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Saka Empire in South Asia

Sakastan or Sakaistan or Sakasthan (Urdu: سکاستان‎) is a term indicating where the Scythians or Sakas settled around 100 BC. Sakastan region includes southern Afghanistan, Sistan and Baluchistan region of Iran and Pakistan.[1] The use of the term Sakastan is a restrictive term, most likely of relatively recent origin, and does not find mention in any of the creditable historical accounts concerning the South Sakas.

Settlement in Sakastan[edit]

Map of Sakastan around 100 BC.

The Sakas settled in areas of eastern Iran, still called after them Sistan. From there, they progressively expanded into the South Asia, where they established various kingdoms, and where they are known as "Indo-Scythians".

The Arsacid emperor Mithridates II (c. 123–88/87 BC) had scored many successes against the Scythians and added many provinces to the Parthian empire,[2] and apparently the Scythian hordes that came from Bactria were also conquered by him. A section of these people moved from Bactria to Lake Helmond in the wake of Yue-chi pressure and settled about Drangiana (Sigal), a region which later came to be called "Sakistana of the Skythian (Scythian) Sakai",[3] towards the end of 1st century BC.[4] The region is still known as Seistan.

Silver tetradrachm of the Scythian king Maues (85–60 BC).

Sakistan or Seistan of Drangiana may not only have been the habitat of the Saka alone but may also have contained population of the Pahlavas and the Kambojas.[5] The Rock Edicts of King Ashoka only refer to the Yavanas, Kambojas and the Gandharas in the northwest, but no mention is made of the Sakas, who immigrated in the region more than a century later. It is thus likely that the immigrant Saka populations who settled in Afghanistan did so among or near the Kambojas and nearby Greek cities.[6] Numerous scholars believe that during centuries immediately preceding Christian era, there had occurred extensive social and cultural admixture among the Kambojas and Yavanas; the Sakas and Pahlavas; and the Kambojas, Sakas, and Pahlavas etc.... such that their cultures and social customs had become almost identical.

The presence of the Sakas in Sakastan in the 1st century BC is mentioned by Isidore of Charax in his "Parthian stations". He explained that they were bordered at that time by Greek cities to the east (Alexandria of the Caucasus and Alexandria of the Arachosians), and the Parthian-controlled territory of Arachosia to the south:

"Beyond is Sacastana of the Scythian Sacae, which is also Paraetacena, 63 schoeni. There are the city of Barda and the city of Min and the city of Palacenti and the city of Sigal; in that place is the royal residence of the Sacae; and nearby is the city of Alexandria (Alexandria Arachosia), and six villages." Parthian stations, 18.[7]

Sakastan, meaning the land of the Saka, features prominently in Zoroastrian texts. Sakastan is otherwise known as Sagastan or Sigistan - even Sejestan - in Middle Persian texts. The land and its people are part of the very early history of the Aryans, Aryana* (ancient Iran) and Zoroastrianism. They also feature prominently in Zoroastrian eschatology - the end times of Frashokereti - when the world will be renovated and evil vanquished forever. Indeed, its stalwarts will be central to the defeat of evil and its famed lake will be the place where the final saviour - of a world beset by greed, violence and evil - will be conceived.(*Aryana is the modern version of Airyanem Vaejah in the Avesta.)[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pahlavans and Sakastan
  2. ^ Justin XL.II.2
  3. ^ Isodor of Charax, Sathmoi Parthikoi, 18.
  4. ^ Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 693.
  5. ^ The Sakas in India, p. 14, S. Chattopadhyaya; The Development of Khroshthi Script, p 77, C. C. Dasgupta; Hellenism in Ancient India, p 120, G. N. Banerjee; Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, p 308
  6. ^ Hindu Polity, 1943, p 144, K. P. Jayswal
  7. ^ "Parthian stations". Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  8. ^ Pahlavans and Sakastan