Post No.7969

Date uploaded in London – 13 May 2020   

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Cutting the nose , Shaving the hair and cutting the Limbs are common punishments given to offenders in ancient India.

Nose of a sex offender is cut off so that everyone would know he or she is a sex offender. When Surpanakha tried to molest Rama and Lakshmana her nose was cut off.

Murderers and rapists were taken on donkeys in procession after shaving off their hair before hanging them . They were wearing red clothes according to Sanskrit dramas. Their faces were marked with red dots and black dots according to Tamil literature.

2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature gives very interesting information about the punishments meted out to the YAVANAS. In Sangam literature we have six references to Yavanas. They meant mostly to Italians/Romans. In one or two places it might have meant Greeks. They were described as Milechas (barbarians ) with harsh and unsweet language. Sanskrit books and Sangam Tamil literature are noticeably clear that they spoke neither Tamil nor Sanskrit but a very harsh language. After the Muslim invasion of India, Yavana or Yona also meant Muslims until very modern times which we see in the greatest Tamil poet Bharatiyar’s songs.

Here is some interesting information about the Romans/Greeks and how the great Chera King Imayavaramban Neduncheralathan punished them:

“According to the Patikam of the second ten of the Patitruppattu, Imaya varampan put the Yavanas to disgrace by pouring ghee on their heads. Tamil epic Silappadikaram also confirms it

“Chera king captured the Yavanas of barbarous speech , poured oil on their heads, tied their hands to their backs and took their priceless jewels and diamonds.

Kamil Zvelebil, Czech Tamil scholar, translates it,

“Having captured the uncivilised Yavanas of harsh speech, poured oil on their heads, tied their hands to their backs and took their precious beautiful vessels  and diamonds.”


Aitareya Brahmana of Rig Veda, dated around 1000  BCE, says

Visvamitra’s disobedient elder sons are cursed by their father to become the ancestors of the Andhras, Pundras, Sabaras, Pulindas and Mutibas who live in large numbers beyond the borders; most of the Dasyus are descendants of Visvamitra. – AB.7 –18

Mahabharata and Ramayana add more groups such as Yavanas and  Pahlavas to this list.



In the well known puranic account – at least in seven puranas – we read,

A coalition of Haihayas and Talajhangas , allied with North Western peoples- the Sakas, Yavanas, Paaradas, Kaambojas and Pahlavas – conquered Sagara’s father Baahu, but were subsequently slain by the young king Sagara and condemned to various punishments that affected their appearance.

Yavanas were condemned to be either without moustaches or to have their heads completely shaved .

Mahabharata also gives a similar account 3-256- 9 to 11




As punishment for robbing Draupai , the head of Jayadratha , the Sindhu king was shaved by Bhima with a crescent arrow until only five tufts of hair were left. Jayadratha was further ordered to tell everybody that he was a slave of the Pandavas.

King Jayadratha  of sindu/ Indus Valley had Yavana wives according to Mahabharata .


The priest king figure in Indus valley also strange hair cut. We may compare these hair styles with the picture

Kalidasa also talks about hair cut in Raghu Vamsa kavya

He describes the rosy skinned, wine drinking  Persian women first, and then in Raghu Vamsa 4-63 he used the same words as in Mahabharata . The arrows Raghu used were bhallam -crescent shaped. The commentators add that the Persians shaved their head completely leaving only the beards  which looked like honey combs

पारसीकांस्ततो जेतुं प्रतस्थे स्थलवर्त्मना|
इन्द्रियाख्यानिव रिपूंस्तत्त्वज्ञानेन संयमी॥ ४-६०

aarasiikaa.nstato jetu.n pratasthe sthalavartmanaa |
indriyaakhyaaniva ripuu.nstattvaj~naanena sa.nyamii || 4-60

Raghu then proceeded by a land route to conquer the pArasIka kings just as a self-controlled yogi possessing divine knowledge proceeds to conquer his own enemies, called his own senses. [4-60]

These pArasIka kings are taken as inhabitants of ancient Persian countries. The commentator sumativijaya calls them – sindhu taTa vAsinAH mlecCha rAjAnaH.


यवनीमुखपद्मानां सेहे मधुमदं न सः|
बालातपमिवाब्जानामकालजलदोदयः ॥ ४-६१

yavaniimukhapadmaanaa.n sehe madhumada.n na saH |
baalaatapamivaabjaanaamakaalajaladodayaH || 4-61

As to how an untimely cloud removes morning sunlight from the faces of just blooming lotuses, raghu has also removed the blooming flush of wine from the lotus-like faces of yavana women when he encountered their men. [4-61]

The yavani-s spoken of by kAlidAsa seem to be of Persian and other races on the north-west of India. Viewing them to be Greek or Ionians is only too far-fetched. – KMJ


सङ्ग्रामस्तुमुलस्तस्य पाश्चात्यैरश्वसाधनैः|
शार्ङ्गकूजितविज्ञेयप्रतियोधे रजस्यभूत्॥ ४-६२

sa~Ngraamastumulastasya paashcaatyairashvasaadhanaiH |
shaar~Ngakuujitavij~neyapratiyodhe rajasyabhuut || 4-62

Then a tumultuous battle ensued between raghu and the westerners who possess cavalry as their war paraphernalia in a canopy of massive dust wherein the opposing warriors could recognise each other just by the nature of the twanging of their bows. [4-62]

भल्लापवर्जितैस्तेषां शिरोभिः श्मश्रुलैर्महीम्|
तस्तार सरघाव्याप्तैः स क्षौद्रपटलैरिव॥ ४-६३

bhallaapavarjitaisteShaa.n shirobhiH shmashrulairmahiim |
tastaara saraghaavyaaptaiH sa kShaudrapaTalairiva || 4-63

Raghu covered the ground with the bearded heads of westerners that are cut off with crescent-like arrows, as if they are the sheaves of honeycombs swarming with bees. [4-63]




Hariamsa on Hair cuts

“Considering his own promise and the words of his preceptor Sagara violated their religious practices and made them change their dress. Having made the Shakas to shave half of their heads  he dismissed them. He made the Yavanas and Kaambojas shave their entire head. Paaradas used to have their hair dishevelled and Palhlavas kept beards. They were prohibited from studying Vedas and offering oblation to the fire. Oh my child, Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas Paradas, Kolasapyas, Mahisas, Darvas, Cholas and Kerlas were all Kshatriyas. Oh, king, at the words of Vasishtha ,their religious practices were put down by the high souled Sagara – Hari Vamsa 10-23 (Hari Vamsa is a supplement to Mahabharata)

Sagara punished the fallen Kshatriyas in this way  after his victory and as vengeance for his father’s defeat.


In the Dighanikaya , Brahmins shave a brahmin for some kind of offence

Shaving the moustaches and locks is a punishment which is in Bhagavatha purana; Krishna did it to Rukmi, brother of his wife Rukmini.


In the Buddhist Sri Lankan history book Mahavamsa (6-39 to 6-42) we see the hair cut punishment; Vijaya and his brothers followed evil customs; people complained about this to their father King Sihabahu – (SIMHABAHU)- of Lata Desa. As punishment the king ordered Vijaya and his followers, seven hundred men , to be partially shaven – half of the head was shaved- and then put on a ship.



Keralotpatti version of Parasurama legend says that after reclaiming the land from the ocean Parasurama brought Brahmins from Ahicchatra. To prevent them from returning home , Parasurama changed their hair style and dress code.


Megasthanes also talks about this punishment ;he says shaving of hair is a shameful punishment among Indians .


A sixth century Chinese text  — Wei Shu —  mentioned shaving in Sassanid Persia was a punishment for minor crimes. Sometimes one half of the scalp is shaved.

In his fifth century Greek epic Nonnus recounts that Habrathoos had his hair cut off by Deriades in verse 156 he explains that it is a bitter insult to an Indian.





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