Pillar Worship in Arabia:
French scholar, Bernard De Mountfaucon (1655-1741) regarded as the father of Archaeology, in his ‘L’Antiquite Expliquee gives us testimony to what he calls ‘tower worship’ in Arabia. He states in the English version of his book, called Antiquity Explained, Vol II, “The ancients assure us that all the Arabians worshipped a tower which they called El Acara or Alquetila, which was built by their patriarch Ishmael.” The name Acara or Akara is very significant and still exists in the Arab world, in its sacred and historical sites, in many versions of the name.
The Arabian historian, El Masoudi, also speaks of this old tower worship of the Arabians. He states in his writings that these towers were about eight cubits in height, placed in an angle of a temple which had no roof on. And in another place, he asserts that most of these temples were round.”
|A stone pillar, or Al Acara as the pagan Arabs
called it, still stands at the ruins of the Qaryat al-Faw site in Saudi Arabia.
About the Arab practice of idol or stone worship, Greek Philosopher Maximus Tyre wrote in the 2nd Century AD that the Arabians honoured as a god ‘a great cut stone’.
Euthymius Zygabenus, a Byzantine Theologist from 12th century AD) further tells us that, “they (the Arabs) have certain stone statues erected in the centre of their houses, round which they danced until they fell from giddiness, but when the Saracens (the Christian name for pre-Islamic Arabs) were converted to Christianity, they were obliged to anathematize this stone, which they formally worshipped.”
The name Al Akara, today, is not unknown. It survives first in the name of a hill called Akara (latitude 24.5833300, longitude 39.2666700, height 773m) situated near the holy city of Medina or Medinah, according to the Gazette of the Arabian Peninsula of the Office of Geography of the United States, Year 1961 recorded under the names Jabal Al Akara, also spelt as Akariya and Aqariyah.
In Saudi Arabia, however, this name is best known for what is today a UNESCO heritage and tourist site called Al Qara, also known as Alqourhah. Al Qara is a mountain with amazing rocky pillars and numerous caves and caverns. The name Qara is a truncated form of its older name Al-Mushaqqar, recorded by historians and travellers, such as Hamad al-Jasser who in his book Geographical Dictionary of Saudi Arabia-Eastern Province’ mentions the name and describes the site, though he debates the location. Other writers such as Abdul-Khaleh Al-Janbi confirms that Al-Qara is the same as Al-Mushaqqar. As is evident the name Acara too appears in the older name Mushaqqar. Today, Al Qara is an interesting and beautifully conserved tourist archaeological site.
From the Indic perspective, Al Qara is a site of Shiva. In particular, there is this wonderous hill with three heads, shaped like the ‘akara’ or form of the Holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Two heads face north and south, the one in between is shaped like the face of a lion. This part of the mountain is known as Ra’as Al-Qarah.
|The al-Qara mountain with natural formations
may have been known as Al-Akara once.
Akara is Sanskrit for ‘form’ and is also a name of Lord Shiva.
There is another site by the name Al-Akara near the coast in Muscat recorded on page 29 in the 1968 republication of the book ‘Travel to the city of Caliphs, along the shores of the Persian Gulf’ by J.R. Wellsted (1805-1842). Wellsted was a surveyor in the East India Company. He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and Royal Astronomical Society.
Al Acara and Shiva:
The Arabs do not seem to have a memory for the meaning of the pillar of El Acara, though the existence of tower or pillar worship is acknowledged. This is an indicator of the extent the history is forgotten. In fact some scholars regard the land of Arabia as one of the centre’s of Vedic civilization. That the influence is considerable is borne out by the fact that one of the seven grand mountains of Makkah was known as Jabal Hindi, now called Jabal Quiaqian.
‘Akara’ (अकार) is an obvious Sanskrit word which has the literal meaning of ‘form’. It is the name of Shiva himself. As a material representation of the primordial sound ‘Om’, Lord Shiva is known as Om+Akara or Omkara.
The Omkara is represented by a conical stone, or the ‘linga’ in the Vedic tradition. Shiva also embodies himself in the sound of the sacred syllables, the sounds Na, Ma, Sh, Va and Ya, which take the akara or form ‘nakaray’, ‘makaray’, ‘shikaray’, ‘vakaray’ and ‘yakaray’ when their energy becomes a part of the Shivalinga. In the Vedic tradition, sounds in the form of ‘akshara’ (alphabets), and their material forms, are both believed to have protective energies, hence the chanting as well as idol worship.
Rudaw of the Arabian pantheon and Vedic Rudra:
Apart from El Acara, the etymology and the meaning of names such as the god Rudaw, who’s pilgrimage site Ruda was destroyed in 7th century AD and Hubal, whose idol is encased in the cubic structure at Mecca is forgotten too. Efforts have been made to unravel the meaning of these significant terms but the conclusions are often ignored for they are often uncomfortable and unacceptable.
Ibn Is Haq, a renowned writer from the 7th century AD, in his writings about Prophet Mohammad, commented on the destruction of a pagan site by the name Ruda and stated, “I launched a mighty attack on Ruda and left it in ruins, charred black.”
In his paper, ‘On the Origins of the God Rudaw’, author Ahmad Al-Jallad states,”Rudaw is in fact one of the most commonly invoked deities in several Ancient North Arabian corpora.”
Rudaw is often regarded as the father of Goddess Al-lat of Arabia, who’s name is by many scholars regarded as the source of the name ‘Allah’. Indic scholars equate the name of Al-Lat with Goddess Durga. This claim is not without any base.
In the Vedic tradition Rudra is the fierce form of Shiva, though Shiva too displays a destructive form. In the Vedas Rudra is known as a divine archer who shoots arrows of death and disease who is to be implored not to slay or injure. This lore also survives in the story of Hubal and the seven divination arrows used to determine the sanctity and legitimacy of the birth of a child.
Mahishasura and Durga and the land of Ashura:
An artifact excavated from al-Hamra in Tayma, in north-western Saudi Arabia, the oldest settlement in Arabia, seems to depict Goddess Durga with a bull demon-god namely Mahishasura, Mahisha=bull, Asura=demon.
|The Al-Hamra Cube, discoverd at the Al-Hamra Temple
in Tayma, Saudi Arabia
|The Al-Hamra Cube most likely depicts the slaying of the
Bull Demon Mahishasura by Goddess Durga
This Indic interpretation could have been ignored but the same scene of a bull and a goddess appears once again in an an even older engraving on a mountain rock in the Taif area, east of Mecca re-enforcing this interpretation.
The Asuras were not unknown in Arabia. The name appears on the ancient map of Arabia as Asshur. In the Indic pantheon, the Suras were gods, and Asuras were demons. In the Arabic and Syrian lore, it was the other way round.
|The Taif area rock engraving.
Near Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Goddess Durga had
killed Mahishasura riding on a lion.
As far as Hubal, the god enclosed in the Mecca cube (Kaaba =Cube) , is concerned, it is often associated with the Phoenician or Cannanite God Bal, which Hindu scholars associate with Balaram, Sri Krishna’s brother. Hubal perhaps is a distortion of Subal, in Arabic the ‘s’ sound often changes to ‘h’, eg, Hindu instead of Sindhu. Subal is Sanskrit for ‘god’. Its literal meaning is ‘good power’, su =good, bal =power, hence ‘god’. In Mecca Hubal is the highest of the 360 gods of Arabia, who perhaps represented the days of a year. However, the most important point, in the Indic tradition, Subal is the name of Shiva himself. Hence, we find that the names Omkara and Subal point to the same god.
Shiva, Rama, Krishna, Kedar and Kush on the ancient and current map of Arabia:
On the ancient maps of Arabia too, one sees many Indic-Sanskritic names as one can see from the following maos:
On an ancient Hebrew map of Arabia one see the names
Shebah (Shiva), Raamah (Rama), and
Kedar (another name of Shiva).
The following map speaks for itself.
On another map of ancient Arabia, once again, are the Indic names Sheba (Shiva), and Ramaah (Rama). Israel was known as Canaan, another name of Sri Krishna. West of Arabia was the Kingdom of Cush, (Kush), who’s father was Ham (Rama).
On the current map of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, one sees the names Shibam at ( 15.840125, 48.687857 ). Ramaah has changed to Rahbah and appears at ( 15.221968, 48.953240 ) and as Ar-Ramadiyat at 24.258385, 43.875037. We see a Kaninah at 14.475427, 48.423151. Kaninah, a cognate of Kanana is another name of Krishna, which appears once again as Qishn at 15.425022, 51.693264. Incidentally, the same names appear on the current map of Israel too.
Then there is today the province of Najran, called Nagaran in antiquity, in southwestern Saudi Arabia next to the border with Yemen.
Najran appears as Nagran in the ancient maps above. The Arabic term Najran has two meanings- one, the wooden frame on which a door sits, and the other is ‘thirsty’. But why would the ancients call it so. It is Sanskrit that sheds light on the ancient name Nagaran of which Najran is a distortion. First, Naga means ‘serpent’. Southern Arabia in antiquity was home to mysterious snake cults. Especially the Sabeans in south Arabia actively practiced snake worship. To them the serpent was the representation of god. Many artifacts depicting the cult of snake worship have been have been found in this region. Here is one such encryption excavated from a stone wall in Najran.
Another such artifact is tablet 188 at the Aden Museum in Yemen, which shows serpent circles with god’s name engraved on it.
As for the name Nagara, this is another name of the Vedic Sri Krishna, who was also the slayer of the demon-snake Kalinga. Yemen, itself, some say get the name from Yamuna, on the banks of which Kalinga was slayed by Krishna. On the Yemenese shore, on the Arabian Sea, at roughly 15.425022, 51.693264 lies the city of Qishn. Qishn is a cognate of the name Krishen, or of Kishan, as he is often called, which lends support to this theory. Other place names from the Hindu epic Mahabharata, of which Sri Krishna was a protagonist, is the region of Panchala, to which Draupadi, the heroine of Mahabharata belonged. Panchala is said to have been located in the upper Gangetic plain of India. However, this name also appears in the ancient map of Saudi Arabia.
|The name Panchala to appears on the map of Saudi Arabia.
In the Hindu lore Panchala was the city to which Draupadi belonged.
None of the above names individually would have pointed to an Indic connection, however, the fact that so many of them exist in close vicinity of each other indicates that there definitely was a connection to the pantheon of Indic gods. It is for this reason that one needs to take a closer look at these names and and give these clues the attention they deserve.
The lore of Kedar:
Once the name Kedar was almost synonymous with Arabia. By 8th century large parts of it were ruled by atribe with the same name. Now as mentioned above, Kedara in the Indic tradition was the name of Shiva. One interesting observation here about an Puranic lore and its seeming connection with Arabia follows:
According to Vamanapurana of India, Lord Shiva was observing a penance called Mahavrata. In this vow Shiva places a vita, or a short wooden rod which is thick in the middle and tapering on both ends, in his mouth. Gradually the rod shifts and breaks the palate of Shiva, goes through his matted locks and falls, ripping the rocks of the mountain in the Himalayas, where he is seated. The rock is split, or ‘dArita’ (दारित) as it is called in Sanskrit. Hence the area came to be named (Ke)dara. Shiva also creates a pool at this location, where the Ganges enters the region.
In Arabia the oasis city of Tyama where the Al-Hamra Temple cube artifact was found, was first mentioned as Tiamat in Assyrian inscriptions in 8th century. By 7th century Tiama, which was located in the region which came to be known as Qedar was ruled by a dynasty of the same name. Now whether the dynasty got its name from the region or the other way round is not known. But the oasis of Tyama is the site of a split rock which connects this site to the Shivite lore of the split rock of Kedara, or Kedarnath as it is called in India. Coincidence or with an unknown deeper connection, this remains an interesting observation.
|Split rock of Tayma, Kedara.
(Ke)dara is Sanskrit for ‘split’ or ‘torn’
Al Acara again:
But now returning to Al Acara, what the Arabs chanted or sang when they danced around El Acara will perhaps never be known. In India the Hymn of the Akara is known as the Shiva Panchaakshra Strotram (Five Letters Hymn) written by Adi Shankaracharya, a sixth century poet. It is well known in India in its original form.
And it survives in its Bollywood versions too.