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Persepolis at Pataliputra
The Zoroastrian period of Indian history

By Samar Abbas
September 16, 2002
The Iranian

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please find below an article for publication in your journal. I feel that it should be of interest to your readership. It is the report of the official excavator of Pataliputra (Bihar, India), who excavated the ancient Mauryan palaces there. His conclusions:

- Pataliputra was an Iranian palace
- The Mauryas (Chandragupta and Ashoka) were Iranians
- Buddha was Iranian

The article is very long (more than 80 pages) and I could only manage to jot down a few of them during the two hours time I had at a library in a distant city. On account of the fragility of the century-old text, xeroxing the article was not permitted in the library where I found it. So I had to write as much as possible by hand, and then type it in again.

Most notably,
I could not jot down the part where he reveals that Buddha was an Iranian.

The article is otherwise rare, being published in the
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1915), and difficult to obtain. Maybe I can send you the whole article later.

Could it be possible for somebody to scan the article and send it to me? Or maybe a xerox? I would then gladly send the whole article in electronic format. Any help from anybody would be greatly appreciated.

I request you to kindly inform me if and when you publish Spooner's article, and to send me the URL of it.

Samar Abbas
c/o Prof. Afsar Abbas
Institute of Physics,
Sachivalaya Marg,
Orissa, India

The extracts from Spooner's fascinating article follow below: "The Zoroastrian Period of Indian History" by D.B.Spooner,
Journnal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1915, p.64-89 (Pt.I); p.405-455 (Pt.II).

Part I


"... The mere fact that our buildings seemed unique might never have led us to the right clue for its interpretation had foreign influence in Mauryan times not been established theretofore. But it has been known for years that Asoka's edicts echo the great Darius's, that the style of his sculptured capitals originated in Persepolis, and it had been inferred, by Dr. Marshall in particular from the Sarnath capital, that Maruayn stonework had been wrought by foreign masons. When then, the plan of our building seemed to be so clearly un-Indian, while our columns showed the peculiar Persian polish, it seemed to me not impossible that even in its design the building might have been under Persian influence... My wife was sure that she remembered something of the sort among the pictures of Persepolis, and her optimism finally induced me to search among the records of that site.

"I did not have far to look. The so-called Hall of a Hundred Columns at Persepolis, the throne-room of Darius Hystaspes, afforded a sufficiently striking parallel to our structure at first glance. It was a square hall, with 10 rows of 10 columns, evenly spaced in square bags. At Pataliputra, to be sure, we had only 8 rows, but there was every reason to suppose that others would be found, and possibly evidence for a porch as well, to correspond with the porch in Persepolis on the north side of the throne-room. Our orientation appeared to be correct. Nay, more, the one big column which we had recovered showed a mason's mark of curious type, which seemed extremely similar to a mason's mark familiar at Persepolis. The form was not identical, perhaps, but the resemblance was nevertheless unmistabkable and very striking. This then, was satisfying, and I was encouraged to look more closely into the dtails of the 2 buildings.

"On so doing, I found that Darius' columns were ten Persian cubits apart. The Maryan columns are 10 Indian cubits apart. Did this imply identity of scale? It seemed so, although there was still the outstanding possibility that the 2 structures had been of the same size, and that the difference between the two cubits had been equalised by using more pillars in the Indian hall. The intercolumnation at Kumrahar was found to be five diameters, an intercolumnation not identical, perhaps, with that of the Persian throne-room, but still one which is essentially Persepolitan, and never found, so far as I am aware, in any other country of antiquity. No capitals had been recovered in Patna to help us in comparing the two buildings, nor had any pedestals been met with. But a careful study of the stratification suggested that pedestals had, in all probability, existed in our hall, and the indicated dimensions and proportions justified the thought that these pedestals must have been themselves of Persepolitan type, round in plan, some 3 feet high, and, inferentially, bell-shaped, though as regards this latter point no evidence exists.

"Other points of some simililarity between the Mauryan hall and its suspected Achaemenian prototype were also found, but a discussion of them is unnecessary in this paper. Enough has been said already to explain why it seemed to me reasonable to assume, as a working hypothesis for the conduct of my future operations, that the structure under excavation really did betray strong Achaemenian influence, and that indeed it looked, at even that early stage of the work, curiously like a copy of the Persian hall. ....

"I took out Lord Curzon's plan of Persepolis, marked out the south-west corner of our pillared hall as closely as was possible at that time, and started out tracing the [ruins] with tape and compass.... At a point almost precisely corresponding to the position of the throne of Xerxes (Lord Curzon's "SE. Edifice") I discovered a mound which was correct in form and orientation. This lay south of the pillared hall, or rather south-west, and its corners, being square, showed that it could not mark the site of any early stupa. Now northwest of this position in Persepolis lies the Palace of Darius. On proceeeding in this direction for a suitable distance, a further mound appeared, which corresponded with startling accuracy to the monument in the similar position at Persepolis.

"The outline of this mound, its orientation, its configuration, and its bearing from the other sites, all seemed in perfect harmony with out theory. Nay, I was also able to determine that all these mounds, etc., lay on a well-defined raised area, with a sharply marked edge which counterfeited curiously the edge of the artificial terrace at Persepolis, not only in bearing and extent, but even as regards the southwest angle. The whole plateau appeared to have been once surrounded by a moat. This seemed to imply a Mauryan copy of the entire Persepolitan design in all its main essentials. There were even ridges and other minor indications at other points corresponding to further members of the Achaemenian group of structures, but these were less conclusive than the main mounds, and their significance was uncertain. Enough was clear, however, to show us that not only was our original pillared hall strongly reminiscent of the Persian throne-room even in matters of detail, but that its surroundings also showed a parallelism to the Achamenian site which could not possibly be explained except by the assumption that it reflected the other definitely ..."


"We know that Darius counted India among his provinces, although the extent of his dominions in this country is unknown, and Buehler endorsed the ascription of the Kharosthi system of writing to the Aramaic clerks of Achaemenian rule. These facts alone justify Gruenwedel and would render plausible enough an assumption of large Persian influence in early days, even had we no shred of other evidence at all. But, when we come to the Asokan period and find his edicts echoing


"Darius's; when Dr. Marshall tells us his columns and his capitals were wrought by Greco-Persian masons, when Dr. Thomas shows us how we must look to the facade of Darius' tomb to realize how the Mathura Lion Capital fitted its place, we surely see that Persian influence in early India is no hypothesis at all .... Megasthenes will bear us testimony that the Indian court was almost wholly Persian in his day. Mr. Vincent Smith has brought together the details in his invaluable History, and the picture which he paints for us of Chandragupta's Court is Achaemenian in every line and tint. By far the strongest of the evidenes named above are obviously those for the Asokan period. When the edict pillars of Asoka testify to Persian influence, not by their style alone, but by their substance and their very script, it is clear that he, at least; drew definitely on the West for inspiration ..."


"We know however, that even in Asoka's reign the Viceroy in the west of his dominions was an actual Persian named Tushaspa, and it is belived that the famous waterworks he carried out were copies of the Babylonian. But for Chandragupta's time the evidences are more numerous and more detailed, and indicate a following of Persian customs all along the line - in public works, in ceremonial, in penal institutions, everything.

"Here then, we find an atmosphere indeed congenial to our postulate. At a court where the Indian monarch washed his royal hair according to the Persian calendar, and built the royal highway from his palace in imitation of Darius's, his palaces [roads] may as well have been an imitation of the royal road."


"... But is there any trace of Greek influence at Chandragupta's court in all the records of Megasthenes? A Greek himself, Megasthenes would surely not have failed to boast of his own nation's influence at a foreign court which he openly admired, had such existed. But this he most conspicuously fails to do."


"Asura Maya really means Ahura Mazda"


"In the natural hill east of the Persepolitan terrace are also caves, naturally the royal tombs. The connecting link we owe to Dr. Marshall. He, studying afresh the oldest caves in India, the Maruyan caves in the Barabar Hills, near Gaya, came to the conclusion, some months prior to my discovery of the time at Kumrahar, that the men who fashioned them betrayed familiarity with just these royal rock-cut tombs of Achaemenian Persia. Could better or more independant proof be wished?

Part II


"In the excavations of Pataliputra we find that the palaces of Chandragupta were of pronouncedly Persian character."


"Were then the Mauryas Zoroastrians? I do not myself see any escape from this conclusion. The logic of my argument seems to me unimpeachable, and the evidence of the epic alone conclusive. Moreover, it is confirmed by everything Megasthenes has told us of the inner life of Chandragupta's court and no single fact of Indian history or ancient literature known to me is in any way incompatible with such a thing.


"... My friend Mr.K.P.Jayaswal, who calls attention to the Avestan name Mourva, the Marga of the Achaemenian inscriptions, and proposes, in the light of all the evidence adduced, to derive Marga from this source .... To begin with, Marga and Mourva are explained as the name of the people of Merv, and the name Merv itself appears as Merv, Meru, or Maur. The last form is particularly noteworthy."


"... the name of the river Murghab on which it stands, which clearly contains a reminiscence of the old name Marga..."

"The plain on which the Persepolitan platform stands is called Mervdasht, the plain of Merv. It is sometimes called the plain of Murghab as well. And why? Because the river which traverses it is not called "Polvar" throughout its course. This is a modern concoction of European writers. Higher up the stream it is called Murghab, where it flowes near the village of Murghab."


[Mt. Meru is 84000 yojanas high] ... "How is it derived, if not by multiplying the two pre-eminent numbers of the Persians, 7 and 12? I would compare the 84000 stypas erected by Asoka, which in turn becomes a point of large significance. For does not the facade of Xerxes palace measure 84 cubits also?"


"I hold, therefore ... that the name Maurya is indeed derived from the Persian form Mourva."


"... the only name by which the Zoroastrians describe themselves in their inscriptions is Airyavo-Danghavo."


"It is conceded that the punch-marked coins are the oldest coinage of India ... That the weight of these coins agree, not with the system of Manu, as had been claimed, but with the Achamenian system, has recently been demonstrated by a French savant! I wish now to contend that the symbols also are prevailingly, even if not exclusively, Iranian."


"The component members of this group [ a set of Mauryan coins excavated by the author ] were as follows: (1) The usual simple solar symbol; (2) a complex solar (or astrological?) symbol; (3) a branch, (4) a humped bull, with taurine; (5) a caitya ... That the solar symbol is appropriate for the [Iranian] sun-worship, goes without saying .. The branch, which as such is untraceable in Hindu symbolism, is intelligible as the sacred branch of Hom, in which the Archangel brought to Gurhe the Guardian Spirit at the time of Zarathustra's birth. The humped byll is readily explainable with reference to the Bull of Mithra, while the taurine (never hitherto explained) reproduces the ancient emblems of the Persians, which was in the form of a bull's head and let me note it occurs also on Sassanian coinage...."

"... the caitya .. occurs (most significantly) on the base of our column in Chandragupta's throne-room. Historically it is of Mesopotamian origin, Sir. J.H.Marshall tells me and in its native land it signified a hill. ..."


"... the coins of the Western Kshatrapas and the Mahakshatrapas. On the early Taxila coins it is well-nigh omnipresent."


"Idolatry as such was foreign to Zarathustra as well."


"When and where does Chandragupta Maurya first appear on our historical horizon? Appropriately enough, in the far north-west, somewhere near or at Taxila, and in company with Alexander, as this conquerer comes out of Persia. Was Chandragupta possibly amongst his host? A notice in Plutarch would seem to suggest it, and it is not impossible. What is known with some certainty is that after Alexander's death, when Chandragupta marched on Magadha, it was with a largely Persian army that he won the throne. The testimony of the Mudrarakshasa is explicit on this point, and we have no reason to doubt its accuracy in matter of this kind."


"The case of Chanakya is more interesting. He too, appears on our horizon in Taxila, where, I am told, he is found practising medicine, when the curtain lifts. For a Brahmin of his [status] in India these are suspicious curcumstances. Medicine, although (let us note) particularly associated with the Magians, has never found much honour in the East, and Brahmins in the far north-west are notoriously unorthodox in general ..."


"The very dedication of the work courts attention. Sukra and Brhaspati are the derivate of Venus and Jupiter .. the ancient Persian priests were nothing if not astrologers. Note then, the order in which he names the sciences: "Anvikshiki, the triple Vedas, Vartta (atgri or business generally) and Government." Does an orthodox Hindu Brahmin give precedence to anything before the triple Vedas?"


"... The warrior-caste in Saka-dvipa, curiously enough, are known as Magadha! ... "


[next of kin marriage] ".. the great Vishtaspa himself, whose sister Hutos was his queen as well...."


"the Dabistan -i-Mazahab [surprises] by saying that the ancient Persians claim Gaya as a temple of their founding where Gyara [Kaiwan] or the planet Saturn was worshipped."

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for Samar Abbas

By Samar Abbas

Language of the armies
Urdu: A Derivative of Persian and Avestan


Chandragupta Maurya (322-298 BC)

Passing Through Bodhi Gaya



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