Kambojas were a tribe of
Iron Age India, frequently mentioned in
Sanskrit and Pali literature. The tribe coalesced to become one of the
Mahajanapadas (great kingdoms) of ancient India
mentioned in the Anguttara Nikaya.
Vedic period India, with the Kamboja on the northwest border
1 Ethnicity and language
3 Kambojan States
3.1 The Aśvakas
3.2 Conflict with Alexander
4.1 Eastern Kambojas
5 Mauryan period
6 See also
9 External links
Ethnicity and language
Kambojas were probably of Indo-Iranian origin. They
are, however, sometimes described as
Indo-Aryans[page needed][volume needed] and
sometimes as having both Indian and Iranian affinities. The
Kambojas are also described as a royal clan of the Sakas.
The earliest reference to the
Kambojas is in the works of Pāṇini,
around the 5th century BCE. Other pre-
Common Era references appear in
Manusmriti (2nd century) and the
Mahabharata (10th century BCE),
both of which described the
Kambojas as former kshatriyas (Warriors
caste) who had degraded through a failure to abide by Hindu sacred
rituals. Their territories were located beyond Gandhara, beyond
Afghanistan laying in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan
where Buddha statues were built in the name of king Maurya &
Ashoka and the 3rd century BCE
Edicts of Ashoka
Edicts of Ashoka refers to the area
under Kamboja control as being independent of the
Mauryan empire in
which it was situated.
Some sections of the
Kambojas crossed the
Hindu Kush and planted
Kamboja colonies in
Paropamisadae and as far as Rajauri. The
Mahabharata locates the
Kambojas on the near side of the
Hindu Kush as
neighbors to the Daradas, and the Parama-
Kambojas across the Hindu
Kush as neighbors to the
Rishikas (or Tukharas) of the Ferghana
The confederation of the
Kambojas may have stretched from the valley
Rajauri in the south-western part of Kashmir to the Hindu Kush
Range; in the south–west the borders extended probably as far as the
regions of Kabul, Ghazni and Kandahar, with the nucleus in the area
north-east of the present day Kabul, between the
Hindu Kush Range and
the Kunar river, including Kapisa possibly extending from the
Kabul valleys to Kandahar.
Others locate the
Kambojas and the Parama-
Kambojas in the areas
spanning Balkh, Badakshan, the Pamirs and Kafiristan. D. C. Sircar
supposed them to have lived "in various settlements in the wide area
lying between Punjab, Iran, to the south of Balkh." and the
Parama-Kamboja even farther north, in the Trans-Pamirian territories
Zeravshan valley, towards the Farghana region, in the
Scythia of the classical writers.[page needed] The
mountainous region between the
Jaxartes is also suggested as
the location of the ancient Kambojas.
The name Kamboja may derive from (Kam + bhoj "Kamma+boja"), refer ring
to the people of a country known as "Kum" or "Kam". The mountainous
highlands where the
Jaxartes and its confluents arise are called the
highlands of the
Komedes by Ptolemy.
Ammianus Marcellinus also names
these mountains as Komedas. The Kiu-mi-to in the writings
Xuanzang have also been identified with the Komudha-dvipa of the
Puranic literature and the Iranian Kambojas.
The two Kamboja settlements on either side of the
Hindu Kush are also
substantiated from Ptolemy's Geography, which refers to the Tambyzoi
located north of the
Hindu Kush on the river
Oxus in Bactria, and the
Ambautai people on the southern side of Hindukush in the
Paropamisadae. Scholars have identified both the
Ptolemian Tambyzoi and Ambautai with Sanskrit
Scholars, such as Ernst Herzfeld, have suggested etymological links
between some Indo-Aryan ethnonyms and some geonyms used by
Iranian-speaking peoples of the
Caucasus Mountains and Caspian basin.
In particular, Kamboja somewhat resembles the hydronym Kambujiya –
the Iranian name for the Iori/Gabirri river (modern
Georgia/Azerbaijan). Kambujiya is also the root of Cambysene (an
archaic name for the Kakheti/Balakan regions of Georgia and
Azerbaijan) and the Persian personal name Cambyses. (A similar link is
suggested between the Kura River, which is near the Iori, and the name
of the Kurus and
Kaurava mentioned in vedic literature.) Such
etymologies have not, however, been universally accepted.[citation
The capital of Kamboja was probably Rajapura (modern Rajauri). The
Mahajanapada of Buddhist traditions refers to this branch.
Arthashastra and Ashoka's Edict No. XIII attest that the
Kambojas followed a republican constitution. Pāṇini's Sutras tend
to convey that the Kamboja of
Pāṇini was a "Kshatriya monarchy",
but "the special rule and the exceptional form of derivative" he gives
to denote the ruler of the
Kambojas implies that the king of Kamboja
was a titular head (king consul) only. One king of Kamboja was
King Srindra Varmana Kamboj.
Main article: Aśvakas
Kambojas were famous in ancient times for their excellent breed of
horses and as remarkable horsemen located in the Uttarapatha or
north-west. They were constituted into military sanghas and
corporations to manage their political and military affairs.[citation
needed] The Kamboja cavalry offered their military services to other
nations as well. There are numerous references to Kamboja having been
requisitioned as cavalry troopers in ancient wars by outside
It was on account of their supreme position in horse (Ashva) culture
that the ancient
Kambojas were also popularly known as Ashvakas, i.e.
horsemen. Their clans in the Kunar and Swat valleys have been referred
to as Assakenoi and Aspasioi in classical writings, and Ashvakayanas
and Ashvayanas in Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi.
Kambojas were famous for their horses and as cavalry-men
(aśva-yuddha-Kuśalah), Aśvakas, 'horsemen', was the term popularly
applied to them... The
Aśvakas inhabited Eastern Afghanistan, and
were included within the more general term Kambojas.
Elsewhere Kamboja is regularly mentioned as "the country of horses"
(Asvanam ayatanam), and it was perhaps this well-established
reputation that won for the horsebreeders of Bajaur and Swat the
designation Aspasioi (from the Old Pali aspa) and assakenoi (from the
Sanskrit asva "horse").
— Etienne Lamotte
Conflict with Alexander
Kambojas entered into conflict with
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great as he
invaded Central Asia. The Macedonian conqueror made short shrift of
the arrangements of Darius and after over-running the Achaemenid
Empire he dashed into today's eastern
Afghanistan and western
Pakistan. There he encountered resistance from the Kamboja Aspasioi
and Assakenoi tribes.
The Ashvayans (Aspasioi) were also good cattle breeders and
agriculturists. This is clear from the large number of bullocks that
Alexander captured from them - 230,000 according to Arrian - some
of which were of a size and shape superior to what the Macedonians had
known, and which Alexander decided to send to Macedonia for
During the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE, clans of the
Central Asia in alliance with the Sakas,
Pahlavas and the Yavanas
Afghanistan and India, spread into Sindhu, Saurashtra,
Malwa, Rajasthan, Punjab and Surasena, and set up independent
principalities in western and south-western India. Later, a branch of
the same people took Gauda and Varendra territories from the Palas and
Kamboja-Pala Dynasty of
Bengal in Eastern
There are references to the hordes of the Sakas, Yavanas, Kambojas,
Pahlavas in the
Bala Kanda of the Valmiki Ramayana. In these
verses one may see glimpses of the struggles of the Hindus with the
invading hordes from the north-west. The royal family of
the Kamuias mentioned in the
Mathura Lion Capital
Mathura Lion Capital are believed to be
linked to the royal house of
Taxila in Gandhara. In the medieval
Kambojas are known to have seized north-west
and Radha) from the Palas of
Bengal and established their own
Kamboja-Pala Dynasty. Indian texts like Markandeya Purana, Vishnu
Dharmottari Agni Purana,
Kamboja-Pala Dynasty of Bengal
A branch of
Kambojas seems to have migrated eastwards towards Nepal
Tibet in the wake of
Kushana (1st century) or else Huna (5th
century) pressure and hence their notice in the chronicles of Tibet
("Kam-po-tsa, Kam-po-ce, Kam-po-ji") and
Brahma Purana mentions the
Pragjyotisha and Tamraliptika.[volume needed]
Kambojas of ancient India are known to have been living in
north-west, but in this period (9th century AD), they are known to
have been living in the north-east India also, and very probably, it
was meant Tibet.
Kambojas ruler of the
Kamboja-Pala Dynasty Dharmapala was
defeated by the south Indian Emperor
Rajendra Chola I
Rajendra Chola I of the Chola
dynasty in the 11th century.
See also: Maurya Empire
Kambojas find prominent mention as a unit in the 3rd-century BCE
Edicts of Ashoka. Rock Edict XIII tells us that the
enjoyed autonomy under the Mauryas.[page needed] The
republics mentioned in Rock Edict V are the Yonas, Kambojas,
Gandharas, Nabhakas and the Nabhapamkitas. They are designated as
araja. vishaya in Rock Edict XIII, which means that they were
kingless, i.e. republican polities. In other words, the Kambojas
formed a self-governing political unit under the Maurya
Ashoka sent missionaries to the
Kambojas to convert them to Buddhism,
and recorded this fact in his Rock Edict V.
Etymology of Kapisa
Kom people (Afghanistan)
Kom people (India)
^ Dwivedi 1977: 287 "The
Kambojas were probably the descendants of the
Indo-Iranians popularly known later on as the Sassanians and Parthians
who occupied parts of north-western India in the first and second
centuries of the Christian era."
^ a b Mishra 1987
^ Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Achut Dattatrya Pusalker, A. K. Majumdar,
Dilip Kumar Ghose, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Vishvanath Govind Dighe.
The History and Culture of the Indian People, 1962, p 264,
^ a b c "Political History of Ancient India", H. C. Raychaudhuri, B.
N. Mukerjee, University of Calcutta, 1996.
^ See: Vedic Index of names & subjects by Arthur Anthony
Macdonnel, Arthur. B Keath, I.84, p 138.
^ See more Refs: Ethnology of Ancient Bhārata, 1970, p 107, Ram
Chandra Jain; The Journal of Asian Studies, 1956, p 384, Association
for Asian Studies, Far Eastern Association (U.S.)
^ India as Known to Pāṇini: A Study of the Cultural Material in the
Ashṭādhyāyī, 1953, p 49, Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala; Afghanistan,
p 58, W. K. Fraser, M. C. Gillet; Afghanistan, its People, its
Society, its Culture, Donal N. Wilber, 1962, p 80, 311
^ Walker and Tapp 2001
^ a b Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania, Barbara A.
West, Infobase Publishing (2009), ISBN 9781438119137 p. 359
^ Encyclopaedia Indica, "The Kambojas: Land and its Identification",
First Edition, 1998 New Delhi, page 528
^ a b Sethna, K. D. (2000) Problems of Ancient India, New Delhi:
Aditya Prakashan. ISBN 81-7742-026-7
^ Numerous scholars now locate the Kamboja realm on the southern side
Hindu Kush ranges (in the Kabul, Swat, and Kunar valleys) and
Kambojas in the territories on the north side of the Hindu
Kush. See: Geographical and Economic Studies in the Mahābhārata:
Upāyana Parva, 1945, p 11-13, Moti Chandra - India; Geographical Data
in the Early Purāṇas: A Critical Study, 1972, p 165/66, M. R. Singh
^ Purana, Vol VI, No 1, January 1964, p 207 sqq; Inscriptions of
Asoka: Translation and Glossary, 1990, p 86, Beni Madhab Barua,
Binayendra Nath Chaudhury - Inscriptions, Prakrit).
^ The Peoples of Pakistan: An Ethnic History, 1971, pp 64-67, Yuri
Vladimirovich Gankovski - Ethnology.
^ History of the Pathans, 2002, p 11, Haroon Rashid - Pushtuns.
Michael Witzel Persica-9, p 92, fn 81.
^ Asoka and His Inscriptions, 1968, pp 93-96, Beni Madhab Barua,
Ishwar Nath Topa.
^ Sircar, D. C. (1971). Studies in the
Geography of Ancient and
Medieval India. p. 100.
^ See: Proceedings and Transactions of the All-India Oriental
Conference, 1930, p 118, J. C. Vidyalankara
^ The Deeds of Harsha: Being a Cultural Study of Bāṇa's
Harshacharita, 1969, p 199, Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala
^ Central Asiatic Provinces of the Mauryan Empire, p 403, H. C. Seth;
See also: Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. XIII, 1937, No 3, p. 400;
Journal of the Asiatic Society, 1940, p 37, (India) Asiatic Society
(Calcutta, Royal Asiatic Society of
Bengal - Asia; cf: History and
Archaeology of India's Contacts with Other Countries, from Earliest
Times to 300 B.C., 176, p 152, Shashi P. Asthana;
Mahabharata Myth and
Reality, 1976, p 232, Swarajya Prakash Gupta, K. S. Ramachandran. Cf
also: India and Central Asia, p 25 etc, P. C. Bagchi.
^ Indian Historical Quarterly, 1963, p 403; Central Asiatic provinces
of the Maurya Empire, p403, H.C. Seth
^ History and Archaeology of India's Contacts with Other Countries,
from Earliest Times to 300 B.C., 1976, p 152, Shashi Asthana;
Mahabharata Myth and Reality, 1976, p 232, Swarajya Prakash Gupta, K.
^ "The Town of Darwaz in Badakshan is still called Khum (Kum) or
Kala-i-Khum. It stands for the valley of Basht. The name Khum or Kum
conceals the relics of ancient Kamboja" (Journal of the Asiatic
Society, 1956, p 256, Buddha Prakash [Asiatic Society (Calcutta,
India), Asiatic Society of Bengal]).
^ India and the World, p 71, Buddha Prakash; also see: Central Asiatic
Provinces of Maurya Empire, p 403, H. C. Seth; India and Central Asia,
p 25, P. C. Bagchi
^ Journal of the Asiatic Society, 1956, p 256, Asiatic Society
(Calcutta, India), Asiatic Society of Bengal.
^ Talbert 2000, p. 99
^ For Tambyzoi=Kamboja, see refs: Pre Aryan and Pre Dravidian in
India, 1993, p 122, Sylvain Lévi, Jean Przyluski, Jules Bloch, Asian
Educational Services; Cities and Civilization, 1962, p 172, Govind
^ For Ambautai=Kamboja, see Witzel 1999a
^ Patton and Bryant 2005, p. 257
^ Histoire Auguste: Pt. 2. Vies des deux Valérines et des deux
Galliens, 2000, p 90, Ammn Marcellin, Jean Pierre Callu, O. Desbordes
(Les hydronymes de Transcaucasie, en question ici, auraient pu, dès
lors, aussi dériver aussi de ces ethniques, lors de l'extension des
tribus iraniennes vers le Nord de la Médie, et non pas de ces
souverains achéménides — dont la présente légende répond mieux
à l'ingéniosité «heurématique» des Grecs)
^ See: Problems of Ancient India, 2000, p 5-6; cf: Geographical Data
in the Early Puranas, p 168.
^ Hindu Polity: A Constitutional History of India in Hindu Times,
Parts I and II., 1955, p 52, Dr Kashi Prasad Jayaswal - Constitutional
history; Prācīna Kamboja, jana aura janapada =: Ancient Kamboja,
people and country, 1981, Dr Jiyālāla Kāmboja - Kamboja (Pakistan).
^ Studies in Skanda Purana, 1978, p 59, A. B. L. Awasthi.
^ The Indian Historical Quarterly, 1963, p 103
^ a b Hindu Polity, 1978, pp 121, 140, K. P. Jayswal.
^ War in Ancient India, 1944, p 178, V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar -
Military art and science.
^ The Indian Historical Quarterly, 1963, p 103; The Achaemenids in
India, 1950, p 47, Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya; Poona Orientalist: A
Quarterly Journal Devoted to Oriental Studies, 1945, P i, (edi) Har
Dutt Sharma; The Poona Orientalist, 1936, p 13,
^ "Par ailleurs le Kamboja est régulièrement mentionné comme la
"patrie des chevaux" (Asvanam ayatanam), et cette reputation bien
etablie gagné peut-etre aux eleveurs de chevaux du Bajaur et du Swat
l'appellation d'Aspasioi (du v.-p. aspa) et d'assakenoi (du skt asva
"cheval")". E. Lamotte, Historie du Bouddhisme Indien, p. 110. (WP
translation. Quotation should be taken from the published English
translation: Lamotte 1988, p. 100)
^ Panjab Past and Present, pp 9-10; also see: History of Porus, pp 12,
38, Buddha Parkash
^ Proceedings, 1965, p 39, by Punjabi University. Dept. of Punjab
Historical Studies - History.
^ De Sélincourt, A., & Hamilton, J. (1971, 2003). Arrian: The
Campaigns of Alexander. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Book IV, pp. 244
^ History of Punjab, 1997, Editors: Fauja Singh, L. M. Joshi
^ Acharya 2001, p 91
^ Geographical Data in the Early Purāṇas: A Critical Study, 1972, p
168, M. R. Singh - India.
^ History of Ceylon, 1959, p 91, Ceylon University, University of
Ceylon, Peradeniya, Hem Chandra Ray, K. M. De Silva.
^ Pande (R.) 1984, p. 93
^ Shrava 1981, p. 12
^ Rishi, 1982, p. 100
^ See: Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol II, Part I, p xxxvi; see
also p 36, Sten Konow; Indian Culture, 1934, p 193, Indian Research
Institute; Cf: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain
and Ireland, 1990, p 142, Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and
Ireland - Middle East.
^ Indian Historical Quarterly, 1963, p 127
^ Shastri and Choudhury 1982, p. 112
^ B. C. Sen, Some Historical Aspects of the Inscriptions of Bengal, p.
342, fn 1
^ M. R. Singh, A Critical Study of the Geographical Data in the Early
Puranas, p. 168
^ Ganguly 1994, p. 72, fn 168
^ H. C. Ray, The Dynastic History of Northern India, I, p. 309
^ A. D. Pusalkar,
R. C. Majumdar et al., History and Culture of Indian
People, Imperial Kanauj, p. 323,
^ R. R. Diwarkar (ed.), Bihar Through the Ages, 1958, p. 312
^ Ancient Indian History and Civilization by Sailendra Nath Sen p.281
^ The Cambridge Shorter History of India p.145
^ H. C. Raychaudhury, B. N. Mukerjee; Asoka and His Inscriptions, 3d
Ed, 1968, p 149, Beni Madhab Barua, Ishwar Nath Topa.
^ Hindu Polity, A Constitutional History of India in Hindu Times,
1978, p 117-121, K. P. Jayswal; Ancient India, 2003, pp 839-40, V. D.
Mahajan; Northern India, p 42, Mehta Vasisitha Dev Mohan etc
^ Bimbisāra to Aśoka: With an Appendix on the Later Mauryas, 1977, p
123, Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya.
^ The North-west India of the Second Century B.C., 1974, p 40, Mehta
Vasishtha Dev Mohan - India; Tribes in Ancient India, 1973, p 7
^ Yar-Shater 1983, p. 951
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Kamboj Society - Ancient Kamboja Country
Ancient South Asia and Central Asia
Archaeology and prehistory
Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex
Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC)
Indo-Aryan migration theory
Genetics and archaeogenetics
History of the horse
Historical peoples and clans
Mythology and literature
Indo-Scythians in Indian literature
Tribes and kingdoms mentioned in the Mahabharata
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(c. 600 BCE–c. 300 BCE)