Etymological view supported by numerous noted scholars is that
Afghan evidently derives from Sanskrit Ashvaka or Ashvakan (q.v),
the Assakenois of Arrian. This view was propounded by scholars
like Dr Christian Lassen, J. W. McCrindle  etc and has been supported
by numerous modern scholars   . In Sanskrit, word ashva
(Iranian aspa, Prakrit assa) means "horse", and ashvaka (Prakrit
assaka) means "horseman". Pre-Christian times knew the people of
eastern Afghanistan as Ashvakas (horsemen), since they raised a
fine breed of horses and had a reputation for providing expert cavalrymen.
The fifth-century-BCE Indian grammarian Panini calls them Ashvakayana
 and Ashvayana  respectively . Classical writers use the
respective equivalents Aspasios (or Aspasii, Hippasii) and Assakenois
(or Assaceni/Assacani, Asscenus) etc. The Aspasios/Assakenois (Ashvakas
= Cavalrymen) is stated to be another name for the Kambojas of Ancient
texts because of their equestrian characteristics. In ancient Pali
texts, the Kamboja land is described as the land of horses  
 . The relics of the name Assakenoi are still seen in the
Aspin of Chitral and the Yashkun of Gilgit, according to Dr J. W.
McCrindle  .
In this regard, the Encyclopædia Iranica states:
“ From a more limited, ethnological point of view, "Afghan" is
the term by which the Persian-speakers of Afghanistan (and the non-Pašto-speaking
ethnic groups generally) designate the Paštun. The equation [of]
Afghan [and] Paštun has been propagated all the more, both in and
beyond Afghanistan, because the Paštun tribal confederation is by
far the most important in the country, numerically and politically.
It further explains:
“ The term "Afghan" has probably designated the Paštun since
ancient times. Under the form Avagana, this ethnic group is first
mentioned by the Indian astronomer Varaha Mihira in the beginning
of the 6th century A.D. in his Brahat-samahita. ”
This information is supported by traditional Pashto literature,
for example in the writings of the 17th century Pashto poet Khushal
“ Pull out your sword and slay any one, that says Pashton and
Afghan are not one! Arabs know this and so do Romans: Afghans are
Pashtons, Pashtons are Afghans! ”
The last part of the name "-stan" is an Indo-Iranian suffix for
"place", prominent in many languages of the region. The term "Afghanistan",
meaning the "Land of Afghans", was mentioned by the 16th century
Mughal Emperor Babur in his memoirs, referring to the territories
south of Kabul that were inhabited by Pashtuns (called "Afghans"
Regarding the modern nation or country "Afghanistan", the Encyclopædia
Of Islam states:
“ Afghanistan has borne that name only since the middle of the
18th century, when the supremacy of the Afghan race (Pashtuns) became
assured: previously various districts bore distinct apellations,
but the country was not a definite political unit, and its component
parts were not bound together by any identity of race or language.
The earlier meaning of the word was simply “the land of the Afghans”,
a limited territory which did not include many parts of the present
state but did comprise large districts now either independent or
within the boundary of Pakistan. ”
This information is supported by Frederick Engels, who wrote
in the year 1857:
“ Afghanistan, an extensive country of Asia, north-west of India.
It lies between Persia and the Indies, and in the other direction
between the Hindu Kush and the Indian Ocean. It formerly included
the Persian provinces of Khorassan and Kohistan, together with Herat,
Beluchistan, Cashmere, and Sinde, and a considerable part of the
The information from the Encyclopaedia of Islam and Frederick
Engels are further supported by the CIA world factbook, Encyclopedia
Britannica, Columbia Enclyclopedia and many others.
Until the 19th century, the name was only used for the traditional
lands of the Pashtuns, while the kingdom as a whole was known as
the Kingdom of Kabul, as mentioned by the British statesman and
historian Mountstuart Elphinstone. Later, Afghan authorities
adopted and extended the name "Afghanistan" to the entire kingdom,
after its English translation, "Afghanland", had already appeared
in various treaties between British Raj and Qajarid Persia, referring
to the lands that were subject to the Pashtun Barakzai Dynasty of
Afghanistan became fully recognized by the world community in
1919, after the country re-gained independence over its foreign
affairs from the British, and was confirmed as such in the nation's
Earlier references to the region
Before being called Afghanistan, the region had gone through
several name changes in its long history of over 5,000 years.
One of the most ancient names, according to historians and scholars,
was Aryana - the Greek pronunciation of the ancient Avestan Aryanam
Vaeja, Old Persian Aryanam Xša?ra or the Sanskrit "Aryavarta", Realm
of the Aryans. Today this Old-Persian, and Avestan expression is
preserved in the name Iran and it is noted in the name of the Afghan
national airlines, Ariana Airlines. The term Aryana Afghanistan
is still popular amongst Persian speakers in the country.
Many centuries later, large parts of the region were known as
Khorasan, and hence present-day Afghanistan was recognized with
this name (Persian: ??????? - Khora?an; along with regions centered
around Merv and Neishabur), which in Pahlavi means "Land of the
Rising Sun" (Persian: ???? ????? ).
There are various other theories about the origins of the name
Afghanistan. However, they are not accepted by mainstream scholars.
Pashtun legend places Afghana, the professed eponymous ancestor
Afghans or Pushtuns, as a contemporary of Muslim, Prophet
Mohammad. On hearing about the new faith of Islam, Qais from Aryana
travelled to Medina to see the Muslim, Prophet Muhammad, and returned
to Aryana as a Muslim. Qais Abdur Rashid purportedly had many sons,
one of whom was Afghana. Afghana, in turn, had four sons who set
out to the east to establish their separate lineages. The first
son went to Swat, the second to Lahore and India, the third to Multan,
and the last one to Quetta. This legend is one of many traditional
tales amongst the Pashtuns regarding their disparate origins. Again,
it was this legendary Afghana who is stated to have given the Pushtuns
their current name. It is notable that the Afghan of this legend
is separated from the Afghana of Solomon's times by at least 11
"Makhzan-e Afghan" by Nematullah, written in 1612 CE at the Mughal
court in India, traces the Afghan or Pakhtun origin from Abraham
down to one named King Talut or Saul. It states that Saul had a
son Irmia (Jeremia), who had a son called Afghana. Upon the death
of King Saul, Afghana was raised by David, and was later promoted
to the chief command of the army during the reign of King Solomon.
The progeny of this Afghana multiplied numerously, and came to be
called Bani-Israel. In the sixth century BCE, Bakhtunnasar, or Nebuchadnezzar
king of Babil, attacked Judah and exiled the progeny of Afghana
to Ghor located in the center of what is now Afghanistan. In course
of time, the exiled community came to be addressed as Afghan after
the name of their ancestor, and the country got its name as Afghanistan.
This traditional view has some critics who refer to insufficient
Dr H.W. Bellew, in his book An Enquiry into the Ethnography of
Afghanistan, believes that the name Afghan derives from the Latin
term Alban, used by Armenians as Alvan or Alwan, which refers to
mountaineers, and in the case of transliterated Armenian characters,
would be pronounced as Aghvan or Aghwan. To the Persians, this would
further be altered to Aoghan, Avghan, and Afghan as a reference
to the highlanders or "mountaineers" of the eastern Iranian plateau.
There are also a few people who tend to link "Afghan" to an Uzbek
word "Avagan" said to mean "original".
By another authority,
the name Afghan is said to mean wailing  which the Persians
are said to have contemptuously used for their plaintive eastern
Between the fall of the Taliban after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan
and the 2003 Loya jirga, Afghanistan was referred to by the Government
of the United States as the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan.
Under its new constitution, the country is now officially named
the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
- ^ Arrian writes them Assakenois. Strabo also calls them
Assakanois, but Curtius calls them Assacani.
- ^ "The name Afghan has evidently been derived from Asvakan,
the Assakenoi of Arrian... " (Megasthenes and Arrian, p 180;
see also: Alexander's Invasion of India, p 38; J. W. McCrindle)
- ^ This includes S. Martin, L. Bishop, W. Crooke, J. C. Vidyalnar,
Dr M. R. Singh, P. Smith, N. L. Dey, Henry Yule, A. C. Burnell,
Dr J. L. Kamboj, S. Kirpal Singh and several others.
“The name represents Sanskrit Asvaka in the sense of a cavalier,
and this reappears scarcely modified in the Assakani or Assakeni
of the historians of the expedition of Alexander” (Hobson-Jobson:
A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and
of kindred terms, etymological..by Henry Yule, A. C. Burnell).
- ^ Ashtadhyayi, Nadadi gana IV-1, 99
- ^ Ashtadhyayi Sutra IV-1, 110
- ^ History and Culture of Indian People, the Age of Imperial
Unity, Vol II, p 45, Dr A. D. Pusalkar, Dr R. C. Majumdar, Dr
Munshi etc; Panjab Past and Present, pp 9-10, Dr Buddha Parkash;
See also: History of Porus, pp 12, 38; Ancient India, 2003,
pp 260-61, Dr V. D. Mahajan; India as Known to Panini, pp 456-57,
Dr V. S. Aggarwala; Preliminary Notes on the Excavation of the
Necropolises found in Western Pakistan and The Tombs of the
Asvakayana-Assakenoi, Antonini, Chiara Silvi & Tucci, Giuseppe,
pp 13 to 28; 'Asvakayana-Assakenoi', East and West, NS,. 14
(Roma, t963), pp 27-28.
- ^ Kambojo assa.nam ayata.nam i.e Kamboja the birthplace
of horse......(|| Samangalavilasini, Vol I, p 124||).
- ^ Aruppa-Niddesa of Visuddhimagga by Buddhaghosa describes
the Kamboja land as the base of horses (10/28)
- ^ In the Anushasnaparava section of Mahabharata, the Kambojas
are specifically designated as Ashava.yuddha.kushalah (expert
tatha Yavana Kamboja Mathuram.abhitash cha ye
ete 'ashava.yuddha.kushalahdasinatyasi charminah. || 5
- ^ Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 133 fn 6,
pp 216-20, (Also Commentary p 576 fn 22), Dr H. C. Raychaudhury,
Dr B. N. Mukerjee; Historie du bouddhisme Indien, p110, Dr E.
Lammotte; Panjab Past and Present, pp 9-10, Dr Buddha Parkash.
J. W. McCrindle says that the modern Afghanistan -- the Kaofu
(Kambu) of Hiun Tsang was ancient Kamboja, and the name Afghan
evidently derives from the Ashavakan, the Assakenoi of Arrian
(Alexandra's Invasion of India, p 38; Megasthenes and Arrian,
p 180, J. McCrindle); Ancient Kamboja, People and Country, 1981,
pp 271-72, 278, Dr J. L. Kamboj; These Kamboj People, 1979,
pp 119, 192, K. S. Dardi; Kambojas, Through the Ages, 2005,
pp 129, 218-19, S Kirpal Singh; Sir Thomas H. Holdich, in the
his classic book, (The Gates of India, p 102-03), writes that
the Aspasians (Aspasios) represent the modern Kafirs. But the
modern Kafirs, especially the Siah-Posh Kafirs (Kamoz/Camoje,
Kamtoz) etc are considered to be modern representatives of the
ancient Kambojas. Other noted scholars supporting this view
are Dr Romilla Thapar, Dr R. C. Majumdar etc.
^ The Invasion
Of India By Alexander The Great As Described By Arrian, Q. Curtius,
Diodorus, Plutarch And Justin, Dr J. W. McCrindle.
- ^ Other scholars like Dr N. K. Shastri, Dr Buddha Parkash,
Dr L. M. Joshi, Dr Fauja Singh, Dr J. L. Kamboj and many others
also hold the same view.
- ^ Ch.M. Kieffer, "Afghan" (with ref. to "Afghanistan: iv.
Ethnography"), in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition 2006,
- ^ extract from "Passion of the Afghan" by Khushal Khan Khattak;
translated by C. Biddulph in "Afghan Poetry Of The 17th Century:
Selections from the Poems of Khushal Khan Khattak", London,
- ^ Zāhir ud-Dīn Mohammad Bābur in Bāburnāma, "Transactions
of the year 908", translated by John Leyden, Oxford University
Press 1921 (LINK)
- ^ M. Longworth Dames/G. Morgenstierne/R. Ghirshman, "Afghānistān",
in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Online Edition
^ MECW Volume 18,
p. 40; The New American Cyclopaedia - Vol. I, 1858;...Link
- ^ CIA World Factbook - Afghanistan...Link
- ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica - Ahmad Shah Durrani...Link
- ^ Nancy Hatch Dupree - An Historical Guide To Afghanistan
- The South (Chapter 16)...Link
- ^ Columbia Encyclopedia - Afghanistan: History...Link
- ^ History Of Nations - History of Afghanistan...Link
- ^ Afghanistan Online - Biography (Ahmad Shah Abdali)...Link
- ^ Britannica Student Encyclopedia - Government and History
- ^ Elphinstone, M., "Account of the Kingdom of Cabul and
its Dependencies in Persia and India", London 1815; published
by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown
- ^ M. Ali, "Afghanistan: The War of Independence, 1919",
Kabul [s.n.], 1960
- ^ Afghanistan's Constitution of 1923, under King Amanullah
Khan, English translation...Link
- ^ A.A. Dehkhoda, Dehkhoda Dictionary, p. 8457
- ^ Gankovsky, Yu. V., et al "A History of Afghanistan." Moscow:
Progress Publishers, 1982. 8vo. Cloth. 359 p. USD 22.50
- ^ Persia, p 142, Samuel G. Benjamin.
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