On Slavic connections with… Buddha?

Was Buddha a white, blue-eyed Scythian?

Buddha means “awakened” and the only cognate in all Indo-European languages is the Slavic word “budan”, with the same meaning. Buda is also a Slavic personal name, together with variations Budimir and Budimka. (male and female form). In ancient texts, Buddha is referred to as “Arya“. This word means “noble” but could also mean “Arian” and “white”.

One of the official 32 traits of Buddha’s physical appearance is deep blue eyes – trait 29.

Buddha belonged to Shakya clan, that some authors relate to Sakas – Persian and Sanskrit name for Scythians. Hence, his other epithet was Sakyamuni (Shakyamuni) – the sage of the Shakya clan.

When the Nazi party went to Tibet in 1938 in search of the roots of Aryan origin they brought back a statue known as “iron man”, made in an unknown period, on a 10,000 years old meteorite rock. It is supposed to represent Buddha but scientists are careful with conclusions as he clearly looks Caucasian and wears a Scythian breastplate and a Phrygian cap. Full story on livescience.

Iron man

Below is a summarization in one photo. We see typical Asian representations of Buddha, together with Greco-Bactrian ones in the lower right corner. These later ones in fact rank amongst the oldest.

Buddha and the Lotus pose

Because of yoga, “Lotus pose” is nowadays normally associated with Asia. However, the earliest evidence actually comes from the burials of Lepenski Vir culture, 9,600-6,000 BC, modern-day Serbia. It reappears again in the Yamna culture of Ukraine, 3,500-2,000 BC. This is where the Scythian and Sarmatian tribes developed. Later, we see it in burials of Indus Valley Civilization – which lasted from 3,300-1,900BC.

The picture below illustrates some of the earliest evidence of “Buddha pose” in order of their historical appearance. Of course, this practice is still alive in India. It is reserved for those who found Samadhi or Moksha, the ultimate goal of Buddhism.

On the side note, there is a possible connection between the Serbian city of Sombor, which lies on the territory of Maros Culture and Samborzec, Poland. Sambar is a species of deer, native to the Indian subcontinent, and as Sambhar, also a common toponym in India.

Interestingly, most of the archaic divinities in this pose wear deer horns, like those of Cernunnos. Deer is, of course, one of the most important symbols of both Buddhists and Scytho-Sarmatians.

Could this be just a coincidence or are these toponyms really thousands of years old?

Gautama = Buddha of the Getae?

In the first century BC, Diodorus of Sicily writes that Scythians who are bordering India were great soldiers and generals. They extended their territory to the River Don, followed by Thrace in the Balkans. Some of them even reached the Nile river of Egypt. Their powerful kings gave name to the tribes of Sakas, Massagetae, Arimaspians and several other tribes.

So, we have Sakas and the Great Getae side by side, reaching Balkans. Is it a coincidence that Buddha’s name was Gautama? And are these the same as Thracian Getae that Herodotus mentions in Balkans, already in the 5th century BC? This would surely explain the Phrygian cap of the Tibetan Iron man.

And it was probably not a coincidence, as Mahabharata’s verse VI.20.13 mentions another Gautama, the leader of the Sakas:

Saradwat’s son, that fighter in the van, that high-souled and mighty bowman, called also Gautama and Chitrayudha, conversant with all modes of warfare, accompanied by the Sakas, the Kiratas, the Yavanas (Greeks), and the Pahlavas…”

Mahabharata also clearly states that during the Great War the Sakas were fighting on the losing side of the army. In fact, Budha was one of the last princes of the Shakya republic. During the 5th century BCE, the Kingdom of Kosal incorporated the territory of the Shakya clan.

The migrations of Scythians towards Balkans had already started a few millennia earlier. They were not caused only by wars, but also drastic climate changes and perhaps a simple wish for conquest. They were following the well-established trade routes where cultural influence shifted in both directions for thousands of years.

Would it be wrong to assume that the last of the Sakas of the Buddha’s kingdom decided to take the same route – from Indo-Scythia to Sarmatia?

Scythia, 5th century BC

Buddha and the Budini

Buddha lived between the 6th and 5th centuries BC.

Around the same time, in the 5th century BC, Herodotus speaks of the tribe in the land of Scythians, called Budini. He claims: “they all have deep blue eyes“. (one of the main characteristics of Buddha)

Budini in Slavic language means literary “belonging to (or simply – descendants) of Buda”. In the ancient world, it was a common practice for a tribe to take the name of a glorious ancestor. 

But more importantly, in official comments on Herodotus we read that some scholars, like Schafarik, saw Budini as Slavs. He adds that wooden town Gelonus, that was in their land, looks exactly like primitive Slavic towns, that survived until the 12th century.

Budini lived together with Geloni whom Herodotus equates with Helens. (In the Ukrainian language “G” reads as “H” at the beginning of a sentence.) It is this Geloni that made some of the first Buddha statues like those we saw above. Based on what influence is the question.

Is it really just a strange coincidence that these Greeks lived in Scythia near a tribe called Budini?

The world according to Herodotus, 5th century BC

Herodotus lists Budini as one of the tribes of the Medes, and in another passage he equates Medes with Arians:

The Median tribes are these: the Busae, the Paretaceni, the Struchates, the Arizanti, the Budii, the Magi. Medes were formerly called by everyone Arians but when the Colchian woman Medea came from Athens to the Arians they changed their name, like the Persians. This is their own account of themselves.

So we have Budii who were Arians, and Buddha who was Arya. Another coincidence?

As a nomadic tribe that lived on a territory of Indo-Scythia, Budini would have easy access to kingdoms of Asia in which Buddhism had flourished. But on the turn of the first millennium, they disappear from history. According to some theories, they had migrated together with Sarmatian tribes to Balkans.

Namely, some seven centuries after the writings of Herodotus, on the map of Ptolemy, we see them much more to the West, roughly between the Sea of Azov and Black sea. And then, in this map from the 19th century, they are on the territory of Poland, along with the Vindili and Vendic tribes, known to be Slavic.

Europa.Germania Gallia Hispania Sarmatia &c.ARROWSMITH. 1828. map

To summarize:

  • We have original, Budini of Herodotus above the Azov sea, between the Scythia and Sarmatia. (see The world according to Herodotus map above)
  • Then we see them again, this time in Polish Sarmatia, on the map from 1828. 

The Budini of the Balkans

There was another Sarmatia, in the Pannonian plain of the Balkans. On its territory lies the modern city of Budapest. Its name comes from two cities that were merged in one: Buda and Pesta.

The word Pesta is of Slavic origin, coming from “pestera” – a cave. A confirmation of Slavic presence in this area from very remote times.

As for the city of Buda, one of the common etymologies relates it to “voda” – water. But this would be a Slavic word, due to the many mineral water sources. However, the old Slavic name of the city was Budin (or Budim). Because of this, the whole region was called “Budin” in the Ottoman empire.

A map of Balkans in the Ottoman empire, Wikipedia Commons

Besides this one, there are many other similar toponyms on Slavic territories. The highest concentration is in the region near Pannonia. For example, Budisava in Serbia, Budinscina in Croatia, Budina in Slovakia, Budima in the Republic of Srpska, Bosnia, Budimci, Croatia, Budin in Bohemia, Czech Republic and many others.

The relics of Buddhism in Europe?

So are there any proofs of Buddhism in Europe in prehistorical times, especially amongst Slavs? To answer shortly: No. To a certain degree, there are many parallels in Christianity, starting with iconography, characteristic of the Eastern church. But our knowledge of pagan religions makes it very difficult to make serious comparisons. However, some strange parallels do exist.

The etymology of the city of Buda, that relates it to “voda” – water, is the same etymology proposed for the name of the Budini tribe. If we apply the same logic on the name Buddha, we get something similar to “Anglo-Saxon” deity “Woden” that became Norse Odin.

Slavic etymology of this name has never been considered, but let us just point out that it would mean “watery”. Slavic equivalent of Woden would surely be a deity Vid. (became St. Vitus with Christianity). Vid was indeed one of the most important gods of the Slavic pantheon. Was that a relic of the Buddhistic cult, it is hard to say.

But there is more to this. In Sanskrit, Buddha is also the name of the planet Mercury. The day under the rule of Mercury is Wednesday – “day of Woden”. The same parallels exist in Europe: Wednesday is the “day of Mercury” in all Latin languages.

In Roman mythology, Mercury was the “messenger of the gods”, but funny enough, in Old English word for messenger was “buda”. According to the Etymology dictionary of the English language, it comes from the verb “bode” whose meaning is the following:

bode (v.) Old English bodian “proclaim, announce; foretell,” from boda “messenger,” from PIE *bheudh- “be aware, make aware” (Sanskrit buddhah “awakened, enlightened;” Old Church Slavonic bljudo “to observe;”

In short, it seems that Proto-Germanic word for “messenger” had a meaning “to be observant, awake”. This etymology is undoubtedly Slavic and not Lithuanian as it is stated above for some reason. The same goes for the etymology that relates it to water – in Slavic “voda”.

In Alchemy, Mercury is the name of a “watery” metal. Mercury is always in the middle, between the gold and the silver – just like the day ruled by the planet Mercury is exactly in the middle of the week.

And just like the main teaching of Buddhism is the Middle way.

Alchemical Mercury

On Serbian connections with Buddha

So far, I was entertaining a possibility that Buddha was of Scythian origin, and more precisely Gaeto-Sarmatian. Sarmizegetusa (Sarmato-Gaetusha) was indeed a historical capital of an ancient Dacian kingdom. However, it is in medieval Serbia that we find unparalleled similarities to Buddhism and connections to India in general.

The scholars already noticed that the famous “Battle of Kosovo” was described by Serbian medieval bards in verses whose style is very similar to Mahabharata. It was a battle of epic proportions, where one side was largely outnumbered but still fought for the higher cause. The events of the night before the battle are of religious character and they remind of Christ’s last supper. At the same time, they echo much older Arjuna’s dilemmas and preparation for the battle with Krishna. 

But if you ask an average Serbian person to tell you of a prince who renounced his kingdom in order to dedicate his life to spirituality, it is very likely that you will not hear Buddha’s name first, but that of medieval Serbian prince St. Sava.

His life story echoes that of Buddha, just almost two millennia later. St Sava had renounced his crown and isolated himself on a holy mountain of Athos. After 14 years he had received enlightenment there. Then, he started to spread Christianity, earning him the title of the first and most important Serbian saint. Coincidence? Maybe. But an interesting one to point out as I am not aware of anything similar. Buddha would have surely approved it.

Moreover, the name of the Mount Athos in Serbian is “Sveta Gora” (holy mountain). It would be interesting to know if Saint Sava, the founder of the first monastery there… knew that there was another Sveta Gora, all the way in a far-away India.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Regarding to Aryans. You need to know that in time of 2000 BC up to Jesus, for the polytheists from Mediterranean, the Creator was constellation of Ram, also known as Aries. And all nations who accepted this religion on that time started to call them self Aryans.
    And there are more connections between Slavic and India. Just mention the name of Indian capitol: Delhi, pronouncing as Deli, and Slavic name Beli means White. We can find a lot of cities and territories containing “with” in its name.
    Beograd = White city
    Balkan = Bal-stan = place where Whites leaving
    Pela = Bela = White city in Greece near by Thessaloniki
    Palestan = Bale-stan = place where Whites leaving, etc…

  2. BUDAPEST consists of two words.
    In the Slovak language this is what the word BUDAPEST means:
    BUDA – PES – T (Doghouse)
    (Letter β€œT” at the end of the word has been added by Magyars/Hungarians)
    BUDA – a dog’s kennel.
    PES – dog

  3. You are correct about the name Buda, but Pest does not come from pes- dog with added T, but from slavic pec – oven /furnace. Budapest is merging of three towns Buda, Pest and Obuda.

  4. “Old Church Slavonic bljudo β€œto observe””
    There is a modern Russian verb budit’ (as a variant, razbudit’) which means “to awaken.” In old church slavonic it was “vozbudit'” It’s much closer in meaning to Buddha than bljudo “to observe.”

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