Sunday, December 7, 2008

Samaria, Samarkand, Samakai

Kyrgyz consider themselves an imperishable people. Some even think the name Kyrgyz is a variation of the Kyrgyz word Kyrylgyz, “indestructible”. Israelis have also earned a similar reputation over the years. Both nations seem to arise again and again from a unending series of trauma, genocide, and destruction.

Despite the “divine favor” both nations may flaunt, they also uplift narratives that reveal humiliating national sins. The Manas Epic records the following slaughter: an enemy khan, Alookei, attacked the Kyrgyz and scattered them from Samarkand. The epic concludes they were destroyed because of sin:

…The poor people who came to Altay,
And the heroes who were exiled
Survived their hardships,
Were separated from their people,
And endured this on account of their sins.

Manasseh’s biblical tribe and their heroes were destroyed for similar reasons.

“The members of the half-tribe of Manasseh lived in the land. They were very numerous … But they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day.”

This historic battle ended with Samaria’s capture about 721 B.C.E. The captives were deported. Eventually Israel and Manasseh’s scattered masses disappeared from history somewhere beyond the Euphrates. The tribes are now known as the mythological “Lost Tribes of Israel” who, according to biblical prophecy, are supposed to reappear in “the last days.”

Samarkand and Samaria
The Manas Epic presents enemy khans deporting Jakyb and his brothers from the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Andijan, and Talas. Samarkand deserves some attention in this analysis. The city’s origins date back to about 700 B.C., which correlates with Samaria’s deportation to areas on the Silk Road. A casual observer might think Samaria’s deported captives brought the toponym of their capital with them. But the prevalent view on Samarkand’s etymology states “asmara,” an old Persian word for rock or stone, and the suffix “kand,” meaning city or fort, break down Samarkand to mean “City of Rock,” not “City of Samar,” or “City of Samaria.” On that basis, Samarkand probably has no connection to Samaria or Israel’s lost tribes. Nonetheless, Samaria and Samarkand’s deportation stories deserve comparative analysis.

From the Manas Epic:
As for Alööke and Molto's
Dreadful demands:
They took large quantities of gold.
If one couldn't give gold to them,
They took their grazing livestock.
If the numbers did not tally,
They beheaded and killed the owner.
Those Kyrgyz who fought back
They paid with blood
and sent to their ancestors (to the dead) those who talked back
They caught and made them slaves.
They destroyed everything,
They brought on a great calamity.
From the Altï-Shaar to Margilan,
All the way to Kokand,
And the sheikh with his soldiers wearing blue coats,
In the lands of Bukara and Samarkand,
Were reduced in numbers and destroyed.

Ashym Jakypbek also mentions Samarkand in his version, Tengiri Manas:

Khans Alooke and Molto, conquering from the beginning – they came and attacked Samarkand and Anjiyan, then killed the hero Orozdu. When that was known they attacked Talas and left no man to lead the people. Bent elders and nursing babies were left. Pretty girls and ladies were taken. Ripped from life and livestock, only beggars remained.

The biblical chroniclers also note that only the poorest of the poor remained in the land after Samaria was attacked and deported.

The Manas Encyclopedia states that many versions of the epic refer to Samarkand as Manas’ fatherland. The mountains of Samaria, on the other hand, represent Manasseh’s fatherland.

The Scattered Ten
According to Ashym Jakypbek the ten orphaned sons of Orozdu were scattered from Samarkand in ten different directions.

Jakyb told Manas about the Kitai, Kalmak, and Manjuu attacking the Ala Too, destroying the pillars of the palace in Talas, felling the flag and scattering the 10 young sons of the Hero, Orozdu, in 10 directions when they didn’t have a chance to fight…

Jakyb’s history starts with ten brothers being scattered from Samarkand. Biblical Jacob’s northern kingdom ends with the ten tribes scattered from Samaria to the Silk Road, in the direction of Samarkand.

Samaria, Samarkand, Samakai
Later we will analyze a tribal people in Northeast India called the Kuki, who claim descent from Israel’s tribe, Manasseh. They sing about the time they were parted from their brothers on the Samakai Mountains. Dr. Khuplam, a Kuki scholar, told me he believes Samakai (or Somakai) may be in Tibet because Kuki prayers mentioned Samakai in conjunction with Tibet, but Khuplam has not been able to locate the exact place of this “parting.”

Where were these brothers separated from one another? Could this place of parting for three ethnic groups be the same place? Kuki descendants of Manmasi (Manasseh) call it “Samakai.” Kyrgyz descendants of Manas call it “Samarkand.” The biblical record refers to Manasseh and “Samaria.” Or, if history really does repeat itself, could Samakai and Samarkand be historical repeats of Samaria? Or perhaps the descendants of Jacob remember a place of parting that sounds like sama-something and a father like Manase or something. Putting all the pieces of this historical puzzle together will not be accomplished quickly, and may require revisiting some traditional perceptions; like the etymology of Samarkand, and the overall role of the Bible in the Manas Epic, and the prevalent opinion about the disappearance of Jacob’s ten northern tribes.

by Risbek
Author of five books including Boz Ui and Ak Kalpak
Post graduate at Arabaev University in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Russian Version and English Version with notes may be viewed on the Manas Epic webpage

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