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Sakas and Wasif e Sagzai

Sayed Momin Kandaharai

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Sakas and Wasif e Sagzai

(The first Dari Poet after Islam)


The name, (Wasif e Sagzai) seems to be unfamiliar to many people in Afghanistan. But those who are familiar to this name are tentative about this man’s lineage. When I was a senior in university I got acquainted to (Wasif e Sagzai) the first Dari poet After Islamic invasion of Afghanistan, but the ambiguity about his lineage stimulated and enthused me to go for a research about this man who had retrieved Dari language from extinguishment.

The last name (Sagzai) has instigated disputes and debates over his lineage. Although The (Sagzai) is well thought out to be the Sagzai tribe of Pashtuns currently living in The Sistan, South-western region of Afghanistan, yet some biased hypothesizes advocate that he was a Turk. As far as the second theory is concerned, depending on reliable researches, ground reality and historical facts it seems baseless and bogus so far.

In this research paper I am committed to bring forward the historical evidences about the tie and connection between Sakas, Sagzais and Sistan. Moreover, I will Bring Wasif Sagzai’s Biography and poetry with the solid reasonable arguments that he was a Pashtun serving in Yaqob Lais e Safari’s durbar.

Sayed Momin Kandaharai

Mohammad Wasif Sagzai

In biographes and historical documents such as ( Tarikh-e-Sistan, lubab-ul-albab, AL-Muajam-fel-Ashar-o-ALajam, Tazkira-e-Dawlat shah and Majmoa-ul-Fasah) have discussed about the first Persian peot. Ostensibly, the first Persian poet is (Mohammad wasif Sagzai) of Sistan who used to serve in Durbar of Yaqub Lais e Safari. In his poem he praised Yaqub Lais e Safari in Persian:

ای امیری که امیران جهان خاصه و عام          بنده و چاکر و مولای و سگ بند وغلام

ازلی خطی در لوح که ملکی بدهید              به ابی یوسف یعقوب بن اللیث همام

به لتام آمد رتبیل ولتی خورد به لنگ            لتره شد لشکر رتبیل و هبا گشت کنام

لمن الملک بخواندی تو امیرا به یقین           با قلیل الفیه کن زاد در آن لشکر کام

عمر عمار ترا خواست و زوگشت بری           تیغ تو کرد میانجی به میان دد و دام

عمر او نزد تو آمد که تو چون نوح بزی         در آکار تن او سر او باب طعام

The (last) name Sagzai has been matter of dispute between intellectuals through out the years, most of them has reached the conclusion that he was from the same (Sagzai) Pashton tribe currently living in the vast region of Sistan with the population of 4,9 million. But few of them still have not reached the conclusion and consider him Turk which in my opinion is not factual. Let me bring some evidences and proofs that can clear the vague and ambiguity about his Pashtonness.

Sakas or (Scythians)

First, the “Saki” following “Gandara” in the list of Darius’ Behistun inscription I; the “Sakis” following “Sind, Gandara” in the list of his Persepolis inscription (e); and “Sakis haumavarga, Saldis tigraxauda” following “Gandara, Sind” in the list of his ~ usa inscription (e) and Naqs-e Rostam inscription (a), were all one and the same. And, according to the History of Herodotus, “The Sacae, who are Scythians, have high caps tapering to a point and stiffly upright, which they wear on their heads…. These were Amyrgian Scythians but were called Sacae.” (VII,64i9 ] Since “Amyrgian” was identical with “haumavargi”, the so-called “Sakis hauvarga and Sakas tigraxauda” were one and not two groups. Both were, in fact, taken as one (“Saka”) in the Behistun inscription I. It was very possible that thay were mistaken as two tribes owing to internal differences in custom. However, even if there were a group of “Sakas haumavarga” without pointed caps, it would be hard to draw a clear line between them and the Sakis who wore pointed caps, because both the Sakas haumavarga and Sakas tigraxauda were sure to be included in “Sakas” in the list of Darius’ Behistun inscription I and his Perspolis inscription e. Second, according to Megasthenes (c.350-280 B.C.), India is four-sided in shape and the side which faces east and that which faces south are embraced by the Great Sea, while that which faces north is separated by the Emodus range of mountains from that part of Scythia which is inhabited by the Scythians known as the Sacae. [II] In addition, the “Sakas” were listed after Sind and Gandara in the list of Darius’ inscriptions. It seems that the western people at that time considered that the land of the Sakas lay near India. However, this might have been a misconception due to poor geographical knowledge. It is true that the Emodus Mountains are generally believed to be the Himalaya Mountains,[12] but the reference to them here should not be taken too literally. In .other words, the record of Megasthenes shows only that the people at that time regarded the land of the Sakas as lying to the north of India, and cut off from the latter by high mountains. As the Sakas were used to being regarded as living in a place to the north of India, it is no surprise that the Achaemenids’ inscriptions refer to the Sakis in relation to Sind and Gandhara. It is important to note that the inscriptions discussed in this paper provide sufficient indication that there was no definite link between the geographical positions of the provinces named and the order in which they were listed, so we should not consider that the land of the Sakis in the Achaemenids’ inscriptions was located near or adjoined Sind and Gandhara. [13]

As mentioned above, Sakas setteled in the region of modern Paktika, Paktiya and amalgamated with Pakht tribes, as a consequence new Sakae Pashtoon tribes came into existence in the region of Gandahara and Sakistan.


Sakas or scythians were nomadic group of Aryan ethnicity had conquered and ruled areas around Sakistan, modern day Pakistan and some regions of india before islam, i have brought some of their costumes recorded and documented by Herodotus;

  1. As to the Massagetai, they wear a dress which is similar to that of the Scythians, and they have a manner of life which is also like theirs; and there are of them horsemen and also men who do not ride on horses (for they have both fashions), and moreover there are both archers and spearmen, and their custom it is to carry battle- axes; and for everything they use either gold or bronze, for in all that has to do with spear-points or arrow-heads or battle-axes they use bronze, but for head-dresses and girdles and belts round the arm-pits they employ gold as ornament: and in like manner as regards their horses, they put breast-plates of bronze about their chests, but on their bridles and bits and cheek-pieces they employ gold. Iron however and silver they use not at all, for they have them not in their land, but gold and bronze in abundance. (page 96, History of Herodotus:Minoculy)
  2. These are the customs which they have:–Each marries a wife, but they have their wives in common; for that which the Hellenes say that the Scythians do, is not in fact done by the Scythians but by the Massagetai, that is to say, whatever woman a man of the Massagetai may desire he hangs up his quiver in front of the waggon and has commerce with her freely. They have no precise limit of age laid down for their life, but when a man becomes very old, his nearest of kin come together and slaughter him solemnly and cattle also with him; and then after that they boil the flesh and banquet upon it. This is considered by them the happiest lot; but him who has ended his life by disease they do not eat, but cover him up in the earth, counting it a misfortune that he did not attain to being slaughtered. They sow no crops but live on cattle and on fish, which last they get in abundance from the river Araxes; moreover they are drinkers of milk. Of gods they reverence the Sun alone, and to him they sacrifice 96 horses: and the rule of the sacrifice is this:–to the swiftest of the gods they assign the swiftest of all mortal things. (page 98, Histroy of Herodotus, Minoculy).

Sakas, Alizonians (Alizais) and Region of Bost

Herodotus has documented the region of Borysthenites (Bost) which probabely was deriven form the Pashtoon tribal branch of Baraichs or Barais still living in the region of Helmand near Helmand river. The other tribe mentioned is Alizonians (Alizai) residing  near the Scythiens and having many costumes and attributes in common.


In modern day the same two tirbes (Saagzais and Alizais) living in the region of Helmand river having so much in common which are mentioned by Herodotus:

Beginning with the trading station of the Borysthenites,–for of the parts along the river this is the central point of all Scythia,– beginning with this, the first regions are occupied by the Callipidai, who are Hellenic Scythians; and above these is another race, who are called Alazonians. These last and the Callipidai in all other respects have the same customs as the Scythians, but they both sow corn and use it as food, and also onions, leeks, lentils and millet. Above the Alazonians dwell Scythians who till the ground, and these sow their corn not for food but to sell. (page no 259; history of Herodotus, Minoculy)

Herodotus has mentioned some of their food costumes and region thye used to exist in. if we go to Helmand we would still find corn as one of the most cultivated and sowed crops, the same goes with leek and millet. The region mentioned in the previous paragraph is so corresponding to what is toady’s dwellings of these two tribes (Saagzais and Ali zais).

Saka’s in Mahabharat

Mahabharata mentions about a whole region inhabited by Sakas called Sakadwipa to the north-west of ancient India. There in that region are, many delightful provinces where Siva is worshipped, and thither repair the Siddhas, the Charanas, and the Devas. The people there are virtuous, and all the four orders are devoted to their respective occupations. No instance of theft can be seen there. Freed from decrepitude and death and gifted with long life, the people there grow like rivers during the season of rains. The rivers there are full of sacred water, and Ganga herself, distributed as she hath been into various currents, is there as Sukumari, and Kumari, and Seta, and Keveraka, and Mahanadi and the river Manijala, and Chakshus, and the river Vardhanika, these and many other rivers by thousands and hundreds, all full of sacred water, are there. It is impossible to recount the names and lengths of rivers. As heard by all men there, in that region of Saka, are four sacred provinces. They are the Mrigas, the Masakas, the Manasas, and the Mandagas.

The region mentioned above is the present location of Kandahar, Helmand and Quetta where Sakzai and other pashton tribes of Pashtoons are existing.

The region called Sakadwipa is mentioned again at (12:14) as a region to the east of the great Karnali[disambiguation needed] mountains.

There is also mentioning of Saka’s encountering Arjun: A number of Saka and Tukhara and Yavana horsemen, accompanied by some of the foremost combatants among the Kambojas, quickly rushed against Arjuna (8:88). All the Samsaptakas, the Kambojas together with the Sakas, the Mlecchas, the Parvatas, and the Yavanas, have also been slain by Arjuna (9:1).

Saka’s ties with Pashtoons

Saak or saka (Scythian) is one of the five branches of Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistics, correspondingly can be considered Bakhtarian branch of languages. there are many reliable evidences and proofs that insures Scythien language is the lineage of modern Pashto Language, in addition the root of the Saak or Saka can be detected in many Pashto words, names of the regions and names of the tribes.The inverse of the term (Sak) is (Kas) which is now the name of a Pashtoon tribe (Kasi) that is most likely the inversed version of (Saki). Lets take a look at the word (سکستان) (Sakistan) usually utilized for south-western Afghanistan aslo acknowledged as (Sistan). For more instances we can take (کسي غر) (Kasi mountain) located in southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, (Kaokaz mountain) , the ancient name of multan (Kastapapora) as well as the ancient name of Peshawar (Kaspato).

Now lets have a look at some tribel names which have obvious roots of the word (Saka) in them: (Kasi) the Pashtoon tribe living in Quetta Pakistan, Dalazak, The name Qais or (Kaas), (Sahak or Zuhak), (Koshan) and (Saka Raja) the name of a nomad king in the region of torkistan.

(Saka) means moving or nomad in Pashto Language the word (څک) (sak) means dripping or moving. According to Walter Bailee (page 123) (sak) means robust and astute, since in Rigveda there was a person who had praised and acclaimed himself with the name (Su-Saka). In Pashto the term (Asak) (اڅک) and (تېکمن) can be the synonyms for them.

When this nomadic group (Sakas) Crossed the Amo (Oxus) river and got settled with the native Bakhtarian tribe of (Pakhat or Pasht), the term Saka remained in Pashtons. In Zabul and Kabul there is a Pashtoon tribe (Suhak), in Helmand and Kandahar we have a tribe (Sakzai or Sagzai), these both have the roots of the name (Saka) in them. Sir Caro, contemplates that meanings and the conjugation of the names of Saka rulers seems reasonably parallel with Pashto, and writes these names seems in similarity with Pashto: (Spalag-Dama), (spah means amry) ,(ga is a participle), (dama means refulgense and glory).

Second name which appears alike is (Spala-Hura) which gives  the of (guardian of Sun) or (guardian of fire) in Pashto. Third name which is so close to Pashto is (Chastana) which is (Tsashtan) of pashto, which gives the meaning (owner or lord). The beginning of the Saka Era can be related to the ascent of the king Chashtana. The period of the Saka Era falls between 11 years and 52 years. This information was retrieved from the writings of the king Chashtana.

Sagzais and Sakas

As I mentioned above there are nemurious linguistic and genetical links between Modern day Pashtoons and Sakas. As our topic is mainly about Oringin of a Poet (Mohammad Wasif e Sagzai) of Sistan, we ought to prove ties between Sagzais and Sakas.

(به دقت آشکار نيست سکاھا خود را چگونه مينامیدند، اما گمان قوی مېرود که اسم آن  ھا ھمان سک یا سکا و یا چیزی نزديک به آن بوده است، چرا که نام ی که توسط اقوام مختلف در نقاط مختلف دنیا برای اشاره به آنان به کار میرفته، ھمگی مشابه ھستند. در فرھنگ شاھنامه واژه زیر سگسار آمده است «:  از مرز و بوم های  که داھيان در آن جای گرفتند).

It is not exactly obvious what Sakas used to call themselves,  but there is a strong possibility that terms like (Sak) or (Saka) or something similire to them were utilized, various names were used in different parts of the world for the Sakas that were corresponding to each other. In dictionary of Shahnama the word (Sagsar) has been documented representing the meaning of (from the land where Dahiyan has accommodated).

و راجع به داھيان زیر کلمه سکزی می خوانیم : داه گروھی بودند از آرین که در دشت خوارزم جای گرفتند و پس از آن در کنار جنوب ی دریا خزر یکجا شدند از آنان مردم بستوه آمدند. پادشاه ايران گروه داه را پراکنده ساخت و يک دسته از آنان را به زابلستان کوچاند و آن را ساکزی نامید. (سیستاني،۱۹۸۵؛۱۲۹)

Dah was a group of Aryan who accommodated in the desert of Khawarazam, subsequently they housed in the southern coast of Khizr river where native people were troubled by them until an Iranian king scattered them and made different assemblages of them. one of the groups got settled in Zabulistan(modern day, Kandahar, Helmand,Farah and Uruzgan) and was named (Saakzais).

As mentioned above, the tribe named Sakzai settled in Zabulistan which in different periods of time incompassed many areas of Sistan, Sakzais still live in the region around Zabul, Uruzgan, Helmand, Kandahar, Farah, and Nemroz. They are one of the most dominant Pashtoon tribes In south-western Afghanistan.

ورود ساكھا به سيستان در سالھاي ( ١٣٠ -١٢٨ ق )م. در اوضاع سيستان فصل تازه يی باز نمود و نام منطقه را در کتيبه ھای داريوش بصورت ساكستان و سيستان باسم ساكھا تغيير شكل داد كه تا امروز بنام طايفه جنگجوي و سوار كار ساكزي مسمي ميباشد. (سیستاني،۱۹۸۵؛۳۳۹)

از اين قوم شاھان بسياري يكي بعد از ديگري سربرآورده اند كه قلمرو اداري و سياسي شان از سيستان تا تاكزيلا پھنايي گرفته بود. (سیستاني،۱۹۸۵؛۳۳۹)

Advent of Sakas to Sistan(128-130BC) brought up novel period for the region, Daryus manifested and documented name of  the region as (Sakistan, Sistan) which is till this day named after the warrior horsemen of (Sazkzai) tribe.

Many rulers one after another had come to rule and conquest the region from Sistan to Taxila.


After going through all these historical facts, evidences and information. it must have become obvious that present-day (Sagzais) in Sistan (Helman,Kandahar,Nemroz,Herat and Farah)  are the decendants of Sakas ,as well as are Pashtoons. Wasif (Sagzai) was also a Pashton who rescued Dari language and literature with initiative of his praising poem for Yaqob lais e Safari.



  1. Mahabharat
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  1. Reimer and Vohser, Band IV (1931-1932), pp.1-116.
  2. Chattopadhyaya = Chattop~dhyaya, S., 1958, Early History of North India, from the fall of the.
  3. Mauryas to the death of Harsa, c.200 B.C. – A.D.650, Calcutta: Academic Publishers, 1968.
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  • كھزاد ، احمد علي ، افغانستان در شاھنامه ١٣٥١ كابل

حبيبي ، پوھاند عبدالحي ، افغانستان بعد از اسلام ، ١٣٤٧كابل

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