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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 Sharga surname.

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 history.

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 War II.

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 Kashmiri Pandits.

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.”

Kashmiri Writers B.N. Sharga
 

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