Abdullah Elmadani; “Bahreini-indian relations go back to the third millenium B.C.


Academic Researcher and Lecturer in Asian Studies

Interview by Rita Ibrahim

You have written a great deal about the connection between India and Bahrain.

The Indian civilization is as old and esteemed as the Mesopotamian civilization was. In fact over two thousand years ago these were the two civilizations that were in prominence for their wealth and influence. There has been a lot of research into the relationship between the two cultures and we know for a fact that there were strong and consistent trade links.

How far back does this relationship go?

Long before the coming of Islam to the region, India was known to the tribes of Arabia and greatly admired and respected. Evidences of that respect can be seen in small things, for instance many girl children were named Hind which is the Arabic name for India. Many words of Indian origin were also used in the ancient Arabic verses and poetry. Based on the discovery of artifacts and embellished pottery and sea shells recovered from Harappa and from the archeological ruins of ancient Dilmun, archaeologists suggest that Indo-Gulf interactions can be traced to the third millennium BC.

How has this history shaped the relationship between Bahrain and India?

The trade route and the history are relevant even now. All those years ago wood and timber came to Bahrain from the Malabar region in India, as also the spices. Other than that we used to get rice, cloth, livestock and so much more from India. All these goods were brought by the Indian merchants on the trading ships. Bahrain’s main and practically only source of wealth at that time was its matchless pearls. They also traded in dried dates which were used in religious ceremonies in India. They used to dry it here and in Saudi Arabia and then export it. There was a give and take and that was the basis of a relationship that has been marked by respect and longevity.

Is there a future for this relationship?

For centuries the Gulf has acted as a bridge connecting India with the rest of the world. History, religion and culture have all contributed to strengthening the ties created by geographical positioning. These long, intimate ties between the two nations must therefore constitute the basis on which present and future cooperation is planned. India and Bahrain must work together today in shaping the future.

To what extent have Indians affected cultural and socio-economic aspects in Bahrain?

This is a big question, as the impact of India and Indians on our cultural and socio-economic affairs in Bahrain and other GCC States during the time of British colonial administration and after was very deep and diverse. It covered all aspects of life, from cuisine to costumes, furniture, building architecture, jewlery designs, music, children’s songs and games, not to mention India’s impact on our daily spoken dialect, which comprises many words originated from HINDI (nearly 9.6 per cent of vocabulary in Bahraini dialect is originally Hindi according to a Bahraini researcher). To sum up, Indians’ impact on us was deep in the 19th and first half of the20th century, and we owe them a lot, particularly in the field of enlightenment, education, and introduction to modern life and commodities and new ideas and theories.

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