Iranians in Ancient India

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Thu May 28 11:49:06 UTC 1998

Thanks, George, for your interesting list. I may add two or three:

Kasu RV 8, instead of IA *Kazu

KanIta  RV 8  cf. Scythian Kanites

one more? like your TirO-(nakathwa)

All in K.Hoffmann's first paper, 1941, reprinted in his Aufsaetze, p.1

Add the mentioning of camels in book 8, the *not* denigrated dogs (as in
Iran), opposite to India, also in book 8.

> On 30 April 1998, Yaroslav Vassilkov asked:
> > can anybody give me a reference to Sanskrit texts or secondary sources
> > mentioning the presence of Iranians (Magas or otherwise) in Ancient or
> > Mediaeval India (especially, in historical Magadha/Bihar)?

I may add a note (footnote 333) from my dialect paper (C.Caillat 1989):

"....-- the problem of the Brahmanisation of the "foreign " territory of
Magadha (and Anga), .... the late/post-Vedic immigration of new tribes
into the East (Malla, Licchavi, Zakya, etc.) and the possibility of an
Iranian element among them (note the river names from E. Iran/Afghanistan
like GomatI, SarayU in the East, and cf. the Zakyas and their marriage
customs, further Balhika in SB, etc.). ---

Taken up again in my recent Canon & society paper:

" it is the Sakya and their neighbors, the Malla, Vajji, etc. who are
reported in the Pali texts as builders of high grave mounds, such as the
one built for the Buddha.  According to SB the easterners and
others(!) are reported to have round demonic graves, some of which may
have been excavated at Lauriya in E. Nepal.  These graves are similar to
the kurgan type grave mounds of S. Russia and Central Asia. However, the
origin of the Sakya is not as clear as that of the Malla and VRji. They
may very well have been (northern) Iranian, and would then constitute an
earlier, apparently the first wave of the later Zaka invasions from
Central Asia."

with notes 273sqq:
H. Kottkamp, Der Stupa as Repraesentation des Buddhistischen Heilsweges,
Wiesbaden 1992.
At Lauriya and Piprawa, in E. Nepal, they contained a gold figure of a
naked woman -- Mother Earth? -- See now Kottkamp, Der Stupa, and cf.
Caland, De archeologische vondsten in de heuvels van Lauriya. VMKAW 4, 11,
1912, 378-385. These graves are now regarded as belonging to the
Maurya/Sunga period.

Cf. the traditional Zakya legend about the <<TYPICAL IRANIAN>> marriage of
the sons of King OkkAka with their own sisters, see Author, Tracing, p.
239, n.333; more materials in a forthcoming article.

<<There are a number of items to be added all of which I cannot remember
just now. For example the first mentioning of aa scale to "weigh your


> The term maga [= "Magus, sun-priest"]

and other items such as the initiation belt  abhyanga < avest. aiwyangha
(terrible transcriptions in 7-bit ASCII!)
etc., data in von Stietencron, Iran. Feuerpriester...

> seems possible that Iranians are referred to in the RV with other generic
> or non-specific terms. What might such terms be?

Very nice point, even if it takes up an old problem again (remember the
common statements about a "religious split between the Indians &
Iranians", c.  1900?)

But we can now approach this with new data & background!....

For example, the burials (not exposure to birds) of the dead even in
the late Videvdad 1.12, -- of all places still performed in the
Iranian country .... Haraxvaiti!
IA survivals?

Michael Witzel                       witzel at

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