The origin of Shargas
By Dr. B.N. Sharga
My grandfather Rai Bahadur Pandit Shyam Manohar Nath Sharga,
who was a voracious reader and a scholarly person with great command over
Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Arabic and English language used to say quite
often during family discussions that his ancestors were from a warrior race who
were very good fighters, and had won many battle honours. His statement
developed a curiosity in me to trace the origin of this Sharga surname, which is
very typical and uncommon among the Kashmiri Pandits. There are very few
Kashmiri Pandit families in north India bearing this surname and practically all
of them are from the same stock and are the branches of the common ancestors.
So when I started my exhaustive research work in 1980 to
write the social history of the Kashmiri Pandits, I also tried in that
connection to study the pattern of their migration to different places under
different conditions in different periods to correlate the overall effect of
these migrations on their social structure as a community. Naturally for getting
all this information, I had to dwell deep not only into the history of Kashmir
but also into the history of the other neighbouring regions as well to find out
the origin of this Sharga surname. After reading various books on history and
scanning different old records in this connection, I found that the word sharg
is used in the Mangolian language to describe yellow colour and the term sharga
means yellowish. There is also an ethnic group in Mongolia which bears this
Here the learned readers should keep in mind that what is
known as the Mangolian plateau was in ancient times inhabited by various nomadic
tribes, who had great fighting skill and abilities. The term Mongol came into
existence much later and was evolved from the word mong which means brave
men. So Mongolia means the land of the brave men or the warriors.
The original homeland of the historic Mongols was the area
between the Onon and Karulen rivers south east of Lake Baikal. These ancient
Mongols were great warriors, adventurers and mercenaries. They had different
ethnic clans who used to worship their own deities. These Mongol warriors being
mercenaries used to travel very fast on their ponies all along the ancient Silk
Route from Mongolia to Rome to seek employment in the armies of different lands.
Their marital links with the European women had developed a new race of people
known as Eurasians. The Gorkhas of Nepal a martial race still get employment in
the British army.
Here we should also keep in mind that Alexander the Great,
who was born in 355 B.C. became an army commander at the age of 18 years in 337
B.C. and the king of Macedonia (Greece) at the age of 20 years in 335 B.C. He
then launched various military campaigns to conquer the then known world. He
invaded India between 327 – 326 B.C. India at that time was being ruled by the
Shishanga dynasty and Dhana Nanda was the king after which the Mauryan dynasty
was founded by Chandragupta Maurya (322-297B.C.) who was ably assisted in that
mission by the great strategist Chanakya. But in this invasion, Alexander could
not conquer India and died at the age of 32 years in 323 B.C. in a tent in
Babylonia on his return journey. This invasion of Alexander for the first time
opened the land route between India and Europe. Some Greek soldiers and
commanders of the army of Alexander did not return back to Macedonia and
permanently settled down in India. Their descendants are still living in certain
pockets of Madya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
Ashoka the Great then became the emperor of India in 269 B.C.
He was a great warrior and had commanders in his army of different martial races
of that period. His commander in chief Chakuna was a Chinese general. Some other
commanders were of Mongol descent. He founded the Srinagar city in the Kashmir
Valley. But after witnessing a lot of bloodshed and mayhem in the battle of
Kalinga in Orissa in 261 B.C. he embraced Buddhism and started preaching non
violence. During his reign Kashmir became an important centre of Buddhist
teachings and many Kashmiri Brahmins became renowned Buddhist scholars. These
Kashmiri Brahmin Buddhist scholars then undertook long journeys to different
lands to spread the message of Buddhism. Some of them went to Mongolia and
succeeded in converting certain ethnic martial groups there to Buddhism. Ashoka
died in 232 B.C. One of his sons Jaloka conqured the kingdoms of Kandahar in
Afghanistan and Kannauj in Central India.
It is very interesting to note here that after Ashoka the
Great the Greek military commanders of the Alexander’s army who stayed back in
India then became the rulers of India. The most famous Indo Greek ruler was
Manamader (165-145 B.C.) who was then converted to Buddhism by Nagarjuna. Greeks
were the first to introduce gold coins in India.
These people used to go to Kashmir on horse driven carts and
bullock carts from West Punjab via Gujrat and Bhimbhar after crossing the
Shopian mountain. This ancient route does not exist now.
After Indo-Greek (Eurasian) rulers the Shakas or Seyhtians
became the rulers. They controlled the larger parts of India than Indo-Greek
kings. They were followed by the Parthian kings (19 to 45 A.D.) Then Kushans
came from north Central Asia near China. They were basically the warriors of
Mongol descent. The most famous king of this dynasty was Kanishka. He started an
era in 78 A.D. which is now known as the Saka era and is used by the
government of India. Kanishka founded some cities in Kashmir. During this point
of time various ethnic groups of different martial races of Central Asia came to
Kashmir and settled down in different pockets of the valley. The ethnic group of
Shargas settled down in Rainawari locality of the Srinagar city. They were tall,
well built and fair complexioned people with sharp features like Romans and
Greeks. Later on they adopted the local customs and traditions to become one
with the people of their adopted land.
Due to these conquests of the foreign warriors there was
utter chaos and confusion throughout India in the matter of religion and
philosophy. Sect after sect such as Charvakas, Lokayatikas, Kapalikas, Saktas,
Sankhyas, Banddhas, Madhyamikas etc. sprang up in the country. The number of
these religions rose to as high as 72. There were frequent fights among them to
gain superiority over each other. It was during this period of turmoil and
turbulation that a great Indian philosopher, thinker and social reformer Adi
Shankaracharya appeared on the scene in the 8th century.
He was born circa 788 A.D. at a place known as Kuladi in the
present day state of Kerala. He deeply impressed his contemporaries, followers
and opponents by his wisdom and knowledge. He took up the task on himself to
restore Vedic religion to its prestine purity. He swept like a tornado through
the length and breadth of the country uprooting many myths and fallacies
regarding the religion. To propagate his philosophy, he founded four monasteries
or Peethas in the north, south, east and west of the country. He finally
settled down in Kanchipuram after travelling all over the country with his
dedicated followers on foot, where he founded the Kama Koti Peetha over
which he himself presided. He attained mukti in his thirty second year in
circa 820 A.D. by merging himself in the presence of Kamakshi, the Brahmavidya
Swaroopni of the Upanishads. During this period various sects and ethnic groups
in Kashmir adopted Brahminical order including Shargas, who then started writing
Kaul as their surname.
In Mongolia a tribal chief Temujin, who was born in 1162 A.D.
in plains of that country then reorganized and united the various martial ethnic
groups including shargas to form a formidable army and assumed the title
Genghis Khan meaning universal ruler in 1206 A.D. His conquests forged new links
between east and west. He and his successors like Halaku Khan and Kublai Khan
rebuilt the foundations of modern China, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey,
Syria, Tibet, New Countries of Central Asia, Ukrain, Hungary and Poland. These
conquests then realigned the world’s major religions, influenced art and
established new trade routes. The effects remain as key stone in Eurasian
Genghis Khan’s armies ravished northern China, Samarkand
and other fabled Central Asian cities on the famous Silk Route, which earned him
such sobriquets as the master of thrones and crowns and the perfect warrior. In
1258 the Mongols demolished the great city of Baghdad in Iraq. They then
devastated Poland and reached the outskirts of Vienna.
The battle tactics of Mongols were actually an outgrowth of
their natural life style. Between their nomadism and their traditional clan war
fare they used to receive constant practice in riding and archery. Unlike the
cumbersome European armies of that period, the Mongols used to travel very light
and always demonstrated extraordinary endurance living off their motherland and
often spending several days in the saddle of their ponies.
Once the Mongols launched their conquests, they demonstrated
remarkable ability to coordinate armies separated by great distances using
dispatch riders to communicate across hundred of miles of unfamiliar terrain.
Their mobility upto 100 miles a day was unheard of at that time. The Mongols’
combination of mobility and communication was probably unmatched untill World
Genghis Khan was a worshipper of Tengri the tribal god of
heaven. But his clan was heterogenous consisting of Buddhists, Christians,
Muslims and other worshippers of various tribal gods. He died in 1227 A.D. But
his place of death is still a big mystery. It is said that his treasure is
buried along side him in his tomb somewhere in inner Mongolia which if
discovered pale the treasure of legendary king Tuten Khamen.
During all these military campaigns of the Mongols their
commanders and soldiers got settled in different countries conquered by them.
That is why some of the countries of the Russian federation still have ethnic
groups carrying Sharga as their surname.
Now if we study the history of Kashmir in depth then we will
find that the decline of the Hindu rule in Kashmir started during the reign of
queen Didda and Harsa. The situation deteriorated further when Jay Simha of the
Loharra dynasty became the ruler of Kashmir in 1128 A.D. The subsequent Bopadeva
dynasty (1171-1286 A.D.) and Damara dynasty (1286-1320 AD) were even more
corrupt. The grinding mill of inefficient, impotent and incompetent government
machinery went on crushing their subjects to the hilt thus creating a large
scale resentment among the general masses. This mass unrest against the
government provided an ideal condition in 1320 A.D. for Rinchen a tribal chief
of Mongol descent to attack Kashmir from the north west from Tibet and Dulchu a
Mongol adventurer of Turkistan from the north east. Kashmir witnessed a lot of
blood shed and mayhem during this period. The king of Kashmir Suha Dev fled away
from the battle field and took refuge in the deep forests in Kishtwar. There was
death and destruction every where like the one we have witnessed recently after
the massive earth quake on 8th October, 2005. In this warfare practically all
the male population of the valley was wiped out. Rinchen then married the local
Kashmiri queen Kota Rani and settled down in Kashmir. His army commanders and
soldiers of Mongol descent belonging to different ethnic groups also settled
down in different pockets of Kashmir. They married local Kashmiri girls to raise
their families. The Sharga ethnic clan settled down in the Rainawari area of the
Srinagar city. This Sharga clan subsequently adopted Brahminical order and
started following local customs and traditions. They then started writing Kaul
as their surname and subsequently became very good Sanskrit and Persian
scholars. Narain Kaul (1640-1712) of this clan was a great historian of Kashmir.
This was actually a turning point in the long history of Kashmir.
Babar who was also of Mongol descent came to India in 1526
A.D. He defeated Ibrahim Lodhi in the First Battle of Panipat in 1526 A.D. and
introduced the gun powder in India. Babar subsequently defeated Rana Sanga of
Mewar in the battle of Khanna in 1527 A.D. and laid the solid foundation of the
Mughal empire in India.
So when Narain Kaul’s descendants Zind Ram Kaul and his son
Sahib Ram Kaul got the employment in the Mughal army they naturally came into
close contact of the Mughal generals who were basically Mongols of different
ethnic groups. This obviously revived the latent clan spirit in them and ignited
their mind. They then after becoming the commanders of the cavalry division in
the Mughal army added an appellation Sharga after their surname and became Kaul
Shargas. Later on they dropped Kaul and retained their original clan name Sharga
as their surname. The present day Mongolia has been divided into 21 provinces
for its effective administration and out of these 21 there is one province known
as Sharga besides there are people of Sharga nationality there. In India there
are descendants of only one family who carry this Sharga as their surname.
Here we should also not forget that Vedic or Aryan
civilization is being considered as the oldest in the world. The European
scholars and historians have placed its period between 3050 and 3000 B.C. Their
theory is that Aryans came to Kashmir from Central Asia on fast horse driven
chariots and then drove out the local Dravidian population to south India.
Mongols also came to Kashmir from Central Asia on their fast moving ponies
through the hilly routes. Then according to mythology Kashyap Muni brought
different ethnic groups to Kashmir from the banks of the mighty Saraswati river
around 5081 years back. Though this river does not exist now.
On the other hand the father of the computer astrology in
India Mr. A.K. Bansal says that Lord Krishna was born on 21st July 3228 B.C. and
died at the age of 126 years on 18th February 3102 B.C. Many scholars who have
done an exhaustive research work on the life of Lord Krishna claim that he
actually lived on this earth and the existence of the Dwarika city under the sea
near Gujrat is a pointer to it.
From this statement we can easily presume that the time
period of the epic Mahabharat was between 3228 and 3102 B.C. and during
this time, Gonand was the king of Kashmir who was a relative of Jarasandh the
king of Magadh. After his death his son. Damodar became the king of Kashmir. He
and Lord Krishna went to Gandhar (Kandahar) to take part in a Swayamber.
He then attacked Lord Krishna and was killed after which his wife Yashodhara
became the queen of Kashmir.
Kalhan (1148A.D.) has written his famous Rajtarangini the
first historical account of Kashmir in the 12th century. He has not mentioned
any ethnic group as Kashmiri Pandits in his text. This clearly indicates that
the term Kashmiri Pandit was not in vogue till that time. This term was coined
much later during the Mughal rule, when emperor Mohammad Shah Rangiley
(1719-1747) issued a royal decree to that effect to call Hindus from Kashmir as
It is indeed a very interesting topic of research for the
Anthropologists and genetic scientists to establish the identity of the
ancestors of the Kashmiri Pandits. The following words of Horace convey a lot of
meaning in this regard. “The foolish are like ripples on water, for whatsoever
they do is quickly effaced, but the righteous are like carvings on the stones
for their smallest act is durable.”