The Theosophical Forum – March 1944

EARLY AMERICA AND HINDU CULTURE — Charles J. Ryan

Many students of Theosophy have desired more information about the connection between ancient India and ancient America than is given by H. P. Blavatsky in the few references she makes to the subject. We are glad to find that a learned Hindu scholar, Mr. Chaman Lal, has at last taken it up and presented a mass of evidence in his deeply interesting volume of 247 pages entitled Hindu America, published by the New Book Co., Hornby Road, Bombay, in 1940. We are indebted to Dr. W. Y. Evans-Wentz for drawing our attention to this valuable corroboration of H. P. Blavatsky's claim of an intimate connection between America and India some thousands of years before either the Norse or the Columbian rediscovery of the New World.

Mr. Chaman Lal's evidence for the similarity of the ancient Hindu and the native American religions and cultures, as well as for the historicity of the traditions in both the Old and the New Worlds wherein the voyages and connecting links between them are recorded under more or less allegorical forms or even in plain language, is strong and well-selected, though we regret the inclusion of a citation from Churchward among those from serious and recognised scholars.

Most Western writers have ignored the possibility of pre-Columbian travel between India and America by civilized expeditions by either the western or the eastern sea route or by both, but have concentrated attention on the possible emigration of early savage tribes from northern Asia across the Bering Straits perhaps more than 30,000 years ago. H. P. Blavatsky, however, and the ancient traditions mentioned, indicate that highly civilized persons came over to America from India at a later date, some even as recently as 5,000 years ago.

Mr. Chaman Lal's evidence includes the sculptural and pictorial representations in America of the Indian elephant with their unmistakably Hindu artistic "feeling." These elephants do not resemble the prehistoric American types. The American god Tlaloc was elephant-headed, as was the Hindu Ganesha, a derivative of Indra, and both were rain-gods. The author gives a large number of quotations from various sources illustrating the close resemblance between American and Indian cultures and ideas, such as religious traditions and myths, cosmical concepts, the knowledge of the four Yugas and of the races preceding the present Fifth Race, identical social systems and customs, and yoga meditation methods. He discusses the use of the zero in mathematics among the Mayas, unknown elsewhere in the ancient world except in India; the symbols common to India and America such as the cross, the swastika, the thunder-bird (the latter being stylized at Ocosingo in Mexico so as to be practically identical with the Egyptian Winged Globe) and the traces of food-plants being transported across the Pacific, etc. He mentions the recent discovery of stone wheels at Tiahuan-aco in Bolivia, but does not refer to the unexpected revelation that America knew the principle of the true arch. These examples of Old World culture in ancient America were unknown till quite recently.

Mr. Chaman Lal pays considerable attention to the curious identity between certain Indian and American games, but he does not mention the fact that when the Spaniards arrived in Arizona they found the Pima Indians playing a game which required a pattern exactly duplicating the elaborate plan of the Labyrinth of ancient Crete as shown on the Cretan coins! This pattern is so uniquely specialized that it seems impossible for it to have been independently invented in places so remote as Crete and our Southwestern States; but Mr. Chaman Lal traces a powerful Hindu influence in Greece and the Mediterranean and quotes significant evidence about the extensive maritime trade carried on by India with foreign countries.

Many pages are devoted to the Snake or Dragon (Naga) Cult of Hinduism and its close resemblance to the widespread Snake Cult of ancient America, which is still extant in places, even in the United States. Students of Theosophy know the importance that is attached to the snake as a symbol of Wisdom and of the Initiate, which is found in every ancient religion, even in Christianity, for Jesus uses the word when sending forth his twelve trained apostles: "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Moses healed the people by setting up the Brazen Serpent under direction from his God. How different the story of the European penetration into and domination of America might have been if the pure teachings of Jesus had been followed by the professed Christians!

The Theosophical student feels that Mr. Chaman Lal is right in his insistance upon the importance of the similarity between the ancient Hindu and American religious philosophies, and in doing so he is supporting a fundamental teaching of The Secret Doctrine, i. e., the former existence of a universal "Wisdom-Religion," Theo-sophy as we now call it, widely diffused over the earth, the origin and fountain of the partial presentations of the One Truth which have arisen as specialized religions, and which have mostly become more or less degenerated or superstitious. This, however, is no obstacle to the probability that the Hindu "colonists" to America brought many new ideas and methods which were engrafted into the prevailing forms of belief.

In explaining that many of the difficulties in tracing the religious practices of ancient America arise from the almost complete destruction of records by fanatical bigots, Mr. Chaman Lal speaks plainly of the horrifying cruelties perpetrated on the American tribes by the so-called "Christians," but he firmly believes that "the culture of the Indian will revive again and will redeem America. There are already clear signs to that effect. The most advanced and scientifically brought up Americans are already . . . looking for a philosophy that will "save their souls." " In this he would sympathize with Dr. Gregory Mason, Americanist, who in his recent South of Yesterday asks if we, modern Americans of all types, shall not carry on the American tradition that has come down from antiquity and build a real civilization in all respects suitable to Western conditions, and in which we shall no longer depend upon European culture.

The following quotations from H. P. Blavatsky will suffice to prove that Mr. Chaman Lal's main principle is well-founded. Speaking of the Chaldean, Assyrian and Indian "Nargals" or chiefs of the Magi, and the Hindu "Nagas" or "Wise Men," she writes:

Such similarity cannot be attributed to coincidence. A new world is discovered, and we find that, for our forefathers of the Fourth Race, it was already an old one. That Arjuna, Krishna's companion and chela, is said to have descended into Patala, the "antipodes," and therein married Ulupi, a Naga (or Nagini rather), the daughter of a king of the Nagas, Kauravya. — The Secret Doctrine, II, 213-4 (Also see footnotes 406, 407)

In H. P. Blavatsky's Theosophical Glossary we read:

ULUPI (Sk.) A daughter of Kauravya, King of the Nagas in Patala (the nether world, or more correctly, the Antipodes, America). Exoterically, she was the daughter of a king or chief of an aboriginal tribe of the Nagas, or Nagals (ancient adepts) in pre-historic America — Mexico most likely, or Uruguay. She was married to Arjuna, the disciple of Krishna, whom every tradition, oral and written, shows travelling five thousand years ago to Patala (the Antipodes). The Puranic tale is based on a historical fact. Moreover, Ulupi, as a name, has a Mexican ring in it, like "Atlan," "Aclo," etc.

And again in The Secret Doctrine:

Exoterically, the Nagas are semi-divine beings. . . . Yet there was a race of Nagas, said to be a thousand in number only, born or rather sprung from Kadra, Kasyapa's wife, for the purpose of peopling Patala, which is undeniably America. ... — II, 132.

There is no doubt that America is that "far distant land into which pious men and heavy storms had transferred the sacred doctrine" . . . the Secret Doctrine of the land which was the cradle of physical man, and of the Fifth Race, had found its way into the so-called New World ages and ages before the "Sacred Doctrine" of Buddhism. — Op. cit., 424, footnote.


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