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The Assaka Mahajanapada

Ashmaka (अश्मक) was a region of ancient India (700–300 BCE) mentioned in Ashtadhyayi of Panini as janapada Aśhmaka (अश्मक) (IV.1.173).[1] It was one of the sixteen mahajanapadas in the 6th century BCE, mentioned in the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya.

Origin of name

Ashmaka is derived from Sanskrit word "Ashma" which means Stone or Gem: In fact one finds thousands of hillocks and stones in this region and thus aptly called Ashmaka.

Variants of name


The region was located on the banks of the Godavari river, between the rivers Godavari and Manjira. It was the only Mahajanapada situated to the south of the Vindhya Range, and was in Dakshinapatha. It corresponds to districts Nizamabad and parts of Adilabad in Telangana and Nanded, Yavatmal in Maharashtra states in current-day India.

Jat clans


V. S. Agrawala[2] writes that Ashtadhyayi of Panini mentions janapada Aśhmaka (अश्मक) (IV.1.173) - Panini refers Avantyaśmakaḥ (Avanti+Ashmaka), showing their geographical proximity. Aśhmaka is named Assaka in Pali texts with its capital at Paithan Pratishthana on Godawari River.

V. S. Agrawala[3] writes that according to Greek writers Punjab was full of towns, centres of Industry and economic prosperity. Many of these figured as forts of centres of defence such as the famous town of Massage (Maśkāvatī) or Aornos (Varaṇā) in the country of Ashvakas.

V. S. Agrawala[4] writes about Art of war – The Āyudhajīvīns were warrior tribes organized on a military basis into Sanghas, occupying mostly the Vahika or Punjab. Their member were known as Āyudhīya, ‘making a living by the profession of arms’ (Āyudhena jīvati, IV.4.14). We know that these soldiers put up the stoutest resistance against the Greeks in the 4th century BC.

The Ashvakayanas of Masakavati and the Malavas, all ayudhajivins, constituted the finest soldiery, which extorted the admiration of foreigners. The Kshudrakas and Malavas (Ganapatha of IV.2.45) , we are informed by Katyayana, (p.422) pooled their military strength in a confederate army called the Kshudraka-Malavi senā. The foot soldiers (padāti) of the Salva country have been specially noted (IV.2.135). (p.423)

V. S. Agrawala[5] mentions Ayudhjivi Sanghas in the Ganapatha under Yaudheyadi group, repeated twice in the Panini's Ashtadhyayi (IV.1.178) and (V.3.117) which includes - Dhārteya – unidentified, probably the same as the Dārteyas. The Greek writers mention Dyrta as a town of Assakenoi or the Āśvakāyanas of Massaga, and this may have been the capital of the Darteyas.

V S Agarwal [6] writes names of some important tribes in the Ganapatha, which deserve to be mentioned as being of considerable importance. We are indebted to the Greek historians of Alexander for the information that most of these were republics. These tribes include - Hāstināyana, Āśvāyana, Āśvakāyana. The first is mentioned in Sutra VI.4.174, the second in IV.1.110, and the third in Naḍadi gana (IV.1.99)

[p.454]: While describing Alexander’s campaign from Kapisa towards the Indus through Gandhara, the Greek historians mention three warlike peoples, viz., Astakenoi, with capital at Peukelaotis, the Aspasioi in the valley of Kunar or Chitral River and the Assakenoi settled between the Swat and the Panjkora rivers, with the capital at Massaga, and more especially in the mountainous regions of the Swat. The Paninian evidence throws light on these three names for the first time:

The Asvayanas and the Asvakayanas were the bravest fighters of all, being strongly entrenched in their mountainous fortresses. Alexander himself directed the operations against them. The Ashvakayana capital at Massaga or Masakavati is given in Bhashya as the name of a river (IV.2.71), that should be looked for in that portion of the Suvastu in its lower reaches where Mazaga or Massanagar is situated on it at a distance of 24 miles from Bajaur in the Yusufzai country. In times of danger the Asvakayanas withdrew into the impregnable defences of their hilly fortress which the Greeks have named Aornos. It appears to be same as Varaṇā of the Ashtadhyayi (see ante, p.69, for its identification with modern Uṇrā on the Indus). The Greeks also mention another of their towns, viz., Arigaeon, which commanded the road between the Kunar and Panjkira valleys, and is comparable with Ārjunāva of the Kashika (ṛijunāvām nivāso deshaḥ, IV.2.69).

V S Agarwal [7] writes that We are told by the Greek historians of Alexander how the impregnable nature of the defences of Massaga and Aornos forts (Mashakāvati and Varaṇā) helped the heroic Ashvakayanas of Gandhara in offering resistance to the invaders.

V.K.Mathur[8] writes that Panini mentions Varaṇā in (IV.2.82). This has been reported near Varana (वरण) tree. This is located between Sindhu and Swat Rivers. Ashvakayanas were the inhabitants of this place.

The Buddhist text Mahagovinda Suttanta mentions about a ruler of Assaka, Brahmadatta who ruled from Potali or Podana, which now lies in the Nandura Tehsil of Buldhana district in Maharashtra.[9]

The Matsya Purana (ch.272) lists twenty-five rulers of Aśmaka, contemporary to the Shishunaga rulers of Magadha.

Later, the people spread southward to the territory of the Rashtrakuta empire, which is now in modern Maharashtra.

Ashmaka is also identified as Assaka and Aśvakas in Buddhist literature and Gatha Saptashati of king Hāla.

The Mahabharata Tribe - Asmaka (अश्मक) - The Puranas associate them with the Iksvaku line of Kshatriyas and Buddha scriptures refer to their land as a Mahajanapada. Identified with Paithan in Aurangabad district, this janapada may have comprised modern Nasik and Aurangabad Maharashtra. They fought with the Pandavas (VII. 61.39). [10]

Jat History

Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria) [11] writes that The Auchatai of Herodotus were Osseti or Allan known to the Russian writers as As[12] who seem to be none else than Asii[13] of the later Greek scholars and the Asikas or Assakas or Asmakas of the Asikas or Assakas or Asmakas or the ancient Indian sources[14].


They were known as Asika/Asmaka/Assaka/Ashmaka in Mahabharata.

The Mahabharata Tribe - Asmaka (अश्मक) is associate with the Iksvaku line of Kshatriyas in Puranas and Buddhist scriptures refer to their land as a Mahajanapada. Identified with Paithan in Aurangabad district, this janapada may have comprised modern Nasik and Aurangabad. Fought with the Pandavas.[15]

Bhisma Parva, Mahabharata/Book VI Chapter 10 mentions about province of Asmaka along with Munda, Sunda, Vidarbha, Asika, Pansurashtra and Goparashtra in verse Mahabharata(VI.10.42). [16]

Drona Parva Mahabharata mentions Asmakas with Kekayas in verse Mahabharata (VII. 61.39). [17]

External links


  1. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.61
  2. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.61
  3. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.73
  4. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.422-423
  5. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.449
  6. V S Agarwal, India as Known to Panini,p.453-454
  7. V S Agarwal, India as Known to Panini,p.487
  8. V.K.Mathur:Aitihasik Sthanavali,p.833
  9. Raychaudhuri, Hemchandra (1972) Political History of Ancient India, University of Calcutta, Mumbai, p.80
  10. धृष्टथ्युम्नश च थुर्धर्षः शिखण्डी चापराजितः
    अश्मकाः केकयाश चैव कषत्रधर्मा च सौमकिः (VII. 61.39)
  11. The Jats:Their Origin, Antiquity and Migrations/The identification of the Jats,p.312
  12. Bongard-Levin, op.cit., p.23; Budha Prakash, op.cit., P.97
  13. The original name of Hansi (Haryana) town in the heart of Jats is Asi or Asika (Imp. Gaz. of Ind., Vol. XIII, p.25).
  14. Chaudhuri, S.B., op.cit., pp.49-52 70f, Budha Prakash, op.cit., p.97.
  15. Mahabharata (VII. 61.39)
  16. गॊविन्दा मन्दकाः षण्डा विदर्भानूपवासिकाः, अश्मकाः पांसुराष्ट्राश च गॊप राष्ट्राः पनीतकाः Mahabharata(VI.10.42)
  17. धृष्टथ्युम्नश च थुर्धर्षः शिखण्डी चापराजितः, अश्मकाः केकयाश चैव कषत्रधर्मा च सौमकिः Mahabharata (VII. 61.39)