|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 Pāratas are thought to be identical with the Pāradas of Indian literature.
Ancient history of Balochistan is scarcely documented. The dynasty is essentially known through their coinage which have been primarily found in and around the district of Loralai, Balochistan, western Pakistan.[a] The coinage was first studied by E. J. Rapson in 1905 before being subject to a comprehensive evaluation by B. N. Mukherjee in 1972; they have been since superseded by Pankoj Tandon's analyses alongside Harry Falk.
Coinage was issued in five denominations: didrachms, drachms, hemidrachms, quarter drachms, and obols. However all rulers did not issue every denomination. The first six rulers minted stable denominations in silver, before they were devalued and then gave way to billon followed by copper. Tandon notes multiple similarities with Indo-Parthian coinage esp. in the metrological standards and shape, as well as with the coinage of the Western Satraps, esp. in fabric.[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 peculiar to the Paratarajas.
No mention of the dynasty is found in extant literature; however classical literature — in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit — mention of tribal polities, variously named "Parētakēnoí" (Πᾰρητᾰκηνοί), "Paraitakai", "Paretaceni", and "Parada". Tandon accepts Mukherjee's suggestion about all of them referring to the same entity, which gave rise to the dynasty.
C. 440 BCE, Herodotus described of the Parētakēnoí as one of the Median tribes, collectively ruled by Deiokes. Arrian described how Alexander the Great on encountering the Paraitakai in Bactria and Sogdiana, had Craterus conquer them. Isidore of Charax (fl. 0 C.E - ?)[c] noted "Paraitakene" to be the geographical area beyond Sakastene. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (1st century CE) describes the territory of the Paradon beyond the Ommanitic region, on the coast of Balochistan.
In 1926-1927, Aurel Stein commandeered an excavation at the ruins of a Buddhist site at "Tor Dherai" in Loralai to come across potsherds carrying Prakrit inscriptions, in Brahmi as well as Kharosthi script.[d] 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[e]] 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.— Tor Dherai inscribed potsherds.
Yola Mira, while an unknown King at the time of the excavation, has been since determined to be the earliest Parataraja King from coin-finds. This remains the only non-numismatic evidence for any of the Paratarjas.
The Paikuli inscription, erected by Narseh (293-302) on his victory over Bahram III, noted one "Pāradānshah" (King of Pardan) to have been among his many congratulators. Shapur I's trilingual inscription at the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht in Naqsh-i-Rustam, dated to 262 CE, had noted "P'rtu"/"Pardan" to be among 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 (Kirman), 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)."
However, no other inscription or literature documents this place, rendering any identification or geolocation contentious; nonetheless, most scholars place it in West Balochistan, west of Turan and east of Siestan.
Tandon, operating on the hypothesis that Shapur I's inscription had listed regions in a geographical order from West to East and that the Pāradānshah was a Parataraja ruler,[f] challenges this "implicit consensus" and sandwiches Pardan between the inexact provinces of Makran and Hind. Deriving support from the abundant finds of Parataraja coins and potsherds, Tandon centers Pardan around Loralai, 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. Tandon proposes a rough date of c. 125, hypothesizing on circumstantial evidence:
However, the probable disintegration of Paratarajas can be predicted with more confidence. A couple of overstrikes by Datayola — the last extant Parataraja ruler — on coins of the Kushano-Sasanian ruler Hormizd I (ruled c. 275 to 300) provide a terminus post quem of c. 275 C.E. Accepting this schema allots about 15 years per ruler, which fits with the usual norms for ancient dynasties; additionally, Koziya can be assigned to about c. 230, whose incorporation of a bust, adorning 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||The name translates to "Warrior Mithra" in Bactrian.
Coinage was issued in all five denominations. Three distinct phases of minting—bearded bust (obv.) + right-facing swastika (rev.); clean-shaven bust + left-facing swastika; clean-shaven bust + right-facing swastika—have been observed. The didrachm was minted only in the second phase.
Coin legend in the Brahmi script (variations exist):
Yolamirasa Bagarevaputrasa Pāratarājasa
"Of the king of the Paratas, Yolamira, son of Bagareva"
|Bagamira||Eldest son of Yolamira||c. 150 CE||The name translates to "Lord Mithra."
Only two drachms are known, both of which were struck on the die used by Yolamira in his third phase. The reverse features a right-facing swastika.
The coin legend—Bagamirasa Yolamiraputrasa Pāratarājasa—runs in the Brahmi script.
|Arjuna||Second son of Yolamira||c. 150–160 CE||The name was probably adopted from the eponymous character in Mahabharata, a Hindu epic; Tandon hypothesizes that he might have been the son of an Indian wife.
In his first phase, used Bagamira's die with a right-facing swastika on the reverse to issue drachms and hemidrachms. A new obverse die was then coupled with a left-facing swastika to mint the same denominations. In another (probably succeeding) phase, the same die was coupled with a right-facing swastika to mint drachms.
The coin legend—Arjunasa Yolamiraputrasa Pāratarājasa—runs in the Brahmi script.
|Hvaramira||a third son of Yolamira||c. 160–175 CE||The name translates to "Glorious Mithra"; hvara > khwarrah.
In his first phase, used Arjuna's die from the last phase with a right-facing swastika on the reverse to mint drachms. Then, a new die was used with a right-facing swastika to mint drachms as well as didrachms. Finally, this die was coupled with a left-facing swastika to mint drachms.
The coin legend—Hvaramirasa Yolamiraputrasa Pāratarājasa—runs in the Brahmi script; some coins use a variant spelling of Yodamiraputrasa.
|Mirahvara||son of Hvaramira||c. 175–185 CE||The name translates to "Glorious Mithra".
In his first phase, used Hvaramira's die from the last phase to mint drachms; Arjuna's hemidrachm die from the second phase to mint quarter drachms; and Yolamira's die from the third phase to mint hemidrachms. All had a right-facing Swastika on the reverse. In the next phase, Hvaramira's dies from the second and third phases were coupled with a left-facing swastika to respectively mint didrachms as well as drachms. In the third phase, a new die and Yolamira's die from the third phase were coupled with a right-facing swastika to respectively mint drachms and hemidrachms.
The coin legend—Mirahvarasa Hvaramiraputrasa Pāratarājasa—runs in the Brahmi script.
|Miratakhma||another son of Hvaramira||c. 185–200 CE||The name translates to "Heroic Mithra."
Drachm and hemidrachm issues have been found: Tandon suspects didrachms were likely, given the abundance of his coins. Phases are not very coherent. Used Mirahvara's die from the third phase as well as a new die to mint drachms; both right-facing and left-facing Swastika is found on the reverse. The hemidrachm used Arjuna's die from the second phase with a right-facing swastika.
The coin legend—Mirahvarasa Hvaramiraputrasa Pāratarājasa—runs in the Brahmi script. Is the only king to feature a Sanskrit legend—Miratakhmasya Hvaramiraputrasya Pāratarāja(sya)—on some drachms.
|Kozana||son of Bagavharna (and perhaps grandson of Bagamira?)||c. 200–220 CE||The meaning of the name cannot be conclusively deciphered; Harry Falk speculates a connection with the homonymous founder of the Kushana empire. Was the first Pāratarāja king to issue coins with the legends in Kharoshthi, which was adopted by upcoming rulers. Significant devaluation is observed for the first time.
All mints used Miratakhma's dies. In the first phase, minted hemidrachms (and prob. drachms) with Brahmi legends. In the second phase, drachms were minted with Kharoshthi legend. In the third phase, minted drachms, didrachms, and hemidrachms on a reduced weight base. All coinage had a right-facing Swastika on the reverse.
The Brahmi legend ran, Kozanasa putra Pāratarāja. The Kharoshthi legend ran, Kozanasa Bagavharnaputrasa Pāratarājasa.
|Bhimarjuna||son of Yolatakhma (and perhaps grandson of Arjuna?)||c. 220–235 CE||Apart from Arjuna, the only King to adopt an Indian name; the name is a portmanteau of two characters in Mahabharata, a Hindu epic.
Last King to issue silver mints; only drachms have been found. Used a new die—that did not match with any previous ruler's but was stylistically similar to Kozana's (i.e. Miratakhma's)—with a right-facing Swastika on the reverse. There is a drastic devaluation from silver to billon to copper.
The coin legend—Bhimarjunasa Yolatakhmaputrasa Pāratarājasa—runs in the Kharoshthi script.
|Koziya||son of Kozana||c. 235–265 CE||The meaning of the name remains unknown.
Most abundant and complex coinage among all Paratarajas with several innovations—from inscribing names of Kings on the obverse to replacing the bust image with that of a turbanned standing King with a specter—which would become the mainstay of upcoming rulers.
The coin legend—Koziyasa Kozanaputra Pāratarāja—runs in the Kharoshthi script.
|Datarvharna||son of a Datayola (and perhaps grandson of Bhimarjuna?)||c. 265–280 CE||The meaning of the name cannot be conclusively deciphered; Harry Falk translates to "Glory of the Creator".
Only a few didrachms have been found, in what Tandon suspects as an indicator of short regime as well as extreme inflation reducing the need for lower denomination coins. Used dies stylistically similar to Koziya's with a right-facing Swastika on the reverse.
The coin legend—Datarvharnasa Datayolaputrasa Pāratarāja—runs in the Kharoshthi script. The nominative Datarvharna is inscribed on the obverse.
|Datayola||son of Datarvharna||c. 280–300 CE||The meaning of the name cannot be conclusively deciphered; Harry Falk translates to "Fighter for the Law".
Used dies stylistically similar to Datarvharna's (or rather, Koziya's) with both right-facing and left-facing Swastika on the reverse. Coins are cruder and large denomination tetradrachms were introduced for the first time, both pointing to a weak economy and inflation.
A couple of overstrikes on coins of the Kushano-Sasanian ruler Hormizd I (ruled c. 275 to 300) have been observed, providing a terminus post quem of circa 275, and challenging Shapur I's inscription, in which Shapur claims he ruled Paradan as of 262 CE.
The coin legend—Datayolasa Datarvharnaputrasa Pāratarāja—runs in the Kharoshthi script; some issues make pioneering use of Pāradarāja in place of Pāratarāja, suggesting the identity of the two names Pārata and Pārada. The nominative Datayola is inscribed on the obverse.
Based on classical sources, Tandon assumes the Paratas to have originated in northwestern Iran or further east; the frequent referencing of Mithra in the name of the rulers lend credence to such a hypothesis. They appear to have migrated across the centuries to the eastern fringes of Parthian territory, where they would declare independence, probably leveraging the weakening of imperial authority and a burgeoning trade with the Roman Empire.
The Paratas 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, in light of their abundant coinage. Nothing else of significance can be obtained; they were probably Zoroastrians but patronaged Hinduism as well as Buddhism.
Tandon speculates the fall of the Paratarajas to be the outcome of the well-corroborated decline in Indo-Roman trade volume (c. mid-3rd century onward) and then, Shapur II's devastating Eastern Campaign; he rejects that they were conquered by the Sasanians as early as 262 CE — as construable from Shapur I's inscription — since Parata coins continued to be abundant without exhibiting any abrupt Sassanian influence as in the case of Bactria etc. and the region was not mentioned in future inscriptions like Kartir's at Naqsh-e Rajab.[h]
From around Loralai, multiple coins carrying an inscription of a certain "śrī rājño sāhi vijayapotasya" ("Of the noble Lord, King Vijayapota") on the reverse have been found; 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 usage of Swastika as the central motif on the reverse and similarity in metrological standards leads Tandon to hypothesize that Vijayapotasya might have been a Parataraja or a ruler from a successor dynasty, who managed to exercise nominal independence despite the strong presence of Sassanians in the region.