Saturday, August 29, 2015

The origin and meaning of the word “Mazda”

Ahura Mazda (right, with high crown) invests A...Did you know that the Mazda Car is named after the Zoroastrian God Ahura Mazda?

The Mazda company’s name, “Mazda,” derives from Ahura Mazda,  the Zoroastrian god of wisdom, intelligence and harmony. Used by the company as a symbol of the origin of both Eastern and Western civilizations, and also as a mark of their automobile companies work culture. 

The ancient religion of Zoroastrianism was founded by its prophet, Zoroaster (Zarthusthra in Avestan) believed to have been born in ancient Khorezm near the town of Khojeli in Karkalpakstan. It is believed to have arisen during the 10th or 11th BCE, though some believe that he lived some time between 1750 and 1200 BC. And the Parsi people of India, Pakistan place him at about 6000 BC. Zoroastrianism is a peaceful religion and is all about doing good (its morality is summed up in the phrase “good thoughts, good words, good deeds”).

The car company Mazda began its life in 1920 as the Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. in Hiroshima, Japan. At the time, there was a cork shortage because of World War I, so the company was founded to process a cork substitute made from the bark of an Abemaki or Chinese cork oak tree. It was a good idea at the time, but shortly afterwards Japan could get real cork again and the company foundered.

In 1927, Jujiro Matsuda came onboard to lead the company and started manufacturing tools, three-wheeled "trucks" and then cars. After World War II, the company formally adopted the name Mazda named after the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda (and was close to an anglicized pronunciation of Matsuda the founder's name).

Logo: In the 1936 logo, the M shaped curve was inspired by the emblem of Hiroshima city. The 1991 and 1992 logos symbolized a wing, the Sun and a circle of light. Mazda's current logo, nicknamed the "owl" logo, is a stylized "M" that look like stretched wings.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monuments of ancient art of Karakalpakstan

At the lower reaches of the Amu Darya is located the Khorezm oasis, whose fertile lands are surrounded by deserts of Karakum, Kyzylkum and vast open spaces of the Aral – Caspian.

Within this rich delta nowadays divided today among Rep. of Karakalpakstan, the Khorezm region (both in Uzbekistan) and the Dashkhovuz viloyat of Turkmenistan, in far antiquity arose and blossomed the civilization of ancient Khoresm. Many outstanding monuments of art have been found belonging  to this extraordinary and mysterious Civilization.

It is as ancient as the great civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia and India. Almost three thousand years of continious civilisation making it the oldest in Central Asia.  Its unique architectural monuments also compare to the Egyptian pyramids and Iraqi Zigurats and Greek temples very different from culture of other regions of Central Asia.

Archeologists have found magnificent examples of ancient Khwarazmian art including numerous finds of terracotta, clay statues and bas-reliefs, frescos and ceramic ossuaries enabling them to learn a lot about about the life of ancient population of the delta lands.

Khwarazmian painting and sculpture, whose development was integrally linked to that of architecture, glorified fertility and deified the power of the king; typical examples of this art are the painted clay statues and bas-reliefs and the multicolored decorative paintings, executed in natural pigments, that were found at Toprak-Kala. A unique form of Khwarazmian art are the ceramic ossuaries in the form of statues (fifth century B.C. to the early Common Era), which present a stylized image of the deceased. Terra-cotta statuettes, fashioned throughout Khwarazm, depict goddesses of fertility in a style that reflects the tradition of the Southwest Asian kore; other terra-cotta statuettes include small figurines of horses and, more rarely, men in “Scythian” dress. Typical of the fourth and third centuries B.C. are ceramic flasks with bas-reliefs depicting mythological subjects.


See the article in Sanat by Professor Vadim N. Yagodin Head of the Department of Archaeology, Research Institute of the Humanities of Karakalpak branch of Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan for more detailed information.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Al Khowarizmi - Great Khwarazmian Mathematician -  Inventor of the loarithm algorithm and the usage of zero in mathematics and the word algebra originating  (الجبر al-jabr "restoration") from the title of his book Ilm al-jabr wa'l-muḳābala.
The Stamp from the  OJSC "Uzbekistan pochtasi" and put into circulation by the State Committee of Communication, Information and Communication Technologies of the Republic of Uzbekistan from April 10, 2014 as a standard postage stamp. 

The ancient Indians represented zero as a circle with a dot inside. In Sanskrit, it was called "soonya". This and the decimal number system fascinated zIslamic scholars who came to India. Al-Khowarizmi (790 AD - 850 AD) wrote Hisab-al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabala (Calculation of Integration and Equation) which made Indian numbers popular. "Soonya" became "al-sifr" or "sifr". The impact of this book can be judged by the fact that "al-jabr" became "Algebra" of today. An Italian Leonardo Fibonacci (1170 AD - 1230 AD) took this number system to Europe. The Arabic  "sifr" was called "zephirum" in Latin, and acquired many local names in Europe including "cypher". Today this system is called Hindu-Arabic System.  The positional system of representing integers revolutionised the   mathematical calculations and also helped in Astronomy and accurate  navigation. The use of positional system to indicate fractions was introduced around 1579 AD by Francois Viete. The dot for a decimal  point  came to be used a few years later, but did not become popular  until its  use by Napier. The binary system used in modern computing uses 1 and 0.

AL-BIRUNI, Abu Arrayhan Muhammad Ibn Ahmad

Abou Rayhan Mohamed Al Biruni (973-1048) was born at Kath in Khwarazm (now Beruni) located in the modern day Republic of Karakalpakstan (in Uzbekistan). He was an outstanding astronomer, astrologer, mathematician, physicist, physician, geographer, geologist, historian, and indefatigable traveller. Conversant in Turkish, Farsi, Sanskrit, Hebrew and Arabic and Hindi, he became the most important interpreter of Indian science to Islam. His many scientific achievements include: pioneering the notion that the speed of light is much greater than the speed of sound, disputing the European Ptolemaic view that Africa stretched infinitely to the South, insisting it was surrounded by water, advancing the controversial but correct view that the Indus valley was once a sea basin, and explaining natural springs by the laws of hydrostatics.

Al-Biruni studied with the renowned astronomer and mathematician Abu Nasr Mansur, a prince of the ruling Banu Iraq in Khwarezm. Al-Biruni’s knowledge of several languages allowed him to understand existing ideas and bring a fresh and original approach to his own work. At 17 he computed the latitude of Kath by observing the maximum altitude of the sun. By the time he was 21 in the year 994, he had written several short works. One that survived is Cartography, a work on map projections. He regularly corresponded with his contemporary, the famous physician Ibn Sina better known to the West as Avicenna, who reconciled Greek learning with Muslim thought with his translation of Euclid into Arabic.
At the end of the 10th century and the beginning of the 11th century there were numerous civil wars in the region where al-Biruni lived. In 995 the rule of the Banu Iraqi was overthrown in a coup that forced al-Biruni to flee but to where is not quite clear. Some theorize by analyzing his writings that he then went to the city of Rayy, near  present day Tehran, where he had no patron and lived in poverty. It is known he returned to his homeland by June 4, 1004, which then was ruled successively by brothers Ali ibn Ma’mun and Abu’l Abbas Ma’mun who provided generous support for al-Biruni’s scientific work. Here he described an eclipse of the moon from Jurjaniyya, (modern Kunya- Urgench, Turkmenistan) in collaboration with his teacher Abu Nasr Mansur, but at the cost of not being free to leave. He was to spend the next seven years in the court of Prince Khwarimshah Abou Al Abbas Ma’moum. In  1017 Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni (in Afghanistan) conquered Abu’l Abbas Ma’mum’s kingdom even though both Abu’l and his brother had married Mahmud’s sisters.

This political upheaval did not interfere with al-Biruni’s research. On the contrary, his scholarship so impressed Mahmud that he took the scholar with him on his military excursions in India. Over a period of 20 years he traveled all over the country, learning Hindu philosophy, mathematics, geography and religion from the Pandits, and in turn he taught them Greek and Arabic science and philosophy. His long stay allowed him to learn the Sanskrit which enabled him to make contact with the greatest scholars of this country exchanging with them his knowledge from the Baghdad school against that of India. Upon his return to Afghanistan, all the knowledge from his observations of his travels in India were recorded in his book Kitab al-Hind. In this work he mentions that he translated two Sanskrit books into Arabic. One, named Sakaya, which dealt with the creation of things and their types, and the second, Patanjal, examining what happens after the soul leaves the body.

On returning from India, al-Biruni settled in the court of Gazna (now in Afghanistan), with Sultan Massoud to whom he dedicated his third main work entitled Qanun-I Masoodi, a book in which he discusses several theorems of astronomy, trigonometry, solar, lunar, and planetary motions. That same year, Al Biruni composed his Kitab al tafhim li awa′il sina′at al tanjim (“Book of Instructions in the Elements of the Art of Astrology”), also known as the Tafhim. In this book he follows a logical progression from first principles, beginning with geometry, then arithmetic, astronomy, geography, chronology and a discussion of the astrolabe before reaching his introduction to astrology. He described the general characteristics of the “planets,” Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon and describes their role in determining people’s actions and professions, their bodies and diseases, animals, vegetables & minerals. As an illustration, he claimed Saturn rules farming, grave-digging, captivity, fathers, slaves, wicked people, hair, skin, bones, old age, sickness, poverty, death, horses, olive trees, almonds, hard stones, lead, pepper, sleep, and poisons. These are only a small sampling of those things ruled by Saturn, and in a like manner the other six “planets” rule as many things.

Among his other books is the al-Athar al-Baqia in which he connects accounts of ancient histories of nations with known geographical facts. In it he also discusses whether or not the Earth rotates on its axis, and gives the correct longitudes and latitudes of several places. His treatise Kitab-al-Saidana contains the then existing Arabic knowledge of Indian medicine.
It is believed over his lifetime that al-Biruni wrote some 180  books and articles, with only about a fifth having survived. One of his most important texts is Shadows, which covers shadows, gnomonics, the history of the tangent and secant functions, applications of the shadow functions to the astrolabe, shadow observations for the solution of astronomical problems and for the fixing of times for Muslim prayers. In addition, al-Biruni gave a full description of the Hindu positional principle of numeration and proved Heron’s formula and Brahmagupta’s generalisation. In physics he studied specific gravity and the causes of artesian wells.

In Kitab-al-Jamahir, al-Biruni became the first to determine the hardness of minerals and their specific weights. He described the ratios between the densities of gold, mercury, lead, silver, bronze, copper, brass, iron and tin. He displayed his results as combinations of integers and numbers of the form 1/n, with n = 2, 3, 4,…, 10. He was the first to see gas-liquid inclusions in gems – ancient fluids that took part in the formation of mountain crystals, topaz, amethysts, sapphires, ambers, and other minerals. He was also an astrologer who astonished people with the accuracy of his predictions.
Al-Biruni died at the age of 75, having spent 40 years gathering knowledge and significantly contributing to science. He is said on his death bed to a former student  “Isn’t it better that I leave the world knowing the solution to this problem than leaving it without knowing ?” I then repeated the question to him and he gave me the solution he had previously promised me.  A few seconds later, the great scholar took his last breath”.

Source:,%20Muhammad.pdf (ED)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Religions of Central Asia


In central Asia Religion like other aspects of its culture are an overlap between East and West. Buddhism reached China from India and Central Asia, Nestorian Christianity came west to Iran and Central Asia because of suppression by the Byzantine Church, and Islam went west - not always by the sword, as is so often proclaimed, but largely by wandering Sufis who were not always welcome at the courts of the caliphs for their unorthodox views. Manicheism - the state religion of the Uighur kingdom in the 8th century - died out in the 20th century from its beginnings in Iran in the 3rd century AD. For a thousand years Zoroastrianism flourished throughout Central Asia but disappeared except for small communities in Iran, Pakistan and India.

Muslim Religion - Islam, meaning in Arabic "giving oneself up to God, submission" was founded at the beginning of the 7thc. AD on the Arabian Peninsula during the period of formation of the Arabian state of classes.   Islam was influenced by Christianity and Judaism, and partly by Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism. To be a Muslim you must accept the "five pillars of faith".

The first of them is utterance of the symbol of faith: "There is no God besides Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet".  Muslims are also committed to praying every day, keeping the fasts, giving alms (zakat), and to making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives (hadj). Other religious ceremonies and rituals of Islam such as the Muslim holidays as well as the "pillars of faith" are of great importance for preserving and increasing influence of the religion over its believers.

Since its birth, Islam, like other religions, has been constantly changing. The division of Islam into three different sections- the Sunni, Shi'a and Sufi sects, stimulated the ideological development of the religion. With the exception of  small groups of Persians, and Kurds living in Turkmenistan and the Bukhara region of Uzbekistan, all the Muslims of the Central Asia are Sunnis. Shiites also live in the Gorno - Badakhshan autonomous province of Tajikistan, within a sect called Ismailites. Groups of followers of varieties of mystical and ascetic Moslem teachings of Sufism (Muridism) which can be  both Sunni and Shia are active in Chechnya and Ingushetia, and in some districts of Dagestan and Kazakhstan.

The Mir-Arab Madrasah in Bukhara where students are trained to become Muslim clergy, also has a school where Shiite clergy students are taught. Madrasahs are also found in Samarkand. There is an Al-Bukhari Muslim Institute in Tashkent.


Sufism is a religious and philosophical Muslim teaching developed in the Arab countries in the 8thc.

The cause for the development of Sufism was the state of social conditions in Muslim countries. Sufism contains elements of New Platonism, Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and particularly Buddhism. In essence, Sufism propagates asceticism, pantheism, and mysticism. According to Sufism there are four steps leading to the state of perfection.

The first step is Sharia, or Muslim law, which requires unquestioning compliance. The second step, called "tarikat", requires the complete obedience of apprentices to their teachers and strengthening of the willpower by rejecting material interests. Having gone through this step, the third step, "marifat", can be reached when a man must use his heart and soul, not his intellect, to realize that the existence of the universe is in God, that the World is God's emanation and that the meaning of goodness and evil is relative, not absolute.

The fourth step, called "khakikat" (truth), can be reached only after the previous three have been mastered. "Achieving, knowing the truth" means "the end of the Sufi as a personality", his attaining enlightenment and merging with God into one being, which provides eternal existence. Sufis have to practice special exercises (meditations) to attain these goals.

Sufism spread over the countries of Near East, northern India, Indonesia, and Southwest China. In Maverounahr (covering neally all of Uzbekistan), Sufism became widely practiced during the period of the feudal wars in the second half of the 9th to the beginning of the 10th centuries. The first Sufi chief in Maverounahr was Yusuf Khamadaniy (the 12thc.). Later followed such highly respected Sufis as Abdulkhalik Gizhduvaniy and Akhmad Yassaviy.  During the 14th and 15th centuries "Naqshabandiya order" founded by Bahovutdin Nukshbandiy in Bukhara became the dominant Sufi order.

In Khorezm the rise of Sufism was aided by its isolation whilst its neighbours in Persia had converted to the Shiite branch of Islam, Khiva stayed Sunni. This led to Khorezm, already a remote location surrounded by two deserts, becoming even more detached from much of the western Sunni world, leaving Islam in Khorezm to develop in relative isolation. Although native scholars such as Al Khorezmi travelled extensively and many pious Khivans would make the haj to Mecca, the greatest outside religious influence on Khiva arrived as result of the wandering Sufis whose extensive pilgrimages took them to the city. They would share news from the outside world and update the religious community on new practises.

Buddhism in Central Asia - During the Kushan period various religious systems were widespread in Central Asia. These were the local cult of Mitra and Anahit, Zoroastrian pantheon (Ormuzd, Veretzanga, etc.) the Greek pantheon (Jupiter, Heliosis, Celen, etc.) and the cult of local heroes (Siyavush in Khorezm and Sogd) and Buddhism.Buddhism was banished from Iran in the 2nd- 3rd centuries and found support in Central Asia, where Buddhism became widely practiced. According to Chinese chronicles Buddhism came to China in 147 AD from the country of the "big yue dzhi", and thanks to the Kushan missionaries Buddhism was adopted as the official religion of the court of the Chinese emperor, Khuan-Di (147-167).

During the archeological excavations in Khorezm (Bazaar-Kala, Gyaur-Kala, Gyaz-Kala) and Sogd (tali-barzu, Zohak-i-Maron castle, Er-Kurgan and others) it was found out that many settlements and castles dated back to the Kushan period. But the largest number of traces of Buddhist culture during the Kushan period today is found in Tolharistan "old Termez" were architectural fragments dating back to the Kushan period have been found.

Zoroastrianism is a system of religious beliefs, which spread through the territory of ancient Iran and Central Asia in the 7th-6thc. BC. Zoroaster (Zaraustra) is the prophet of Zoroastrianism he lived approximately in the first half of the 6th c. BC. He wrote the most ancient part of the holy book of Zoroastrianism "Avesta" in Khoresm. According to legend, Zoroaster lived and preached in Khoresm and Bactria when King Vishtasp ruled there. The king was the first monarch to adopt Zoroastrianism.

In the following chapters of Avesta Zoroaster was described as a legendary fighter who had not only used words and miracles, but also material weapons against evil spirits. Uzbekistan and the holy sites of Zoroastrianism are inseparable: in Samarkand is found the ancient settlement called Afrosiab, which is the name of the hero from "Avesta"; Bukhara is one of the most ancient Uzbek towns, and was founded on a sacred hill of spring offerings worshipped by ancient Zoroastrians, at the tomb of saint Siyavush.

Throughout the centuries, Zoroastrianism has changed, both in meaning and in form. During the rule of the Arshakids and the Sasanids in Central Asia, Zoroastrianism was the official religion. The most ancient site in Bukhara is the Ark fortress, which was built no later than the 1st millennium BC. The fortress dates back to the time when Afrosiab and Siyavush, the legendary hero mentioned in Avesta, ruled. According to the legends, Siyavush was buried inside the fortress beside its eastern gate, where Bukhara Zoroastrians laid their offerings. In Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, Chilanzar Ak-Tepa was the cult centre of the Zoroastrians.  Khoresm is considered by Zoroastrians to be integral to the survival of the religion, in part as it was the Khorezm King Vishtaspa who welcomed the fleeing Prophet Zoroaster and after conversion became a vital patron of the faith.

Christians in Central Asia  - The original christians in Central Asia were made up of sects that had been branded heretics and driven out of Christendom, these included the Marianites, (who believed that the Holy Trinity was made up of Father, Son and Holy Virgin Mary) the Collyridians, Ebionites, Eutchyians, Monophysites and Arians. However, it was the Nestorians who became the largest, most influencial and most widely spread of these Christian sects, leaving Central Asia with a millenium of Christianity. Born out of a theological schism in the Church regarding the deity of Christ the followers of Nestorius moved first to Turkey and then east to Persia and beyond.

Christianity, like Buddhism and Islam, travelled along the trade routes of the Silk Road, moving ever Eastwards. The Nestorians are credited with teaching various Turkic groups to read their own languages. In Hojelli, near Nukus, still contains ruins with crosses on them located near sacred burial sites.

In 644 the King of Merv, (in modern day Turkmenistan) converted and by the eighth century Christianity was well entrenched in Bukhara and the region around the Oxus river. Crosses and other Christian imagery appear on the coinage of that region. The Arab invasion of Central Asia led to many, including some Christians to convert to Islam.

Nestorian Christianity is also thought to have influenced Islam due to the meetings of the teenage Mohammed with a Nestorian Monk in Syria. They had many theological discussions which may have led to Mohammed's sympathy with the 'people of the book'. He is also thought to have been influenced by the Nestorians strong opposition towards images, rejecting icons and crucifixes. Al Beruni, the historian from Khiva, referred to the Nestorians as the most civilised of the Christian groups under the Caliphate. They are reputed to have passed on Greek medical, mathematical and other academic knowledge to the Arabs who in turn were to reintroduce them back to Europe.
Today's Christians in Central Asia consist primarily of Europeans – mainly Russians, Germans, Poles, Armenians, and Greeks. At present, large Orthodox communities exist in Kazakhstan (4,500,000), Kyrgyzstan (600,000), and Uzbekistan (at least 500,000), with tens of thousands in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. These communities have close ties to members of the majority Muslim population are well accepted.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union unfortunately there was an element of fundamentalist missionary activity that attempted to introduce alien western culture into the region and whose activities in some instances clearly was linked to US hegemony rather than spreading the word of God. On a human level these so called missionaries attacked local culture by attempting to break the strong family links which are so essential to the well being of these societies (much the same as they have done in other parts of the world). Due to these activities they are no longer generally welcome in Uzbekistan and a number of other Central Asian states.

Sources: and