India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in his book Discovery of India, “Among the many people and races who have come in contact with Indians and influenced India’s life and culture, the oldest and most persistent have been the Iranians”. Iranians and Indians throughout the history, even before settlement of Aryans in the vast plateau of Iran and India, had continuous traffic between them. The two countries that lie apart over distance of miles and distinct neighbors have shown ethnic ties and persistent similarities in many aspects of routine living.
The similarities between India and Iran go far beyond ties of times; Sanskrit scholars in India had accounted linguistic similarities between the Indian veda’s and the Iranian Zend Avesta. Even today the similarities tend to exist, from delicacies to art and from entertainment to religious practice both share commonalities.
India has a unique connection with Persia (Iran), which dates back to the BCs. In 532 BC Iran’s greatest king, Cyrus took control of north-west India and his successor Darius extended the territory further to the east. The invaders brought with them their culture and ingredients like spinach, pistachio, almond, pomegranate, saffron and rosewater. It is interesting to note that during this time they were introduced to rice, a grain indigenous to India, which soon became and still is an Iranian staple. With the tint and mix of both shared culinary sciences the world has witnessed delicious authentic cuisines.
The two countries have similarities in the field of art and culture too. Paintings on the walls of Dukhang of Alchi monastery in Ladakh reproduce Sassanian (a period in Iran) motives on textiles. The walls depict round medallions with mythical animals that were evident in Iranian scriptures. The blue turquoise color that is now seen on most mosques of Iran was utilized by the Buddhist monks as color of meditation on Indian planes. The most ancient stringed instruments that were created by Iranian’s decades ago are being a motivated influence over the Indian music. Sufism was the result of spiritual interaction between Persia and India.
Sufism, originally borrowed from India, returned to India with a distinct Iranian stamp. The mysticism of Islam came under the impact of Hinduism and its philosophy of Vedanta. Hinduism also accepted some Islamic elements such as equality and monotheism. Many Hindu saints combined tenets of Islam and Hinduism. Emperor Akbar (1556-1604 AD) even promulgated a new religion – ‘Din-e-Ilahi’ – a combination of the prevailing religions in India.
Trade expanded mainly because prehistoric Iranian’s introduced coinage, which facilitated exchange. India exported spices, black pepper and imported gold and silver coins from Iran. The grape, introduced from Persia with the almond and walnut, was cultivated in the western Himalayas. One of the earliest Indian words for a coin is Karsa (also a small weight), which is of Persian origin.
If one traces the existence of religious practices early Persian’s (prior to Muslim invasion) had similar religious practices as that of the Indians. Prominent importance was given to Sun and the sole source of the Zoroastrians then. There are several parallelisms between medical, physiological and pathological doctrines of the Ayurveda and those of the Avesta in its surviving texts represented by the Vendidad, the Yasna and the Yashts.
The Persian word din (religion) is similar to dhena of the rigveda where it means ‘speech reflecting the inner thoughts of man’. Its Avesta equivalent is daena, a common word in Gathas meaning inner self of man.
A thread that was a compulsion for the males of the society to wear was a commonality between the two countries, the practice of sacrifice to fire as representation of Sun was carried on in both civilization. Rituals, names of God and goddess were found to be on similar line of thought. Over years and Mogul invasion of India the values deemed to reduce over the ethnic sharing, during the British colonial rule the ties became negligible.
The people of India and Iran, two ancient neighboring civilizations, have enjoyed close historical links through the ages. They had a common homeland and share a common linguistic and racial past. Over the several millennia, they interacted an enriched each other in the fields of language, religion, arts, culture, food and other traditions. Today the two countries enjoy warm, friendly relations and cooperate in a wide range of fields.
Even today the ties between the two nations are considerably strong and are working towards achieving more goals from each other. It is improbable to deny the prehistoric existence of healthy cultural and trade ties that existed between the countries. The ties that the two country shares are growing over years, Indian universities are a popular destination for Iranian students for higher studies. Several high ranking Iranian officials and professionals have studied in India. There are a large number of Iranian students studying in universities at Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Delhi. The ties between the two countries are expected to flourish over years without being sidelined by the world politics.
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