Caspian Sea

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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

Caspian Sea Map
Map of Caspian Sea

The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. [1] [2] It has a surface area of 371,000 square kilometers (143,244 sq mi) and a volume of 78,200 cubic kilometers (18,761 cu mi). It is an endorheic body of water (has no outflows), and lies between the southern areas of the Russian Federation and northern Iran. It has a maximum depth of about 1025 meters (3,363 ft). It is called a sea because when the Romans first arrived there, they tasted the water and found it to be salty. It has a salinity of approximately 1.2%, about a third the salinity of most seawater.


Jat Gtras Namesake

Jat Gtras Namesake

Origin of name

It is named after the ancient Caspians. According to Dr. Kephart the Caspian Sea derives its name from the one group of Dahae (Dahiya Jats) known as Caspi. [3] According to B S Dhillon[4], The name of this Central Asian sea, Caspian Sea, is derived from a Massagetae ("great" Getae or Jats) tribe called Caspii that lived on its western shores. According to General Sir Sykes [5], once this sea was also called sea of Gillan. The Gill clan, is probably the largest among the Jat Sikhs. In Punjabi, the word "Gillan" is the plural form of the word "Gill" "Gillan de Munde" means "Boys of the Gills".

Discoveries in the Huto cave near the town of Behshahr, Mazandaran south of the Caspian in Iran, suggest human habitation of the area as early as 75,000 years ago.[1]

In classical antiquity among Greeks and Persians it was called the Hyrcanian Ocean. In Persian antiquity, as well as in modern Iran, it is known as the Khazar Sea (Persian خزر) or Mazandaran (Persian مازندران) Lake. In Turkic speaking countries it is known as the Khazar Sea. Old Russian sources call it the Khvalyn (Khvalynian) Sea after the Khvalis (Khyalia Jat clan), inhabitants of Khwarezmia. Ancient Arabic sources refer to Bahr-e-Qazvin — the Caspian/Qazvin Sea.

The word Caspian is derived from the name of the Caspi (Persian کاسی), an ancient people that lived to the west of the sea in Transcaucasia.[6] Strabo wrote that "to the country of the Albanians belongs also the territory called Caspiane, which was named after the Caspian tribe (Kaswan, Kashyap Jat clans), as was also the sea; but the tribe has now disappeared".[7] Moreover, the Caspian Gate, which is the name of a region in Tehran province of Iran, is another possible piece of evidence that they migrated to the south of the sea.

Hyrcania (Virk Jat clan), was an ancient kingdom located in the territories of present day Golestan (Gulia Jat clan), Mazandaran, Gilan (Gill Jat clan) and part of Turkmenistan, lands south of the Caspian Sea. The name "Hyrcania" is the name attested in Greek historiographic accounts. This Greek name is a calque of Old Persian Verkâna, as it is recorded in Darius the Great's Behistun Inscription, as well as in other inscriptions in Old Persian cuneiform. Verkā means "wolf" in Old Persian (New Persian gorg) and consequently, "Hyrcania" means the "Land of the Wolves".

For the Greeks, the Caspian Sea was the "Hyrcanian Sea". In medieval times, the same body of water was the "Mazandaran Sea".

Virk is one of the most important Jat clan whici is associated with "Hyrcania". It is mentioned by Panini and V.S. Agrawal has identified Virk with the Jats. The same identification has been mentioned by Buddha Prakash. [8] Mahabhasya mentions Vrika and its derivative Varkenya, the Varkan of the Persians, and Hyrcan of the Greeks. The Caspian sea was once called the Sea of Vrkans (Hyrcanian). The identification of Hyrcan with Varkan has also been mentioned by Rawlinson in his History of Herodotus, he mentions that even in the thirteenth century, their country in Central Asian was mentioned as Urkanich in Yakut. According to Herodotus they fought in the battle of Thermopylae under their leader named Megapanus, who was afterwards Satrap of Babylonia. [9]


The earliest human remains around Caspian are from Dmanisi dating back to around 1.8 Ma and yielded a number of skeletal remains of Homo erectus or Homo ergaster. More later evidence for human occupation of the region come from a number of caves in Georgia and Azerbaijan such as Kudaro and Azykh Caves. There is evidence for Lower Palaeolithic human occupation at south of Caspian from western Alburz. These are Ganj Par and Darband Cave sites. Neanderthal remains also have been discovered at a cave site in Georgia. Discoveries in the Huto cave and the adjacent Kamarband cave, near the town of Behshahr, Mazandaran south of the Caspian in Iran, suggest human habitation of the area as early as 11,000 years ago.[10][11]

In 1950 the construction of Main Turkmen Canal was started under the orders of Joseph Stalin. The waterway, which would be used for shipping not irrigation, would run from Nukus on the Amu-Darya to Krasnovodsk on the Caspian Sea thus connecting the Amu-Darya and the Aral Sea to the Caspian. However the project was abandoned soon after the death of Stalin. The project was dropped in favor of the Qaraqum Canal, which runs on a more southerly route but does not reach the Caspian.[12]

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[13] mentions 'The Caspian Sea and Hyrcanian Sea.'....Bursting through, this sea makes a passage from the Scythian Ocean into the back of Asia,1 receiving various names from the nations which dwell upon its banks, the two most famous of which are the Caspian and the Hyrcanian races. Clitarchus is of opinion that the Caspian Sea is not less in area than the Euxine. Eratosthenes gives the measure of it on the south-east, along the coast of Cadusia2 and Albania, as five thousand four hundred stadia; thence, through the territories of the Anariaci, the Amardi, and the Hyrcani, to the mouth of the river Zonus he makes four thousand eight hundred stadia, and thence to the mouth of the Jaxartes3 two thousand four hundred; which makes in all a distance of one thousand five hundred and seventy-five miles. Artemidorus, however, makes this sum smaller by twenty-five miles.

1 His meaning is, that the Scythian Ocean communicates on the northern shores of Asia with the Caspian Sea. Hardouin remarks, that Patrocles, the commander of the Macedonian fleet, was the first to promulgate this notion, he having taken the mouth of the river Volga for a narrow passage, by means of which the Scythian or Northern Ocean made its way into the Caspian Sea

2 The country of the Cadusii, in the mountainous district of Media Atropatene, on the south-west shores of the Caspian Sea, between the parallels of 390 and 370 north latitude. This district probably corresponds with the modern district of Gilan.

3 Now the Syr-Daria or Yellow River, and watering the barren steppes of the Kirghiz-Cossacks. It really discharges itself into the Sea of Aral, and not the Caspian.

Mention by Pliny

Pliny the Elder[14] writes....Ecbatana1, the capital of Media, was built2 by king Seleucus, at a distance from Great Seleucia of seven hundred and fifty miles, and twenty miles from the Caspian Gates.

1 A city of great magnitude, pleasantly situate near the foot of Mount Orontes, in the northern part of Greater Media. Its original foundation was attributed by Diodorus Siculus to Semiramis, and by Herodotus to Deioces. It was the capital of the Median kingdom, and afterwards the summer residence of the Persian and Parthian kings. The genuine orthography of the name seems to be Agbatana. The ruins seen at the modern Hamadan are generally supposed to represent those of the ancient Ecbatana; but it is most probable that at different times, if not contemporaneously, there were several cities of this name in Media.

2 Pliny in this statement, as also in the distances which he here assigns to Ecbatana, is supposed to have confounded Ecbatana with Europus, now Veramin, rebuilt by Seleucus Nicator.

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[15] mentions 'Media and the Caspian Gates'.... After leaving these gates (Caspian Gates) we find the nation of the Caspii, extending as far as the shores of the Caspian, a race which has given its name to these gates as well as to the sea: on the left there is a mountainous district. Turning back14 from this nation to the river Cyrus, the distance is said to be two hundred and twenty miles; but if we go from that river as far down as the Caspian Gates, the distance is seven hundreds15 miles. In the itineraries of Alexander the Great these gates were made the central or turning point in his expeditions; the distance from the Caspian Gates to the frontier of India being there set down as fifteen thousand six hundred and eighty16 stadia, to the city of Bactra,17 commonly called Zariaspa, three thousand seven hundred, and thence to the river Jaxartes18 five thousand stadia.

14 In a northern direction, along the western shores of the Caspian.

15 According to Hardouin, Eratosthenes, as quoted by Strabo, makes the distance 5060 stadia, or about 633 miles. He has, however, mistranslated the passage, which gives 5600 stadia, or 700 miles exactly, as stated by Pliny.

16 Or 1960 miles.

17 Bactra, Bactrum, or Bactrium, was one of the chief cities, if not the capital, of the province of Bactriana. It was one of the most ancient cities in the world, and the modern Balkh is generally supposed to occupy its site. Strabo, as well as Pliny, evidently considers that Bactra and Zareispa were the same place, while Appian distinguishes between the two, though he does not clearly state their relative positions.

18 The modern Syr-Daria, mentioned in c. 15. See p. 25.

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[16] mentions 'Nations situated around the Hyrcanian Sea'.....We then come to the nations of the Tapyri,3 the Anariaci, the Staures, and the Hyrcani, past whose shores and beyond the river Sideris4 the Caspian begins to take the name of the Hyrcanian Sea: on this side of that stream are also the rivers Maxeras and Strato: all of them take their rise in the Caucasian chain.

3 According to Ansart, the district now known as Tabaristan, or Mazanderan, derives the first of those names from the Tapyri.

4 D'Anville remarks that this river still retains its "starry" name, being the modern Aster or Ester, on which Asterabad is situate.

कैस्पियन सागर

Dalip Singh Ahlawat writes -

कैस्पियन सागर - दुष्यन्तपुत्र भरत, जिसकी माता शकुन्तला ने उसका पालन-पोषण कश्यप ऋषि के आश्रम पर किया था और कश्यप जी का आश्रम कैस्पियन सागर और काले सागर के मध्य कौकेशश (कॉकेशश या काफ पर्वत) के निकट ऐलबुर्ज पर्वत पर था, जहां से कि फरात नदी निकलती है। कैस्पियन सागर के किनारे कश्यप महर्षि का आश्रम था इसलिए वहां के निवासी आज पर्यन्त कैस्पियन रेश के कहलाते हैं। कैस्पियन को बहर-ए-खिजर भी कहते हैं। खिजर अपभ्रंश है केसर का। तात्पर्य है केसर के रंग वाले समुद्र से।

जाट्स दी ऐनशन्ट रूलर्ज, पृ० 90-91 पर लेखक बी० एस० दहिया ने लिखा है कि –

“जब कश्यप गोत्र के जाटों का शासन इस क्षेत्र पर हुआ तब उनके नाम पर यह सागर, ‘कैस्पियन सागर’ कहलाया। इसके पश्चात् जब वरिक (वाह्लीक) जाटों की शक्ति वहां पर हुई, तब इसका नाम ‘हिरकानिया सागर’ पड़ा। वरिक को ईरानी भाषा में वरकन-वर्क तथा यूनानी भाषा में हिरकान कहा गया है। जब वहां पर दहिया जाटों का शासन हुआ, तब इसको ‘दहाय सागर’ कहा गया। गिल जाटों का वहां शासन होने पर यह ‘गिलन सागर’ कहा गया। गिल को फारस वालों ने गिलन तथा यूनानियों ने गिलन्ज-गेलन्ज लिखा है। बाद में जब खजर (गूजर जाटवंश) की शक्ति उस क्षेत्र पर हुई, तब यह ‘बहर-अल-खजर’ कहलाया जिसका अर्थ है खजरों का सागर।”[17]


Ancient Cities:

Modern Cities: Azerbaijan: Astara, Baku, Gobustan, Khudat, Khachmaz, Lankaran, Nabran, Neftchala, Shabran, Siyazan, Oil Rocks, Sumqayit,

Iran: Ali Abad, Amol, Astaneh-ye Ashrafiyeh, Astara, Babol, Babolsar, Bandar Anzali, Bandar-e-gaz, Bandar Torkaman, Behshahr, Chaloos, Fenderesk, Ghaem Shahr, Gonbad-e Kavus, Gorgan, Jooybar, Kordkuy, Lahijan, Langrud, MahmudAbad, Neka, Nowshahr, Nur, Ramsar, Rasht, Rudbar, Rudsar, Sari, Tonekabon,

Kazakhstan: Atyrau (formerly Guriev), Aqtau (formerly Shevchenko),

Russia: Astrakhan, Dagestanskiye Ogni, Derbent, Izberbash, Kaspiysk, Makhachkala,

Turkmenistan: Türkmenbaşy (formerly Krasnovodsk), Hazar (formerly Çeleken), Esenguly, Garabogaz (formerly Bekdaş),

External links


  1. Caspian Sea » General background.
  2. ESA: Observing the Earth - Earth from Space: The southern Caspian Sea
  3. Kephart, C., Races of Mankind: Their Origin and Migration, Peter Owen Limited, London, 1960, pp. 488-489, 522-525
  4. History and study of the Jats. By Professor B.S Dhillon. ISBN-10: 1895603021 or ISBN-13: 978-1895603026. 106
  5. Sykes, P. (Brig. Gen. and Sir), A History of Persia, MacMillan & Co. Ltd., London, 1958, pp. 26-27 (Vol. I), first published in 1915.
  6. Caspian Sea. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 13, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service:
  7. Strabo. Geography. 11.3.1
  8. ibid , p. 251
  9. ibid. bk. VII. ch . 62
  10. "Major Monuments".
  11. Safeguarding Caspian Interests.
  12. Kharin, Nikolai Gavrilovich (2002). Vegetation Degradation in Central Asia Under the Impact of Human Activities. Springer. pp. 56–58. ISBN 1-4020-0397-8.
  13. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 15
  14. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 17,fn.1
  15. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 17
  16. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 18
  17. Jat History Dalip Singh Ahlawat/Chapter IV (Page 333)

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