Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reclaiming our History | Decoding the Ramayana: The *real* Shri Ram: Whether he was a "bad husband" and what is 'Ram-Rajya'? (Part-VIII)

Author's Note: Please visit - The 'Real' Ramayana/ Ram-Rajya - to read the other parts of this series, so as to be able to fully understand or grasp the contents of this one.

Now, let us discuss as to: *who* was this great woman - Kaikeyi, rather: where did she hail from. [Do read: Part-VI and Part-VII - so as to get the drift.] Also: an overview of some ancient clans and the etymology of the word 'Hindu'.

Kaikeyi (very likely) belonged to a group of people that was collectively known as the 'Arya' or the 'Aryaee'. This group originated in modern Kashmir (ancient: Kashyap-pur, after Rishi Kashyap - and it is from Kashyap-pur that modern 'Kashmir' derives its name.]

The 'Arya' or the 'Aryaee' people were noble-minded, noble-hearted or noble-natured people. They followed a 'way of life' that was distinct. Noble-heartedness gained precedence over everything else. Over a period of time - when the population grew, and various groups fanned out in search of greener pastures, they still (largely) retained this noble 'way of life'. They did not indulge in slave-taking or pillaging, they did not harm the children, the elderly and the sick, they did not harm the livestock, especially the cows; and they did not molest or rape women. They did not kidnap or covet other people's spouses either. This is because: such acts were against the Arya 'way of life'.

[We will discuss about the origins of this group in our subsequent posts.]

Some groups of the 'Arya' or the 'Aryaee' worshiped the Sun (Surya); others worshiped the Moon (Chandra), the Nags (the serpents) and the Fire (Agni).

As for the Nag-worshipers, we can still find traces: Anant-Nag, Shesh-Nag.

Over a period of time, as the population grew, various groups branched out in different directions - in search of greener pastures (and also to escape the intense cold weather). Certain groups, including the fire-worshiping clans, first moved to 'Sapta-Sindhu' (ancient Punjab, and this would have been a much larger area than we know of today) and established themselves there.

Later on, some of them (members of various Arya clans, that is) moved to ancient Persia and beyond. Some moved to ancient Kamboja. Our ancient texts tell us that there were two Kambojas: eastern and western Aśvakas (on either side of what is today known as the Hindu Kush) - covering areas that come under modern Iran (ancient Persia), modern Afghanistan, the Balti areas, etc. Certain Avesta-speaking tribes or clans from ancient Persia too may have migrated to ancient Kamboja.

[Groups of various Arya clans moved to ancient Bactria (Bakhtria) and beyond. And: over a period of time, some retained their Arya 'way of life', others lost much of their 'Arya-ness', if I can call it thus. Some possibly lost their 'Arya-ness' to such an extent that they may have turned into and/or been referred to by the other Arya groups as: Mlechha or Yavana. The latter were the terminologies or names assigned to savage barbaric groups or tribes [such as: the Sakas, the White Hunas, the Red Hunas, etc.]

[Note: The name Afghānistān, comes from the Sanskrit word Upaganasthan, meaning: 'land of the allied tribes'. We can say: Upaganasthan was the Vedic name of Afghanistan.

It was also known as Gandhara.

In ancient times: the horse was a much sought-after animal or means of transport in these parts (ancient Kambojas). So much so that it became indispensable and an integral part of the people's lives. The people took pride in horsemanship. In Sanskrit, ashv means 'horse'. The generic term for these horsemen was Ashvaka (or Aśvakan) - in Sanskrit.

They were also known as: Assaka - derived from the Prakrit Assa (meaning: horse). Aśvaka/Aśvakan or Assaka literally meant: someone connected with the horses: a horseman, or a cavalryman or "breeder of horses".

Aśvaka is also interpreted as 'land or home of horses'. Kamboja is regularly mentioned as "the country of horses" (Asvanam ayatanam), and it was perhaps this well-established reputation that won for the horse-breeders of ancient Suvastu/Udyana/Oḍḍiyāna and surrounding areas (modern: Bajaur and Swat) the designation Aspasioi (from the Old Pali aspa) and Assakenoi (from the Sanskrit asva - "horse").

Ashv became Aspa or Asp in ancient Persian, while Ashvaka (or Ashvakan) became Aspagan and Sthan became Stan. So, thanks to the excellent breed of horses and the sharp horsemanship of the people there, Upaganasthan gave way to Aspaganistan (Persian). ... And over time Aspaganistan became: Afghanistan.]

The Kambojas were famous for their horses (ashv or aśva) and as expert cavalry-men (aśva-yuddha-Kuśalah). Ashvakas (or Aśvakas), 'horsemen', was the term popularly applied to them. The Aśvakas inhabited Eastern Afghanistan, and were included within the more general term: Kambojas.

They (the Aśvakas) were especially engaged in the occupation of breeding, raising and training war-horses, as also in providing expert cavalry services to outside nations (sort of: freelancing). Hence: they also constituted an excellent class of warriors (Kshatriyas).

Much later: some of these Kambojas (various groups, tribes or clans from these parts) moved eastwards; and while some got absorbed along the way, others kept going eastward and established a third Kamboja, better known as: Kambuja Desha (modern Cambodia and surrounding areas.)

[Note: It is possible that after a period of time some of the Arya clans that had moved to ancient Persia returned to 'Sapta-Sindhu'. However, due to the passage of time and other cultural crosscurrents (e.g. influence of the Avesta-speaking people), their language and phonetics too may have undergone some alteration. Therefore, due to the changed phonetics, they now referred to 'Sapta-Sindhu' as Hapta-HAndu. [Just like Ashv became Asp.]

The Avesta-speakers probably also referred to 'Sapta-Sindhu' as Hapta-HAndu.

'Sindhu' is a reference to the sacred River Sindhu (also: River Indus). Sapta = Seven. [The Sarasvati River is now lost.]

'Hindu' is derived from 'HAndu', which in turn is derived from 'Sindhu'.

In Old Persian the 'S' for Sindhu becomes 'H' (due to lack of phonetics). Therefore: Sapta Sindhu becomes Hapta HAndu. 'HAndu' later became 'Hindu'. And thereafter: the name 'Hindu' has stuck.]

Hope we are reasonably clear on this.

... Lets get back to Kaikeyi.

Kaikeyi was from the Kekaya Mahajanapada (kingdom) and hailed from a [Kshatriya] clan known as the 'Kekaya', 'Kaikaya' or the 'Kaikeya'. Hence her name was Kaikeyi (i.e. belonging to the Kaikeyas) - it also refers to the ruling family of the Kekaya clan, to whom Kaikeyi belonged. She was the daughter of the mighty Ashwapati (Aśwapati; or the 'Lord/Master of Horses') - a long-term ally of Ayodhya.

This clan may not have been 'free-lancers', i.e. they may not have been part of clans or tribes that provided expert cavalry services to outside nations or to invaders.

Her brother, Yudhajeet (who later became the 'Ashvapati') - too was an ally of Ayodhya. Yudhajeet and Bharata (Kaikeyi's son) conquered the neighbouring kingdom of Gandhara and built the city of Taksha-sila (named after one of Bharata's sons: Taksha.) Bharata built yet another city - Pushkala-vati (named after his other son: Pushkala.) Pushkalavati is modern Peshawar.

Taksha and Pushkala were Bharata and Mandavi's sons. Mandavi was Sita's cousin and the daughter of Kushadwaj - the younger brother of Sita's foster-father, Sheeradwaj. [Sheeradwaj is best known as Raja Janak. But 'Janak' was actually the title for all the kings of Videha - also known as Janakpuri.]

Taksha-sila: to the east of the river Indus (the Sindhu Nadh), was known to Alexander and the Greeks as: Taxila.

Pushkala-vati (meaning: Lotus City): to the west of the river Indus, was known to Alexander and the Greeks as: Peukelaotis.

Later: the sons and descendants of Bharata ruled this region from Takshasila. Takshashila, the place where the famed university existed, gets its name from Taksha (son of Bharat). Bharat - as we know, was the younger brother of Shri Ram. Taksha ruled over the kingdom of Taksha Khanda, which even extended beyond modern-day Uzbekistan, and Tashkent - the present day Uzbek capital also gets its name from Taksha/Takshashila.

Lakshman had two sons, Angada and Chandraketu (with his wife Urmila). Shri Ram (as per the advice of Bharat) founded the kingdom of Karupada (in the Western regions) - for Angada and the kingdom of Chandrakanti (in the Northern regions: Malwa country) - for Chandraketu.

[Urmila was Sita's sister and the daughter of Sheeradwaj - Raja Janak.]

Shatrughna had two sons, Suvahu and Shatrughati (with his wife Shrutakirti). The former became king of Mathura, and the latter ruled in Vidisha. [Shrutakirti was Sita's cousin - daughter of Kushadwaj - and sister of Bharata's wife, Mandavi.]

Ram and Sita's twins: Kush ruled from the Southern parts of Koshala, while Luv ruled from Northern Koshala. Shri Ram set up the city of Kusha-vati (near the Vindhya ranges) - for Kush, and the city of Shravastipur - for Luv.


Kaikeyi's clan (the Kekaya or the Kaikeya clan) was (very likely) a fire-worshiping 'Arya' clan or Agnihotris - originally.

[Madri of the Mahabharata hailed from yet another such 'Arya' clan known as the 'Madras', 'Madrakas' or the 'Medes' (also: Madai) - which too had migrated to ancient Persia; later on: some of them probably returned to 'Sapta-Sindhu'. Gandhari was an 'Arya' hailing from ancient Gandhar.]

Both the Madras (or the Madrakas), and the Kekayas (or the Kaikeyas) were the direct descendants of Raja Yayati's son: Anu. Yayati's other sons were: Puru, Yadu, Turvasha and Druhya.

Puru started the Puruvansh (the Puru lineage), while the eldest - Yadu - started the Yaduvansh (the Yadu or the Yadav lineage).

Puru is the progenitor of the Puru clan i.e. the Bharatas (from which 'Bharat-Varsh' derives its name).

The Suryavanshi Ikshvaku clan or the Kshatriya Sun-worshiping Ikshvaku clan is a part of the 'Puruvansh'. The most famous personality of this clan has been: Ramchandra Dasaratha Ikshvaku, best known as: the 'Warrior-Saint' - Bhagavan Shri Ram. [The Ikshvaku clan is also known as: Raghuvaṃśa or Raghukula after Raghu - a valourous king of this clan, lineage or dynasty. Raghu was an ancestor of Shri Ram.]

[Ikshvaku: In Sanskrit = Ikṣvāku. In Pāli: Okkāka.]

Another famous personality from the Puru clan (or the 'Puruvansh') is Siddhartha Śuddhodana Śākya, best known as: the 'Sage-Prince' - Bhagavan Shri Gautam Buddh. He is also referred to as: Śākyamuni. [Muni and Buddh = an enlightened person.] 

He hailed from the Kshatriya Suryavanshi or the Sun-worshiping Śākya clan.

[Please Note: When I say Shri Ram was a 'Warrior-Saint', it should not (in any way whatsoever) be construed as an inclination towards celibacy or a propensity towards asceticism. (That can be attributed to Bhagavan Shri Gautam Buddh, not to Shri Ram.)

A slight examination of the nature of the relationship between Ram and Sita will make this amply clear. Of all the emperors (Samraat) and kings (Rajas), only Ram has been a one-woman man: ek-patni. And this itself is the unmistakable indicator: it not only speaks volumes about Ram and Sita and what they shared; but it also says a lot about Sita and her influence on Ram. Don't you think?

And: none of it (even remotely) point towards 'celibacy' or 'asceticism'. As to: how all this has managed to unfailingly elude the 'scholarly' eyes and 'sharp' minds of various people and entities - is beyond me though. Perhaps: I am not as 'scholarly' or as 'sharp-minded' myself. :)

Frankly: it does not take any effort to figure out that Ram and Sita were (and remain) soul mates in every sense of the word. [It is always: Sita-Ram or Siya-Ram.]

Strangely: we have whole bunches of 'knowledgeable' characters that misrepresent what Sita's 'Agni-Pariksha' was all about, and then blithely twist certain texts to say that: 'Ram subjected Sita to purification rituals since her chastity was questioned'...!


Unfortunately: there is no cure for self-inflicted ignorance, and we have no shortage of such ignoramuses. :( :( :(

We will of course discuss what Sita's 'Agni-Pariksha' actually means, in our next post.]

For now: lets get back to where we left off.

Yayati's eldest son, Yadu - is the founder of the Chandravanshi Yadavvansh or the Moon-worshiping Kshatriya Yadav clan. The most famous member of this clan is: Krishna Vasudev Yadav, best known as: the 'Soldier-Statesman' - Bhagavan Shri Krishn.]

... Lets return to Kaikeyi.

There is a strong possibility that she may have hailed from the 'Kekaya' or the 'Kaikeya' clans settled in ancient Suvastu/Udyana/Oḍḍiyāna (modern: Swat Valley). I say this, 'coz I have come across a 'Ramji's seat' in that area, during the course of my readings. Also: the Kekaya clan is said to have dwelt between Gandhara and the Vipasa Nadi (modern: Beas river).

These areas were a mix of breathtaking landscape interspersed with rugged terrains and mountains. ...And horses. In ancient times, the horse was a much sought-after animal or means of transport here. So much so, it was indispensable and an integral part of the people's lives.

It was on account of their supreme position in horse (Ashva) culture that the ancient Kambojas were also popularly known as Ashvakas, i.e. horsemen. Their clans in the Kunar and Swat valleys (ancient: Suvastu/Udyana/Oḍḍiyāna) have been referred to as Assakenoi and Aspasioi in classical writings, and Ashvakayanas and Ashvayanas in Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi (Aṣṭādhyāyī, meaning: "eight chapters".)

[The Classical writers used the respective equivalents Aspasioi or Aspasii (Hippasii) and Assakenoi (or Assaceni/Assacani).]

The aadi kavi (the 'first poet') Maharshi Valmiki has also documented Kaikeyi's skills as a warrior (including her skills with horses) - in the Ramayana.

It is possible that these people (some tribes and clans of the Kambojas including the Kaikeyas) were originally 'fire-worshipers' or 'Agnihotris' (or maybe Suryavanshis or Sun-worshipers even). Later, due to their affinity for horses and the fact that they became expert horsemen, probably influenced some groups (or maybe one group, clan or tribe that was most attached to the horse) to worship the horse or give it the pride of place in their culture. 

I say this: 'coz one of the avatars - an extension of the more famous 'Dasavatara' that we have - is the Hayagreeva (with a human body and a horse's head).

[Based on our discussions so far, in this series, I hope it is amply clear by now that the 'Dasavatara' essentially portrays the evolution of the earth, and the evolution of the human species as well.]

This one group or tribe that was most attached to the horse (probably) became known as the 'Children of the Horse' or 'Son of the Horse' - the Aspzai. The Greeks called them the Aspasioi. [Panini's Ashvakayanas is very likely an amalgamation of two words: Ashvaka + Tanaya. Tanaya = son and Asva = horse, while: Ashvaka = horsemen.]

Much later, thanks to various crosscurrents that blew over this land, the asp became Esop.

Thus: after a long, convoluted and eventful journey that spanned not just centuries but eras (yugs), some of the Ashvaka first became Aspagan, then Aspzai i.e. Ashvakayanas (Aspasioi to the Greeks) and finally the Esopzai - better known as the Yusufzai

[To my mind: It is Kaikeyi's Arya background and her Kshatriya nature that prompted her to uphold 'Arya-dharma' and 'Kshatriya-dharma' (the 'way of life' or the 'guiding principles' of an Arya, and that of a brave-heart i.e. of a warrior or a Kshatriya). The same goes for Ram and Sita too. It is Kaikeyi's noble nature and iron-will that would have prompted Ram and Sita to seek her help - for the greater good.] 

Kaikeyi undoubtedly would have been an extremely beautiful woman and a class warrior. But she was also made of pure damascene steel, don't you think? How else she might have been able to withstand the scorn, ridicule, etc hurled at her for so many years? Ditto Manthara. [Ravana succumbed, remember? Do read - Part-III.]

Without these two great women's steadfastness and noble-heartedness, a lot of good would not have been achieved. What say you?

Parting shot: It is important that we cleanse our ancient texts of all the mistranslations, misinterpretations and impurities that have seeped in over time... the sooner the better. 'Coz not only our understanding of the Ramayan is totally wrong, our understanding and interpretation of the Mahabharata too is wide off the mark. Why - you ask? Well, since we have not been able to understand and figure out the awesome technologies and the camouflaged language (metaphors, imagery, etc) mentioned in them, we have, therefore, taken the easy way out: by blithely turning our pracheen itihasa (ancient history) into excessively moralistic discourses, confrontation between 'good' and 'evil' and sundry soap opera-style narratives - involving revenge, jealousy... and the like.

Incidentally: we do not have a concept of 'evil' in our culture. This is because we have the concept of 'Chareiveti'. [Do read: Link.]

(Do stay tuned…)

Pictures: The Hayagreeva (also: Hayagriva).


  1. nice blog but i have one doubt why aren't there many breeds of horses in India especially as we can say the supreme sacrifice was asvamedha sacrifice and uchariva (flying horse).Why India doesnt have a documentation of horse breeds like cow breeds.except for "marwari" horse breed.

  2. @Sun: Welcome to my blog.

    Well, there is the Kathiawar breed too. These breeds are essentially warhorses, compact and small, yet sturdy. They were used to fight elephants during battles. The foothills of the Himalayas are also known for small-sized yet sturdy horses.

    Ancient India was a much bigger area and there were many important ports, like Bharuch and Saurashtra. It is very likely that tradesmen from other places (including ancient Kamboja) came here to trade in goods (and that included the best quality horses.) Arab was ancient ‘Arvasthan’ (meaning: land of Horses).

    After various bands of colonizers arrived, they brought in their own breeds of horses with them. It is possible that some inter-breeding between these horses and Indian horses happened, giving rise to whole new breeds. When the English arrived, they disliked the Indian breeds and preferred Australian ones, and this contributed towards the decline of Indian horses. Many of our ancient texts are lost, and it is possible that texts regarding horses are part of that.