Sophagasenos or Sophagasenus (Sanskrit: Subhagasena) was a local Indian king ruling in Kabul and Kapisa valley (Paropamisade of the classical writings) during the last decade of third century BCE. Sophagasnus finds reference only in "The Histories" of Polybius. The identity of Sophagasenus is not clear. Many historians believe that Sophagasenus was a princely scion of the Mauryas of Magadha but others believe him to have been a non-Mauryan local ruler from the area he ruled i.e. from Kabul/Kapisa land. Some writers relate him to the Jatt lineage [History of the Jats, 1967, p 54, Ram Sarup Joon] while others claim him from Yadava or Yadu line, [Annals and Antiquities of Rajast'han, 1920, p 1176, James Tod; Yadavas Through the Ages, from Ancient Period to Date, 1992, p 71, J. N. Singh Yadav] but for no valid reason. Scientifically, it seems more probable that Subhagasena or Sophagasenus was a scion from the Ashvakan Kamboj lineage of Paropamise.

Polybius on Sophagasenus

Polybius, the Greek historian, [Born in Megalopolis in Arcadia in about 204 BCE, death 122 BCE] makes reference to Sophagasenus in context with Antiochus III’s expedition across the Caucasus Indicus (Hindukush) in around 206 BCE. Having crossed the Caucasus Mountains, Antiochus moved up to Kabul and met Sophagasenus the Indian king with whom he renewed league and friendship he had made previously. [Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 322, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Dr B. N. Mukerjee] [Annals of the world. 2007 edition, p 381, James Ussher] and received in homage more elephants until he had one hundred and fifty of them altogether. He then returned home via Arachosia, Drangiana and Karmania. [ Ref: Polybius, XI.34.11-12] [Read actual Trans of Polybius 11.34: "He (Antiochus) crossed the Caucasus Indicus (Paropamisus) and descended into India; renewed his friendship with Sophagasenus the king of the Indians; received more elephants, until he had a hundred and fifty altogether; and having once more provisioned his troops, set out again personally with his army: leaving Androsthenes of Cyzicus the duty of taking home the treasure which this king had agreed to hand over to him. Having traversed Arachosia and crossed the river Enymanthus, he came through Drangene to Carmania; and as it was now winter, he put his men into winter quarters there." "(The Histories of Polybius, Book 11, 1889, p 78, by Friedrich Otto Hultsch, Evelyn Shirley Shuckburgh)] No other source except Polybius makes any reference to Sophagasenus.

Dr Thomas's hypothesis on identity of Sophagasenus

Dr F. W. Thomas makes use of Asoka’s genealogical list given in Asokavadana or Divyavadana [ Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 310, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury; Ancient India, 2003, p 308, Dr V. D. Mahajan. The list of Asoka's successors according to Divyavadana are as follows: Asoka - Kunala - Sampadi - Vrihaspati - Vrishasena - Pushyadharman - Pushyamitra] as well as the list of kings given by Taranatha [ Kun-dgah-snyng-po or Taranatha (1575 AD-1634 AD), was Lama of the Jonang school of Tibetan Buddhism. He wrote a book called Rgya-gar-chhos-Hbyung (History of Buddhism in India) in 1608 AD, the main purpose of which was to describe the teachers and doctrines of Buddhism throughout Indian History. But incidentally, he also refers to kings and rulers who patronized Buddhist establishments or who were contemporary with these teachers/monks or were in power during important periods of Buddhist history (Susan L. Huntington). The list of kings given by Taranatha as Asoka's successors are as follows: Asoka - Kunala - Vigatasoka (restored from Vitasoka) - Virasena - Nanda - Mahapadama (sic)] in his "The History of Buddhism in India". [ Taranatha’s Geschichte des Bouddhismus, pp, 50-51, trans: Dr A. Schiefner; Taranatha’s History of Buddhism in India, Trans, 1998, pp 6, 79, Dr D. P. Chattopadhyaya] to connect Sophagasenus with the Maurya king Vrishasena mentioned in Divyavadana, [ Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 310, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury; Ancient India, 2003, p 308, Dr V. D. Mahajan] thus theorizing that Virasena of Taranatha’s account was a Maurya king Vrishasena of Divyavadana and that king Sophagasenus of Kabul/Kapisa valley was probably a son and successor of this Virasena. [ Indian Antiquary, 1875, p 362, Dr F. W. Thomas; Cambridge History of India, I., p 512; India as Described by Early Greek Writers, 1939, p 70, Dr B. N. Puri] As it can be seen, the belated accounts of Taranatha (completed in 1608 AD) indicate that Virasena was the father of the Magadhan king Nanda and the grandfather of king Mahapadama (sic). But simultaneously, Taranatha also makes "Virasena the great grandson of king Asoka and the grandson of Kunala and the son of king Vigatasoka". [ See: Târanâtha's Geschichte des Buddhismus in Indien aus dem Tibetischen uebers, 1869, Ch VI to XI, pp 26-62, A. Schiefner; Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India, 1990, p 6, 68-82, D. B Chattopadhyaya; cf: Dimensions of Indian History and Culture: Dr. Subimal Chandra Sarkar Birth, 1997, p 108, 114, Yogendra Mishra, Subimal Chandra Sarkar] "It is notable that Taranatha's accounts establish that Arhat Kasyapa II was born in Gandhara but they nowhere indicate Virasena was the king of Gandhara. Taranatha simply says that when Kasayapa II was working for the welfare of living beings "with threefold deeds of Law", king Virasena at that time (apparently in Central India) was maintaining monks from four quarters for three years and offering gifts to all the Chaityas in the whole world." [Târanâtha's Geschichte des Buddhismus in Indien, 1869, p 50, A Schiefner; Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India, 1990, p 79, Lama Taranatha, Trans: D. B. Chattopadhyaya.] "Thus Taranatha simply makes king Virasena a "contemporary" of Arhat Kasyapa II (who was born in Gandhara) and nothing more". [: The Translation from Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India reads like this: "Now Arhat Kasyapa II was born in Gandhara in the north. At that same time, Virasena, (father of Nanda), after having obtained inexhaustible treasure without causing the least harm to the living beings by propitiating the goddess Sri (consort of Kuvera), was entertaining for three years the monks all around and worshiped Chaityas in the whole of India with a hundred items of offering for each"]

To enumerate king Asoka's successors, Taranatha has followed an old Buddhist quasi-historical text Manjusrimulakalpa. [ Taranatha’s History of Buddhism in India, Trans, 1998, p 6, fn 10, Dr D. P. Chattopadhyaya] [FOR THE INTEREST OF THE WIKI READERS, the Manjusrimulakalpa (Mmk) prophecy reads as under: “100 years after Nirvana (decease) of Buddha, will be born king Asoka. He will live for 150 years, and will rule for 87 years. After him will rule Visoka for 76 years. After him will rule Surasena (i.e. Virasena of Taranatha) will rule for 70 years. After him, his son Nanda will rule for 56 years. Nanda will be succeeded by Chandragupta. After him, Bindusara will rule for 70 years. The minister of these later kings will depart to hell owing to his deeds“ (Mmk p 611)] Manjusrimulakalpa (Mmk) lists king Asoka's successors as "Visoka (=Vigatasoka of Taranatha), [ Dr A. Schiefner has restored Visoka to Vigatasoka] Surasena (=Virasena of Taranatha), Nanda, Chandragupta, and Bindusara". [ See: Manjusrimulakalpa; An Imperial History of India in a Sanskrit Text, c. 700 B.C.-c. 770 A.D, 1988, p 14, Dr K. P. Jayaswal; Indian Numismatics, 198, p 68, D. D. Kosambi; cf: Taranatha’s History of Buddhism in India, Trans, 1998, pp 6, Dr D. P. Chattopadhyaya] Another variant of king Virasena found in Taranatha's account itself is Indrasena. [ Târanâtha's Geschichte des Buddhismus in Indien aus dem Tibetischen uebers, 1869, p 50-51, Dr A. Schiefner] Scholars have restored king Virasena of Taranatha with king Surasena mentioned in the Manjusrimulakalpa. [ An Imperial History of India in a Sanskrit Text, c. 700 B.C.-c. 770 A.D, 1988, p 9, Dr K. P. Jayaswal, Sāṅkrtyāyana Rahula; Early Monastic Buddhism, 1945, p 254; Buddhism in Kashmir, 1985, p 19, Buddhism; Buddhist Sects in India, 1970, 5, Nalinaksha Dutt - Buddhist sects; Dimensions of Indian History and Culture: Dr. Subimal Chandra Sarkar Birth , 1997, p 108,Yogendra Mishra, Subimal Chandra Sarkar] [ See also the chapters VI through XI of the Synopsis of Taranatha's RGYA-GAR-CHHOS-HBYUNG ("History of Buddhism in India"), pp 31-33 at link: [] . Note also that instead of Virasena, the author has translated/restored correctly the name of Visoka's son as Surasena (See Chap IX). Other scholars also restore Virasena of Taranatha with Surasena of Manjusrimulakalpa] Dr K. P. Jayaswal, Dr N Dutt etc have also identified Asoka of Manjusrimulakalpa with Kalasoka (of Saisunaga dynasty) mentioned in the Mahavamsa. [ Ceylonese 'Kathavatthu-attha-katha' mentions Kalasoka simply as Asoka (page 2). Deepavamsa (V 25, 97-99) makes Asoka the son of king Sisunaga which means that it equates and substitutes Kalsaka with Asoka ] Further, Nandivardhana, son of Kalasoka of Saisuanaga dynasty has been identified with Visoka or Vagatasoka of Taranatha. [An Imperial History of India in a Sanskrit Text, c. 700 B.C.-c. 770 A.D, 1988, p 9, 14, Dr K. P. Jayaswal; Rise and Decline of Buddhism in India, 1995, p 29, K. L. Hazra] Thus, the Manjusrimulakalpa list of kings of Central India (Magadha) actually starts with Saisunaga kings, covers the Nanda kings and ends with Mauryas Chandragupta and Bindusara. [Cf: Aryamanjusrimulakalpa Udayi the successor of Ajatsatru and then takes up other tales to come back to to the time and territory (Magadha) under consideration with entirely different king-names from those given in the Puranas: Asokamukhya-Visoka-Surasena-Nanda (Indian Numismatics, 198, p 68, D. D. Kosambi; History of Indian Buddhism: From the Origins to the Saka Era, 1988, p 90, Etienne Lamotte; An Imperial History of India in a Sanskrit Text, c. 700 B.C.-c. 770 A.D, 1988, p 9,14, Dr K. P. Jayaswal, Rāhula Sāṅkrtyāyana - History; Royal Patronage of Buddhism in Ancient India, 1983, pp 43-44, Kanai Lal Hazra. This also clearly shows that Virasena of Taranatha (i.e Surasena) was, the ruler of Magadha and not of Gandhara as F. W. Thomas falsely assumes. Thus, Dr F. W. Thomas's hypothesis is fundamentally erroneous and therefore unacceptable]

King Surasena, (misquoted by Taranatha as Virasena or Indrasena), was succeeded by his son king Nanda who ruled Central India (Madhyadesa) i.e Magadha for 29 years. [See: Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India, Chapter X] This Surasena of Manjusrimulakalpa has been identified with Nanda king Ugrasena (founder of Nanda dynasty) mentioned in Mahabhodivamsa, or Nanda king Mahapadamapati of the Puranas. [Buddhist Sects in India, 1970, p 5, Buddhist sects; Early Monastic Buddhism, 1945, p 23, Nalinaksha Dutt] Taranatha also mistook the name Mahapadama Nanda for two personages Nanda and Mahapadama and made the latter son of the former; or it may be that Nanda took appellation of Mahapadama sometime after commencement of his reign. [Buddhist Sects in India, p 7, 1998; Early Monastic Buddhism, 1945, p 25, Nalinaksha Dutt] [Royal Patronage of Buddhism in Ancient India, 1984, p 46, Kanai Lal Hazra - Buddhism and state] It is noteworthy that Taranatha's Virasena (restored as Surasena by later scholars) was the king of Magadha and not of Gandhara as was erroneously supposed by Dr F. W. Thomas. Thus, it was this wrong interpretation of Tarantha's account by Dr F. W. Thomas which has led him to erroneously identify Virasena of Tarantha with Vrishasena of Divyavadana and derive erroneous conclusion that Virasena was a Maurya ruler of Gandhara and king Subhagasenna was probably his son/successor who later succeeded Virasena as the ruler of Kabul valley. Also in the light of above facts, Dr Thomas' equation to relate Vrishasena of Divyavadana with Virasena of Taranatha automatically loses it argumentative weight since Virasena was misquoted by Taranatha for king Surasena of Central India. [Otherwise also, it is impossible to derive Virasena from Vrishasena grammatically as well as linguistically] [As can be seen from the names and the chronological order of the kings given by Manjusrimulakalpa as well as History of Buddhism in India by Taranatha, Lama Taranatha has commingled and jumbled up three Magadhan dynasties viz.: the Mauryas, the Saisunagas and the Nandas. Thus, Taranatha’s list of Asoka’s successors is also obviously erroneous, commingled and confused like Manjusrimulakalpa] Many scholars have, however, accepted Dr Thomas’s hypothesis without critical scrutiny. Interestingly, some scholars also identify Virasena of Taranatha variously with the later Maurya king Suyasas (son of Asoka) [ Lassen Journal of Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1840, p 751, The Secretary] or with Jalauka (son of Asoka) [ Indische Altertumkunde, II, n, p 273, Dr Christian Lassen] or with Salisuka [ Ancient Indian Culture, 1989, p 63, Dr D. R. Bhandarakar, R. J. M. Anthos] or with Somasarman. [Alexander’s Compaign in Sind and Baluchistan, 1975, p 173, Pierre Herman Leonard Eggermont] There are even some who say that Sophagasenus was the epithet worn by king Asoka himself. [The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia, 1885, p 778, Edward Balfour; Encyclopaedia Asiatica, Comprising Indian Subcontinent, Eastern and Southern Asia, p 778, Edward Balfour] Louis de La Vallée-Poussinholds that Sophagasenus which translates to Subhagasena may be considered to be the father of Virasena, [L'lTtde aux temps des Mauryas, 1930, I, p 168] which does not however bear scrutiny. As can be seen from the known facts of history and from the chronological order of kings given in Manjusrimulakalpa as well as by Taranatha, it is hard to believe the list given in Taranatha's History. Thus, Taranatha’s list of Asoka’s successors is obviously erroneous, commingled and confused. Commenting on Taranatha's accounts in respect of Asoka, Dr V. A. Smith observes that Taranatha’s account is hopelessly confused. [ Asoka, the Buddhist Emperor of India, 1901, p 51, fn 1, Vincent Arthur Smith] Sir Charles Elliot has also branded Taranatha’s account as confusing and untrustworthy. [Hinduism and Buddhism: An Historical Sketch, 1998, 157, Charles Eliot - Religion] Susan L. Huntington too comments on Taranatha’s history and calls it unreliable. [The "Pāla-Sena" Schools of Sculpture, 1984, p 31, Susan L. Huntington] [The Tibetan Lama Taranatha lived in late 16th and early 17th century and completed his history in 1608 AD. While his main purpose was to describe the teachers and doctrines of Buddhism throughout Indian history, he took care to name the kings and rulers who patronized Buddhist establishments or those who were in power during important periods of Buddhist activity. His writings were done long after the period he discusses, and much of his information is unreliable from historical point of view. Also since his writings were done from Buddhist vantage point, there is little doubt that his opinions and views were biased (Op cit., p 31, p 31, Susan L. Huntington)] Thus, we can not put too much reliance on Taranatha’s account on Asoka and his successors.

Differing opinions on the antecedents and ancestry of Sophagasenos

Many scholars have rejected the hypothesis propounded by Dr Thomas’s and followed by several later scholars. Dr V. A. Smith does not accept Sophagasenus connection with Virasena or with the Maurya rulers of Pataliputra. Sophagasenus is not identified with the name of any known Indian king. [Ariana Antiqua, 1998, p 221, H. H. Wilson] The detailed lists of Maurya successors in numerous Puranas do not mention any king named Virasena or Subhagasena. [List of Maurya successors from few the Puranas is given here for illustration: Matsya Purana list : "Asoka- Kunala - Dasratha - Samparata - Satadhanva - Brihadratha"; Vayu Purana Purana list: "Asoka- Kunala - Bhandupalita - Indrapalita - Deva-varman - Satadhanus - Brihadratha"; Visnu Purana list: "Asoka- Suyasas - Dasratha - Sangata (=Samparati) - Salisuka - Somavarman - Satadhanvan - Brihadratha"; Bhagvata Purana list: "Asoka- Suyasas - Sangata (=Samparati) - Salisuka - Somavarman - Satadhanvan - Brihadratha"] "We are really inclined to doubt F. M. Thomas's theory that Subhagasena was successor of Virasena until we equate the latter with Vrishasena of Asokavadana". [Bimbisāra to Aśoka: With an Appendix on the Later Mauryas, 1977, p 202, Dr Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya] But as we have seen above, there is absolutely no equation or equivalence between Vrishasena of Divyavadana/Asokavadana and king Virasena of Taranatha (restored as Surasena of Manjusrimulakalpa). Thus, Dr Thomas's hypothesis does not seem to hold. Dr Romila Thapar is strongly against the view that Subhagasena was a Maurya king. [Quoted in : The Later Mauryas: 232 BC to 180 BC, 1980, p 169, Hekṭar Alahakōn, Hector Alahakon] Dr Thapar calls Subhagasena an obsecure Indian ruler. [Early India, From Origins to AD 1300, 2004, p 214, R Thapar; Dr S. K. Aiyanger's Commemoration Volume, 1936, p 13, Dr S. K. Aiyangar; Asoka and Decline of Mauryas, 1997, (Rev Edition), pp 184/190, R Thapar] Scholars like M. M. Austin, Max Cary etc also write that the identity of Subhagasena is uncertain . [Bactria, The History Of A Forgotten Empire, 2002, p 71, H. G. Rawlinson; The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest: 2006, p 447, M. M. Austin. cf: A History of the Greek World from 323 to 146 B.C, 1968, p 72, Max Cary - Hellenism; cf: The Afghans, 2002, p 132, Willem Vogelsang] "It is admitted that the antecedents and ancestors of that Subhagasena are not known". [Age of Buddha, Milinda & Amtiyoka and Yugapurana, 1956, p 116, Kota Venkatachelam; Cf: The House of Seleucus V2, 2006, p 23, Edwyn Robert Bevan] H. G. Rawilson also opines that the identity of Subhagasena is uncertain. According to Cambridge History of India, Indian history knows no ruler of corresponding name, and it has therefore been conjectured that Sophagasenus was some local ruler who had taken advantage of the decay of the Maurya empire to establish his own in the country west of Indus. [Cambridge History of India, 1962, p 397, Editor E. J. Rapson] John Ma also calls Sophagasenos a local dynast, otherwise unknown from any of Indian sources. [Antiochos III and the Cities of Western Asia Minor. 2002, pp 6, 64, John Ma] It was also conjectured at one time that Subhagasena was a title for Jalauka, son of great Asoka who had died in 231 BCE. But Jalaukla himself is a misty personality. We do not know who the Sophagasenus was. [Bactria, The History Of A Forgotten Empire, 2002, p 71, H. G. Rawlinson] "After Asoka's death, the interest of his successors, west of Indus must have disappeared because when later on (~206 BCE), Antiochus III, 6th successor of Seleucus entered the Indus valley, he was resisted not by Mauryas but by a local ruler named Subhagasena..." ". [India's Road to Nationhood, ISBN 8177647156, A political History of the Subcontinent, 1993, p 156, Wilhelm Von Pochhammer] One quite agrees with Dr Thapar, Dr Rawilson and other scholars as quoted above that the ancestry of Sophagasenus is unclear and uncertain and in no can it be linked to Maurya rulers of Magadha on the basis of flimsy and unreliable evidence of Taranatha who is a careless and untrustworthy writer of comparatively recent times. [ MAX MULLER ONCE COMMENTED ABOUT ANNALS OF BUDDHISM THUS: “In our times, when even the contempranous evidence of Herodotus , Thucydides , Livy or Jornandes is sifted by the most uncompromising skepticism, we must not expect a more merciful treatment for the annals of Buddhism. Scholars engaged in special researches are too willing to acquiesce in evidence, particularly if that evidence has been discovered by their own efforts and comes before them with all the charms of novelty. But in the broad day light of historical criticism, the prestige of such a witness, as Buddhaghosa, soon dwindles away and his statements as to kings and councils eight hundreds years before him are in truth worth no more than the stories told of Arthur bt Geofry of Monmouth or the accounts we read in Livy of early history of Rome” (See: Chips from German Workshop, Second Edition, Vol I, p 199, Max Muller).

If this is the case with statements of Buddhaghosa who belonged to 5th century AD, what to speak of the statements of Taranatha (17th century AD) on the the kings and dynasties which ruled about 1900 years before him i.e. Taranatha!]

A possible identity of Sophagasenus

Polybius, our only source on Sophagasenus, gives few very important clues about this ruler. Firstly, immediately on crossing Caucasus, Antiochus faces Sophagasena. This shows that the king was ruler of Kabul/Kapisa valleys. [The Oxford History of India, 2006 edition, pp 143-44, Dr V. A. Smith, Percival Spear; The House of Seleucus, 1902, p 23, Edwyn Robert Bevan; Ancient India, from the Earliest Times to the First Century, A.D., 1914, p 121, Edward James Rapson; The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature, 1911, p 604, Hugh Chisholm; Early Indian Economics: Studies in the Economic Life of Northern and Western India, 1966, p 11, Govinda Lal Adhya; Hellenism in Ancient India, 1920, p 131, Gauranga Nath Banerjee] or what is also known as Paropamisadean territory south of Hindukush. [The Seleukid Royal Economy, 2004, p 21, 117, G. G. Aperghis - History; The Later Mauryas: 232 BC to 180 BC, 1980, p 126 Hekṭar Alahakōn; Early History of North India, 1968, p 5, Dr Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya; The Cambridge History of Iran, 1968, p 188, W. B. Fisher, Ilya Gershevitch, Ehsan Yarshater, R. N. Frye, J. A. Boyle, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart, Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly, Charles Melville; The Greeks & Bactria and India, 1938, p 130, William Woodthorpe Tarn; The Cambridge Ancient History, 2002, p 399, edited by John Boederman; The North-west India of the Second Century B.C., 1974, p 60, Dr Mehta Vasishtha Dev Mohan; Nag Sen of Milind Paṅhö, 1996, p 45, P. K. Kaul] Secondly, Sophagasenus is called an Indian king. Thirdly, the expression "renewal of friendship" used by Polybius which seems to suggest that Sophagasenus had previous dealings or prior alliance with Antiochus III. [ Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 322, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Dr B. N. Mukerjee; Annals of the world. 2007 edition, p 381, James Ussher] Fourthly, there is reference to Sophagasenus paying elephants in homage to Antiochus. All these clues are very interesting and revealing. The region of Kabul/Kapisa (Paropamisade) was the heartland of the Ashvakan Kambojas who were especially engaged in horse-culture and cavalry profession. The linguistic traces of Kamboja have been found in plenty in "Pull-i-Drunta" and Lamghan valleys. [ Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 510, Dr GH. C. Raychaudhury, Dr B. N. Mukerjee; SAEA, p 66, n 12] We also know that just a century prior to Antiochus III's inroads into Kabul and Kapisa, the Aspasio and Assakenoi clans of the Kambojas had offered a stubborn resistance to his predecessors i.e the Alexander of Macedonia in the same very region where Sophagasenus of Polybius is said to have been ruling. It is an admitted fact that the Aspasio section of the Kambojas was more Iranian than Indian in culture and customs but the Assakenoi section had been completely Indianized by this time. [East and West, 1950, p 158, Art, Asian – 1950; cf: The Pathans, 1958, p 55, Olaf Caroe] Based on the evidence of historinas who had accompanied Alexander, Arian calls the Ashvakas/Assakenoi as Indians. [Arrian Anabasis Book 4b, Ch XXV, XXVI] [This Indianization process was fully completed by 400 AD. Fourth century Chinese Pilgrim Fa-hien who visited Woo-chang (Udyana) and Soohoto (Swat) of Kamboja in 402 AD attests that the inhabitants were similar to Central Indians in language, religion, food and dress (Oriental Literature, The Travels of Fa-hien, p 222, Richard James Horatio Gottheil, Epiphanius Wilson)] Even the name Kapisa, which constuted the heart of this region, is said by scholars to be another variant of Sanskrit Kamboja. Evidence from Rock Edicts V and XIII of king Asoka, which were inscribed between 260 BCE and 240 BCE, locate the Yonas in Arachosia, the Gandharas (western Gandharas) in Peshawar valley, and the Kambojas in Paropamisade i.e in Kabul/Kunar and Swat valleys south of Hindukush, as neighbors to Daradas. [ Political History of Ancient India, 1996, pp 610/617, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Commentary, Notes 14, 22, Dr B. N. Mukerjee] Polybius's attestation about elephants being paid by Sophagasenus as gift to Antiochus is in line with the preponderous evidence from several ancient Sanskrit and other sources that, like their horses, Kambojas were also noted for their celebrated war elephants. There are references to Kamboja kings presenting "thousands of elephants", besides blankets, cows, camels and horses etc as gifts to king Yudhishtra at the time of "Rajasuya Yajna". [:Sanskrit::"Kambojah prahinottasmai parardhyanapi kambalan" ||19 || :"gajayoshid gavashvasya shatasho.atha sahasrashah" | :MBH 2.49.19] Mahabharata refers to a wonderful army of war elephants fielded by Sudakshina at Kurukshetra. [:Sanskrit::"yasya rajan"gajanikam" bahusahasramadbhutam" . :"sudakshinah sa sangrame nihatah savyasachina" || 20 || :MBH 8.5.20] In the fierce fight that took place between the prince Prapaksha Kamboja (younger brother of Sudakshina) and Arjuna after Sudakshin Kamboj was martyred, Arjuna is said to have slaughtered numerous "steeds and elephants" of his antagonist's division. [MBH 8.56.110-114] In the battle of Massaga, the Ashvaka Kambojas had faced Alexander with an army of 30,000 cavalry, 30,000 infantry and 30 elephants. [DEFEAT OF THE ASPASIANS – THE ASSACENIANS AND GURAEANS ATTACKED, Arrian's Anabasis, 4b, Chapter XXV, 1893, trans: E.J Chinnock; Evolution of Heroic Tradition in ancient Punjab, 1971, p 77, Dr Buddha Prakash; History of Punjab, Vol I, 1997, p 227, (Editors) Dr L. M. Joshi, Dr Fauja Singh] The Asama-patras of king Valabhadeva of Assam, also proudly refer to the prized "elephants from Kamboja" in his stable. [ Epigraphia Indica, Vol V, 1898-99, pp 184, 187, Kielhorn, F. (ed); Social History of Kamrup, 1983, p 233, Nagendranath Vasu] All this evidence seems to reinforce the view that Sophagasenus was a Kamboja ruler from Kabul/Kapisa land.

Lastly, Polybius's reference to "renewal of friendship" indicates that Sophagasenus must have come to the throne some years prior to 206 BCE. The existence of at least one independent kingdom in north-west before BCE 206 shows that Maurya empire must have begun to break-up nearly a a quarter century prior to usurpation of Magdhan throne by Pushyamitra in 185 BCE.


Maurya Empire declined after 232 BCE, after the strong arm of Asoka was withdrawn on his death. His successors were unable to keep possession of the outlying regions including Kamboja (Kabul/Kunar valleys), Yona (Arachosia) and western Gandhara (Peshawar valley). ["Asoka mentions Magadha, Pataliputra, Khalatikapavata, Kosambi, Lummini-gama, Kalinga, (including Tosali, Samapa, and Khepimgalapavata or Jauguda rock), Atavi (forest tract of Mid-India), Suvarna-giri, Isila, Ujjayini and Takshasila expressly being among the places which were under his rule. Among these, the vice-royalities of Tosali (Dhauli near Bhubneshwar in Orissa), Ujjayini (Ujjain in MP-Avanti), Suvarnagiri (Kanakagiri near Maski in Karnata or Erragudi in Andhra Pradesh) were definitely ruled by princely viceroys i.e. Aryaputras or Kumaras (princes of royal family). Separate Rock Edict (SRE-1) seems to indicate Takhasila or Takshasila as the capital of another province (Uttarapatha) ruled by a prince which is also attested by Divyavadana ("Rajno-sokasy-ottartrapathe- Takshasila nagarm"--Divyavadana). According to Buddhist literature, prince Asoka, prince Susima and later, prince Kunala ruled in that city in a viceregal capacity. Uttarapatha province included eastern Gandhara and probably lay between Indus and river Satluj. The western Gandhara lay on the west of Indus and included tribal territory of Peshawar valley with capital at Pushkalavati (Charasada). It did not form part of the province ruled by princely viceroy. Thus, all the territory west of river Indus which comprised nations of western Gandhara, Kamboja (Paropamisadae) and Yona (Arachosia) were outside the domain of regal provinces. They were governed by local rulers/viceroys rather than Maurya princes but were subject to the jurisdiction of imperial officers, otherwise enjoying feudatory status and their people enjoyed semi-sovereignty or partial autonomy (See: Political History of Ancient India, 1996, pp 273, 617, 256, 273, 277, 279, 280, 281, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Dr B. N. Mukerjee)"] [For two Gandharas-- one east of Indus and second to its west, see alos: Foundations of Indian Culture, 1990, p 24, Govind Chandra Pande - India.] [NOTE: Some scholars think that the Yonas, Kambojas, the Gandhara etc were outside the domain of the Mauryas (See: The Cambridge History of India, pp 514, 515, E, J. Rapson). But this may not be true since we have evidence from Asoka's Rock Edict V that Dhamama-Mahamataras (Ministers of religions) were active preaching Dhamma or Law of piety in the lands of the Yonas, Kambojas and the Gandhara] These areas were inhabited by martial and freedom loving self-ruling people who seldom easily yielded to foreign control. Already during the heydays of Maurya empire, three revolts had occurred in eastern Gandhara alone-- two during reign of Bindusara and one during later years of king Asoka. [ Divyavadana, pp 371-73; 407f; The Later Mauryas: 232 BC to 180 BC, 1980, p 130, Hekṭar Alahakōn, Hector Alahakoon] We do not have any surviving records of the political conditions in the regions west of river Indus including Kamboja, but it is not too difficult to visualize that the areas west of Indus were even more impatient of foreign control. Not long ago, the same Ashvakas had assassinated Nicanor, the Greek Strap of Massaga in 326 BCE while Alexander was still in Punjab. [Arrian Anabasis, Book 5b, Chapter XX, CONQUEST OF THE GLAUSIANS.—EMBASSY FROM ABISARES. —PASSAGE OF THE ACESINES] [Hardly a few months had passed when the brave and indomitable Ashvakayanas rose and revolted against the Macedonians and assassinated Nicanor, the Greek governor of Massaga; and also reduced Sicikottos the Governor of Ora to such straights that it left him no alternative but to report the matter to Alexander while he was still in north Punjab (at Glansai), asking his immediate assistance. Alexander sent Phillipos and Tyriaspes to quell the Ashvakayana rebellion. How far they succeeded we have no means to know, but since Tyriaspes himself had soon to be replaced with Alexander's father-in-law Oxyartes, which shows that everything was not going well for Alexander in the land of the Ashvakas (See: History of Punjab, Vol I, 1997, p 234, Editors Dr Fauja Singh, Dr L. M. Joshi)] Asoka’s Rock Edicts V and XIII amply prove that the nations of Kamboja, Yona, Gandhara (i.e. western Gandhara) etc were semi-sovereign and were ruled by their own community chieftains who enjoyed a feudatory status under the Mauryas. [Political History of Ancient India, 1996, pp 256, 273, 277, 279, 280, 281; History of Indo-Pakistan, 1966, p 58, Mohammad Arshad, Hafiz Habibur Rahman; A Short History of the Indian People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 1936, p 71, y Tara Chand; Hindu Polity, A Constitutional History of India in Hindu Times, 1978, p 117-121, Dr K. P. Jayswal; Ancient India, 2003, pp 839-40, Dr V. D. Mahajan; Northern India, p 42, Dr Mehta Vasisitha Dev Mohan etc.] "The 'Ŕāja-Vişayas' of king Asoka's thirteenth Rock Edict, which include the Kambojas, Yonas, Nabhika, Bhojas, Andhras etc, were "the soverign (self-ruling) states within the Maurya Empire". [The Mauryan Polity, 1993, pp 68, 69, Dr V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar; The Greco-Sunga Period of Indian History Or The North-west India of the Second Century B.C, 1973, p 35; The North-west India of the Second Century B.C., 1974, p 35, Dr Mehta Vasishtha Dev Moha] [Dr H. C. Rachaudhury observers: “Kautiliya’s Arthashastra ( XI.1.1-4) refers a number of Sanghas i.e economic, military or political confederation evidently enjoying autonomy in certain matters e.g Kamboja, Saurashtra etc. The Kambojas find prominent mention as a nation in the Thirteenth Rock Edict of Ashoka. Rock Edict V alludes to various nations or people on western border (Aparanta) also in addition to those specifically named viz: the Yonas, Kambojas etc. Surashtra was also included among these nations which, judged by the title (raja) of its rulers, enjoyed a considerable autonomy. Tumaspa and Pushyagupta were employed by Mauryas as governors in Surashtra. Pushyagupta is described as Rashtriya or Rashtrika i.e a imperial high commissioner".] M Boyce writes: "The Kambojas enjoyed a measure of autonomy...and were governed in some measure by the members of their own community on whom was laid the responsibility of transmitting to them the king's words, and having these engraved on stone". [ A History of Zoroastrianism, Vol III, 1991, p 136, M. Boyce, Frantz Grenet, Roger Beck] [ The Mauryas, it seems, were content with the overlordship of the Indo-Iranian borderlands and allowed the Yonas, Kambojas and Western Gandharas to function more or less as vassal states under their local governors or rulers. The general structure of the Maurya empire was that of central power uniting under its rule a number of smaller nations to which they left a greater or less degree of autonomy according to place and circumstances. The Kambojas for example enjoyed a measure of autonomy.... and they were governed by the members of their community on whom was laid the responsibility of transmitting king’s word and having them engraved on stone stone (A History of Zoroastrianism, Vol III, ISBN 9004064818, 1991, pp 128-129, 136, Mary Boyce, Frantz Grenet, Roger Beck.] We have the case of Sibyrtios as a local ruler of Arachosia during time of Chandragupta and Whsu (Vakshu) a local ruler of Kamboja during time of king Asoka. Since the status of these border nations was midway between provincials proper and the unsubdued borders, [Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 276, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Dr B. N. Mukerjee] the moment these local feudatory rulers found a ripe opportunity to say good-by to their nominal overlords, they did exactly so after the strong arm of king Asoka was withdrawn in 232 BCE. According to Dr R. K. Mukerjee, Dr. Satyaketu Vidyalankar, Dr J. L. Kamboj etc, the Yonas, Kambojas, Gandharas etc became bolder after the powerful arm of king Asoka was withdrawn after 233 BCE and they shook the Maurya yoke off their shoulders. These semi-sovereign border nations were mainly responsible for the eventual break-up and ultimate fall of the Maurya empire. [Quoted in: Ancient India, 2003, p 311, Dr V. D. Mahajan; See also: Asoka, Dr R. K. Mukerjee; Mauryan Samrajya Ka Itihaas, Hindi, 1927, p 665-67 by Dr. Satyaketu Vidyalankar; Ancient Kambojas, People and the Country, 1981, Dr J. L. Kamboj; The Kambojas Through the Ages, 2005, p 155-156, Kirpal Singh] It is possible that Antiochus-Sophagasenus alliance which Polybius, the Greek historian, refers to may have been directed against the Imperial Mauryas of Pataliputra. [ Op Cit., p 312/22, H. C. Raychaudhury] It may have been designed couple of years prior to 206 BCE since Polybius does allude to Antiochus III's renewal of treaty with Sophagasenus. It appears likely that the Greeks intrigue played a part in the the creation of an independent nation under Sophagasenus and ultimate disintegration of the Maurya empire before the Greek raids. [Op cit, p 323, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury; Espionage in Ancient India, 1990, p 90, G. Chakraverty] Thus, it seems reasonable to think that on finding the right opportunity to strike, the local ruling chieftain of the Ashavka Kambojas (Paropamisade) broke off with Magadha and carved out an independent kingdom of his own in Kabul/Kapisa valley. We know that since Paropamisade was the heart of Kamboja land, the local ruler for these warlike and freedom loving people naturally may have been a Kamboja background. This may indeed be true since in the Rock Edicts V and XIII which were inscribed only a couple of decades ago, the Kambojas as a feudatory or semi-sovereign (self-ruling) nation finds most prominent position in the edicts of Asoka. [Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 256, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Dr B. N. Mukerjee; Asoka and His Inscriptions; 3d Ed , 1968, p 149, Beni Madhab Barua, Ishwar Nath Topa ] The same Kambojas a century earlier had played a very prominent role in the creation of Mauryan Empire by constituting an important component of Chandragupta's army of frontier-highlanders in 324-20 BCE. [ Mudrarakshasa, Act II, Visakha Datta; Ancient India, 1956, pp 141-42, Dr R. K. Mukerjee; Political and Social Movements in Ancient Punjab, 1964, p 202, Dr Buddha Prakash] All this evidence shows that the Kambojas had been very powerful during these centuries. Therefore, looking at time and space propinquity in the context of political scenario during time of Sophagasenus (Subhagasena), one is naturally led to infer that king Sophagasenus must have belonged to the Ashvakan Kshatrya branch of these powerful Kambojas of Kabul/Kapisa region. This view is further reinforced by the fact that the coins of the Ashvaka Kambojas, bearing a legend "Vatasvaka" [ Varta-asvakas i.e Asvakas engaged in varta i.e horse-culture/cattle culture. Another interpretation of term Vatasvka is taken as Vata (fig-tree) division of the Ashvaka Kambojas] in Brahmi, have been found in north-west frontiers. Dr E. J. Rapson has dated these coins to at least 200 BCE [Indian Coins, 1897, p 14, Edward James Rapson - Numismatics] which affirms that the Ashvakas were indeed the powerful rulers on west of Indus around 210/200 BCE and that Indian king Sophagasenus of Polybius may indeed have been an Ashvaka Kamboja ruler. It is also tempting to link the Apraca branch of the kings of Bajaur to king Sophagasenus in this background. Scholars have linked the princes of Apraca dynasty of Bajaur to the Ashvaka clan. [The Apracharajas : A History Based on Coins and Inscriptions, ISBN : 8173200742, 2007, Dr. Prashant Srivastava, Reader, Ancient Indian History and Archaeology, University of Lucknow] And Yuvaraja Kharaosta Kamuio (Kamboja) mentioned in the Mathura Lion Capital [Kharaosto yuvaraya Kamuio (See: inscription no E and E')] appears to be connected with Apraca kings through Apracaraja Indravarman's Silver Reliquary(q.v.). [An Inscribed Silver Buddhist Reliquary of the time of king Kharaosta and Prince Indravarman, Journal of American Oriental Society, Vol 116, No 3, July-Sept 1996, pp 424, 28, 442-43, Richard Saloman] Later when Bactrian Greeks under Demetrius conquered Paropamisade and rest of Afghanistan, the ancestor of Apraca rulers of Kunar/Bajaur finds reference with Greek king Menander in Shinkot reliquary inscriptions found from Bajaur in Kunar. [ Shinkot reliquary inscriptions of the time of king Menander and Vijayamitra, regnal(?) year 5, Sircar Select Inscs. Bearing on the Indian History and Civilization, Vol I, 1965, pp 102-06, Journal Asiatique, 281:61-138, Fussman; An Inscribed Silver Buddhist Reliquary of the time of king Kharaosta and Prince Indravarman, Journal of American Oriental Society, Vol 116, No 3, July-Sept 1996, pp 418-52, Richard Saloman]


See also

* Kamboja Kingdom
*Apraca dynasty
*Bajaur casket

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