Calamos Supports Greece
GreekReporter.comAncient GreeceThe Ancient Greek Tribes of South Asia Besides Kalash

The Ancient Greek Tribes of South Asia Besides Kalash

Kalash tribe women
Women of the Kalash tribe. Credit: Flickr / Noe Alfaro CC BY 2.0

A question that many Greeks often ask is, did all the Ancient Greek soldiers who joined Alexander the Great on his Indian campaign returned with him, or if some remained in South Asia. The answer is many of them did indeed stay behind, and they are not just the Kalash who many Greeks now already know of. 

Yavanas -as Ionian Greeks were called among Indians- were already present in India before Alexander arrived: they are mentioned in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata,  the two most important epics of Hinduism. The Ancient Greek soldiers left behind in India by Alexander were only an addition to the existing Ionian Greek population. Many Greek soldiers who fought with Alexander decided to live in the the youngest mountain range in the entire world, the Himalayas, and this article is about them.

Ladakhi Greeks

A man from Brokpa tribe India who claim Greek ancestry.
A man from Brokpa tribe India who claim Greek ancestry. Credits: Sunny Tank / Wikimedia Commons CC BY SA 4.0

As per an official of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) researchers believe that the ‘Aryans of Ladakh’ or the ‘Brokpas’ are descendants of Alexander’s army, and came to the region over 2,000 years ago. There is a theory that the ancestors of Drokpas and Brokpas  lost their way while returning to Greece.

The Dard Aryans inhabit Dha, Hanu, Beema, Darchik and Garkone villages in Leh and Kargil districts.The villages are known collectively as the Aryan valley. They have demanded that the government set up a tribal hostel and declare the “Aryan valley” a heritage village to boost tourism. Having converted to Buddhism nearly two centuries ago, the Dards mostly follow the Drigung Kagyu lineage of Mahayana Buddhism. 

Gaddi Greeks

Greek tribes Asia
Gaddi Tribals. Credits: Rodrick rajive lal / Wikimedia Commons CC BY SA 4.0

After Alexander left India, a power struggle started between Chandragupta Maurya and the Greek Generals who were left behind to guard Alexander’s frontier Empire. According to the erstwhile royal family of Kangra tribals known as the Gaddis, a semi-nomadic Himalayan tribe, the Greeks are their ancestors.

Bara Bhangal is the oldest village of the pastoral Gaddi Tribe and the oldest settlement of Kangra District. It is a place wrapped in legends: sandwiched between the Kaliheni Pass (4800 meters) and Thamsar (4766 meters), it is virtually inaccessible from the rest of civilization, being surrounded by high mountain passes, impregnable mountains and gushing rivers.  

It is believed that Alexander was married to one of the daughters of Porus (whose descendants ruled Kangra as a princely state during the British rule in India) and the son of Porus took in marriage a cousin of Alexander (a temple made by the Greek queen still stands at the point from where Alexander retreated – Indora, Himachal Pradesh).

Malani Greek tribe and their “Little Greece”

Greek tribes Asia
Malana village in Himachal India, also known as Little Greece. Credits: Jaypee / Wikimedia Commons CC BY SA 4.0

At an altitude of 3029m above sea level in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is Malana village, also known as ‘Little Greece’. Below the Chanderkhani pass of the Kulu valley lies a small cluster of around two hundred stone roofed houses which constitute this village. 

The village’s inhabitants claim descent from the soldiers of Alexander the Great. Artefacts from the period of Alexander’s Indian military campaign have been found in the village, such as a sword that reportedly rests inside the temple.

Around 2009, a Swedish University held talks with the Institute of Tribal Studies in the Himachal Pradesh University on collaborating in researching the people of Malana’s claim to be direct descendants of Alexander’s soldiers, trace their genetics and study the origins of their dialect. Malana also has a very old democracy. 

Greeks in Uttarakhand India

David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard and a graduate student in his lab, Éadaoin Harney, began exploring the ancestry of the Roopkund B group of skeletons from the Roopkund lake in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in India, comparing the genomes with hundreds of present-day populations across Europe, Asia, and Africa. The closest match was with people from the Greek island of Crete. “It would be a mistake to say these people were specifically from Crete,” Reich said. “A very careful analysis showed they don’t match perfectly. They are clearly a population of the Aegean area.” 

Himalayan Greeks

Much has been written about the Kalash people who claim Greek ancestry, but as previously stated, they are not the only Himalayan people who do so. There are many more. The Himalayan region is full of natural beauty, with varied of flowers, flora and fauna, and it is also very diverse anthropologically. One of the ethnicities inhabiting these youngest fold mountains of the world is Greek.

See all the latest news from Greece and the world at Contact our newsroom to report an update or send your story, photos and videos. Follow GR on Google News and subscribe here to our daily email!

Related Posts