Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Shakyans (Scythians) of Central Asia

Wisdom Quarterly
The birth of Siddhartha, the future Buddha, from Peshawar, Gandhara (now Pakistan)

The Buddha who is called the Sage of the Sakyas (Sakyamuni) grew up in Central Asia, on the northwestern frontier of India, in modern Afghanistan. He was a member of the noble, royal, or warrior caste (kshtriya) in the ancient Indian system.

The Sakyan territory (maha-janapada) had its capital in Kapilavastu, Siddhartha's hometown, near modern Bamiyan. While he was born away from home in a garden park named Lumbini on the way to his mother's parent's home, possibly in or near modern Iran (a word deriving from Aryan, which the Buddha called himself).

Dr. Ranajit Pal speculates that the real Lumbini garden, the Buddha's birthplace, was in Sistan-Baluchistan, in modern disputed territory where Iran, Pakistan (called ancient Gandhara), and Afghanistan meet. Who were the Sakyans? Might they be the Sakas of Western and Middle Eastern history?

The Sakas or Sakyas? (Sakas)
The Saka (Old Iranian Sakā, Latinized Sacae; Greek Σάκαι; Sanskrit शक [śaka]; Chinese 塞; Old Chinese *sək) were a Scythian tribe or group of tribes.

Greek and Latin texts suggest that the term Scythians referred to a much more widespread grouping of Central Asian peoples.[1][2]

Kings (kshtriyas) with dragons (nagas) associated with royalty in India -- gold artifacts of the Sakas of Indo-Greek/Persian Bactria, at the site of Tillia tepe.

Classical accounts

Accounts of the Indo-Scythian wars often assume that the Scythian protagonists were a single tribe called the Saka (Sakai or Sakas). But in earlier Greek and Latin texts the term Scythians referred to a much more widespread grouping of Central Asian peoples.

"Scythia" was a generic term loosely applied to a vast area of Central Asia spanning numerous groups and diverse ethnicities. Ptolemy writes that Skuthia was not only "within the Imaos" (the Himalayas) and "beyond the Imaos" (north of the Himalayas). He also speaks of a separate "land of the Sakais" within Scythia.[3] He notes that the Komedes inhabited "the entire mountainous land of the Sakas."

The Romans recognized both Saceans (Sacae) and Scyths (Scythae).

Indo-Scythians is a term used to refer to Sakas who migrated into Bactria, Sogdiana, Arachosia, Gandhara, Kashmir, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, from the middle of the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE.
  • "Golden prince," a buried skeleton of uncertain sex found wearing 4,000 gold artifacts, dressed in the cataphract-style Eurasian parade armor of a Saka royal from the Issyk kurgan, now emblematic of Kazakhstan (the country just north of Afghanistan)
Indian historians see the actual beginning of the Saka Era from 79 AD, after the Kushans conquered the Indo-Parthians and spilled over to the east. The Sakas were once again ousted by the Kushan and forced to wander further into central India.

In Rajasthan they came into the Hindu warrior caste of the Kshatriyas and were assimilated and were now feared nomadic warriors and rulers, for which Rajasthan was long famous.

Under the so-called Kshatriya kings the Shaka Ujjayini ruled from parts of northwest India and presented, for example, under Rudradaman I (r. about 130-150), a competition to the Satavahana dynasty. They were initially dependent on the Kushan. The Kshatriya kingdom was apparently after 397 conquered by king Chandragupta II (reigned 375-413/15).

Some South-Asian Sakas includes the Abhira, Nagbanshi, Andhra, Bala, Gurjjara.[1][2] More

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