Thursday, September 12, 2013

Secrets of Syria

The whole world is discussing, debating and dissecting Syria. The average Indian couldn’t care less. To him, Bashar al-Assad is as remote a name as the Brontosaurus. In his pecking order, the Sarin Gas would be twenty notches below the LPG Gas. You can’t blame him for his apathy as the only chemical weapon he knows is the Mortein insect repellent. If Syria had been a country that outsources nurses, cabbies or software engineers, perhaps he would have shown more interest.

One more reason for the apparent detachment could be the perceived lack of any geographic or historic links except for the odd Syrian Christian story. Perhaps things will change if we reveal the startling Indian roots of Syria.

First up, let’s examine the Arabic name for Syria. It’s Suriya. Does it light up the zero-watt bulb in your head? If it doesn’t, allow me to remind you that sun god is a recurring theme in the culture of Ancient Syria.

Now for the Mittanis. They were the imperial race that ruled Northern Syria around 1500 BC. Coincidentally they used to worship Indra, Varuna, Agni and Mitra. Their numerals included eka (one), pancha (five), sapta (seven) and nava (nine). Ashva was their word for horse, babhru for brown and parita for grey. All of these are almost identical with their Sanskrit equivalents. Among the famed Mittani kings were Kirta, Shuttarna, Parattarna and Tushrata. Doesn’t Tushrata sound like Dasharatha?

Let’s dig a little deeper. Euphrates is the largest river in Syria. The Hebrew name for it is Prat. The Arabic version is al-Furat. There’s a Sanskrit word called Suvrata. It means ‘fragrant plant’. Considering Euphrates flows through lands teeming with oaks, roses and pistachio, could it have been derived from Suvrata?

Even the lake names might give you a sense of déjà vu. In Golan Heights, near Mount Hermon, there’s a crater lake called Lake Ram (Dasharatha’s son?). Localites refer to it as Birket Ram. Bhrikta in Sanskrit is ‘roasted’ and that seems to makes sense given the volcanic nature of the terrain. There are many more dots waiting to be connected, if and only if, we make a little mind space for Damascus.