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Tokharistan and Gandhara under Western Türk rule 650-750


Ethnic groups and languages

The kingdom of the Kabul Shahis was multiracial, inhabited by many different peoples. A considerable part of the population was composed of sedentary speakers of: (i) Middle and Ary languages, Late Bactrian, - the Afghan language; and (ii) West Iranian languages in the Middle Iranian and New Iranian phases – Dari or Persian. Sanskrit and Prakrit were widespread. A large group of the population used Indo-Iranian Dardic languages as their mother tongues. Of the aboriginal languages of the east of the region, the linguistically isolated Burushaski should be mentioned. Of particular importance are the Türks (see Chapter 14), who brought their language from the depths of Central Asia. Information is given below about those ethnic groups and languages not discussed in previous chapters.

The origins of the Tajiks and of their language lie in remotest antiquity. According to the crament Iranologist Lazard:

The language known as New Persian, which may usually be called at this period by the name of dari or parsi-i dari, can be classified linguistically as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official, religions and literary language of Sasanian Iran ...

New Persian belongs to the East Iranian group (Afghanistan). In its phonetic and even its grammatical structure, New Persian had changed little from Middle Persian. Its vocabulary had changed, however, because New Persian drew heavily on the East Iranian languages, especially Sogdian, and also on the Turkic languages and Arabic.1 Middle Persian was widespread in Khurasan and some parts of Middle Asia, partly promoted by the Manichaean movement. At the time of the Arab conquest, New Persian had already appeared in Tokharistan. According to Huei-ch#039;ao (writing in 726), the language of Khuttal – one of the most important domains of Tokharistan, located in the south of modern Tajikistan – was partly Tokharian, partly Turkic and partly indigenous.2

In connection with the events of the first third of the eighth century, the Arab historian al-Tabari relates that the inhabitants of Balkh used to sing in the New Persian (Tajik) language. It is quite possible, therefore, that a third (#039;indigenous#039;, according to Huei-ch#039;ao) language was current in Tokharistan in addition to Tokharian and Turkic. If that is the case, Parsi-i Dari would appear to have been in use in Tokharistan as early as the sixth and seventh centuries. After the Arab conquest, the Dari language also spread to other parts of Middle Asia and Afghanistan. Much later it divided into separate Persian and Tajik branches, and a third branch is sometimes identified too – the Dari that is the contemporary New Persian language of Afghanistan. Some 30 million people speak these languages today. Like its close relatives Persian and Dari, Tajik has a rich history documented by literary sources. The wealth of literary and scientific writings created in the Middle Ages in Parsi, the literary language that is common to both the Tajiks and the Persians, is a cultural asset of the peoples of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.3

The Tajiks emerged as a people in the ninth and tenth (or perhaps the tenth and eleventh) centuries, but it was not until the first third of the eleventh century that the term #039;Tajik#039; began to be applied to them. That too was when Tajik (Persian) literature was founded, and its first great representatives lived and worked in Middle Asia.

Although the origins of the Afghans lie in very ancient times,4 the first mentions of the Afghan people appear only in the sixth and seventh centuries. The Brhat-samhita (XVI, 38 and XI, 61) speaks of the pahlava (Pahlavis), the svetahuna (White Huns or Hephthalites), the avagana (Afghans) and other peoples. On his return journey from India, the Chinese pilgrim Hsüan-tsang travelled from Varnu (possibly modern Wana) to Jaguda in Ghazni, crossing the land of A-p#039;o-k#039;ien,5 a word derived from Avakan or Avagan, meaning Afghans. In Islamic sources, the first reliable mention of the Afghans is found in the Hudud al-calam, which says of a settlement on the borders of India and the Ghazni district that ‘there are Afghans there too#039;. Mention is also made of a local ruler some of whose wives were Afghan women.6 The Afghan language, or Pashto, is one of the East Iranian groups. Among its characteristics, it contains a stratum of Indian words and its phonetic system has been influenced by Indian phonetic systems, which is not the case of other Iranian languages. There are approximately 23 million Pashto-speakers in Afghanistan and Pakistan today.7

The mountains in the east of modern Afghanistan and the north of modern Pakistan were settled by Dards. They were known to the ancient Greek authors, who used several distorted names for them: Derbioi, Durbaioi, Daidala, Dadikai and Derdaios.8 In their descriptions of India, the Puranas speak of the Darada in the same breath as the inhabitants of Kashmir and Gandhara. They are repeatedly mentioned in the Ramayana and the Saddhar-masmrtyupasthana, together with the Odra (the Uddiyana). In Tibetan sources, the Darada are known as the Darta.9

There are two groups of languages that are now generally known as Dardic. The first are the languages of Nuristan (a region of Afghanistan): they form an #039;individual branch of the Indo-Iranian family belonging neither to the Indo-Aryan, nor to the Iranian group#039;. The second group of languages (particularly the Dardic) are #039;part of the Indo-Aryan [group], though far departed in their development from the latter#039;. The two groups, however, have much in common in their #039;structural and material features [phonetical, grammatical and lexical]#039;.10 The Nuristani languages include Kati, Waigali, Ashkun and Prasun (or Paruni) and are chiefly spoken in Nuristan. The Dardic languages proper include Dameli, which is the link between the Nuristani languages and the Central Dardic. According to one classification, the Central Dardic languages comprise Pashai, Shumashti, Glangali, Kalarkalai, Gawar, Tirahi, Kalasha and Khowar. The Eastern Dardic group is divided into three sub-groups containing the Bashkarik, Torwali, Maiyan, Shina, Phalura and Kashmiri languages. In the early 1980s Dardic languages were spoken by 3.5 million people in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, of whom 2.8 million spoke Kashmiri, some 165,000 spoke Khowar and some 120,000 spoke Pashai. The Nuristani languages were spoken by around 120,000 people.11

Burushaski is a completely distinct language: it stands at the confluence of three great families – the Indo-European, the Sino-Tibetan and the Altaic – but belongs to none of them. Its speakers live in northern Pakistan, in the region of the Hunza and Vershikum rivers, and number around 40,000. The language#039;s morphological structure is very rich and the verb has a particularly extensive system of accidence. Burushaski is one of the oldest tongues, but its place in the system of ancient and modern languages remains obscure. Although a literary tradition may well have existed in the early Middle Ages, when Buddhism was widespread, no literary records have been found, which hampers attempts to reconstruct the language#039;s past. There have been repeated attempts to trace its affiliations, and links with the Caucasian, Dravidian, Munda, Basque and other languages have been suggested, but from the standpoint of contemporary linguistics the case is not conclusive. Burushaski was unquestionably more current in ancient times and occupied a number of regions where Dardic languages are now spoken and where Burushaski acted as a substratal or adstratal foundation. Grierson has even postulated that speakers of Burushaski or related languages once inhabited all or almost all the lands now held by Dardic-speaking tribes.12


Writing systems and literature

We have considerable information about the literature and writing systems Of the period. Hsüan-tsang reports of the writing system of Tokharistan:

In the composition of its language [Tokharistan] differs somewhat from the remaining realms. The number of letters in its script is 25, they combine to form various combinations and with their help all may be reproduced. The script is read horizontally, from left to right. Literary works are composed in great quantity and exceed the Sogdian in volume.13

This refers to the Late Bactrian writing system (for its development and writing, see Chapter 6), which persisted in some parts of Tokharistan as late as the twelfth century. With time, changes obviously occurred in the Bactrian language and its various written records may reflect different dialects.14 The script became increasingly cursive, some characters were identical in shape and some had several meanings (this is particularly true of the ligatures), making the script difficult to decipher.

Among the more famous written records of Late Bactrian (sometimes called Hephthalite) writing, mention should be made of two cursive inscriptions carved on rocks in Uruzgan (north-west of Kandahar in Afghanistan). According to Bivar, who published them, one speaks of a king of Zabul called Mihira(kula) and dates from around 500,15 although other scholars (Henning and Livshits) suggest a far later date in the eighth or ninth century. The Bactrian inscriptions in the Tochi valley of north-western Pakistan are very badly preserved. The Tochi valley also has Arabic and Sanskrit inscriptions from the first half of the ninth century. The text of the Bactrian inscription, which is very cursive, cannot be read with confidence: Humbach#039;s proposed reading is completely rejected by other scholars.16

Inscriptions have also been found on sherds and walls in Middle Asia (at Afrasiab, Zang-tepe and Kafyr-kala among others). Hsüan-tsang#039;s account suggests that many more manuscripts existed than have yet been discovered. Nevertheless some have been preserved in East Turkestan, in the Turfan oasis.

Brahmi manuscripts are known from Sir Aurel Stein#039;s discovery of the Gilgit birch-bark manuscripts, which were immured in a stupa some time between the fifth and the seventh century. They include a Pratimoksa-sutra, a Prajñaparamita and others. A mathematical manuscript found near Peshawar, the Bakhshali manuscript (see below), may date from the end of this period.17 Other birch-bark manuscripts have been found in Zang-tepe, 30 km north of Termez, where fragments of at least 12 manuscripts have been found. One of them bears a Buddhist text from the Vinaya-vibhanga. A fragment of birch-bark manuscript bearing a text of apparently Buddhist content has been found at Kafyr-kala in the Vakhsh valley. Mention should also be made of the Buddhist birch-bark manuscripts found at Merv and nearby at Bairam-Ali. The latter find consists of 150 sheets, both sides of which bear a synopsis of various Buddhist works, written in Indian ink. It was compiled for his own use by a priest of the Sarvastivada school.18 Sanskrit manuscripts of varied content, including medical materials, and dating from different periods have been found in the Bamiyan valley (see also Chapter 18).19

It was during the late eighth and early ninth centuries that the Sarada script was developed on the basis of Brahmi. In Afghanistan, two marble sculptures have been found with inscriptions which ‘represent transition scripts from Brahmi to Sarada’20 and which date from the eighth century. The origin and chronology of the #039;proto-Sarada script [are] far from being certain and [are] still open to speculation#039;.21 In this regard, some materials from Bamiyan are of interest.

The Bakhshali manuscript is written in Sarada script and was copied by five scribes, the chief of whom was Ganakaraja. It appears to have been a commentary on an earlier mathematical work and contains rules and techniques for solving problems, chiefly in arithmetic but also in geometry and algebra. The standard of knowledge in this field is indicated by the fact that the work treats square roots, geometric and arithmetic progressions and so on. Grammars are also known. #039;The oldest work of this school of grammar known to us is by Durga Simha who flourished in about 800 A.D. and has written a commentary entitled Durgavritti and a Tika of it.22

Cities, architecture and art

The capital of the state of Kapisa-Gandhara (possibly, its winter capital) was Udabhandapura, now the settlement of Hund, situated on the right bank of the Kabul river. Most of the city was surrounded by a defensive rampart. Later, in the Islamic period, it formed a square and its total length measured 1.3 km. Each side had a central gate fortified with bastions. Traces of older fortifications have been discovered and there is also a well-preserved section of the old wall some 20 m long. Around the fortified portion, the remains of buildings have been found, indicating the great extent of the town.41

Although Balkh remained the capital of Tokharistan, there were many other large towns that acted as provincial centres. One of them, the Vakhsh valley centre now known as Kafyr-kala, has already been described (see Chapter 6). In this period, the city was characterized by a radical restructuring of the palace and residential quarters.

Individual structures, including palaces (Kafyr-kala), castles (Balalyk-tepe, Zang-tepe, etc.), houses (Kala-i Kafirnigan) and, of course, Buddhist buildings, have been studied in considerable detail. Here we shall concentrate in Ajina-tepe (Fig, 2). This fully excavated Buddhist monastery consists of o halves that made up a single complex of religious and residential buildings, each half occupying an area of 50 x 100 m. The south-eastern half, which formed the monastery proper, consists of a quadrangle of buidings around a square courtyard. In the centre of each side is an aiwan (hall) and behind it a cella. The cella on the south-eastern side contained sculptures, including a 4-m-high statue of the Buddha, placed on figured pedestals. The other cellas were large halls, which served both as assembly rooms for the sangha (monastic community) and as refectories. The aiwans were linked by winding, vaulted corridors from which passages led off into tiny cells. Some or all of the complex was two-storied.

The second part could be called the temple. Its overall layout was identical, but there were no cells for the monks. In the central shrine there was a vast quantity of Buddhist sculptures on pedestals, or on the floor between. In each wall of the long, winding corridors there were three or four deep-set niches (Fig. 3), in which large statues of the Buddha sat in varied posed. At the end of the final corridor was a gigantic pedestal taking up almost an entire section, on which was a 12-m-high statue of a recumbent Buddha in Nirvana (Fig. 4). The vaulted ceilings of the corridors, and their walls, were covered in paintings and there were also paintings in the shrines (Fig. 5).

The entire centre of the courtyard was occupied by the main stupa, which was star-shaped in plan and and accessed by four staircases, one in the centre of each side. In the corners of the yard were miniature stupas of the same type, some ornamented with reliefs depicting small human figures (Figs. 6-10).42 Buddhist temples have also been found in Kala-i Kafirnigan (where some excellent paintings and sculptures have been preserved) and in the palace complex at Kafyr-kala. Overall, there are grounds for speaking of a Tokharistan school of art, related to, but not identical with, the art of central Afghanistan.43

Bamiyan has already been described in Chapter 6. Here we shall say a few words about the Fundukistan complex, which has been ascribed to the seventh century.44 The part that has been excavated includes a shrine and, linked to it by a vaulted passageway, another area consisting of several monastic cells, an assembly hall and other communal rooms. The shrine is in the form. of a square hall with three deep vaulted niches along each side: it appears that there were originally just two on the entrance side. Between the niches are pilasters with Corinthian-style capitals. In the centre of the shrine there was a slender stupa with an arcade on each side of its pedestal. The building material consisted of large-sized blocks of pakhsa. Clay statues stood in the niches, whose surface was lined with murals. The art of Fundukistan is characterized by vivid colours, bold foreshortening and elegance: although it betrays a powerful Indian influence, there is also a certain similarity with the art of Ajina-tepe and Kala-i Kafirnigan (Figs. 11 and 12).

Buildings of the late period at Tepe Sardar, near Ghazni, are of similar date. In this large Buddhist monastery complex, the main stupa is surrounded by many miniature stupas and shrines, ornamented with clay bas-reliefs. There were several colossal statues of the Buddha, including one seated and one of the Buddha in Nirvana. In one shrine, which is in the Hindu style, a clay sculpture of Mahishasuramardini (a form of the Hindu goddess Durga) was found. Thus a Hindu element was inserted within the Buddhist context. It is thought that this shrine is linked with the upper classes of society.45 The remains of a Hindu shrine have also been found in Chigha Saray (or Chaghan Sarai) in the Kunar valley, dating from the eighth or ninth century.46

Hindu art is also represented by finds of marble sculpture such as a Shiva and Parvati (Umamaheshvara) from Tepe Skandar 30: #039;It is carved from one block of white marble and represents the four-armed, three-eyed Shiva seated on Nandi, flanked by his consort Parvati and Skanda standing at the left side of his mother.’47 The group stands on a pedestal with two steps. On the upper step there is a three-line inscription in a transitional. script between Brahmi and Sarada. It cites Shiva as Maheshvara.48 Another fine example of Hindu art is a marble statue of Surya from Khair Khanah:

The piece can be divided into upper, middle and lower parts. In the centre of the upper part is Surya, flanked by Danda and Pingala. In the middle part is the driver Aruna holding the reins of two horses whose backs are shown as they veer upwards to the right and left. The lower part is the pedestal.49

A whole series of other marble Hindu sculptures dating from this period has been discovered.50 Taken together, they indicate a powerful Indian influence and the spread of non-Buddhist Indian religions.51

Coinage

The coinage not only differed considerably from region to region, but was different in each of the provinces of Tokharistan. In what is now southern Tajikistan three variations of cast copper coins with central holes circulated: (i) coins of Tokharistan with legends in late cursive Bactrian (Hephthalite) script; (ii) coins with Sogdian legends; and (iii) coins without legends. Particularly noteworthy are the local imitations of Peroz drachms, some countermarked with Sogdian legends, which remained current as late as the mid-eighth century.37

In the part of northern Tokharistan that is now the Surkhan Darya region of Uzbekistan, different varieties of coins circulated. In Chaganiyan, silver coins of the Sasanian shabanshah Khusrau I (531–579) were common because Khusrau#039;s conquests had extended to this region. Subsequently, imitations began to be struck. Interestingly, both genuine coins and imitations were countermarked, some with a cursive Bactrian legend of the ruler#039;s name, others a miniature portrait and others again with a symbol (tamgha). Sometimes the same coin was countermarked several times, with one impression on top of ther. Later, copper coins of the local Chaghan khudat dynasty began to be issued. On the obverse was a portrait copying Khusrau I, in the margin three portraits of the Chaghan khudat and on the reverse a fire altar. On some coins the obverse bore a Bactrian legend; sometimes it merely carried the title khidev (ruler) or #039;Khnar (or Enar) the khidev#039;. There were also copper coins bearing the likeness of the ruler and his consort. These are the characteristic coins of the Sogdian and Turkic states. Unlike similar coins from Chach (modern Tashkent) and Sogdiana, they bore a non-Sogdian inscription and another symbol.

In Termez, copper coins were struck bearing a portrait of the ruler on the obverse, and a symbol of a different shape from that used in Chaganiyan on reverse. This coinage was probably issued by the local dynasty of Termez-shahs.38

Although the coinage of Afghanistan and Pakistan has not been studied in such detail, issues of Vrahitigin (or Vahitigina) should be noted. These were silver coins (probably struck in the late seventh century) bearing the bust of ruler and inscriptions in Bactrian and proto-Sarada, the meaning of which was #039;Caused to be made by Sri Hitivira Kharalava, the Supreme Lord Sri Vahitigina the God#039;. On the reverse is a divinity crowned with a flame and a Pahlavi inscription. The ruler#039;s crown comprises a wolf#039;s head, indicating Turkic affiliations, while the divinity replicates the images on coinage of Khusrau Il (590–628). Coins of this kind are found in the Indus valley, in northern Pakistan and in Afghanistan, including Kabul. Humbach39 has suggested that Vahitigina is the same as Barhatakin, the founder of the Kabul Türk dynasty, of which al-Biruni reports, #039;The Hindus had kings residing in Kabul, Türks who were said to be of Tibetan origin.#039; Sachau40 suggested that this name derived from the Hindu Brhatkina or Brhatketu (for linguistics, see pages 375–6 above).


The provinces and their rule

According to Hsüan-tsang, in the year 629 Tokharistan (Tou-ho-lo) measured approximately 1,000 li from south to north and some 3,000 li from east to west. He reports:

For many centuries past the royal race has been extinct. The several chieftains have by force depended for the security of their possessions upon the natural divisions of the country, and each held their own independently, only relying upon the naturaldivisions of the country. Thus they have constituted twenty-seven states divided by natural boundaries, yet as a whole dependent on the T#039;u-chüeh tribes [Türks].23

Later reports paint a somewhat different picture. From the year 718 we have another Chinese report (see page 371 above). The yabghu#039;s younger brother ruled over Po-lü (probably Baltistan but possibly Gilgit). The capital of the #039;dominion of the yabghu of Tou-ho-lo [Tokharistan]#039; was in the vicinity of modern Qunduz.24 T#039;ang chronicles report that the state of Tokharistan had a #039;select host of 100,000, all expert in battle#039;.25 In Khuttal alone, there were reportedly 50,000 troops.26 The rulers (muluk, pl. of malik, in Arabic sources) of some provinces bore specific titles. In the state of Uddiyana (valley of Swat), #039;by custom people are not killed. Serious crimes are punished by exile, while trivial offences are pardoned. There are no tributes or taxes.’27 There were reportedly 5 cities in this state and the ruler lived in the city of Chu-meng-yeh-li.28 Use was made of trial by ordeal. The ruler took decisions only after consulting the priests.29 In 745 the ruler of Kapisa was also the ruler of Uddiyana.30 Earlier, in 726, a kinsman of the ruler of Kapisa was the ruler of Zabulistan.31 Earlier still, in the time of Hsüan-tsang, 10 provinces were under his rule.32 Thus, in the seventh century, Kapisa was a very powerful state.

In the state of Bamiyan, #039;the literature, customary rules and money used in commerce are the same as those of the Tukhara country [Tokharistan]. Their language is a little different.’33 The ruler of Bamiyan had a large and powerful army34 and bore the title #039;sher-i Bamiyan#039;, while the ruler of Kabul province bore that of ratbil shah.35 The capital of the state, or so al-Biruni bluntly asserts, was Kabul. Against this must be set the account of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Wu-k#039;ung, who visited these parts in the 750s and reported that #039;Kapisi country had its eastern capital in Gandhara. [The] king resided in winter here and in surnmer in Kapisi.’36



1. Lazard, 1971; 1975, pp. 595–7.
2. Fuchs, 1938, p. 452.
3. Oransky, 1988, p. 298.
4. Morgenstierne, 1940; Grantovskiy, 1963.
5. Hui-li, 1959, p. 188.
6. Hudud al-calam, 1930, p. 16-A.
7. Morgenstierne, 1942; Gryunberg, 1987.
8. Francfort, 1985, Vol. 1, pp. 397–8.
9. Tucci, 1977, pp. 11–12.
10. Edelman, 1983, pp. 14–15, 35–6.
11. Morgenstierne, 1944; 1967; 1973; Fussman, 1972; Gryunberg, 1980; Edelman, 1983.
12. Grierson, 1919; Zarubin, 1927; Lorimer, 1935, Vol. 1; 1938 , Vol. 2; Klimov and Edelman, 1970.

13. Pelliot, 1934, p. 50,
14. Gershevitch, 1985, p. 113.
15. Bivar, 1954.
16. Humbach, 1966, pp. 110–17; see Gershevitch, 1985, p. 93; Harmatta, 1969, p. 345.
17. Kaye, 1927; Gilgit Buddhist Manuscripts, 1959–60, Parts 1-2; and others.
18. Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya, 1983, pp. 63–8.
19. Levi, 1932; Pauly, 1967.
20. The Archaeology of Afghanistan, 1978, p. 244.
21. Sander, 1989, pp. 108–12.
22. Pandey, 1973, p. 240.

23. Beal, 1969, pp. 37–8.
24. Enoki, 1977, p. 88.
25. Malyavkin, 1989, p. 68.
26. Chavannes, 1903, p. 200.
27. Malyavkin, 1989, p. 70.
28. Ibid., p. 245.
29. Bichurin, 1950, Vol. 2, p. 270; Chavannes, 1903, pp. 128–9.
30. Enoki, 1977, p. 91.
31. Fuchs, 1938, p. 448.
32. Hui-li, 1959, p. 55.
33. Beal, 1969, p. 50.
34. Fuchs, 1938, p. 448.
35. There is also a view that #039;ratbil is the the result of the corrup scribe of the word Zabul’ (Pandey, 1973, pp. 73–4). In the edition of the Tarikh-i Sistan, the editor reports that the manuscript gives the word ZNBYL, supporting the reading Zunbil. See also Ibn Khoradadbeh, 1889, p. 39, Kohzad, 1950.
36. Levi and Chavannes, 1895, pp. 349–57.

37. Davidovich and Zeimal, 1980, p. 74.
38. Rtveladze, 1987, pp.120–9.
39. Humbach, 1966.
40. Sachau, 1888.

41. Another identification is possible: see Caroe, 1962, pp. 97–8.
42. Litvinsky and Zeimal, 1971.
43. Litvinsky, 1981.
44. Carl and Hackin, 1959
45. Taddei, 1972; 1973; 1974.
46. Van Lohuizen, 1959.
47. Kuwayama, 1976.
48. bid., pp. 381–3.
49. Hackin and Carl, 1936; Kuwayama, 1976, pp. 375–6.
50. For the latest analytical review, see Kuwayama, 1976, pp. 375–407.
51. The Archaeology of Afghanistan, 1978, pp. 291–2.

Haji Mohammad Rahat

Library:

Haji Mohammad Rahat

Author:

J. Harmatta











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