Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Buddhist Meroites used Tocharian and Kharosthi


Philostratus:The Life of Apollonius of Tyana makes it clear that the Gymnosophist lived in Upper Egypt and the Meroitic Empire. The Gymnosophists were Buddhists.

There were Gymnosophist communities in Upper Egypt and the Meroitic Sudan. The Gymnosophists used Tocharian and the Kharosthi script to write their scriptures. This makes it clear that Tocharian and Kharosthi were important means of communication for this Meroite population. Tocharian was therefore probably a major language in the Meroitic Sudan.

The historical evidence makes it clear that there was probably two migrations of Buddhist Gymnosophists to Egypt and the Meroitic Empire.Asoka was a supporter of Buddhism. Zacharias P. Thundy, in Buddha and Christ make it clear that the edits of Asoka (c.274-236 BC) indicate that this ruler sent missionaries to Egypt to preach the Buddhist Dharma(pp.242-243).
Thundy maintains that archaeological evidence exist for a community of Indian sages living in Memphis as early as 200 BC (p.243).We know that decendents of these missionaries were still in Egypt over two hundred years later because they were visited by Apollonius of Tyana.
Asoka used Kharosthi to write his edits. The Buddhist also used this writing system to record their scriptures. This means that the Gymnosophists would have had a long tradition of employing Kharosthi to communicate their ideas. The Gymnosophists were probably well respected by the Meroites and some Meroites probably had knowledge of Buddhist teachings and literacy.
Some Meroites may have played an important role in Buddhist because Blemmyae, a prominent group in the Meroitic Sudan are mentioned in Pali text Tipitaka (see:JDM Derrett, (2002) A Blemmya in India, Numen 49:460-474). Dr.Derrett wrote that in early Pali text " wehave a Blemmya (an African) in front rank Buddhist texts of very respectable age (p.465).The Buddhist text where Blemmya were mentioned are very old. The Vinaya pitaka, is dated to the 4th century B.C.E.
If Blemmya are mentioned in Buddhists text we can be sure that Meroites were not ignorant of Kharosthi. This would explain why many of the Meroitic symbols agree with Kharosthi. They agree because some Meroites were probably already literate in Kharosthi due to the influence of Buddhism in the Meroitic Empire.
There seems to have been a second migration of Buddhists to the Meroitic Empire many years after Asoka sent missionaries to Egypt. These migrants came to the Meroitic Empire after their king was murdered.
Flavius Philostratus, the writer of the Vita Apollonii, Vol.1 , claimed that the Gymnosophists of Meroe originally came from India (see F.C. Conybeare, Philostratus:The Life of Apollonius of Tyana(p.45),1950). Given the fact that the Kushana had formerly ruled India around the time that the Meroitic writing was introduced to the Kushite civilization, led to the hypothesis that the ancestors of the Gymnosophist may have been Kushana philosophers. The historical evidence of the Kushana having ruled India made the Classical references to Indians, the Gymnosophists in Meroe, an important source for the construction of alternative theories about the possible location of the cognate language of Meroitic.
There is external evidence, which supports my theory. A theory explains observed phenomena and has predictive power. I have theorized that due to the claims of the Classical writers that some of the Meroites came from India (F.C Conybeare (Trans.), Philostratus: The life of Apollonius of Tyana Vol.2, (1950) pg.271).According to the Life of Apollonius, the Indian Meroites were formerly led by a King Ganges, who had "repulsed the Scythians who invaded this land [India from] across the Caucasus" (Conybeare, Vol.1, Pg.273). Pilostratus also made it clear that the Indians of Meroe came to this country after their king was killed.
The presence of this tradition of an Indian King of the Indian-Meroites conquering the Scythians predicts that the Indian literature should record this historical episode. This prediction is supported by a Jaina text called the Kalakeharya-Kathanaka , which reports that when the Scythians invaded Malwa, the King of Malwa, called Vikramaditya defeated the Scythians (H. Kulke & D. Rothermund, History of India(London, Routledge: 1990, pg.73). This king Vikramaditya may be the Ganges mentioned in the Life of Apollonius.Confirmation of the Ganges story,supports the Classical literary evidence that their were Indianized -Meroites that could have introduced the Tocharian trade language to the Meroites.
In addition to the classical mention of the Indians settling Meroƫ, and Asoka's edit sending missionaries to Egypt, we also have a horde of Kushana coins that were found on the floor of a cave at the present monastery-shine at Debra Demo in modern Ethiopia in 1940.
Moreover, there were other Indians in Egypt in addition Gymnosophist/Buddhist communities in Upper Egypt and Kush/Meroe. For example, at Quseir al-Qadim there was a large Indian speaking community (see: R. Salomon, "Epigraphic remains of Indian traders in Egypt", Journal of the American oriental Society, (1991) pp.731-736; and R. Salomon, Addenda,Journal of the American Oriental Society, (1993) pg.593). These Indians were in Egypt writing messages in their own language, around the time we see a switch from Egyptian hieroglyphics to the Meroitic writing system. All of this supported the traditions of the Meroites that speak of a knowledge of the Kushana/Indians among the Meroites.
The evidence that the Classical references to an Indian-Meroite King who conquered the Scythians is supported by the Indian literature, provides external corroboration of the tradition that some of the Meroites were of Indian origin.
The presence of Indian traders and settlers in Meroe (and Egypt), makes it almost impossible to deny the possibility that Indians, familiar with the Tokharian trade languagedid not introduce this writing to the Meroites who needed a neutral language to unify the diverse ethnic groups who made up the Meroite state. In relation to the history of linguistic change and bilingualism, itis a mistake to believe that linguistic transfer had to take place for the Meroites to have used Tokharian, when it did not take place when they wrote in Egyptian hieroglyphics.
In summary the classical literature makes it clear that there was a connection between the Gymnosophists (of Meroe) and the Indians. The fact that historical events mentioned in the classical sources are found in the Indian literature confirm the view that there were Indian-Meroites who could have introduced the Tokharian trade language to the Meroites. The fact that the Nubians who were probably not part of the"Meroitic state", used hieroglyphics and Coptic to write their language without abandoning their native language support the view that the Meroites could have also used Tokharian to write Meroitic. And that eventhough the Kushites wrote Meroitic inscriptions in Tokharian, theywould not have had to abandon their own language.

My decipherment of Meroitic is based on the Kushana theory.The Kushana theory is that a group of “East Indian” scholars introduced the Meroitic writing system to the Meroites. The Kushana hypothesis was based on the following evidence, 1) no African language has been found to be a cognate language of Meroitic 2) the Classical literature says that the Kushites lived in Asia and Africa; 3) the Gymnosophists, or "naked sages" of Meroe came from India.
Before I began work on Meroitic, other researchers had already falsified the African theory for Meroitic's cognate language. Meroitic is not related to languages spoken in this area. Griffith and Haycock tried to read Meroitic using Nubian and failed. K.H. Priese tried to read the Meroitic text using Eastern Sudani; he also failed.The fact that not even Nubian, a language spoken by a people who were engaged in constantly conflict with the Meroites , failed to be the cognate language of Meroitic made it clear that we must look elsewhere for the cognate language spoken by the Meroites.
The evidence presented above provides internal and external validity for my theory based upon the sources I have cited previously. The sources I have used are impartial, to disconfirm my hypothesis someone needs to show that my propositions are not fully informed[i.e., there were no Indians North Africa and Kush when the Classical writers maintained they were] and present rival explanations based on the evidence.
The fact that the claims made by the Classical writers issupported by the Indians themselves if further strong confirmation of the Kushana hypothesis. The hypothesis based on the classical literature, was enough to support the original Kushana Hypothesis. The predicting power of the original theory, matches the observed natural phenomena which was confirmed elsewhere by cognate place names, ethononyms, lexical items and grammatical features, indicate that my theory has not be falsified.
The ability to reliably predict a linguistic relationship between Kushana and Meroitic, was further confirmation of the Kushana Hypothesis, because the linguistic connections were deducible from prediction. I controlled the Kushana Hypothesis by comparing the statements of the classical writers, with historical, linguistic anthropological and toponymic evidence found not only in Africa, but also India and Central Asia [where the people also used Tokharian as a trade language to unify the various people in Central Asia].
I constructed three testable hypotheses in support of the Kushana theory, and it seems only fair that these variables must be disconfirmed, to falsify the Kushana Hypothesis.
Hypothesis 1: If the meroites used a writing system of non-African origin a tradition mentioning this fact will exist. (Hypothesis confirmed. Classical literature mentions Indian scholars in ancient Meroe.)
Hypothesis: 2. If the classical literature mentions Indians who lived in Egypt influencing the Meroites their should be historical evidence relating to this tradition. (Hypothesis confirmed .Classical literature mentions a King who left his country is mentioned in the Jaina text called the Kalakeharya-Kathanaka.)
Hypothesis: 3. If Classical literature is true about the Indian origin of the Gymnosophists Indians will be found living near the Meroites around the time the Meroitic inscriptions appear. (Hypothesis confirmed. Artifacts and coins with Indian inscriptions have been found in Egypt and Ethiopia.) Failure to disconfirm this theorem, implies validity of my prediction.
My confirmation of the above , and 1) the presence of Kushites in Africa and Asia; 2) Asoka sent many Buddhist missionaries to Egypt who wrote their scriptures in Kharosthi and Tocharian; 3) a Blemmya--native to the Meroitic empire, is mentioned in numerous Buddhist Pali text; 4)the presence of Kushana sages in India who may have migrated to Meroe;5) cognate lexical items; 6)cognate verbs and 7) cognate grammatical features; indicates systematic controlled, critical and empirical investigation of the question of Kushana representing the Meroitic cognate language. As a result of these facts we can now use Tocharian or Kushana to read the Meroitic text. The historical evidence make it clear that the Meroites were probably not strangers to Kharosthi literacy since the Gymnosophists had been in Upper Egypt and Meroitic Empires hundreds of years.

The evidence is clear Tocharian and Kharosthi was a popular media among Upper Egyptians and Meroites. As a result, it was a nativized Meroitic language spoken by a major group of Meroites.

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1 comment:

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