Indo-Scythians in Indian literature

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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-Sarit-Sagara and several other old texts. They are described as part of an amalgam of other war-like tribes from the northwest.

"Degraded Kshatriyas" from the northwest[edit]

The Manusmriti, 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). Anushasanaparava of the Mahabharata also views the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas etc. in the same light. Patanjali in his Mahabhasya 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.

Coin of Zeionises (circa 10 BCE - 10 CE).
Obv: King on horseback holding whip, with bow behind and Buddhist Triratna symbol.
Rev: Standing king, being crowned by the goddess Tyche.

The Mahabharata also associates the Shakas with the Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Tusharas, Sabaras, Barbaras etc. and addresses them all as the Barbaric tribes of Uttarapatha. In another verse, the epic groups the Shakas 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).

The Udyogaparava 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 Sudakshina Kamboja. The epic repeatedly applauds this composite army as being very fierce and wrathful.

Invasion of India (180 BCE onward)[edit]

King Spalirises standing in armour. From his coins [1] and [2]. He holds the ankus in the right hand.

The Vanaparava of the Mahabharata contains verses in the form of prophecy that the kings of the Sakas, 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.

Mahabharata references[edit]

Udyoga Parva of Mahabharata groups the Shakas, Pahlavas, Paradas with the ‘’Kamboja-rishikas’’ and attests them as living on sea-shore in western India.[1] Again Udyoga Parava of Mahabharata lists the Shakas, Kambojas and the Khashas together and calls them as tribes of Udichya or Uttarapatha.[2] The Shanti Parva of Mahabharata also associates the Shakas with the Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas, Tusharas, Sabaras, Barbaras, etc. and addresses them all as the Barbaric tribes of Uttarapatha.[3] More importantly, the Shaka army had joined the Kamboja army and together they had participated in the Kurukshetra war under single and supreme command of Sudakshina Kamboja.[4]

Ramayana references[edit]

Kishkindha Kanda Sarga 43 of Valmiki Ramayana collocates the Kambojas with the Shakas, Yavanas, Paradas and the Uttarakurus in the extreme northwest. The Yavanas are in (Bactria) and Kambojas in Tajikstan, the Paradas are on river Sailoda in Xinjiang province of China. The Uttarakurus lie beyond the Pamirs. The Shakas of the Ramayana obviously refer to the Shakas of Issyk-kul Lake lying beyond Suguda.[5] Adi-Kanda of the Ramayana,[6] tells us that the Kambojas, Shakas, Pahlavas and some other allied tribes from northwest were 'created' at the request of sage Vasishta by the Divine cow Shavala to defend Vasishta sage from the forces of king Vishwamitra (Dr B. C. Law). All these Ramayanic references seem to closely connect the Kambojas and the Shakas together.

Puranic references[edit]

Harivamsa Purana[7] and other Puranic literature[8] attest that Iksvaku king Bahu of Ayodhya was driven out of his dominions by Haihayas or Talajanghas with the assistance of Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas and Paradas Ayudhajivin Kshatriyas from Uttarapatha, popularly known as "five hordes" (ganah pāñca).[9]

Kalika Purana, one of the Upa-Puranas of the Hindus, refers to a war between King Kalika and states the Shakas, Kambojas, Khasas, etc. together as a powerful military allies of king Kali. The Purana further states that these Barbarians take the orders from their women.[10]

The Bhuvanakosha section of Puranic texts also lists the Kambojas with the Shakas, Paradas, Yavanas, Bahlikas, Sindhus, Soviras, Madrakas, Kekayas etc. and place then all in the Udychya or northwest division.

Atri Smriti reference[edit]

In his Book of Law (Atri-Smriti or Atri-Samhita), Rsi Atri regards the Sakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Khasas, Parasikas, Natas, Svapakas etc. as Mlechchas and forbids receiving any gifts from or eating the food of or having any kinds of contacts or connections with them.[11]

Manusmiriti reference[edit]

Manusmriti regards the Shakas with the Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas, Paradas as originally a Kshatriya born groups (Kshatriya-Jatayah) and labels them all as having been degraded to Vrishalah status due to neglect of the Brahmanical codes and rituals.[12]

Mahabharata, too similarly groups the Shakas with the Kambojas and Yavanas and states that they were originally noble Kshatriyas but got degraded to vrishala status on account of their non-observance of the sacred Brahmanical codes.[13]

Mudrarakshas reference[edit]

The Buddhist drama Mudrarakshas by Visakhadutta and the Jaina works Parisishtaparvan refer to Chandragupta's alliance with Himalayan king Parvatka. This Himalayan alliance gave Chandragupta a powerful composite army made up of the north western tribes including the Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Parasikas, Bahlikas etc.[14]

Other references[edit]

In the Brihat Katha Manjari of Pt. Kshmendra, Vedic king Vikramaditya had fought with the joint mlechcha forces of the Shakas, Kambojas, Hunas, Sabaras, Tusharas, Parasikas and had destroyed them completely.[15]

The Vartika of the Katyayana on Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi informs us that the kings of the Shakas and the Yavanas, like those of the Kambojas may similarly be addressed by their respective tribal names.[16]

There are numerous more similar references in ancient Sanskrit literature where the Kambojas and Shakas are listed together. All these references amply prove that the Shakas were closely allied to the Kambojas and both were living as close neighbors in the extreme of northwest division of ancient India.

Military actions[edit]

Ancient wars[edit]

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 Brahmanical king Kalika (supposed to be Pushyamitra Sunga) and Buddhist king Kali (supposed to be Maurya king Brihadratha (187-180 BC)) 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 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 (circa 320 BC)[edit]

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 (circa 180 BC)[edit]

Further information: Indo-Scythians

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.

Extinction[edit]

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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mahabharata 5/5/15
  2. ^ Mahabharata 5/159/2) .
  3. ^ Mahabharata 12.65.13-14
  4. ^ Mahabharata 5/19/21-22
  5. ^ Ramayana 4.43.12
  6. ^ Ramayana 1/55/2-3
  7. ^ Harivamsa 14.01-19
  8. ^ e.g Vayu Purana 88.127-43; Brahma Purana (8.35-51); Brahamanda Purana (3.63.123-141); Shiva Purana (7.61.23); Vishnu Purana (5.3.15-21), Padama Purana (6.21.16-33) etc.
  9. ^ Brahama Purana 8.36)
  10. ^ Kalika Purana III, 22-40).
  11. ^ Atri-Samhita, VII.2; History of Dharmaśāstra: (ancient and Mediæval Religious and Civil Law), 1930, p 384, P. V. Kane, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, India.(Bombay); A Corpus of Indian Studies, Eassays in honour of Prof Gaurinath Sastri, 1980, p 396, Gauri Natha Bhattacharya, A. L. Bhasham, Gaurinath Sastria.
  12. ^ Manusmiriti X.43-44
  13. ^ Mahabharata 13/33/20-2
  14. ^ Mudrarakshas I.
  15. ^ Brhatkatha 10.1.285-86
  16. ^ Kambojadhybya iti vachyam Vartika (Katyayana); See: Some Kshatriya Tribes of Ancient India, 1924, p 234, Dr B. C. Law