Possible Iranian Origins for the Śākyas and Aspects of Buddhism

Jayarava Attwood


This article explores the plausibility of Michael Witzel’s speculation that the Śākya tribe might have Iranian origins, or at least Iranian connections. Circumstantial evidence suggests that ideas associated with Iran and Zoroastrianism appear in north-east India, especially amongst the śramana groups,and in particular amongst Buddhists, but not in the Brahmanical culture.Whereas Buddhism is frequently portrayed as a response to Brahmanism,or, especially by Buddhists, as ahistorical, Witzel’s suggestion gives us a new avenue for exploring the history of ideas in Buddhism. This essay attempts to show that, at the very least, possible connections with Iran deserve more attention from scholars of the history of ideas in India and especially Buddhism.

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