Scythian or Saka (Sakae)?

A fallow bay mare (3+ years of age) – used to pull Sakra’s chariot (Photo by Helena Lopes)


“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, 
ourselves, and the world around us.”
  |  Socrates 

This page is dedicated to collecting information that is available on the peoples mentioned in the title. Consequently, it is A WORK IN PROGRESS. By the way, Shakya, like in Shakyamuni, is another name for Saka. One of these days Merriam-Webster must revise its definition of Saka.

Saka  noun

Sa·​ka | \ ˈsäkə \ plural Saka

Definition of Saka: any of various nomadic peoples formerly inhabiting the steppe lands north of the Iranian plateau

Merriam-Webster

When I first started researching and speculating on the Saka tribes in the historical novel, CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES (pp. 183-192), there was hardly much information on the Saka-Scythians. I did, however, rely on the DNA research that, undoubtedly, led to an explosion of interest in these collective, ethnic people, not to mention archeological findings. The current prevailing research on them is that they originated in the Altai region. The Altai Mountains (where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan converge) have been identified as being the point of origin of a cultural enigma that arose during the Bronze Age around the start of the 2nd millennium BCE if not earlier and led to a rapid and massive migration of peoples from the region into distant parts of Europe and Asia. The reason to believe they likely originated from the Altai region is a cultural commonality: These “Scythians/Saka possessed advanced metal working technology and an unexplained rapid migration. These nomads traveled on horseback (domesticated ca. 4000-3500 BCE) and later, once urbanized, moved about on two-wheeled chariots. In addition, similar patterns of burial sites with similar bronze artifacts (ca. 2300-1700 BCE) have been found across northern Eurasia, including Korea and Japan.

As for the Shakya derivative, there is a lot of ancestral references in Tibetan Buddhist literature, which I wish to explore. The search for the ethnic origin of Siddhartha Gautama (alias Buddha Shakyamuni), whose birth date is controversial, was originally thought to have been born ca. 700 BCE (however, the birthday has been posited based on astrological mapping and historical references—ca. 1887-1807 BCE). (It should be noted that, when the British came up with their timetable of Indian history, they imposed the Biblical interpretation of origin.) This journey into ancient history is only a hobby; it is not an academic venture although academic literature has been digested to understand the existing body on the subject matter.

[The following images are without captions because slideshow software does not accommodate them. Essentially, as you read, they will gain meaning.]

Origins: Geographers and historians claim that, between the Altai Mountains and the Sayan Mountains (north of Altai in Siberia), a civilization existed during the time of the Egyptian pyramids if not earlier. They even call that region as “the cradle of civilization” where humans could survive. It was an area in which the stability of the area made it possible for them to populate to the point that there was possibly a need to migrate. They left behind thousands of petroglyphs, cave paintings, burial mounds, upright man-made stones, steles, and other ancient monuments.

Archaeological materials of Bronze Age, monumental sculptures, and rock paintings show the complexity of the religious beliefs of the tribal entities that inhabited the territory of the Altai Mountains (ca. 6 millennium BCE – 9 century BCE). They allow to see elements of Indo-European mythological tradition, images of shamans, and spirits of patrons. Iconographic images associated with unique motifs related with early Buddhist subjects are found in Tibetan Buddhism as well, which originated on the basis of pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet Bon, also known as Yundrung Bon (“tradition of eternal wisdom”), such as the swastika.

The swastika (“Higher Self Being Good” in literal Sanskrit) appeared in the archaeological record around 3000 BCE in the Indus Valley. It also appeared in the Bronze and Iron Age cultures around the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. In all these cultures, the swastika symbol had a marked position or significance with varying complexity. More than likely, it was the symbol of the revolving sun, infinity, continuing creation, and auspiciousness. For example, in Hinduism, it is the solar symbol of Surya (aka Vishnu). In Buddhism, it represents the whole enlightened mind of the Buddha.  Over time, this ancient symbol became the most common symbol in its varying interpretation throughout the world and found in the art of the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Celts, Native Americans, Persians, and the like. Swastikas on pottery and other household objects found in China suggest that the swastika traveled with traders and with the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia.

The various clans and tribes inhabiting Altai represent a synthesis of several religions and cultures that developed over time, two of which are reflected in funeral ceremony and the arts during the Scythian period between 8-2 centuries BCE. Scythian/Saka cultures mixed shaman, Zoroastrian, and Buddhist ideas. The symbiosis of Indo-European and shamanic burials are vividly presented in the funeral ceremonies in Altai Pazyryk barrows (burial mounds). Despite high degrees of religious beliefs and differences of that period, the tribes preserved the cult of fire, sun, ancestors as well as elements of magic and witchcraft. In addition, archaeologists have found strands of human hair sewn into skin, nails and various charms at the Pazyryk site. There is also archaeological evidence that confirms the presence of special techniques of ecstasy, ritual fumigation, and the use of the enigmatic ritual drink “soma” in religious practices. No one has yet to come up with the recipe except that milk, opium, and cannabis were in the mix.

Borders over time expanded and contracted. This map illustrates one of many such maps.

Keep in mind that the Scythians/Saka cultures had many similarities, yet not identical. Also keep in mind that the Scythians/Sakae, basically, were a loose federation of semi-nomadic clans and tribes with advanced technologies to boot (e.g., gold, copper, and bronze metallurgy and pastoralism). All Sakae were Scythians, but not all Scythians were Sakae. What was similar was weaponry, horses, bridles for horses, bow and arrows, chariots, jewelry, decorative arts, cattle, and the like. Eventually their cultures were subsumed into other renamed peoples—such as the Cimmerians (Gimirrai), Elamites, Amazons, Massagetae, Thracians, Sarmatians, Parthians, including early Slavs, Balts, and Finnic peoples (as for Vikings, the term really was an occupational designation rather than a people), Amyrigians, Homodotes, Komedes, Kaspians, and the like. They spoke Indo-Iranian languages and dialects rooted in Sanskrit. Eventually, they were referred to as the nomadic eastern or western Scythians of the Eastern or Western Steppes, respectively. As for the semi-nomads that remained in Asia and Asia Minor, they eventually became known as Aryan or Shakya.

Early Saka Tigraxauda/Haumavarga occupation

Nonetheless, Darius I (Darius the Great; TIB. Dareyawes) of the Achaemenid Empire, who reigned from ca. 522-486 BCE, recorded at Mount Behistun in Iran that the Sakae people comprised of four tribes. For Darius I, it was like conquering the last frontiers. He identified the Sakae as follows: (1) Saka haumavarga (the Soma drinkers), (2) Saka tigraxauda (with pointed caps), (3) Saka tayai para draya  (likely from the regions between the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea, including the land between its main tributaries—the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya (thus the name Aryan (alias aryas) comes into play), and (4) Saka tyal para Sugdam (beyond Sogdiana). Under Xerxes I (ca. 518-465 BCE), many were employed as troops who helped capture Athens ca. 479 BCE along with others as named in the image below.

Due to the pointy-hat phenomena preserved in ancient sculpture and existing attire throughout history, it is almost safe to say that the Saka tribe described by Darius I is Saka tigraxauda (aka TigraKhaudi, aka Massagetae, etc.), were known for the pointed hats. They were located east of the Caspian Sea. However, all Saka wore “pointed-hats” of varied sorts. One such group was referred to as TigraKakud who wore horned headdress and were the gold miners mining the northern lands (Jammu-Kashmir), but it also is likely that the Saka para Sugdam (Saka beyond Sogdiana) and the Saka para draya and Saka haumavarga are in the mix when identifying the pre-Vedic civilization of Harappa (named after the current locality and aka Sapta Sindhu or Indus Civilization), and finally the Aryan presence (likely the Saka para draya) into the Indian Continent. Nonetheless, most scholars believe that the Saka tigraxauda and the Saka haumavarga were located east of the Caspian Sea, but they do not recognize that those “pointed hats” made it to Tibet. The Saka para Sugdam were likely those who resided in the Tarim Basin (ca. 7th century BCE) in modern-day Xinjiang, China. (They were called Sai in Old Sinitic, and in the Chinese Book of Han, the area was called the “land of the Sai.”) At a later date, after they were driven out of the valleys between two rivers, the Ili and Chu, they continued to occupy the remaining area east of Bactria and Sogdiana known as Sacae, including the Pamir Mountains.

The Achaemenid Empire under the rule of Darius I at its expansive height

Regarding the pointy hats, here is evidence of such people, beginning with Naram-Sin:

Naram-Sin of Akkad

NaramSin of Akkad reigned from 2254-2218  BCE. His headgear was pointy or horned. In addition, he claimed that he was the King of the  Four Quarters and the King of the Universe, a likely reference to the Altai mythology of Mount Meru. He was the first to claim himself ruler over the pantheon of Gods. He reigned from 2254-2218 BCE and conquered territory also included upper Mesopotamia as far as the Mediterranean Sea, Anatolia (Turkey, Syria, Armenia combined), later to be conquered by the Achaemenids.

Nabonidus portrayed on the Harran Stele
Asurbanipal

Nabonidus of Babylonia (ca. 556-539 BCE) was called the King of Babylon, Sumer, and Akkad. He was the last “indigenous” monarch to rule the Second Babylonian Empire (aka Chaldean and Neo-Babylonian Empires). His mother was the daughter of the Assyrian King Assurbanipal (ca. 648). Moreover, the maternal grandfather to Nabonidus’s son was Nebuchadnezzer II.

Nebuchadnezzar II and depiction of the great ziggurat (the Etemenanki) to his left
Persian Empire ca. 500 BCE
Magian (ca. 559-330 BCE)

When Cyrus the Great chose the site of Persepolis (ca. 515 BCE) as his ceremonial capital of his Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550-330 BCE), to celebrate the first month of the Iranian solar calendar, marked by the spring equinox (Aries), many of the bas-relief figures on the entrance walls to the complex were mostly Saka tigraxauda. When his reign ended with the destruction of Persepolis by Alexander the Great whose military campaign moved eastward towards the Indus Valley, there were written encounters of Alexander’s army meeting up with warring Saka tribes of Bactria, Sogdiana, and Arachosia.

CHOICE Traces of Saka references in Tibetan Buddhism

The most important holy month for Tibetan Buddhists is Saka Dawa (Saga Dawa), which is dedicated to “making merit.” Thus, it is referred to as the “month of merits.” Dawa means “month” in Tibetan, and “Saka” or “Saga” is the name of a star prominent in the sky during the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar when Saga Dawa is observed. Saka Dawa usually begins in May and ends in June with the new moon. According to American journalist and author, Barbara O’Brien, merit is understood in many ways in Buddhism. We can think of it as the fruits of good karma. In early Buddhist teachings, the three grounds of meritorious action are generosity, morality, and mental culture or meditation. Since the lunar month begins and ends with the new moon, the full moon day that falls in the middle of the month is Saka Dawa Duchen (duchen means “great occasion”). This is the single most holy day, for it commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death (paranirvana) of Buddha Shakyamuni.

Mount Meru: Is it possible that the word “merit” is derived from the word “Meru?” According to Buddhist and Hindu mythology, the abode of the gods and devas where the universe began is known as Meru (Mount Meru) made of copper or gold. Thus, the earthlings seeking favor from the gods/devas behaved appropriately to garnish merit so that their lives would be auspicious. They knew in ancient times that planets and Sun orbited around something, in this case, Mount Meru.

In particular, for Tibetan Buddhists, Mount Meru is considered, metaphorically and allegorically, the center of the universe, much like the Hindu belief that it is the center of the universe. However, for Buddhists, Mount Meru was surrounded by a body of water and that water was encircled by the wind and included 31 different planes of existence residing on the mountain, each one with its own style of life form and worlds (their understanding of the evolutionary process). Mount Meru was considered so high that it touched the heavenly expanse, and the polar star shone (alias Saka) directly above the mountain, giving it a more sacred appearance. In addition, it is said that the River Ganges came to the mountain as one river. Once it hit Mount Meru, the Ganges divided itself into four separate rivers. Also, there are four cities, one for each side of the mount, filled with inhabitants.

Indra/Sakra. This is the period of time when Indra (aka Sakra or Sakka that means “mighty one”) was the one lord of the heavens who lived at the peak of Mount Meru while four other celestial kings lived one of each side of the mountain. The Mount extended to the southern continent, Jambudvipa where Siddhartha Gautama was born and which itself is divided into four continents.

As the chief god of the heavens and of the East, Indra (alias Sakra) is mentioned in the Rigveda, a collection of Vedic hymns (ca.1900–1200 BCE if not older). In the Tibetan text, Vajra Sky, Indra is mentioned as Sakra along with Brahma, Vishnu, and the Wrathful One [Shiva]. An interpretation of these reified godheads is that they are not persons but titles of positions. In this case, the position bestowed upon Indra later on was the “King of the Devas.” They are not reified as having any permanency, for once the zeitgeist (my term) dissolves or dies, the energy is inferred onto another. Numerous Rigveda hymns refer to Indra such as “the friend of mankind who holds the different tribes on earth,” for example.

When it comes to Tibetan Buddhism, Indra wields a powerful weapon, the Vajra, a terrifying light-throwing and destroying  thunderbolt. When depicted with four arms, Indra holds two spears. He and his wife, Shachi, ride a white elephant and are associated with lions. Imagine the stampeding sounds of elephants and the roar of lions. Other epithets assigned to Indra are as a god of war as well as a god of wisdom and magic, including the power to cause heavy rains, the rivers to flow, and beneficial rainfall for agriculture. Indra was known as the King of Svarga (or Svargaloka), which was one of the seven heavenly realms and also which was associated with Anu, Sumerian ruler of the heavenly abode. In Buddhism, Indra is Vajrapani, “Devender and Protector of Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and Who Embodies the Five Wisdom Powers,” and of the modern-day Vasava of Gurajat (mostly agricultural laborers with husbandry).

Varja.| Skilled craftman Tvashtr who made the vajra for Indra and who made many implements such as the axe, chariot, and cup that served soma

In Tibetan Buddhism, the vajra is also the symbol of Vajrayana (“Thunderbolt or Diamond Way”) teachings that implies the experience of enlightenment or bodhi—indestructibility of a diamond, which is harder than other gems or skillful means of spiritual practice. Somewhat similarly, in Hinduism and Jainism, the vajra is considered the most powerful tool, representing spiritual resolve and power.

According to Finnish professor of Indology, Asko Parpola, the Sanskrit vajra and the Avestan (language of Zoroastrian scripture) vazra refer to a weapon of the Godhead, and are possibly from the Proto-Indo-European root *weg’ that means “to be(come) powerful.” It is related to Proto-Finno-Uralic vaśara, “hammer, axe.”  Both the Sanskrit and Finno-Ugric derivatives, however, are likely Proto-Aryan or Proto-IndoAryan. Moreover, it is cognate to the ukonvasara of thunder god Ukko from Finnish mythology, and the mjolnir of thunder god Thor from Norse mythology.

The most famous accomplishment of Indra’s worth to the earthlings was his slaying of the malevolent snake (naga, an asura) named Vritra, the demon of drought. Fitting to the mythology of the time, Indra drank an immense volume of Soma, the drink of immortality, to gain the necessary strength and set off to fight Vritra. Indra stormed Vritra’s fortress and dragged him out. A terrible battle ensued. Finally. Indra destroyed Vritra with his thunderbolt Vajra, cutting Vritra’s belly open and releasing all the water to flow back to the world. Thus, Indra brought back life to the world and was hence named “King of the Gods.” Not only do we have Varuna, sky deity, reduced to a demigod with similar epithets as Indra, Indra is mentioned in hymn 7.86 of the Rigveda and is attributed with the characteristic of  “Satya” (“truth, dharma“). What we see here is a change in etymology of the root word saka, sakya, shakya, sakra, saketa….

TRACES IN THE AVESTA AND RIGVEDA LITERATURE….

Now, let us get a sense of the time period that this is recorded in history and let us look at the linguistic origin of the word “Arya[n]” as well as the word “asura.” Both word are terms related to the Indo-Iranian people and is pre-Zoroastrianism. It should be noted, too, that those who compiled the Rigveda were writing about people who existed also before 12,000 BCE.

Hymn 1 mandala manuscript of the Rigveda

Estimating that the Rigveda could be as old as 1900 BCE, the oldest part of the books are ten Mandalas (“circles”) or “books”. Mandalas 2-7 are the oldest part of the Rigveda, which comprise 38 percent of the entire text. Within the Mandalas are hymns dealing with a particular deity. In this case, Agni (the Fire God) comes first; Indra comes second, consisting of 25 percent of the hymns, etc. The ninth mandala is entirely dedicated to Soma and the Homa ritual (Yajna).

Bas-relief on cylinder seal of Cyprus the Great, depicting Agni as well as Saka warriors

The following is a brief overview of Agni, the fire god in Jainism, Hindusim, and Zoroastrianism. Apparently, Agni is described as a bird-like being that carries fire from the gods to the earthlings who also brings an elixir of immortality (Amrita). Some ancient Indo-European hymns refer to Agni as the “heavenly bird that flies.” He played a role in being the guardian deity of the southeast direction, which aptly portrays the relationship between homa and soma in the Rigveda. Later on, Agni was renamed Azur as the Fire God and son of Ahura Mazda (King of the Gods, the symbol of purity, redemption, and wisdom) in Zoroastrianism.

It is also written that Agni was the first force to bring light into the universe, thus creating night and day as well as personifying the ultimate source of the “creator-maintainer-destroyer” triad  and then the one who ruled the earth, possibly confused with Indra. After all, he was the twin brother of Indra (Agni is ascribed many epithets and synonyms throughout the 1,028 hymns (over 200 hymns or 1/3 of all hymns) in the Rigveda).)

This bird-like being became a standard of Cyrus II of Persia (epithet of Cyrus the Great or the Elder; ca. 600-30 BCE). Nonetheless, fire has been an important element in human culture since the Acheulian culture of the Old Stone Age (ca. 790,000-300,000 years ago). The earliest archeological site is at Jacob’s Ford on the upper Jordan River where a number of bridges were built, using fire.

Ninurta pursues Anzu

Right image of bas-relief: For stealing the Tablet of Destinies, which conferred upon god Enlil supreme authority as ruler of the universe, Anzu is pursued by Ninurta with his thunderbolts.

Anzu, another bird-like entity related to Agni in ancient mythology, is referred to as the “Heavenly Eagle” (Akkadian)); aka Imdugud (“Heavenly Wind”(Sumerian), or Ansuk or Zu). Anzu was also associated with thunderstorms and was later connected to the lion due to the roar of the thunder. Eventually, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythologies, he was personified as the southern winds and thunder clouds and also as a half bird and half man who stole the Tablet of Destinies from Enki (chiefly, the Sumerian god of water and creation) and hid it on a mountaintop. Among other ancient poems, Anzu is mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Allegorically, Anzu survives as a griffon in ancient Greek and Roman times. In medieval Christian heraldry, the griffon symbolized divine power and protector of the divine. Associated with Agni, Anzu is also reminiscent of the ancient Greek and Roman griffins and Arimaspians (horse-lover tribes rather than the propaganda term “one-eyed” tribes) who were associated with gold deposits of Central Asia—of the Riphean, Carpathian, and Ural Mountains. (The griffins laid eggs in burrows, which were gold nuggets (thus, somewhat reminiscent of the Aesop’s fable, “The Goose that Laid Golden Eggs”). Historically, the Scythians knew where to find the gold, and they were the miners and artisans of gold. In fact, Enlil was also was one of the Anunnaki (princely offspring of Enki).

Bottom right image shows Enki wearing a cone-shaped hat with horns, representing also the Annunaki, one of them coming out of the gold mine as Anzu awaits to protect the gold (ca. 2300 BCE, Sumeria (ca. 2300 BCE) (A mythology referred to them as Giant Ants.)

Though names of empires and of territories changed throughout the centuries and millennia, one thing was slow to change—the unfashionable peaked headgear and lofty attributes of human consciousness, aspirations, and existential emotions.

Returning to the mythological legend of Indra in “Milk Ocean Churning,” he is portrayed in a primordial battle between forces. There was a period in which there was coexistence among the Indus Valley tribes whereby urban and rural lifestyles were symbiotic. But, perhaps by population pressure, opportunistic power struggles, and/or wanderlust, things changed for Indra. This is when Indra needed to retain his power and kingdom. Nevertheless, his power was supplanted with the rise of Zoroastrianism, causing earthlings to no longer respect Indra’s powers. At this point, the earthlings are experiencing a schism among themselves as to their belief systems. 

As the heterodox legend unfolds of a schism between two Saka factions occupying the Mesopotamian region, Indra turns to Brahma for counsel. Brahma becomes the principal deity for one side (the Vedic deva), and Asura Mazda becomes the other side (Asura founders). Nonetheless, Brahma told Indra to look for Amrita (the elixir of immortality) in the Milk Ocean (the Milky Way). This was an extraordinary undertaking to get help from the other principalities. As the allegorical legend unfolds, the principalities of good (representing the northern sky) and evil (representing the southern sky) came together to use the cosmic mountain Mandara (located next to Meru) as a stirring stick and the serpent Vasuki as a rope. With these two tools, they stirred and churned the Milk Ocean for a long time.

The Milk Ocean became a catastrophic flood that not only submerged animals and plants but also the princely treasured possessions and Amrita. A dangerous poison, kalakuta, came to the surface, which the Lord Shiva had to swallow to prevent the world from total destruction. . At first animals and plants were drowned in the increasing roar, then milk emerged from the frothed water, which gradually turned into butter through the constant stirring. After a while, a dangerous poison, kalakuta (a death potion such as mercury), came to the surface, which Lord Shiva had to swallow to prevent the destruction of the world. After that, various treasures surfaced from the Milk Ocean (which, with all the churning, produced butter)—such as, to name a few, Indra’s mount, Lakshmi (the first maternal cow), the Parijat (Jasmine) tree, and Dhanvantari, the Ayurveda medicinal doctor, holding the container of the elixir Amrita. (Perhaps this is the conflated Indus-Vedic memory of a great flood at the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago.)

Move arrow to see full illustrations: The loss of coexistence within a complex, multifaceted, civilized society

Finally, once the Amrita was found, one faction wanted it for themselves; however, Vishnu (sitting on the top of Mandara) intervened by turning into the enchantress, femme fatale Mohini, using the illusion of Maya. Taken by the beautiful appearance of Mohini, they forgot the elixir long enough for Vishnu to make the other faction to regain immortality. From this primordial, episodic event, enmity divided the peaceful existence among the fractioning of the Saka tribes. The prevailing earthling players changed the trinity—Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva. Eventually, Krishna supplanted Shiva while Ahura Mazda was supreme among the Zoroastrians.

The images of the “Milk Ocean Churning” above illustrate the opposing forces of devas and asuras. Each exchanged roles as power-seeking versus benevolent tribal clans.

The chart below portrays how these events were allegorically portrayed among the Saka descendants of the Indus Valley population who understood valid cognition. It was, and still is, all about the inner exploration of selfhood rather than the material world that is the universe. It appears they knew then that the mind has always governed the material world.

AllegorySymbol
IndraPersonal ego
Goals of good and badPositive and negative forces within our personalities
Integrated good and bad goalsHarmon for self-realization (psychosynthesis into a harmonious whole)
OceanThinking consciousness
Mount MandaraConcentration
Serpent VasukiWishes and desires (e.g., for immortality) and selfishness
Poison KalakutaSuffering and pain (e.g., mental pain and inner turmoil)
MohiniClouded mind with pride and delusional worldly concerns
Shiva swallowing the poisonDeveloping spiritual courage, will, discipline, willingness, simplicity, truthfulness, detachment, compassion, pure love, abstinence….
TreasuresPsychic powers gained through spiritual progress as side effects
Medicinal doctorSpiritual success; true-self realization
Amrita (Soma)Immortality

Of the known four tribes of Saka people, the “Aryan” is most studied but misunderstood. As for the so-called “Aryan race,” it is mythology to identify with an ancient people whose name meant “pure” and “chaste” (i.e., the “Aryan Race of Nazi Adolf Hitler”). There was no widespread ethnic connotation prior to the 19th century CE. The self-designated Aryans saw themselves as a conglomerate of peoples of Saka, Persians, Elamites, and the like who eventually shared a spiritual vision and from which came the Zoroastrian faith that includes current aspects in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This Indo-Iranian group of people split on spiritual grounds.

The “Aryan Invasion Theory” has been discredited in recent times as serving a political racist agenda by certain radical westerners. After all, the self-designated Aryans were among the Saka tribes described by Darius the Great in his Behistun Inscription. When the Saka “Aryans” migrated into India, they did it peacefully, comingling with the society made up of various groups of people similar to them, which was unique. In fact, the only self-identifying “Aryan” (very likely, Saka tayai para draya) were themselves a minority on the Iranian Plateau between ca. 1900-1500 BCE and were in no position to mount an invasion. However, their religion did come into discord with the rise of Zoroastrianism.

It was during the time that the Indus civilization began to decline (ca. 2000-1600 BCE) that Indra is referenced in the Rigveda accounts (ca.1700-1100 BCE). He was known to imbibe soma a lot due to rituals made on his behalf. But when the Vedic culture formed in opposition of the prevailing Indus culture, the powers of deities changed. In the Vedic literature, Indra is a celebrated god but later replaced by Shiva. In the Avestan texts, Indra became a demon. There is no mention in the latter texts that heroic Inda kills the demon Vritra.

The members who composed the Zoroastrian scriptures, the Avesta, which Alexander the Great mostly destroyed during his conquest of Darius III of Persia, called themselves Aryans (Airya and Airyan). In the Rigveda, composed by the other faction, the Vedics, also called the Zoroastrians Arya and Aryan. This shows that the peoples of the Avesta and of the Rigveda were closely related, and they spoke two dialects of the same language. These Sakae groups moved westward before they returned to their previous lands in the East. The Vedic followers applied the “Aryan” designation to themselves as well. After all, in the Rigveda, Indra was attributed the characteristic of “satya” (truth, dharma). The word Aryan become more of an identity of personhood rather than a tribal identity. Ancient Sanskrit scripture writes that the “Aryan people are led by the divine grace” (praja arya jvotiragrah). To deserve such an honorific designation, which meant “noble” and/or “pure,” the person had to work for the equality of all and be dear to everyone.” Moreover, a child born among them was not an Aryan until born in spirituality, around the age of 15 (sort of the equivalence of being born again, new life, or twice born).

Mazda worship supplanted the deva worship of the Indus-Vedic culture. From the Saka Aryan Land, he preached to re-establish the old Mazdayasni faith (aka the Mazdayasni AhuraTkaesha) by seeking change through reason, wisdom, and empowerment of the downtrodden, in other words, a populist.

Asura (left) and Deva (right) Conflict

In the Rigveda, the initial relationship between the asuras and devas was one of coexistence, but gradually become one of competition. Nevertheless, some of the asuras were invited to become devas (i.e., Indra invites Agni and Varuna to become devas (Rigveda 10.124 and verse 5, respectively). Recalling the Milk Ocean, co-existence ended as soon as the amrita was recovered when the devas took possession of it, breaking their promised to share half with the ausras, stealing the asuras’s share and consuming the Amrita that gave the principal devas immortality. In effect, the devas’s belief system overwrote the asuras’s and became exclusive.

Periodically, the Aryan-Indra (deva) worshippers and the Aryan-Mazda (asura) worshippers would win dominance over the other throughout their cultural and religious history until their separation into the nations of India and Iran, respectively.

Though Zoroastrian asura worshippers reckoned themselves more as having a religious origin, their ethnicity was Saka. The adjacent shows how they spread throughout the Near East and Middle East.  Primarily, these Saka were Parsee traders who became established and rich with trade, developing the original Silk Roads. They spread throughout the Near East and Middle East.

The schism between the AryanIndra (deva) worshippers and the AryanMazda (asura) worshippers, the latter managed to drive out the deva worshippers from the upper and lower lands of Aryan lands (to include former Sakastan, Bactria, Hindu-Kush, Sogdiana, Pamir, and other surrounding areas). It led to religious wars in which the deva worshippers prevailed only to have the asura worshippers counterattack. Eventually, the asura worshippers migrated westward into what is Iran (Persia) as recorded in the Avesta and Rigveda. Modern-day Asura worshippers are the Parsee (who fled to India from Muslim persecution in Persia during the 7th–8th centuries). Human nature at work, two behaviors were involved—kings and ruling groups seeking power and religious advisors seeking influence to cause animosity and control. Eventually, the deva worshippers migrated south across the Hindu Kush mountains into the upper Indus valley (former Saka territory).

REVISITING CULTURAL DIFFUSION FROM THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION

There are several speculations as to the original Saka (including SakaAryan lands). As documented in several sources, their historical ancient land had many mountains, valleys, and pastures that supported cattle (domesticated ca. 6000 BCE). The land was rich in waters, deep lakes, and wide rivers while being mountainous with alpine measures and fertile, well-watered vales. It smacks like the ancient Indus Valley, which is now in Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Chandigarh, and Uttarakhand.

The Indus civilization (alias Indus-Sarasvati and Harappan Civilization, including Mohenjo Daro) formed first as an agricultural community ca. 7000 BCE in the valley of the Indus River while some of the nomadic clans remained hostile towards these farmers. By this time, the farmers had domesticated cattle, thus a mixed economy of farming and cattle herding coexisted. As the population grew between 40,000-50,000 strong, the growth began with the first towns that were formed ca. 4000 BCE; the seed cities formed ca. 3700 BCE, reaching their peak period ca. 2000 BCE. By this time, the population is thought to have been five million! However, there is a discrepancy in the dating of their peak period when scientists found evidence at the second largest encampment, Dholavira, in Goa, India, of large, 59-foot-wide walls that were built 5000 years ago (ca. 3000 BCE) to protect against encroaching tsunamis. They dispersed ca. 1600 BCE for any number of reasons, one of them being population pressure. The civilization grew from along the banks of the Indus River to all directions outward. Many sites have been found—for example, near the border of Nepal, in Afghanistan, on the coasts of India, and around Delhi. In fact, this Indus civilization may have predated the Early Dynastic Period ( ca. 3000-2675 BCE) of ancient Egypt.

During this span of time, domestication of animals had become instrumental in their development. The first animals to be domesticated were sheep and goats ca. 8000 BCE, followed by cattle ca. 6000 BCE. Finally, the horse was domesticated ca. 4000 BCE.

Indus script first appeared around 3700 BCE when the first cities appeared in the Indus Valley. When the script became more developed, it was during the period that urbanization reached its peak period (ca. 2600-1900 BCE), which was read from right to left. By ca. 1800 BCE, the script started to disappear. Vedic literature describes its homeland on a long lost river called the Sarasvati, which, according to Vedic descriptions, flowed east of the Indus from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. When the Vedic culture in Northern India took hold, a new script was developed ca. 1600-1500 BCE known as the Brahmi script with similar Semitic adaptations as the Indus Kharosthi language.

Indus Valley Script
Kharosthi language

Reflected on the Indus Valley seals, there was already domestication of the bovine, reindeer, and Indra’s favorite mount, the elephant. There was a high level of artistic sophistication as these squared, stamp seals appeared on pottery, bronze tools, stoneware, bones, shells, ladles, ivory, small tablets made of steatite; and they were made of bronze and copper. Chiefly, made of steatite, these stamp seals were also made out of a smooth glassy-looking material, silver, faience, and calcite. What is particularly unique in the Indus seals is the artistic symmetry of their logo-syllabic script where the script is on the top and the animal is centered immediately below. It should be noted that some of the Indus valley seals show swastikas, a sacred symbol, which are still used in Buddhist, Bon, Jain, and Hindu iconography.  

What characterizes the Saka clans and tribes was their sense of spirituality in that, though they were great traders and conquerors, they were more interested in their relationship in understanding the mysteries of the universe or divinity and achieving such divinity, according to Indologist, Dr. Puneet Gupta (aka expert Dr. Gupta Harappan Code). They labeled things and consequently developed the proto-Sanskrit during the ancient Indus Valley civilization that portrayed astrology/astronomy, medical achievements, balance with their environment, and the like.

With regards to the Sakae’s first migration from the Indus Valley, they migrated around 1700 BCE when the Indus Valley civilization was at its peak. Zoroastrian scripture was developed, in part, by retaining various aspects of Sumerian and Indus Valley religions at different locations and times. For example, in the Avesta, an Aryan (asura-worshipper) was one who who adhered to the path of Light rather than Darkness (e.g., a translation—”the one is the path of Asha (“Truth”); all others are not paths”). When Buddha Shakyamuni spoke about the Four Noble Truths (the aryamarga), he also used the word arya to mean “noble,” (i.e., to be worthy of assent and respect (“exalted”)).

So what became of this expansive civilization after ca. 1800 BCE? According to Vedic texts, the Sarasvati River had dried up by ca. 1900 BCE, causing the surrounding townships-cities to move away. Evidence seems to point to climate change—the drying up of Sarasvati River and her tributaries, the path change of monsoons—and a decline in trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia when these peoples had their own survival challenges. There is no indication of flooding, and the cities were not completely abandoned.

There are a number of prominent features of the Indus religion—the Great Mother Goddess (Shakti; female sexuality is deeply ingrained in Indus religion and ideology), a Great Male God, and veneration of animals. Also, there are important depictions of the phallus (linga) and vulva (yoni), and the importance of bath and water in religious practice, which are predecessors of the Vedic culture. Also excavated is the “Proto-Shiva” or “Proto-Brahma” (as the great creator) that depicts a male character sitting in a yogic position on a dais and surrounded by animals, including fire altars and swastikas. These provide evidence of Indic ideology that was subsumed by the Vedic culture that followed. The spiritual foundation of the Vedas cannot be divorced from the earliest civilization of the Indus Valley region.

Indra and his Seven Horses

And who were they? Unlike the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, they were not early builders of temples, palaces, or monumental structures, and no names of kings or queens or stele or royal statuary. Before being inhabited, their city planning followed a grid pattern. As an early advanced civilization, houses had flush toilets; a sewer system; air conditioning provided by a wind-catching device attached to roofs, a courtyard with a great public bath. There was early use of irrigation techniques and canals. There were flat-bottomed boats to engage in trade. Originally, the wheel was developed for cattle-drawn carts. By this time, Devanam Indra is riding a chariot led by horses (Ramayana Book 4 Shloka 103 Indra’s Chariot). But more important is the evidence of conformity to a single visions; they standardized bricks, stone cubes, and roads widths. There was no standing army. By the time Cyrus II of Persia invaded India in 530 BCE, the Indus civilization had already fallen. I prefer to say, its ingenious culture had been distributed over a wide area of influence very early.

A parallel civilization was developing at the time of the Indus Valley civilization (alias Harappa) known as the Oxus civilization (alias Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex (BMAC) ca. 2250-1700 BCE; aka Mohenjo-Dare and Allyn-Depe)) with similarities to the proto-urban settlements of the Indus Valley. In fact, many archeological artifacts from BMAC show evidence of trade between the two civilizations. The trading colony ca 2000 BCE, Shortugai, on the Amu Darya (aka Oxus) River illustrates the presence of the Indus Valley civilization, which was a source of lapis lazuli jewelry from the lapis lazuli-copper mines located there and other valuables—seal of a rhinoceros motif and script, clay models of cattle with carts, clay models of horses, pottery of Indus Valley design, and the like. Also found was evidence of farming and irrigation canals from Indus Valley technology. Within this region (aka Transoxiana) between the rivers Amu Darya (aka Oxus) and Syr Darya (aka Jaxartes), there was much migration to the north and to the west from the Indus Valley ca. 3200-2000 BCE. Nonetheless, what became known as Aryan Land (Airyana Vaeja) was established between these two rivers that flowed southeasterly.

SURVIVING SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS: Homa and Soma and the Wind Horse

As mentioned earlier, in the Rig Veda, the entire ninth mandala is dedicated to homa and soma.

Homa, the Fire Ritual: Though Homa was very much a part of the Vedic culture, such fire altars were found in the earlier Indus Valley culture. To this day, the present Zoroastrians, such as the Parsees (Parsis) use fire as a focus of worship.

Although referred to as a “sacrifice ritual,” rooted in the Vedic religion (as yajna), it is more like a “votive ritual” in which the fire is the agent and the offerings are symbolic material to appease the deities. It spread from India to Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia and was adopted by Buddhism and Jainism in ancient times. Even current-day Buddhists in parts of Tibet (referred to as goma), Japan, Siberia, and China; and modern-day Jains make such fire offerings.  Among Buddhists, large-scale ceremonies often include multiple lamas, chanting, the beating of Taiko drums, and the blowing of conch shell (horagai) around a mandala with fire as the ceremonial focus. Homa (TIB. goma) rituals are featured widely in Tibetan Buddhism and Bön that are linked to Buddhas and tantric deities.

Soma, the Ritual Drink: Soma is described as an elixir (attributed in some records as amrita) that turned the skin of the imbiber a yellow gold (as an association to the Sun people) that was personified by a deity of the same name Soma who is associated with the Moon. It was highly praised in one of the Rigveda Mandala hymns. The closest and possibly credible description of the soma drink is derived from the fermented milky sap extracted from the Asclepias acida, a climbing plant which thrives in mountain areas. It was praised as sweet and empowered Indra to be victorious in taking on enemies. Some theories include  hallucinogenic mushrooms, honey, cannabis, blue lotus, milk, saffron, and pomegranate. Soma in Sanskrit literally means “distill, extract, and sprinkle.” It is surmised that it is a drink prepared by pressing the stalks of a plant and offered to Indra for blessings

According to Dr. Srinivasan Kalyanaraman, archeologist-anthropologist at Pune, India, it was noted that Maujavata soma was being traded ca. 4000 BCE by, albeit of Saka origin, were Tocharian speakers (naming themselves as Yuezi (from the north and east of the Caspian steppe)). They had initially migrated out of the Indus Valley to settle in Gandhara. These Saka-Tocharian are thought also to have moved to Mt. Mujavant (in Kyrgystan) and to Xinjiang (currently, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China). They traded in soma sticks (made of pyrite or flint) which could make fire. These sticks were deemed as expensive as gold and was bartered in exchange of animal as well as gold. More than likely, these pyrite products where used in homa ceremonies, thus the name soma sticks. The migration of the Saka-Tocharian was due to trade technology meeting the needs of the religious-spiritual cultures that reached into Xinjiang communities of small towns.

Fire pyre of modern-day Zoroastrianism

According to the alchemical treatise, Rudrayamala Tantra, Dr. Kalyanaraman noted that, to make soma, it ad to be digested hundred times with the juice of plantain leaves and then steeped for three days in oil, clarified butter, and honey after which it was heated strongly in a crucible that yields its golden-hue essence. In some ways, it conflates the pyro-sticks with the ritual drink soma, because part of the alchemical treatise describes the process of smelting gold.

Nonetheless, the homa and soma go together in oblations toward deities. It should be noted, however, that, when deities play a role in spiritual practice, the essence sought is how to realize the true nature of reality. That is the alchemy of immortality to be discussed briefly below.

Vedic soma is equivalent to the Iranian haoma. Thus, the Saka referred to as haoma drinkers are the Saka haumavarga. (It should be noted that modern laboratory analysis of archeological artifacts, the analysis found traces of opium and cannabis in the gold drinking vessels (Turpan, Xinjiang, 6th century BCE).)

Apparently, the Saka haumavarga and Saka tigraxauda of the pointed hats were the keepers of the alchemy of immortality. My take on this mystery is as follows:  These two Saka tribes were “joined at the hips” as keepers (vajra holders) of the secret technology of soma and homa, which was kept hidden in Oddiyana and in Kashmir for some time. It is inferred that ancient Kashmir received its name from Kashyap(a), one of the ancient seven maharishi (sages) mentioned in the Rigveda. Originally, it was known as the “lake of the sage Kashyapa” (“Kashyapa Mir“) in a valley that had to be drained to make it habitable.

Rishi Kashyapa is credited to have composed Mandala IX of the Rigveda, regarding soma and homa that were discussed earlier. As in any alchemical literature, the symbols of letters and words are metaphorical. Even the sound of “Ah,” (“A,” the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet) is the symbol for the “sun.” As for the dharmic technology of soma and homa that has survived to this day, it more than likely originated in Kashmir from Kashyapa with Kundalini yoga (the yoga of awareness) and the Six Yogas of Niguma, a psycho-physical, yogic discipline to attain spiritual emancipations, wisdom, compassion, and enlightened awareness at the time of death to achieve immortality.

Three main chakras in Tummo

Simply summarized, the body is used as a distilling device. In this yogic practice, the body is visualized as an empty vessel or container. The breath of the pranic body is used to light a flame (homa) in the central energy channel where the heat of that flame rises. The flame invigorates soma as an etheric substance that travels upward through the subtle energetic pathways to the top of the head and that eventually causes the dripping drops from the amrita at the top of the head to melt, like the melting of gold. Then the amrita travels downward to, and reside in, the heart chakra. Once at the heart chakra, the amrita transforms into a very subtle consciousness to experience an unbroken stream of bliss or joy flows, giving rise to the the beyond-conceptuality mind. Distorted emotions are self-pacified, and wisdom is induced.

Needless to say, the ritual and liturgical schemas to hold this knowledge intact can be explained emblematically. For example, in Kashyapa’s words as a non-dual meditator, he speaks illustratively: “Undisturbed am I, undisturbed is my soul, undisturbed mine eye, undisturbed mine ear, undisturbed is mine in-breathing, undisturbed mine out-breathing, undisturbed my diffusive breath, undisturbed the whole of me… In close embrace, Indra holds Soma when poured within the jars. And on the purifying sieve, Indra sends forth a voice on high to regions of the sea of air, shaking the vase that drops with mirth. The Tree whose praises never fail yields heavenly milk among our hymns, urging men’s generations on. The Wise One, with the Sage’s stream, the Soma urged to speed, flows on to the dear places of the sky….From Kala [Time] self-made Kasyapa, from Kala Holy Fire was born” (from Atharvaveda and Rigveda).

The Zoroastrian deity of fire, Azar, spoke of the holy fire as a burning and unburning fire and as a visible and invisible fire, referencing the outer visible fire and the inner body heat. Lastly, gold as soma is that gold reflects infrared light that one cannot see but interacts with heat, which interacts with our molecules, making a good heat shield as in tummo (the inner heat yoga) in Buddhist Vajrayana practices.

Reconstruction of a Saka-Scythian horse
Saka-Scythian artifact from Kazakhstan-Berel Kurgan

The Wind Horse: Needless to say, the horse played a major part in the Sakae cultural diffusion from the Indus Valley Civilization. In general, the Scythians brought horsemanship to a new level in the Eurasian steppes, including horsebreeding. Referred to as horselords, they were initially horse-riding nomadic pastoralists and covered an impressive spectrum of workmanship in warfare and of land mass. They bred the horses with robust forelimbs to withstand long winters. Their horsemanship invented new technologies such as the recurved-tip archery bow, protective helmets and clothing, shields, the phalanx formation, fish-scale armor, and the llike. They also had a penchant for cannabis. However, there was a spiritual side to how they saw the swift horse.

In Bon and in Tibetan Buddhism, the horse symbol has significance as a dynamic fundamental principle of life and the cosmos. Basicially, the swift horse was the expression of basic goodness. As such, this self-existing energy of goodness is called the “wind horse” in Shambhala teachings. This “wind” is strong, exuberant, and brilliant that radiates tremendous power in one’s life. This goodness can be harnessed and ridden but never tamed. The Tibetan word for “windhorse” is lungta, whcih carries several levels of significance. However, the popular understanding of the lungta, albeit limiting, is that it conveys “good fortune” or “luck.” As a prayer flag, the wind that the galloping horse makes blows the prayer flags to bestow such blessings to everyone.

The “Windhorse” on Prayer Flags

There is a deeper meaning to the “windhorse” in that the “wind” rides the horse just as the breath is ridden by one’s subtle consciousness. The concept becomes metaphical. The horse is the energy of the vital breath; hence, life itself. The notion of “goodness” is the inseparability of wisdom and compassion as the natural state of the world, its inhabitants, and the entire scope of phenomena that is innately without conflict and replete with basic intelligence such as an awakened mind.

REVISITING SEVERAL KNOWN MIGRATIONS

Several maps have been provided to show how names of peoples and territories changed over time with an eye on the Sakae-Scythians.

Bas-relief from Yazilikaya found in Hittite territory (Anatolia, Corum
Province of Turkey (Anatolian people

from ca. 1700-1200 BCE)

Basically, the Indo-Scythians were a branch of Sakae who originated from southern Siberia into ancient Bactria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Gandara, and the current territories of Kashmir, Punjab, Gujaret, Mahanashtra, and Rajasthan well into fourth century CE. More aptly, a genetics map shows best how the Sakae’s DNA Haplogroup R1a migrated over time. Current archeological discoveries consider the traditional lands of the Sakae to form parts of present-day Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Modeern-day Map of Haplogroup R1 Distribution

At some point prior to 3000 BCE, a groups of Indo-Iranian (alias IndoAryans) migrated southwestward to the southern region of ancient Persia (near the ancient city of Susa). In time, the regional became known as Ariana and Iran. Some scholars claim they came from the Ural Mountains of Russia while others postulate that they migrated from the Aral Sea and the Syra Darya and Amu Darya Rivers, likely places were there would be settlement supported by recent archeological sites. As Aryan lands or as a nation, they were called Airyana Vaeja or Airyanam Darhyunan in the Avesta; in the Rigveda, they were called Arya Varta. However, those boundaries shifted as noted on several of the maps posted.

Aryavarta literally means “abode of the Aryas,” the area of the Indian subcontinent settled by various “Aryan” tribes and where Aryan religion and rituals predominated. The boundaries of Āryāvarta changed over time, characterized by the influence of Brahmanical ideology after post-Vedic times. The Manu Smriti defined the area as “the tract between the Himalaya and the Vindhya ranges, from the eastern (Bay of Bengal) to the Western Sea (Arabian Sea).” The Vasistha Dharma Sutra (oldest of the sutras ca. 500–300 BCE) locates the Āryāvarta to the east of the disappearance of the Sarasvati River in the desert, to the west of the Kālakavana, to the north of the Pariyatra (aka Sanapada) Mountains and the Vindhya Range, and to the south of the Himalayas.

At some point in time, the Saka tayai para draya moved eastward from the Caspian Sea and the Saka beyond Sugdam from the Pamir Mountains moved into the northern region of the Indian Continent, bringing cultural changes that transpired after their exodus from the Indus Valley. They joined with the remnants of the Saka populations from the Indus Valley of yore who retained the traditional spiritual values, which have survived in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. In fact, the Sanatan Dharma followers recognize that Sanatan Dharma is an alias for Arya Dharma.

About a thousand years after the diaspora of people from the Indus Valley Civilization (ca. 1600 BCE), the Vedic period of SakaAryans took hold in the northern subcontinent of India. With that came a change of the pantheon of deities: The main Indus deities were Indra (aka Sakra), Brahma, and Vishnu; under the Vedic influence, of the top 33 deities were Indra, Agni, and Soma, which changed to Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra, etc. At one time it was Mitra, Varuna, and Aryaman, etc., retaining both devas and asuras. For example, during the 1400 century BCE, the favored asuras were Varuna, Mitra, and Mazda and the favored devas were Indra and Nasatyas. Somewhere in these transformations, Shiva, God of Waters, swam into the picture while Shakti (Goddess protector of villages, ca. 9000-8000 BCE) was dominant during the Indus Valley Civilization and somewhat present among modern-day adherents. Nonetheless, these newcomers into the subcontinent retained the pluralistic structure of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Early Vedic (proper left); Late Vedic (proper right) Periods – ca. 1500-500 BCE

The first time one of the Saka tribes was written about in Indian literature was during the reign of King Sagara of the Ikshvaku Solar Dynasty of the Kshatriyas. King Sagara was a descendant of progenitor Rama lineage who took back his country from the invading Haihayas and Talajanghas. On the advice of the family priest Vasishtha, he released them from captivity. Among the captives were the Saka (Parādas, Viṣṇupurāṇa) who had to shave half of their head, distinguishing them from the others. They were all called Mleechas (non-Vedic) and driven out into uninhabitable terrains such as mountains and deserts.

Another well-known, recorded king of the Saka is King Maues (alias Moga, ca. 98-57 BCE) who gained power in Gandhara and gradually extended his rule over northern India by conquering key cities such as Taxila.  (Taxila had great influence on Hindu culture and the Sanskrit language and founded by Rama of the Sun Dynasty (Early Harappan period ca 2900 BCE).) In so doing, he established the Saka hegemony by conquering Indo-Greek territories once formally established by Alexander the Great, extending control up to modern-day Mathura, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Other Saka kings ruled thereafter.

Much of King Maues’s legacy survived via coinage. Maues struck some coins incorporating Buddhist symbolism, such as the lion, a symbol of Buddhism since the time of the Mauryan king Ashoka the Great of the Gonandiya Dynasty of the Kashmir region and who was also a descendant of the Rama Sun Dynasty . The symbolism of the lion had also been adopted by the Buddhist Indo-Greek King Menander II. Maues, therefore, probably supported Buddhism whether sincerely or for political motives is unclear. His coins also included a variety of other religious symbols such as the bull of Shiva, indicating wide religious tolerance. (The symbol of the lion represents royalty, stateliness, and bravery.)

Sakestān (“the land of the Saka“) is a historical and geographical in present-day Eastern Iran (modern Sistan/Baluchestan provinces) and southern Afghanistan (modern Nimruz, Helmand, Kandahar) was formed ca. 3000 BCE. Old Perisian text referred to this land as Zranka (“wetland”) and the territory as Zaranka. But, there was another name for the Saka tyaiy para draya; it was Ariya in Old Persian or Arya in Persian or Indian in the Rigveda. It had connotation such as “pure,” “chaste,” and “honorable” to this day.

Based on the Bhagavata Purana that was compiled during Siddhartha Gautama’s time (ca. 1887-1807 BCE), the Solar dynasty or the Ikshvaku (aka Aikṣvākaaka, Suryavamsa, or “Descendants of the Sun,” was a paternal lineage that reigned from ca. 3138-1634 BCE. Siddhartha Gautama was from that lineage, and Surya is symbolized by the sun. Later on, Surya was transmutted to Vishnu.

(As a sidebar, it appears that the Moon dynasty (aka Soma Vamsha) was established by the maternal lineage of the “Descendants of the Sun.”)

King Suddhodana was also a descendant of Rama (reference to the ancient Indus Valley civilization known also as the Rama Empire), the 138th king in the Solar Dynasty of one of the Sakyan tribes, who ruled over Kapilavatthu, and was Siddhartha’s father. Siddhartha and his son Rahula abdicated from belonging to the Indian caste of Kshatriya, comprising of rulers and warrior aristocracy.They were descendants from the warrior lineage Mahasammata (of the “solar race”). They underwent extensive military training, probably from Taxila, to become experts in archery, swordsmanship, and hand-to-hand combat. We know that Siddhartha had to prove his skills in archery, horse riding, and swordsmanship in a tournament before he could marry Yasodhara.

As an aside, the Sanskrit word Sakadāgāmi means “sainthood,” and many later kings of the Indian subcontinent claimed to be of Suryavanshi descent.

During the Kosala Kingdom, King Okkaka of the Solar dynasty had sons who reigned Saketa (“a place where God resides”), established the Shakya capital Kapilavastu, and formed the state Sakya Ganarajya, according to a Mahavastu Buddhist text.

The Shakya (aka SakyaSākiya, SakkaŚākya) inhabited an area in Greater Magadha, situated at present-day southern Nepal and northern India, near the Himalaya, and formed the independent oligarchic republican state of Sakya Ganarajya. Both geographically and culturally, the Shakya embraced Buddhism and Jainism, which were, under the laws of Manu, considered non-Vedic and non-Aryan regardless of the fact that the divinities, concepts of enlightenment, and mythical stories were similar to the Vedas. The Sakyans were criticized because “they do not honor, respect, esteem, revere, or pay homage to Brahmans.” Needless to say, the Brahmans (priests as the most upper class of the Vedic caste system) opposed Buddha Shakyamuni, a former kshatriyan who was allowed under the Vedic law to study the Vedic scriptures but not teach them.

When the Saka Aryans first came to India, there was no caste system, which evolved during the the Rigvedic Age, the Later Vedic age, and the age of the Sutras or Upanishads. However, these early Saka Aryans had class divisions for economic and social organization; and unlike the caste system, the class divisions were not hereditary.

A lesser known ancient history is that of the Sakae of the Elamite Empire (ca. 3200-539 BCE), the remains of which correspond to the modern-day provinces of Ilam and Khuzestan in southern Iran (including parts of modern-day southern Iraq) along the Persian Gulf. During their proto-Elamite Period (ca. 2700 BCE), they were already uniquely-accomplished artisans and traders with the Indus Valley Civilization. The Babylonians referred to these people as the “House of Khumri” or “Gimirri” (part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (perhaps the reason why the story of Job was retained in the Book of Genesis)). The “House of Khumri” was named after the Israelite King Omri (ca. 8th century BCE). According to linguists, “Khumri”, “Omri”, and “Gimirri” are phonetically similar. In Persian and Elam, they were Saka. The Gimirri (aka Cimmerians, Beth-Khumirii of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of Israel).

Upper end of Black Obelisk (left image) and Israelite King Jehu bows before Shalmaneser III (right image)

In recalling the Behistun Stone of Darius I, the Behistun inscriptions were written in three languages—Babylonian, Elam, and Persian. The Babylonian word “Gimirii” meant “Saka” while Saka remained the Elam and Persian names for the same people. There is also the Black Obelisk in which the conquests of Assyrian King Salmaneser III record the names of two Israelite kings—Ahab (871-851 BCE) who was defeated and Jehu (842-814 BCE) who willingly yielded to Assyrian rule. In the 8th century annals of both King Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II, the northern Israelite tribes are mentioned as the “Khumri.”

By the 6th century BCE, the Gemirii, as the Israelites of Elam called themselves, moved in large number to the area around the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, settling the areas of Phrygia and Uratu (modern-day Armenia). The Greeks called them Germirians or Trerans (a Cimmerian tribe). For more information, click here. See below a video on the Elamites and check out the following minutes into the video: 7:41, 11:50, 19:20, 20:06, 21:22, and 22:04 for some commonality of Scythian-Sakae pointed hats.

Current Distribution of R1a DNA Haplogroup

Another name for Sakae are the modern Jats. It can be said that all Jats are Sakae. Several researchers have written books on the Jats, namely, E. Pococke, India in Greece, tracing the migrations from India to north western countries, and Hukum Singh Panwar, The Jats: Their Origin, antiquity and Migrations (1993). Revisiting the genetic distribution of Haplogroup R1a, one can locate the Jats. For more information, see link.

The following are entymological derivatives of “Sakae”:

Saka or Shaka or Shakya in Sanskrit | Sakka in Pali | Sakka or Sakya or Sakha in Prakrita | Saki, or Sikki or Siki in Sumarian | Sakae or Sakai in Latin | Scyth or Skyth or Scooth or Scuthoi in Greek | Saxon (Sakason) in English | Sakka or Sakkan or Sakknah in Arabic | Saka or Caka or Sacoe or Saku in Persian | Sse or Sce or Se or Su or Sai or Sek or Saiwang in Chinese | Sok in central Asiatic languages | Skol or Sokol or Skolot in Scythian | Ashkuzai or Ashkuz or Ashkenaz or Sukuz in Assyrian | Anunnaki in Hebrew

One can almost say that the cradle of civilization was the Indus Valley Civilization and not Mesopotamia, apparently.

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