The Kerks.

The pirates, whose insolence led to the final subjugation of Sind, are stated, by a very good authority, to be of the tribe of Kerk, Kruk, Kurk, Karak, or some name of nearly similar pronunciation. The reading is too clear to be discarded in favour of ‘Kurd,’ or ‘Coorg,’ as has been proposed; and M. Reinaud, while he suggests the latter reading, which has been shown to be highly improbable, on the ground of Coorg being not a maritime, but an inland hilly country — nevertheless informs us that, in the annals of the Arabs, the Kurk are more than once spoken of as desperate pirates, carrying their expeditions even as far as Jidda, in the Red Sea.* We must, therefore, necessarily be content to consider them as of Sindian origin, otherwise Ráí Dáhir would not have been called to account for their proceedings.

Though the name of Kerk be now extinct, and declared to be entirely incapable of present identification, we must enquire whether we cannot find any trace of their having occupied the banks of the Indus at some remote period. And, first of all, the resemblance of the name of Krokala, which has conspicuous mention in the voyage of Nearchus, is sufficiently striking to attract our observation. Dr. Vincent and Heeren consider Krokala to be the modern Karáchí. A later authority says Chalna, a small rocky island, about four miles from Cape Monze.* Neither of these authorities knew that there is at present a large insular tract, which bears the name of Kakrála, at the mouth of the Indus, answering exactly all the requirements of Arrian's description—“a sandy island, subject to the influence of the tides.”* It is situated between the Wanyání and Pittí mouths of the river; but modern travellers differ about its precise limits. Captain Postans places it further to the west, and makes it include Karáchí.* This is no shifting, or modern name. We can see from the Ayín-i Akbarí, and from some of the works quoted in this volume, that it has been known, and similarly applied, for the last three centuries at least; and it may, without question, be regarded as the Krokala of Arrian. Its origin is easily accounted for, by conceiving it to mean the “abode of the Krok,” or whatever their real designation may have been before its perversion by the Greeks. The only other vestige of the name is in Karaka, a place three miles below Haidarábád.

In pointing out another possible remnant of this ancient name, I am aware I shall be treading on dangerous and very disputable ground. Nevertheless, let us at once, without further preliminary, transfer ourselves to the north-eastern shores of the Euxine sea, where we shall find, among other peoples and places recalling Indian associations, the tribe of Kerketæi or Kerketæ* —the bay of Kerketis* —the river of Korax* —the mountains of Korax* —the town of Korok-ondame* —the river and peninsula of Korok-ondame* —the sea, or lake, of Korok-ondametis* —the tribe of Kerketiki* — the city of Karkinitis* —the city of Karkine* —the bay of Karki-nitis * —the city of Kirkæum* —the river of Karkenites* —the region of Kerketos* —the tribe of Koraxi* —the wall of Korax* — and other similar names,—all within so narrow a compass as to show, even allowing many to be identical, that they can have but one origin, derived from the same fundamental root—Kerk, Kurk, Karak, Korak, Kark—retaining immutably the same consonants, but admitting arbitrary transpositions, or perhaps unsettled pro­nunciations of unimportant vowels.

It may be asked what connection these names can possibly have with our Sindian stock. Let us, then, carry the enquiry a little further, and many more Indian resemblances may be traced:—for, next to these wild Kerketiki, we are struck with finding the very Sindians themselves.

KERKETIKIque, ferox ea gens, SINDIque superbi.*

We have also a Sindikus portus* —a town of Sinda* —the tribe of Sindiani* —the town of Sindica* —the tract of Sindike* —the town of Sindis* —the tribe of Sindones* —the town of Sindos* —the tribe of Sinti* Here, again, it may be admitted, that some of these may be different names for the same tribes and the same places.

The old reading of the passage in Herodotus, where the Sindi are mentioned (iv. 28), was originally Indi, but commentators were so struck with the anomaly of finding Indians on the frontiers of Europe, and they considered it so necessary to reconcile the historian with geographers, that they have now unanimously agreed to read Sindi, though the reading is not authorized by any ancient manu­scripts. It is impossible to say what is gained by the substitution; for Sindi must be themselves Indians, and the difficulty is in no way removed by this arbitrary conversion. Hesychius, moreover,—no mean authority—says that the Sindi of the Euxine were, in reality, Indians; nay, more, though writing two centuries before our Kerks are even named or alluded to, he expressly calls the Kerketæ also “an Indian nation.”*

It has been remarked, that even if no such direct testimony had been given, the hints that remain to us concerning the character and manners of these Sindi, the peculiar object of their worship, and their dissolute religious rites and sorceries, would leave no doubt as to the country from which they were derived.

It is from this region that the Indian merchants must have sailed who were shipwrecked in the Baltic, and presented by the king of the Suevi, or of the Batavi, to L. Metellus Celer, the pro-consul of Gaul; for they could not have been carried round from the continent of India to the north of Europe by the ocean. Various solutions of this difficulty have been attempted. It has been surmised that they might have been Greenlanders, or mariners from North America, or even painted Britons: but the fact cannot be disputed, that they are called plainly “Indians,” by all the authors who have recorded the fact, however improbable their appearance in those regions might have been.*

Their nautical habits were no doubt acquired originally in the Indian Ocean, and were inherited by generations of descendants. It is even highly probable that their inveterate addiction to piracies, which led to the Muhammadan conquest, and has only now been eradicated by the power of the British, may have been the cause of this national dislocation, which no sophistry, no contortion of reading, no difficulty of solution, can legitimately invalidate. The very term of ignobiles, applied to them by Ammianus Marcellinus (xxii. 8), and the curious expressions used by Valerius Flaccus (vi. 86),—

Degeneresque ruunt Sindi, glomerantque, paterno
nunc etiam metuentes verbera, turmas,—

imply a punishment and degradation, which are by no means suf­ficiently explained by reference to the anecdotes related by Hero-dotus (iv. 1-4), and Justin (ii. 5).*

Whether this degradation adheres to any of their descendants at the present time will form the subject of a future essay; but before closing the subject of these early Indian piracies, we should not omit to notice the evident alarm with which they always inspired the Persian monarchy, even in the days of its most absolute power. Strabo and Arrian inform us, that in order to protect their cities against piratical attacks, the Persians made the Tigris entirely in­accessible for navigation. The course of the stream was obstructed by masses of stone, which Alexander, on his return from India, caused to be removed for the furtherance of commercial intercourse. Inspired by the same dread, and not from religious motives, (as has been supposed), the Persians built no city of any note upon the sea­coast. *

We may here make a passing allusion to another memorial of Indian connexion with these parts. The southern neighbours of these Euxine Sindi were the Kolchians. C. Ritter, in his Vorhalle, quoted at the end of this Note, asserts that they came originally from the west of India. Pindar* and Herodotus* both remark upon the darkness of their complexion. The latter also mentions that they were curly-headed. He states that he had satisfied himself, not only from the accounts of others, but from personal examination, that they were Egyptians, descended from a portion of the invading army of Sesostris, which had either been detached by that conqueror, or, being wearied with his wandering expedition, had remained, of their own accord, near the river Phasis. He also mentions the practice of circumcision, the fabrication of fine linen, the mode of living, and resemblance of language, as confirmatory of his view of an affinity between these nations. He has been followed by Diodorus and other ancient writers, as well as many modern scholars, who have endeavoured to account for this presumed connection.* I will not lengthen this Note by pursuing the enquiry; but will merely remark that this Egyptian relationship probably arises from some confusion (observable in several other passages of Herodotus), re­specting the connection between the continents of India and Ethiopia,—which pervaded the minds of poets and geographers from Homer* down to Ptolemy,* —or rather down to Idrísí and Marino Sanuto;* and which induced even Alexander, when he saw crocodiles in the Indus, although their existence therein had already been remarked by Herodotus, to conceive that that river was con­nected with the Nile, and that its navigation downwards would conduct into Egypt.*