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Encyclopedia > Yavana

"Yona", "Yonaka" or "Yavana" is a Pali word used in ancient India to designate Greeks. It is a transliteration of the word "Ionian”, who were probably the first Greeks to be known in the East.

The "Yona" Greek king of India Menander (160135 BCE). Greek legend, "BASILEOS SOTHROS MENANDROY" lit. "Saviour King Menander".

This usage was shared by many of the country east of Greece, from the Mediterranean to India and China:

In Indian sources, the usage of the words "Yona", "Yonaka" or "Yavana" appears repeatedly, and particularly in relation to the Greek kingdoms which neighboured or sometimes occupied the Indian sub-continent over a period of several centuries from the 4th century BCE to the 1st century CE, such as the Seleucid Empire, the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and the Indo-Greek kingdom.

Some of the better known examples are those of the Edicts of Ashoka (c. 250 BCE), in which the Buddhist emperor Ashoka refers to the Greek populations under his rule, and explains he sent envoys to the Greek rulers in the West as far as the Mediterranean, faultlessly naming them one by one. Another example is that of the Milinda Panha (Chap.I), where "Yavana" is used to refer to the great Indo-Greek king Menander (160135 BCE), and to the guard of “500 hundred Greeks” that constantly accompanies him.

Several references to the Greeks can also be found in ancient Indian literature. In the Mahabharata, they are described as "the all-knowing Yavanas" ("Sarvajnah Yavanah", Mahabharata VIII.45.36). Another Indian text explains that "The Yavanas are barbarians yet the science of astronomy originated with them and for this they must be reverenced like Gods" (Gargi-Samhita).

The terms "Yona", "Yonaka" or "Yavana" later took on a wider meaning to include all westerners visiting India.

See also

History of Buddhism


  • “The shape of ancient thought. Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian philosophies”, by Thomas Mc Evilly (Allworth Press, New York 2002) ISBN 1581152035

External link

Pali dictionary definition of "Yona" (http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_names/y/yonaa.htm)

"Yona" is also also a Hebrew word for Jonah

  Results from FactBites:
US Bazaar.com : Encyclopedia Pages : Yavana (1813 words)
The Greek Yavanas were apparently a minority foreigners in India and naturally may have obtained, in this invasion, the military support of their good neighbors, the warlike Kambojas.
In the Shanti Parava section, the Yavanas are grouped with the Kambojas, Kiratas, Sakas, and the Pahlavas etc and are spoken of as living the life of Dasyus (slaves).
Numerous Puranic literature groups the Yavanas with the Sakas, Kambojas, Pahlavas and Paradas and refers to the peculiar hair styles of these people which were different from those of the Hindus.
Reference Encyclopedia - Saka (2523 words)
The Vartika of the Katyayana informs us that the kings of the Shakas and the Yavanas, like those of the Kambojas, may also be addressed by their respective tribal names.
According to numerous Puranas, the military corporations of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas and Paradas, known as "five hordes" (pānca-ganah), had militarily supported the Haihaya and Talajunga Kshatriyas in depriving Ikshvaku king Bahu (the 7th king in descent from Harishchandra), of his Ayodhya kingdom.
The Kalika Purana, one of the Upa-Puranas of the Hindus, refers to a war between Brahmanical king Kalika (supposed to be Pusyamitra Sunga) and Buddhist king Kali (supposed to be Maurya king Brihadratha (187-180 BCE)) and states the Shakas, Kambojas, Khasas, etc. as a powerful military allies of king Kali.
  More results at FactBites »



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