|c.125 CE–c.300 CE|
Portrait of Paratarajas ruler Kozana circa 200-220 CE.
|Historical era||Late Antiquity|
|Today part of||Pakistan|
The Pāratarājas (Brahmi:
The ancient history of Balochistan, western Pakistan, is scarcely documented. The Paratarajas polity is known through coinage, which has been primarily found in and around Loralai.[a]
E. J. Rapson first studied the coinage in 1905; it was subjected to a comprehensive evaluation by B. N. Mukherjee in 1972; these studies have been since superseded by analyses by Pankoj Tandon and Harry Falk.
Coinage was issued in five denominations: didrachms, drachms, hemidrachms, quarter drachms, and obols; all rulers did not issue every denomination. The first six rulers minted stable denominations in silver that were devalued and then replaced by billon than copper. Tandon notes multiple similarities with Indo-Parthian coinage, especially in the metrological standards and shape, and the coinage of the Western Satraps, especially in materials.[b]
The coins exhibit a bust on the obverse and a swastika—either right-facing or left-facing—on the reverse, circumscribed by a Prakrit legend in Brahmi script (usually silver coins) or Kharoshthi script (usually copper coins). This legend carried the name of the issuer followed by patronymic, and identification as the "King of Paratas". The die engraver often left the legend incomplete if he ran out of room, a quirk that is peculiar to the Paratarajas.
Two contemporaneous inscriptions refer to the polity. The Paikuli inscription, which was erected by Narseh (293-302) after his victory over Bahram III, noted an anonymous "Pāradānshah" (King of Pardan) to have been among his many congratulators.
Shapur I's inscription at the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht in Naqsh-i-Rustam, which is dated to 262, had "P'rtu"/"Pardan" as one of the many provinces of the Sasanian Empire:
And I [Shapur I] possess the lands: Fars Persis, Pahlav [Parthia] ... and all of Abarshahr [all the upper (eastern, Parthian) provinces], Kerman, Sakastan, Turgistan, Makuran, Pardan Paradene, Hind [Sind] and Kushanshahr all the way to Pashkibur [Peshawar?] and to the borders of Kashgaria, Sogdia and Chach [Tashkent] and of that sea-coast Mazonshahr [Oman].
In 1926 and 1927, Aurel Stein commanded an excavation at the ruins of a Buddhist site at Tor Dherai in Loralai and discovered potsherds carrying Prakrit inscriptions in Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts.[c] Sten Konow, publishing the report about three years later, failed to understand the Brahmi legends but interpreted the Kharosthi legend as:
Of the Shahi Yola Mira, the master [owner[d]] of the vihara, this water hall [is] the religious gift, in his own Yola-Mira-shahi-Vihara, to the order of the four quarters, in the acceptance of the Sarvastivadin teachers. And from this right donation may there be in future a share for [his] mother and father, in future a share for all beings and long life for the master of the law.
Yola Mira, a king whose existence was unknown at the time of the excavation, has since been determined form coin finds to be the earliest Parataraja king. The potsherds remain the only non-numismatic evidence for any of the Parataraja rulers.
No mention of the dynasty is found in extant literature; however, classical literature in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit make mention of tribal polities named "Parētakēnoí" (Πᾰρητᾰκηνοί), "Pareitakai/Pareitacae" (Παρειτάκαις), "Parsidai" (Παρ?óδòν > Παρσιδὦν (?)), "Paraetaceni", "Paradene" (Παραδηνή) and "Parada". Tandon accepts Mukherjee's theory all of these names refer to the same entity, who gave rise to the dynasty; he cites Datayola's coin-inscriptions in support.
Around 440 BCE, Herodotus described of the Parētakēnoí as one of the Median tribes that were collectively ruled by Deiokes. Arrian records Alexander the Great encountered the Pareitakai in Sogdian province; a siege was mounted but eventually their ruler offered submission and was rewarded with governorship of other provinces. Contemporaneous historians Quintus Curtius Rufus, Strabo, and Plutarch reiterate the account. Isidore of Charax (fl. 0 C.E - ?)[e] noted Paraitakene was the geographical area beyond Sakastene. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (1st century CE) describes the territory of the Parsidai beyond the Ommanitic region on the coast of Balochistan. The contemporaneous text Natural History by Pliny records the Paraetaceni to be between Aria and Parthia. Ptolemy notes Paradene was a toponym for an interior region of Gedrosia.
According to Classical literature, the Paratarajas was a migrant tribal polity that originated in the territory of modern-day north-western Iran or further east, and migrated over centuries to the eastern fringes of Parthian territory, where it may have reached its peak as an independent polity. Neither the two inscriptions nor the coinage document the kingdom to any geographic precision.
Most scholars have placed the polity in western Balochistan, west of Turan and east of Siestan, largely catering to individual biases. Tandon challenged this "implicit consensus"; he hypothesized Shapur I's inscription listed regions in a geographical order from west to east, demarcating Pardan between the inexact provinces Makran and Hind. Deriving support from the abundant finds of Parataraja coins and potsherds in Loralai, Tandon proposed the Paratarajas ruled the district and its surrounds, probably extending in the west to modern-day Quetta (or Kandahar) and in the north-east to modern-day Zhob.
There exists no conclusive evidence to date the establishment of Paratarajas in Balochistan. Tandon proposed an approximate date of 125 CE using circumstantial evidence:
The disintegration of Paratarajas can be predicted with more confidence. Two overstrikes by Datayola— the last extant Parataraja ruler—on coins of the Kushano-Sasanian ruler Hormizd I provide a terminus post quem of c. 275 CE Accepting this schema allots about 15 years per ruler, which fits with the norms for ancient dynasties; additionally, Koziya can be assigned to about c. 230, whose incorporation of a bust adorning a curved hem on the coin obverse can be correlated to the contemporaneous Kanishka II.
A rough lineage of Paratarajas rulers can be reconstructed from numismatic evidence as follows:
|Yolamira||Son of Bagareva||c. 125–150 CE||
Yolamirasa Bagarevaputrasa Pāratarājasa
"Of the king of the Paratas, Yolamira, son of Bagareva"
|Bagamira||Eldest son of Yolamira||c. 150 CE||
|Arjuna||Second son of Yolamira||c. 150–160 CE||
|Hvaramira||a third son of Yolamira||c. 160–175 CE||
|Mirahvara||son of Hvaramira||c. 175–185 CE||
|Miratakhma||another son of Hvaramira||c. 185–200 CE||
|Kozana||son of Bagavharna (and perhaps grandson of Bagamira?)||c. 200–220 CE||
|Bhimarjuna||son of Yolatakhma (and perhaps grandson of Arjuna?)||c. 220–235 CE||
|Koziya||son of Kozana||c. 235–265 CE||
|Datarvharna||son of a Datayola (and perhaps grandson of Bhimarjuna?)||c. 265–280 CE||
|Datayola||son of Datarvharna||c. 280–300 CE||
The frequent referencing of Mithra, a Zoroastrian deity, in the names of the rulers lends credence to the origins of the Paratarajas lying in the Far West. The Paratarajas were probably Zoroastrian by faith but they likely patronized Buddhism as well. Tandon said the Paratarajas may have been Parthian vassals who declared independence, leveraging the weakening of imperial authority and a burgeoning trade with the Roman Empire.
The only significant information about their rule is that they flourished as an intermediary state between three major powers—the Kushanas to the north, the Western Satraps to the east, and the Sassanids to the west—for about two centuries.
Their fall can be correlated to the well-corroborated decline in Indo-Roman trade volume beginning in the mid-3rd century and then, Shapur II's devastating Eastern Campaign. Tandon rejects the idea were conquered by the Sasanians as early as 262—as attested in Shapur I's inscription—because Parata coins continued to be abundant without exhibiting any abrupt Sassanian influence as in the case of Bactria, and because the region was not claimed as a Sassanian territory in future inscriptions like Kartir's, at Naqsh-e Rajab.[g]
Coins carrying an inscription of "śrī rājño sāhi vijayapotasya" ("Of the noble Lord, King Vijayapota") on the reverse have been found around Loralai; based on the presence of a crescent at the brow of the obverse bust, a terminus post quem of c. 400 corresponding to Sassanian shahanshah Yazdegerd I can be assigned. Despite a marked contrast in the legend and the long gap from Datayola, the common use of the swastika as the central motif on the reverse and a similarity in metrological standards led Tandon to hypothesize Vijayapotasya might have been either a Parataraja or a ruler from a successor dynasty that exercised nominal independence despite the strong presence of Sassanians in the region.