- For specific research-work on the Scythian origin of the Jats, please visit : Indo-Scythian origin of the Jats.
The Indo-Scythians are a branch of the Indo-Iranian Sakas (Scythians), who migrated from southern Siberia into Bactria, Sogdiana, Arachosia, Gandhara, Kashmir, Punjab, and into parts of Western and Central India, Gujarat and Rajasthan, from the middle of the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE. The first Saka King in India was Maues or Moga who established Saka power in Gandhara and gradually extended supremacy over north-western India. Indo-Scythian rule in India ended with the last Western Satrap Rudrasimha III in 395 CE.
Herodotus reveals that the Scythians as far back as the 5th century B.C. had political control over Central Asia and the northern subcontinent up to the river Ganges. Later Indo-Scythic clans and dynasties (e.g. Mauryas, Rajputs) extended their control to other tracts of the northern subcontinent. The largest Saka imperial dynasties of Sakasthan include the Satraps (204 BC to 78 AD), Kushanas (50 AD - 380), Virkas (420 AD - 640) while others like the Mauryas (324 - 232 BC) and Dharan-Guptas (320 AD - 515) expanded their empires towards the east.
According to Ethnographers and historians like Cunningham, Todd, Ibbetson, Elliot, Ephilstone, Dahiya, Dhillon, Banerjea, etc., the agrarian and artisan communities (e.g. Jats, Gujars, Ahirs, Rajputs, Lohars, Tarkhans etc.) of the entire west are derived from the war-like Scythians; who settled north-western and western South Asia in successive waves between 500 BC to 500 AD.
Trevaskis put the date of Scythian migrations into India approximately from 600 BC to 600 AD. Trevaskis wrote, "Their (Scythians') successive onslaughts proved the ruin of Assyria, and soon after the fall of Nineveh, BC 606, a vast horde of them burst into Punjab."
The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica says that a Scythian horde was seated at Pattala on the Indus, in 625 BC; this may have been the Sibi.
It is worth noticing that as early as Pāṇini's (पाणिनि) era, the places in-and-around Sialkot are known to have Sakian etymology i.e. ending in "kantha" — — Chihankantha, Madarakantha, etc. Even the Archaeological Survey Report of India unearths the fact that the ancient name for Sialkot was Sakala. Also, Sakala is thought to be "Saka" town by Przyluski and Tarn.
H. W. Bellew writes that Ishak, the Musalman disguise of Saka or Sak, represents the Persian Saka and Greek Sakai, the Skythian conquerors who gave their name to Sistan, the Sagistan of Arab writers, and Sakasthan of Indians. Another branch of Saka Skythians is found in the Sagpae and Sagpue Hazara clans, before noticed. 
The invasion of India by Scythian tribes from Central Asia, often referred to as the Indo-Scythian invasion, played a significant part in the history of India as well as nearby countries. In fact, the Indo-Scythian war is just one chapter in the events triggered by the nomadic flight of Central Asians from conflict with Chinese tribes which had lasting effects on Bactria, Kabol, Parthia and India as well as far off as Rome in the west.
- Legendary Origins of the Scythians
N. S. Gill writes:
- "A rightly skeptical Herodotus says the Scythians claimed the first man to exist in the region -- at a time when it was desert and about a millennium before Darius of Persia -- was named Targitaos. He was the son of Zeus and the daughter of the river Borysthenes. Targitaos had three sons from whom the tribes of the Scythians sprang. Another legend Herodotus reports connects the Scythians with Hercules and Echidna."
N. S. Gill writes:
- "The Greek epic poet Hesiod called the northern tribes hippemolgi 'mare milkers'. The Greek historian Herodotus refers to the European Scythians as Scythians and the eastern ones as Sacae. The name Scythians and Sacae applied to themselves was Skudat 'archer'. Later, the Scythians were sometimes called Getae. The Persians also called the Scythians, Sakai. Scythians, who attacked the kingdom of Urartu in Armenia, were called Ashguzai or Ishguzai by the Assyrians. The Scythians may have been the Biblical Ashkenaz."
"The first to describe the life style of these tribes was a Greek researcher, Herodotus, who lived in the fifth century BCE. Although he concentrates on the tribes living in modern Ukraine, which he calls Scythians, we may extrapolate his description to people in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and possibly Mongolia, even though Herodotus usually calls these eastern nomads 'Sacae'. In fact, just as the Scythians and the Sacae shared the same life style, they had the same name: in their own language, which belonged to the Indo-Iranian family, they called themselves Skudat ('archers'?). The Persians rendered this name as Sakâ and the Greeks as Skythai. The Chinese called them, at a later stage in history, Sai."
In the second century BCE, a fresh nomadic movement started among the Central Asian tribes, producing lasting effects on the history of Rome in Europe and Bactria, Kabol, Parthia and India in the east. Recorded in the annals of the Han dynasty and other Chinese records, this great tribal movement began after the Yuezhi Chinese tribe fled westwards after their defeat by the neighbouring Hiung-nu, creating a domino effect as the Yuezhi displaced other central Asian tribes in their path.
According to these ancient sources Mao-tun of the Hsiung-nu tribe of Mongolia attacked the Yue-chi and evicted them from their homeland Kansu (Nan-shan). Leaving behind a remnant of their number, most of the population moved westwards, and following the route north of Takla Makan, entered the lands of the Haumavarka Sakas of Issyk-kul Lake through the passes of Tien-shan. Unable to withstand the assault, the Haumavarka Sakas allowed the Yue-chi to settle in their lands. In the years to come, the Haumavarka Sakas (Sakas of Wu-sun?) sought the help of the Hsiung-nu people and evicted the Yue-chi.
Even so, the initial clash with the invading Yue-chi caused a large group of the Haumavarka Shakas to leave their ancestral home. These Sakas journeyed through Tashkent and Ferghana (Sogdiana) (inhabited by the Sugud or Shulik tribe of the Iranians) and occupied the Doab of Oxus and Jaxartes, also overrunning the Greek kingdom of Bactria, occupying most of its western parts. Others suggest Tukhara (India and Central Asia, 1955, p 125, Dr P. C. Bagch). Dr D. C. Sircar reconciles the difference by suggesting that Ta-hia referred to Tukhara and the eastern parts of Bactria.
After being defeated and evicted by the joint forces of the Wu-sun and Hsiung-nu people, the Ta Yue-chis also moved southwards, overrunning in their path the Rishikas, Parama-Kambojas, Lohas and other allied Scythian clans living in the Transoxian regions as far Fargana. Many fled in a southwesterly direction and joined the Haumavarka Sakas in Bactria. The Yue-chi followed behind. Once again under extreme pressure, the Sakas and other allied Scythian groups including the Kambojas were forced to leave Bactria.
They first tried to enter India via the Kabol valley but were vigorously opposed by the Greek powers there. Rebuffed, the clans turned westwards to Herat and then took a southerly direction, reaching Helmund valley (Sigal) in south-west Afghanistan, the region later called Sakasthan or Seistan. Scholars believe that this Scythian migration through Herat to Drangiana was accompanied by groups of Kambojas (Parama-Kambojas), Rishikas and other allied tribes from Transoxiana that were also displaced by the Yue-chi.
Around 175 BCE, the Yuezhi tribes (probable related to the Tocharians) who lived in eastern Tarim Basin area, were defeated by the Hiung-nu (Huns) tribes, and had to migrate towards the West into the Ili river area. There, they displaced the Sakas, who had to migrate south into Ferghana and Sogdiana. According to the Chinese historical chronicles (who call the Sakas, "Sai" 塞):
"The Yuezhi attacked the king of the Sai who moved a considerable distance to the south and the Yuezhi then occupied his lands" (Han Shu 61 4B).
Sometime after 155 BCE, the Yuezhi were again defeated by an alliance of the Wusun and the Hiung-nu, and were forced to move south, again displacing the Scythians, who migrated south towards Bactria, and south-west towards Parthia and Afghanistan.
The Sakas seem to have entered the territory of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom around 145 BCE, where they burnt to the ground the Greek city of Alexandria on the Oxus. The Yuezhi remained in Sogdiana on the northern bank of the Oxus, but they became suzerains of the Sakas in Bactrian territory, as described by the Chinese ambassador Zhang Qian who visited the region around 126 BCE.
In Parthia, between 138 BCE-124 BCE, the Sakas tribes of the Massagetae and Sacaraucae came into conflict with the Parthian Empire, winning several battles, and killing successively king Phraates II and king Artabanus I of Parthia.
The Parthian king Mithridates II of Parthiafinally retook control of Central Asia, first by defeating the Yuezhi in Sogdiana in 115 BCE, and then defeating the Scythians in Parthia and Seistan around 100 BCE.
After their defeat, the Yuezhi tribes migrated into Bactria, which they were to control for several centuries, and from which they later conquered northern India to found the Kushan Empire. The area of Bactria they settled came to be known as Tokharistan, since the Yuezhi were called Tocharians by the Greeks.
Jat clans from Sakas
The next source at our disposal is "The Political and social Movements in Ancient Panjab" written by Dr. Buddha Prakash who has meticulously sorted out the Saka tribes which were assimilated in our society. However, with a few exceptions, he does not declare them Jats whereas our experience and a perusal of the names or Gotras of the Jat tribes unerringly attest that they also are included in the Jats. According to him, the Saka Tigarkhauda are the Massagetae (Maha Jats) and the Soma or Haumavarka Sakas or the Amyrgians of the Greek writers (V.S. Aggarwal, 1963: 443,467) or the Sakaraucae of Wessendonk or the Sakarucae of Marquart are the Baltis or Ladakhis Somas of Afghanistan and the Virkas of the Panjab, the last two of whom are undoubtedly Jats.
The Srnjayas or the Parthians of the Mahabharata and of Shafer (1954: 138.) or the Sarangai of Herodotus or the Zranke of the Achaemenian Inscriptions or the Sir-re-anke of the Elamite records or the Saragoi of Arrian or the Dragiane of Strabo (in Seistan) or the descendents of Narishyanta, the progenitor of the Sakas, (are the Jats), known in the Mahabharata and the Rigveds as Srnjayas, the sons of the Sickle (Hewitt, 1972: 481) (survived by the Siringi or Singar or Singhar or Singhal or Sangar or Sanghar tribes in the Jats).
The Neuris (Nur or Nuri Jats), Salva (Salu Jats), Arjunayan or the Kathoi and Kathoi and Kathroi (Kshatriyas or Khatri Jats) are the Jun and Rajayan tribes in the Jats. The Karaskaras (Upadhyaya, 1973: 84-Guptas or Karaskara Jats) are modern Khokhars. The Thakurs or Thakaras or Thakran or Thagora or Taugara or Tokhi are from the Tukharas (Yueh-Chih) and the Soi and Sikkas, Kajal or Kuzul or Khosla, Kanka, now Kangs; Sulikas or Solgi or Solkah or Solanki or Sulki; Lampaka or Lambaka or Lamba; Kirata (or Kira or Kirah) are mostly from the Sakas of Sogdiana. The Mehra and Moga or Mogha are from the Megas (the Saka Brahmans). Chaul (or Chol or Cholak), Jaula, Tomar, Khatri, Khan or Khanua and Sahi, Wusun or Wasan or
The Jats:Their Origin, Antiquity and Migrations:End of page 325
According to Vishwa Mitra Mohan (1976: 84f), the Gakhar Jats are a fierce Scythian tribe spread over Sindh, eastern and western Panjab upto Khyber pass in the Frontier Province. The Khar or Kher or Kharata or Khareta and possibly the Kharb Jats are the descendents of the Saka Ksharatas mentioned in the Indian Epigraphs or the Karatai Scythians. In the end, it may be said that B.S.Dahiya has done a good job and his book is a compendium of the Jat tribes living in India and abroad. But lack of space does not allow us to repeat what he has laboured to bring before us from the misty lap of time and space.
Settlement in Sakastan
The Sakas settled in areas of southern Afghanistan, still called after them Sakastan. From there, they progressively expanded into the Indian subcontinent, where they established various kingdoms, and where they are known as "Indo-Scythians".
The Arsacid emperor Mithridates II (c 123-88/87 BCE) had scored many successes against the Scythians and added many provinces to the Parthian empire, and apparently the Bactrian Scythian hordes were also conquered by him. A section of these people moved from Bactria to Lake Helmond in the wake of Yue-chi pressure and settled about Drangiana (Sigal), a region which later came to be called "Sakistana of the Skythian (Scythian) Sakai", towards the end of first century BCE. The region is still known as Seistan.
Sakistan or Seistan of Drangiana may not only have been the habitat of the Saka alone but may also have contained population of the Pahlavas and the Kambojas. The Rock Edicts of king Ashoka only refer to the Yavanas, Kambojas and the Gandharas in the northwest, but no mention is made of the Sakas, who imigrated in the region more than a century later. It is thus likely that the immigrant Saka populations who settled in Afghanistan did so among or near the Kambojas and nearby Greek cities. Numerous scholars believe that during centuries immediately preceding Christian era, there had occurred extensive social and cultural admixture among the Kambojas and Yavanas; the Sakas and Pahlavas; and the Kambojas, Sakas, and Pahlavas etc.... such that their cultures and social customs had become almost identical.
The presence of the Sakas in Sakastan in the 1st century BCE is mentioned by Isidore of Charax in his "Parthian stations". He explained that they were bordered at that time by Greek cities to the east (Alexandria of the Caucasus and Alexandria of the Arachosians), and the Parthian-controlled territory of Arachosia to the south:
- "Beyond is Sacastana of the Scythian Sacae, which is also Paraetacena, 63 schoeni. There are the city of Barda and the city of Min and the city of Palacenti and the city of Sigal; in that place is the royal residence of the Sacae; and nearby is the city of Alexandria (and nearby is the city of Alexandropolis), and six villages." Parthian stations, 18.
Abiria to Surastrene
The first Indo-Scythian kingdom in the Indian subcontinent occupied the southern part of Pakistan (which they accessed from southern Afghanistan), in the areas from Abiria (Sindh) to Surastrene (Gujarat), from around 110 to 80 BCE. They progressively further moved north into Indo-Greek territory until the conquests of Maues, circa 80 BCE.
The 1st century CE Periplus of the Erythraean Sea describes the Scythian territories there:
- "Beyond this region (Gedrosia), the continent making a wide curve from the east across the depths of the bays, there follows the coast district of Scythia, which lies above toward the north; the whole marshy; from which flows down the river Sinthus, the greatest of all the rivers that flow into the Erythraean Sea, bringing down an enormous volume of water (...) This river has seven mouths, very shallow and marshy, so that they are not navigable, except the one in the middle; at which by the shore, is the market-town, Barbaricum. Before it there lies a small island, and inland behind it is the metropolis of Scythia, Minnagara."
In the southeast, the Indo-Scythians invaded the area of Ujjain, but were subsequently repelled in 57 BCE by the Malwa king Vikramaditya. To commemorate the event Vikramaditya established the Vikrama era, a specific Indian calendar starting in 57 BCE. More than a century later, in 78 CE the Sakas would again invade Ujjain and establish the Saka era, marking the beginning of the long-lived Saka Western Satraps kingdom.
Gandhara and Punjab
The presence of the Scythians in north-western India during the 1st century BCE was contemporary with that of the Indo-Greek Kingdoms there, and it seems they initially recognized the power of the local Greek rulers.
Maues first conquered Gandhara and Taxila around 80 BCE, but his kingdom disintegrated after his death. In the east, the Indian king Vikrama retook Ujjain from the Indo-Scythians, celebrating his victory by the creation of the Vikrama Era (starting 58 BCE). Indo-Greek kings again ruled after Maues, and prospered, as indicated by the profusion of coins from kings Apollodotus II and Hippostratos. Not until Azes I, in 55 BCE, did the Indo-Scythians take final control of northwestern India, with his victory over Hippostratos.
Mathura area ("Northern Satraps")
In central India, the Indo-Scythians conquered the area of Mathura over Indian kings around 60 BCE. Some of their satraps were Hagamasha and Hagana, who were in turn followed by the Saca Great Satrap Rajuvula.
The Mathura lion capital, an Indo-Scythian sandstone capital in crude style, from Mathura in Central India, and dated to the 1st century CE, describes in kharoshthi the gift of a stupa with a relic of the Buddha, by Queen Nadasi Kasa, the wife of the Indo-Scythian ruler of Mathura, Rajuvula. The capital also mentions the genealogy of several Indo-Scythian satraps of Mathura.
The coinage of the period, such as that of Rajuvula, tends to become very crude and barbarized in style. It is also very much debased, the silver content becoming lower and lower, in exchange for a higher proportion of bronze, an alloying technique (billon) suggesting less than wealthy finances.
The Mathura Lion Capital inscriptions attest that Mathura fell under the control of the Sakas. The inscriptions contain references to Kharaosta Kamuio and Aiyasi Kamuia. Yuvaraja Kharostes (Kshatrapa) was the son of Arta as is attested by his own coins. Arta is stated to be brother of king Moga or Maues. Princess Aiyasi Kambojaka, also called Kambojika, was the chief queen of Shaka Mahakshatrapa Rajuvula. Kamboja presence in Mathura is also verified from some verses of epic Mahabharata which are believed to have been composed around this period. This may suggest that Sakas and Kambojas may have jointly ruled over Mathura/Uttara Pradesh. It is revealing that Mahabharata verses only attest the Kambojas and Yavanas as the inhabitants of Mathura, but do not make any reference to the Sakas. Probably, the epic has reckoned the Sakas of Mathura among the Kambojas (Dr J. L. Kamboj) or else have addressed them as Yavanas, unless the Mahabharata verses refer to the previous period of invasion occupation by the Yavanas around 150 BCE.
The Indo-Scythian satraps of Mathura are sometimes called the "Northern Satraps", in opposition to the "Western Satraps" ruling in Gujarat and Malwa. After Rajuvula, several successors are known to have ruled as vassals to the Kushans, such as the "Great Satrap" Kharapallana and the "Satrap" Vanaspara, who are known from an inscription discovered in Sarnath, and dated to the 3rd year of Kanishka (circa 130 CE), in which they were paying allegiance to the Kushans.
The text of the Yuga Purana describes an invasion of Pataliputra by the Scythians sometimes during the 1st century BCE, after seven greats kings had ruled in succession in Saketa following the retreat of the Yavanas. The Yuga Purana explains that the king of the Sakas killed one fourth of the population, before he was himself slain by the Kalinga king Shata and a group of Sabalas (Sabaras).
Kushan and Indo-Parthian conquests
After the death of Azes II, the rule of the Indo-Scythians in northwestern India finally crumbled with the conquest of the Kushans, one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi who had lived in Bactria for more than a century, and were now expanding into India to create a Kushan Empire. Soon after, the Parthians invaded from the west. Their leader Gondophares temporarily displaced the Kushans and founded the Indo-Parthian Kingdom that was to last towards the middle of the 1st century CE.
The Kushans ultimately regained northwestern India from around 75 CE, and the area of Mathura from around 100 CE, where they were to prosper for several centuries.
Western Kshatrapas legacy
The Indo-Scythians continued to hold the area of Seistan until the reign of Bahram II (276-293 CE), and held several areas of India well into the 1st millennium: Kathiawar and Gujarat were under their rule until the 5th century under the designation of Western Kshatrapas, until they were eventually conquered by the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II (also called Vikramaditya).
The Brihat-Katha-Manjari of the Kshmendra (10/1/285-86) informs us that around 400 CE the Gupta king Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) had unburdened the sacred earth of the Barbarians like the Shakas, Mlecchas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Tusharas, Parasikas, Hunas, etc. by annihilating these sinners completely.
The 10th century CE Kavyamimamsa of Raj Shekhar (Ch 17) still lists the Shakas, Tusharas, Vokanas, Hunas, Kambojas, Bahlikas, Pahlavas, Tangana, Turukshas, etc. together and states them as the tribes located in the Uttarapatha division.
Indo-Scythian coinage is generally of a high artistic quality, although it clearly deteriorates towards the desintegration of Indo-Scythian rule around 20 CE (coins of Rajuvula). A fairly qualitative but rather stereotypes coinage would continue with the Western Satraps until the 4th century CE.
Indo-Scythian coinage is generally quite realistic, artistically somewhere between Indo-Greek and Kushan coinage. It is often suggested Indo-Scythian coinage benefited from the help of Greek celators (Boppearachchi).
Indo-Scythian coins essentially continue the Indo-Greek tradition, bu using the Greek language on the obverse and the Kharoshthi language on the reverse. The portrait of the king is never shown however, and is replaced by depictions of the king on horse (and sometimes on camel), or sometimes sitting cross-legged on a cushion. The reverse of their coins typically show Greek divinities.
Buddhist symbolism is present throughout Indo-Scythian coinage. In particular, they adopted the Indo-Greek practice since Menander I of showing divinities forming the vitarka mudra with their right hand (as for the mudra-forming Zeus on the coins of Maues or Azes II), or the presence of the Buddhist lion on the coins of the same two kings, or the triratana symbol on the coins of Zeionises.
Depiction of Indo-Scythians
Besides coinage, few works of art are known to indisputably represent Indo-Scythians. Indo-Scythians rulers are usually depicted on horseback in armour, but the coins of Azilises show the king in a simple, undecorated, tunic.
Several Gandharan sculptures also show foreigner in soft tunics, sometimes wearing the typical Scythian cap. They stand in contrast to representations of Kushan men, who seem to wear thicks, rigid, tunics, and who are generally represented in a much more simplistic manner
Indo-Scythian soldiers in military attire are sometimes represented in Buddhist friezes in the art of Gandhara (particularly in Buner reliefs). They are depicted in ample tunics with trousers, and have heavy straight sword as a weapon. They wear a pointed hood (the Scythian cap or bashlyk), which distinguishes them from the Indo-Parthians who only wore a simple fillet over their bushy hair, and which is also systematically worn by Indo-Scythian rulers on their coins. With the right hand, some of them are forming the Karana mudra against evil spirits. In Gandhara, such friezes were used as decorations on the pedestals of Buddhist stupas. They are contemporary with other friezes representing people in purely Greek attire, hinting at an intermixing of Indo-Scythians (holding military power) and Indo-Greeks (confined, under Indo-Scythian rule, to civilian life).
Another relief is known where the same type of soldiers are playing musical instruments and dancing, activities which are widely represented elsewhere in Gandharan art: Indo-Scythians are typically shown as reveling devotees.
Indo-Scythians pushing along the Greek god Dyonisos with Ariadne.
Main article: Stone palette
Numerous stone palettes found in Gandhara are considered as good representatives of Indo-Scythian art. These palettes combine Greek and Iranian influences, and are often realized in a simple, archaic style. Stone palettes have only been found in archaeological layers corresponding to Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian rule, and are essentially unknown the preceding Mauryan layers or the succeeding Kushan layers.
Very often these palettes represent people in Greek dress in mythological scenes, a few in Parthian dress (head-bands over bushy hair, crossed-over jacket on a bare chest, jewelry, belt, baggy trousers), and even fewer in Indo-Scythian dress (Phrygian hat, tunic and comparatively straight trousers). A palette found in Sirkap and now in the New Delhi Museum shows a winged Indo-Scythian horseman riding winged deer, and being attacked by a lion.
The Indo-Scythians and Buddhism
The Indo-Scythians seem to have been followers of Buddhism, and many of their practices apparently continued those of the Indo-Greeks. They are known for their numerous Buddhist dedications, recorded through such epigraphic material as the Taxila copper plate inscription or the Mathura lion capital inscription.
Excavation at the Butkara Stupa in Swat by an Italian archaeological team have yielded various Buddhist sculptures thought to belong to the Indo-Scythian period. In particular, an Indo-Corinthian capital representing a Buddhist devotee within foliage has been found which had a reliquary and a coins of Azes II buried at its base, securely dating the sculpture to around 20 BCE. A contemporary pilaster with the image of a Buddhist devotee in Greek dress has also been found at the same spot, again suggesting a mingling of the two populations. Various reliefs at the same location show Indo-Scythians with their characteristics tunics and pointed hoods within a Buddhist context, and side-by-side with reliefs of standing Buddhas.
Mathura lion capital
The Mathura lion capital, which associates many of the Indo-Scythian rulers from Maues to Rajuvula, mentions a dedication of a relic of the Buddha in a stupa. It also bears centrally the Buddhist symbol of the triratana, and is also filled with mentions of the bhagavat Buddha Sakyamuni, and characteristically Buddhist phrases such as:
- "sarvabudhana puya dhamasa puya saghasa puya"
- "Revere all the Buddhas, revere the dharma, revere the sangha"
- (Mathura lion capital, inscription O1/O2)
Dancing Indo-Scythians (top) and hunting scene (bottom). Buddhist relief from Swat, Gandhara.
Butkara door jamb, with Indo-Scythians dancing and reveling. On the back side is a relief of a standing Buddha
Devotees of the Buddha in Indo-Scythian clothes (top), and erotical scene (bottom), Butkara stupa.
Indo-Scythians in Western sources
The presence of Scythian territory in northwestern India, and especially around the mouth of the Indus is mentioned extensively in Western maps and travel descriptions of the period. The Ptolemy world map, as well as the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea mention prominently Scythia in the Indus area, as well as Roman Tabula Peutingeriana. The Periplus states that Minnagara was the capital of Scythia, and that Parthian king were fighting for it during the 1st century CE. It also distinguishes Scythia with Ariaca further east (centered in Gujarat and Malwa), over which ruled the Western Satrap king Nahapana.
Indo-Scythians in Indian literature
- Main article: Sakas
The Indo-Scythians were named "Shaka" in India, an extension on the name Saka used by the Persians to designate Scythians. From the time of the Mahabharata wars (1500-500 BCE) Shakas receive numerous mentions in texts like the Puranas, the Manusmriti, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Mahabhasiya of Patanjali, the Brhat Samhita of Vraha Mihira, the Kavyamimamsa, the Brihat-Katha-Manjari, the Katha-Saritsagara and several other old texts. They are described as part of an amalgam of other war-like tribes from the northwest.
"Degraded Kshatriyas" from the northwest
The Manusmriti, written about CE, groups the Shakas with the Yavanas, Kambojas, Paradas, Pahlavas, Kiratas and the Daradas etc..., and addresses them all as degraded warriors, or Kshatriyas (X/43-44). Anushasanaparava of the Mahabharata also views the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas etc. in the same light. Patanjali in his Mahabhasya regards the Shakas and Yavanas as pure Shudras (II.4.10).
The Mahabharata also associates the Shakas with the Yavanas, Gandharas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Tusharas, Sabaras, Barbaras etc and addresses them all as the Barbaric tribes of Uttarapatha. In another verse, the epic groups the Shakas Kambojas and Khashas and addresses them as the tribes from Udichya i.e. north division (5/169/20). Also, the Kishkindha Kanda of the Ramayana locates the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas and Paradas in the extreme north-west beyond the Himavat (i.e. Hindukush) (43/12).
The Udyogaparava of the Mahabharata (5/19/21-23) tells us that the composite army of the Kambojas, Yavanas and Shakas had participated in the Mahabharata war under the supreme command of Sudakshina Kamboja. The epic repeatedly applauds this composite army as being very fierce and wrathful.
Invasion of India (180 BCE onward)
The Vanaparava of the Mahabharata contains verses in the form of prophecy that the kings of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Bahlikas and Abhiras, etc. shall rule unrighteously in Kaliyuga (MBH 3/188/34-36).
This reference apparently alludes to the precarious political scenario following the collapse of Mauryan and Sunga dynasties in northern India and its occupation by foreign hordes of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas and Pahlavas.
Udyoga Parva of Mahabharata groups the Shakas, Pahlavas, Paradas with the ‘’Kamboja-rishikas’’ and attests them as living on sea-shore in western India. Again Udyoga Parava of Mahabharata lists the Shakas, Kambojas and the Khashas together and calls them as tribes of Udichya or Uttarapatha. The Shanti Parva of Mahabharata also associates the Shakas with the Kambojas, Yavanas, Gandharas, Pahlavas, Tusharas, Sabaras, Barbaras, etc. and addresses them all as the Barbaric tribes of Uttarapatha. More importantly, the Shaka army had joined the Kamboja army and together they had participated in the Kurukshetra war under single and supreme command of Sudakshina Kamboja.
Kishkindha Kanda Sarga 43 of Valmiki Ramayana collocates the Kambojas with the Shakas, Yavanas, Paradas and the Uttarakurus in the extreme northwest. The Yavanas are in (Bactria) and Kambojas in Tajikstan, the Paradas are on river Sailoda in Xinjiang province of China. The Uttarakurus lie beyond the Pamirs. The Shakas of the Ramayana obviously refer to the Shakas of Issyk-kul Lake lying beyond Suguda. Adi-Kanda of the Ramayana, tells us that the Kambojas, Shakas, Pahlavas and some other allied tribes from northwest were 'created' at the request of sage Vasishta by the Divine cow Shavala to defend Vasishta sage from the forces of king Vishwamitra (Dr B. C. Law). All these Ramayanic references seem to closely connect the Kambojas and the Shakas together.
Harivamsa Purana and other Puranic literature attest that Iksvaku king Bahu of Ayodhya was driven out of his dominions by Haihayas and Talajanghas with the assistance of Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas and Paradas Ayudhajivin Kshatriyas from Uttarapatha, popularly known as "five hordes" (ganah pāñca).
Kalika Purana, one of the Upa-Puranas of the Hindus, refers to a war between Brahmanical king Kalika (supposed to be Pusyamitra Sunga) and Buddhist king Kali (supposed to be Maurya king Brihadratha (187-180 BCE)) and states the Shakas, Kambojas, Khasas, etc together as a powerful military allies of king Kali. The Purana further states that these Barbarians take the orders from their women.
The Bhuvanakosha section of Puranic texts also lists the Kambojas with the Shakas, Paradas, Yavanas, Bahlikas, Sindhus, Soviras, Madrakas, Kekayas etc and place then all in the Udychya or northwest division.
Mahabharata, too similarly groups the Shakas with the Kambojas and Yavanas and states that they were originally noble Kshatriyas but got degraded to vrishala status on account of their non-observance of the sacred Brahmanical codes.
The Buddhist drama Mudrarakshas by Visakhadutta and the Jaina works Parisishtaparvan refer to Chandragupta's alliance with Himalayan king Parvatka. This Himalayan alliance gave Chandragupta a powerful composite army made up of the north western tribes including the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Parasikas, Bahlikas etc.
In the Brihat Katha of Pt. Kshmendra, Vedic king Vikramaditya had fought with the joint mlechcha forces of the Shakas, Kambojas, Hunas, Sabaras, Tusharas, Parasikas and had destroyed them completely.
The Vartika of the Katyayana on Panini's Ashtadhyayi informs us that the kings of the Shakas and the Yavanas, like those of the Kambojas may similarly be addressed by their respective tribal names.
There are numerous more similar references in ancient Sanskrit literature where the Kambojas and Shakas are listed together. All these references amply prove that the Shakas were closely allied to the Kambojas and both were living as close neighbors in the extreme of northwest division of ancient India.
Sai-Wang Scythian hordes of Chipin or Kipin
A section of the Central Asian Scythians (under Sai-Wang) is said to have taken southerly direction and after passing through the Pamirs it entered the Chipin or Kipin after crossing the Hasuna-tu (Hanging Pass) located above the valley of Kanda in Swat country. Chipin has been identified by Dr Pelliot, Dr Bagchi, Dr Raychaudhury and some others with Kashmir while other scholars identify it with Kapisha (Kafirstan). The Sai-Wang had established his kingdom in Kipin. Dr S. Konow interprets the Sai-Wang as Saka Murunda of Indian literature, Murunda being equal to Wang i.e. king, master or lord, but prof Bagchi who takes the word Wang in the sense of the king of the Scythians but he distinguishes the Sai Sakas from the Murunda Sakas. There are reasons to believe that Sai Scythians were Kamboja Scythians and therefore Sai-Wang belonged to the Scythianised Kambojas (i.e. Parama-Kambojas) of the Transoxiana region and came back to settle among his own stock after being evicted from his ancestral land located in Scythia or Shakadvipa. King Moga or Maues could have belonged to this group of Scythians who had migrated from the Sai country (Central Asia) to Chipin. The Mathura Lion Capital inscriptions attest that the members of the family of king Moga (q.v.) had last name Kamuia or Kamuio (q.v) which Khroshthi term has been identified by scholars with Sanskrit Kamboja or Kambojaka. Thus, Sai-Wang and his migrant hordes which came to settle in Kabol valley in Kapisha may indeed have been from the transoxian Parama Kambojas living in Shakadvipa or Scythian land.
Establishment of Mlechcha Kingdoms in Northern India
The mixed Scythian hordes that migrated to Drangiana and surrounding regions, later spread further into north and south-west India via the lower Indus valley. Their migration spread into Sovira, Gujarat, Rajasthan and northern India, including kingdoms in the Indian mainland.
Leading Indologists like Dr H. C. Raychadhury glimpses in these verses the struggles between the Hindus and the invading hordes of Mlechcha barbarians from the northwest. The time frame for these struggles is the second century BCE onwards. Dr Raychadhury fixes the date of the present version of the Valmiki Ramayana around or after the second century CE.
This picture presented by the Ramayana probably refers to the political scenario that emerged when the mixed hordes descended from Sakasthan and advanced into the lower Indus valley via Bolan Pass and beyond into the Indian mainland. It refers to the hordes' struggle to seize political control of Sovira, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Malwa, Maharashtra and further areas of eastern, central and southern India.
Mahabharata too furnishes a veiled hint about the invasion of the mixed hordes from the northwest. Vanaparava by Mahabharata contains verses in the form of prophecy deploring that "......the Mlechha (barbaric) kings of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Bahlikas, etc shall rule the earth (i.e India) un-rightously in Kaliyuga..".
According to Dr H. C. Ray Chaudhury, this is too clear a statement to be ignored or explained away.
Mahabharata's epic reference apparently alludes to the chaotic politics which followed the collapse of the Mauryan and Sunga dynasties in northern India and the area's subsequent occupation by foreign hordes of the Saka, Yavana, Kamboja, Pahlavas, Bahlika, Shudra and Rishika tribes from the northwest.
See also: Migration of Kambojas
Evidence about joint invasions
The clans of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Paradas, etc had been invading India from Central Asia many years before the Christian era. These peoples were all absorbed into the community of Kshatriyas of mainstream Indian society.
The Shakas were formerly a people of trans-Hemodos region---the Shakadvipa of the Puranas or the Scythia of the classical writings. Isidor of Charax (beginning of first c AD) attests them in Sakastana (modern Seistan). First century CE Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (c AD 70-80) also attests a Scythian district in lower Indus with Minnagra as its capital. Ptolemy (c AD 140) also attests Indo-Scythia in south-western India which comprised Patalene, Abhira and the Surastrene (Saurashtra) territories.
The second century BCE Scythian invasion of India, was in all probability carried out jointly by the Sakas, Pahlavas, Kambojas, Paradas, Rishikas and other allied tribes from the northwest. As a result, groups of these people who had originally lived in the northwest before the Christian era, were also found to have lived in southwest India in post-Christian times. All these groups of north-western peoples apparently entered Indian mainland following the Scythian invasion of India.
Main Indo-Scythian rulers
- Maues, c. 90-60 BCE
- Vonones, c. 75-65 BCE
- Spalahores, c. 75-65 BCE, satrap and brother of king Vonones, and probably the later king Spalirises.
- Spalirises, c. 60-57 BCE, king and brother of king Vonones.
- Spalagadames c.50 BCE, satrap, and son of Spalahores.
- Azes I, c. 57-35 BCE
- Azilises, c. 57-35 BCE
- Azes II, c. 35-12 BCE
- Zeionises, c.10 BCE-10 CE
- Kharahostes, c.10 BCE- 10 CE
Main article: Kshaharatas
- Liaka Kusuluka, satrap of Chuksa
- Kusulaka Patika, satrap of Chuksa and son of Liaka Kusulaka
- Nahapana (founder of the Western Satraps)
Apracarajas (Bajaur area):
Main article: Apracarajas
Main article: Paratarajas
- Yolamira, son of Bagavera (2nd century)
- Arjuna, son of Yolamira (2nd century)
- Hvaramira, another son of Yolamira(2nd century)
- Mirahvara, son of Hvaramira (2nd century)
- Miratakhma, another son of Hvaramira (2nd century)
"Northern Satraps" (Mathura area):
- Hagamasha (satrap, 1st century BCE)
- Hagana (satrap, 1st century BCE)
- Rajuvula, c.10 CE (Great Satrap)
- Sodasa, son of Rajuvula
- "Great Satrap" Kharapallana (circa 130 CE)
- "Satrap" Vanaspara (circa 130 CE)
Minor local rulers:
Main article: Western Satraps
- Nahapana (119-124) 50px
- Chastana (c 120), son of Ghsamotika 50px
- Jayadaman, son of Chastana
- Rudradaman I (c 130-150), son of Jayadaman 50px
- Damajadasri I (170-175)
- Jivadaman (175 d 199)
- Rudrasimha I (175-188 d 197)
- Isvaradatta (188-191)
- Rudrasimha I (restored) (191-197)
- Jivadaman (restored) (197-199)
- Rudrasena I (200-222)
- Samghadaman (222-223)
- Damasena (223-232)
- Damajadasri II (232-239) with
- Viradaman (234-238)
- Yasodaman I (239)
- Vijayasena (239-250)
- Damajadasri III (251-255)
- Rudrasena II (255-277)
- Visvasimha (277-282)
- Bhratadarman (282-295)50px with
- Visvasena (293-304)
- Rudrasimha II, son of Lord (Svami) Jivadaman (304-348) with
- Yasodaman II (317-332)
- Rudradaman II (332-348)
- Rudrasena III (348-380)
- Simhasena (380- ?)
- Rudrasena IV (382-388)
- Rudrasimha III (388-395)50px
- Bailey, H. W. 1958. "Languages of the Saka." Handbuch der Orientalistik, I. Abt., 4. Bd., I. Absch., Leiden-Köln. 1958.
- Faccenna D., "Sculptures from the sacred area of Butkara I", Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Libreria Dello Stato, Rome, 1964.
- Foucher, M. A. 1901. "Notes sur la geographie ancienne du Gandhâra (commentaire à un chaptaire de Hiuen-Tsang)." BEFEO No. 4, Oct. 1901, pp. 322–369.
- Harmatta, János, ed., 1994. History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume II. The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 B.C. to A.D. 250. Paris, UNESCO Publishing.
- Hill, John E. 2004. The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu. Draft annotated English translation.
- Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilue 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE. Draft annotated English translation. 
- Hulsewé, A. F. P. and Loewe, M. A. N. 1979. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. E. J. Brill, Leiden.
- Konow, Sten. Editor. 1929. Kharoshthī Inscriptions with Exception of those of Asoka. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. II, Part I. Reprint: Indological Book House, Varanasi, 1969.
- Litvinsky, B. A., ed., 1996. History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume III. The crossroads of civilizations: A.D. 250 to 750. Paris, UNESCO Publishing.
- Liu, Xinru 2001 “Migration and Settlement of the Yuezhi-Kushan: Interaction and Interdependence of Nomadic and Sedentary Societies.” Journal of World History, Volume 12, No. 2, Fall 2001. University of Hawaii Press, pp. 261–292. .
- Bulletin of the Asia Institute: The Archaeology and Art of Central Asia. Studies From the Former Soviet Union. New Series. Edited by B. A. Litvinskii and Carol Altman Bromberg. Translation directed by Mary Fleming Zirin. Vol. 8, (1994), pp. 37-46.
- Pulleyblank, Edwin G. 1970. "The Wu-sun and Sakas and the Yüeh-chih Migration." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 33 (1970), pp. 154-160.
- Puri, B. N. 1994. "The Sakas and Indo-Parthians." In: History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume II. The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 B.C. to A.D. 250. Harmatta, János, ed., 1994. Paris: UNESCO Publishing, pp. 191-207.
- Thomas, F. W. 1906. "Sakastana." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1906), pp. 181-216.
- Watson, Burton. Trans. 1961. Records of the Grand Historian of China: Translated from the Shih chi of Ssu-ma Ch'ien. Chapter 123: The Account of Ta-yüan, p. 265. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-08167-7
- Yu, Taishan. 1998. A Study of Saka History. Sino-Platonic Papers No. 80. July, 1998. Dept. of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
- Yu, Taishan. 2000. A Hypothesis about the Source of the Sai Tribes. Sino-Platonic Papers No. 106. September, 2000. Dept. of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
- Political History of ancient India, 1996, Dr H. C. raychaudhury
- Hindu Polity, A Constitutional history of India in Hindu Times, 1978, Dr K. P. Jayswal
- Geographical Data in Early Puranas, 1972, Dr M. R. Singh
- Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, Dr J. L. Kamboj
- Kambojas Through the Ages, 2005, S Kipal Singh
- India and Central Asia, 1955, Dr P. C. Bagchi
- Geography of Puranas, 1973, Dr S. M. Ali
- Greeks in Bactria and India, Dr W. W. Tarn
- Early History of North India, Dr S. Chattopadhyava
- Sakas in Ancient India, Dr S. Chattopadhyava
- Development of Kharoshthi script, C. C. Dasgupta
- Ancient India, 1956, Dr R. K. Mukerjee
- India and the World, p 154, Dr Buddha Parkash
- These Kamboj People, 1979, K. S. Dardi
- Ancient India, Vol III, Dr T. L. Shah
- Hellenism in Ancient India, Dr G. N. Banerjee
- Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol XLIII, Part I, 1884
- Journal of Bihar and Orissa Research Society, Vol XVI, Part III, & IV, 1930
- Manu and Yajnavalkya, Dr K. P. Jayswal
- Anabaseeos Alexanddrou, Arrian
- Geography, by Ptolemy
- Mathura Lion Capital Inscriptions
- Corpus Inscriptionium Indicarum, Vol II, Part I, Dr S Konow
- Tillia tepe
- Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
- Indo-Greek Kingdom
- Indo-Parthian Kingdom
- Kushan Empire
- Tarkhan (Punjab)
- Ancestral Scythian migration of Jatt people (or Jat people)
- "Indo-Scythian dynasties", RC Senior
- Coins of the Indo-Scythians
- Burner relief
- Scythians - Who Were the Scythians
- Scythian Gold From Siberia Said to Predate the Greeks - New York Times | By JOHN VAROLI - Published: January 09, 2002
- Frozen Siberian Mummies Reveal a Lost Civilization | Archaeology | DISCOVER Magazine - by Andrew Curry | From the July 2008 issue; published online June 25, 2008
- The place where Europe began: Spiral cities built on remote Russian plains by swastika-painting Aryans | Mail Online
- Bhim Singh Dahiya: "The Mauryas: Their Identity", Vishveshvaranand Indological Journal, Vol. 17 (1979), p.112-133.
- Origin of the Saka Races - Collapse of the Brahminist Empire (Chapter 3) | by Khshatrapa Gandasa
Back to The Ancient Jats