Scythian horse archers and their descendants


See also

Pastoral nomadism, known as the Yamnaya culture, existed in the
steppe of
Central Asia, just north of Turkmenia, earlier than 4000
BC. In the third millennium BC horses came to be in use in the area.
Wheeled carts became in vogue in the north of the
in the middle of third millennium. The burial mounds, called
Kurgans, spread through the steppe between 2500 BC and 1500 BC, and
around 2000 BC the Bronze age began to flourish there.  Srubnaya and
Andronovo cultures descended from this Yamnaya
culture: They spoke Indo-European languages. It is believed that the
Scythians originated from the Srubnaya and Andronovo cultures. The
Scythians formed several secondary groups in the East like the
Sacians (Sacae) and Messagetes.


Massagetes (Sacae) lived to the north of the
Oxus. When the
forerunners of the Huns,

The Hsiung-Nu tribe was dislodged from their territory in the western
China, they pushed Messagetes westward. It caused a chain reaction,
causing successive displacement of different nomadic tribes towards
the west. Massagetes pushed the Scythians, who, in
turn, displaced the Cimmerians from the northern shores of the
.  The Aryans from the Pontic steppe of Russia entered the Aegean
coasts as Acheans and Phrygians, and while pursuing the Cimmerians
crossed over the Caucasus and came to the
present-day Azerbaidzhan, and founded their capital at Sakiz, south
of lake Urmia in the present day Kordestan. Later they became allies
of the neighboring Assyrian empire.

The Medes managed to evict these Scythians from their territories,
and pushed them back to Urartu in Amazones from where they had
Persia.  Then the Sarmatians -
a tribe of very similar origin as the Scythians, but whose maidens
rode, hunted and joined in wars with their men - pushed the Scythians
from their eastern enclaves. Being pushed westward the Scythians
Hungary and Bulgaria and established outposts in the Balkans.

Later Scythians and Sarmatians were evicted from the
Black Sea area,
first by the Romans, then by the Goth and the Huns. This caused the
migration of the Scythian and Sarmatian tribes (Lombardi, Alani,
Heruli people) towards
Scandinavia. Thus Scytho-Sarmatian culture
entered northern
Europe and later became the cultures of the
Varangians, and the Vikings.


Yueh-Chihs The movement of the Aryan nomads along the Central Asian
steppe had been both from east to west, and west to east. While some
tribes had penetrated a long way into the Northeast to the region of
Pazyryk and Minusinsk (todays Northwest of Mongolia - north of Altai
range), other Scythians and Sarmatians had populated the Tarim oases
from Kashgar to Kucha, Kara Shahr, Turfan and as far as Kokonor lake
in Amdo region of Qinghai. From there they had entered the steppe of
Kokonor and Alpine grassland of

Indo-European Tocharian language was spoken in the
Tarim Basin. It is
an archaic Indo-European language, that separated at very early date
from the common Indo-European group, and was subjected to a
considerable isolation from Indo-european languages and influence by
languages instead.

These people of
Tarim Basin, called Tukhara, were known as Yueh-Chih
by the Chinese. The Yueh-Chih resided in the area northeast of
Kokonor as early as 1000 BC.

They were in the border of the Tibetan plateau as early as the second
millennium BC.

The Yueh-Chih people suffered defeat to Hsiungnu people in the second
century BC.

After their king was killed, the main clan (Ta Yueh-chih), led by
their queen, fled to the west in the region of Amu Daria. A small
group, known by the Chinese as Hsia Yueh- chih, fled across the
mountain to the south, and settled in the area of the Jangrig
people,who are the Chiang Tibetan. In
Tibet they adopted the language
of the Chiang. 

Ta Yueh-chih after being driven away from the
Ili valley and the
Issyk Kul basin, settled in the
province of Fergana along the Greek
kingdom of Bactria around 160 BC. The regions of Tashkent, Fergana
and Kashgar became inhabited by these Sakas (Yueh-
chih), who overran
Bactria by the end of second century BC. Once the
state of Tokharai (the Indo-Scythians) stretched from north of the
Tunhuang Caves to the Chi-ling Mountains north of Lake Koko Nor.


Hsia Yueh-chih, who settled among the Chiang Tibetan, formed the
kingdom of Nanchao, presently in the Yunnan province and adopted the
language of the Chiang.

Kingdom of Dian was established around Kunming in Yunnan, and the
township of Yizhoujun was established in 109 BC. The Dian Kingdom was
built on the east bank of the
Dianchi Lake. There the nobles and the
common people, the warriors and the slaves, all were fond of songs
and dances. They showed a vibrant culture that became among the best
bronze cultures of the world. Then
Nanchao Kingdom took over
Yizhoujun, and made
Kunming one of its capitals. The small Kingdom of
was created by 122 BC by proto-Thai inhabitants in Yunnan, and
proto-Thai migrants from territories earlier settled by proto-Thais,
but then
conquered by the Chinese. Armed conflict between
China and Ailao
pushed the Aliao people towards Indo-China peninsula by the
first century BC. Thais migrated from their settlements in
They crossed the valley of the Salwin, and set up
independent principalities in the Sip-Song Pan Na near the region of
present day Chiangsaen on the
Mekhong River. This territory included
the land north of the Mekhong in present day
Laos, and perhaps part
of present day
Burma, and was known as Yonok


The Saka tribes entered India through different ways: some entered
northwest India through the Khyber pass, while others entered through
the more southernly Bolan pass which
opens into Dera Ismail Khan in Sindh -an entry point into Gujarat and
Rajasthan. From here some groups went north (
Punjab), some went south
(Maharasthra), and others went further east (UP, MP). This explains
why some Jat, Gujjar and Rajput clans
claim descent from Rajasthan (Chauhan, Powar, Rathi, Sial etc.),
while others claim descent from Afghanistan (e.g. Mann, Her, Bhullar,
Gill, Bajwa, Sandhu, etc.).

According to Sir Cunningham (former Director General of Indian
Archeological survey) different races of the Scythians succesively
arrived as conquerors from the border provinces
of Persian and India in the following waves: Sakas, or Sacae (the Su
or Sai of the Chinese), Kushans (the great Yueh-Chih (Yuti) named by
the Chinese - around 163 B.C.), Kiddarite, or later Kushans (the
little Yueh-chih called by the Chinese) in 450 A.D. The successive
Scythian invasions as  and dynasties (e.g. Mauryas, Rajputs) extended
their control to other tracts of the
northern subcontinent. The largest Saka imperial dynasties of
Sakasthan included the Satraps (204 BC - 78 AD), Kushanas (50 AD -
380 AD), Virkas (420 AD - 640 AD) while others like the Mauryas (324
BC - 232 BC) and Dharan - Guptas (320 AD - 515 AD)expanded their
empires towards the east.  The agrarian and artisan communities (e.g.
Jats, Gujars, Ahirs, Rajputs, Lohars, Tarkhans etc.) of the entire
India are derived from the 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 Gujarat-Rajasthan
region continues to be the most Scythic region in the world. Sakastan
Starting from the Vedic period (1500 BC) until the advent of Mohammed
Ghori in the 13th
century AD, the west and northwest of
India was politically unified
with the subcontinent only for 92 years under the Mauryas. Except
from this short time during the entire history
it was independent of the subcontinet and remained under the rule of
Saka kings. The term 'Sakastan' which is found on coins, was applied
to the Rajasthan-Gujarat core  region, and at its greatest extent
Punjab, UP and Haryana as well.  A brief
selected list of the Saka rulers of Punjab and the northwest,
spanning 1600 years, includes Porus (4th century BC), Mauryas (3rd
century BC), Rudradaman, Azes, Maues,Soter Megas (2nd century BC),
Azilises, Wima Kadphises (1st century AD), Kanishka I, Haviska (2nd
century), Vasudeva (3rd century), Vyaghra rata and Yasovardhana.


The Mauryas , perhaps, were also of Scythic origin. Mauryan coins
have the symbol of the sun, a branch, a humped bull and mountain. All
these are preeminently Massagetae, who were Sun worshippers. The high
mount symbolized earth and the irregular curving
lines alongside it symbolized water.  The tree branch is a symbol of
productivity of the earth . Agriculture and soldiering were the
traditional noble occupations of Sakas.


When the Yueh-chihs were displaced from the Kokonor region, a group
fled westward. Around 175 BC some of these Yueh-chihs formed the
Kushana empire. By the first century BC
Northern India and western
Central India came under the rule of the Kushan
kings, the greatest of whom was Kanishka.


Some historians indicate that the Guptas were also of Scythic origin.
The most common gold coins of the Guptas appear to be the direct
descendants of the gold coins of the later Kushans. The early Gupta
coins are called "dinar" and their weight is the same as those of
westerly Kushana coins. The coins of SamudraGupta, Chandragupta I,
Kacha, Chandragupta II Vikramaditya, Kumaragupta I, Skandagupta, etc.
all have the central Asian long coat and trousers, and boots and long


The early Scythian art was influenced by the Assyrian and Babylonian
art. The Scythians turned the Assyrian naturalism to decorative
ornamentations. In almost all Scythian arts,
the animals are fashioned to create decorative effects.  The art
objects, found in the grave pits in the western
Siberia and Crimea,
show these highly stylized animal forms, which entwine and interlace
in complex manners. The horns and tails of the animals terminate in
foliage or blossom out in the shapes of flowers and birds as seen in
the ornamentations of the Vikings. These decorations combine
different animal figures together with parts of the body of one
animal merging with parts of the body of another animal.

The Scythian designs often represent battles between the opposite
forces: male and female, sun and moon. The ornamentations in the
jewel once wore by a Scythian king, found in the Ukrainian steppe
dating from about two and half thousands years ago, show
a male lion attacking from the back and a female lion attacking from
the front. A stag and a boar are their preys. In a third scene a
horse is being attacked by two griffins in a similar manner. These
preys represent the animals that the Scythians sacrificed to their
deities. The griffins were especially linked with the Amazon, and
later with the Scythians and Sarmatians.

They were the guardians of the treasures. In Assyro-Babylonian
mythology griffin and lion are beasts of the sun-god and the god of

Sakas, and Kushans were followed by permanent settlements of large
areas of
India by these people.

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


The pastoral nomads, who had to often face violent blizzards and
snowstorms on the high Himalayan passes, worshipped Rudra, who is
believed to reside in the high mountain and make himself manifest in
the form of wild fury of blizzards and hailstorms.

He received the most powerful position in the pantheon of these Aryan
tribes. Numerous mountain peaks were associated as adobe of Rudra. To
propitiate Rudra people made stone offerings by making piles of
stones on the passes. In ceremonial and festive
occasions goat offerings were also made to Rudra.

Apart from Rudra, the cult of Naga, who is the master of the
underworld, became widespread in the Himalayan region. The water
springs and lakes were believed to be the abode of Naga, who is
worshipped to invoke his blessings for fertility, plentitude
and prosperity. Naga is not only the god of subterranean entities
like lakes, rivers and fountains, but also of weather, rain and

After the Nagas, the cult of the terrific mother goddess, demanding
human sacrifice and orgiastic rituals can be traced over the entire
Himlayan region from North-west India to
North-east India.The symbols of mother goddess, tree, snake etc. are
found on the coins of the indigeneous kingdoms for, example on the
coins of the Audumbaras, which flourished between third century B.C.
and fourth century A.D. The people still carry fear
of orges, or forest spirits, who is seen as the goddess inspiring
terror among the common hill folks since the earliest times. In order
to exorcise these orges people made various kind of offerings and
sacrifices. These demonic goddesses were adopted into tantric
Buddhism by assimilating them into their system as the mystic
consorts of the male tantric deities as cloud fairies.  The titans
lie on the high peaks and passes, gorges and cliffs, rivers and
ravines, on trees and in caves. They share the feelings and life of
the people, while dancing and drinking with them.


Many temples of Naga deities are located in the North-west Himalaya,
especially in the
Beas valley. The Naga deities owe their allegiances
to the chief god of the area, Parashar, who is the divine suzerain of
the mountainous tract lying between the
Beas and the Uhl. In Chamba,
Ravi river, there are nearly two hundred Naga temples today.
More than seventy percent of 266 such temples in Kullu valley today
are dedicated to Naga deities. Most temples are located away from the
villages, in a place surrounded by deodar trees. These trees are
considered as the
property of deities and are never cut, except for temple building.

The trees closer to the temples are believed to be wish granting. In
these temples usually stone images with entwined, or braided,
snakes and serpent-hooded canopies over the image of the Naga deities
are enshrined. Bas relief of snakes on stones, iron
chains, twisted iron rods, tridents etc. may also be present in the
temples. The iron chain called sangal is said to be an
exact copy of what is depicted in the hands of the Egyptian deity
Osiris.  Sacrifice is one of the main characteristics of the Naga
cult. Most of the traditions associated with the subterranean sources
of water invariably speak of human sacrifice, particularly the

The temple built in the heart of village, are the hubs of the village
community life. All types of community activities - religious,
social, cultural and even political - came to be
performed in the temple yard.