Some extracts of interest on Indian Iran similarities from
India 's linkages and relations with Iran are ancient and almost umbilical. Not far from Iran 's western border, around the junction of Turkey , Syria and Iraq in the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates , a chariot-riding Indian-Iranian military aristocracy, embedded among indigenous Hurrians, ruled its Mitanni kingdom between 1500 BC to 1200 BC. It used pre-Vedic Sanskrit phrases, worshipped common Daivya and Assura gods like Indira, Nasatya and Varuna, Mithra. The Mitannis had apparently separated from the main Aryan body, which after many centuries in the region of Amu and Syr Darya had moved on to Iran . Then after some acrimony there was a split into factions: Vedic with Daivya gods and Avestan with Assura gods, with the Vedic stream going on to the land of Sapt Sindhu, i.e. northwest India and beyond. On a theory based on linguistic, cultural, religious and other similarities, Iranian and Indian Aryans are, if not racial cousins, at least linguistic and cultural ones.
During the Muslim rule, Persians came as bureaucrats with the Turkish rulers in India and left a deep influence on Indian culture, civilization and languages; Hindustani, Urdu and Hindi. From Akbar's time, the Persians formed the majority of the Muslim Amir ul Umra, that is, courtiers and civil servants. To get in with Persian and its derivative Urdu as the language of the court and administration (even during the British era), even the Hindus took on some of their traits, like Moghului cuisine (Persian cuisine is the mother of most cuisines, except French and Chinese) and meat eating. Also adopted were a love of music and dance. Kayastahs dominated the civil services during the British rule.
Iran: A cradle of civilizations
situated at the crossroads and itself a cradle of many great civilizations; Iran has exercised great civilizing influence since ancient times. Whosoever (King of Kings, Sahanshah in Darius's words, its Hindu equivalent being Maharajdhiraj) ruled what now constitutes Iran , they exercised great political and cultural influence not only in the neighborhood but also in far-off places.
During the classical Greek political and social evolution in western Asia Minor which Turkey was then called, the Persian Achaemenid dynasty had its satrapies and outposts on the Aegean coast, known as Ionia , from which the word Yunan for Greece entered the eastern lexicon. In 517 BC it was Persian Emperor Darius who ordered Scylax, his Greek subject from Caria (western Turkey ) to survey the river Indus from Peshawar to its exit into the sea, part of his empire. And for the first time, the West became acquainted with India . Herodotus's chapters on Indian history were based on records of that exploration.
The Persians routinely crossed over to European Thrace and a Greek victory over the Persians in 490 BC at Marathon , perhaps the first of the West over the East, is still commemorated as an athletic event in the Olympics (showing Western bias in sports). The Trojan war of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey was a small event militarily and a storm in tea cup. Troy was a marginal appendage of the huge Hittite empire in Asia Minor ruled from Bogazkoy, northeast of Ankara .
Later, even in defeat, the Persians civilized Alexander the Great and his Macedonian and Greek hordes, introduced the small town boys to the protocol, trappings and grandeur of an imperial power and implanted the strongly held belief in the divine right of the kings, later adopted by Alexander's military commanders and successors. On these beliefs were laid the foundations of the structure for the Roman and Byzantine empires. The Islamic Omayyed Caliphate in Damascus and later the Abbassid Caliphate in Baghdad also borrowed from the same state structures and ceremonies. Up to the 7th century, the Persians disputed with the Romans control of Asia Minor and Syria , which exhausted them both, making them easy prey for the Muslim Arabs. Persians then acted as a civilizing sieve to nomad Turks, Mongols and others from the horse-riding nurseries of the Eurasian steppes who played such havoc for centuries in Asia and Europe alike. Whoever ruled Persia, Seljuk rulers in Anatolia (Turkey) or even Delhi's Turkish Sultans and early Moguls, for them the Iranians were the bureaucrats without equal?
Persia's conversion to Islam, which forced Zoroastrian Parsees to migrate to India in the 7th century, disrupted mutual interaction and enrichment of Indian and Persian social and cultural streams in place since Achemenean days, if not earlier. It isolated and weakened Hindustan , when the likes of Ghajnavi, Nadir Shah and Abdali could raid Hindustan with impunity.
But Islam did not liberate the sophisticated and evolved Persians, deeply influenced by spiritual and speculative Avestan, its excessive rituals and love for the intoxicant soma having been curbed earlier by Zoroaster's reforms (Buddhism was a similar attempt against Brahmanical rituals and excesses in India around the same time). Then the Persians lost their language, Pehlavi, which emerged a few centuries later as Persian in modified Arabic script. Having been ruled by Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Tartars for eight-and-half centuries, there emerged the Sufi-origin Persian Safavids, who became finally masters of their own land, which more or less comprises present-day Iran . At the same time, to preserve their sect and survive, Iranians after centuries of foreign rule developed an uncanny ability not to bring to their lips what is on their minds, and have institutionalized it as takiyya, i.e. dissimulation.
They had modified simple Arab Islam into a more sophisticated and innovative Shiite branch, with the direct descent of Imam Ali's progeny from Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, echoing their deeply ingrained sense of the divinity of rulers. They strengthened (against the Arab caliphs and Turkish sultans) the status of the imams, who among more egalitarian Sunnis are no more than prayer leaders, in line with the Indian-Iranian tradition of placing priests higher than rulers (as are Brahmins in the Indian caste system). By tradition, Azeri (Turkish) speaking Iranians become chiefs of the armed forces. Ayatollah Ali Khameini is an Azeri speaking Iranian.
The status of the imam evolved into the doctrines of intercession and infallibility, i.e., of the faqih/mutjahid. (Somewhat like Hindu shankracharyas and the fraternity of learned pandits). The speculative Aryan mind fused the mystic traditions into Sufi Islam, bringing out the best in Islamic mysticism and softening the rigors of austere and crusading Islam which had emerged from the barren sands of Arabia . There were unparalleled contributions by Rumi, Hafij, Attar, El-Ghazali, Firdaus, Nizami, El-Beruni, Omar Khayyam and others to Islamic philosophy and civilization. Their answer to interminable Islamic theological arguments on free will vs. predetermination was that the opposites were the obverse and reverse sides of the divine mind, similar to the concepts in Hindu philosophy. Hindustani poetry, music, painting and architecture owe much to their Iranian cousins. Sufis played more than an equal role in the conversion to Islam of India as did the sword or material inducements. Sufi pirs are still as revered as Hindu or Sikh holy men in India .
From Shi'ite variants like the Ismailis emerged the "assassins" from the mountain vastness of Iran and later Syria , representing an individuals' ultimate and sublime sacrifice for a cause (or his master) against the tyranny of the absolute or collective power of the caliphs and sultans, inspired by Imam Hussein's martyrdom. The assassin's modern-day versions, the suicide bombers of the Hizbollah, Hamas, Sikh or Tamil Tiger, have become the terrors of mankind."
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi Asia Times 17 April 2012