scythians

Scythian Origins


The Scythians inhabiting Central Asia at the time of Herodotus (5th century B.C.) consisted of 4 main
branches known as the MassaGatae, Sacae, Alani, and Sarmatians, sharing a common language, ethnicity
and culture. Ancient Greek (e.g. Herodotus, Pliny, Plotemy, Arrian) and Persian sources (Darius's
historians) from the 5th century place the MassaGatea as the most southerly group in the Central Asian
steppe. The earliest Scythians who entered the northern regions of South Asia were from this group.
Historians derive "Jat" from "Gatae", "Ahir" from "Avar", "Saka" from "Scythii", "Gujjar" from "Khazar",
"Thakur" from "Tukharian", "Saurashtra" from "Saura Matii" or "Sarmatians", "Sessodia" (a Rajput clan)
from "Sassanian", "Madra" from "Medes", "Trigartta" from "Tyri Getae" and "Sulika" from "Seleucids".
"Massa" means "grand" or "big" in old Iranian - the language of the Scythians.

The early Sakas or Scythians are remembered by Greek (e.g. Herodotus, Megatheses, Pliny, Ptolemy)
and Persian historians of antiquity as tall, large framed and fierce warriors who were unrivalled on the
horse. Herodotus from the 5th century BC writes in an eye-witness account of the Scythians: "they were
the most manly and law-abiding of the Thracian tribes. If they could combine under one ruler, they would
be the most powerful nation on earth." According to their origin myth recorded by Herodotus, the Sakas
arose when three things fell from the sky: the i) plough, ii) sword and iii) cup. The progenitor of the Sakas
picked them up and hence the Saka race began its long history of conquering lands, releasing its bounties
and enjoying the fruits of their labor (the cup has a ceremonial-spiritual-festive symbolism). The relevance
of these symbols and codes of life and culture to the traditional Punjabi and northwest society are
tantalizingly obvious. A branch of the Sakas kown as the Alani reached regions of Europe, Asia Minor
and the Middle East. They have been connected to the Goths of France/Spain, Saxons and the Juts of
Denmark.

Entry into Southasia

Some of these Saka tribes entered northwest Southasia through the Khyber pass, others through the more
southerly Bolan pass which opens into Dera Ismail Khan in Sindh. From here some invading groups went north, others went south, and others further east. This explains why some Jat, Gujjar and Rajput clans claim descent from Rajasthan (Chauhan, Powar, Rathi, Sial etc.) while others from Afghanistan (e.g. Mann, Her, Bhullar, Gill, Bajwa, Sandhu, etc.). This is supported by the fact that the oldest Rajput geneologies (10th
centuries) do not extend into the northwest's Gandharan Buddhist period (400 B.C. - 900 AD).

Sir Cunningham (former Director General of Indian Archeological survey) writes:

     "the different races of the Scythians which succesively appeared as conquerors in the
     border provinces of Persian and India are the following in the order of arrival: Sakas or
     Sacae (the Su or Sai of the Chinese - B.C. ?), Kushans (the great Yue-Chi (Yuti) of the
     Chinese - B.C. 163), Kiddarite or later Kushans (the little Yue-chi of the Chinese - A.D.
     450) and Epthalites or White Huns (the Yetha of the Chinese - 470 A.D.).

Cunningham further notes that

     ". . . the successive Scythian invasions of the Sakas, the Kushans, and the White Huns,
     were followed by permanent settlements of large bodies of their countrymen . . ".

Cunningham and Tod regard the Huns to be the last Scythian wave to have entered India.

Herodotus reveals that the Scythians as far back as the 5th century B.C. had political control over Central
Asia and the northern subcontinent up to the river Ganges. Later Indo-Scythic clans and dynasties (e.g.
Mauryas, Rajputs) extended their control to other tracts of the northern subcontinent.

According to Ethnographers and historians like Cunningham, Todd, Ibbetson, Elliot, Ephilstone, Dahiya,
Dhillon, Banerjea, etc., the agrarian and artisan communities (e.g. Jats, Gujars, Ahirs, Rajputs, Lohars,
Tarkhans etc.) of the entire west are derived from the war-like Scythians who settled north-western and
western South Asia in successive waves between 500 B.C. to 500 AD. Down to this day, the very name
of the region `Gujarat' is derived from the name `Khazar', whilst `Saurashtra' denotes `Sun-worshipper', a
common term for the Scythians. The northwest Southasian region continues to be the most Scythic region in the world.

The oldest Rajputs clans arose much later from earlier Scythic groups; or are of Hun origin (5-6th century AD); and many are no doubt of mixed Scythic-Hun origin. Virtually all are of Scythic descent.
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