Among the changes in cast, I have not noticed one which, if proved, is of much greater importance than all the rest. I allude to the admission of a body of Scythians into the Cshetrya class, which is asserted by Colonel Tod648, and in part acceded to by a very able writer in the “Oriental Magazine649.” Colonel Tod is entitled to every respect, on account of his zeal for Oriental knowledge, and the light he has thrown on a most interesting country, almost unknown till his time; and the anonymous writer is so evidently a master of his subject, that it is possible he may be familiar with instances unknown to me of the admission of foreigners into Hindu casts. Unless this be the case, however, I am obliged to differ from the opinion advanced, and can only show my estimation of those who maintain it, by assigning my reasons at length. If the supposition be, that the whole Hindu people sprang from the same root with the Scythians, before those nations had assumed their distinctive peculiarities, I shall not conceive myself called on to discuss the question; but if such an union is said to have taken place within the historic period, I shall be inclined to doubt the fact. The admission of strangers into any of the twice-born classes was a thing never contemplated by Menu, and could not have taken place within the period to which the records of his time extended. No trace of
the alleged amalgamation remained in Alexander’s time; for though he and his followers visited India after having spent two years in Scythia, they discovered no resemblance between any parts of those nations. The union must therefore have taken place within a century or two before our sera, or at some later period. This is the supposition on which Colonel Tod has gone in some places, though in others he mentions Scythian immigrations in the sixth century before Christ, and others at more remote periods.
That there were Scythian irruptions into India before those of the Moguls under Chengiz Khan, is so probable, that the slightest evidence would induce us to believe them to have occurred; and we may be satisfied with the proofs afforded us that the Scythians, after conquering Bactria, brought part of India under their dominion; but the admission of a body of foreigners into the proudest of the Hindu classes, and that after the line had been as completely drawn as it was in the Code of Menu, is so difficult to imagine, that the most direct and clear proofs are necessary to substantiate it. Now, what are the proofs?
1. That four of the Rajput tribes have a fable about their descent, from which, if all Hindu fables had a meaning, we might deduce that they came from the west, and that they did not know their real origin.
2. That some of the Rajputs certainly did come from the west of the Indus.
3. That the religion and manners of the Rajputs resemble those of the Scythians.
4. That the names of some of the Rajput tribes are Scythian.
5. That there were, by ancient authorities, Indo-Scythians on the Lower Indus in the second century.
6. That there were white Huns in Upper India in the time of Cosmas Indico Pleustes (sixth century).
7. That De Guignes mentions, on Chinese authorities, the conquest of the country on the Indus by a body of Yu-chi or Getae, and that there are still Jits on both sides of that river.
1. The first of these arguments is not given as conclusive; and it is obvious that native tribes, as well as foreign, might be ignorant of their pedigree, or might wish to improve it by a fable, even if known. The scene of the fable carries us no nearer to Scythia than Abu, in the north of Guzerat; and few, if any, of the tribes which Colonel Tod describes as Scythians belong to the four to whom only it applies.
2. The great tribe of Thin, which is the principal, perhaps the only one, which came from beyond the Indus, is the tribe of Crishna, and of the purest Hindu descent. There is a story of their having crossed to the west of the Indus after the death of Crishna. One division (the Sauna) certainly came from the west, in the seventh or eighth century, but they were Hindus before they crossed the Indus; and many of those who still remain on the west, though now Mahometans, are allowed to be of Hindu descent650. Alexander found two bodies of Indians west of the Indus, – one in Paropamisus and one near the sea; and, though both were small and unconnected, yet the last-mentioned alone is sufficient to account for all the immigrations of Rajputs into India, without supposing aid from Scythia.
3. If the religion and manners of any of the Rajputs resemble those of the Scythians, they incomparably more closely resemble those of the Hindus. Their language also is Hindu, without a Scythian word (as far as has yet been asserted). I have not heard of any part of their
religion, either, that is not purely Hindu. in fact, all the points in which they are said to resemble the Scythians are common to all the Rajputs without exception, and most of them to the whole Hindu race. On the other hand, the points selected as specimens of Scythian manners are for the most part common to all rude nations. Many, indeed, are expressly brought forward as Scandinavian or German; although an identity of manners between those nations and the eastern Scythians is still to be proved, even supposing their common origin.
If, instead of searching for minute points of resemblance, we compare the general character of the two nations, it is impossible to imagine any two things less alike.
The Scythian is short, square built, and sinewy, with a broad face, high cheek bones, and long narrow eyes, the outer angles of which point upwards. His home is a tent; his occupation, pasturage; his food, flesh, cheese, and other productions of his flocks; his dress is of skins or wool; his habits are active, hardy, roving, and restless. The Rajput, again, is tall, comely, loosely built, and, when not excited, languid and lazy. He is lodged in a house, and clad in thin, showy, muttering garments; he lives on grain, is devoted to the possession of land, never moves but from necessity, and, though often in or near the desert, he never engages in the care of flocks and herds, which is left to inferior classes.
4. Resemblances of name, unless numerous and supported by other circumstances, are the very lowest sort of evidence; yet, in this case, we have hardly even them, Except Jit, which will be adverted to, the strongest resemblance is in the name of a now obscure tribe called Hun to that of the horde which the Romans called Huns; or to that of the great nation of the Turks, once called by the Chinese Hien-yun or Hiong-nou. The Huns, though
now almost extinct, were once of some consequence, being mentioned in some ancient inscriptions; but there is nothing besides their name to connect them either with the Huns or the Hiong-nou. It might seem an argument against the Hindu origin of the Rajputs, that the names of few of their tribes are explainable in Shanscrit. But are they explainable in any Tartar language? and are all names confessedly Hindu capable of explanation?
5. We may admit, without hesitation, that there were Scythians on the Indus in the second century, but it is not apparent how this advances us a single step towards their transformation into Rajputs: there have long been Persians and Afghans and English in India, but none of them have found a place among the native tribes.
6. Cosmas, a mere mariner, was not likely to be accurate in information about the upper parts of India; and the white Huns (according to De Guignes651) were Turks, whose capital was Organj or Khiva: but his evidence, if admitted, only goes to prove that the name of Hun was known in Upper India; and, along with that, it proves that up to the sixth century the people who bore it had not merged in the Rajputs.
7. The account of De Guignes has every appearance of truth. It not only explains the origin of the Scythians on the Indus, but shows us what became of them, and affords the best proof that they were not swallowed up in any of the Hindu classes652. The people called Yue-chi by the Chinese, Jits by the Tartars, and Getes or Getae by some of our writers, were a considerable nation in the centre of Tartary as late as the time of Tamerlane. In
the second century before Christ, they were driven from their original seats on the borders of China by the Hiong-nou, with whom they had always been in enmity. About 126 B.C. a division of them conquered Khorasan in Persia; and about the same time the Su, another tribe whom they had dislodged in an early part of their advance, took Bactria from the Greeks. In the first years of the Christian aera, the Yue-chi came from some of their conquests in Persia into the country on the Indus, which is correctly described by the Chinese historians. This portion of them is represented to have settled there; and accordingly, when Tamerlane (who was accustomed to fight the Jits in Tartary) arrived at the Indus, he recognised his old antagonists in their distant colony653. They still bear the name of Jits or Jats654, and are still numerous on both sides of the Indus, forming the peasantry of the Panjab, the Rajput country, Sind, and the east of Belochistan; and, in most places, professing the Mussulman religion.
The only objection to the Getic origin of the Jats is, that they are included in some lists of the Rajput tribes, and so enrolled among pure Hindus; but Colonel Tod, from whom we learn the fact, in a great measure destroys the effect of it, by stating655 that, though their name is in the list, they are never considered as Rajputs, and that no Rajput would intermarry with them. In another place656, he observes that (except for one very ambiguous rite) they were “utter aliens to the Hindu theocracy.”
It is a more natural way of connecting the immigration of Rajputs from the west with the invasion of the Getae, to
suppose that part of the tribes who are recorded to have crossed the Indus at an early period, and who probably were those found in the south by Alexander, were dislodged by the irruption from Scythia, and driven back to their ancient seats to join their brethren, from whom, in religion and cast, they had never separated.
My conclusion, therefore, is, that the Jats may be of Scythian descent, but that the Rajputs are all pure Hindus.
648. History of Rajasthan, vol. i.
649. Vol. iv. p. 33., and vol. viii. p. 19.
650. Tod, vol. i. p. 85.; Pottinger, pp. 392,393.; Ayeen Akbery, vol. ii. p. 122.
651. Vol. ii. p. 325.
652. De Guignes, Histoire des Huns, vol. ii. p. 11.; but still more, Academie des Inscriptions, vol. xxv., with the annexed paper by D’Anville.
653. Sherf u din, quoted by De Guignes, Academie des Inscriptions, vol. xxv. p. 32.
654. Not Jats, which is the name of a tribe near Agra, not now under discussion.
655. Vol. i. p. 106.
656. Vol. ii. 180.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage