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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

Massaga (मसागा) was the Ancient Greek name for the site of a city captured by Alexander the Great. It was the capital of the Assacenians. [1]

Variants of name


Origin of name

Mention by Panini

Masaka (मसाक) is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [2]

Mashakavati (मशकावती) is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [3]

Masika (मासिक) is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [4]


V. S. Agrawala[5] writes that according to Greek writers Punjab was full of towns, centres of Industry and economic prosperity. Many of these figured as forts of centres of defence such as the famous town of Massage (Mashkavati/Maśkāvatī) or Aornos (Varaṇā) in the country of Ashvakas.

V. S. Agrawala[6] writes about Art of war – The Āyudhajīvīns were warrior tribes organized on a military basis into Sanghas, occupying mostly the Vahika or Punjab. Their member were known as Āyudhīya, ‘making a living by the profession of arms’ (Āyudhena jīvati, IV.4.14). We know that these soldiers put up the stoutest resistance against the Greeks in the 4th century BC.

The Ashvakayanas of Masakavati and the Malavas, all ayudhajivins, constituted the finest soldiery, which extorted the admiration of foreigners. The Kshudrakas and Malavas (Ganapatha of IV.2.45) , we are informed by Katyayana, (p.422) pooled their military strength in a confederate army called the Kshudraka-Malavi senā. The foot soldiers (padāti) of the Salva country have been specially noted (IV.2.135). (p.423)

V S Agarwal [7] writes names of some important tribes in the Ganapatha, which deserve to be mentioned as being of considerable importance. We are indebted to the Greek historians of Alexander for the information that most of these were republics. These tribes include - Hāstināyana, Āśvāyana, Āśvakāyana. The first is mentioned in Sutra VI.4.174, the second in IV.1.110, and the third in Naḍadi gana (IV.1.99)

[p.454]: While describing Alexander’s campaign from Kapisa towards the Indus through Gandhara, the Greek historians mention three warlike peoples, viz., Astakenoi, with capital at Peukelaotis, the Aspasioi in the valley of Kunar or Chitral River and the Assakenoi settled between the Swat and the Panjkora rivers, with the capital at Massaga, and more especially in the mountainous regions of the Swat. The Paninian evidence throws light on these three names for the first time:

The Asvayanas and the Asvakayanas were the bravest fighters of all, being strongly entrenched in their mountainous fortresses. Alexander himself directed the operations against them. The Ashvakayana capital at Massaga or Masakavati is given in Bhashya as the name of a river (IV.2.71), that should be looked for in that portion of the Suvastu in its lower reaches where Mazaga or Massanagar is situated on it at a distance of 24 miles from Bajaur in the Yusufzai country. In times of danger the Asvakayanas withdrew into the impregnable defences of their hilly fortress which the Greeks have named Aornos. It appears to be same as Varaṇā of the Ashtadhyayi (see ante, p.69, for its identification with modern Uṇrā on the Indus). The Greeks also mention another of their towns, viz., Arigaeon, which commanded the road between the Kunar and Panjkira valleys, and is comparable with Ārjunāva of the Kashika (ṛijunāvām nivāso deshaḥ, IV.2.69).

V S Agarwal [8] writes that We are told by the Greek historians of Alexander how the impregnable nature of the defences of Massaga and Aornos forts (Mashakāvati and Varaṇā) helped the heroic Ashvakayanas of Gandhara in offering resistance to the invaders.

V.K.Mathur[9] writes that Masaga was a very safe place situated between Sindhu and Panjaura Rivers to capture which Alexander had to do extensive efforts. Masaga was inhabited by Assaka (Ashvaka) people and was their capital. The city was surrounded by mountains, river and artificial trenches and boundary. It is said that Alexander was wounded by arrow of Massagas while he was inspecting fort. Alexander assured them their safety but conspired and attacked them and occupied the fort. The fort remained in Alexander's occupation for sometime but it became free when Alexander left India. The location of Massaga is not known but it is believed that it was some where in the valley of Bazor.

As heard by all men there, in that region of Saka, are four sacred provinces. They are the Mrigas, the Masakas, the Manasas, and the Mandagas.

The Mrigas for the most part are Brahmanas devoted to the occupations of their order.

Amongst the Masakas are virtuous Kshatriyas.

The Manasas live by following the duties of the Vaisya order. Having every wish of theirs gratified, they are also brave and firmly devoted to virtue and profit.

The Mandagas are all brave Sudras of virtuous behaviour.

In these provinces there is no king, no punishment, no person that deserves to be punished. Conversant with the dictates of duty they are all engaged in the practice of their respective duties and protect one another. This much is capable of being said of the region called Saka.

मसागा, पाकिस्तान

विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[10] ने लेख किया है ...मसागा, पाकिस्तान, (AS, p.719): सिंध और पंजौरा नदियों के बीच के प्रदेश में बसा हुआ एक सुरक्षित नगर जिसे विजित करने में यवन आक्रांता अलेक्षेंद्र (सिकंदर) को अत्यधिक परिश्रम करना पड़ा था (327 ई. पूर्व). यहां उस समय अस्सक (अश्वक) गणराज्य की राजधानी थी. अश्वकों ने यवनराज का सामना करने के लिए बीस सहस्र अश्वारोही सेना (जिसके कारण वे अश्वक कहलाते थे, देखें कैंब्रिज हिस्ट्री ऑफ इंडिया, जिल्द-1), तीस सहस्त्र पैदल सिपाही और तीस हाथी मोर्चे पर खड़े किए. नगर चारों ओर से पर्वत, नदी तथा कृत्रिम खाइयों और परकोटे से घिरा होने के कारण पूर्ण रूप से सुरक्षित था. अलेक्षेंद्र, नगर की किलाबंदी का निरीक्षण करते समय आंखों के तीर से घायल हो गया. इससे घबराकर उसने नगर के अंदर के सात सशस्त्र सैनिकों को सुरक्षा का वचन देकर उन पर धोखे से आक्रमण कर दिया और इस प्रकार नगर पर अधिकार कर लिया. फिर भी यह अधिकार कुछ ही समय तक रहा और अलेक्षेंद्र के भारत से विदा होते ही अन्य प्रदेशों की भांति मसागा भी स्वतंत्र हो गया. मसागा की स्थिति का ठीक-ठीक अभिज्ञान नहीं हो सका है किंतु यह निश्चित है कि यह नगर बजौर की घाटी में कहीं था.

Ch.26: Siege of Massaga by Alexander

Arrian[11] writes .... IN the first place Alexander led his forces against Massaga,1 the largest of the cities in that district ; and when he was approaching the walls, the barbarians being emboldened by the mercenaries whom they had obtained from the more distant Indians to the number of 7,000, when they saw the Macedonians pitching their camp, advanced against them with a run. Alexander, seeing that the battle was about to be fought near the city, was anxious to draw them further away from their walls, so that if they were put to rout, as he knew they would be, they might not be able easily to preserve themselves by fleeing for refuge into the city close at hand. When therefore he saw the barbarians running out, he ordered the Macedonians to turn round and retreat to a certain hill distant something about seven stades from the place where he had resolved to encamp. The enemy being emboldened, as if the Macedonians had already given way, rushed upon them with a run and with no kind of order. But when the arrows began to reach them, Alexander at once wheeled round at the appointed signal, and led his phalanx against them with a run. His horse-javelin-men, Agrianians, and archers first ran forward and engaged with the barbarians, while he himself led the phalanx in regular order. The Indians were alarmed at this unexpected manoeuvre, and as soon as the battle became a hand-to-hand conflict, they gave way and fled into the city. About 200 of them were killed, and the rest were shut up within the walls. Alexander then led his phalanx up to the wall, from which he was soon after slightly wounded in the ankle with an arrow. On the next day he brought up his military engines and easily battered down a piece of the wall; but the Indians so gallantly kept back the Macedonians who were trying to force an entrance where the breach had been made, that he recalled the army for this day. But on the morrow the Maceclonians themselves made a more vigorous assault, and a wooden tower was drawn up to the walls, from which the archers shot at the Indians, and missiles were hurled from the military engines which repulsed them to a great distance. But not even thus were they able to force their way within the wall. On the third day he led the phalanx near again, and throwing a bridge from a military engine over to the part of the wall where the breach had been made, by this he led up the shield-bearing guards, who had captured Tyre for him in a similar way.2 But as many were urged on by their ardour, the bridge received too great a weight, and was snapped asunder, so that the Macedonians fell with it. The barbarians, seeing what was taking place, raised a great shout, and shot at them from the wall with stones, arrows, and whatever else any one happened to have at hand, or whatever any one could lay hold of at the time. Others issued forth by the small gates which they had between the towers in the wall, and at close quarters struck the men who had been thrown into confusion by the fall.

1. This was the capital of the Assacenians. Curtius (viii. 37) calls it Mazagae, and describes its strong position.

2. See Bk. ii. 23 supra


Ch.27: Sieges of Massaga and Ora by Alexander

Arrian[12] writes ....ALEXANDER now sent Alcetas with his own brigade to recover the men who had been severely wounded, and to recall to the camp those who were assailing the enemy. On the fourth day he brought up another bridge against the wall in like manner upon another military engine. The Indians, as long as the ruler of the place survived, defended themselves gallantly; but when he was struck and killed with a missile hurled from an engine, and as some of their number had fallen in the siege, which had gone on without any cessation, while most of them were wounded and unfit for service, they sent a herald to Alexander. He was glad to preserve the lives of brave men ; so he came to terms with the Indian mercenaries on this condition, that they should be admitted into the ranks with the rest of his army and serve as his soldiers. They therefore came out of the city with their arms, and encamped by themselves upon a hill which was facing the camp of the Macedonians; but they resolved to arise by night and run away to their own abodes, because they were unwilling to take up arms against the other Indians. When Alexander received intelligence of this, he placed the whole of his army round the hill in the night, and intercepting them in the midst of their flight, cut them to pieces. He then took the city by storm, denuded as it was of defenders; and captured the mother and daughter of Assacenus1. In the whole siege five-and-twenty of Alexander’s men were killed. Thence he des-patched Coenus to Bazira2, entertaining an opinion that the inhabitants would surrender, when they heard of the capture of Massaga. He also despatched Attalus, Alcetas, and Demetrius the cavalry officer to another city, named Ora, with instructions to blockade it until he himself arrived. The men of this city made a sortie against the forces of Alcetas; but the Macedonians easily routed them, and drove them into the city within the wall. But affairs at Bazira were not favourable to Coenus, for the inhabitants showed no sign of capitulating, trusting to the strength of the place, because not only was it situated on a lofty eminence, but it was also thoroughly fortified all round. When Alexander learnt this, he started off to Bazira; but ascertaining that some of the neighbouring barbarians were about to get into the city of Ora by stealth, being despatched thither by Abisares3 for that very purpose, he first marched to Ora. He ordered Coenus to fortify a certain strong position to serve as a basis of operations against the city of Bazira, and then to come to him with the rest of his army, after leaving in that place a sufficient garrison to restrain the men in the city from enjoying the free use of their land. But when the men of Bazira saw Coenus departing with the larger part of his army, they despised the Macedonians, as not being able to contend with them, and sallied forth into the plain. A sharply contested battle ensued, in which 500 of the barbarians fell, and over seventy were taken prisoners. But the rest, fleeing for refuge into the city4, were now more securely shut off from the country by the men in the fort. The siege of Ora proved an easy matter to Alexander, for he no sooner attacked the walls than at the first assault he got possession of the city, and captured the elephants which had been left there.

1. Curtius (viii. 37, 38) says that the name of the queen was Cleophis, and that after the surrender she gained Alexander's favour. He also informs us that the king died just before Alexander's arrival.

2. Probably Bajour, north-west of Peshawur. The position of Ora cannot be fixed.

3. This was the king of the Indian mountaineers. See Arrian, v. 8 infra.

4. On the ground of εν τη πόλει ξυμφυγόντες not being classical Greek, Krüger has substituted εν τη πόλη ξυμπεθευγόντες, and Sintenis εις την πόλιν ξυμφυγόντες. No one however ought to expect Arrian to be free from error, writing, as he did, in the middle of the second century of the Christian era.


Jat History

Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria)[13] writes that Aggarwal, V.S.; [14] equates Masaka or Massaka with Massagetai of Strabo, Chakshu = Oxus, Kumud = Komedai of Herodotus. Himavat = Heemoda or Hamadan, Sita = Yarkand river, Kumar = Komari of Herodotus, Rishika = Asioi, Tukhara = Tokarai, Gankovsky (op.cit., p.8o, fn.157) informs us that Massagetae: Mahasaka in archaic Iranian, He thus describes its etymology and origin: Mas in old Persian mean great (as Maha in Hindi and Skt.) and T is added as a plural suffix (Derajat, Gujrat etc.). Hence Mas + Saka + T = Massakat, K and g being mutually interchangeable Massakat = Massagat or Massagetai in plural in Greek. Greek language does not have the J. letter, Z or G is used in its place; hence, Zat or Zutt and Jat or Jit or Jatas or Jut, Gat, Gant, Got, Getae.

Bhim Singh Dahiya[15] writes that ...The Kang Jats are also a clan of remote antiquity. They are mentioned as early as seventh century B.C. The Chinese mention them as, Kiang-nu. R. Sankrityayana says that the Kangs were branch of Massagetae. [16] He traces the word Massagetae from Massaga which in turn is taken from Mahasaka.

Kishori Lal Faujdar[17] writes in An article about Raja Kharavela of Orissa which mentions about the rule of Kaswan in 2nd century of Vikram samvat. It has been mentioned in ‘Hathi Gumpha and three other inscriptions’ (page 24) in Sanskrit as under:

Sanskrit - कुसवानाम् क्षत्रियानां च सहाय्यतावतां प्राप्त मसिक नगरम्
IAST - “Kusawānāṃ kshatriyānāṃ ca Sahāyyatāvatāṃ prāpt masika nagaraṃ”.
This translates that the city of 'Masika' was obtained with the help of 'Kuswan' Kshatriyas 'Masika' has been identified with Asikanagara.[18]