Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 2


The Sakas (Scythians) on a frieze at Persepolis in Persia
Circa 80 B.C.: The Yeuh Chi, forerunners to the Kushans, drove the Sakas southwards from Central Asia. In turn, the Parthians diverted the Sakas, their Indo-Scythian cousins, from Persian territory into Gandhara. Maues takes control there, creating a capital at Taxila in Punjab.

Mar 23, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Indo-Scythian Sakas

One of the earliest recorded waves of 'immigrants' into India were the Indo-Scythians, a branch of Sakas (Scythians), who migrated from southern Siberia, establishing their first power base in Gandhara. Participation of the Sakas at Kurukshetra is documented in the Mahabharata. 'Along with the Sakas, the Kiratas, Yavanas, Sivis and Vasatis marched in the huge army of the Kauravas' (Mh. 5,198 & 6,20).

"The Indo-Scythians, or Sakas, migrated from southern Siberia into Bactria, Sogdiana, Arachosia, Gandhara, Kashmir, Punjab, and into parts of Western and Central India, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, from the middle of the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE. The first Saka king in India was Maues or Moga who established Saka power in Gandhara and gradually extended supremacy over north-western India. Indo-Scythian rule in India ended with the last Western Satrap Rudrasimha III in 395 CE.

The invasion of India by Scythian tribes from Central Asia, often referred to as the Indo-Scythian invasion, played a significant part in the history of India as well as nearby countries. In fact, the Indo-Scythian war is just one chapter in the events triggered by the nomadic flight of Central Asians from conflict with Chinese tribes which had lasting effects on Bactria, Kabul, Parthia and India as well as far off Rome in the west. The Scythian groups that invaded India and set up various kingdoms, included besides the Sakas[1] other allied tribes, such as the Medii,[2] Xanthii,[2][3] Massagetae, Getae,[4] Parama Kambojas, Avars, Bahlikas, Rishikas and Paradas."

In a lengthy Sun Feature series on the Worship of Lord Brahma (2009), we offered a counterpoint view on some of modern history's conclusions about the connection of the Scythians and introduction of Sun worship in ancient India. This discussion was part of another serial presentation, on the religious history of Mayurabhanja District in eastern Orissa. In that article we quoted author Nagendranath Vasu, who wrote in his treatise, The Archaeological Survey of Mayurabhanja (1911):

"It is now admitted by scholars that the Magas or Scythic Brahmanas were the first to introduce the worship of the image of the Sun into India. In addition to Sun-worship, they cultivated the study of Astrology and Medicine. Now the question arises: when did these Brahmanas migrate to India and spread themselves over its various provinces? The Greek ambassador Megasthenes, when at the court of Pataliputra, observed in that part of the province the worship of the image of the Sun. References to these Maga Brahmanas are to be found in ancient Pali literature, and from this source we learn that they were powerful at the time of the Buddha.

In the well-known Pali work, Bambhajala Sutta, we find Lord Buddha speaking in disparaging terms of this class of Brahmana astrologers. From these authorities we are naturally led to conclude that the Scythic Brahmanas came and settled in Eastern India long before the time of the Buddha." [5]

In our next segment we will provide a more detailed discussion of the Scythians and their role in northern India's Brahmanic culture.


[1] Cunningham, (1888) p. 33.

[2] a b Cunningham (1888), p. 33.

[3] Barstow (1928), reprint 1985, pp. 105-135, 63, 155, 152, 145.

[4] Latif (1984), p. 56.

[5] Bangera Jatiya Itihasa, Part IV. pp. 56-59


Agarwala, V. S. (1954). India as Known to Panini.
Barstow, A.E., The Sikhs: An Ethnology, Reprinted by B.R. Publishing Corporation, Delhi, India, 1985, first published in 1928.
Alexander Cunningham (1888) Coins of the Indo-Scythians, Sakas, and Kushans, Reprint: Indological Book House, Varanasi, India, 1971.
Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilüe by Yu Huan: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE. Draft annotated English translation.Weilue: The Peoples of the West
Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
Latif, S.M., (1891) History of the Panjab, Reprinted by Progressive Books, Lahore, Pakistan, 1984.


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