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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

Names of territories during the Caliphate, Khorasan was part of Persia (in yellow).

Greater Khorasan (Persian:خراسان بزرگ) is a modern term for eastern territories of ancient Persia since the 3rd century A.D. Greater Khorasan included territories that presently are part of Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.


Khorasan is a Pahlavi word which means "the land of sunrise".


Jat Gotras Namesake

Jat clans after Khurasan

Khurasan (खुरासान) is gotra of Jats. This gotra originated from ancestral person who came from place Khurasan (खुरासान) or Khorasan. [3]

Khurasya (खुरासया) is gotra of Jats. This gotra originated from ancestral person who came from place Khurasan (खुरासान). [4]

Ch.8 Description of Darius's Army at Arbela (p.154-157)

Arrian[5] mentions.... Arrian[6] mentions.... Alexander therefore took the royal squadron of cavalry, and one squadron of the Companions, together with the Paeonian scouts, and marched with all speed; having ordered the rest of his army to follow at leisure. The Persian cavalry, seeing Alexander, advancing quickly, began to flee with all their might. Though he pressed close upon them in pursuit, most of them escaped; but a few, whose horses were fatigued by the flight, were slain, others were taken prisoners, horses and all. From these they ascertained that Darius with a large force was not far off. For the Indians who were conterminous with the Bactrians, as also the Bactrians themselves and the Sogdianians had come to the aid of Darius, all being under the command of Bessus, the viceroy of the land of Bactria. They were accompanied by the Sacians, a Scythian tribe belonging to the Scythians who dwell in Asia.[1] These were not subject to Bessus, but were in alliance with Darius. They were commanded by Mavaces, and were horse-bowmen. Barsaentes, the viceroy of Arachotia, led the Arachotians[2] and the men who were called mountaineer Indians. Satibarzanes, the viceroy of Areia, led the Areians,[3] as did Phrataphernes the Parthians, Hyrcanians, and Tapurians,[4] all of whom were horsemen. Atropates commanded the Medes, with whom were arrayed the Cadusians, Albanians, and Sacesinians.[5] The men who dwelt near the Red Sea[6] were marshalled by Ocondobates, Ariobarzanes, and Otanes. The Uxians and Susianians[7] acknowledged Oxathres son of Aboulites as their leader, and the Babylonians were commanded by Boupares. The Carians who had been deported into central Asia, and the Sitacenians[8] had been placed in the same ranks as the Babylonians. The Armenians were commanded by Orontes and Mithraustes, and the Cappadocians by Ariaoes. The Syrians from the vale between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon (i.e. Coele-Syria) and the men of Syria which lies between the rivers[9] were led by Mazaeus. The whole army of Darius was said to contain 40,000 cavalry, 1,000,000 infantry, and 200 scythe-bearing chariots.[10] There were only a few elephants, about fifteen in number, belonging to the Indians who live this side of the Indus.[11] With these forces Darius had encamped at Gaugamela, near the river Bumodus, about 600 stades distant from the city of Arbela, in a district everywhere level;[12] for whatever ground thereabouts was unlevel and unfit for the evolutions of cavalry, had long before been levelled by the Persians, and made fit for the easy rolling of chariots and for the galloping of horses. For there were some who persuaded Darius that he had forsooth got the worst of it in the battle fought at Issus, from the narrowness of the battle-field; and this he was easily induced to believe.

1. Cf. Aelian (Varia Historia, xii. 38).

2. Arachosia comprised what is now the south-east part of Afghanistan and the north-east part of Beloochistan.

3. Aria comprised the west and north-west part of Afghanistan and the east part of Khorasan.

4. Parthia is the modern Khorasan. Hyrcania was the country south and south-east of the Caspian Sea. The Tapurians dwelt in the north of Media, on the borders of Parthia between the Caspian passes. Cf. Ammianus, xxiii. 6.

5. The Cadusians lived south-west of the Caspian, the Albanians on the west of the same sea, in the south-east part of Georgia, and the Sacesinians in the north-east of Armenia, on the river Kur.

6. "The Red Sea was the name originally given to the whole expanse of sea to the west of India as far as Africa. The name was subsequently given to the Arabian Gulf exclusively. In Hebrew it is called Yam-Suph (Sea of Sedge, or a seaweed resembling wool). The Egyptians called it the Sea of Weeds.

7. The Uxians occupied the north-west of Persis, and Susiana was the country to the north and west of Persis.

8. The Sitacenians lived in the south of Assyria. ἐτετάχατο. is the Ionic form for τεταγμἑνοι ἦσαν.

9. The Greeks called this country Mesopotamia because it lies between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. In the Bible it is called Paddan-Aram (the plain of Aram, which is the Hebrew name of Syria). In Gen. xlviii. 7 it is called merely Paddan, the plain. In Hos. xii. 12, it is called the field of Aram, or, as our Bible has it, the country of Syria. Elsewhere in the Bible it is called Aram-naharaim, Aram of the two rivers, which the Greeks translated Mesopotamia. It is called "the Island," by Arabian geographers.

10. Curtius (iv. 35 and 45) states that Darius had 200,000 infantry, 45,000 cavalry, and 200 scythed chariots; Diodorus (xvii. 53) says, 800,000 infantry, 200,000 cavalry, and 200 scythed chariots; Justin (xi. 12) gives 400,000 foot and 100,000 horse; and Plutarch (Alex., 31) speaks of a million of men. For the chariots cf. Xenophon (Anab., i 8, 10); Livy, xxxvii. 41.

11. This is the first instance on record of the employment of elephants in battle.

12. This river is now called Ghasir, a tributary of the Great Zab. The village Gaugamela was in the district of Assyria called Aturia, about 69 miles from the city of Arbela, now called Erbil.


Ch.25: March to Bactra.— Bessus aided by Satibarzanes (p.191-193)

Having settled these affairs, he marched to Zadracarta, the largest city of Hyrcania, where also was the seat of the Hyrcanian government. Tarrying here fifteen days, he offered sacrifice to the gods according to his custom, and celebrated a gymnastic contest, after which he began his march towards Parthia; thence to the confines of Areia[1] and to Susia, a city in that province, where Satibarzanes, the viceroy of the Areians, came to meet him. To this man he restored his viceregal dignity, and with him sent Anaxippus, one of the Companions, to whom he gave forty horse-lancers so that he might be able to station them as guards of the localities, in order that the Areians might not be injured by the army in its march through their land. At this time came to him some Persians, who informed him that Bessus had assumed the erect tiara[2] and was wearing the Persian dress,[3] calling himself Artaxerxes instead of Bessus, and asserting that he was king of Asia. They said he had in attendance upon him the Persians who had escaped into Bactra and many of the Bactrians themselves; and that he was expecting the Scythians also to come to him as allies. Alexander, having now all his forces together, went towards Bactra, where Philip son of Menelaüs came to him out of Media with the Greek mercenary cavalry which were under his own command, those of the Thessalians who had volunteered to remain, and the men of Andromachus. Nicanor, the son of Parmenio, the commander of the shield-bearing guards, had already died of disease. While Alexander was on his way to Bactra, he was informed that Satibarzanes, viceroy of Areia, had killed Anaxippus and the horse-lancers who were with him, had armed the Areians and collected them in the city of Artacoana, which was the capital of that nation. It was also said that he had resolved, as soon as he ascertained that Alexander had advanced, to leave that place and go with his forces to Bessus, with the intention of joining that prince in an attack upon the Macedonians, wherever a chance might occur. When he received this news, he stopped the march towards Bactra, and taking with him the Companion cavalry, the horse-lancers, the archers, the Agrianians and the regiments of Amyntas and Coenus, and leaving the rest of his forces there under the command of Craterus, he made a forced march against Satibarzanes and the Areians; and having travelled 600 stades in two days came near Artacoana. Satibarzanes, however, no sooner perceived that Alexander was near, than being struck with terror at the quickness of his arrival, he took to flight with a few Areian horsemen. For he was deserted by the majority of his soldiers in his flight, when they also learned that Alexander was at hand. The latter made rapid marches in pursuit of the enemy, killed some of the men whom he discovered to be guilty of the revolt and who at that time had left their villages, fleeing, some one way, some another; and others of them he sold into slavery. He then proclaimed Arsames, a Persian, viceroy over the Areians. Being now joined by the men who had been left behind with Oraterus, he marched into the land of the Zarangaeans,[4] and reached the place where their seat of government was. But Barsaentes, who at that time had possession of the land, being one of those who had fallen upon Darius in his flight, learning that Alexander was approaching, fled to the Indians who live this side of the river Indus. But they arrested him and sent him back to Alexander, by whom he was put to death on account of his guilty conduct towards Darius.

1. Areia occupied what is now the east part of Khorasan, and the west and north-west of Afghanistan. Susia is the modern Tus.

2. Compare the words of Tissaphernes to Clearchus (Xenophon, Anabasis, ii. 6): "Though the king is the only man who can wear the tiara erect upon his head, I shall be able to wear mine erect upon my heart in, full confidence, when you are in my service." Cf. Curtius (iii. 8); Aristophanes (Birds, 487). The cap of the ordinary Persians was low, loose, and clinging about the head in folds; whereas that of the king was high and erect above the head. From Xenophon (Cyropaedia, viii. 3, 13) we learn that the Persian king's, vest was of a purple colour, half mixed with white, and that no one else was allowed to wear this mixture of white. He had loose trousers of a scarlet colour, and a robe entirely purple. Cf. also Strabo (xv. 3), where the tiara is said to be in the shape of a tower; and Seneca (De Beneficiis, vi. 31); Ammianus, xviii. 8, 5.

3. See Xenophon (Anab., i. 2, 27; Cyropaedia, viii. 3); Curtius (iii. 8).

4. These people are also called Drangians. They lived west of Aiaohosia in Diangiana.


Jat History

Ram Sarup Joon[7] writes that ...It has been mentioned in Malfuzat Temuri that is the time of Temuri's invasion of India, Jats were the first to intercept him many Jats were killed in the encounter. Timur had for long harboured an animosity against the Jats. Timur was from Chughtaiya (Saktaya) the capital of which was in Trans Oxiana. A great Jat king Kokaltas invaded Khurasan and occupied it. After that he invaded Trans Oxiana. The king fled away. But the nephew of that Amir Timur was a clever and far sighted man. He offered due apologies on behalf of his uncle and admitted the suzerainty of Kokaltas, who had one Lakh (100,000) brave Jats in his army. King Kokaltas died issue less in 1380. Timur occupied the throne and also married a Jat Rajkumari. But Jats did not accept the rule of Timur. A mutiny flared up and continued for long time. Finally Timur managed to suppress it, carried out a mass massacre of the Jats and drove out the remnants from the country. By 1349 he succeeded in finally establishing himself, but still he was not free from Jat troubles. He writes in Timur Nama, that he did not intend to kill so many Jats, because they were handsome, stalwart people, but he had to do so. It is written in MulfuZai Temur P 429 that when he invaded India, he was interrupted by the Jats who took a heavy toll of his army. It is also mentioned in Todd's Rajasthan with reference to Tazke-babri that at the time of Babar's invasion of India a large number of Jats resisted him at Thanesar and most of them were slain.

Khorasan province

These days, the adjective greater is partly used to distinguish it from Khorasan province, in modern-day Iran, that forms western parts of these territories, roughly half in area [8]. It is also used to indicate that Greater Khorasan encompasses territories that were perhaps called by some other popular name when they were individually referred to. For example Transoxiana (covered Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), Bactria, Kabulistan [9] , Khwarezm (containing Samarkand and Bukhara) [10] .

Until the devastating Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century, Khorasan was considered the cultural capital of Persia. (Lorentz 1995)

Greater Khorasan contained mostly Nishapur and Tus (now in Iran), Herat, Balkh, Kabul and Ghazni (now in Afghanistan), Merv and Sanjan (now in Turkmenistan), Samarqand and Bukhara (both now in Uzbekistan), Khujand and Panjakent (now in Tajikistan) and Balochistan (now in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran).

Geographical Distribution

According to Mir Ghulam Mohammad, Afghanistan's current territories formed the major part of Khorasan[11] while other sources say otherwise. According to these latter sources, Khorasan province of Iran roughly comprises half of Greater Khorasan.[12] Khorasan's boundaries have varied greatly during ages. The term was loosely applied to all territories of Persia that lay east and north east of Dasht-e Kavir and therefore were subjected to change as the size of empire changed.

In the Middle Ages, Persian Iraq and Khorasan were the two most important parts of the territory of Greater Iran. The dividing region between these two was mostly along with Gurgan and Damaghan cities. Especially the Ghaznavid Empire, Seljuq dynasty and Timurid dynasty, divided their Empire to Iraqi and Khorasani regions. This point can be observed in many books such as "Tārīkhi Bayhaqī" of Abul Fazl Bayhqi, Faza'ilul al-anam min rasa'ili hujjat al-Islam (a collection of letters of Al-Ghazali) and other books.

Ghulam Mohammad Ghubar, an ethnic Tajik scholar and historian from Afghanistan, talks of Proper Khorasan and Improper Khorasan in his book titled "Khorasan"[13]. According to him, Proper Khorasan contained regions lying between Balkh (in the East), Merv (in the North), Sijistan (in the South), Nishapur (in the West) and Herat, known as The Pearl of Khorasan, in the center. While Improper Khorasan's boundaries extended to Kabul and Ghazni in the East, Balochistan and Zabulistan in the South, Transoxiana and Khwarezm in the North and Damaghan and Gurgan in the West.

In Memoirs of Babur, it is mentioned that Indians called non-Hindustanis (non-Indians) as Khorasanis. Regarding the boundary of Hindustan and Khorasan, it is written: "On the road between Hindustān and Khorasān, there are two great marts: the one Kābul, the other Kandahār." 1 Thus, Improper Khorasan bordered Hindustan (old India).

Historical overview

Greater Khorasan is one of the regions of Greater Iran. Before being conquered by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, it was part of the Achaemenid dynasty Persian Empire. In 1st century AD, the eastern regions of greater Khorasan fell into the hands of the Kushan empire. The Kushans introduced Buddhist culture to these regions, as numerous Kushanian temples and buried cities with treasures in the northern and central areas of Khurasan (nowadays mainly Afghanistan) have been found. However the western parts of Greater Khorasan remained predominantly Zoroastrian as one of the three great fire-temples of the Sassanids "Azar-burzin Mehr" is situated in the western regions of Khorasan, near Sabzevar in Iran. The boundary was pushed to the west towards the Persian Empire during the Kushans. The boundary kept changing until the demise of the Kushan Empire where Sassanid dynasty took control of the entire region. In Sassanid era, Persian empire was divided into four quarters, "Xwawaran" meaning west, apAxtar meaning north, Nīmrūz meaning south and Xurasan (Khorasan) meaning east. The Eastern regions saw some conflict with Hephthalites, but the borders remained much stable afterwards until the Muslim invasion.

Being the eastern parts of the Sassanid empire and further away from Arabia, Khorasan quarter was conquered in the later stages of Muslim invasions. In fact the last Sassanid king of Persia, Yazdgerd III, moved the throne to Khorasan following the Arab invasion in the western parts of the empire. After the assassination of the king, Khorasan was conquered by the Islamic troops in 647. Like other provinces of Persia it became one of the provinces of Umayad dynasty.


  1. Dr Mahendra Singh Arya, Dharmpal Singh Dudee, Kishan Singh Faujdar & Vijendra Singh Narwar: Ādhunik Jat Itihasa (The modern history of Jats), Agra 1998 p. 236
  2. Dr Mahendra Singh Arya, Dharmpal Singh Dudee, Kishan Singh Faujdar & Vijendra Singh Narwar: Ādhunik Jat Itihasa (The modern history of Jats), Agra 1998 p. 235
  3. Dr Mahendra Singh Arya, Dharmpal Singh Dudee, Kishan Singh Faujdar & Vijendra Singh Narwar: Ādhunik Jat Itihasa (The modern history of Jats), Agra 1998 p. 236
  4. Dr Mahendra Singh Arya, Dharmpal Singh Dudee, Kishan Singh Faujdar & Vijendra Singh Narwar: Ādhunik Jat Itihasa (The modern history of Jats), Agra 1998 p. 235
  5. The Anabasis of Alexander/3b, p.154-157
  6. The Anabasis of Alexander/3a, p.154-157
  7. History of the Jats/Chapter IX, p. 150
  8. Dabeersiaghi, Commentary on Safarnâma-e Nâsir Khusraw, 6th Ed. Tehran, Zavvâr: 1375 (Solar Hijri Calendar) 235-236
  9. For example refer to Shahname. e.g. So happy became the king of Kabulistan from the marriage of the sun of Zabulistan [1]
  10. or refer to Anvari Qasida in which he refers to Samarqand as Turan and complains about devastation in Khorasan (and more generally Iran) caused by Ghuz Turks. [2]
  11. Ghubar, Mir Ghulam Mohammad, Khorasan, 1937 Kabul Printing House, Kabul, Afghanistan
  12. Dabeersiaghi, "Commentary", Nâseer khusraw, Safarnâma, 6th Ed. Tehran, Zavvâr:1375 (Solar Hijri Calendar) 235-236
  13. Ghubar, Mir Ghulam Mohammad, Khorasan, 1937 Kabul Printing House, Kabul, Afghanistan

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