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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

Parvatiyas (पार्वतीय) (meaning:Mountaineers) were ancient republic of Āyudhajīvī Sanghas known to Panini (IV.3.91) and mentioned in Mahabharata (VI.10.56),(VIII.30.79),(VIII.51.19). Alexander the Great advanced towards Media, and invading the land of the Paraetacae, he subdued it, and appointed Oxathres, son of Abulites, the former viceroy of Susa, to rule as viceroy. This tribe lived in the mountains between Media and Persis[1]

Variants of name


Paraetacene was a district of ancient Persis which extended along the whole of its northern frontier in the direction of Media Magna, to which, indeed, it in part belonged.[2]

Jat clans

Mention by Panini

Parvatiya sangba (पार्वतीय संघ) is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [4]


V S Agarwal [5] writes about Āyudhajīvī Sanghas – [p.434]: Panini refers to a number of Sanghas as Ayudhajivin (V.3.114-117), meaning those who lived by the profession of arms. Panini classified his material of the Ayudhajivin Sanghas under several heads, viz.

  • 1. Sanghas in Vahika (V.3.114),
  • 2. Sanghas of Parvata (IV.3.91),
  • 3. Pūgas, organized under their Grāmaṇi in to some form of Sangha Govt (V.3.112), and lastly
  • 4. Vrātas living by depredation and violence (V.3.113, V.2.21), and having only semblance of Sangha.

The most advanced Ayudhajivin Sanghas belonged to the Vahika Country (V.3.114), which comprised the region from Indus to the Beas and and the Sutlej (Karnaparva, 44.7; Hindu polity, 1.34). These are the Yaudheyas, Kshudrakas and Malavas etc.

Mountaineers – A very important group of martial Sanghas comprised those occupying some parvata or mountainous region in north-west India.

[p.435] Evidently this parvata region must have been outside the plains of the Vahika Country, which brings us to the highlands of north-west as the homeland of the ayudhajivins. The Kashika mentions Hrdgoliyas Hridgola, probably Hi-lo of Yuan Chwang (modern Hidda south of Jalalabad); Andhakavartīyāḥ of Andhakavarta, perhaps Andkhui, a district in the north-east Afghanistan and Rohitagiriyas of Rohitagiri, which last is important as reminiscent of Roha, old name of Afghanistan. All this portion of the country is up to the present day peopled by hardy and warlike Mountaineers.The Markandeya Purana refers to mountain-dwellers of the west, including such names as Nihāras (Nigrahāra of Vayu, same as Nagarahāra or Jalalabad where Hṛidgola or Hiḍḍā is situated) and the Haṁsamārgas (modern Hunza in the north of Dardistan). Thus country of mountaineers extended from Kashmir to Afghanistan and most of the people settled in these mountains and their valleys were of the Ayudhajivin class. The Bhishmaparva specially mentions Girigahvaras (गिरिगह्वर) (VI.10.66), dwellers of mountain caves, as a people of the north-west (Bhishmaparva, 9.68, Udyogaparva, 30.24), and this epithet appropriately applies to the tribes of the north-west. They were the same as Sanghah girichāriṇaḥ and girigahvara-vasinah (Dronaparva, 93.48).

Arrian mentions these mountainous Indians as fighting in the army of Darius against Alexander at Arbela (Anabasis, III,8.3-6). It was these Parvatiya Ayudhajivin that offered stout resistance to Alexander in Bactria and Gandhara.

The approximate location of these Parvatiyas should be sought for in the region of the Hindukush on both sides of it. Roha, of medieval geographers, Rohitagiri of Panini, the ten Mandalas of Lohita (Sabhaparva, 24.16) and Rohitagiriyas of Kashika, all together point to the mountainous regions of the central and north-east Afghanistan as being the Parvata Country, which name survives in Kohistan.

[p.436]: We may now form a clear conception of the geographical distribution of three types of Sanghas in Panini:

  • (1) The Ayudhajivins of Vahika from the Indus upto the Beas and the Sutlej, of whom a special group occupying the mountainous Kangra region was called Trigarta-Shashṭha (V.3.116);
  • (2) Pugas, under the leadership of Gramanis, settled on the right bank of Indus (Sabhaparva,32.9), corresponding in all probability of present “Tribal Areas” to the west of the Indus;
  • (3) Parvatiyas, or the highlanders of Afghanistan and Hindukush, who included the tribes of Dardistan. These contained many living only in the Vrata stage of existence. It is evident that the Sanghas in the inner most belt were the best organized owing to Aryan contact and proximity and those in the outlying parts were much less civilized.

But besides Sanghas there were other elementary forms of democratic institutions in existence amongst those Ayudhajivins, three of which as Shreni, Pūga and Vrāta are particularly noteworthy. The word Shreni possessed a political significance. The Mahabharata also knows of Shreni as political institution. It mentions Shrenis fighting on the side of Duryodhana (Karnaparva, 5.40)

In Greek History

Paraetacene (Παραιτακηνή) was a district of ancient Persis which extended along the whole of its northern frontier in the direction of Media Magna, to which, indeed, it in part belonged.[6] The name is first mentioned by Herodotus, who calls one of the tribes of the Medians Paraetaceni.[7] The same district comprehended what are now called the Bakhtyari mountains and tribes. The whole country was rugged and mountainous[8] and appears to have been inhabited, like the adjacent province of Cossaea, by wild and robber tribes.[9] The inhabitants were called Paraetaceni[10] or Paraetacae.[11]

There has been considerable discussion with regard to the origin of this name. The best determination seems to be that it is derived from a Persian word, Paruta, signifying mountain; and this again, from the Sanskrit Parvata. It will be observed that while Herodotus gives the Paraetceni a Median origin,[12] and Stephanus of Byzantium calls Paraetaca a Median town, Strabo gives one portion of the district so named to the Assyrian province of Apolloniatis or Sittacene.[13] There were, however, other places of the same name at considerable distances from the Median or Persian province. Thus, one is mentioned between Bactriana and Sogdiana, between the Oxus and Jaxartes,[14] and another between Drangiana and Arachosia.[15] In India, too, we find the Paryeti Montes, one of the outlying spurs of the still greater chain of the Paropamisus (or Hindu Kush).[16]

Arrian[17] writes....When Alexander had finished his operations among the Sogdianians, and was now in possession of the rock, he advanced into the land of the Paraetacians, because many of the barbarians were said to be holding another rock, a strongly fortified place in that country. This was called the rock of Chorienes; and to it Chorienes himself and many other chiefs had fled for refuge.

Arrian[18] writes....After Capture of the Rock of Chorienes or Sogdian Rock (The Anabasis of Alexander:4.18, 4.21) in 327 BC...Alexander himself went to Bactra; but sent Craterus with 600 of the cavalry Gompanions and his own brigade of infantry as well those of Polysperchon, Attalus, and Alcetas, against Catanes and Austanes, who were the only rebels still remaining in the land of the Paraetacenians. This term is a Persian word meaning mountaineers. The tribe mentioned here lived between the rivers Oxus and Jaxartes, on the borders of Bactria and Sogdiana. A sharp battle was fought with them in which Craterus was victorious; Catanes being killed there while fighting, and Austanes being captured and brought to Alexander. Of the barbarians with them 120 horsemen and about 1,500 foot soldiers were killed.

Ch. 19: Darius pursued into Media and Parthia

Arrian[19] writes....After bringing these matters to a successful issue, he advanced towards Media; for he ascertained that Darius was there. Now Darius had formed the resolution, if Alexander remained at Susa or Babylon, to stay there among the Medes, in order to see if any change of policy were made by Alexander. But if the latter marched against him, he resolved to proceed into the interior towards Parthia and Hyrcania, as far as Bactria, laying waste all the land and making it impossible for Alexander to advance any further. He therefore sent the women and the rest of the property which he still retained, together with the covered carriages, to what were called the Caspian Gates[1]; but he himself stayed at Ecbatana,[2] with the forces which had been collected from those who were at hand. Hearing this, Alexander advanced towards Media, and invading the land of the Paraetacae,[3] he subdued it, and appointed Oxathres, son of Abulites, the former viceroy of Susa, to rule as viceroy. Being informed on the march that Darius had determined to meet him for battle, and to try the fortune of war again (for the Scythians and Cadusians had come to him as allies), he ordered that the beasts of burden, with their guards and the rest of the baggage, should follow; and taking the rest of his army, he led it in order of battle, and on the twelfth day arrived in Media. There he ascertained that the forces of Darius were not fit for battle, and that his allies, the Cadusians and Scythians, had not arrived; but that he had resolved to flee. He therefore marched on with still greater speed; and when he was only three days' journey from Ecbatana, he was met by Bistanes, son of Ochus, who reigned over the Persians before Darius. This man announced that Darius had fled five days before, taking with him 7,000 talents of money[4] from the Medes, and an army of 3,000 cavalry and 6,000 infantry.

When Alexander reached Ecbatana, he sent the Thessalian cavalry and the other Grecian allies back to the sea, paying them the full hire which had been stipulated, and making them an additional donation from himself of 2,000 talents. He issued an order that if any man of his own accord wished still to continue to serve for hire with him, he should enlist; and those who enlisted in his service were not a few. He then ordered Epocillus, son of Polyeides, to conduct the rest down to the sea, taking other cavalry as a guard for them, since the Thessalians sold their horses there. He also sent word to Menes to take upon himself the duty of seeing that they were conveyed in triremes to Euboea, when they arrived at the sea.[5] He instructed Parmenio to deposit the money which was being conveyed from Persis in the citadel at Ecbatana, and to hand it over to the charge of Harpalus;[6] for he had left this man over the money with a guard of 6,000 Macedonians and a few horsemen and light-armed infantry to take care of it. He told Parmenio himself to take the Grecian mercenaries, the Thracians, and all the other horsemen except the Companion cavalry, and march by the land of the Cadusians into Hyrcania. He also sent word to Clitus, the commander of the royal squadron of cavalry, who had been left behind at Susa ill, that when he arrived at Ecbatana from Susa he should take the Macedonians who had been left there in charge of the money, and go in the direction of Parthia, where also he himself intended soon to arrive.

1. This was the principal pass through the Elburz mountains from Media into Hyrcania and Parthia.

2. This was the capital of Media, called in Chaldee Achmetha (Ezra vi. 2). The present city of Hamadan is on the same site. It is situated at the foot of Mount Orontes, and was used by the Persian and Parthian kings as their summer residence. It was surrounded by seven walls, each overtopping the one before it, from the outer to the inner, crowned with battlements of different colours. Its citadel was used as a royal treasury. Below it stood a splendid palace, with silver tiles, and adorned with wainscotings, capitals, and entablatures of gold and silver. These treasures, to the value of 4,000 talents, were coined into money by Antiochus the Great of Syria. See Herodotus, i. 98; Polybius, x. 27.

3. This tribe lived in the mountains between Media and Persis.

4. £1,700,000.

5. Curtius (v. 23) says that 6,000 Grecian mercenaries under Plato the Athenian met Alexander in Media, having marched up from Cilicia.

6. Diodorus (xvii. 80) says that the amount of treasure deposited at Ecbatana was 180,000 talents or £41,400,000.


Ch.22: Alexander reaches the River Cabul, and Receives the Homage of Taxiles

Arrian[20] writes... After performing this exploit, Alexander himself went to Bactra; but sent Craterus with 600 of the cavalry Gompanions and his own brigade of infantry as well those of Polysperchon, Attalus, and Alcetas, against Catanes and Austanes, who were the only rebels still remaining in the land of the Paraetacenians.[1] A sharp battle was fought with them in which Craterus was victorious; Catanes being killed there while fighting, and Austanes being captured and brought to Alexander. Of the barbarians with them 120 horsemen and about 1,500 foot soldiers were killed. When Craterus had done this, he also went to Bactra, where the tragedy in reference to Callisthenes and the pages befell Alexander. As the spring was now over, he took the army and advanced from Bactra towards India,[2] leaving Amyntas in the land of the Bactrians with 3,500 horses and 10,000 foot. He crossed the Caucasus[3] in ten days and arrived at the city of Alexandria, which had been founded in the land of the Parapamisadae when he made his first expedition to Bactra. He dismissed from office the governor whom he had then placed over the city, because he thought he was not ruling well. He also settled in Alexandria others from the neighbouring tribes and the soldiers who were now unfit for service in addition to the first settlers, and commanded Nicanor, one of the Companions, to regulate the affairs of the city itself. Moreover he appointed Tyriaspes viceroy of the land of the Parapamisadae and of the rest of the country as far as the river Cophen.[4] Arriving at the city of Nicaea, he offered sacrifice to Athena and then advanced towards the Cophen, sending a herald forward to Taxiles[5] and the otter chiefs on this side the river Indus, to bid them come and meet him as each might find it convenient. Taxiles and the other chiefs accordingly did come to meet him, bringing the gifts which are reckoned of most value among the Indians. They said that they would also present to him the elephants which they had with them, twenty-five in number. There he divided his army, and sent Hephaestion and Perdiccas away into the land of Peucelaotis,[6] towards the river Indus, with the brigades of Gorgias, Clitus,[7] and Meleager, half of the Companion cavalry, and all the cavalry of the Grecian mercenaries. He gave them instructions either to capture the places on their route by force, or to bring them over on terms of capitulation; and when they reached the river Indus, to make the necessary preparations for the passage of the army. With them Taxiles and the other chiefs also marched. When they reached the river Indus they carried out all Alexander's orders. But Astes, the ruler of the land of Peucelaotis, effected a revolt, which both ruined himself and brought ruin also upon the city into which he had fled for refuge. For Hephaestion captured it after a siege of thirty days, and Astes himself was killed. Sangaeus, who had some time before fled from Astes and deserted to Taxiles, was appointed to take charge of the city. This desertion was a pledge to Alexander of his fidelity.

1. This term is a Persian word meaning mountaineers. The tribe mentioned here lived between the rivers Oxus and Jaxartes, on the borders of Bactria and Sogdiana.

2. Curtius (viii. 17) says Alexander took with him 30,000 select troops from all the conquered provinces, and that the army which he led against the Indians numbered 120,000 men.

3. This is the Indian Caucasus, or mount Parapamisus, now called Hindu-Koosh.

4. The Cophen is now called Cabul. Nicaea was probably on the same site as the city of Cabul. Others say it is Beghram. The Greek word Satrapes denotes a Persian viceroy. It is a corruption of a word meaning court-guardian, in the Behistun Inscriptions written Khshatrapa. See Rawlinson's Herod., i. 192.

5. Curtius (viii. 43) says that Taxiles was the title which the king of this district received. His name was Omphis.

6. A district between the rivers Indus and Attock. Its capital, Peucela, is the modern Pekheli.

7. The brigade of Clitus still bore the name of its commander after his death. Cf. Arrian, vii. 14 infra.


In Mahabharata

Parvatiya (पार्वतीय) is mentioned in Mahabharata (I.61.38), (VI.10.56),(VIII.30.79),(VIII.51.19).

Adi Parva, Mahabharata/Mahabharata Book I Chapter 61 mentions.... Kratha, was born on earth as the royal sage Parvateya of form resplendent like a golden mountain[21]..... The mighty Danava known by the name of Kukshi became on earth as Parvatiya from his brightness as of a golden mountain.

Bhisma Parva, Mahabharata/Book VI Chapter 10 describes geography and provinces of Bharatavarsha. Parvatiya is mentioned in the the list of Provinces in verse (VI.10.56)....."the Oshtras, the Paundras, the Sairandhras, and the Parvatiyas and Marisha..." [22]

Karna Parva/Mahabharata Book VIII Chapter 30 blames the Vahikas and Madrakas. Parvatiya are mentioned in verse (VIII.30.79)... The Magadhas are comprehenders of signs; the Koshalas comprehend from what they see; the Kurus and the Panchalas comprehend from a half-uttered speech; the Salwas cannot comprehend till the whole speech is uttered. The Mountaineers (Parvatiya), like the Sivis, are very stupid. [23]

Karna Parva/Mahabharata Book VIII Chapter 51 ... Describes terrible massacre on seventeenth day of War... Parvatiya are mentioned in verse (VIII.51.19) fighting for Kurus ...."the Andhrakas, the Pulindas, the Kiratas of fierce prowess, the Mlecchas, the Mountaineers, and the races hailing from the sea-side, all endued with great wrath and great might, delighting in battle and armed with maces, these all--united with the Kurus and fighting wrathfully for Duryodhana's sake were incapable of being vanquished in battle by anybody else save thee"[24]

External links


  1. Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander/3b, Ch.19
  2. Hausleiter, A., M. Roaf, E. Keall. "Places: 903096 (Paraetacene)". Pleiades.
  3. Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander/4b, Ch.22
  4. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.434, 436
  5. V S Agarwal, India as Known to Panini,p.434-436
  6. Hausleiter, A., M. Roaf, E. Keall. "Places: 903096 (Paraetacene)". Pleiades.
  7. Herodotus, i. 101.
  8. Strabo, ii. p. 80, xi. p. 522, xv. p. 723; Plin. vi. 27. s. 31
  9. Strabo, xvi. p. 744.
  10. Herodotus, i. 101; Strab., xv. p. 732
  11. Strab. xv. p. 736; Arrian, iii. 19
  12. Herod., i. 101.
  13. Strab., xvi. p. 736.
  14. Arrian, iv. 21; Curt. viii. 14. 17.
  15. Isid. Char. p. 8.
  16. Lassen, in Ersch and Grüber, Encycl. s. v. Paraetacene.
  17. Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander/4b, Ch.21
  18. Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander/4b, Ch.22
  19. The Anabasis of Alexander/3b, Ch.19
  20. Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander/4b, Ch.22
  21. 38 गरहं तु सुषुवे यं तं सिंही चन्द्रार्कमर्दनम. क्राथ इत्य अभिविख्यातः सॊ ऽभवन मनुजाधिपः (I.61.38)
  22. ओष्ट्राः पुण्ड्राः स सैरन्ध्राः पार्वतीयाश च मारिष, अदापरे जनपदा दक्षिणा भरतर्षभ (VI.10.56)
  23. इङ्गितज्ञाश च मगधाः परेक्षितज्ञाश च कॊसलाः, अर्धॊक्ताः कुरुपाञ्चालाः शाल्वाः कृत्स्नानुशासनाः, पार्वतीयाश च विषमा यदैव गिरयस तदा (VIII.30.79)
  24. अन्ध्रकाश च पुलिन्थाश च किराताश चॊग्रविक्रमाः, मलेच्छाश च पार्वतीयाश च सागरानूपवासिनः, संरम्भिणॊ युथ्धशौण्डा बलिनॊ थृब्ध पाणयः (VIII.51.19)

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