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Indo-Scythian kingdoms

Abiria to Surastrene[]

The first Indo-Scythian kingdom in the Indian subcontinent occupied the southern part of Pakistan (which they accessed from southern Afghanistan), in the areas from Abiria (Sindh) to Surastrene (Gujarat), from around 110 to 80 BCE. They progressively further moved north into Indo-Greek territory until the conquests of Maues, c 80 BCE.

The 1st century CE Periplus of the Erythraean Sea describes the Scythian territories there:

"Beyond this region (Gedrosia), the continent making a wide curve from the east across the depths of the bays, there follows the coast district of Scythia, which lies above toward the north; the whole marshy; from which flows down the river Sinthus, the greatest of all the rivers that flow into the Erythraean Sea, bringing down an enormous volume of water (...) This river has seven mouths, very shallow and marshy, so that they are not navigable, except the one in the middle; at which by the shore, is the market-town, Barbaricum. Before it there lies a small island, and inland behind it is the metropolis of Scythia, Minnagara."[1]

The Indo-Scythians ultimately established a kingdom in the northwest, based in Taxila, with two Great Satraps, one in Mathura in the east, and one in Surastrene (Gujarat) in the southwest.

In the southeast, the Indo-Scythians invaded the area of Ujjain, but were subsequently repelled in 57 BCE by the Malwa king Vikramaditya. To commemorate the event Vikramaditya established the Vikrama era, a specific Indian calendar starting in 57 BCE. More than a century later, in 78 CE the Sakas would again invade Ujjain and establish the Saka era, marking the beginning of the long-lived Saka Western Satraps kingdom.[2]

Γανδαρίδα και Πενταποταμία[]

The presence of the Scythians in north-western India during the 1st century BCE was contemporary with that of the Indo-Greek Kingdoms there, and it seems they initially recognized the power of the local Greek rulers.

Maues first conquered Gandhara and Taxila around 80 BCE, but his kingdom disintegrated after his death. In the east, the Indian king Vikrama retook Ujjain from the Indo-Scythians, celebrating his victory by the creation of the Vikrama Era (starting 58 BCE). Indo-Greek kings again ruled after Maues, and prospered, as indicated by the profusion of coins from Kings Apollodotus II and Hippostratos. Not until Azes I, in 55 BCE, did the Indo-Scythians take final control of northwestern India, with his victory over Hippostratos.



A toilet tray of the type found in the Early Saka layer at Sirkap.

Several stone sculptures have been found in the Early Saka layer (Layer No4, corresponding to the period of Azes I, in which numerous coins of the latter were found) in the ruins of Sirkap, during the excavations organized by John Marshall.


The Bimaran casket, representing the Buddha surrounded by Brahma (left) and Śakra (right) was found inside a stupa with coins of Azes II inside. British Museum.

Several of them are toilet trays (also called Stone palettes) roughly imitative of earlier, and finer, Hellenistic ones found in the earlier layers. Marshall comments that "we have a praiseworthy effort to copy a Hellenistic original but obviously without the appreciation of form and skill which were necessary for the task". From the same layer, several statuettes in the round are also known, in very rigid and frontal style.

Bimaran casket[]

Πρότυπο:Main Azes II is connected to the Bimaran casket, one of the earliest representations of the Buddha. The casket was used for the dedication of a stupa in Bamiran, near Jalalabad in Afghanistan, and placed inside the stupa with several coins of Azes II. This event may have happened during the reign of Azes II (30–10 BCE), or slightly later. The Indo-Scythians are otherwise connected with Buddhism (see Mathura lion capital), and it is indeed possible they would have commended the work.

Mathura area ("Northern Satraps")[]


Coin of Rajuvula (c 10 CE), AE, Mathura.
Obv: Bust of King Rajuvula, with Greek legend.
Rev: Pallas standing right (crude). Kharoshthi legend.


The Mathura lion capital is an important Indo-Scythian monument dedicated to the Buddhist religion (British Museum).

In central India, the Indo-Scythians conquered the area of Mathura over Indian kings around 60 BCE. Some of their satraps were Hagamasha and Hagana, who were in turn followed by the Saca Great Satrap Rajuvula.

The Mathura lion capital, an Indo-Scythian sandstone capital in crude style, from Mathura in Central India, and dated to the 1st century CE, describes in kharoshthi the gift of a stupa with a relic of the Buddha, by Queen Nadasi Kasa, the wife of the Indo-Scythian ruler of Mathura, Rajuvula. The capital also mentions the genealogy of several Indo-Scythian satraps of Mathura.

Rajuvula apparently eliminated the last of the Indo-Greek kings Strato II around 10 CE, and took his capital city, Sagala.

The coinage of the period, such as that of Rajuvula, tends to become very crude and barbarized in style. It is also very much debased, the silver content becoming lower and lower, in exchange for a higher proportion of bronze, an alloying technique (billon) suggesting less than wealthy finances.

The Mathura Lion Capital inscriptions attest that Mathura fell under the control of the Sakas. The inscriptions contain references to Kharaosta Kamuio and Aiyasi Kamuia. Yuvaraja Kharostes (Kshatrapa) was the son of Arta as is attested by his own coins.[3] Arta is stated to be brother of King Moga or Maues.[4] Princess Aiyasi Kambojaka, also called Kambojika, was the chief queen of Shaka Mahakshatrapa Rajuvula. Kamboja presence in Mathura is also verified from some verses of epic Mahabharata which are believed to have been composed around this period.[5] This may suggest that Sakas and Kambojas may have jointly ruled over Mathura/Uttara Pradesh. It is revealing that Mahabharata verses only attest the Kambojas and Yavanas as the inhabitants of Mathura, but do not make any reference to the Sakas.[6] Probably, the epic has reckoned the Sakas of Mathura among the Kambojas (J. L. Kamboj) or else have addressed them as Yavanas, unless the Mahabharata verses refer to the previous period of invasion occupation by the Yavanas around 150 BCE.

The Indo-Scythian satraps of Mathura are sometimes called the "Northern Satraps", in opposition to the "Western Satraps" ruling in Gujarat and Malwa. After Rajuvula, several successors are known to have ruled as vassals to the Kushans, such as the "Great Satrap" Kharapallana and the "Satrap" Vanaspara, who are known from an inscription discovered in Sarnath, and dated to the 3rd year of Kanishka (c 130 CE), in which they were paying allegiance to the Kushans.[7]



Silver coin of Vijayamitra in the name of Azes II. Buddhist triratna symbol in the left field on the reverse.


Profile of the Indo-Scythian King Azes II on one of his coins.

The text of the Yuga Purana describes an invasion of Pataliputra by the Scythians sometimes during the 1st century BCE, after seven great kings had ruled in succession in Saketa following the retreat of the Yavanas. The Yuga Purana explains that the king of the Sakas killed one fourth of the population, before he was himself slain by the Kalinga king Shata and a group of Sabalas (Sabaras).[8]

Kushan and Indo-Parthian conquests[]

After the death of Azes II, the rule of the Indo-Scythians in northwestern India finally crumbled with the conquest of the Kushans, one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi who had lived in Bactria for more than a century, and were now expanding into India to create a Kushan Empire. Soon after, the Parthians invaded from the west. Their leader Gondophares temporarily displaced the Kushans and founded the Indo-Parthian Kingdom that was to last towards the middle of the 1st century CE.

The Kushans ultimately regained northwestern India from around 75 CE, and the area of Mathura from around 100 CE, where they were to prosper for several centuries.

Western Kshatrapas legacy[]


Coin of the Western Kshatrapa ruler Bhratadaman (278 to 295 CE), a descendant of the Indo-Scythians.

Πρότυπο:Main The Indo-Scythians continued to hold the area of Seistan until the reign of Bahram II (276–293 CE), and held several areas of India well into the 1st millennium: Kathiawar and Gujarat were under their rule until the 5th century under the designation of Western Kshatrapas, until they were eventually conquered by the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II (also called Vikramaditya).

The Brihat-Katha-Manjari of the Kshmendra (10/1/285-86) informs us that around 400 CE the Gupta king Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) had unburdened the sacred earth of the Barbarians like the Shakas, Mlecchas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Tusharas, Parasikas, Hunas, etc. by annihilating these sinners completely.

The 10th century CE Kavyamimamsa of Raj Shekhar (Ch 17) still lists the Shakas, Tusharas, Vokanas, Hunas, Kambojas, Bahlikas, Pahlavas, Tangana, Turukshas, etc. together and states them as the tribes located in the Uttarapatha division.

Indo-Scythian coinage[]


Silver tetradrachm of the Indo-Scythian king Maues (8560 BCE).

Indo-Scythian coinage is generally of a high artistic quality, although it clearly deteriorates towards the disintegration of Indo-Scythian rule around 20 CE (coins of Rajuvula). A fairly qualitative but rather stereotypes coinage would continue with the Western Satraps until the 4th century CE.

Indo-Scythian coinage is generally quite realistic, artistically somewhere between Indo-Greek and Kushan coinage. It is often suggested Indo-Scythian coinage benefited from the help of Greek celators (Boppearachchi).

Indo-Scythian coins essentially continue the Indo-Greek tradition, bu using the Greek language on the obverse and the Kharoshthi language on the reverse. The portrait of the king is never shown however, and is replaced by depictions of the king on horse (and sometimes on camel), or sometimes sitting cross-legged on a cushion. The reverse of their coins typically show Greek divinities.

Buddhist symbolism is present throughout Indo-Scythian coinage. In particular, they adopted the Indo-Greek practice since Menander I of showing divinities forming the vitarka mudra with their right hand (as for the mudra-forming Zeus on the coins of Maues or Azes II), or the presence of the Buddhist lion on the coins of the same two kings, or the triratana symbol on the coins of Zeionises.

Depiction of Indo-Scythians[]


Azilises on horse, wearing a tunic.

Besides coinage, few works of art are known to indisputably represent Indo-Scythians. Indo-Scythians rulers are usually depicted on horseback in armour, but the coins of Azilises show the king in a simple, undecorated, tunic.

Several Gandharan sculptures also show foreigner in soft tunics, sometimes wearing the typical Scythian cap. They stand in contrast to representations of Kushan men, who seem to wear thicks, rigid, tunics, and who are generally represented in a much more simplistic manner.[9]

Buner reliefs[]

Indo-Scythian soldiers in military attire are sometimes represented in Buddhist friezes in the art of Gandhara (particularly in Buner reliefs). They are depicted in ample tunics with trousers, and have heavy straight sword as a weapon. They wear a pointed hood (the Scythian cap or bashlyk), which distinguishes them from the Indo-Parthians who only wore a simple fillet over their bushy hair,[10] and which is also systematically worn by Indo-Scythian rulers on their coins. With the right hand, some of them are forming the Karana mudra against evil spirits. In Gandhara, such friezes were used as decorations on the pedestals of Buddhist stupas. They are contemporary with other friezes representing people in purely Greek attire, hinting at an intermixing of Indo-Scythians (holding military power) and Indo-Greeks (confined, under Indo-Scythian rule, to civilian life).

Another relief is known where the same type of soldiers are playing musical instruments and dancing, activities which are widely represented elsewhere in Gandharan art: Indo-Scythians are typically shown as reveling devotees.

Stone palettes[]


Numerous stone palettes found in Gandhara are considered as good representatives of Indo-Scythian art. These palettes combine Greek and Iranian influences, and are often realized in a simple, archaic style. Stone palettes have only been found in archaeological layers corresponding to Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian rule, and are essentially unknown the preceding Mauryan layers or the succeeding Kushan layers.[11]

Very often these palettes represent people in Greek dress in mythological scenes, a few in Parthian dress (head-bands over bushy hair, crossed-over jacket on a bare chest, jewelry, belt, baggy trousers), and even fewer in Indo-Scythian dress (Phrygian hat, tunic and comparatively straight trousers). A palette found in Sirkap and now in the New Delhi Museum shows a winged Indo-Scythian horseman riding winged deer, and being attacked by a lion.

The Indo-Scythians and Buddhism[]


The Taxila copper plate records Buddhist dedications by Indo-Scythian rulers (British Museum).

The Indo-Scythians seem to have been followers of Buddhism, and many of their practices apparently continued those of the Indo-Greeks. They are known for their numerous Buddhist dedications, recorded through such epigraphic material as the Taxila copper plate inscription or the Mathura lion capital inscription.

Butkara Stupa[]


Buddhist stupas during the late Indo-Greek/Indo-Scythian period were highly decorated structures with columns, flights of stairs, and decorative Acanthus leave friezes. Butkara stupa, Swat, 1st century BCE.[12]

Αρχείο:Kushan, Brahma, Indra, Indian.JPG

Possible Scythian devotee couple (extreme left and right, often described as "Scytho-Parthian"[13]), around the Buddha, Brahma and Indra.

Excavation at the Butkara Stupa in Swat by an Italian archaeological team have yielded various Buddhist sculptures thought to belong to the Indo-Scythian period. In particular, an Indo-Corinthian capital representing a Buddhist devotee within foliage has been found which had a reliquary and a coins of Azes II buried at its base, securely dating the sculpture to around 20 BCE.[14] A contemporary pilaster with the image of a Buddhist devotee in Greek dress has also been found at the same spot, again suggesting a mingling of the two populations.[15] Various reliefs at the same location show Indo-Scythians with their characteristics tunics and pointed hoods within a Buddhist context, and side-by-side with reliefs of standing Buddhas.[16]

Gandharan sculptures[]

Other reliefs have been found, which show Indo-Scythian men with their characteristic pointed cap pushing a cart on which is reclining the Greek god Dionysos with his consort Ariadne.

Mathura lion capital[]

The Mathura lion capital, which associates many of the Indo-Scythian rulers from Maues to Rajuvula, mentions a dedication of a relic of the Buddha in a stupa. It also bears centrally the Buddhist symbol of the triratana, and is also filled with mentions of the bhagavat Buddha Sakyamuni, and characteristically Buddhist phrases such as:

"sarvabudhana puya dhamasa puya saghasa puya"
"Revere all the Buddhas, revere the dharma, revere the sangha"
(Mathura lion capital, inscription O1/O2)

Indo-Scythians in Western sources[]


"Scythia" appears around the mouth of the river Indus and along the western coast of India, in the Roman period Tabula Peutingeriana.

The presence of Scythian territory in northwestern India, and especially around the mouth of the Indus is mentioned extensively in Western maps and travel descriptions of the period. The Ptolemy world map, as well as the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea mention prominently Scythia in the Indus area, as well as Roman Tabula Peutingeriana. The Periplus states that Minnagara was the capital of Scythia, and that Parthian king were fighting for it during the 1st century CE. It also distinguishes Scythia with Ariaca further east (centered in Gujarat and Malwa), over which ruled the Western Satrap king Nahapana.

Indo-Scythians in Indian literature[]


The Indo-Scythians were named "Shaka" in India, an extension on the name Saka used by the Persians to designate Scythians. From the time of the Mahabharata wars (1500–500 BCE) Shakas receive numerous mentions in texts like the Puranas, the Manusmriti, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Mahabhasiya of Patanjali, the Brhat Samhita of Vraha Mihira, the Kavyamimamsa, the Brihat-Katha-Manjari, the Katha-Saritsagara and several other old texts. They are described as part of an amalgam of other war-like tribes from the northwest.

Sai-Wang Scythian hordes of Chipin or Kipin[]


Coin of Azes II, with king seated, holding a drawn sword and a whip.

A section of the Central Asian Scythians (under Sai-Wang) is said to have taken southerly direction and after passing through the Pamirs it entered the Chipin or Kipin after crossing the Hasuna-tu (Hanging Pass) located above the valley of Kanda in Swat country.[18] Chipin has been identified by Pelliot, Bagchi, Raychaudhury and some others with Kashmir[19] while other scholars identify it with Kapisha (Kafirstan).[20][21] The Sai-Wang had established his kingdom in Kipin. S. Konow interprets the Sai-Wang as Saka Murunda of Indian literature, Murunda being equal to Wang i.e. king, master or lord,[22] but Bagchi who takes the word Wang in the sense of the king of the Scythians but he distinguishes the Sai Sakas from the Murunda Sakas.[23] There are reasons to believe that Sai Scythians were Kamboja Scythians and therefore Sai-Wang belonged to the Scythianised Kambojas (i.e. Parama-Kambojas) of the Transoxiana region and came back to settle among his own stock after being evicted from his ancestral land located in Scythia or Shakadvipa. King Moga or Maues could have belonged to this group of Scythians who had migrated from the Sai country (Central Asia) to Chipin.[24] The Mathura Lion Capital inscriptions attest that the members of the family of King Moga (q.v.) had last name Kamuia or Kamuio (q.v.) which Khroshthi term has been identified by scholars with Sanskrit Kamboja or Kambojaka.[25] Thus, Sai-Wang and his migrant hordes which came to settle in Kabol valley in Kapisha may indeed have been from the transoxian Parama Kambojas living in Shakadvipa or Scythian land.[26]

Establishment of Mlechcha Kingdoms in Northern India[]


Coin of Maues depicting Balarama, 1st century BCE. British Museum.

The mixed Scythian hordes that migrated to Drangiana and surrounding regions, later spread further into north and south-west India via the lower Indus valley. Their migration spread into Sovira, Gujarat, Rajasthan and northern India, including kingdoms in the Indian mainland.

There are important references to the warring Mleccha hordes of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas and Pahlavas in the Bala Kanda of the Valmiki Ramayana also.[27]

Leading Indologists like H. C. Raychadhury glimpses in these verses the struggles between the Hindus and the invading hordes of Mlechcha barbarians from the northwest. The time frame for these struggles is the second century BCE onwards. Raychadhury fixes the date of the present version of the Valmiki Ramayana around or after the second century CE.[28]

This picture presented by the Ramayana probably refers to the political scenario that emerged when the mixed hordes descended from Sakasthan and advanced into the lower Indus valley via Bolan Pass and beyond into the Indian mainland. It refers to the hordes' struggle to seize political control of Sovira, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Malwa, Maharashtra and further areas of eastern, central and southern India.

Mahabharata too furnishes a veiled hint about the invasion of the mixed hordes from the northwest. Vanaparava by Mahabharata contains verses in the form of prophecy deploring that "......the Mlechha (barbaric) kings of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Bahlikas, etc. shall rule the earth (i.e. India) un-righteously in Kaliyuga..".[29]

According to H. C. Ray Chaudhury, this is too clear a statement to be ignored or explained away.

Mahabharata's epic reference apparently alludes to the chaotic politics which followed the collapse of the Mauryan and Sunga dynasties in northern India and the area's subsequent occupation by foreign hordes of the Saka, Yavana, Kamboja, Pahlavas, Bahlika, Shudra and Rishika tribes from the northwest.

See also: Migration of Kambojas

Evidence about joint invasions[]

The Scythian groups that invaded India and set up various kingdoms, included besides the Sakas[30] other allied tribes, such as the Medii[31], Xanthii[32][33],Massagetae[34], Getae[35]. These peoples were all absorbed into the community of Kshatriyas of mainstream Indian society.[36]

The Shakas were formerly a people of trans-Hemodos region---the Shakadvipa of the Puranas or the Scythia of the classical writings. Isidor of Charax (beginning of first c AD) attests them in Sakastana (modern Seistan). First century CE Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (c AD 70–80) also attests a Scythian district in lower Indus with Minnagra as its capital. Ptolemy (c AD 140) also attests Indo-Scythia in south-western India which comprised Patalene, Abhira and the Surastrene (Saurashtra) territories.

  • H.S. Williams wrote: Πρότυπο:Cquote

The second century BCE Scythian invasion of India, was in all probability carried out jointly by the Sakas, Pahlavas, Kambojas, Paradas, Rishikas and other allied tribes from the northwest.[37] As a result, groups of these people who had originally lived in the northwest before the Christian era, were also found to have lived in southwest India in post-Christian times. All these groups of north-western peoples apparently entered Indian mainland following the Scythian invasion of India.


Main Indo-Scythian rulers

Northwestern India[]

  • Μαύης (Maues), c 90–60 BCE
  • Βονώνης (Vonones of Indo-Scythia]], c 75–65 BCE
  • Σπαλαχώρης (Spalahores), c 75–65 BCE, satrap and brother of King Vonones, and probably the later King Spalirises.
  • Σπαλιρίσης (Spalirises), c 60–57 BCE, king and brother of King Vonones.
  • Σπαλαγαδάμης (Spalagadames) c 50 BCE, satrap, and son of Spalahores.
  • Άζης Α' (Azes I), c 57–35 BCE
  • Αλιζίσης (Azilises), c 57–35 BCE
  • Άζης Β' (Azes II), c 35–12 BCE
  • Ζειονίσης (Zeionises), c 10 BCE – 10 CE
  • Χαραχώστης (Kharahostes), c 10 BCE – 10 CE
  • Indravarman
  • Hajatria



  • Liaka Kusuluka, satrap of Chuksa
  • Kusulaka Patika, satrap of Chuksa and son of Liaka Kusulaka
  • Abhiraka
  • Bhumaka
  • Nahapana (founder of the Western Satraps)

Apracarajas (Bajaur area):[]


  • Vijayamitra (12 BCE – 15 CE)
  • Itravasu (c 20 CE)
  • Aspavarma (15–45 CE)




Bi-drachm of Parataraja Bhimajhunasa.
Obv: Robed bust of Bhimajhunasa left, wearing tiara-shaped diadem.
Rev: Swastika with legend around.
1.70g. Senior (Indo-Scythian) 286.1

  • Kuvhusuvhume
  • Spajhana
  • Spajhayam
  • Bhimajhuna
  • Yolamira, son of Bagavera (2nd century)
  • Arjuna, son of Yolamira (2nd century)
  • Karyyanapa
  • Hvaramira, another son of Yolamira(2nd century)
  • Mirahvara, son of Hvaramira (2nd century)
  • Miratakhma, another son of Hvaramira (2nd century)

"Northern Satraps" (Mathura area):[]

  • Hagamasha (satrap, 1st century BCE)
  • Hagana (satrap, 1st century BCE)
  • Rajuvula, c 10 CE (Great Satrap)
  • Sodasa, son of Rajuvula
  • "Great Satrap" Kharapallana (c 130 CE)
  • "Satrap" Vanaspara (c 130 CE)

Minor local rulers:[]

  • Bhadayasa
  • Mamvadi
  • Arsakes

Western Satraps[]


  • Nahapana (119–124) 50px
  • Chastana (c 120), son of Ghsamotika 50px
  • Jayadaman, son of Chastana
  • Rudradaman I (c 130–150), son of Jayadaman 50px
  • Damajadasri I (170–175)
  • Jivadaman (175 d 199)
  • Rudrasimha I (175–188 d 197)
  • Isvaradatta (188–191)
  • Rudrasimha I (restored) (191–197)
  • Jivadaman (restored) (197–199)
  • Rudrasena I (200–222)50px
  • Samghadaman (222–223)
  • Damasena (223–232)
  • Damajadasri II (232–239) with
  • Viradaman (234–238)
  • Yasodaman I (239)
  • Vijayasena (239–250)
  • Damajadasri III (251–255)
  • Rudrasena II (255–277)
  • Visvasimha (277–282)
  • Bhratadarman (282–295)50px with
  • Visvasena (293–304)
  • Rudrasimha II, son of Lord (Svami) Jivadaman (304–348) with
  • Yasodaman II (317–332)
  • Rudradaman II (332–348)
  • Rudrasena III (348–380)
  • Simhasena (380– ?)
  • Rudrasena IV (382–388)
  • Rudrasimha III (388–395)50px

"Degraded Kshatriyas" from the northwest[]

The Manusmriti, written about 200, groups the Shakas with the Yavanas, Kambojas, Paradas, Pahlavas, Kiratas and the Daradas, etc., and addresses them all as "degraded warriors" or Kshatriyas" (X/43-44). Anushasanaparva of the Mahabharata also views the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas etc... in the same light. Patanjali in his Mahabhashya regards the Shakas and Yavanas as pure Shudras (II.4.10). The Vartika of the Katyayana informs us that the kings of the Shakas and the Yavanas, like those of the Kambojas, may also be addressed by their respective tribal names. The Mahabharata also associates the Shakas with the Yavanas, Gandharas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Tusharas, Sabaras, Barbaras, etc. and addresses them all as the Barbaric tribes of Uttarapatha. In another verse, the same epic groups the Shakas and Kambojas and Khashas and addresses them as the tribes from Udichya i.e. north division (5/169/20). Also, the Kishkindha Kanda of the Ramayana locates the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas and Paradas in the extreme north-west beyond the Himavat (i.e. Hindukush) (43/12).

Military actions[]

Ancient wars (1500–500 BC)[]

According to numerous Puranas, the military corporations of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas and Paradas, known as "five hordes" (pānca-ganah), had militarily supported the Haihaya and Talajunga Kshatriyas in depriving Ikshvaku king Bahu (the 7th king in descent from Harishchandra), of his Ayodhya kingdom.

A generation later, Bahu's son Sagara managed to recapture Ayodhya after defeating these foreign hordes. Sagara punished them by meting out to them weird punishments. He made the Shakas shave half of their heads, the Kambojas and the Yavanas the totality, the Pahlavas to keep their beards and the Paradas to let their hair go free.

The Kalika Purana, one of the Upa-Puranas of the Hindus, refers to a war between king Kalika king Kali and states the Shakas, Kambojas, Khasas, etc. as a powerful military allies of King Kali. The Purana further states that these Barbarians take the orders from their women (Ref: Kalika Purana, III(6), 22–40).

The Balakanda of the Ramayana also groups the Shakas with the Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas and Mlechhas and refers to them as military allies of sage Vedic Vashistha against Vedic king Vishwamitra (55/2-3).

The Udyogaparva of the Mahabharata (5/19/21-23) tells us that the composite army of the Kambojas, Yavanas and Shakas had participated in the Mahabharata war under the supreme command of Kamboja king Sudakshina. The epic repeatedly applauds this composite army as being very fierce and wrathful.

Military alliance with Chandragupta (c 320 BC)[]

The Buddhist drama Mudrarakshas by Visakhadutta and the Jaina works Parisishtaparvan refer to Chandragupta's alliance with Himalayan king Parvataka.

This Himalayan alliance gave Chandragupta a powerful composite army made up of the frontier martial tribes of the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Parasikas, Bahlikas etc. which he utilised to defeat the Nanda rulers of Magadha, and thus establishing his Mauryan Empire in northern India (See: Mudrarakshas, II).

Invasion of India (c 180 BC)[]

The Vanaparva of the Mahabharata contains verses in the form of prophecy that the kings of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Bahlikas and Abhiras etc. shall rule unrighteously in Kaliyuga (MBH 3/188/34-36).

This reference apparently alludes to the precarious political scenario following the collapse of Mauryan and Sunga dynasties in northern India and its occupation by foreign hordes of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas and Pahlavas.


The Brihat-Katha-Manjari of the Kshemendra (10/1/285-86) relates that around 400 AD, the Gupta king Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) had "unburdened the sacred earth of the barbarians" like the Shakas, Mlecchas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Tusharas, Parasikas, Hunas, etc., by annihilating these "sinners" completely.

The 10th century Kavyamimamsa of Raj Shekhar (Ch. 17) still lists the Sakas, Tusharas, Vokanas, Hunas, Kambojas, Bahlikas, Pahlavas, Tangana, Turukshas, etc. together, and states them as the tribes located in the Uttarapatha division.

Possible descendants of the Indo-Scythians[]

There is speculation that a number of communities in South Asia, mainly in the northwestern regions, are partly descended from the Indo-Scythians. These include:


  1. Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, 38
  2. "The dynastic art of the Kushans", John Rosenfield, p 130
  3. Kshatrapasa pra Kharaostasa Artasa putrasa. See: Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 398, H. C. Raychaudhury, B. N. Mukerjee; Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, p 307, J. L. Kamboj; Ancient India, 1956, pp 220–221, R. K. Mukerjee; Kambojas Through the Ages, 2005, p 168, S Kirpal Singh.
  4. Ancient India, pp 220–221, R. k. Mukerjee; Kambojas Through the Ages, 2005, pp 168–169, S Kirpal Singh; Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, pp 306–09, J. L. Kamboj; Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol II, Part 1, p 36, D S Konow
  5. Jayaswal writes:"Mathura was under outlandish people like the Yavanas and Kambojas... who had a special mode of fighting" (Manu and Yajnavalkya, K. P. Jayswal); See also: Indian Historical Quarterly, XXVI-2, p 124. Shashi Asthana comments: "Epic Mahabharata refers to the siege of Mathura by the Yavanas and Kambojas (see: History and Archaeology of India's Contacts with Other Countries, from Earliest Times to 300 B.C., 1976, p 153, Shashi Asthana). Buddha Prakash observes: "Along with the Sakas, the Kambojas had also entered Indian mainland and spread into whole of North India, especially in Panjab and Uttar Pradesh. Mahabharata contains references to Yavanas and Kambojas having conquered Mathura (12/105/5)....There is also a reference to the Kambojas in the Mathura Lion Capital inscriptions of Saka Satrap (Kshatrapa) Rajuvula found in Mathura " (India and the World, p 154, Buddha Parkash); cf: Ancient India, 1956, p 220, R. K. Mukerjee
  6. Mahabharata 12.101.5.
  7. Source: "A Catalogue of the Indian Coins in the British Museum. Andhras etc..." Rapson, p ciii
  8. A gap in Puranic history
  9. Francine Tissot "Gandhara", p74
  10. "Parthians, from about the 1st century AD, seem to have preferred to show off their carefully tonsured hair, usually only wearing a fillet of thick ribbon; before then, the Scythian cap or bashlyk was worn more frequently". In "Parthians and Sassanid Parthians" Peter Willcox ISBN 0850456886, p12
  11. "Let us remind that in Sirkap, stone palettes were found at all excavated levels. On the contrary, neither Bhir-Mound, the Maurya city preceding Sirkap on the Taxila site, nor Sirsukh, the Kushan city succeeding her, did deliver any stone palettes during their excavations", in "Les palettes du Gandhara", p89. "The terminal point after which such palettes are not manufactured anymore is probably located during the Kushan period. In effect, neither Mathura nor Taxila (although the Sirsukh had only been little excavated), nor Begram, nor Surkh Kotal, neither the great Kushan archaeological sites of Soviet Central Asia or Afghanistan have yielded such objects. Only four palettes have been found in Kushan-period archaeological sites. They come from secondary sites, such as Garav Kala and Ajvadz in Soviet Tajikistan and Jhukar, in the Indus Valley, and Dalverzin Tepe. They are rather roughly made." In "Les Palettes du Gandhara", Henri-Paul Francfort, p 91. (in French in the original)
  12. Source:"Butkara I", Faccena
  13. "Gandhara" Francine Tissot
  14. The Turin City Museum of Ancient Art Text and photographic reference: Terre Lontane > O2
  15. For the pilaster showing a man in Greek dress Image:ButkaraPilaster.jpg.
  16. Facenna, "Sculptures from the sacred area of Butkara I", plate CCCLXXI. The relief is this one, showing Indo-Scythians dancing and reveling, with on the back side a relief of a standing Buddha (not shown).
  17. Faccenna, "Sculptures from the sacred area of Butkara I", plate CCCLXXII
  18. Serindia, Vol I, 1980 Edition, p 8, M. A. Stein
  19. Op cit p 693, H. C. Raychaudhury, B. N. Mukerjee; Early History of North India, p 3, S. Chattopadhyava; India and Central Asia, p 126, P. C. Bagchi
  20. Epigraphia Indiaca XIV, p 291 S Konow; Greeks in Bactria and India, p 473, fn, W. W. Tarn; Yuan Chwang I, pp 259–60, Watters; Comprehensive History of India, Vol I, p 189, N. K. Sastri; History and Culture of Indian People, The Age of Imperial Unity, 122; History and Culture of Indian People, Classical Age, p 617, R. C. Majumdar, A. D. Pusalkar.
  21. Scholars like E. J. Rapson, L. Petech etc. also connect Kipin with Kapisha. Levi holds that prior to 600 AD, Kipin denoted Kashmir, but after this it implied Kapisha See Discussion in The Classical Age, p 671.
  22. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, II. 1. XX f; cf: Early History of North India, pp 54, S Chattopadhyaya.
  23. India and Central Asia, 1955, p 124, P. C. Bagchi; Geographical Data in Early Puranas, 1972, p 47, M. R. Singh.
  24. See: Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p fn 13, B. N. Mukerjee; Chilas, Islamabad, 1983, no 72, 78, 85, pp 98, 102, A. H. Dani
  25. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol II, Part 1, p xxxvi, see also p 36; Bihar and Orisaa Research Society, Vol XVI, 1930, part III and IV, p 229 etc.
  26. Buddha Prakash has identified some of the modern castes of the Punjab with ancient tribes which came from Central Asia and settled in India. Prakash has correctly related the modern Kamboj/Kamboh to the Iranian Kambojas who belonged to the domain of Kumuda-dvipa of the Puranas or the Komdei of Ptolemy's Geography (Political and Social Movements in Ancient Punjab, Buddha Prakash; See: Studies in Indian History and Civilization, Agra, p 351; India and the World, 1964, p 71, Buddha Prakash; The Kambojas Through the Ages, 2005, p 92, 59/159, S. Kirpal Singh). This was the habitat of the Parama Kambojas referred to in Mahabharata (MBH 2.27.25) and were located in Transoxiana territory in Shakadvipa (Ibid, S Kirpal Singh). Buddha Prakash further claims that the people of Soi clan of Punjab are descended from the Sai-Wang (Saka). It is not mere coincidence that modern Kamboj of Punjab have prominent clan names like Soi, Asoi and Sahi/Shahi: (see list of Kamboj Gotras). Clan name Soi can be linked to Sai-Wang as Buddh Prakash has shown. Similarly, Asoi clan of Kamboj can also be very well related to or connected with Asii or Asio of Strabo (See: Strabo XI.8,2.) which clan name undoubtedly represents people connected with horse-culture, which the ancient Kambojas pre-eminently were. The above evidence thus again points to a connection of the Sai/Sai-wang mentioned in Chinese chronicles and the Asii/Asio clan mentioned in Strabo's accounts with the Scythian Kambojas i.e. Parama Kambojas.
  27. taih asit samvrita bhuumih Shakaih-Yavana mishritaih || 1.54-21 ||
    taih taih Yavana-Kamboja barbarah ca akulii kritaah || 1-54-23 ||
    tasya humkaarato jatah Kamboja ravi sannibhah |
    udhasah tu atha sanjatah Pahlavah shastra panayah || 1-55-2 ||
    yoni deshaat ca Yavanah Shakri deshat Shakah tathaa |
    roma kupesu Mlecchah ca Haritah sa Kiratakah || 1-55-3 ||.
  28. Political History of Ancient India, 1996, pp 3–4.
  29. viparite tada loke purvarupa.n kshayasya tat || 34 ||
    bahavo mechchha rajanah prithivyam manujadhipa |
    mithyanushasinah papa mrishavadaparayanah || 35 ||
    Andhrah Shakah Pulindashcha Yavanashcha naradhipah |
    Kamboja Bahlikah Shudrastathabhira narottama || 36 ||
    (MBH 3.188.34-36).
  30. Sir Alexander Cunningham, (Sir, Major-General, and former Director-General of the Archeological Survey of India), Coins of the Indo-Scythians, Sakas, and Kushans, Indological Book House, Varanasi, India, 1971, first published in 1888, pp. 33.
  31. Sir Alexander Cunningham, (Sir, Major-General, and former Director-General of the Archeological Survey of India), Coins of the Indo-Scythians, Sakas, and Kushans, Indological Book House, Varanasi, India, 1971, first published in 1888, pp. 33.
  32. Sir Alexander Cunningham, (Sir, Major-General, and former Director-General of the Archeological Survey of India), Coins of the Indo-Scythians, Sakas, and Kushans, Indological Book House, Varanasi, India, 1971, first published in 1888, pp. 33.
  33. Barstow, A.E., The Sikhs: An Ethnology, Reprinted by B.R. Publishing Corporation, Delhi, India, 1985, first published in 1928, pp. 105-135, 63, 155, 152, 145.
  34. Latif, S.M., History of the Panjab, Reprinted by Progressive Books, Lahore, Pakistan, 1984, first published in 1891, pp. 56.
  35. Latif, S.M., History of the Panjab, Reprinted by Progressive Books, Lahore, Pakistan, 1984, first published in 1891, pp. 56.
  36. History and Culture of Indian People, The Vedic Age, pp 286–87, 313–14.
  37. cf: Interaction Between India and Western World, pp 75–93, H. G. Rawlinson; Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, p 306; cf: India and the World, p 154, Buddha Parkash; cf: Kambojas Through the Ages, 2005, pp 159–60, 168–69, S Kirpal Singh.
  38. Bhim Singh Dahiya, Jats the Ancient Rulers, Dahinam Publishers, Sonepat, Haryana.
  39. B. S. Dhillon (1994). History and study of the Jats. Beta Publishers. ISBN 1895603021. 
  40. Alexander Cunningham, The Ancient Geography of India: The Buddhist Period, Including the Campaigns of Alexander, and the Travels of Hwen-Thsang (1871), pp 290–291.
  41. Barstow, A.E., The Sikhs: An Ethnology, Reprinted by B.R. Publishing Corporation, Delhi, India, 1985, first published in 1928, pp 105–135, 63, 155, 152, 145.
  42. Bingley, A.H., Handbooks for the Indian Army: Sikhs, Compiled Under the Orders of the Government of India, Printed at the Government Central Printing Office, Simla, India, 1899, pp 8–9, 3.
  43. J. Pettigrew, Robber Noblemen: A Study of the Political System of the Sikh Jats, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1975, pp 25, 238.
  44. H. S. Willliams, The Historians' History of the World, 21 Vols., The Outlook Company, New York, 1905, Vol. 2, pp 481.
  45. P. S. Gill, Heritage of Sikh Culture, New Academic Publishing Co., Jullundur, Punjab, 1975, pp 12–13.
  46. Rose, H.A., A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Reprinted by the Languages Dept., Patiala, Punjab, 1970, first published in 1883, pp 362–363, (Vol. II), 58 (Vol. I).
  47. Sir H.M. Elliot, Encyclopaedia of Caste, Customs, Rites and Superstitions of the Races of Northern India, Vol. 1, Reprinted by Sumit Publications, Delhi, 1985, first published in 1870, pp 133–134.
  48. Sara, I., The Scythian Origins of the Sikh-Jat, The Sikh Review, March 1978, pp 26–35.
  49. Mahil, U.S., Antiquity of Jat Race, Atma Ram & Sons, Delhi, India, 1955, pp 2, 9, 14.
  50. Hewitt, J.F., The Ruling Races of Prehistoric Times in India, South-Western Asia and Southern Europe, Archibald Constable & Co., London, 1894, pp 481–487.
  51. MacMunn, G. (Sir and Lt. General), The Martial Races of India, Reprinted by Mittal Publications, Delhi, India, 1979, first published in 1932, pp 21–22.
  52. Latif, S.M., History of the Panjab, Reprinted by Progressive Books, Lahore, Pakistan, 1984, first published in 1891, p 56.
  53. Connor (1907). 
  54. Rice (1878). 
  55. Ramananda Chatterjee (1907). The Modern Review. Prabasi Press Private, Ltd. σελ. 695. 
  56. Raman Menon, K. "The Scythian Origin of the Nairs", Malabar Quarterly Review, Vol. I, No. 2, June 1902
  57. Scythian Origins
  58. Scythic Origin of the Rajput Race

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