Rajput Culture and History : The distortions, the conspiracies, and the truth – Part 5 (Yaudheyas)

In this article, we intend to furnish further information bearing upon the antiquity of the Yaudheya clan of Kshatriyas and their connection with the later Johiya Rajputs.

[1]: The Greek chronicler Curtius attributed the reins of the country located at the confluence of the rivers of Panjab to the ‘Sambrace’ or ‘Sambracae’ tribe, and Diodorus to the ‘Sambastae’. It is said that a people by name of ‘Ossadii’, tendered their submission to the arms of Alexander in the same country i.e. at the confluence of the rivers. Were the ‘Sambrace’, ‘Sambastae’, and ‘Ossadii’ the same people as the Yaudheyas? It does appear to be the case, as we shall shortly see.

[2]: Alexander had dispatched Perdikkas to the east of river Ravi with the mandate to conquer the inimical tribes along the bank of Sutlej. On this assignment he conquered a town which can be identified as Harappa from a people that have been named Abastani in the Greek chronicles. Perdikkas had to march along the banks of Sutlej via Ludhan, Mailsi, Kahror, and Lodhran, to Alexander’s camp at Uchh. On this route he must have encountered the Johiya Rajputs who have occupied both banks of the Sutlej from Ajudhan to Uchh from a remote antiquity.

[3]: We have reasonable ground to surmise that Abastani people conquered by Perdikkas at Harappa are same as the Johiya Rajputs of the later period. It is known that the country around Multan bore the name of Johiyabar or Yaudheya-wara. The Johiyas are divided into three interrelated sub-clans, named – Langavira or Lakvira, Madhovira or Madhera, Adamvira or Admera. The ‘Sambrace’ or ‘Sambracae’ tribe, mentioned by the Greeks had a similar threefold sub-clan division. It is said that they were free people without a king, and when faced with the prospect of a Greek invasion, three generals from the three corresponding sub-clans were appointment to lead them in war against the foreign enemy.

[4]: The word ‘Johiya’ is a corrupt version of the word ‘Jodhiya’, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Yaudheya’. In the previous article, we mentioned about the Yaudheya coins found in various excavations. These coins can be categorized into three separate classes of which the first bear the simple inscription ‘Jaya-Yaudheya-ganasya’, which means ‘the money of the victorious Yaudheya tribe’. The second class has ‘Dwi’, and the third class has ‘Tri’ at the end of the expression, which clearly represents the contractions for the words ‘Dwitiyasya’ and ‘Tritiyasya’ meaning the second and third or the money of the second and third clan of the Yaudheyas. This makes for a conclusive evidence that the Yaudheyas were indeed divided into three sub-clans which is also true in the case of the later Johiya.

Further, the coins have been found on both sides of the Sutlej. On the west bank, at Depalpur, Satgarha, Ajudhan, Kahror, and Multan. And on the east bank at Bhatner, Abhor, Sirsa, Hansi, Panipat, and Sonpat. This makes it certain that these coins belong to the Johiya Rajputs who occupy the line of the Sutlej, and who were still to be found at Sirsa as late as the time of Akbar.

[5]: The Yaudheyas are mentioned in the Allahabad inscription of Samudra Gupta, and even at a much earlier date by grammarian Panini in the Junagarh inscription of Rudradama. Panini, we know for a fact lived anterior to Chandragupta Maurya. This proves that the Yaudheyas were a well-known clan of warriors much before the Greek invasion around 326 BC.  In the inscription, Rudradama boasts of having completely subdued the Yaudheyas, this would be impossible unless we take it that the latter had taken their arms southwards, and that would have got them into a conflict with the king of Saurastra.

From the above facts, it is reasonable to infer that at the time of Alexander, the Johiyas were at least in possession of all the territory extending between Bhatner and Sabzalkot.

[6]: We will now examine the different names of the people who submitted to Alexander during his halt at the confluence of the Panjab rivers. According to Curtius they were called Sambrace and according to Diodorus, who placed them to the east of the river, Sambastae. It is said they formed a powerful nation, second to none in India for courage and numbers. Their forces consisted of 60,000-foot, 6000 horses, and 500 chariots. The military reputation of the clan suggests the probability that the Greek name should be descriptive of their warlike character, just as Yaudheya means ” warrior or soldier.”  Therefore, that the true Greek name may have been Sambagrae, for the Sanskrit Samvagri that is, the “united warriors,” or which, as they were formed of three allied sub-clans, would have been an appropriate appellation.

In confirmation of this suggestion, we may note the fact that the country of which Bikaner is now the capital was once called Bagar-des or the land of Bagri, or warriors whose leaders took the lofty title of Bagri Rao.  The word ‘Bhati’ also means ‘warrior or soldier’. And both Yaudheyas and Bhatis are of acknowledged lunar descent.

[7]: To Yaudheyas must be attributed the foundation of the town of Ajudhan, or Ayodhanam, the ” battle-field,” which is evidently connected with their own name of Yaudheya, or Johiya the ” warriors.” The latter form of the name is most probably preserved in the Ossadii of Arrian, a free people, who tendered their submission to Alexander at the confluence of the Panjab rivers. The Ossadii of Arrian would therefore correspond with the Sambastae of Diodorus and the Sambrace of Curtius, who made their submission to Alexander at the same place. Now Ossadii or Ossadioi or Assodioi is as close a rendering of Ajudhiya as could be made in Greek characters. We have thus a double correspondence both of name and position in favor of our identification of the Sambastae or Sambrace with the Johiyas of the present day.

[8]: It is worthwhile to take a look at some interesting historical developments involving Johiya Rajputs that took place during the medieval and later medieval periods respectively.

The name “Yotika” which refers to the ‘Yaudheyas’ can be found in the list of Rajput clans produced by Chandra bardai in his celebrated account Prithvirajraso. It is also interesting to note that Emperor Prithviraj Chauhan was married to a Yaudheya princess whose father King Swami Simbal Yaudheya was the ruler of all the territory extending from Bahawalpur to Hissar, and Bikaner. Much later, when Rao Bika marched his valiant Rathores into Jangladesh, he had to match his sword with Sher Singh Johiya, the Johiya chieftain and Mohil Chauhans who ruled that country alongside the independent Jat republics. In this encounter, the Johiya chief was defeated, and in the aftermath of this conflict, the Jats agreed to live under the suzerainty of Rathores. Thusly, the foundation of the Bikaner state was laid.  The remnants of these vanquished Yaudheyas and Mohil Chauhans eventually accepted Islam, at a later date. Today, hardly three villages of Hindu Johiya Rajputs can be found in the region. The Muslim Johiya Rajputs of the Hissar region also migrated to Pakistan during the partition of 1947. The Bhawalpur region of Pakistan still abounds in Muslim Johiya Rajputs. It is noteworthy that have maintained their Rajput identity by practicing endogamy despite the change of faith.