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Location of Sophene within the classical regions of Asia Minor/Anatolia

Saubhuta (सौभूत) was an ancient kingdom mentioned by Panini (IV.2.75). Sophytes was king of the Western Punjab, including the Salt Range of Mountains, contemporary of Alexander the Great.[1]

Variants of name

Jat clan

Sobti is a Gotra found among the Sikh Jats.[2]

Mention by Panini

Saubhuta (सौभूत) is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [3]


V. S. Agrawala[4] writes that Panini mentions Saubhūta (सौभूत) (IV.2.75) - usually identified with the kingdom of Sophytes mentioned by Greek writers. The place is especially noted for the breed of dogs whose fame spread to Greece before Alexander's time. The Ramayana also refers to similar dogs in the Kekaya Country in the Salt Range. It describes them as bred in the Royal kennels, stron like tigers, big in size and with big teeth. It was probably this breed of dogs that was referred to by Panini Kauleyaka (IV.2.96). Saubhūta was thus part of Kekaya in the Salt Range.

Alexander Cunningham[5] writes that .... The modern town of Bhira, or Bheda, is situated on the left, or eastern bank, of the Jhelam ; but on the opposite bank of the river, near Ahmedabad, there is a very extensive mound of ruins, called Old Bhira, or Jobnathnagar, the city of Raja Jobnath, or Chobnath. At this point the two great routes of the salt caravans diverge to Lahor and Multan ; and here, accordingly, was the capital of the country in ancient times ; and here also, as I believe, was the capital of Sophites, or Sopeithes, the contemporary of Alexander the Great. According to Arrian, the capital of Sopeithes was fixed by Alexander as the point where the camps of Kraterus and Hephsestion were to be pitched on opposite banks of the river, there to await the arrival of the fleet of boats under his own command, and of the main body of the army under Philip.1 As Alexander reached the appointed place on the third day, we know that the capital of Sophites was on the Hydaspes, at three days' sail from Nikaea for laden boats. Now Bhira is just three days' boat distance from Mong, which, as I will presently show, was almost certainly the position of Nikaea, where Alexander defeated Porus. Bhira also, until it was supplanted by Pind Dadan Khan, has always been the principal city in this part of the country. At Bhira 2 the Chinese pilgrim, Fa-Hian, crossed the Jhelam in A.D. 400 ; and against Bhira, eleven centuries later, the enterprising Baber conducted his first Indian expedition.

The classical notices of the country over which

1 ' Anabasis,' vi. 3. 2 Beal's translation, chap. xv. ; Fa-Hian calls it Pi-cha or Bhi-ḍa — the Chinese ch being the usual representative of the cerebral .

[p.156]: Sophites ruled are very conflicting. Thus Strabo1 records : —

" Some writers place Kathaea and the country of Sopeithes, one of the monarchs, in the tract between the rivers (Hydaspes and Akesines) ; some on the other side of the Akesines and of the Hyarotes, on the confines of the territory of the other Porus, — the nephew of Porus, who was taken prisoner by Alexander, and call the country subject to him Gandaris".

This name may, I believe, be identified with the present district of Gundalbar, or Gundar-bar. Bar is a term applied only to the central portion of each Doab, comprising the high lands beyond the reach of irrigation from the two including rivers. Thus Sandal, or Sandar-bar, is the name of the central tract of the Doab between the Jhelam and the Chenab. The upper portion of the Gundal Bar Doab, which now forms the district of Gujrat, belonged to the famous Porus, the antagonist of Alexander, and the upper part of the Sandar-Bar Doab belonged to his nephew, the other Porus, who is said to have sought refuge among the Gandaridae. The commentators have altered this name to Gangaridae, or inhabitants of the Ganges ; but it seems to me that the text of Diodorus2 is most probably correct, and that the name of Gandaridae must refer to the people of the neighbouring district of Gandaris, who were the subjects of Sophites. The rule of the Indian prince was not, however, confined to the Doab between the Hydaspes and Akesines; for Strabo: relates that "in the territory of

1 Geogr., XV. 1, 30. 2 Hist., xix. 47.

3 Geogr., XV. 1-30. This notice was most probably derived from Kleitarchoa, one of the companions of Alexander, as Strabo quotes him in another place (v. 2-6) as having mentioned the salt mines of India, <greek>.

[p.157]: Sopeithes there is a mountain composed of fossil salt sufficient for the whole of India." As this notice can only refer to the well-known mines of rock salt in the Salt Range, the whole of the upper portion of the Sindh Sagar Doab must have been included in the territories of Sopeithes. His sway, therefore, would have extended from the Indus on the west to the Akesines on the east, thus comprising the whole of the present districts of Pind Dadan and Shahpur. This assignment of the valuable salt mines to Sopeithes, or Sophites, may also be deduced from a passage in Pliny by the simple transposition of two letters in the name of a country, which has hitherto puzzled all the commentators. Pliny says, " when Alexander the Great was on his Indian expedition, he was presented by the king of Albania with a dog of unusual size," which successfully attacked both a lion and an elephant in his presence.1 The same story is repeated by his copyist, Solinus,2 without any change in the name of the country. Now, we know from the united testimony of Strabo, Diodorus, and Curtius, that the Indian king who presented Alexander with these fighting dogs was Sophites, and he, therefore, must have been the king of Albania. For this name I propose to read Labania, by the simple transposition of the first two letters. AABAN would, therefore, become AABAN, which at once suggests the Sanskrit word lavana, or ' salt,' as the original of this hitherto puzzling name. The mountain itself is named Orumenus by Pliny,3 who notes that the kings of the country

1 Hist. Nat., viii. 61.

2 Ibid., xxxi. 39. " Sunt et montes nativi salis, ut in Indis Oro- menus.

3 Ibid.

[p.158]: derived a greater revenue from the rock salt than from either gold or pearls. This name is probably intended for the Sanskrit Raumaka, which, according to the Pandits, is the name of the salt brought from the hill country of Ruma. H. H. Wilson, however, identifies Ruma with Sambhar ;1 and as rauma means " salt," it is probable that the term may have been applied to the Sambhar lake in Rajasthan, as well as to the Salt Range of hills in the Panjab.2

The historians of Alexander have preserved several curious particulars regarding Sophites and the country and people over which he ruled. Of the king himself, Curtius3 records that he was pre-eminent amongst the barbarians for beauty ; and Diodorus4 adds, that he was six feet in height. I possess a coin of fine Greek workmanship, bearing a helmeted head on one side, and on the reverse a cock standing, with the legend ΣΩΦΥΤΟΥ, which, there seems good reason to believe, must have belonged to this Indian prince. The face is remarkable for its very striking and peculiar features. The subjects of Sophites also were distinguished by personal beauty, which, according to Diodorus, they endeavoured to preserve, by destroying all their children who were not well formed. Strabo relates the same thing of the Katheai, but, as he adds, that they elected the handsomest person for their king,5 his account must be referred to the subjects of Sophites, as the Katheai of Sangala had no king. There is, however, so much confusion between all the authorities in their accounts of the Katheai and

1 See his Sanskrit Dictionary in voce. Ruma, Rauma, Raumaka.

2 See Maps Nos. V. and VI. 3 Vita Alex., ix. 1.

4 Hist., xvii. 49. 5 Geogr., xv. 1, .30.

[p.159]: of the subjects of Sophites, that it seems highly probable that they were one and the same people. They were certainly neighbours ; and as both of them would appear to have had the same peculiar customs, and to have been equally remarkable for personal beauty, I conclude that they must have been only different tribes of the same race of people,

Jat History

Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria)[6] writes....The Cathae (Kathis) and Sopphytes or Sophytes or Sophites on Sopithes or Sopeithes (Saubhuti or Sobhti Sikh Jats) are said to "excel in wisdom and live under good laws and customs. They do not acknowledge and rear children according to the will of the parents, but as the officers remarked anything deformed or defective in the limbs of a child, they order it to be killed. In contracting marriages they do not seek an alliance with high birth, but make their choice by the looks, or beauty in the children is a quality highly appreciated. Only those children that are perfect in limbs and features and have constitutions which promise a combination of strength and beauty, are allowed to be reared. They make their marriages also in accordance with this principle, for in selecting a bride they care nothing whether she has a dowry and handsome fortune besides, but look only to her beauty and other advantages of the outward person. The inhabitants of their cities are generally held in higher estimation than the rest of their countrymen. Their king, Sophites (Saubharata, King of Saubhtis?) was admired by all for his beauty and stature, which exceeded four cubits[7]". These customs and practices of the Khattis and Sophites, as they were appreciated, must have been followed by other tribes, if not openly, at least sub rosa. However, similar practices, if not exactly the same, are still observed by the Jats. The Jats generally prize health and beauty in both sexes. The Bishnoi Jats used to follow an old Scythian practice to Improve their progeny and race. Actually such practices and customs die, hard and pass on from generation to generation, for, more than any thing else, our dead ancestors govern the invisible domain of our brain.

Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria)[8] writes... Connected with the Gakhars by the common ties of physical appearance and peculiar customs are the Kathi (or Khatri or Khatri) of Sangla in Central Panjab, the indisputable descendents of Kathaei, who along with Balar, according to Tod, are not Rajputs. They are like Gakhars, a tall, handsome race, of war-like and predatory habits, who do not marry into any other tribe. They claim descent from Balas. rulers of Thatta- Multan and the Balas may be malla or Malli or Malii or Maloi of Alexander's historians, as B & Mare interchangeable. The Sopeithes or Sophites (Sobati) and Kathaei were actually the same. According to Curtius and Diodourus, the Sophites far exceeded all his subjects in beauty, and was upwards of six English feet. According to Abul Fazal, many of the Kathis are exceedingly beautiful (Burnes; Travels to Bukhara, 11,112; Cunningham, 1869: 16 & Ain-i-Akbari, II, 70).

Investigations show that the Sobii, Sophites, Kathai & Malli, being cognate tribes, were intimately connected with each other and also with the Gakhars and Taxili (Takasali or the Takkas or Takshakas).

Alexander and Jats

Ram Sarup Joon[9] writes that .... Alexander invaded India in 326 BC and came upto the River Beas. After crossing the River Indus at Attock, he had to fight with a series of Jat Kingdoms. Alexander's historian Arrian writes that Jats were the bravest people he had to contest with in India.

Alexander's first encounter was with Porus who was defeated. Alexander was impressed with his dignified behavior even after defeat and reinstated him on the throne.

According to Arrian, Alexander had to fight with two Porus-es, the other one on his return journey. This is because Porus was not a name but a title as both belonged to Puru dynasty.

Next, Alexander had to fight the Kath (Gathwal) kingdom on the Eastern, banks of River Ravi. Their capital was Sangla. The Kaths had the pride of having defeated Porus a number of times.

Alexander's next encounter was with Sobti republic whose territory extended up to, the Salt Ranges. Arrian has a lot of praise for the administration of the Kingdom. Swyamvara (self-selection of the marriage partner) was

History of the Jats, End of Page-49

prevalent, and thus a woman had a right to choose her husband. Every child was examined two months after birth. If the child was found deformed or suffering from any disability he was put down.

After Sobti, Alexander had to face the Youdheya Jat republic, when Alexander heard of their valour he was very disheartened. They were supposed to know the 'Avijay' mantra and were thus never defeated. They had a large army. They had an assembly of 6000 members, each of whom presented an elephant to the head of the State. This republic was situated on the banks of River Satluj. Alexander did not venture to fight them.

The next Jat tribe to face Alexander was the Kushanas who were 40,000 strong. Alexander had a severe clash with the Jat republics of Jeest and Jatroti. Alexander overwhelmed them. When they lost hope of victory they killed their women and children and fought to the last man.

Alexander's next battle was with the Patam and Nyasa Jat republics.

In Jhelum and Indus rivers, Alexander came across ships of Goth Jats. They however surrendered.

Alexander's Historian Arrian has recorded his observations on the Jats. The system of Sati was prevalent. They respected beauty and believed in Polygamy. Most of them were followers of Buddhism. They also worshipped the pipal tree some of them still lived in the jungles and covered themselves with barks of trees.

Names of tribes described above by Arrian as having fought Alexander viz., Maliha, Madrak, Malak, Kath, Yodha and Jatrak exist today as Jat gotras.

History of the Jats, End of Page-50

Ch.6.2: Voyage down the Hydaspes

Arrian[10] writes....At this time Coenus, who was one of Alexander's most faithful Companions, fell ill and. died, and the king buried him with as much magnificence as circumstances allowed. Then collecting the Companions and the Indian envoys who had come to him, he appointed Porus king of the part of India which had already been conquered, seven nations in all, containing more than 2,000 cities. After this he made the following distribution of his army.[1] With himself he placed on board the ships all the shield-bearing guards, the archers, the Agrianians, and the body-guard of cavalry.[2] Craterus led a part of the infantry and cavalry along the right bank of the Hydaspes, while along the other bank Hephaestion advanced at the head of the most numerous and efficient part of the army, including the elephants, which now numbered about 200. These generals were ordered to march as quickly as possible to the place where the palace of Sopeithes was situated,[3] and Philip, the viceroy of the country beyond the Indus[4] extending to Bactria, was ordered to follow them with his forces after an interval of three days. He sent the Nysaean cavalry back to Nysa.[5] The whole of the naval force was under the command of Nearchus; but the pilot of Alexander's ship was Onesicritus, who, in the narrative which he composed of Alexander's campaigns, falsely asserted that he was admiral, while in reality he was only a pilot.[6] According to Ptolemy, son of Lagus, whose statements I chiefly follow, the entire number of the ships was about eighty thirty-oared galleys; but the whole number of vessels, including the horse transports and boats, and all the other river craft, both those previously plying on the rivers and those built at that time, fell not far short of 2,000.[7]

1. Plutarch (Alex. 66) informs ua that Alexander's army numbered 120,000 infantry and 15,000 cavalry. Cf. Arrian (Indica, 19).

2. Arrian, in the Indica (chap. 19), says that Alexander embarked with 8,000 men.

3. Strabo (xv. 1) says that the realm of Sopeithes was called Cathaia.

4. As Alexander was at this time east of the Indus, the expression, "beyond the Indus," means west of it.

5. Cf. Arrian, v. 2 supra.

6. Only fragments of this narrative are preserved. Strabo (xv. 1) says that the statements of Onesicritus are not to be relied upon.

7. Curtius (ix. 13) and Diodorus (xvii. 95) say that there were 1,000 vessels. Arrian (Indica, 19) says there were 800. Krüger reads χιλίων in this passage instead of the common reading δισχιλίων.



Notable persons


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