When we hear the word Mesopotamia, we imagine deserts, camels, and an ancient civilization we have read about in history. Those who imagine with maps in their head, may vaguely see the region around present day Iraq. All this imagination is approximately correct about Mesopotamia.
To define it more accurately, it was a region and a civilization that existed between and around the two rivers of Euphrates and Tigris that almost run parallel through present day Iraq. At its largest extent, it encompassed an area that is now occupied by south-western Turkey, north-western Syria, and most of northern and eastern Iraq.
Mesopotamia is considered one of the oldest civilizations of humans. Though the whole region is now Islamic, after the 7th century Islamic invasions, it was of diverse cultures and religions before that. From Christian, Persian, Greek, Roman and Egyptian to what is termed as ‘ancient Mesopotamian’. The latter religion is what is of interest to us.
Ancient Mesopotamian included a variety of religious beliefs dating back from 3,500 BC to 500 AD or so. From home grown gods to imported ones from Egypt, Iran and afar through migration and conquest. Of these, the most interesting is of the kingdom of Mittani.
Mittani kingdom existed somewhere in upper Mesopotamia which is now southern Turkey and some parts of northern Syria. The city of Vasukani, which still exists buried somewhere, was the capital of the kingdom. The people of Mittani are called Hurrians now, but were also known as Hari.
One of the important kings of Mittani was Paratarana, whose control was as far as the city of Aleppo, one of the oldest cities in the world. Yes the same Aleppo which was until recently the last stronghold of the Islamic state — a proxy force created to destabilize the region and fight geopolitical wars by vested international powers.
Though the kingdom of Mittani was short lived, Kings like Paratarana left three important texts that tells us about its rulers. The first one appears to be a treaty, where the King of Mittani takes oath under the gods with Hurrian names but concludes with the names of Mitra, Aruna, Indra, and Nasatya. The italicized names are still known to Hindus today as Vedic deities.
The second text is about horse chariots by a person with an Indianized name called Kikuli who uses Hindu numerals and talks of Asva and Asvasani. In Sanskrit, Asva is Horse and Asvasani means “a horse trainer”. Third, another document describes Asvas using Varnas (colors) like Sweta (White) and other Sanskrit words.
In its final days, the Mittani kingdom had dynastic issues typical of Indian kingdoms and states till date. With the young king Dushrata taking control of the south, in what is now Syria, and another king Arthatama emerging to create a parallel kingdom in the northern areas now in Turkey.
With the kingdoms weakened, it became an easy target for the Hittites who killed Dushrata and took control. The northern areas were influenced by the Assyrians and Arthatama was made into a puppet king. The kingdom of Mittani ended around 1300 BCE existing only for a few hundred years.
Based on the surviving texts, it seems that most probably the Mittani kingdom was created by a ruling dynasty following Vedic culture and using Indian names. But they were ruling the Hurrians who were following a distinct local culture. The first text and its swearing in ceremony invoking gods of two cultures gives us this clue.
If we are able to find the city of Vasukani and dig, we may be able to find remains and texts that may tell us more about this kingdom of Mittani. But for now, Mittani is not just a lost kingdom in history but one that is forgotten as inconsequential to westernized narrative by historians, like many things that originate from India.