One of the Asian countries, Afghanistan used to be known as Gandhara during the time of Mahabharata. And, one of the facts proving it is that one of the cities in the country is still known as Kandhar, a word that originated from Gandhara, literally meaning ‘the land of fragrances’. This word is mentioned in various old Granthas like Rig Veda, Mahabharata, and Uttara-Ramayana. According to the Sahastranaam, Gandhara is one of the names of Lord Shiva. It is also believed that the first inhabitants of Gandhara were the devotees of Shiva.
Association between Gandhara and Afghanistan
According to the experts in the field, the Gandhara kingdom includes today’s eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and northwest Punjab. Mahabharata is a Sanskrit epic written by sage Veda Vyasa. It includes the story of wars between Kaurava and Pandava princes. According to this scripture, around 5500 years ago, Gandhara was ruled by King Subala. He had a daughter and a son named Gandhari and Shakuni.
His daughter was married to Dhritrashtra, who was the prince of Hastinapur kingdom and later became the King. As per the Mahabharata story, Gandhari had 100 sons (Kauravas) who faced a miserable loss after the war by the Pandava brothers. Those who survived post-war settled in Gandhara kingdom and gradually migrated to today’s Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
With the slow wiping out of the Shiva worshippers from the Gandhara region and the spread of Buddhism, the name Gandhara became Kandhara. Not only these, Mauryan rulers like Chandragupta, Ashoka, Turkic conqueror Timur, and Mughal Emperor Babur also ruled the region. Probably, during the rule of one of these rulers, the name of Gandhara changed.