Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 4


BY: SUN STAFF - 11.1 2021

A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Indo-Scythian Sakas

Our survey of the first group of Middle Kingdom inhabitants, the Scythians (Sakas), continues from the study of religious history in Orissa's Mayurabhanja district presented by Nagendranath Vasu (1911).

"In the Madhya Radha (Modern Burdwan) where the Radhiya section of the Angirasa Brahmanas once lived in large numbers, there is a village called Angirasi, and the Angirasa Brahmanas of this village are held in the great respect among the Sakadvipi Acharyyas of Bengal. [1] In all likelihood these Brahmanas extended their influence in Eastern India before the 8th century B.C.

After them another branch of a section of the Scythians, locally known as the Kidars, came and established their influence in Eastern India. In the 7th century B.C. the Scythian king of Persia came to India and defeated these Kidars. The name Kidar bears an affinity with the branch of Scythians and suggests a connection between the two people. [2] The Kidar Brahmanas had established their rule in the eastern part of India more than 2500 years ago and were defeated by the Scythian Ksatriyas. [3]

Two Sanskrit Karikas in verse have recently been recovered from these Angirasa Brahmanas of Sakadvipa belonging to the Radhiya sub-section. From one of these we learn that those brahmanas who claimed their descent from the Sun came to live at Gauda about 3000 years ago. The other Karika mentions that another branch of these Brahmanas came from Madhya-deca or Mid India and settled in Radha more than two thousand years ago.

In all probability these Angirasa Bharadvaja Sythic Brahmanas in Mayurbhanja sought refuge in the Jharkhand or jungle tracts of Mayurabhanja when they were deprived of their kingdom by the Kidars who had entered India through China. Some of these immigrants were invited by a king of Gauda to attend his Court, where they introduced image-worship for the first time. It is held by many now-a-days that image-worship was introduced by these Scythians throughout Asia in very ancient times.

It was by the inhabitants of Jharkhand that idol-worship was first brought into Eastern India, so when speaking of the Saura influence we have at the very outset to refer to Jharkhand as the place which played an important part in its history.

The influence of the Saura Brahmanas in Jharkhand is even now as strong as ever. Though no longer claiming to be designated as Sakadvipis or Scythians, they live entirely separate from the great bulk of the Indian Brahmana population. In modern times they call themselves Angirasas, and worship the Sun under the name of Nrsimha or Raghunatha. They live in various parts of Mayurabhanja such as Kanthipur, Baisinga, Mangovindapur, Daisara, Kuchiakoil, Ambikadipur, Ichhapur Sasan, Damodarpur-Sasan, Gajari-Sasan, etc.

These Angirasas have their own manners and customs which distinguish them from other Brahmanas. Though their male members have lost much of their original ruddiness and lustre owing to hard labour and the heat of the sun, the charming and attractive beauty of their female sex recalls the good looks, bright golden colour and simple habits of the Scythian women of Central Asia.

Their manners and customs still resemble those of the primitive Maga Brahmanas who worshipped Mitra or the Sun. From very ancient times these Scythian Brahmanas were distinguished for their proficiency in Astrology and Medical Science. These two Sciences still form their principal professions. Many of the Angirasas are reputed to be good astrologers and physicians. It is said of these people that after they had settled in Jharkhanda (modern Mayurabhanja), some of them migrated to Suryapur in the district of Balasor and others to Konaraka on the seacoast. The thriving village Soro in Balasor District was formerly known as Saurapur or Suryapur.

Evidence is not wanting to prove the great influence once wielded by the Saura Brahmanas in the village of Soro. From the inscriptions engraved on the stone pedestal of the Saptakumarika discovered in the village Ghora-Shahi near Soro, we find that even in the 15th century A. D. a temple was dedicated to the Sun and that Sun-worship existed in that part of the country even to that late period. [4]

The Aijgirasa Brahmanas are the priests of the temple of Konarak dedicated to the Sun, which has a world-wide celebrity on account of its architectural excellence. The famous temple of Konarak was built in the 12th century A. D. The place had long before that time become well-known as a chief centre of the Sauras. The Saura Brahmanas of this place are spoken of very highly even in the ancient books, the Brahma and the Samba Puranas.

The Angirasas of Mayurabhailja secretly observe the original customs of the Sauras even up to the present day. Reading the Vedas (sacred books) after investiture with the sacred thread, marriage after the study of Vedas, or keeping the avyanga (Aiwyaonhanem in the Zend Avesta) or the sacred thread on the body always, tri-savanam, worshipping the Sun live times during the day and night, refraining from abusing Devas, Brahmanas and Vedas, setting up and reverencing images of all gods as different forms of the Sun-god and refraining from taking food in a sudra's house — these are their Gastric ordinances to which each Angirasa has to conform.

It is remarkable that these very customs existed among the ancient fire-worshippers who followed the doctrines of Zarathustra. The only difference between them and the Magas of India was that the former were Ahura (asura) worshippers and the latter Deva-worshippers. [5]

Other observances followed by these Brahmanas are described in the Angirasa Kalpa and the Bhavisya Brahmaparvan. These very customs are also found described in the Avesta, the ancient scripture of the Persian Magas. [6] On account of their peculiar customs these Brahmanas have remained distinct and separate from the great mass of the Indian Brahmana community from the very earliest times. Other Brahmanas would not even partake of food prepared by them.

That image-worship was first introduced by these Maga Brahmanas is proved by the fact that it was these men who had the full control at the making of images in olden times. Even now in backward parts of Bengal their descendants give the finishing touches to the colouring, — a function which the image-makers religiously reserve for them. It is also these Brahmanas who do the paintings on the background. These duties which devolve upon them as a piece of religious work indicate their early connection with image-worship."



[1] Vide Bangera Jatiya Itihasa, Part IV, p. 114 note

[2] See Rapson's Indian Coins (in Grandriss der Indo-Arisehen Pliilologie, Vol. II, p. 36.)

[3] For Scythian Ksatriyas, see J. A. S. Bengal, Vol. LXXI, part I, p. 142

[4] This statue (Fig. 3 ) was found in a tank in the village of Ghora Shahi within the Zamindari of Raja Bahadur Baikuntha Nath De of Balasor. It was removed to Balasor by the Raja Bahadur and preserved in his own palace-garden. Ancient Uriya inscriptions are engraved upon it.

[5] Hang's Essays on the Parsis, pp. 281-7

[6] Bangera Jatiya Itihasa, Vol. II, Part IV, p. 35-36