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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Oritae near Gedrosia on Map showing the route of Alexander the Great

Varteya (वार्तेय) was an ancient republic of Ayudhjivi Sangha known to Panini.

Variants of name


Jat clans

Mention by Panini

Varteya (वार्तेय), a warlike clan, is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [3]


V. S. Agrawala[4] mentions Sanghas known to Panini which includes - Varteya (वार्तेय), under Yaudheyadi (यौधेयादि) (IV.1.178).

V. S. Agrawala[5] mentions Ayudhjivi Sanghas in the Ganapatha under Yaudheyadi group, repeated twice in the Panini's Ashtadhyayi (IV.1.178) and (V.3.117) which includes - Vārteya – which may be identified with the Indian tribe Oreitai[6], settled to the west of the river Porali which now falls in to the Sonmiani Bay (Lasbela district of Balochistan province of Pakistan), west of Karachi. (cf. Saunamāneya in Subhrādi gana IV.1.123;IV.1.86). According to Curtius the tribe had long maintained its independence in those parts and it negotiated peace with Alexander through their leaders, which reflects its Sangha character.

On the east of river Arabis (old name of Porali) was another independent tribe which the Greeks called Arabitai, corresponding to Sanskrit Ārabhaṭa (the home of the Ārabhaṭi vritti), a word unknown in Paninian geography, but both of them as the Greeks noted, lay within the geographical limits of India.


Megasthenes also described India's caste system and a number of clans out of these some have been identified with Jat clans by the Jat historians. Megasthenes has mentioned a large number of Jat clans.

12. The inhabitants on the other side of this mountain Capitalia..... The Oraturae, Whose king has only ten elephants, though he has a very strong force of infantry.
13. Next again....The Varetatae ...Subject to a king, who keep no elephants, but trust entirely to their horse and foot
14. Then....The Odomoboerae ; the Salabastrae ; the Horatae....The Horatae, who have a fine city, defended by marshes which serve as a ditch, wherein crocodiles are kept, which, having a great avidity for human flesh, prevent all access to the city except by a bridge. And another city of theirs is much admired--Automela, which, being seated on the coast at the confluence of five rivers, is a noble emporium of trade. The king is master of 1, 600 elephants, 150,000 foot, and 5,000 cavalry. The poorer king of the Charmae has but sixty elephants, and his force otherwise is insignificant

Ch 6.21: Alexander's Campaign against the Oritians (Nov 326 BC)

Oritae near Gedrosia on Map showing the route of Alexander the Great

Arrian[7] writes....The season of the year was then unfit for voyaging; for the periodical winds prevailed, which at that season do not blow there from the north, as with us, but from the Great Sea, in the direction of the south wind.[1] Moreover it was reported that there the sea was fit for navigation after the beginning of winter, from the setting of the Pleiades[2] until the winter solstice; for at that season mild breezes usually blow from the lands drenched as it has been with great rains; and these winds are convenient on a coasting voyage both for oars and sails. Nearclius, who had been placed in command of the fleet, waited for the coasting season; but Alexander, starting from Patala, advanced with all his army as far as the river Arabius.[3] He then took half of the shield-bearing guards and archers, the infantry regiments called foot Companions, the guard of the Companion cavalry, a squadron of each of the other cavalry regiments, and all the horse-bowmen, and turned away thence on the left towards the sea to dig wells, so that there might be abundance, of them for the fleet sailing along on the coasting voyage; and at the same time to make an unexpected attack upon the Oritians,[4] a tribe of the Indians in this region, which had long been independent. This he meditated doing because they had performed no friendly act either to himself or his army. He placed Hephaestion in command of the forces left behind. The Arabitians,[5] another independent tribe dwelling near the river Arabius, thinking that they could not cope with Alexander in battle, and yet being unwilling to submit to him, fled into the desert when they heard that he was approaching. But crossing the river Arabius, which was both narrow and shallow, and travelling by night through the greater part of the desert, he came near the inhabited country at daybreak. Then ordering the infantry to follow him in regular line, he took the cavalry with him, dividing it into squadrons, that it might occupy a very large part of the plain, and thus marched into the land of the Oritians. All those who turned to defend themselves were cut to pieces by the cavalry, and many of the others were taken prisoners. He then encamped near a small piece of water; but when Hephaestion formed a junction with him, he advanced farther. Arriving at the largest village of the tribe of the Oritians, which was called Rhambacia,[6] he commended the place and thought that if he colonized a city there it would become great and prosperous. He therefore left Hephaestion behind to carry out this project.[7]

1.These periodical winds are the southerly monsoon of the Indian Ocean. Cf. Arrian (Indica, 21).

2.This occurs at the beginning of November. The Romans called the Pleiads Vergiliae. Cf. Pliny (ii. 47, 125): Vergiliarum occasus hiemem inchoat, quod tempus in III. Idus Novembres incidere consuevit. Also Livy (xxi. 35, 6): Nivis etiam casus, occidente jam sidfere Vergiliarum, ingentem terrorem adjecit.

3.This river, which is now called the Purally, is about 120 miles west of the mouth of the Indus. It is called Arabia by Arrian (Indica, 21); and Arbis by Strabo (xv. 2).

4.These were a people of Gadrosia, inhabiting a coast district nearly 200 milles long in the present Beloochistan. Cf. Arrian {Indica, 22 and 25); Pliny, vi. 23.

5.The Arabitians dwelt between the Indus and the Arabius; the Oritians were west of the latter river.

6.Rhambacia was probably at or near Haur.

7.According to Diodorus (xvii. 104) the city was called Alexandria.


Ch 6.22: March of Alexander through the desert of Gadrosia.

Arrian[8] writes ...Again he took half of the shield-bearing guards and Agrianians, the guard of cavalry and the horse-bowmen, and marched forward to the confines of the Gadrosians and Oritians, where he was informed that the passage was narrow, and the Oritians were drawn up with the Gadrosians and were encamping in front of the pass, with the purpose of barring Alexander's passage. They had indeed marshalled themselves there; but when it was reported that he was already approaching, most of them fled from the pass, deserting their guard. The chiefs of the Oritians, however, came to him, offering to surrender both themselves and their nation. He instructed these to collect the multitude of their people together and send them to their own abodes, since they were not about to suffer any harm. Over these people he placed Apollophanes as viceroy, and with him he left Leonnatus the confidential body-guard in Ora,[1] at the head of all the Agrianians, some of the bowmen and cavalry, and the rest of the Grecian mercenary infantry and cavalry. He instructed him to wait until the fleet had sailed round the land, to colonize the city, and to regulate the affairs of the Oritians so that they might pay the greater respect to the viceroy. He himself, with the main body of the army (for Hephaestion had arrived at the head of the men who had been left behind), advanced into the land of the Gadrosians by a route most of which was desert. Aristobulus says that in this desert many myrrh-trees grew, larger than the ordinary kind; and that the Phoenicians, who accompanied the army for trafficking, gathered the gum of myrrh, and loading the beasts of burden, carried it away.[2] For there was a great quantity of it, inasmuch as it exuded from large stems and had never before been gathered. He also says that this desert produces many odoriferous roots of nard,[3] which the Phoenicians likewise gathered; but much of it was trampled down by the army, and a sweet perfume was diffused far and wide over the land by the trampling; so great was the abundance of it. In the desert there were also other kinds of trees, one of which had foliage like that of the bay-tree, and grew in places washed by the waves of the sea. These trees were on ground which was left dry by the ebb-tide; but when the water advanced they looked as if they had grown in the sea. Of others the roots were always washed by the sea, because they grew in hollow places, from which the water could not retire; and yet the trees were not destroyed by the sea. Some of these trees in this region were even thirty cubits high. At that season they happened to be in bloom; and the flower was very much like the white violet,[4] but the perfume was far superior to that of the latter. There was also another thorny stalk growing out of the earth, the thorn on which was so strong that, piercing the clothes of some men just riding past, it pulled the horseman down from his horse rather than be itself torn off the stalk. It is also said that when hares run past these bushes, the thorns cling to their fur; and thus these animals are caught, as birds are with bird-lime, or fish with hooks. However they were easily cut through with steel; and when the thorns are cut the stalk gives forth much juice, still more abundantly than fig-trees do in the springtime, and more pungent.[5]

1. Ora was the name of the district inhabited by the Oritians.

2. Cf. Pliny (Nat. Hist. xii. 33-35).

3. Cf. Strabo (xv. 2); Pliny (Nat. Hist. xii. 26).

4. Probably the snow-flake.

5. This is the well-known catechu, obtained chiefly from the Acacia Catechu. The liquid gum is called kuth or cutch in India.


Alexander Cunningham

Alexander Cunningham[9] writes about Oritae or Horitae: [p.307]: On crossing the river Arabius, Alexander marched

[p.308]: for a whole night through a desert, and in the morning entered a well-inhabited country. Then coming to a small river, he pitched his tents, and waited for the main body of the army under Hephsestion. On its arrival, says Arrian, Alexander " penetrated further into the country, and coming to a small village which served the Oritae instead of a capital city, and was named Rambakia, he was pleased with its situation, and imagining that it would rise to be a rich and populous city, if a colony were drawn thither, he committed the care thereof to Hephaestion." 1 On the approach of Alexander, the Oritae made their submission to the conqueror, who appointed Apollo-phanes their governor, and deputed Leonatus with a large force to await the arrival of Nearchus with the fleet, and to look after the peopling of the new city. Shortly after Alexander's departure, the Oritae rose against the Greeks, and Apollophanes, the new governor, was slain, but they were signally defeated by Leonatus, and all their leaders killed. 1 Nearchus places the scene of this defeat at Kokala, on the coast, about halfway between the rivers Arabius and Tomerus. Pliny calls the latter river the Tonberos 2 and states that the country in its neighbourhood was well cultivated.

From these details I would identify the Oritae, or Horitae, or Neoteritae as they are called by Diodorus, with the people on the Aghor river, whom the Greeks would have named Agoritae, or Aoritae, by the suppression of the guttural, of which a trace still remains in the initial aspirate of Horitae. In the bed of this

1. Arrian, Anab., vi. 21, 22 ; and ' Indica,' 23 ; Curtius, ix. 10, 34. 2. Hist. Nat., vi. 25.

[p. 309]: river there are several jets of liquid mud, which, from time immemorial, have been known as Ram-Chandar-ki-kup, or " Ram Chandar's wells." There are also two natural caves, one dedicated to Kali, and the other to Hingulaj, or Hingula Devi, that is, the “Red Goddess," who is only another form of Kali. But the principal objects of pilgrimage in the Aghor valley are connected with the history of Rama. The pilgrims assemble at the Rambagh, because Rama and Sita are said to have started from this point, and proceed to the Gorakh Tank, where Rama halted; and thence to Tonga-bhera, and on to the point where Rama was obliged to turn back in his attempt to reach Hingulaj with an army. Rambagh I would identify with the Rambakia of Arrian, and Tonga-bhera with the river Tonberos of Pliny, and the Tomerus of Arrian. At Rambakia, therefore, we must look for the site of the city founded by Alexander, which Leonatus was left behind to complete. It seems probable that this is the city which is described by Stephanus of Byzantium as the " sixteenth Alexandria, near the bay of Melane1 Nearchus places the western boundary of the Oritae at a place called Malana, which I take to be the bay of Malan, to the cost of Ras Malan, or Cape Malan of the present day, about twenty miles to the west of the Aghor river. Both Curtius and Diodorus 2 mention the foundation of this city, but they do not give its name. Diodorus, however, adds that it was built on a very favourable

1. In voce Alexandria, <greek>; 2. Curtius, Vita Alex., ix. 10: — "In hac quoque regione urbem condidit." Diodorus, Hist. xvii.

[p.310]: site near the sea, but above the reach of the highest tides.

The occurrence of the name of Rambagh at so great a distance to the west of the Indus, and at so early a period as the time of Alexander, is very interesting and important, as it shows not only the wide extension of Hindu influence in ancient times, but also the great antiquity of the story of Rama. It is highly improbable that such a name, with its attendant pilgrimages, could have been imposed on the place after the decay of Hindu influence. 1During the flourishing period of Buddhism many of the provinces to the west of the Indus adopted the Indian religion, which must have had a powerful influence on the manners and language of the people. But the expedition of Alexander preceded the extension of Buddhism, and I can therefore only attribute the old name of Rambakia to a period anterior to Darius Hystaspes.

In Mahabharata

Karna Parva/Mahabharata Book VIII Chapter 51 describes terrible massacre on seventeenth day of Mahabharata War. Varatyas have been mentioned in verse (VIII.51.16)..... "Large bodies of combatants of diverse Kshatriya clans, such as the Govasas, the Dasameyas, the Vasatis, and the Varatyas, the Vatadhanas, and the Bhojas that are very sensitive of their honour, have met with destruction. [10]


  1. Jat History Dalip Singh Ahlawat/Parishisht-I, s.n.ओ-5
  2. Jat History Thakur Deshraj/Chapter IX, 1934, p. 599
  3. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.450
  4. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.500
  5. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.450
  6. James Todd Annals/Index Vol III, Oreitai tribe, iii. p.1656
  7. Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander, 6.21
  8. The Anabasis of Alexander/6b, Ch.22
  9. The Ancient Geography of India,pp.307-310
  10. गॊवास दासम ईयानां वसातीनां च भारत, वरात्यानां वाटधानानां भॊजानां चापि मानिनाम (VIII.51.16)

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