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Original Articles Home > Acta Via Serica > Archives > Original Articles
Title A Silk Road Hero: King Chashtana
Volume Vol. 3 No. 2
Pages pp. 91~106 (all 16 pages)
Publication Date December, 2018
Keyword Silk Road, King Chashtana, Saka/Śaka, Buddhism, Old Uighur
Abstract During the Old Uighur period, many works were translated into Old Uighur under the influence of Buddhism. Among these works, literary works such as Daśakarmapathāvadānamālā hold an important place. These works were usually translated from Pali to Sanskrit, from Sanskrit to Sogdian, Tocharian and Chinese, and to Old Uighur from these languages. These works which were added to the Old Uighur repertoire by translation indicate that different peoples along the ancient Silk Road had deep linguistic interactions with one another. Aside from these works, other narratives that we have been so far unable to determine whether they were translations, adaptations or original works have also been discovered. The Tale of King Chashtana, which was found in the work titled Daśakarmapathāvadānamālā, is one of the tales we have been unable to classify as a translation or an original work. This tale has never been discovered with this title or this content in the languages of any of the peoples that were exposed to Buddhism along the Silk Road. On the other hand, the person whom the protagonist of this tale was named after has a very important place in the history of India, one of the countries that the Silk Road goes through. Saka Mahakshatrapa Chashtana (or Cashtana), a contemporary of Nahapana, declared himself king in Gujarat. A short time later, Chashtana, having invaded Ujjain and Maharashtra, established a powerful Saka kingdom in the west of India. His descendants reigned in the region for a long time. Another important fact about Chashtana is that coinage minted in his name was used all along the Silk Road. Chashtana, who became a significant historical figure in north western India, inspired the name of the protagonist of a tale in Old Uighur. That it is probable that the tale of King Chashtana is an original Old Uighur tale and not found in any other languages of the Silk Road brings some questions to mind: Who is Chashtana, the hero of the story? Is he related to the Saka king Chashtana in any way? What sort of influence did Chashtana have on the Silk Road and its languages? If this tale which we have never encountered in any other language of the Silk Road is indeed an original tale, why did the Old Uighurs use the name of an important Saka ruler? Is Saka-Uighur contact in question, given tales of this kind? What can we say about the historical and cultural geography of the Silk Road, given the fact that coinage was minted in his name and used along the Silk Road? In this study, I will attempt to answer these questions and share the information we have gleaned about Chashtana the hero of the tale and the Saka king Chashtana. One of the main aim of this study is to reveal the relationship between the narrative hero Chashtana and the Saka king Chashtana according to this information. Another aim of this study is to understand the history of the Saka, the Uighur and the Silk Road and to reveal the relationship between these three important subjects of history. The importance of the Silk Road will be emphasized again with the understanding of these relations. In this way, new nformation about Chashtana, who is an important name in the history of the India and the Silk Road, will be put forward. The history of the Sakas will be viewed from a different perspective through the Old Uighur Buddhist story.