B.S. Mahal presents a fascinating kaleidoscope of history of the nomads of the Central Asian steppe. He has garnered and drawn from a vast array of written works, some ancient and some brought to light more recently, to create a compelling narrative. Painstakingly researched are the origins and ethnography of Scythians that until now had remained unexplored, indeterminate, and vague. From congeries of steppe nomads the author brings a distinct coherence to Scythian group identity. According to the author the ethnic streams that flow into this affiliation are familial tribes of Indo-Iranians called Massagetae, Tahshak, Alan, Dahae, Saka, and Getae. Precisely delineated is the Scythian penetration of the Indus valley region, prompted by unique impulses
at various times from different geographical areas. Although Scythian ingress was mostly migratory, the author cites a large-scale relocation by Darius of defeated hostile Massagetae (“stout”) Getae, pronounced je-te from Central Asia to northern India—a well established policy of the times of deporting enemy fighters to remote parts of the empire as a means of putting an end to their reconstituting into a viable fighting force. Previously just surmised, Mahal’s account establishes an incontrovertible link between the Jats of the Indian
Subcontinent and the Scythians of antiquity. By pointing to curious similitude to one another of rites and practices of Scythians and Jats and meticulously juxtaposing their traits and temperament he makes a powerful argument that these traditions and characteristics were acquired by India’s Jats from Scythian forebears. When Scythians entered India they embraced Buddhism which was the prevailing faith of the time. Later, their descendants, the Jats, converted to Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism; but they remained Jats, and their link with the Steppe endured. Jats are widely dispersed throughout the Punjab region of Pakistan and India and a good number of them are to be found in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The author’s book is a blend of perceptive observations and painstaking research. The text is well-illustrated with figures and maps. What the reader will find immensely useful is an exhaustive bibliography of books, articles, and papers.