|Author: Laxman Burdak.|
Yavanas (यवन) as people were known to Panini and mentioned Mahabharata at various places. In the Indian epic Mahabharata, the word "Yavana" is used to identify the Greeks. In the Buddhist discourse of the Middle Length Sayings, in which the Buddha mentions to the Brahman Assalayana the existence of the Kamboja and Yavana people who have only two castes, master or slave.
Variants of name
- Joon (जून) gotra of Jats found in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in India are Ionian of Greek writers in Afghanistan. 
- H.A. Rose  considers Zun = Jun, the aborigines of Sialkot.
Mention by Panini
[p.466]: the Ionian Greeks is first used in inscriptions of Darius I (516 BC). It must have been after this that the term Yavana came into circulation in parts of India which also formed part of the Achaemenian empire. It would not be right to suppose that the Macedonian Greeks who first came into India with Alexander about two centuries later first became known as Yavanas. In fact the Yavanas had been known much before Alexander who already found in the Kabul Valley a colony of Nysian Greeks. In the old-persian Inscriptions of Darius (521-485 BC) we find the term Yauna denoting Ionia and an Ionian, and Yaunā, Ionians corresponding to Sanskrit Yavanaḥ and Yavanāḥ (Sukumar, Old Persian Inscriptions, p.223).
Both Ionia and Gandhara, the home of Panini, formed part of the empire of Darius and also continued under the reign of Xerxes, who recruited to his army a contingent of Indians from Gandhara in his expedition against Greece about the year 479 BC. Thus was furnished a first hand opportunity for the Indians to become acquainted with the Greeks even before Alexander. As Prof Keith has observed : ‘If it is born in mind that Panini was a native of Gandhara according to Xuanzang, a view confirmed by the references in his grammar, it will not seem far fetched to consider that it was most probably from the older tradition that the name Yavanani was derived'. The word lipi borrowed from the Achaemenian dipi meaning edict is conspicuous by absence in the Buddhist canonical works and seems to have been borrowed from Achaemenian Iran. It may further be assumed that the Yavanani lipi was known only in Gandhara and the north-west at that time (ante, p.312).
V. S. Agrawala writes that Patanjali makes clear the social status of the sudras in his time. Firstly there were sudras who were not excluded from Aryavrata but were living within its social system. Secondly, there was another class of sudras who were living outside Aryavrata and its society. He cites as examples (1) Kishkindha-Gabdikam (2) Shaka-Yavanam and (3) Saurya-Krauncham. Of these
Tej Ram Sharma writes that The Madras are mentioned in the Puranas as well. The Visnu Purana (2, 3, 17 ) refers to the Madras along with the Aramas, Parasikas, and others and in the Matsya Purana (114,41.) with Gandhara, Yavana and others. The latter  mentions king Asvapati of Sakala in the kingdom of the Madras.
Tej Ram Sharma writes that Surashtra  is mentioned in the Junagarh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman I (A.D. 150). It was governed by Pusyagupta, under Chandragupta Maurya and by a Yavana Tusaspa under Asoka. 
Tej Ram Sharma writes that Sudarsana ( सुदर्शन) is the name of a lake situated at some distance from Girinagara as mentioned in the Junagarh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman I (A.D. 150).  The lake was originally constructed by the Vaisya Pusyagupta, the provincial governor of the Maurya king Chandragupta. Later on during the reign of Asoka it was adorned with conduits, by the Yavana governor Tusaspha. 
The Harsha Charita of Bana/Chapter VI tells ....[[[Kakavarna]], being curious of marvels, was carried away no one knows whither on an artificial aerial car made by a Yavana condemned to death.
Ram Sarup Joon writes that Some people in Greece consider Balram, brother of Lord Krishna as their ancestor. Yunan, the other name of Greece is after the name of Chandra Vanshi King Yavan who was from Satjit branch of Yadu.
विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर ने लेख किया है ...पारस (AS, p.549) ईरान या फारस का प्राचीन भारतीय नाम है. पारस निवासियों को संस्कृत [p.550]: साहित्य में पारसीक कहा गया है. रघुवंश 4,60 और अनुवर्ती श्लोकों में कालिदास ने पारसीकों और रघु के युद्ध और रघु की उन पर विजय का चित्रात्मक वर्णन किया है, 'भल्लापवर्जितैस्तेषां शिरोभिः श्मश्रुलैर्महीं। तस्तार सरघाव्याप्तैः स क्षौद्रपटलैरिव (4.63) आदि. इसमें पारसीकों के श्मश्रुल शिरों का वर्णन है जिस पर टीका लिखते हुए चरित्रवर्धन ने कहा है--'पाश्चात्या: श्मश्रूणि स्थापियित्वा केशान्वपन्तीति तद्देशाचारोक्ति:'अर्थात ये पाश्चात्य लोग सिर के बालों का मुंडन करके दाढ़ीमूछ रखते हैं. यह प्राचीन ईरानियों का रिवाज था जिसे हूणों ने भी अपना लिया था.
यवन प्राचीन भारत में सभी पाश्चात्य विदेशियों के लिए प्रयुक्त होता था यद्यपि आद्यत: यह आयोनिया (Ionia) के ग्रीकों की संज्ञा थी. कालिदास ने 'संग्रामस्तुमुलस्तस्य पाश्चात्यैरश्वसाधनैः । शार्ङ्गकूजितविज्ञेयप्रतियोधे रजस्यभूथ् (4.62) में पारसीकों को पाश्चात्य भी कहा है. इस पद्य की टीका करते हुए टीकाकार, सुमिति विजय ने पारसीकों को 'सिंधुतट वसिनो मलेच्छराजान्' कहा है जो ठीक नहीं जान पड़ता क्योंकि रघु. 4,60 में (देखें ऊपर) रघु का, पारसीकों की विजय के लिए स्थलवर्त्म से जाना लिखा है जिससे निश्चित है कि इनके देश में जाने के लिए समुद्रमार्ग भी था. पारसीकों को को कालिदास ने 4,62 (देखें ऊपर) में अश्वसाधन अथवा अश्वसेना से संपन्न बताया है.
मुद्राराक्षस 1,20 में 'मेधाक्ष: पंचमो-अश्मिन् पृथुतुरगबलपारसीकाधिराज:' लिखकर, विशाखदत्त ने पारसियों के सुदृढ़ अश्वबल की ओर संकेत किया है. कालिदास ने प्राचीन ईरान के प्रसिद्ध अंगूरों के उद्यानों का भी उल्लेख किया है--'विनयन्ते स्म तद्योधा मधुभिर्विजयश्रमं । आस्तीर्णाजिनरत्नासु द्राक्षावलयभूमिषु (4.65).
ईरान और भारत के संबंध अति प्राचीन हैं. ईरान के सम्राट दारा ने छठी सदी ईसा पूर्व में पश्चिमी पंजाब पर आक्रमण करके कुछ समय के लिए वहां से कर वसूल किया था. उसके नक्शे-रुस्तम तथा बहिस्तां से प्राप्त अभिलेखों में पंजाब को दारा के साम्राज्य का सबसे धनी प्रदेश बताया गया है. संभव है गुप्त काल के राष्ट्रीय कवि कालिदास ने इसी प्राचीन कटु ऐतिहासिक स्मृति के निराकरण के लिए रघु को पारसीकों पर
[p.551] विजय का वर्णन किया है. वैसे भी यह ऐतिहासिक तथ्य है कि गुप्त सम्राट महाराज समुद्रगुप्त को पारस तथा भारत के पश्चिमोत्तर अन्य प्रदेशों से संबद्ध कई राजा और सामंत कर देते थे तथा उन्होंने समुद्रगुप्त से वैवाहिक संबंध भी स्थापित किए थे. आठवीं सदी ई. के प्राकृत ग्रंथ गौडवहो (गौडवध) नामक काव्य में कान्यकुब्ज नरेश यशोवर्मन की पारसीकों पर विजय का उल्लेख है.
Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria) writes that consequent upon the latest researches, the ethnologists generally assert and agree that the Scythians, the Caucasoids, the Kushanas, the Huns or the Ephthalites and the Yavanas were not separate races but in reality belonged to the White race. Scythian, Caucasoid and Kushana give the geographical sense rather than racial. The Huns or Ephthalites, barring a negligible Mongol element in them, were a branch of the Whites. The term "Yavana", like "Aryan", conveys a cultural meaning. So these terms should not be confused with racial ones.
Bhim Singh Dahiya writes that ...Mayura attacked the capital of Indra. Here, as in the other Purana, the name of Mura is Sanskritised into Mayura, the reasons for which have already been discussed earlier. The second name Ugra, is again a tribal name, the Ugrians of Greek writers, and the present Uighur of Soviet Central Asia. The name of the ropes of Muraa, called Mourava ropes, is again the same as the name of the City and the clan, Maurav, as per Persian records. Thus the Mura and Naraka are identical with the Mura and Nairi of Assyriyan records, the present Mor and Nara clan of the Jats. This area was definitely in the west of India, rather in the northhwest and Pragjyotisha was its capital city. At the time of Mahabharata, it was ruled over by Bhagadatta who is called a king of Yavanas and also a king of Asuras. He was a friend of Pandu. He attended the Rajasuya sacrifice of Yudhisthira. Arjuna, defeats him in the North, and in the war he is killed by Arjuna. Vajradatta, son of Bhaga Datta was also killed by Arjuna. In Sabha Parva both Mura and Naraka are stated to be rulers in the West.
All this discussion clearly establishes that the country of Mura was in the North-West of India, and the present city of Merv can very well be identified with their ancient capital. As already mentioned, this city in the Iranian literature, is called Mourav or Maur.
Direct identification of these words with the Greeks include:
- The mention of the "Yona king Antialcidas" in the Heliodorus pillar in Vidisha (110 BCE). On the 110 BCE Heliodorus pillar in Vidisha in Central India (Madhya Pradesh)), the Indo-Greek king Antialcidas, who had sent an ambassador to the court of the Sunga king Bhagabhadra, was also qualified as "Yona".
- King Menander and his bodyguard of "500 Yonas" in the Milinda Panha.
- The description of Greek astrology and Greek terminology in the Yavanajataka ("Sayings of the Yavanas") (150 CE).
- The Hathigumpha inscription mentions that: In the 8th year of Kharavela's reign, he attacked Rajagriha in Magadha and forced the Indo-Greek king Demetrius (described as the Yavana named Dimita) to retreat to Mathura.
In Indian literature
"Yona" is a Pali word used in ancient India to designate Greek speakers. Its equivalent in Sanskrit, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and Tamil is the word "Yavana" and "Javanan" in Bengali. "Yona" and "Yavana" are both transliterations of the Greek word for "Ionians" (Homer Iāones, older *Iāwones), who were probably the first Greeks to be known in the East.
Harsha Charita mentions ....The fate of a Yavana king was encompassed by the holder of his golden chowrie, who read the letters of a document reflected in his crest jewel. By slashes of drawn swords Viduratha's army minced the avaricious Mathura king Brihadratha while he was digging treasure at dead of night.
At Ratnapura, a town of great value, and which had many gates, the spotless religions school was the receptacle of virtue, and looked like a large cage for a swan. Mahadeva graced by his presence her white washed houses, like a white light, to destroy the transient state of man's existence. When she built sheds for cows, Shuravarmma and the other builders were reckoned as cows. There [at Ratnapura] adorned with cowsheds, where the kine roamed unrestricted, and which was washed by the waves of the Vitasta, she parted with her diseased body (died), At Nandikshetra she had raised religious schools, and in the principal places of the Yavanas she had built delightful mathas. In Dārvvā she built a town like the city of Indra, and named it after her name. It contained a beautiful and grand house befitting a king. The queen who was kind towards her dependants built various monuments consecrated to the memory of the great, the honored and the principal men who were dead.
The world held such jewels of women who were its ornaments. (p.217-218)
Old World usage
This usage was shared by many of the countries east of Greece, from the Mediterranean to India:
- Egyptians used the word j-w-n(-n)-’
- Assyrians used the word Iawanu
- Persians used the word Yauna or Yavanu
- Indians - used the word Yavana in Mahabharata and other historic texts.
- Sri Lankans - used the word Yona in Mahawamsa and other historic texts.
- In Biblical writings, the word was Yāvān (and still is, in modern Israeli Hebrew - יוון)
- In Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Urdu it is Yunan]
H. W. Bellew writes that Muhammadan name appears among the sections of many of the Afghan' tribes, especially in those inhabiting the Indus Valley about the Peshawar district, which was one of the principal seats of the Greek dominion. But in the Sanskrit writings the name Ionian appears in the form of Yona or Yavana, and Jona or Javana.
Vishnu Purana gives list of Kings who ruled Magadha. ...After these, various races will reign, as seven Ábhíras, ten Garddhabas, sixteen Śakas, eight Yavanas, fourteen Tusháras, thirteen Mundas, eleven Maunas, altogether seventy-nine princes , who will be sovereigns of the earth for one thousand three hundred and ninety years.
- Ábhíras, 7, M.; 10, V;
- Avabhriti, 7, Bhág.
- Garddabhins, 10, M. V. Bhág.
- Śakas, 18, M. V.;
- Kankas, 16, Bhág.
- Yavanas, 8, M. V. Bhág.
- Tusháras, 14, M. V.;
- Tushkaras, 14, Bhág.
- Marúńdas, 13, V.;
- Purúńd́as, 13, M.;
- Surúńdas, 10, Bhág.
- Maunas, 18, V.;
- Húńas, 19, M.;
- Maulas, 11, Bhág.
Total--85 kings, Váyu; 89, Matsya; 76, and 1399 years, Bhág.
Kishkindha Kanda Sarga 43 of Ramayana tells ...Sugreeva sends troops to north in search of Seeta. He gives an account of the snowy regions and provinces of northern side and asks them to search in the places of Yavana, Kuru, and Daradas etc., civilisations. Sugreeva specially informs them about a divine province called Uttara Kuru and a heavenly mountain called Mt. Soma on which Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva make sojourn for its sacredness. Verses (4.43.11,12) mention Yavana....."There in the north, the provinces of Mlecchas, Pulindas, that way Shurashena - Prasthala - Bharata - Kuru - Madraka - Kamboja - Yavana shall be scrutinized along with the cities of Shaka and Darada, and then search in Himalayas." [4-43-11,12]. 
Yavana (यवन) is used in various verses in Mahabharata (I.80.26), (II.13.13), (II.28.49),(II.47.12),(III.48.20), (3-255-18a), 3-255-21a, (V.19.21),(VI.10.64),(VI.20.13),(VI.47.7),(VI.83.10),(VIII.30.80),(VIII.51.18)
Adi Parva, Mahabharata/Mahabharata Book I Chapter 80 mentions in the Story of Yayati and his wives Devayani and Sarmishtha. Yavana appears in verse (I.80.26). 
Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 13 mentions the List of Kshatriyas leaving their dominions in the north, fled to other countries out of fear of Jarasandha: Kshatriyas in support of Jarasandha includes Yavana kings Mura and Naraka in verse (II.13.13). "that king of the Yavanas, who hath chastised Mura and Naraka, whose power is unlimited, and who ruleth the west like another Varuna, who is called Bhagadatta..." 
Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 28 mentions the Kingdoms subjugated by Sahadeva, who marched towards the southern direction...."The hero brought under his subjection and exacted tributes from the delightful city of Antakhis, the Romas and that of the Yavanas". 
Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 47 mentions Kings who brought tributes to Yudhishthira. This includes Yavanas in verse (II.47.12)..." And that great warrior king Bhagadatta, the brave ruler of Pragjyotisha and the mighty sovereign of the mlechchas, at the head of a large number of Yavanas waited at the gate unable to enter..." 
Vana Parva, Mahabharata/Book III Chapter 48 describes Rajasuya sacrifice of Yudhisthira attended by the chiefs of many islands and countries. This includes Yavanas in verse (III.48.20)....."and all the kings of the West by hundreds, and all the chiefs of the sea-coast, and the kings of the Pahlavas and the Daradas and the various tribes of the Kiratas and Yavanas and Shakas...." 
Karna's conquests: Vana Parva, Mahabharata/Book III Chapter 255 describes Karna's victory march and countries subjugated. Yavana (यवन) is mentioned in Mahabharata (3-255-18a)..... And, having come to the quarter of Varuna (वारुण) (3-255-18a), he made all the Yavana (यवन) (3-255-18a) and Varbara (वर्बर) (3-255-18a) kings pay tribute.
Karna's conquests: Vana Parva, Mahabharata/Book III Chapter 255 describes Karna's victory march and countries subjugated. Yavana (यवन) is mentioned in Mahabharata (3-255-21a).....And, having conquered the mighty charioteers, headed by the Nagnajits (नग्नजित्) (3-255-21b), the Suta's son brought the Shashakas (शशक) (3-255-21a) and the Yavanas (यवन) (3-255-21a) under his sway. Having thus conquered and brought under his subjection the world, the mighty charioteer and tiger among men came (back) to Hastinapura (Nagasahvaya) (नागसाह्वय) (3-255-22b).
Udyoga Parva/Mahabharata Book V Chapter 19 mentions Who joined Duryodhana for war. This includes Yavanas in verse (V.19.21)... "And Sudakshina, the king of the Kambojas, accompanied by the Yavanas and Sakas, came to the Kuru chief with an Akshauhini of troops." 
Bhisma Parva, Mahabharata/Book VI Chapter 20 mentions warriors in Bhisma's division: This includes Yavanas in verse (VI.20.13). ...."Saradwat's son, that fighter in the van, that high-souled and mighty bowman, called also Gautama and Chitrayudha, conversant with all modes of warfare, accompanied by the Sakas, the Kiratas, the Yavanas, and the Pahlavas, took up his position at the northern point of the army." 
Bhisma Parva, Mahabharata/Book VI Chapter 47 describes immeasurable heroes assembled for battle. This includes Yavanas in verse (VI.47.7). ...." Let the Samsthanas, the Surasenas, the Venikas, the Kukkuras, the Rechakas, the Trigartas, the Madrakas, the Yavanas,...protect Bhishma with their (respective) troops." 
Bhisma Parva, Mahabharata/Book VI Chapter 83 mentions Kauravas and the Pandavas, once more proceeded to battle. This includes Yavanas in verse (VI.83.10)...."Next to Vrihadvala was the brave Trigarta, the ruler of the Prasthala, accompanied by a large number of the Kambojas, and by Yavanas in thousands" 
Karna Parva/Mahabharata Book VIII Chapter 30 gives description blaming the Vahikas and Madrakas. This includes Yavanas in verse (VIII.30.80) ..."The Yavanas, are omniscient; the Suras are particularly so. The mlecchas are wedded to the creations of their own fancy. Other peoples cannot understand." 
Karna Parva/Mahabharata Book VIII Chapter 51 Describes terrible massacre on seventeenth day of War. This includes Yavanas in verse (VIII.51.18)...." Of terrible deeds and exceedingly fierce, the Tusharas, the Yavanas, the Khasas, the Darvabhisaras, the Daradas, the Sakas, the Kamathas, the Ramathas, the Tanganas...." 
Military Campaign of Karna: Mahabharata, Book 3, Chapter 252.... And, having conquered the entire earth--east, west, north and south--that hero without any aid brought under subjection all the nations of the Mlechchhas, the mountaineers, the Bhadras, the Rohitakas, the Agneyas and the Malavas. And, having conquered the mighty charioteers, headed by the Nagnajitas, the Suta's son brought the Sasakas and the Yavanas under his sway.