The Ancient Geography of India/Kabul

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The Ancient Geography of India: I.
The Buddhist Period, Including the Campaigns of Alexander, and the Travels of Hwen-Thsang
Sir Alexander Cunningham
Trübner and Company, 1871 - India

2. Kophene, or Kabul.

The district of Kabul is first mentioned by Ptolemy, who calls the people Kubolitaea, and their capital Kabura,

[p.33]: which was also named Ortospana. The latter name alone is found in Strabo and Pliny, with a record of its distance from the capital of Arachosia, as measured by Alexander's surveyors, Diognetes and Baiton. In some copies of Pliny the name is written Orthospanum, which, with a slight alteration to Orthostana, as suggested by H. H. Wilson,[1] is most probably the Sanskrit Urddhasthana, that is, the " high place," or lofty city. The same name is also given to the Kabul district by the Chinese pilgrim Hwen Thsang. But I strongly suspect that there has been some accidental interchange of names between the province and its capital.

On leaving Ghazni, the pilgrim travelled to the north for 600 li, or 83 miles, to Fo-li-shi-sa-tang-na, of which the capital was Hu-phi-na. Now by two different measured routes the distance between Ghazni and Kabul was found to be 81 and 88½ miles.[2] There can be no doubt, therefore, that Kabul must be the place that was visited by the pilgrim. In another place the capital is said to be 700 li, or 116 miles, from Bamian, which agrees very well with the measured distance of 104 miles[3] between Bamian and Kabul, along the shortest route.

The name of the capital, as given by the Chinese pilgrim, has been rendered by M. Vivien de St. Martin as Vardasthana, and identified with the district of the Wardak tribe, while the name of the province has been identified with Hupian or Opian. But the Wardak valley, which receives its name from the "Wardak tribe, lies on the upper course of the

  1. 'Ariana Antiqua,' p. 176.
  2. Thornton's ' Gazetteer,' Appendix.
  3. Lieutenant Sturt, Engineers, by perambulator.

[p.34]: Logarh river, at some distance to the south, of Kabul, and only 40 miles to the north of Ghazni, while Hupian or Opian lies 27 miles to the north of Kabul, or more than 70 miles distant from Wardak. My own researches lead me to conclude that both names refer to the immediate neighbourhood of Kabul itself.

Professor Lassen has already remarked that the name of Kipin, which is so frequently mentioned by other Chinese authors, is not once noticed by Hwen Thsang. Remusat first suggested that Kipin was the country on the Kophes or Kabul river ; and this suggestion has ever since been accepted by the unanimous consent of all writers on ancient India, by whom the district is now generally called Kophene. It is this form of the name of Kipin that I propose to identify with the Hu-phi-na of Hwen Thsang, as it seems to me scarcely possible that this once famous province can have remained altogether unnoticed by him, when we know that he must have passed through it, and that the name was still in use for more than a century after his time.[1] I have already stated my suspicion that there has been some interchange of names between the province and its capital. This suspicion is strengthened when it is found that all difficulties are removed, and the most complete identification obtained, by the simple interchange of the two names. Thus Hu-phi-na will represent Kophene, or Kipin, the country on the Kabul river, and Fo-li-shi-sa-tang-na, or Urddhasthana, will represent Ortostana, which, as we know from several classical authorities, was the actual capital of this province.

  1. Lassen, ' Points in the History of the Greek Eings of Kabul,' p. 102.

[p.35]: I may remark that Huphina is a very exact Chinese transcript of Kophen, whereas it would be a very imperfect transcript of Hupian, as one syllable would be altogether unrepresented, and the simple p would be replaced by an aspirate. The correct transcript of Hupian would be Hu-pi-yan-na.

M. Vivien de St. Martin has objected[1] to the name of Urddhasthana that it is a " conjectural etymology without object." I am, however, quite satisfied that this reading is the correct one, for the following reasons : — 1st. The name of Ortospana is not confined to the Paropamisadae ; but is found also in Karmania and in Persis. It could not, therefore, have had any reference to the Wardak tribe, but must be a generic name descriptive of its situation, a requirement that is most satisfactorily fulfilled by Urddhasthana, which means literally the "high place," and was most probably employed to designate any hill fortress. 2nd. The variation in the reading of the name to Portospana confirms the descriptive meaning which I have given to it, as porta signifies "high " in Pushtu, and was, no doubt, generally adopted by the common people instead of the Sanskrit urddha.

The position of Ortospana I would identify with Kabul itself, with its Bala Hisar, or "high fort," which I take to be only a Persian translation of Ortospana, or Urddhasthana. It was the old capital of the country before the Macedonian conquest, and so late as the tenth century it was still believed " that a king was not properly qualified to govern until he had been inaugurated at Kabul."[2] Hekataeus also describes

  1. 'Hiouen Thsang,' iii. 416.
  2. Ouseley, ' Oriental Geography,' p. 226.

[p.36]: a " royal town " amongst the Opiai,[1] but we have no data for determining either its name or its position. It seems most probable, however, that Kabul must he intended, as we know of no other place that could have held this position after the destruction of Kapisa by Cyrus ; but in this case Kabul must have been included within the territories of the Opiai.

It is strange that there is no mention of Kabul in the histories of Alexander, as he must certainly have passed through the town on his way from Arachosia to the site of Alexandria. I think, however, that it is most probably the town of Nikaia, which was Alexander's first march from his new city on his return from Bactria. Nikaia is described by Nonnus as a stone city, situated near a lake. It was also called Astakia, after a nymph whom Bacchus had abused.[2] The lake is a remarkable feature, which is peculiar in Northern India to Kabul and Kashmir. The city is also said to have been called Indophon, or "Indian-killer," on account of the victory which Bacchus had gained over the Indians on this spot. From this name I infer, that Nonnus had most probably heard of the popular meaning which is attributed to the name of Hindu-kush, or "Hindu-killer," and that he adopted it at once as corroborative of the Indian conquests of Dionysius.

  1. Steph. Byz. in v. 'Ωπiai.'<greek>
  2. 'Dionysiaca,' xvi. <greek> The meaning of which appears to be, that " Bacchus built a stone city, named Nkaia, near a lake, which he also called Astakia, after the nymph, and Indophon, in remembrance of his victory."

[p.37]: The province is described as being 2000 li, or 333 miles, in length, from east to west, and 1000 li, or 166 miles, in breadth from north to south. It is probable that this statement may refer to the former extent of the province, when its king was the paramount ruler of Western Afghanistan, including Ghazni and Kandahar, as the actual dimensions of the Kabul district are not more than one-half of the numbers here stated. Its extreme length, from the sources of the Helmand river to the Jagdalak Pass, is about 150 miles, and its extreme breadth, from Istalif to the sources of the Logarh river, is not more than 70 miles.

The name of Kophes is as old as the time of the Vedas, in which the Kubha river is mentioned as an affluent of the Indus ; and as it is not an Arian word, I infer that the name must have been applied to the Kabul river before the Arian occupation, or, at least, as early as B.C. 2500. In the classical writers we find the Khoes, Kophes, and Khoaspes Rivers, to the west of the Indus, and at the present day we have the Kunar, the Kuram, and the Gomal rivers to the west, and the Kunihar river to the east of the Indus, all of which are derived from the Scythian ku, " water." It is the guttural form of the Assyrian hu in Euphrates and Eulaeus, and of the Turki su and the Tibetan chu, all of which mean water or river. The district of Kophene must, therefore, have received its name from the river which flowed through it, like as Sindh from the Sindhu or Indus, Margiana from the Margus, Aria from the Arius, Arachosia from the Arachotus, and others. It is not mentioned by Alexander's historians, although the river Kophes is noticed by all of them.

[p.38]:In Ptolemy's ' Geography ' the city of Kabura and the Kabolitae, with the towns of Arguda, or Argandi, and Locharna, or Logarh, are all located in the territories of the Paropamisadae along the Kabul river. Higher up the stream he places the town of Bagarda, which corresponds exactly in position, and very closely in name with the valley of Wardak. All the letters of the two names are the same; and as the mere transposition of the guttural to the end of the Greek name will make it absolutely identical with the modern name, there is strong evidence in favour of the reading of Bardaga instead of Bagarda. According to Elphinstone,[1] the Wardak tribe of Afghans occupy the greater part of the Logarh valley. This is confirmed by Masson,[2] who twice visited the district of "Wardak ; and by Vigne,[3] who crossed it on his way from Ghazni to Kabul. The only objection to this identification that occurs to me is, the possibility that Bagarda may be the Greek form of Vackereta, which is the name given in the ' Zend Avesta ' to the seventh country that was successively occupied by the Arian race. From its position between Bactria, Aria, and Arachosia, on one side, and India on the other, Vackereta has usually been identified with the province of Kabul. This, also, is the opinion of the Parsis themselves. Vackereta is further said to be the seat or home of Duzhak, which further tends to confirm its identification with Kabul, as the acknowledged country of Zohak. If the Wardaks had ever been a ruling tribe, I should be disposed to infer that the name of Vackereta might, probably, have been derived from them. But in our present total ignorance

  1. Kabul; i. 160.
  2. ' Travels,' ii. 223.
  3. ' Ghazni,' p. 140.

[p.39]: of their history, I think that it is sufficient to note the very great similarity of the two names.

In the seventh century the king of Kophene was a Turk, and the language of the country was different from that of the people of Ghazni. Hwen Thsang mentions that the alphabet of Kapisene was that of the Turks, hut that the language was not Turki. As the king, however, was an Indian, it may reasonably be inferred that the language was Indian. For a similar reason it may be conjectured that the language of Kophene was some dialect of Turki, because the king of the district was a Turk.

3. Arachosia or Ghazni

The Chinese pilgrim Xuan Zang places the country of Tsau-ku-ta at 500 li, or 83 miles, to the south of Huphina or Kophene, and to the north-wept of Falana, or Banu. The valley of the Lo-mo-in-tu river, which is mentioned as producing assafoetida, is readily identified with the Helmand by prefixing the syllable Ho to the Chinese transcript. The kingdom is said to have been 7000 li, or 1166 miles, in circuit, which cannot be far from the truth, as it most probably included the whole of south-western Afghanistan with the exception of Kandahar, which at that time, from the story of the begging-pot of Buddha already noted, would appear to have belonged to Persia.

This district possessed two capitals, called Ho-si-na and Ho-sa-lo. The first has been identified by M. de St. Martin with Ghazni, which is quite satisfactory ; but his suggestion that the other may be connected with Hazara is, I think, very doubtful. Hazara is the name of a district, and not of a town ; and its application

[p.40]: to this part of the country is said by the people themselves not to be older than the time of Janghez Khan.[1] I would, therefore, identify it with Guzar or Guzaristan, which is the chief town on the Helmand at the present day ; and with the Ozola of Ptolemy, which he places in the north-west of Arachosia, or in the very same position as Guzaristan.

The name of Tsaukuta still remains to be explained. The identifications just made show that it corresponds exactly with the Arachosia of classical writers, which is the Arokhaj and Rokhaj of the Arab geographers.

The latter form is also found in Arrian's ' Periplus of the Erythraean Sea ' as Pαχούσοιoi. It was, therefore, not unusual both before and after the time of Hwen Thsang to drop the initial syllable of the name. The original form was the Sanskrit Saraswati, which in Zend became Haraqaiti, and in Greek 'Apaχωτός', all of which agree in the last two syllables with the Chinese Tsaukuta. The first Chinese syllable Tsau must, therelore, correspond with the Ra of the other forms. This change may, perhaps, be explained by a peculiarity of the Turki language, which frequently changes the letter r into a soft z or sh, as the Turki words dengiz, "sea," and okuz, " ox," are the same as the Hungarian tengar and okur.[2] On the Indo-Scythian coins, also, we find the Turki names of Kanishka, Huvishka, and Kushana changed to Kanerke, Hoverke, and Korano in Greek. It seems possible, therefore, that the initial syllable Tsau of the Chinese transcript may be only the peculiar Turki pronunciation of the Indian Ra, which would naturally have come into use with the

  1. 'Ayin Akbari,' ii. 163.
  2. Prichard, ' Physical History of Mankind,' iv. 403.

[p.41]: occupation of the country by the Turki tribe of Tochari, about the beginning of the Christian era.

In the seventh century the king of Ghazni, who was a Buddhist, was descended from a long line of ancestors. Both the alphabet and the language of the "people are said to have been different from those of other countries ; and as Hwen Thsang was acquainted with both the Indian and Turki languages, I infer that the speech of the people of Ghazni was most probably Pushtu. If so, the people must have been Afghans ; but, unfortunately, we have no other clue to guide us in settling this very interesting point, unless, indeed, the name of 0-po-kien, a place to the south-east of Ghazni, may be identified with Afghan, a point which will be discussed hereafter.

Of Guzaristan, on the Helmand, I am not able to give any further information, as that part of the country has not yet been visited by any European. Ghazni itself is too well known to require any particular description, but I may note that it must have been in a very flourishing condition in the seventh century, as Hwen Thsang estimates its circuit at 30 li, or 5 miles. At the present day the circuit of the walled town is not more than one mile and a quarter. Vigne calls it an irregular pentagon, with sides varying from 200 to 400 yards in length, strengthened by numerous towers. He adds,[1] that "the Afghans boast much of the strength of the walls and fortifications of Ghazni." But Ghazni has always been famous in the East as a place of strength and security ; and for this very reason it received its name of Gaza, an old Persian term for a " treasury." It is described in some

  1. ' Ghazni,' p. 122.

[p.42]: crabbed lines of the ' Dionysiaca' of Nonnus, who lived about A.D. 500, and also in the ' Bassarica' of Dionysius, who lived not later than A.D. 300. Both of them refer pointedly to its impregnability. Dionysius calls it, —

<greek> " As stern in war as if "twas made of brass,"

and Nonnus says,* " They fortified, with a net-like enclosure of interlacing works, Gazos, an immoveable bulwark of Ares, and never has any armed enemy breached its compact foundations." These early notices of this famous place suggest the possibility that the Gazaka of Ptolemy may have been misplaced amongst the Paropamisadae to the north of Kabul, instead of to the south of it. But as Stephanus of Byzantium, who quotes the ' Bassarica ' of Dionysius as his authority for this Indian town, <greek>, takes no notice of the Indian Gazaka, I conclude that he must have looked upon it as a different place.

4. Lamghan.

The district of Lan-po, or Lamghan, is noted by Hwen Thsang as being 600 li, or just 100 miles, to the east of Kapisene. He describes the road as a succession of hills and valleys, some of the hills being of great height. This description agrees with all the recent accounts of the route along the northern bank of the river from Opian to Lamghan. The bearing and distance also coincide so exactly with the position of Lamghan that there can be no doubt of the identity of

[p.43]: the two districts. Ptolemy, also, places a people called Lambatae in the very same position. From a comparison of this term with the modern appellation of Lamghan, it seems probable that the original form of the name was the Sanskrit Lampaka. I would, therefore, correct Ptolemy's Lambatae to Lambagae, by the slight change of Γ for T. The modern name is only an abbreviation of Lampaka, formed by the elision of the labial. It is also called Laghman by the simple transposition of the middle consonants, which is a common practice in the East. The credulous Muhammadans derive the name from the patriarch Lamech, whose tomb they affirm still exists in Lamghan. It is noticed by Baber and by Abul Fazl.

The district is described by Hwen Thsang as being only 1000 li, or 166 miles, in circuit, with snowy mountains on the north, and black hills on the other three sides. Prom this account it is clear that Lan-po corresponds exactly with the present Lamghan, which is only a small tract of country, lying along the northern bank of the Kabul river, bounded on the west and east by the Alingar and Kunar rivers, and on the north by the snowy mountains. This small tract is very nearly a square of 40 miles on each side, or 160 miles in circuit. It had formerly been a separate kingdom ; but in the seventh century the royal family was extinct, and the district was a dependency of Kapisene.

5. Nagarahara, or Jalalabad.

From Lamghan the Chinese pilgrim proceeded for 100 li, or nearly 17 miles, to the south-east, and, after crossing a large river, reached the district of Nagarahara.

[p.44]: Both the bearing and distance point to the Nagara of Ptolemy, which was to the south of the Kabul river, and in the immediate vicinity of Jalalabad. Hwen Thsang writes the name Na-ki-lo-ho ; but M. Julien[1] has found the full transcript of the Sanskrit name in the annals of the Song dynasty, in which it is written Nang-go-lo-lio-lo. The Sanskrit name occurs in an inscription which was discovered by Major Kittoe in the ruined mound of Ghosrawa, in the district of Bihar.[2] Nagarahara is said to be 600 li, or 100 miles, in length from east to west, and upwards of 250 li, or 42 miles, in breadth from north to south. The natural boundaries of the district are the Jagdalak Pass on the west, and the Khaibar Pass on the east, with the Kabul river to the north, and the Safed Koh, or snowy mountains, to the south. Within these limits the direct measurements on the map are about 75 by 30 miles, which in actual road distance would be about the same as the numbers stated by Hwen Thsang.

The position of the capital would appear to have been at Begram, about 2 miles to the west of Jalalabad, and 5 or 6 miles to the W.N.W. of Hidda, which by the general consent of every inquirer has been identified with the Hi-lo of the Chinese pilgrims.

The town of Hilo was only 4 or 5 li, or about three-quarters of a mile, in circuit; but it was celebrated for its possession of the skull-bone of Buddha, which was deposited in a stupa, or solid round tower, and was only exhibited to pilgrims on payment of a piece of gold. Hidda is a small village, 5 miles to the

  1. ' Hiouen Thsang,' ii. 96, note.
  2. Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, 1848, pp. 490, 491.

[p.45]: south of Jalalabad ; but it is well known for its large collection of Buddhist stupas, tumuli, and caves, which were so successfully explored by Masson. The presence of these important Buddhist remains, in the very position indicated by the Chinese pilgrims, affords the most satisfactory proof of the identity of Hidda with their Hilo. This is further confirmed by the absolute agreement of name, as Hi-lo is the closest approximation that could be made in Chinese syllables to the original Hiṛa or Hiḍa. The capital must, therefore, have been situated on the plain of Begram, which is described by Masson[1] as " literally covered with tumuli and mounds." "These," he adds, "are truly sepulchral monuments ; but, with the topes, sanction the inference that a very considerable city existed here, or that it was a place of renown for sanctity. It may have been both." I think it is just possible that Hidda may be only a transposition of Haddi, a bone, as the stupa of the skull-bone of Buddha is said in one passage[2] to have been in the town of Hilo, while in another passage it is located in the town of Fo-ting-ko-ching, which is only a Chinese translation of " Buddha's skull-bone town." During the course of this disquisition I shall have to notice the frequent occurrence of short descriptive names of places which were famous in the history of Buddha. I am, therefore, led to think that the place which contained the skull-bone of Buddha would most probably have been known by the familiar name of Asthipura amongst the learned, and of Haddipura, or " Bone-town " amongst the common people. Similarly the skull-necklace of Siva is called simply the asthimala, or ' bone-necklace.'

  1. ' Travels,' ii. 164.
  2. 'Hiouen Thsang,' i. 77.

[p.46]: Nagarahara was long ago identified by Professor Lassen with the Nagara or Dionysopolis of Ptolemy, which was situated midway between Kabura and the Indus. The second name suggests the probability that it may be the same place as the Nysa of Arrian and Curtius. This name is perhaps also preserved in the Dinus or Dinuz of Abu Rihan,[1] as he places it about midway between Kabul and Parashawar. According to the tradition of the people, the old city was called Ajuna,[2] in which I think it possible to recognize the Greek Διον, as the river Yamuna or Jumna is rendered Diamuna by Ptolemy, and the Sanskrit yamas or jamas, the south, is rendered Diamasa by Pliny.[3] It is, however, much more likely that Ajuna, by transposition of the vowels may be only a corrupt form of the Pali Ujjana, and Sanskrit Udyana, " a garden," as M. Vivien de St. Martin states that Udydnapura was an old name of Nagarahara.[4] If this identification be correct the position of the capital must certainly have been at Begram, as I have already suggested. The name of Dionysopolis was no doubt the most usual appellation during the whole period of Greek dominion, as one of the commonest mint-monograms on the coins of the Greek kings of Ariana forms the letters ΔΙΟΝ, which will not suit the name of any Indian city recorded by ancient authors, save that of Dionysopolis. In the beginning of the fifth century it is called simply Na-kie or Nagara, by Fa Hian, who adds that it was then an independent State governed by its own king. In A.D. 630, at the time of Hwen Thsang's visit, it was without a king, and subject to Kapisene. After this

  1. Reiuaud's ' Fragments,' p. 114.
  2. Masson's ' Travels," ii. 164.
  3. Hist. Nat., vi. e. 22
  4. ' Hiouen Thsang,' iii. 305.

[p.47]: it most probably followed the fortunes of the sovereign State, and became successively a part of the Brahman kingdom of Kabul and of the Mahommedan empire of Ghazni.

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