During Indo-Scythian invasion of India in the pre-Kushana period, Kambojas appear to have migrated to Gujerat, Southern India, Sri Lanka and later to Bengal and Cambodia as well in the period spanning the 2nd century BCE to 5th century CE. Their descendants held various principalities in Medieval India, the one in north-west Bengal being seized, around middle of tenth century CE, from the Palas in Bengal. The Kamboj/Kamboh tribe of the Greater Punjab and the Kamoz and Katirs of the Siyahposh tribe in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan are believed by scholars to represent some of their modern descendants.
Based on the fact that Kamboja Aupamanyava has been mentioned as a renowned Vedic teacher in the Vamsa Brahmana of the Samaveda and his father or ancestor Rsi Upamanyu in the Rigveda , several scholars have argued that the Kambojas were Indo-Aryans and in the early Vedic times they had formed an important sectiont of the Vedic Aryans . The fact is also corroborated from Paraskara Grhya-sutram (v 2.1.2), where the Kambojas, as scholarly people, have been classed with the Vasishthas--the cultural heroes of ancient India, and have been counted amongst the six great scholarly houses of Vedic India. The social and religious customs of the Kambojas and Vasishthas are stated to be identical . Sage Upamanyu has been described as the composer of Rig Vedic Hymn 1.102.9 . In the more ancient layers of the Mahabharata, the Kambojas also appear to be established in Kshatriya-Dharama as warriors and rulers and are also described as scholars of the Vedas (i.e. kritavidyash) . The Khadga legend (q.v) related in the Shantiparva section of Mahabharata also bear very strong witness to the Vedic Aryan background of the Kambojas. In his Ashtadhyayi, Achariya Panini also lists the Kambojas as one of the fifteen important and powerful Indo-Aryan Kshatriya clans . All these reference go to attest Indo-Aryan affinities of the Kambojas.
However, numerous classical sources indicate that ancient Kamboja was a center of Iranian civilization. This is evident from the Zoroastrian religious customs of the ancient Kambojas as well as from the Avestan language they spoke. Yaska (700 BC), in his Nirukta, contrasts the speech of the Kambojas with that of the Aryans i.e Indo-Aryans , which fact offers a powerful clue to their being from the Persa Aryan stock . In the Mahabharata and Pali literature, the Kambojas appear in the characteristic Iranian roles of splendid horsemen and breeders of notable horses . The Bhishamaparava and Shantiparava of the epic Mahabharata sufficiently reveal that the Kambojas were living beyond the Uttara or the north (uttarashchapare); and with other people of the Uttarapatha, they are also addressed as Mlechchas (Barbarian people) or Asuras, lying outside the Indo-Aryans fold . They are repeatedly bracketed with other north-western, non-Vedic people like the Yavanas, Sakas, Tusharas, Darunas, Parasikas, Hunas, Kiratas and the like . Majjhima Nikaya reveals that in the lands of Yavanas, Kambojas and some other frontier nations, there were only two classes of people...Aryas and Dasas...the masters and slaves. The Arya could become Dasa and vice versa which social organisation was completely alien to India where four class social structure was prevalent. And in a passage in Buddhist Jataka, it is remarked that, unlike the Indo-Aryans, the Kambojas held it a religious duty to kill insects, snakes, worms and frogs which fact alone proves that the Kambojas were Zoroastrians, acting in accord with the precepts in the Vendidad . Non-Indo-Aryan customs of the Kambojas are also hinted at in Shanti Paravan of the Mahabharata .
According to some scholars, "The Kambojas were probably the descendants of the Indo-Iranians (East Iranians) popularly known later on as the Sassanian and Parthians who occupied parts of north western India in first second centuries of the Christian era " .
A host of eminent scholars have traced the tribal name Kamboja to the royal name Kambujiya of the Old Persian Inscriptions (known as Cambyses to the Greeks) . Kambujiya or Kambaujiya was the name of several great Persian kings of the Achaemenid line. This name also appears written as C-n-b-n-z-y in Aramaic, Kambuzia in Assyrian, Kambuza, Kambatet/Kambythet (rather Kambuzia ) as well as Kambunza in Egyptian , Kam-bu-zi-ia in Akkadian, Kan-bu-zi-ia in Elamite, and Kanpuziya in Susian language. The Khmer of Angkor believed their ancestors to be the people of "Kamboja" and traced their lineage to Kambujiya, hence the modern name of Cambodia, "Kampuchea". Cambyses III, son of Cyrus the Great, is famous for his conquest of Egypt (525 BCE), and for the havoc he wrought upon that country.
From the foregoing references, one can easily notice that there is indeed some evidence which attests Indo-Aryan affinities of the Kambojas but there is also an overwhelming evidence which endorses their Iranian affinities. In view of the above scenario, some distinguished scholars including Dr A. B. Keith and Dr A. A. Macdonnel, the authors of Vedic Index, have opined that the Kambojas probably had both Iranian as well as Indo-Aryan affinities .
Analysis of ancient Sanskrit texts and inscriptions place the Kambojas, Gandharas, Yavanas (Greeks), Madras, and the Sakas in the Uttarapatha - the northern division of Jambudvipa (the innermost concentric island continent in Hindu scripture). Geographically, this area sat along, and was named for, the main trade route from the mouth the Ganges to Balkh, now a small town in Northern Afghanistan. Some writers hold that Uttarapatha included the whole of Northern India and comprised very area of Central Asia, as far as the Urals and the Caspian Sea to the Yenisei and from Turkistan and Tien Shan ranges to as far as the Arctic (Dr S. M. Ali).
Linguistic evidence, combined with this literary and inscriptional evidence, has led many scholars of note to conclude that ancient Kambojas originally belonged to the Ghalcha-speaking area of Central Asia. For example, Yasaka's Nirukata (II.2) attests that verb Śavati in the sense "to go" was used by only the Kambojas. It has been proven that the modern Ghalcha dialects, Valkhi, Shigali, Sriqoli, Jebaka (also called Sanglichi or Ishkashim), Munjani, Yidga and Yagnobi, mainly spoken in Pamirs and countries on the headwaters of Oxus, still use terms derived from ancient Kamboja Śavati in the sense "to go". The Yagnobi dialect spoken in Yagnobi around the headwaters of Zeravshan in Sogdiana, also still contains a relic "Śu" from ancient Kamboja Śavati in the sense "to go" . Further, according to Sir G Grierson, the speech of Badakshan was a Ghalcha till about three centuries ago when it was supplanted by a form of Persian .
Thus, the ancient Kamboja probably included the Pamirs, Badakshan, and possibly parts of Tajikstan, including Yagnobi region in the doab of the Oxus . On the east it was bounded roughly by Yarkand and/or Kashgar, on the west by Bahlika (Uttaramadra), on the northwest by Sogdiana, on the north by Uttarakuru, on the southeast by Darada, and on the south by Gandhara.
Later, some sections of the Kambojas crossed the Hindukush and planted Kamboja colonies in Paropamisadae and as far as Rajauri. This view is fully supported by the Mahabharata, which specifically draws attention to the Kambojas located in the cis-Hindukush region as neighbors to the Daradas, and the Parama-Kambojas located across the Hindukush as neighbors to the Rishikas (or Tukharas) of Ferghana/Sogdiana . Dr J. C. Vidyalanakara, Dr V. S. Aggarwala, Dr K. C. Mishra, Dr J. L. Kamboj and many other scholars locate Kamboja in Pamirs and Badakshan and the Parama Kamboja further north, in the Trans-Pamirian territories comprising Zeravshan valley, towards Sogdhiana/Fargana--in the Sakadvipa or Scythia of the classical writers . Dr H. C. Seth identifies the mountainous region between the Oxus and Jaxartes (old Sogdiana) as the locale of the ancient Kambojas . This may primarily equate to the Parama Kambojas of the Mahabharata.
On the etymology of the name Kamboja, one line of scholars assert that the word derives from (Kam + bhuj) and "it refers to a people who were the Masters (enjoyers) of the country known as Kum or Kam (Rai & Dev). This line of thought suggests a possible identification of the country of Kambojas with mountainous regions between the Oxus and the Jaxartes (i.e. the old Sogdian strapy)...... 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/Kam. We learn from Ptolemy that a tribe variously called by him as Komaroi, Komedai, Khomaroi, Komoi and Tambyzoi was wide spread in the Highlands of Bactriana, Sogdiana and Sakai . 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" .
Scholars like Dr Buddha Parkash, H. C. Seth, Kirpal Singh etc identify the Ptolemian Komedei with the Komudha-dvipa of the Puranic literature and also connect it with the Iranian Kambojas .
The two separate Kamboja settlements (one on either side of the Hindukush), are also substantiated from Ptolemy's Geography itself, which also references geographical term Tambyzoi located north of Hindukush on the river Oxus in Bactria, and Ambautai people living on the southern side of Hindukush in the Paropamisadae. Scholars have identified both the Ptolemian Tambyzoi and Ambautai with Sanskrit Kamboja.
The Yidga sub-dialect of Galcha Munjani is still spoken on the southern sides of Hindukush in Paropamisadae, further strengthening the view that some Kambojas crossed south of the Hindukush. Still further, Ptolemy Geography attests a tribal people called Khomaroi and Komoi located north of Bactria in Sogdiana . It has also been pointed out that the Ptolemian Komoi is classical form of Kamboi (or Kamboika: from Pali Kambojika, Sanskrit Kamboja) . This settlement of the Kamboj may have resulted in the wake of tribal movement of the Scythian Komedes (which included Parama Kambojas) from the Alai Valley/Alai Mountains into the west around second century BCE.
With time, the trans-Hindukush Kambojas remained essentially Iranian in culture and religion, while those in the cis-Hindukush region came partially (or partly) under Indian cultural influence. Numerous scholars have remarked that the ancient Kambojas had both Indian as well as Iranian affinities .
Still later, some sections of the Kambojas apparently moved even farther, to Arachosia, as attested by the Aramaic version of Greco-Aramaic inscription of king Ashoka found in Kandahar. Some scholars have identified the original Kamboja with Arachosia (Kandahar), but this view does not seem to be correct.
According scholars like Vladimirovich Gankovskiĭ, 'Ancient Kamboja confederation (Mahajanapada) extended from Hindukush to Rajaury valley (in south-west parts of Kashmir), and the south-western borders of this confederation extended probably as far as the regions of Kabul, Ghazni and Qandahar. It also included Kapishi' . Dr Michael Witzel also extends it from Kabul valleys to Arachosia/Kandahar . B. M. Barua and I. N. Topa however, localize the Kambojas and the Parama Kambojas in the areas spanning Balkh, Badakshan, Pamirs and Kafiristan .
S. Langdon identify the well known Aramaic people Gambua with the ancient Kambojas who find mention in king Asoka's records. These people appear in the annals of Asarhaddan (681-668 BC) and are also spoken of by the Arabic geographers in the middle ages. They are the important people who once occupied regions east of the mouth of the Tigris along the Persian gulf towards Elam
Scholars believe that the nomadic invaders who had invaded Iran several centuries prior to Christian era were Scythian tribes of the "Kambysene" territory from west of Caspian region i.e. ancient Armenia. Name Kambysene has been attested anciently by Strabo which he specifies as a region bordering on Caucasus mountains. It comprised a rugged region through which a road connecting Albania and Iberia passed. The Greek form of the name is believed to have been derived in the Hellenistic period from an indigenous name, corresponding to Armenian Kamboean. In Georgian, it is written Kambeovani, in Arabic, Qambzan. In Sanskrit, it was transliterated as Kamboja. Though not attested prior to Strabo, the region Kambysene is believed to have born this name since remote antiquity. The tribal people living around this region were also called by the same name. Strabo also attests two rivers viz: Cyrus (modern Kura) and Cambyses (modern Jori or Jora), the latter being a tributary of the former. The territorial name Cambysene or Kambysene as well as the river names Cyrus and Kambyses of Strabo's Geography occurring north of Iran, and the ethnics inhabiting therein have been connected to the ethno-geographical name Kambuja/Kamboja and Kuru of the Sanskrit texts . According to Ernst Herzfeld also, Cyrus and Cambyses, the names of two rivers, as well as the Achaemenid names Kurush and Kambujiya, were derived from two ethnics i.e Kurus and Kambojas of ancient Sanskrit texts. The name Cambyses occurs in Old Persian as Kambujiya or perhaps Kambaujiya, in Egypt as Kambuza, Kembatet (or rather Kambuzia) and Kambunza , in Elemite Kanbuziya, in Akkadian Kambuziya and Aram. Knbwzy etc . In Zend Avestan, the name takes the form of Kavaus and in modern Persian as Kavus and Kaus. Kabus, which was born by the Dilemite sovereigns is the same with the Kaus of Romance; yet the more ancient form is Kaubus or "Kabuj" which latter name renders the identification with Sanskrit Kamboja also most certain. The Georgians, even to the present day, name the hero of romance Kapus, still retaining the labial which has merged in the Persian . In modern times, the name appears as Kamoj in Kafiristan and Kamboj/Kamboh in Punjab.
Scholars like Chandra Chakravarty also say that Kambysene of the Greeks transliterates into Kamboja and the Cyrus into Kuru of the Sanskrit texts. They further note that the hordes, who had participated in the earlier invasion of Iran along with Yauteyas were the Nordic Scythians, living around the Kambysene region, near Mt Caucasus in ancient Armenia. They were the Kuru-Kambojas of the Sanskrit texts . These Nordic Kuru-Kamboja hordes later got mixed with the Alpine base "Parsa-Xsayatia" (Purush-Khattis) Iranians and gave birth to the famous Achaemenian dynastic line of Persia. This might explain as to why the Achemenians chose to name their famous kings as Kambujiya (Cambyses) and Kurush (Cyrus).
James Hope Moulton however, remarks: “The names Kuru and Kamboja are of disputed etymology, but there is no reason whatever to doubt their being Aryan. I do not think there has been any suggestion more attractive than that made long ago by Spiegel that they attach themselves to Sanskrit Kura (Kuru) and Kamboja, originally Aryan heroes of the fable, whose names were naturally revived in a royal house (in Persia)....Kamboja is a geographical name, and so is Kuru often: hence their appearance in Iranian similarly to-day as Kur and Kamoj" .
Chandra Chakravarty also states that the Kambohs of NW Punjab are the modern representatives of these Scythian Kambysene, whom he calls Scythian Kambojas. Chandra Chakravarty further asserts that a branch of these Scythian Kambysenes which had settled in the north-west India (in northern Afghanistan) became known in ancient Sanskrit/Pali texts as Kamboja; and yet another branch of them reached Tibetan plateau where they mixed with the locals; and some Tibetans are still called Kambojas. And through Tibet, they went further to Mekong valley where they were called Kambujas (Cambodians), now represented by the Chams, still a tall, fair, dolichocephelic people with non-mongoloid eyes of the Mon-Khmers .
The earliest and most powerful reference endorsing the Kshatriya-hood of the Kambojas is Panini's fifth century BCE Ashtadhyayi. Panini refers to the Kamboja Janapada, and mentions it as "one of the fifteen powerful Kshatriya Janapadas" of his times, inhabited and ruled by Kamboja Kshatriyas .
See: Kambojas of Panini
The Harivamsa attests that the clans of Kambojas, Sakas, Yavanas, Pahlavas, Paradas were "formerly noble Kshatriyas". It was king Sagara who had deprived the Kambojas, and other allied tribes, of their Kshatiya-hood (sarve te Kshatriya tata dharma tesham nirakrta) and forbade them from performing Svadhyayas and Vasatkaras..
The Harivamsa calls this group of Sakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas and Paradas as "Kśatriya-pungavah", i.e., foremost among the Kśatriyas. Vayu Purana calls them as "Kśatriya ganah" (Kshatriya hordes).
The Manusmriti attests that the Kambojas, Sakas, Yavanas etc were originally "noble Kśatriyas", but were gradually degraded to the status of "Vriśalah" (degraded Kśatriyas), on account of their neglect of sacred rites and non-entertainment of the Brahminas in their countries .
The Mahabharata likewise, also notes that the Kambojas, Sakas, Yavanas, Pahlavas, et al. were originally "noble Kshatriyas", who later got degraded to barbaric status due to the wrath of the Brahmanas (Saka Yavana Kambojas tastah Kshatriya-jatayah, vrishalatvam parigata Brahmananamadarshana).
Furthermore, while making a reference to a Kamboja king called Kamatha, the Sabha Parva of Mahabharata also styles the Kamboja prince as one of the foremost Kshatriya princes (tatha.eva.ksatriya Shrestha.dharma.rajam.upasate) present among the princely invitees of the Pandava king Yudhisthira on the inauguration ceremony of the royal palace .
The legend of Daivi Khadga or Divine Sword detailed in Shantiparva of Mahabharata again powerfully endorses the Kshatriya-hood of the Kambojas. The sword as the "symbol of Kshatriya-hood" was wrested by the warrior king Kamboja from the Kosala king Kuvalashava alias Dhundhumara, from whom it went to another warrior king called Muchukunda..
See: Mahabharata Sword
The Arthashastra of Kautiliya attests the Kshatriya Shrenis (Corporations of Kshatriyas or Warriors) of the Kambojas, Surashtras, and some other nations, and mentions them as living by agriculture, trade and warfare .
Also, according to numerous Puranas, the military Corporations of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas and Paradas, known as five hordes (pānca-ganah), had militarily supported the Haihaya and Talajunga Kshatriyas in depriving Ikshvaku king Bahu (the 7th king in descent from Harishchandra), of his Ayodhya kingdom. A generation later, Bahu's son, Sagara recaptured Ayodhya after totally destroying the Haihaya and Talajangha Kshatriyas in the battle. Story goes that king Sagara had punished these foreign hordes by changing their hair-styles and turning them into degraded Kshatriyas.
Bhagavata Purana makes reference to a Kamboj king, and calls him a "powerfully armed mighty warrior" (samiti-salina atta-capah Kamboja).
Kalika Purana refers to a war between the Buddhist king Kali (Maurya Brihadratha) and the Brahmanical king Kalika (Pusyamitra Sunga), where the Kambojas came as military supporters to Brihadratha, (187-180) BCE. The Purana notes the Kamboja warriors as Kambojai...bhimavikramaih, i.e. the Kambojas of terrific military prowess", again confirming the Kshatriya-hood of the Kambojas.
Brahmanda Purana talks of 21 battles waged by Brahma-Kshatriya sage Parsurama against the ancient Haihaya dynasty clans of the Indian subcontinent. The list of Haihaya dynasty clans whom sage Parsurama fought with includes the Kambojas as well. This ancient evidence again verifies that Kambojas were a Kshatriya clan.
Passages in Mahabharata, Puranas and other ancient texts state that the Kambojas were 'valiant warriors' ; particularly 'hard to fight with' ; invincible ; expert in the use of 'diverse weapons' ; 'wrathful, ferocious and shaved-headed warriors' ; expert cavalarymen ; 'deadly like the cobras' ; 'strikers of fierce force' ; 'Death-personified' ; 'of a fearful bearing like Yama' (the god of death) ; and 'the war-loving Kambojas' etc.
In Paraskara Grhya-sutram (v 2.1.2), the Kambojas have been listed at par with the Vasishthas--the cultural heroes of ancient India. Their social customs are stated to be identical. Rsi Upamanyu, the composer of Rigvedic Hymn (v 1. 102. 9); and his son/descendent Kamboja Aupamanyava-- a hallowed sage and teacher mentioned in Vamsa Brahmana (v 1.18-19) of the Sama Veda-- are some of the very distinguished ancient philosophers/scholars and teachers born of the Kamboja lineage.
Drona Parva section of Mahabharata amply attests that, besides being fierce warriors, the entire Kamboj soldiery which participated in the Kurukshetra war was also noted as learned people ..
Benjamin Walker observes:
"Kambojas were not only famous for their furs and woolen blankets embroidered with threads of gold, their wonderful horses and their beautiful women, but by epic period, they had become especially renowned as Vedic teachers and their homeland as a seat of Brahmanical learning" .
Dr A. D. Pusalkar observes:
“The speech of Kambojas is referred to by Yaska as differing from that of other Aryans and Grierson sees in this reference the Iranian affinities of the Kambojas, but the fact that the Kambojas teachers were reputed for their Vedic learning shows them to have been Vedic Aryans, so that the Kamboja was an Aryan settlemen”
Viveka Nanda and Lokesh Chander write:
"The teachers of Kamboja were known for their Vedic learning. Culturally, Afghanistan then formed part of India...." .
See also : Scholarship among Ancient Kambojas.
The Kambojas have been famous in ancient time for their excellent breed of horses as well as as a remarkable horsemen or cavalry troopers . They have been portrayed as famous Central Asian horsemen located in the Uttarapatha or North-west . In the Epic and Pali literature, they repeatedly appear in the characteristic Iranian roles of splendid horsemen and breeders of notable horses . The Mahabharata, the Puranic texts and numerous other ancient literature profusely attest the Kambojas among the finest horsemen . They are known to have been constituted into Military Sanghas and Corporations to manage their political and military affairs as Kautiliya and Mahabharata amply attest for us. They are also attested to have been living as Ayuddha-jivi or Shastr-opajivis, which means that the Kamboja cavalry offered their military services to other nations as well. There are numerous references to Kamboj having been requisitioned as cavalry troopers in ancient wars by outside nations (See: Ashvaka#Kamboja cavalry in ancient wars).
The horses of the Kambojas were famous throughout all periods of ancient history . Ancient literature is overflowing with excellent references to the famed Kamboja horses. The Puranas, the Epics, ancient Sanskrit plays, the Buddhist Jatakas, the Jaina Canon, and numerous other ancient sources, all agree that the horses of the Kambojas were a foremost breed.
In Buddhist texts like Manorathpurani, Kunala Jataka and Samangavilasini, the Kamboja land is spoken of as the "birth place of horses" (Kambojo assánam áyatanam.... Samangalavilasini, I, p. 124).
The Aruppa-Niddesa of Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosa mentions Kamboja as the "base of horses" (10/28).
In the Mahavastu, the superb horses of Kambojas (Kambojaka Asvanara) are also referred to and glorified .
The Jaina Canon Uttaradhyana-Sutra tells us that a trained Kamboja horse exceeded all other horses in speed and no noise could ever frighten it.
The Bhishamaparva of Mahabharata lists the best horses from various lands, but places the steeds from Kamboja at the head of the list, and specifically designates them as the leaders among the best horses (Kamboja....mukhyanam).
In the great battle fought on the field of Kurukshetra, the fast and powerful steeds of Kamboja were of greatest service .
Besides, the Ramayana, Kautiliya's Arthashastra, the Brahmanda Purana, Somes'ara's Manasollasa, Ashva. Chakitsata by Nakula (p. 415), Raghuvamsha and Mandakraanta of Kalidasa, Karanabhaar (Ch 19) of Bhaasa, Vamsa-Bhaskara, Madhypithika, Karnatakadambari of Nagavarman (verse 96, p 305) and numerous other ancient texts and inscriptions also make highly laudatory references to Kamboja horses, and state them the finest breed.
Vishnu Vardhana (12th century), the real founder of Hoysala greatness, who later on became ruler of Mysore, made the earth tremble under the tramp of his powerful Kamboja horses.
There were Kamboja steeds in the cavalry of Pandya king Vallabhadeva who is referred to as the proud possessor/rider of the Kamboja horses and elephants.
These references amply demonstrate that Kamboja horses were sleek, very powerful and a foremost breed. They have been especially noted for their great fleetness and remarkable behavior on the battle field. No doubt, Kamboja steeds were the prized possession of kings and warriors in ancient times.
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 Panini's Ashtadhyayi.
The Mahabharata specifically refers to the Kambojas as Ashva-Yuddha-Kushalah, i.e., expert horsemen or cavalrymen. Similarly, Vishnudharmotra Purana also attests that the Kambojans and Gandharans were expert horsemen i.e. proficient in cavalry warfare (Ashva-Yuddha). .
Dronaparva highly applauds the Kamboja cavalry as extremely fast and fleet i.e. Kambojah... yayur.ashvair.mahavegaih.
The Mahabharata, Ramayana, numerous Puranas and some foreign sources amply attest that "Kamboja cavalry-troopers were frequently requisitioned in ancient wars". See main article: (Ashvaka#Kamboja cavalry in ancient wars).
Therefore, there is no exaggeration in the Mahabharata and Vishnudharmotra Purana statements portraying the ancient Kambojas as horse-lords and masters of horsemanship.
The Kambojas entered into conflict with Alexander the Great as he invaded Central Asia: "The Macedonian conqueror made short shrifts of the arrangements of Darius and over-running Achaemenid Empire, dashed into Afghanistan and encountered stiff resistance of the Kamboja tribes called Aspasios and Assakenois known in the Indian texts as Ashvayanas and Ashvakayanas". These Ashvayana and Ashvakayana Kamboj clans fought the invader to a man. When worse came to worst, even the Ashvakayana Kamboj women took up arms and joined their fighting husbands, thus preferring "a glorious death to a life of dishonor". Diodorus gives a detailed graphic accounts as to how the Ashvakayanas had conducted themselves when faced with the sudden treacherous onslaught from Alexander.
Commenting on the heroic resistance and courage displayed by the Ashvakayanas (Kambojas) in the face of treacerous onslaught of Alexander, Dr Buddha Prakash remarks: "Hardly could any Thermopylae be more glorious!"
The Ashvakas had fielded 30,000 strong cavalry, 30 elephants and 20,000 infantry against Alexander.
The Ashvayans (Aspasios) were also good cattle breeders and agriculturists. This is clear from large number of bullocks, 230,000 according to Arrian, of a size and shape superior to what the Macedonians had known, that Alexander captured from them and decided to send to Macedonia for agriculture.
Main article: Alexander's Conflict with the Kambojas
With the help of these frontier warlike clans from the northwest whom Justin brands as "a band of robbers", Chandragupta managed to defeat, upon Alexander's death, the Macedonian straps of Punjab and Afghanistan, and following this, the corrupt Nanda ruler of Magadha, thereby laying the foundations of a powerful Maurya Empire in northern and north-western India.
The Kambojas find prominent mention as a unit in the 3rd century BCE Edicts of Ashoka. Rock Edict XIII tells us that the Kambojas had enjoyed autonomy under the Mauryas . 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 Emperors .
Sasanavamsa specifically attests that Maharakkhita thera went to Yonaka country and established Buddha's Sasana "in the lands of the Kambojas and other countries
The population of the modern people who still call themselves Kamboj (or prikritic Kamboh), or Kamoz/Kamoj (in Nurestan) is estimated to be around 1.5 million and the rest of their population, over the time submerged with other occupationalized castes/groups of the Indian sub-continent like the Khatris, Rajputs, Jats, Arain and others.
The Kambojs, by tradition, are divided into 52 and 84 clans. 52 line is stated to be descendants of Cadet branch and 84 from the elder Branch. This is claimed as referring to the young and elder military divisions under which they had fought the Bharata War. Numerous of their clan names overlap with other Kshatriyas and the Rajput castes of the north-west India, thereby suggesting that some of the Kshatriya/Rajput clans of north-west must have descended from the Ancient Kambojas.