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Bulletin of the Asia Institute

New Series/Volume 21


Published with the assistance of the Neil Kreitman Foundation (U.K.)


Penlop Riboud Bird-Priests in Central Asian Tombs of 6th-Century China and

Their Significance in the Funerary Realm 1
Pratapaditya Pal Evidence of Jainism in Afghanistan and Kashmir in Ancient Times 25
Alka Patel Architectural Cultures and Empire: The Ghurids in Northern India
(ca. 11921210) 35
Mehrdad Shokoohy The Zoroastrian Towers of Silence in the Ex-Portuguese Colony
of Diu 61
David Frendo Dangerous Ideas: Julians Persian Campaign, Its Historical
Background, Motivation, and Objectives 79
M. Rahim Shayegan Prosopographical Notes: The Iranian Nobility during and after the
Macedonian Conquest 97
tienne de la Vaissire A Note on the Schyen Copper Scroll: Bactrian or Indian? 127
Harry Falk Ancient Indian Eras: An Overview 131

Introduction to Persia beyond the Oxus

(M. Rahim Shayegan) 147
D. T. Potts Cataphractus and kamandar: Some Thoughts on the Dynamic
Evolution of Heavy Cavalry and Mounted Archers in Iran and
Central Asia 149
Frantz Grenet; Where Are the Sogdian Magi? 159
with Samra Azarnoush
Richard Salomon Gandhari in the Worlds of India, Iran, and Central Asia 179
Nicholas Sims-Williams Some Bactrian Terms for Realia 193

timothy lenz. Gandharan Avadanas: British Library
Kharohi Fragments 13 and 21 and Supplementary
Fragments AC (Tyson Yost) 197
pavel b. lurje. Personal Names in Sogdian Texts. R. Schmitt,
H. Eichner, B. G. Fragner, and V. Sadovski, eds., Iranisches
Personennamenbuch, Bd. 2, Fasc. 8 (Yutaka Yoshida) 201
pratapaditya pal. The Elegant Image: Bronzes from the Indian
Subcontinent in the Siddharth K. Bhansali Collection
(Donald M. Stadtner) 206

Books Received 211
Abbreviations 213

Color plates including images from Penlop Riboud, Pratapaditya Pal, and Frantz Grenet follow p. 34
in this volume.

A Note on the Schyen Copper Scroll: Bactrian or Indian?
t i e n n e d e l a V a i ss i r e

cole des hautes tudes en sciences sociales,paris

The publication of the Schyen Copper Scroll by Together with the main core of the article, an
Gudrun Melzer in 2006 was a great achievement edition and philological commentary which have
that provided a major surprise for the history of been widely accepted, a historical interpretation
the nomadic tribal groupings that dominated Cen- was proposed in a very cautious manner that can
tral Asia and northwestern India in the 5th and be summarized:
6th centuries.1 If we accept Melzers interpreta-
tion, it will be necessary to modify our complete among the various possible eras, the date would
understanding of the history of the Hephtalite be in the Laukika era, so that the inscription
empire. would be dated a.d. 492/493.
This donation inscription for a Buddhist stupa Talaganika-Devaputra-ahi is interpreted as
is written in Sanskrit and Brahmi on a copper the lord of Talaqan, in northeastern Afghanistan,
scroll. After praise of the Buddha, the dharma, following a suggestion of N. Sims-Williams.
and the sagha, the beginning of a Mahayana su There would be only one clearly Indian name,
tra is quoted, and then six lines of donation for- Ratnagama, while three names would be Iranian/
mula. Verses praising the donators conclude the Bactrian: Arccavamana, Mehama, and Sasa.
text. The donation formula is extremely interest- Mehama might be the ruler Meyam mentioned
ing, as it is dated and mentions several names of in the Bactrian documents as reigning over a re-
known Alxon rulers. The text is the following, in gion to the east of the Rob kingdom, Kadagistan,
the translation of Gudrun Melzer: which might have included Talaqan.
the presence of the Alxon rulers named together
In the sixty-eighth year on the seventh day of the in the donation formula might mean that they
bright half of the month Karttika: On this day this reigned simultaneously in different regions rather
caitya of the Realized One containing relics was es- than consecutively as previously considered.3
tablished by the lord of the great monastery, the son
of Opanda, the Talaganika-Devaputra-ahi,..., to- Melzers interpretation of the scroll places the
gether with [his] father Opanda, together with [his] location of the inscription in Bactria, a crucial
wife, the daughter of the Sarada-ahi..., together point that is open to dispute (although it should
with the mistress of a great monastery Arccavamana, be pointed out that it was not the main aim of the
together with [her] father Ho..gaya, [and] with [her] article and that Melzer put great emphasis on be-
mother, the queen..., together with the spiritual
ing very cautious about this). The designation of
friend, the religious teacher Ratnagama, together with
the great ahi Khigila, together with the god-king
the location of the stupa as Talaqan, in northeast-
Toramana, together with the mistress of a great mon- ern Afghanistan, is prompted by the reference to
astery Sasa, together with the great ahi Mehama, to- Talaganika-Devaputra-ahi, whom Melzer thinks
gether with Sadavikha, together with the great king was the lord there. The aim of this note is to
Javukha, the son of Sadavikha, during the reign of show that there should be another possibility.
Mehama. The location in northeastern Afghanistan im-
plies that the mention of the known Alxon rulers
At the end of the inscription, the location of the Khigila, Toramaa, and Javukha in the inscription
stupa is referred to as ardiysa.2 provides a link between them and the Hephtalites

d e l a v a i s s i r e : A Note on the Schyen Copper Scroll: Bactrian or Indian?

whose nucleus lay north of the Hindukush. Hith- empire.5 This is not likely. As I understand it,
erto, a link has been based almost exclusively on the list of donators lists first the actual dona-
the testimony of the Chinese pilgrim Song Yun, tor, Talaganika-Devaputra-ahi and his family,
who in a.d. 520 met a tegin of Gandhara usu- then the two Alxon rulers in the expected order
ally regarded as Mihirakula.4 Song Yun wrote that of seniority as demonstrated by the coins, first
two generations before his travel the country had Khigila, then Toramaa. These Alxon rulers,
been conquered by the Hephtalites (generations however, might be only a list of deceased mem-
thought to be Khigila, Toramaa, and then Mi- bers of the dynasty, and indeed the father of the
hirakula). Yet the evidence of coins runs counter later mentioned Javukha, Sadavikha, is listed be-
to the idea that Hepthalites ruled in Gandhara: fore his son and probably was dead, as his son
on coins, only Alxon is known as the name of was the reigning king. I think rather that at the
the dominant dynasty or ethnic group in that re- time of the dedication of the stupa Khigila and
gionno Hepthalites are known from coins that Toramaa had died, that Javukha reigned as the
originated south of the Hindukush. Conversely, main king of the Alxon,6 and that Mehama was a
Alxon coins have been found only south of the regional viceroy, in whose dominion lay the local
Hindukush, up to Central Asia, and never to the Talaganika-Devaputra-ahi.
north. Thus, depending on whether one follows However, the major difficulty in accepting Mel-
the evidence of the coins or that of Song Yun, zers interpretation lies not in the chronology but
these southern rulers were named either Alxon in the geography: whether the location of the
or Hephtalite. stupa was in Bactria or in India. The coins and
Melzers interpretation of the Schyen Copper inscriptions of Khigila, Toramaa, Javukha, and
Scroll indicates that the Alxon wielded political Mihirakula are purely Indian. It is very difficult to
influence in the core portion of the Hephtalite reconcile the clear discrepancy between the coin-
empire, to the north of the Hindukush: in Ta age on the one hand and the geography that was
laqan, which lay at or close to the very heart of inferred from the scroll on the other.7 Another
the empire, the names of Khigila, Toramaa, point is the extension of Indian cultural influ-
and Javukha necessarily would have been men- ence to Talaqan: this dedicatory copper scroll is
tioned in the dedication of a local monastery if purely Indian and does not display any influence
there were such a relationship. We can no lon- of a Bactrian context, while to my knowledge,
ger differentiate between the known names of copper scrolls or plates are unknown outside of
the Alxon and those of the Hephtalite kings; it India in Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. The
is impossible that they reigned separately in the use of Brahmi and Sanskrit instead of Bactrian re-
same region. They should be identified. flects a cultural choice (which however might be
There are several consequences that stem from explained in part by the Buddhist context). And
our inability to distinguish Alxon rulers from last, the Laukika era is known in India and never
Hephtalites. First, if Khigila was a king in the attested north of the Hindukush.
north as well as in the south, from a chronologi- It seems clear that most of these difficulties
cal point of view he should have been Axsunwar, raised by Melzers interpretation are the result of
who fought against Peroz. As regards Axsunwar, the identification of Talaganika-Devaputra-ahi
this is quite possible as Axsunwar is a title rather with the lord of the Bactrian (northeastern Af-
than a personal name. ghanistan) Talaqan. If we were to suppose that
Second, in a.d. 520, Song Yun described a Heph Talaganika refers to a town in northwestern India
talite king reigning to the north of the Hindukush instead, then the results would be much more in
and later in his account a person who was sup- line with what we know. We no longer would
posed to be the Alxon leader Mihirakula reigning need to assimilate Axsunwar and Khigila and
in Gandhara. These are different. This can only imagine a split in the Hephtalite empire before
mean that by 520 the unity between the north and Song Yungs travel; we should not modify our
south had been destroyed, that a split had taken understanding of the geography of coinage nor
place between the date of the scroll and 520. our knowledge of the extent of the Indian epi-
According to the Melzer interpretation, the list graphical culture to the north. We would have a
of the donators indicates that these various kings usual Indian dedicatory copper scroll, from north-
reigned simultaneously in parts of the Hephtalite western India, written in Brahmi and Sanskrit,

d e l a v a i s s i r e : A Note on the Schyen Copper Scroll: Bactrian or Indian?

that mentions the names of kings known from raphy of their coinage; Sarada-ahi; Ratnagama;
coinage and inscriptions to have reigned over this the Laukika era. In favor of the Talaqan hypoth-
region, and is dated to an era known to have been esis, we find mainly the three Iranian names, or
in use in Panjab and Kashmir. part of them, and perhaps the link with Meyam.
Is there any towns name that might be linked In a sense we have to choose between a well-
to the title Talaganika-Devaputra-ahi? Just known Bactrian influence among the aristocracy
north of the Salt range, the town of Talagang in northwestern India or a very strongto my
(32543.65N, 722939.10E) fits perfectly into mind too strongIndian cultural influence in
this pattern. It lies within the region usually as- northeastern Afghanistan. In sum, I would rather
cribed to the kings mentioned in the text. While not rely on this document to modify what we
we do not know its past, it is known from the know of the history of the Hephtalites.
16th century on, and its name closely matches
the title of Talaganika-Devaputra-ahi, as Ta
laqan is always spelled with a -q-, and not a -g-, in Notes
Persian. Also, there is another argument in favor
of Talagang: Melzer points out in her article that 1. Melzer 2006. Attempts to cope with the new re-
the closest inscription in paleography to ours is sults in Alram and Pfisterer 2010, 20f., and Vondrovec
that of Kura (Khwera), in the Salt range, which 2008.
mentions Toramaa as well.8 As the crow flies, 2. Melzer 2006, 274, 277.
3. Melzer 2006, 25664.
there are 65 km between the two points. More-
4. Jenner 1981, 265.
over, while a name in the text, that of Sarada- 5. Melzer 2006, 262; Vondrovec 2008, 26; Alram
ahi, might point to Kashmir,9 this was discarded and Pfisterer 2010, 22.
by Melzer because it was supposed to be too far 6. The mention of Javukha in the scroll does not
away from the Bactrian Talaqan. There is a strong modify this pattern, as he is not a member of the dy-
possibility that this dedicatory copper scroll nasty, being the son of the unknown Sadavikha. He
comes from a village in the region of Talagang, might have been an usurpator before being superseded
in Pakistan, and not from the region of Talaqan by Mihirakula. However, that Toramaa is dead is con-
in eastern Afghanistan. tradictory to the idea that the Laukika era is that of
However, the Talagang hypothesis does not ex- the inscription, as he is supposed to have died ca. 515,
plain the few Iranian names of the text: Arcca as correctly pointed out to me by G. Melzer. But is it
the right era? Could it not be the era of the conquest?
vamana, Mehama, and Sasa. The third name is
7. Vondrovec 2008 and Alram and Pfisterer 2010,
at least known among the Indo-Parthian rulers 2627, are both attempts to reconcile the geography
(Sases), and the first name might be only partly with the one deduced from the scroll. They both raise
Bactrianthe first part might be Indian. Me- utmost difficulties, which might be avoided. It is es-
hama, is a more serious problem, as it is an actual pecially difficult to think that the Alxon might have
Bactrian name, known in the Arabic documents controlled Talaqan while being still different from the
from Bactria under the form mhm. A Meyam, Hephtalites, as Talaqan is the very heart of the Heph
etymologically related to Mehama,, is known to talite country.
have reigned somewhere in northeastern Afghan- 8. Melzer 2006, 261.
istan a few decades before our scroll.10 A simple 9. Melzer 2006, 257.
way to deal with the problem might be to say that 10. Discussion and references in Sims-Williams
2010, 8586.
the rulers from northwestern India came from the
northwest and that it is not that surprising that a
local king bears a Bactrian name. This is perfectly
well known from the coins, as many of the Alxon Bibliography
minted coins both in Brahmi and in Bactrian. Alram and M. Alram and M. Pfisterer.
Let us conclude as cautiously as Melzer has for- Pfisterer 2010 Alkhan and Hephthalite
mulated her historical interpretation: in favor of Coinage. In Coins, Art, and
the Talagang hypothesis we find the scroll itself, Chronology II: The First Mille-
in all its physical, linguistic, and paleographical nium C.E. in the Indo-Iranian
aspects; the spelling -g- of Talaganika; the name Borderlands, ed. M. Alram
of the Alxon leaders mentioned in it and the geog- et al. Wien.

d e l a v a i s s i r e : A Note on the Schyen Copper Scroll: Bactrian or Indian?

Jenner 1981 W. F. J. Jenner. Memories of Vondrovec 2008 K. Vondrovec. Numismatic

Luoyang: Yang Hsan-chih Evidence of the Alchon Huns
and the Lost Capital (493 Reconsidered. Beitrge zur
534). Oxford. Ur- und Frhgeschichte
Melzer 2006 G. Melzer. A Copper Scroll Mitteleuropas 50:2556.
Inscription from the Time of Sims-Williams 2010 N. Sims-Williams. Bactrian
the Alchon Huns. In collabo- Personal Names. Iranisches
ration with Lore Sander. In Personennamenbuch II.7.
Manuscripts in the Schyen Wien.
Collection: Buddhist Manu-
scripts, vol. 3, ed. J.Braarvig,
251314. Oslo.


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