Parama Kamboja

Ancient Sanskrit literature reveals that like the Madras/Uttara Madras and the Kurus/Uttara Kurus, the ancient Kambojas also had, at least two settlements. The great epic Mahabharata sufficiently attests two main divisions of the Kambojas which were named as Kamboja and the Parama-Kamboja. Besides Mahabharata, there are other ancient texts/sources which also indirectly support the existence of two Kamboja divisions in ancient times.

Mahabharata Evidence


In Arjuna's Digvijaya campaign against the tribes of north, in the direction presided over by the lord of treasures, Pandava hero Arjuna reduces the Bahlika (north-west Punjab) country, and then meets the Daradas (Gilgit) and the Kambojas (Paropamisadae to Rajauri) and obtains tribute from them

This settlement of the Kambojas was in neighborhood of the Daradas and is located on the southern side of Hindu Kush in the region, which later formed parts of the Greek strapy of Paropamisadae. In the east, it is known to have extended as far as Rajapura (Rajauri) located in west Kashmir, as attested by Mahabharata

The capital city of Kamboja was at Rajauri (Dr B. C. Law, Dr R. C. Majumdar, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury).


Mahabharata attests that after settling with the Daradas and the Kambojas, Arjuna fights with the robber tribes of the mountainous frontiers and dasyus (barbarians) of the woods, and thereafter, taking select forces, Arjuna goes across Hindukush to fight with the allied tribes of the Lohas, Parama-Kambojas and northern Rishikas .

The Lohas, Param-Kambojas and the northern Rishikas were all cognate tribes, and all were located in trans-Himalayan (i.e trans-Hindukush) territories. The distant northerly section of the northern Rishikas were known as "Parama Rishikas" . Another settlement of the Rishikas somewhere between river Tapti and Godavari, in western India is also attested in Puranic and epic literature. They were probably located on or south of river Tapti, west of Vidarbhas, north of the Mulakas, east of Soparka and south of Anupadesa (in modern Maharashtra).

The northern Rishikas were apparently located towards Sogdiana/Fargana territories. According to classical writings, the vast region beyond Mount Hemodos (i.e north of Hindukush/Himalaya) was known as Scythia . The same was known as Sakadvipa in ancient Sanskrit literature.

Scholars like Jayachandra Vidyalankar, Moti Chandra etc locate Kambojas in Badakshan, as neighbors to Bahlikas and say that the Daradas had come as allies of Kambojas in the Badakshan battle with Arjuna. After defeating the Kambojas, Arjuna meets the forces of Lohas, Parama Kambojas and Rishikas, in north-easterly territories. Mahabharata attests the Lohas, Parama Kambojas and Rishikas as allied (sahitan) tribes .

Jayachandra Vidyalankar identifies Parama Kamboja with Ghalcha speaking Yaghnobi regions at the head waters of Zerafshan river, in old Sogdiana, a tract of country considerably to the north of the Pamirs and separated from them by the hill states subordinate to Bokhara . H. C. Seth identifies the mountainous region between the Oxus and Jaxartes (old Sogdiana) as the locale of the ancient Kambojas . This primarily forms the Parama Kambojas of the Mahabharata.

The Parama-Kambojas were located in Pamirs/Badakshan and as far as Zeravshan valley in Sogdiana (See: Kamboja Location). Since this region was beyond Mount Hemados/Himaos, it apparently fell in Scythic cultural belt. The Parama Kambojas, therefore, were pure Iranians following Irano-Scythian culture and customs rather than the Indo-Aryan. The capital city of the Parama-Kamboja was probably at Darwaz in Pamirs.

Further References to Parama-Kamboja

There are several more references in the Drona Parava, Sauptika Parava and Karana Parava of Mahabharata, which amply attest the excellent breed of horses from Parama-Kamboja. The Following is one illustrative example, picked up from Sauptikaparava of Mahabharata, which sufficiently attests the Parama-Kamboja people as well as their foremost breed of war steeds .

It is interesting to note that like Madras/Uttara Madras, Kurus/Uttara Kurus, Kambojas/ Parama Kambojas, there were also two settlements of the Yonas (Yavanas)--- the Yona and the Parama Yona . Further, there is also an ancient reference to China and Parama China in Valmiki Ramayana .

The Yona probably referred to Archosian Yavanas while the Parama-Yona to the Bactrian Yavanas. Similarly China probably referred to little Tibet, while the Parama China (also known as Maha-China: see Manasollasa) referred to the main China.

Etymology of Parama-Kamboja

The prefix Parama- can be interpretted in the sense of (1) Uttara or northern (2) Furthest or beyond and (3) Greater/supreme.

The Parama- with a sense of northern/Uttara sounds logical since the Parama- branch of the Kambojas was located in Uttara or north direction to Kambojas. Moreover, it also sounds similar to Uttara-Madra and Uttara-Kuru. The Parama- in the sense of Greater also makes good sense since the trans-Hindukush branch the Kambojas was original and perhaps the Greater or bigger section of the Kambojas . Some scholars like Dr Fauja Singh, Dr L. M. Joshi have interpretted Parama- in the sense of "beyond", which also looks senseful since Parama-Kamboja was located beyond the Kamboja, when seen from India. Dr J. Muir interprets Parama Kamboja as the Furthest Kamboja while others call it Distant Kamboja . Some writers however, translate it as Eastern Kamboja .

More evidence on two Kamboj settlements

Evidence from Dasam-Granth

While referring to the invasion of Alexander of Macedon, Dasasam Granth a seventeenth century text of Punjab refers to Kambuj and Kamboj obviously two distinct settlements The text obviously refers to Kambuj (Kabuj) as neighbors to the Kabulis and then the Kamboj as neighbors to the Kilmaka and China (Cheen ke) people. Kilmakas probably refers to the Mongol Kalmucks who lived in Central Asian Steppes. After Kilmaks, follows the destruction of countless forces of China (Cheen ke). Then it refers to Macheen (Manchuria).

Thus, the Dasam-Granth authors seem to be aware of the existence of two ancient Kamboja settlements.

Evidence from Ptolemy

Ptolemy refers to a region located on the southern bank of Oxus in Badakshan or Bactria , and calls it Tambyzoi. According to scholars like Dr S Levi, Tambyzoi is a Greek transliteration of Sanskrit Kamboja

Ptolemy also refers to another people/region which he calls Ambautai which he locates on the southern side of Hindukush in the Paropamisadae .

Ptolemy refers yet to another people/region he calls Komoi, whom he locates in the mountains of Sogdiana north of Bactria/Badakshan. It has been suggested that the Komoi of Ptolemy also indicate the same people as the Kambojas of the Sanskrit texts. The Komoi is Ptolemian transtliteration of Kamboi. Kamboi comes from Kamboika or Kamboyka which is corruption of Kambojika . Kambojika is Pali equivalent of Sanskrit Kamboja. Pali texts numerously write Kamboja as well as Kambojaka/Kambojika. Scholars like Dr H. C. Seth observe: "The mountainous highlands where Jaxartes and many other rivers which meet this great river arise, are called by Ptolemy as the "the Highlands of Komdei". Ammianus Marcellinus also call these Sogdian mountains as Komedas. The word Komedai and Komedas suggest Kom-desa or land of Kome. We learn from Ptolemy that a tribe variously called by him as Komaroi, Komedai, Khomaroi and Komoi was wide spread in the Highlands of Bactriana and Sogdiana. It is difficult to say, at present, how far the vast tracts of land on either side of Oxus called as Kyzyl Kum or Kizil Kum, Kok-kum and Kara Kum may yet bear the traces of the name of this once a great and powerful people" . These scholars have placed the ancient Kambojas in a vast area, in the doab of Oxus and Jaxartes, in the southern tip of Sakadvipa or Scythia. The Komdei of Ptolemy or the Kumudadvipa of the Puranic texts, obviously represents the Parama Kambojas of the Mahabharata .

Thus, it looks likely that the Kamboja clans were spread in Kabol valley in Paropamisadae, in Badakshan/Pamir as well as up to the highlands of Sogdiana. The Yagnobi, a dialect of the modern Galcha language spoken in/around the head waters of river Zeravshan (in Zeravshan valley), up in Sogdiana still contains the relics of ancient Kamboji verb Shavti used in the sense to go .

Parama Kamboja connections with Rishikas/Tukharas/Yue-chis?

The Rishikas are said to be same people as the Yuezhi. The Kushanas or Kanishkas are also the same people. Aurel Stein says that the Tukharas (Tokharois/Tokarais) were a branch of the Yuezhi. P. C. Bagchi holds that the Yuezhi, Tocharioi and Tushara were identical. Thus, the Rishikas, Tusharas/Tukharas (Tokharoi/Tokaroi), Kushanas and the Yuezhi were probably either a single people, or members of a confederacy. George Rawlinson observes that: "The Asii or Asiani were closely connected with the Tochari and the Sakarauli (Saracucse?) who are found connected with both the Tochari and the Asiani". Sabha Parva of Mahabharata states that the Parama Kambojas, Lohas and the Rishikas were allied tribes . Like the "Parama Kambojas", the Rishikas of the Transoxian region are similarly styled as "Parama Rishikas" . Based on the syntactical construction of the Mahabharata verse 5.5.15 and verse 2.27.25-26 , the outstanding Sanskrit scholar Ishwa Mishra believes that the Rishikas were a section of the Parama Kambojas. Dr V. S. Aggarwala too, relates the Parama Kambojas of the Trans-Pamirs to the Rishikas of the Mahabharata and also places them in the Sakadvipa (or Scythia) . According to Dr B. N. Puri, the Kambojas were a branch of the Tukharas.. Based on the above Rishika-Kamboja connections, some scholars also claim that the Kambojas were a branch of the Yuezhi themselves. Dr Moti Chander also sees a close ethnic relationship between the Kambojas and the Yuezhi .


The foregoing references sufficiently demonstrate that the Kambojas were living on either side of the Hindukush . The cis-Hindukush division was called Kamboja. The trans-Hindukush Kamboja division was known as Parama Kamboja. Thus, like the Uttara-Kurus and Uttara-Madras, the Parama-Kambojas were also located in the trans-Himalayan (paren himavantam..) regions, and were neighbors both to the Uttara Kurus as well as the Uttara Madras. The author of Vayu Purana uses the name Kumuda-dvipa for Kusha-dvipa . 'Kumuda is also a Puranic name of a mountain forming the northern buttress of the Mount Meru (i.e. Pamirs). In anterior Epic Age, Kumuda was the name given to high table-land of the Tartary located to north of the Himalaya range from which the Aryan race may have originally pushed their way southwards into Indian peninsula and preserved the name in their traditions as a relic of old mountain worship' (Thompson). Thus, the Kumuda-dvipa lay close north to the Pamirs. Lying in the Transoxiana (in Saka-dvipa), this Komuda or Kumuda-dvipa of the Puranic texts is often identified as the ancient Kamboja land which corresponds to the Parama Kamboja referred to in the Sabha Parava of Mahabharata .

Ptolemian Komdei is Komed or Komdesh or Kamdesh (?); from Kambodesh (?), probably "Kambojdesh". It is Kiumito or Kumito of Hiun Tsang and Kumed or Kumadh of the Muslim writers, Kiumiche of Wu'kong, Kumi of T'ang and Cambothi, Kambuson and Komedon of Greek writers. Al-Maqidisi in his book Al-Muqhni calls the people of this territory as Kumiji which apparently is equivalent to Sanskrit Kamboj . The root Kam of the Sanskrit name Kamboja is also reflected in the Kama valley, a region lying between the Khyber Pass and Jalalabad; in the place names like Kama-daka, Kamma-Shilman, Kama-bela of Kabol; in the Kamdesh or Kambrom, Kamich, Kama and Kamu & Kamatol of the Kunar and Bashgul valleys; and also in the vast expanses of region called Kazal-Kam and Kara-Kam lying on either side of the Oxus, north of Hindukush in parts of Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan. Thus, the Ptolemian terms Kamoi and Komdei or Hiun Tsang's Kiumito exactly also refer to the Trans-Hindukush territories which region is what Mahabharata refers to as Parama Kamboja i.e a Kamboja lying beyond the Kamboja of Kabol valley .

Aitareya Brahmana further attests that the trans-Himalyan Uttara Madra and Uttara Kuru nations were republican. As the Param-Kamboja (i.e the original Kamboja) was a close neighbor both to the Uttaramadras as wel as the Uttarakurus in trans-Himalyan territories, it can, therefore, be fairly conjectured that the Parama-Kambojas were also a republican people, most probably following a Rajashabdopajivin (king consul) type of republicanism, where the king was only a title for the commander-in-chief of the military confederation . Several republics of the Kambojas are attested in the Mahabharata . Kautiliya also attests the Kamboja Sanghas and Corporations . The Kambojas were also a self-governing political unit (republic) under the Maurya Emperors. .


See also

Books and Periodicals

  • Geographical Data in early Puranas, 1972, Dr M. R. Singh.
  • Problems of Ancient India, 2000, K. D. Sethna.
  • The Puranas, Vol VI, , No 1, 1964.
  • Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, Dr J. L. Kamboj.
  • These Kamboj People, 1979, K. S Dardi
  • Mahabharata
  • Ramayana
  • Ptolemy’s Geography
  • Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World: Map-By-Map Directory (2 Volume Set) , 2000, Richard J. A. Talbert.
  • Foundations of Indian Culture, 1984, Govind Chandra Pande - History
  • Original Sanskrit Texts on the Origin and History of the People of India ..., 1874, p 365, John Muir
  • Geographical and Economic Studies in the Mahābhārata: Upāyana Parva, 1945, p 11, Dr Moti Chandra
  • Proceedings and Transactions of the All-India Oriental Conference, 1930, p 118
  • Inscriptions of Asoka: Translation and Glossary, 1990, p 86, Beni Madhab Barua, Binayendra Nath Chaudhury - Inscriptions, Prakrit
  • Studies in Indian History and Civilization, 1962, p 300, Dr Buddha Prakash - India
  • The Deeds of Harsha: Being a Cultural Study of Bāṇa's Harshacharita, 1969, Dr Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala
  • Geography of the Mahabharata, 1986, Bhagwan Singh Suryavanshi - India
  • The Greco-Sunga Period of Indian History, Or, the North-West India...1973, Mehta Vasishtha Dev Mohan - India

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