Two Periods of Former Civilization in Afghanistan


Abdul Hai Habibi


About two and half thousand years before the birth of Christianity large groups of white people, who were of short stature, migrated from the northern banks of the Oxus river, came to the land of Bakhdi (Bactria) and Bakhtar. Later their numbers increased considerably and they dispersed from Bakhdi to the northern and southern regions of the Hindukush mountains.

Several hundred years passed and their population and the number of livestock increased until they went in an easterly direction, crossed the Indus river, and occupied the northern flatlands of India. During this time these people, within the historical lands of Afghanistan, adopted an urbanite living and left their rural settings.

They established a civilization, which we name as the Vedic civilization around 1400 BCE. This is because they have been mentioned in the four books of Veda. Vedic scriptures provide the names of certain places where the ancient people of Afghanistan lived and this shows that these people participated in the building of the Vedic civilization. For example the name, Pashtun, has been mentioned as Pakhat, while the people from Laghman and Nuristan, have been named as Aena. We can find the root of this word in the Alisheng and Alinegar monikers. Names from this period can be traced until this day in Pashto and Dari languages. For example these people called themselves Aryans, meaning pure people. In Pashto ara means pure and foundation, and the appellation of Pashtun is Aryan, meaning a pure person with a strong foundation.

They called their religious leaders, reishi, meaning knowledgeable people with a good conduct. The word resha, in Pashto, until this day, has the same meaning. In the hymns of Rig Veda we find that the Indus has been named Sindhuwaw, the Kabul river is Kubaha, Komal river is Kumati, Kuram is Karumo, Swat is Sweiti, Kunar is Dawruka, Arghandab is Haraweiti, Polan is Bahalana, and Balkh has been mentioned as Bahlika. In Rig Veda a Pashtun king has been named as Turawena meaning a swordsman. In present day vocabulary it is Turbaz. Some authors also write it as Tarhabaz.

In the second book of Reg Veda we see that in Harweiti, meaning the Harirud and Arghandab rivers regions, the names of Panidalsa, Parawata and Barisa tribes. These tribes exist, in the mentioned regions, under the names of Panidasu, Parwat and Barretch. This shows that the roots of these tribes date back to three thousand years ago. In Vedic language, a family was called a kola. In present day Pashto this word is kahol. They divided people into four branches: the first branch, which were spiritual  leaders, were called Brahmans (the Barman of Pashto), the second branch were the Kashtaria, the warriors, (in Pashto this word is tur or the tur kashie of Pir-e Roshan). The third branch, Weisiya, were the working class, meaning trustworthy. The fourth branch of people were hoodlums who were called the Sudra (sodar in Pashto). The roots of these words can still be found in our languages.

It looks as though people living during the Vedic time had a monarchy. In 1939 CE a pottery vessel was found in Samarkand which contains the figure of an ancient Aryan king, named Kiyomers, who was a shepherd king. These people held councils under the name of Sabha and festivals named Samana. They recited poetry, held funerals, played music and games. They had a national dance and wore national customs. They were pastoralists and wove clothes from the fur of their livestock. They subsisted on dairy products, engaged in agriculture and bartered animal fat for the soma plant (a variant of Ephedra, commonly found in Central Asia). The bartering procedure was called a pasu, and it is possible that the word paisa (money) may have taken root from pasu.

Their industry was based on wooden and metal products. They made straw mats, pottery and metal pots. They prepared a concentrated drink from soma, the mountainous plant, which they drank during times of prayers. Their famous gods were Waruna (the god of sky), Ayendra (the god of war), Surya (the god of sun), Agni (the god of fire) and Maroot (the god of wind). They made sacrifices to each god.

These names have been mentioned in the four Vedic books and this was the time of the Aryan cultural period which has common manifestations in our culture and that of the former Indian people. The birthplace of this culture was the Bakhdi (Balkh) valley, the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains, and the Kabul, Arghandab, Indus and the Gandahara valleys.

Around 1200 BCE, the Aryan people of Afghanistan had another culture too. Since the source of this culture was the book of Avesta, we call it the Avestan civilization. The birthplace of this culture and civilization was also Bakhdi and Balkh. The five scriptures of Avesta, which we have in our possession until the present time, provide us a vivid description of the thoughts and culture of these people. In Avesta we see that the Aryans had left their nomadic lifestyle and lived in villages and towns and had started a new economic and social mode of living.

Avesta states: The first royal administration was formed in Balkh during this time and King Yama made a Vara, meaning a city in Bakhdi, where people lived with their livestock. It was here that Zoroaster, who was a pious man, started his religion which was called Mazda Yasna, meaning the praise of God.

Zoroaster was born around 600 BCE to Dugdow. His father was, Pourusaspa (meaning an old horse). Zoroaster had three sons, the first was a spiritual leader, the second the leader of agriculturalists and the third was the leader of warriors. These three groups have been mentioned in Zoroastrian teachings also.

It is belied that Zoroaster was murdered around 583 BCE, in the battle with Turya people, by Bradres  in the fire-worshipping temple of Balkh. It was Zoroaster, who for the first time, created an economic and cultural identity in Afghanistan, which was suitable with the nomadic, agricultural and urban lifestyle of the people. Agricultural and pastural land was distributed among families so they would develop their land and provide sustenance to their livestock and hence be able to live in peace under the patronage of their kings and leaders and base their lifestyle on truth.

Zoroaster believed in the entity and might of God, Ahura Mazda. He believed in the principle that good and evil, light and darkness, wisdom and fiend are at war with each other and want humanity to follow the path of truth and enlightenment. He believes that humankind can achieve these goals through active ethical participation in life, ritual and the exercise of good thoughts, words and deeds. Zoroaster was the first person to teach the doctrines of individual judgement, heaven and hell, the future resurrection of the body and the last judgment. [1]


[1]Pashtun Zagh Magazine, 1346 Solar Hijra, Vol. 12, p. 9.