AFGHAN AND AVUKANA PARALLELISM? OPINION OF SOME SCHOLARS
An article written by DENIS N. FERNANDO which he claims he subscribed to
the Mahaweli magazine several decades back has received wide publicity
in the English media newspapers recently. It not only claims that the
Avukana statue is modeled after the recently destroyed Bamiyan Buddha
statue in Afghanistan but that it was a replica of the latter. When used
in reference to iconography a replica has to be an exact copy of the
original in all respects. The writer does not furnish any evidence to
support that it is so. He expects the reader to believe [what he thinks
was the sculptorâ€™s view, namely] that â€˜â€™the aesthetic beauty [of
the work at Avukuna] was so graceful and pleasing that he gave it the
name of the country of origin", which is â€˜Afghanistanâ€™ or its
variation â€˜Avaganâ€™ in Turkish. â€¦The other argument used is the
seeming parallel in the names â€˜Avukanaâ€™ and â€˜Afghanistanâ€™ or
rather its variation in Turkish which the writer calls â€˜Avaganâ€™. [D.
G. B. de Silva]
BELOW WE DISCUSS THE MORE SCENTIFIC ETYMOLOGY OF THE NAME AFGHAN:
ACCEPTABLE MODERN VIEW:
The above views by writers do confirm that the name Afghan or its
equivalent form was indeed in existence much before Prophet Mohammad.
But what was the true etymology and the acceptable logical and
scientific explanation to the origin of the term AFGHAN has not been
satisfactorily explained. It is fashion with numerous modern Moslem
clans these days to link themselves/or trace their origin to Arab and
claim that name Afghan has Arabic origin. But fashion or fad does not
constitute genuine history.
The true origin of name Afghanâ€¦.the more logical, scientific and
reliable view comes from famous scholar of the classics, J. W.
Mcgrindle, who states that:
â€œ The name Afghan however has evidently been derived from ASHVAKAN,
the ASSAKENOIS of historian Arrianâ€ (ref: Mcgrindle in Megasthenes and
Arrian., p 180).
Dr Nand Lal Dey further endorses the above views of J. W. Mcgrindle
(Goeographical Dictionery of Ancient and Medieval India, by N. L.
Front ranking Indian historians and scholar like Dr J. C. Vidyalankar,
in his classical book, â€˜Itihaas Parvesh (An Introduction to History,
1948) also accept that the name Afghan is apparently seem to be evolved
from Aspas or/and Ashvaks of the Sanskrit texts (Ashakayan/ Ashvakan and
Asvayan of Panini).
Phillip Smith states that: â€œSome modern scholars think that Afghan
preserve the name of Assaceni (Curtius VIII, 10, 5.38), Assacani
(Arrian Anab IV 25, V.20) â€œ .
Note here that Assaceni and Assacani of the Greeks are the same tribes
as the Aspasios and Assakenois of the other Greek writers. [These
Asscani/Assaceni and Assakenois/Aspasios are the same as Sanskrit
Ashavak/Ashvakan/Ashvakayan, Asvayan etc mentined in Panini IV-1, 110,
Cf: â€œThe tribes living in the hilly regions in the valleys of Kunar,
Swat and Panjkora valleys have been called Aspasios and Assakenois (from
Iranian Aspa=Sanskrit Ashva). Their Indian names may be taken to be
Ashvayana and Ashvakayana, as mentioned by Panini (IV. 1,110,99). The
coins known as vatasvaka are attributed to these people, who might be
identified with Ashvaka (=Ashmaka mentioned by Panini (IV,1, 173)â€.
[Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, pp 98-100: History and Culture of
Indian People, the Age of Imperial Unity, Vol II, p 45, Dr A. D.
Pusalkar, Dr R. C. Majumdar, Dr Munshi etc.; cf: Ancient Kamboja, People
and the Country, 1981, pp 177178, Dr J. L. Kamboj; cf: These Kamboj
People, 1980, pp118, 119,192].
NOTE THE CLASSICAL TRIBES OF PAROPAMISADEAN REGION: Assaceni (Curtius,
VIII, 16. 5.38), Assacani Arrian Anab. IV, 25,V.20) Arrian treats them
as separate tribes. Strabo distinguishes his Astaceni from the subjects
of Asscenus, Aspasii, Guraei, Masiani and Nysaei. Nysaei are described
as non-Indian while all the rest are described as Indian
tribes[Dictionery of Greek and Roman Geography, 1843/1966, Vol I, p
The CHIEF CITIES are described as Massaga, Peucela, Aornos (Ora), Bazira, Arigaeum, Andaka, Orobatis, Embolima and Dyrita.
Besides the views of the scholars as referred to above, there are
numerous more well known scholars and Indologists like Luis Bishop and
others also accept that that the name â€˜Afghanâ€™ is apparently derived
from Ashvak/Ashvakan/Ashvakayan/Asvayan of Panini/Sanskrit texts.
Further also refer to â€˜Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geographyâ€™: Vol I, 1843/1966, William Smith, DCL, LLD, p 243).
Dr J. L. Kamboj, a distinguished Sanskrit scholar and specialist on
ancient Kambojas, also agrees with scholars like J. W. Mcgrindle, Dr J.
C. Vidyalankar etc who state that name â€˜Afghanâ€™ evolved from
Sanskrit ASHVAKAN, the ASSAKENOIS of historian Arrian. (Ancient
Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, p 118: also cf: K. S. Dardi:
These Kamboj People, 1980, p 192).
[The use of â€˜Oganâ€™ for Afghan has been reported by Sir Rober Scot
in his well known book â€œThe Kafirs of Hindukush, 1895,]
[The term â€˜Awaganâ€™ for Afghan is also is in use in Afghanistan till
date [p 14, Afganistan, its People, its Society, its Culture, 1962, by
Donald N. Milber].
[The use of Avagan for Afghan is documented by Vrahamihira in his Brahata Samhiti, 16.38, as already stated above].
THE FOLLOWING SEEM TO BE THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF ANCIENT SANSKRIT
â€˜ASHVAKA/ASHVAKANâ€™ INTO MODERN AFGHAN DOWN THE ROAD, IN THE OPNIONS
OF MODERN SCHOLARS: AND WE QUITE AGREE WITH THIS ANALYSIS:
Ashvaka (Sanskrit texts)== > Ashvakayan (Panini IV-1, 110, 99;
Ashtadhyai] == > Ashvakan (J. W. Mcgrindlle) == > Awakan ==
>Avakan (=Avukan, Denis N. Fernando) ==> Avagan (Brahta-Samhita
of Varaha Mihira, cf: also â€˜Avaganâ€™ in Turkish, cf: also
â€˜Avaganâ€™ in Firdousiâ€™s Shahnama) == Awagan (= Ogan, Robert Scot)
==Apkan (=Abgan) [official records of Persian king Shapur III, 309-379
AD we find the term Apkan which term also appears as â€˜Abaganâ€™ in
Sassanian records; also cf: A-po-kien (=Apkan) of Chinese Hiuen Tsang]
== > Apagan (Dr Jayswal) == > Afghan. (seems quite logical to
The modern descendents of the ancient Ashvakan/Ashvakayan Kamboja clans
of Panini are the Aspins of the Chitral and Yashkuns or Mashkuns of
the Gilgit. The Massaga city of the Greek historians has its modern name
as Mashkayan. This is the same city as the Mashkavati of Panini.
This city is about 24 miles from Bazaur. The Asvayan Kamboja clans of
Panini (Aspasins/Aspasians, Aspas) find their modern descendents in Asp,
Isap, Pachai and Yusufzais. (A Comprehensive Hist of India, Vol II, p
118, Dr N. K. Shastry; Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, p
278, Dr J. L. Kamboj, These Kamboj People, 1980, p 120, K. S. Dardi).
Asvayans, the ancestors of these people lived between Indus and Kabol
rivers at the times of Alexander invasion.
BUT THEN WHO WERE THESE ANCIENT ASHVAKAN, ASHVAKAYAN, ASVAYAN TRIBES?:
There is one school of eminent scholars/Indologists identifying or
locating ancient Kamboja mentioned in the Buddhist Jatakas and Sanskrit
texts in the Paropamisadean region [SE of Hindukush covering Kabol,
Begram, Alishang, Kunar, Swat Panjkora regions of Afganistan
and N.W.F.P of Pakistan] . There are numerous indisputable and
irrefutable evidence which puts the ancient Kamboja in the above
mentioned territories . This region was called Paropamisadean in
Persian/Greek terminology. And it was the land of the Kambojas who stand
prominently mentioned in Ashokaâ€™s Inscriptions (Asokaâ€™s Rock edicts
V XIII). [PHAI, 1996, commentary , pp 601,604-613 etc, Dr
Raychaushury, Dr Mukerjee]
[For more evidence and further details, refer to the website
â€˜Location/Identification of Ancient Kamboja Mahajanapadaâ€™â€¦â€¦the
views of seconds school about Kamboja location.].
The first scholar who identified the Asssakenois and Aspasios of the
classical writersâ€¦.(= variously called
Ashvaka/Ashvakan/Ashvakayan/Asvayan/Aspasian/Aspasin tribes in Sanskrit
texts) with the Kambojas of Ashokaâ€™s R.E. V
(Yona-Kamboj-Gandharanam) R.E. XIII (Yone-Kambojesu) as well
as the Kambojas of other numerous Sanskrit and Pali texts was a well
known French Indologist, E. Lamotte. (ref: Historie the Buddhism
Indien, p 110).
Dr K. P. Jayswal has also established independently that the Assakenois,
Aspaasios etc tribes of Greek writers and Ashvakas tribes of the
Sanskrit were a clans of the Kambojas [which term was the general name
for their vast tribe] mentioned in Ashokaâ€™s R.E (V XIII)
and numerous Sanskrit and Pali Texts.
Argues Dr Jayswal: â€œFrom Arrian, we get some light on the
identification of Yona-Kamboja-Gandharas of the Ashoka. In the edicts
these are grouped together, which means, they were all neighbors
situated in that order. The enumeration is scientific, being in
geographical sequence from west to east, which is confirmed by Arrian
â€œThe region beyond the river Indus on west are inhabited, upto the
river Kophen by two Indian tribes, the Astakenois and
Assakenoisâ€¦â€¦.The Nysois however are not Indian race, but descendents
of those who came into India with Dyonisosâ€¦The district in which he
planted this colony the named Nysaia (=the Naisaya Janapada of
Patanjli)â€¦and city itself Nysa. But the mountain close by the city and
on the lower slopes of which is built, is designated Meros (Meru)â€¦In
the dominions of the Assakenois, there is a great city called Massaka
(Massaga), the seat of of the soverign power which controls the whole
realm. And there is is another city, Peukelaitis (Pusklavati=Peshawer)
which is also of great size and is not far from Indus. These settlements
lie on the otherside of river Indus, and extend in western direction as
far as Kophen (Kabol).â€
Says Dr K. P. Jayswal: Arrian, in the above passage, indicates that the
Pusklavati was easternmost in this enumeration, and his Assakenois, or
the Ashvakas, were on river Kabol and between the Nysa Yavanas and the
Puskalavati. Puskalavati was in Gandhara. Ashokaâ€™s Kambojas were
between the Yavaans and the Gandhara. The Kambojas of Ashoka and of
Sanskrit and Palli Texts thus occupy exactly the same position as
Arrianâ€™s Assakenois (Ashvakas). We thus get another name for the
Kambojas i.e. Ashvakas. The Kambojas were famous for their horses and as
CAVALARY-MEN (Ashva-Yuddha-Kushlah) [MBH Santi Parva , 105.5
(Kumbakonam, ed.); Ashvakas ,horsemenâ€™ was the term popularly applied
to them. [Hindu Polity, 1978, Part I II, pp 139-140, Dr K. P.
The Kambojas had been known in history for their best specimen of
horses. Not only were they breeder/raisers of best breed of horses, but
also were they wonderful cavalary-men and have been designated as
Ashva-yudh-kushlah in classical Sanskrit literature.
(1)The Kamboja Cavalry-men in Mahabharata war had played a most prominent role on behalf of Kaurvas.
(2)Kamboja Cavalry had also played a key role in the composite army of
Chandergupta Maurya nasd won him the throne of Magadha. (Buddhist Play,
(3)Kamboja cavalary men had aided the Haiyava/Talzung Kashatryas and
had usurped the throne of Aydhya from Aryan king Bahu. The Kamboja
cavalry-men again fought the second battle of Aydhya against king
(4)In Kalika/ Kali war between Vedic king Kalika (Pushpamitra) and the
last king of Mauryan, the Buddhist Kamboja Cavalry again sided with
the Mauryan king against Vedic king Shungvaamsa Pushpamitra. The
Kamboja cavalry has been described as BHIM-VIKARAMAâ€¦[i.e. of terrific
prowess] in the Kalika Purana (Shloka 20/40).
(5) Kambohojas highlander cavalary-men had also joined the forces of
Persian kings and had fought against Greeks and other tribes of the
We can quote zillions of instances like the above which clearly proves that Kamboja cavalry was much sought-
after in the ancient times and had helped in raising and maintaining some of the famous empires in ancient world history.
â€œBoth the Puranas and the epics agree that the horses of the Sindhu
and Kamboja regions were the finest breed and that the services of the
Kambojas as cavalry troopers were requisitioned in ancient wars. In the
Mahabharata war the Kambojans were enlistedâ€
source: War in Ancient India - By V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar 1944. p. 103 -105)
â€œThey (Kamboja cavalry- soldiers) are said to have fought as far as
Egypt and Greek while serving in the armies of Achaemenian kings of
Ancient Persia. In this process many of these soldiers had settled in as
far as Sudan/Africaâ€ [Dr J. L. Kamboj, People and the Country, 1981).
â€œKamboja and Gandhara were the outermost regions and they had by the
fifth century BC already developed significant relations with the
Achaemenid Empire of Persia. Evidence exists of tributes being paid to
Cyrus of Persia and armies recruited from the two regions battling
against the Greeksâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€.