Category Archives: ancient civilisations

Obituary:Javad Nurbakhsh- A Sufi Soul

A leading Iranian Sufi, he was also a noted psychiatrist, author and medical clinic director

The master of a branch of the Nimatullahi order of Sufism in Iran, Dr Javad Nurbakhsh not only furthered the cause of his religion, but was also one of the country’s leading psychiatrists. When the upheavals of the Iranian revolution in 1979 caused him and many others to emigrate, he continued to organise the practice of Sufism abroad till his death in Britain at the age of 81.

Sufism is the mystical tradition within Islam whose followers – Sufis, or dervishes – espouse a religion of love based on poetry, music, and utilising various esoteric contemplative practices, the most important of which is a type of interior prayer of the heart known as dhikr, practised privately. Sufis consider service to society and one’s fellow man to be the supreme form of worship, so ethics is also very important in Sufi discipline. The Sufi centre for worship, and thus social integration, is the khanaqah, a rather private place that shares some features with the European monastery, where Sufis gather for weekly meetings for meditation, chanting of Sufi poetry, and prayer. Thus it differs from the mosque of mainstream Islam, which, traditionally being state-funded, is often more associated with political authority. Continue reading

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Filed under ancient civilisations, culture, Europe, Heritage, History, human rights, Identity, Iran, Islam, Love, Philosophy, poetry, Religion, Sufism, Travel, Writers

Pakistan: Reclaiming the Indus Person

 

Computer-generated image of what Mohenjodaro must have looked like all those years ago (Courtesy Wiki)

Computer-generated image of what Mohenjodaro must have looked like all those years ago (Courtesy Wiki)

 By Aisha Fayyazi Sarwari

There are so many ways for Americans to find themselves if they are lost: They can read Eyewitness to America, an anthology of people who were there when the US was created; they could go to Gettysburg or heck, just rent the TVC; or they could go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York; or take a course with Professor Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn. Continue reading

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Filed under ancient civilisations, Architecture, History, India, Jinnah, lawyers movement, Pakistan, Partition

Ahmed Hassan Dani remembered

dani_professor_drFauzia Minallah remembers Pakistan’s great scholar Dr Dani whose research will always remind us of who we are and where we came from 

Eminent scholar and renowned archeologist Dr Ahmed Hassan Dani is not with us anymore. It only seems like yesterday when he blessed us with his company on a number of cultural caravans I organised for children in Islamabad to open their eyes to the cultural heritage of their city. Continue reading

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Business unusual at Kalash

A valley that has long fed the natives on its thriving tourism industry suffers the consequences of ignorance

By Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro

The landscape of Kalash is breathtaking, to say the least. It encompasses verdant valleys, running river waters, meandering roads and wooden hamlets.

Kalash is located in three isolated mountain valleys: Bumboret (Kalash: Mumret), Rumbur (Rukmu), and Birir (Biriu) where both Muslims and non-Muslims live together. The non-Muslims are known as Kalasha — ‘the wearers of black robes’. Their dwellings are made of wood and tucked in the mountains.

Tourists from all over the world have always been fascinated by the serenity and the variegated culture of Kalash, especially during the traditional festival days when the place is so crowded that it is hard to find a room in any hotel in the locality. However, in the past few months, the place has seen a dramatic decrease in both domestic and international tourists. “The law and order situation in Swat and other parts of the NWFP is to blame,” says Ijaz Ahmed, owner of a foreign tourist inn. Continue reading

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Filed under ancient civilisations, culture, North-West Frontier Province, Travel

Extracts from Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia

From the Guardian

Water is potent: it trickles through human dreams, permeates lives, dictates agriculture, religion and warfare. Ever since Homo sapiens first migrated out of Africa, the Indus has drawn thirsty conquerors to its banks. Some of the world’s first cities were built here; India’s earliest Sanskrit literature was written about the river; Islam’s holy preachers wandered beside these waters. Pakistan is only the most recent of the Indus valley’s political avatars. I remember the first time I wanted to see the Indus, as distinctly as if a match had been struck in a darkened room. I was twenty-three years old, sitting in the heat of my rooftop flat in Delhi, reading the Rig Veda, and feeling the perspiration running down my back. It was April 2000, almost a year since the war between Pakistan and India over Kargil in Kashmir had ended, and the newspapers which the delivery man threw on to my terrace every morning still portrayed neighbouring Pakistan as a rogue state, governed by military cowboys, inhabited by murderous fundamentalists: the rhetoric had the patina of hysteria. But what was the troubled nation next door really like? As I scanned the three-thousand-year-old hymns, half listening to the call to prayer, the azan, which drifted over the rooftops from the nearby mosque (to the medley of other azans, all slightly out of sync), I read of the river praised by Sanskrit priests, the Indus they called ‘Unconquered Sindhu’, river of rivers. Hinduism’s motherland was not in India but Pakistan, its demonized neighbour.

At the time, I was studying Indian history eclectically, omnivorously and hastily – during bus journeys to work, at weekends, lying under the ceiling fan at night. Even so, it seemed that everywhere I turned, the Indus was present. Its merchants traded with Mesopotamia five thousand years ago. A Persian emperor mapped it in the sixth century BCE. The Buddha lived beside it during previous incarnations. Greek kings and Afghan sultans waded across it with their armies. The founder of Sikhism was enlightened while bathing in a tributary. And the British invaded it by gunboat, colonized it for one hundred years, and then severed it from India. The Indus was part of Indians’ lives – until 1947. Continue reading

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Hellenistic and Parthian Gandhara

Pervaiz Munir Alvi cross posted from ATP

Pakistan is home to the ancient Gandhara Civilization. Its Buddhist character, which this civilization is best known for, was first established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when colonial British military men and archeologists discovered various ancient religious sites near the city of Taxila in the Potowar region of Pakistan.

However since independence of Pakistan, the late 20th century studies and research conducted both by the Pakistani and Western scholars have documented and confirmed that Gandhara Civilization was not always Buddhist in character but had also gone through some well defined Hellenistic and Parthian periods as well.

The Hellenistic period of Gandhara starts with the arrival of Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 329 B.C. After conquering Taxila in 327 B.C. he remained in the areas now constituting Pakistan for another two years until his return via Indus Valley, Arabian Sea and Makran Coast also in Pakistan. Continue reading

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