeast Asia. This language family links certain tribal languages of central and eastern India to others spoken in the remote Nicobar islands in the Indian Ocean, and many more spoken in Myanmar. southern China, Malaysia and the four countries of Indochina.
|the Austro-asiatic languages |
Click on the image for a better view.
Finally, there are the language isolates, with no known relatives. These include Burushaski, spoken in the Karakoram area in Pakistan, Nihali (not to be confused with Nahali/Kalto, a nearby Indo_Aryan tongue), spoken by just about two thousand people in a hilly region at the border between the Indian states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. There may be many others, especially in the northeast, that have not been documented or only poorly documented. Many of these are endangered languages and may vanish, like others before them, in our lifetimes.
A language lies at the heart of a culture, carrying the repository of knowledge, custom and wisdom accumulated over the ages. much as the DNA carries the genetic information that creates an organism. Without that DNA, a biological species is no more. So also, when the language disappears, most or all of the culture usually follows and is lost forever. For species such as ours, the transmission of culture to the offspring, much of it as or via language, is just as essential as the transmission of the genetic information that occurs at conception.
In our case, the evolution of culture occurs at a much faster rate than genetic evolution. But there is still a continuity without which our children start from scratch or are subject to the culture superimposed on them by the society they find themselves in. Too often, it is a dysfunctional, degraded or depraved culture that is acquired in this way.
Gathering up the other four rivers of the Punjab as its tributaries, the Sindhu flows through its namesake region of Sindh, now also a province of Pakistan, to meet the Arabian Sea, southeast of the great port city of Karachi.
It was mainly in Sindh and the Punjab, along the courses of the Indus, that sites had been found, beginning in the 1920's, of an ancient, pre-Aryan civilization that was, in many ways, highly advanced. This has come to be known as the Indus Valley civilization or Harrapan civilization. The remnants of its major cities, as found at Harappa in the Punjab and Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh, seemed to point to a relatively non-hierarchical society, unusual among agricultural civilizations.
|Ceremonial Vessel, Harappa, Punjab, 2600-2450 BC|
Los Angeles Country Museum of Art
|"Priest-King" statue, Mohenjo-Daro, Sindh|
National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi
The beautiful seals on clay tablets and the script have still not been satisfactorily deciphered.
|Elephant Seal of Indus Valley|
Indian Museum, Kolkata
Subsequently, as of the 1990's. over a thousand sites had been found, with close to a hundred excavated. The civilization's remnants range in dates from around 3300 BC to 1300 BC, a span of two thousand years, with a "mature period" of well over a thousand, lasting from about 2900 to 1600 BC. In the same geographical area, evidence has been found of prior cultures that date back to around 7500 BC.
The sites of the Harappan civilization itself are now seen to have been located not only along the Indus, but also along the course of an ancient waterway, that might have been the Saraswati river referred to in the Vedas of the Arya, whose Vedic Period (ca. 1750-500 BC) followed the demise of the Harrapans. A variety of evidence led to the hypothesis that this waterway (whose course is partly paralleled, by the Ghaggar-Hakra, an intermittent, rain-fed river that flows during the Indian monsoon), once ran from the Himalaya through what is now an arid area to meet the Arabian Sea at what is presently the swampy, brackish Rann of Kutch in the Indian state of Gujarat.
map of sites related to the Indus Valley or Harappan civilization
Click on the image for a better view.
The Harrapan civilization was engaged in trade with other regions, including via sea-routes, as far away as Mesopotamia. This has led to a search, on sites along the trade route such as Bahrain island, for parallel inscriptions in Mespotamian and Harappan scripts, allowing scholars to finally decipher the latter.
The demise of the Indus Valley or Harrapan civilization was followed by the early Vedic period, during which sites linked with the Arya were established in northwest India, and during which time the great collection of hymns and more, called the Rig Veda, is estimated to have been created. Some have conjectured that the invasions of the Arya, who were then a largely pastoral people, but in possession of horses (unknown to the Harappans) and horse-drawn chariots and with a penchant for and an expertise in warfare, dating from their trek through Central Asia and the mountainous barrier, led to the destruction of the advanced Harrappan civilization. But this is hotly contested by others.
conjectured migrations of speakers of Indo-European languages
Click on the image for a better view.
|Arya settlements during the early Vedic period, and their conjectured entry into the subcontinent|
Click on the image for a better view.
The native inhabitants of Sindh speak a number of first languages, but Sindhi, with its dialects, is the main one. Many also speak Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. Karachi is a polyglot and multi-ethnic metropolis. Its population has seen a huge increase since the partition of 1947, growing from less than half a million at that time to close to 24 million as of 2013, making it, by most definitions, the world's third-largest city. It was once populated mainly by Sindhi speakers, and Hindus had a large presence in the city. But Urdu is now the main language, with many of the residents being originally from India, and the city is now predominantly Muslim. Although Sindh did not suffer the extreme degree of ethnic cleansing that occurred on both sides of the Punjab, the remnant Hindus are now mostly found in rural areas of Sindh and have been reduced to a tiny minority in Karachi itself. Karachi has a large Pashtun (Pashto speaking) population, which includes many refugees from Afghanistan.
Rita Kothari, in her talk (see above) on the experiences of Sindhi immigrants who left Sindh for Gujarat at the time of the Partition, mentions a Punjabi song that should have great significance for Sindhis, as it was written, several centuries back, in honor of the Sufi scholar, philosopher and poet, Sayed Muhammad Usman Marwandi, who was born in Marwand, Afghanistan, but had settled in Sehwan Sharif, Sindh. This remarkable person was a source of inspiration to those around him and had worked for unity among Hindus and Muslims in Sindh. He was known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, and is still revered as a saint.
As part of her account of the loss of Sindhi identity and cultural memory among immigrants, Rita Kothari notes that the song has since come to be regarded by many young people of Sindhi ancestry in India as simply a popular song, especially after its adaptation for film.
Here is a link to what appears to be an early performance of the song by the beloved Pakistani singer Abida Parveen, who was born in Larkana, Sindh, near to Shehwan Sharif. The lyrics, in Roman script, can also be read at the site.
|Languages of Pakistan|
Brahui /Barahui is related to the Dravidian languages, now mostly confined to
South India. This may be indicative of a very ancient entry route for these
languages into the subcontinent, and/or of a time before the subsequent Aryan
incursions, when the Dravidian and other languages were more widespread across
the subcontinent. However, there is also a possibility that the Brahui people
immigrated to their present base from Central India only about a thousand years
ago. Baluch and Brahui are also spoken in southeastern Iran. Pashtu/Pushtu is
the dominant language in southern Afghanistan. Click on the image for a larger,
A notable Sindhi political family is the Bhutto clan. This family has been involved in Pakistani politics for decades, with both Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1928-79) and his daughter, Benazir, having served as heads of state before being executed and assassinated, respectively.
|Nusrat Bhutto (left) with her family: her son Shahnawaz; husband, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; |
daughter Benazir; son Murtaza (bottom left); and daughter Sanam (bottom right).
Benazir, 1953-2007, was the eldest of four children fathered by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his second wife, Nusrat Ispahani (1929-2011), a woman of Kurdish Iranian ancestry. A son, Murtaza, 1954-1996, was born a year after Benazir. He became active in politics, but had a public falling out with Benazir and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari. Murtaza was murdered while his sister was in office. The next child, a daughter, Sanam, born in 1957, is the only surviving child. Her younger brother, Shahnawaz, 1958-1985, had died at an early age under mysterious circumstances in Nice, France, with his death being attributed to poisoning. Nusrat herself, sorely affected by the violent deaths of her husband and three of her four children, died in Dubai in 2011, after a long illness.
A picture of the Bhuttos taken during a family excursion shows (from right
to left) former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, his wife Nusrat, daughter
Sanam, son Mir Murtaza, daughter Benazir and son Shahnawaz.
Here is a link to a video in which Murtaza, appealing to socialist ideals, denounces what he alleges is the corrupt and murderous leadership of the Pakistan People's Party:
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had studied law in the United Kingdom and the U.S. and had established a law practice before entering more fully into politics. A highly ambitious man, he embraced a blend of nationalism and socialism, and was a fiery orator.
In 1970, an election was held in Pakistan by the army generals who had long been in power in that country, which was then still comprised of two widely separated wings, East and West Pakistan. The population of the East was predominantly Bengali-speaking. That of the West, in which Urdu was the lingua franca, had Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Baluchis and others, including the millions who had fled from East Punjab and other regions that had remained in India. This had occurred, as mentioned earlier, during the violent exchange of populations that accompanied and followed the political partition of the subcontinent along religious lines in 1947.
After seeing his own Pakistan People's Party, based in West Pakistan, lose that election of 1970 to the Awami League, based in East Pakistan, Bhutto helped instigate the subsequent violent repression imposed in that region by the army generals, led by Yahya Khan. The military rulers, dominated by Pashtuns and Punjabis, had also been dissatisfied at the electoral outcome.
Tikka Khan, the army general who was in charge of this well-documented genocidal violence, came to be known as "the Butcher of Bengal". Neither he nor his superiors have ever been prosecuted for these crimes. Tikka Khan went on to become active in Pakistani politics, serving as Defence Minister under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and playing a prominent role in the Pakistan People's Party founded by Bhutto.
|General Tikka Khan, the "Butcher of Bangladesh"|
An intelligence time-line account of the events leading to the creation of Bangladesh and its aftermath can be found at this source.
I was then a beginning college student in Delhi and was a witness to the influx of refugees fleeing across the border into India. At the start of the summer vacation, I had joined a group of Gandhian social workers and had traveled a thousand miles southeast with them by train, in order to help in the relief effort. Our base was at a small Gandhian ashram (a place for spiritual refuge and social work) in the small town of Bongaon ("forest village"). This town is on the Indian, west-bank side of the Ichamati river, which serves as the local border between the Indian state of West Bengal and what was then still East Pakistan.
I spent over a month digging ditches through mud to drain urinals, dispensing medicines, attempting to salve pus-infected feet that had split open from walking miles to cross the border, and trying in some other rather futile ways to be of help to the the dazed refugees in the miserable situations that they found themselves in.
In the course of that month, I served as an interpreter and talked to many refugees--Hindu and Muslim, men, women and children, peasants, students and others. With others in my group, I crossed over the Ichamati river in a small country boat rowed by locals to meet, across the border, with a sullen, wary group of young Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army ) irregulars. We waited for them in a small village with shell-shattered huts, in which only some old men seemed to be still remaining. The guerrillas had sent scouts to size us up and then came to meet us, We talked briefly with their leader and then had to cross back, earlier than we had planned. This was because of shelling that had gotten nearer and that continued loudly as we hastened back across the river.
In particular, I began to understand the role played in these conflicts, in densely populated regions with limited resources, by basic feudal and survival economics. I learned this from my conversations with the refugee villagers.
I had sadly gathered these things in my brief sojourn among these wretched folk, who had suddenly been cast down from what had been "normal lives", not that different, at base, from those of most readers of this passage. These understandings have remained with me through the past forty-five years, being both strengthened and modified by other experiences and reflections.
Soon after, in 1971, with the Indian army acting as midwife, the country of Bangladesh was born. East Pakistan perished on the delivery bed, at 24 years of age.
|Zulfikar Ali Bhutto 1971, author unknown|
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was president of (remnant) Pakistan from 1971-73 and prime minister from 1973-77. During his terms, he dissolved the Baluchistan assembly and violently quelled uprisings there and in other provinces.
|Nixon with Bhutto, 1973, by Robert LeRoy|
White House Photo Office
Yet another general, Zia-ul-Haq, deposed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a bloodless coup in 1977. He later had Bhutto tried and hanged, in 1979, on murder charges. As President of Pakistan, Zia-ul-Haq helped align Pakistan more closely with Saudi Arabia and the U.S.A. Reagan had begun to exhort Muslims to "rise up against the atheists", meaning, of course, the Soviets and other secular, socialist forces. Pakistan began to remodel its laws, education and more on the Saudi model, and became the launching pad for extremely violent jihadi attacks carried out in Afghanistan.
|U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Bill Clark, meeting with |
President Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, 1982
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had left his first wife and had married an Kurdish-Iranian woman, Nusrat Ispehani. Benazir was the first of four children from that marriage. After her father's death, she became involved in politics and came to head the Pakistan People's Party. Subsequently, Benazir had two short stints in power, during which she earned the term "iron lady" for her crackdown on unions and other dissenters.
Along with other leaders of Pakistan and with the U.S., the Saudis and others as backers and suppliers, Benazir was active in her support for extremist Islamists and others who wreaked havoc in neighboring Afghanistan.
In the 1990's, she had a public falling out with her brother, Murtaza, who was also active in politics. Soon after, he was murdered. Their mother, Nusrat, accused Benazir and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, of being complicit in Murtaza's killing.
|Benazir Bhutto, date & photographer unknown|
After a long exile, Benazir returned to Pakistan in 2007, with backing from the U.S. (with corruption charges against her having been suspended by the military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf) only to get killed soon after. She had stood up out of the roof of her bulletproof vehicle to wave at the crowds when leaving a campaign rally. A branch of Al Qaeda claimed responsibility, and Musharraf's government indicted the leader of a terrorist group. But this is contested by the People's Party.
Soon after her death, her People's Party came to power in elections. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, also a Sindhi, was president of Pakistan until recently. There have been many allegations of massive corruption about him and his associates, and suits have been filed against them. But he has remained relatively untouched by these things, in spite of rulings by Pakistan's Supreme Court that went against him.
|Asif Ali Zardari, "Mr. 10-Percent",|
President of Pakistan, 2008-2013,
is a Sindhi of Baluch ancestry.
This is the source for the image. It is a gossipy site.
|Asif Ali Zardari and Benazir Bhutto at their wedding, 1987|
The source for this image--a gossipy site.
Belawal Bhutto, the son of Benazir and Asif Ali, educated in England, was given a leading position in the People's Party, and is a heir-apparent. He has now become fluent enough in Urdu to give rabble-rousing speeches,
|Bilawal ("without equal") Bhutto Zardari, with his sisters, Asifa and Bakhtawar |
The history of the Bhutto dynasty in Pakistan parallels, in some ways, that of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in India. However, some might say that the former is, in many ways, a much darker reflection of the latter.
Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, had a long and (personally) relatively peaceful tenure. But his daughter, Indira Gandhi, and her son, Rajiv Gandhi, both prime ministers in their turn, suffered violent deaths that ended their terms in office.
Rajiv's older brother, Sanjay, who was active in Congress Party politics, was much disliked for his aggressive actions, especially during the Emergency declared by his mother in her first term. His end was also violent. He died in a suspicious plane accident, while Indira and Rajiv were still alive.
Sanjay's widow, Sonia Gandhi (born Edvige Antonia Albina Màino), who is of of Italian birth, later headed Indira's wing of the Congress Party and still remains active in politics. Their children, Rahul Gandhi (especially) and Priyanka Vadra, have also been politically active.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah (born Mohamedali Jinnahbhai) was born and raised in Karachi. However, like his contemporary, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he was of Gujarati ancestry. Gujarat borders Sindh's southeast. Because of its Hindu majority, it remained in India after the partition of the subcontinent in the 1940's.
Jinnah and Gandhi are regarded as the founding fathers of Pakistan and India, respectively. For India, yet another Gujarati, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, has now also been raised to this status by the recently elected Indian government. (That government, incidentally, is headed by Narendra Modi, also a Gujarati.)
M.A. Jinnah, M.K. Gandhi and V.B. Patel were all skilled lawyers. They had earned their law degrees in London and had established successful law practices before they entered into politics.
But let us return from Gujarat to Sindh, crossing back across what is now the border between India and Pakistan, and take up again the Persian connection.
|a map showing the interface between Iranian |
and Indo-Aryan languages in Pakistan
The author of the blog notes that, except for some intrusions of Indo-Aryan
speakers into Baluchistan, particularly into the north-south corridor
connecting Sindh to the city of Quetta in Baluchistan (and so also, in part,
to Kandahar in Afghanistan) the division between the two language groups
is surprisingly sharp. Iranian and Indo-Aryan split about 4000 years ago,
and one may therefore speak of two rather distinct traditions. The section
of Jammu and Kashmir claimed by Pakistan, known there as Azad (Free)
Kashmir and in India as Pakistani Occupied Kashmir are not color-coded
on this map.
Sanskrit Farsi Latin Greek English
surya hvar* sol helios sun
shasht- shish sex- hex- six
sapt- haft sept- hept- seven
* The usual word for "sun" in present-day Farsi is aftab. Thanks to Ramin Dilfanian for pointing this out to me. The form hvar is from Avestan, an old form of Eastern Persian that is preserved in the scriptures of the Zoroastrians. From the ancient hvare-kshaeta, "radiant sun" we have the present-day Farsi name Khurshid/KhurshedKhorshid/Khorshed. Thanks again to Ramin, I have corrected the Farsi word for "six". It is shish. The word I had written earlier, hasht, means "eight" in Farsi, corresponding to Sanskrit asht- and Latin and Greek octo-/okto-. It seems that those words in which initial "s" in Latin corresponded to initial "sh" in Sanskrit kept the "sh" in Farsi, while being replaced by "h" in Greek. Or this is what we somewhat bravely might divine from that one example -- the cognate words for English "six" in the four languages.
The religion of the Zoroastrians strongly influenced the three main Abrahamic faiths--Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The Zoroastrians who did not convert to Islam in the centuries immediately following the Muslim Arab conquest of Persia/Iran in 651 eventually faced persecution. Many had to leave their country. They found refuge in India, where they are known as Parsis. Many settled in Gujarat, Sindh and adjoining regions, including what is now Maharashtra, and became speakers of Gujarati and other Indian languages. They were followed, in much more recent times, by another group of Zoroastrians from Iran, called Iranis.
Jawaharlal Nehru's daughter, Indira, was descended, on her father's side, from Kashmiri Brahmins settled in Allahabad, a North Indian city at the confluence of the Ganga (Ganges) and Jamna (Yamuna) rivers, in what is now the state of Uttar Pradesh ("Northern Province").
Indira had married, allegedly against her father's wishes, a fiery Parsi parliamentarian, Feroze, bearing the Gujarati surname Gandhi. Although Feroze Gandhi was in no way related to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the reverence that many Indians felt for the latter might have helped Indira in her early electoral campaigns. Pivotal in her early victories were, of course, her links to her father and to the (Indian National) Congress Party establishment, with parts of which she later had a falling out.
It is thought that the initial "h" (or rough breathing) for the Farsi word Hindu, as pronounced in Greek, was dropped in Latin, and the names of the river and the subcontinent were Latinized to Indus and India, respectively.
The Persians referred to the (northern parts of the) subcontinent as Hindustan (with Farsi staan, cognate to Sanskrit sthaan, being a word denoting site/place/land/country). From the root Hind, we also have the word Hindu, used in English for an adherent to the broad religious assemblage or tradition known as Hinduism, and also the word Hindi, a national language of India.
The word Hindu probably referred, originally, in Farsi, both to the river and to the inhabitants of the northern parts of the subcontinent. So arose the term Hindustan (or Hindostan) for that region.
In grammar and in much of its base vocabulary, Hindi is identical to Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. However, formal Hindi has a Sanskrit overlay and is usually written in Devnagari, an Indic script, Urdu has many Arabic and Farsi loan words, which are especially frequent in the formal speech and writing of educated folk. It is usually written in a modified form of the Farsi script. That Farsi script was itself modified from the standard Arabic script, following the conquest, by the Arabs, of what is now Iran. At the time of that conquest, it was the heart of the Persian Empire, previously Hellenized to a degree by Alexander's conquest almost a thousand years earlier.
The common, spoken form of the two languages, Hindi and Urdu, was once also referred to as Hindustani. The origins of Urdu/Hindustani/Hindi, as a lingua franca spreading out from the cities of the northern subcontinent, might lie in the simplification to the local languages that occurred when Afghan and Central Asian invaders settled in army camps that became parts of these cities. These invaders spoke Pashto, Farsi, Mongol dialects, Turkic tongues such as Uzbek and yet more languages. They had to communicate with one another and with the natives speaking the local Indic tongues. This is what may have given birth to the base structure of Urdu/Hindustani/Hindi as we know it.
Indeed, the word Urdu derives from the Turkic ord, meaning "army". So Urdu/Ordu probably began as the army or camp language, drawing largely from the local Indic tongues but simplifying and modifying their syntax and adding many foreign words.
A related English word is horde, whose origin can be seen in the phrase "the golden horde of Genghis Khan". The Mongol languages are not Turkic. But they share, with the Turkic tongues, a pan-Asian system of syntax and, to a lesser extent, of borrowings. This linguistic system or framework extends from the eastern Mediterranean to the Pacific, stretching from the Balkans and Anatolia (present day Turkey) in the west through Central Asia to Mongolia and further east to Korea and Japan. It even extends southwards, deep into the Indian subcontinent. This southern reach predates the Indic Indo-European overlay in the northern parts of the subcontinent.
Click on the image above or the one at the
link to get an enlarged and clearer view.
The Altaic and Uralic language families (with Uralic also including some languages
of Europe, such as Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian and Sami, the languages of the
Lapps) share many syntactical and other features with the Indic and Dravidian
languages of the subcontinent, as well as with Farsi and other Iranian languages.
Yet by vocabulary and more, the Indic and Iranian languages belong also to the
Whereas languages have been traditionally grouped by vocabulary roots, the broad grouping whose geographical range I have just outlined is a different assemblage, being one that is based primarily on word order and other syntactical features. It cuts across many of the traditionally accepted language families.
The Sinic, Semitic and Indo-European tongues (along with Khmer, Malay and others on the peripheries of Asia) do not conform to this pan-Asian syntax, which might be a remnant of a pastoral era in which herders moved great distances overland across Eurasia. The Indo-European tongues of the subcontinent, have, however, largely assimilated this syntax, aligning themselves in this with the Dravidian tongues that dominate the southern peninsula.
This pan-Asian syntax is marked, among with a number of other features, by the subject-object-verb word order and by the use of post-positions rather than prepositions. Grammatical gender is also absent, except where inherited from another language group and not yet lost, as it has been in Farsi and in the eastern branches of Indic – Oriya, Bangla (Bengali), Ahomiya (Assamese) and others.
With Bengali as my mother tongue and base language, I had tried to get a feeling for other languages that have these features. I had found it remarkable that one could translate, almost word for word, into my ancestral language from Turkish in the west to Korean in the east, bridging distances of many thousands of miles, with hardly any alterations needed in the placement of words. This is of course something one could do more locally, between Bengali and Hindi or even perhaps between Bengali and Tamil. But one cannot do this between Bengali and English, French, Arabic, Malay or Cantonese.
Many little, intimate habits of speech, too particular and too many to list here, link this vast assemblage of Asian languages.
Note that Bengali and Hindi are part of the large Indo-European family, along with Farsi, English and French. Even though Turkish, Mongolian, Korean and Tamil are not part of this family, it is much easier to translate into Bengali or Hindi from these languages, as far as syntax goes, than it is from English, French and most other European languages that are considered, based upon their root vocabularies, to be part of the Indo-European group of languages.
Not taking into account the relatively recent. explosive colonization of the globe by European settlers and their languages, the Indo-European family also had a wide dispersal, from Iceland, Ireland, Scotland and Norway in the northwest to Assam and Manipur in the southeast. There was (and is) an outlier, Sinhala, further south, in Sri Lanka, and another, Tokharian (now extinct), in what is now Sinkiang, a western province of China.
|the geography of the Indo-European languages, |
prior to the era of European colonial expansion
Click on the image or visit the site below for a larger view.
Because of the distortion caused by the Mercator projection of the curved surface of a sphere
onto a flat, rectangular grid, the regions closer to the pole, such as Scandinavia, are greatly
increased in area compared to the regions closer to the equator, such as the Indian subcontinent.
Greek, Armenian, Kurdish, Farsi and some of the languages of Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and Kashmir are links in the chain between the major languages of Europe and those of northern India, interrupted, in West and Central Asia, by overlays of Arabic and Turkic. However, like other such traditional linguistic groupings, the links between the furthest branches of this Indo-European family are in root vocabulary rather than in syntax.
English has also lost grammatical gender and undergone a number of other simplifications, through its own set of circumstances. In the case of gender categories, the loss was probably brought about by the confusion in these caused by the confluence of West Germanic (brought into England by the Angles and Saxons) and North Germanic (brought in later by Scandinavian invaders – including Vikings – from Denmark and Norway). This confusion might have been worsened by the subsequent Norman French overlay, inflicted by a conquering Latinized Germanic tribe – the Normans.
German still retains three gender categories, while the Scandinavian languages have only two, as do Latin languages such as French. The original Celtic tongues of the ancient Britons seem to have played little or no part in either this loss of gender categories or in most other features of English.
It had been mentioned earlier that the word Punjab also derives from Farsi, from the words for "five", panj, and "river", aab. That last word is cognate to Latin aqua. The more generic doab (do-aab, "two rivers") refers to a region through which two rivers flow, or, more specifically, to the tongue of land between those two rivers. So we have the doab of central north India that is traversed by or lies between the Ganga and the Jamna (Ganges and Yamuna).
|The five doabs of the Punjab and the doab of the United Provinces, 1947|
|The United Provinces of British India, which became, |
after Independence, the state of Uttar Pradesh
The city of Allahabad (ancient Prayag) lies at the
confluence of the Jumna (Yamuna) and Ganges
(Ganga) rivers, shown here in light and dark blue.
The region long known as "the Doab" is, properly,
the long tongue of land between these two rivers.
Returning finally to the lower reaches of the Indus and the province of Sindh, with which we started this discussion, one should note, for those interested in trans-lingual puns, a famous one, mistakenly attributed to the arrogant Major General of the British Indian Army, Charles James Napier, who conquered Sindh in the early 1840's. I quote below from the Wikipedia article about this typically ungentle "gentleman":
His orders had been only to put down the rebels, and by conquering the whole Sindh Province he greatly exceeded his mandate. Napier was supposed to have dispatched to his superiors the short, notable message, "Peccavi", the Latin for "I have sinned" (which was a pun on I have Sindh). This pun appeared in a cartoon in Punch magazine in 1844 beneath a caricature of Charles Napier. The true author of the pun was, however, Englishwoman Catherine Winkworth, who submitted it to Punch, which then printed it as a factual report. Later proponents of British rule over the East Indians justified the conquest thus: "If this was a piece of rascality, it was a noble piece of rascality!"