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Arunansh B Goswami
An Indo-Israel friendship ambassador.

Cyrus and Manekshaw: United by Faith and Glory

Cyrus the Great King of Kings of Persia and Field Marshall Sam HFG Manekshaw of India. Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons.

In a world far from ideal, certain nations that had turned into empires, subsumed other nationalities within their imperial framework, without trying hard enough to make them feel valued, as a part of the new geo-political entity. Subservient, oppressed, alienated and stressed, the conquered nationalities waited in hope of getting delivered, out of the obnoxious tentacles, representing multi dimensional exploitation by their imperial masters.

The Captivity of Judah, as in 2 Chronicles 36:11-21, illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company. Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons.

Two such nationalities were Jews and Bengali Muslims. While former had never accepted the Babylonian Captivity, also called Babylonian Exile the latter had accepted the two nation theory, championed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah founder of the Pakistan movement, for the creation of a country of Muslims separate from India to be named Pakistan.

Nationalist Poster Depicting Pakistani Army Atrocities in 1971 – Liberation War Museum – Dhaka – Bangladesh. Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons.

Since the Jews were aware about the Babylonian animosity towards them, and the Babylonians didn’t proffer an abnegation of the same, therefore the Jews waited with patience for their liberation, by an outside intervenor; whereas Bengali Muslims trusted Jinnah’s vision of “supposed” equal home of South Asian Muslims, to be created and christened Pakistan. They felt that they were not Bengali Muslims anymore but Pakistanis, an illusion that was to be shattered rather brutally by the Punjabi-Pathan Muslim governing class of the new born Pakistan.

In Pakistan’s first general elections, held in 1970, Bengali Muslim statesman Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s party won an absolute majority, outnumbering all other parties in West Pakistan, including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party, but Pakistan’s military regime did not allow Rahman to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Bengali language and culture were being suppressed by a primarily Punjabi and Pathan clique along with Sindhi Bhuttos. Now Bengali Muslims like Jews of ancient past were looking for an outside intervention, to help them gain independence from tyrannical West Pakistan.

Zoroastrian Warriors 

The Faravahar is arguably the best-known symbol of the Persian Zoroastrian faith depicted in Udvada India. Image Credits: Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami (Author of this article).

What did Cyrus and Manekshaw have in common? First both of them were Zoroastrians, an ancient faith that was championed by Persians the superpower of ancient world, till the Islamic Caliphate destroyed the Sasanian Zoroastrian empire and many surviving Zoroastrians took refuge in India. Ancestors of Manekshaw were refugees from Ancient Persia who came to India to find a place in it’s tolerant milieu, which was in stark contrast to the anti Zoroastrian fanaticism that the Caliphate unleashed in Persia; second being born to a Zoroastrian family on 3rd April 1914, he was given the name of ‘Cyrus’. His parents were Hormusji Manekshaw and Heerabai. But one of his aunts believed, Cyrus was not the right name for him, because a Zoroastrian called Cyrus was once sent to jail, which she never wanted with his nephew. So she changed the name from Cyrus to Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw and third, both Cyrus and Manekshaw were great leaders they led their armies to historic victories.

Cyrus Liberator of Jews

The Jews Return to Jerusalem in the Time of Cyrus; as in Ezra 1:1-11; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company. Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons.

Jews were under Babylonian Captivity waiting to be delivered, and King Nabonidus made it easy for outside intervention to happen, he had not only neglected the primary god of Babylonia, known as Marduk, but he had also moved away to Teima in Arabia quite unexpectedly. Moreover, the Babylonian king had decided to stay there for ten years while his son, Belshazzar, ruled the kingdom in his stead. The opinion of Nabonidus was so low, in fact, that his own people, the residents of Babylonia, desired a change in command.

When Nabonidus returned to Babylon in 539 BC, he was captured by Cyrus’s general Gobryas and exiled. The King of Kings of Persia Cyrus helped the Jews to Return to Jerusalem. As per the Book of Ezra in the Holy Bible, In the first year that Cyrus was king, he gave an order. It concerned God’s temple in Jerusalem. King Cyrus said, “Rebuild the temple. Then the Jews can offer sacrifices there. Lay its foundations.

The temple must be 90 feet high and 90 feet wide. Its walls must have three layers of large stones. They must also have a layer of beautiful wood. Use money from the royal treasures to pay for everything. The gold and silver objects from the house of God must be returned. Nebuchadnezzar had taken them from the first temple in Jerusalem. And he had brought them to Babylon.

Now they must be returned to their places in the temple at Jerusalem. They must be put in the house of God there.” Zoroastrian emperors after Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes also helped Jews, while Darius had given orders allowing Jews to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem later, Artaxerxes supplied many things that were needed in the Temple.

Manekshaw Liberator of Bengali Muslims

The President of India, V. V. Giri conferring the rank of Field Marshal on then General Sam Manekshaw, at Rashtrapathi Bhavan in January 1973. Image Credits: Radhtrapati Bhawan India via Wikimedia Commons.

As mentioned before, Bengali Muslims were being traumatized by the West Pakistani government and it’s army. During the 1970s, a genocide took place in present-day Bangladesh by Pakistani army. Rough estimates approximate a death toll numbers of nearly 3 million. The systematic annihilation of the Bengali people by the Pakistani army during the Bangladesh Liberation War, targeted Hindu men, academics, and professionals, spared the women from murder, but subjected nearly 400,000 to rape and sexual enslavement.

While United States of America supported Pakistan, India could not sit as a silent spectator and watch this genocide. Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw who was appointed as the eighth Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) of India on June 8, 1969 was the leader of Indian Army in it’s war against Pakistan in 1971. It was his strategy, under which the army launched several preparatory operations in erstwhile East Pakistan such as training and equipping the Mukti Bahini, regular Bangladeshi troops, and 75,000 guerrillas with arms and ammunition. These forces were used to harass the Pakistani Army stationed in East Pakistan in the lead up to the war. 

Then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi’s father Jawaharlal Nehru had made the blunder of going to war against China in 1962, unprepared which led to the disastrous defeat of India against China, mentioned as “India’s most crushing military disaster” in the words of Brigadier John Parashuram Dalvi. While the Indian government wanted Manekshaw to repeat the same blunder, Manekshaw was not the man who could be stampeded into action. He advised the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi against immediate military intervention and she accepted his advice. Manekshaw prepared and when the preparations were over, he attacked West Pakistani occupation forces.

Manekshaw’s warning to Pakistan (rhen West Pakistan) was ‘You surrender or we wipe you out.’ Manekshaw led Indian Army along with Mukti Bahini, regular Bangladeshi troops and trained by Indian Army 75,000 guerrillas with arms and ammunitions succeeded in defeating the West Pakistani Army supported by United States of America. According to official documents, as many as 93,000 Pakistani soldiers had surrendered before the Indian Army resulting in the largest surrender of any military in the world in history after the second world war.

United by Faith and Glory

Cyrus and Manekshaw were both Zoroastrians worshipers of Ahura Mazda, and they both attained the same glory, they became liberators of persecuted nations. Very soon a Bollywood movie on the life of Manekshaw popularly known as Sam Bahadur is going to be released, titled “Sam Bahadur” it is being directed by Meghna Gulzar, apart from Vicky Kaushal, Santa Malhotra and Fatima Sana Sheikh, the film also stars Neeraj Kabi, Edward Sonnenblick, Richard Bhakti Klein, Saqib Ayub and Krishna Kant Singh Bundela, among others. The release date decided for the movie is 1 December 2023, the author wishes all the best to the entire team of Sam Bahadur movie, and sincerely hopes that as many people as possible will watch this glorious saga of India’s Zoroastrian hero, Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw.

About the Author
Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami is an advocate, historian and popular author based in India. He studied history at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, read law at Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi, completed a diploma in International Environmental Law, and later joined the Bar Council of Delhi and Supreme Court Bar Association in India. Mr. Goswami has written around 200 articles for different prestigious publications, newspapers, magazines and journals around the world. He works as a consultant with Union Minister of Steel and Civil Aviation of India, Mr. J. M. Scindia and Mrs. Priyadarshini Raje Scindia titular Queen of the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior. Mr. Goswami has studied Israeli and Jewish History deeply and travelled extensively in Israel, and other parts of the world, to explore and research about sites associated with Jews.
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