etymological view supported by numerous noted scholars is that the name
Afghan evidently derives from Sanskrit Aśvakas, q.v. the Assakenoi of
Arrian.This view was propounded by scholars like Christian Lassen,J. W.
McCrindle,M. V. de Saint Martin, and É. Reclus, and has been supported
by numerous modern scholars.
In Sanskrit, the word ashva (Iranian aspa, Prakrit assa) means "horse", and
ashvaka (Prakrit assaka) means "horseman", "horse people","land of
horses",as well as "horse breeders". Pre-Christian times knew the people
of the Hindukush region as Ashvakas (horsemen), since they raised a
fine breed of horses and had a reputation for providing expert
cavalrymen. The 5th-century-BCE Indian grammarian Pāṇini calls them
Ashvakayana and Ashvayana. Mahabharata mentions them as Ashvaka(na).
Classical writers, however, use the respective equivalents Aspasioi (or
Aspasii, Hippasii) and Assakenoi (or Assaceni/Assacani, Asscenus) etc.
The Aspasioi/Assakenoi (Ashvakas = Cavalrymen) is stated to be another
name for the Kambojas of ancient texts because of their equestrian
characteristics. Alexander Cunningham and a few other scholars identify
these designations with the modern name Afghan.
The Indian epic
Mahabharata speaks about Kambojas among the finest horsemen,and ancient
Pali texts describe their lands as the land of horses. Kambojas spoke
Avestan language and followed Zoroastrianism. Some scholars believe
Zoroastrianism originated in land of Kambojas.
Aspins of Chitral and Ashkuns (Yashkuns) of Gilgit are identified as the
modern representatives of the Pāṇinian Aśvakayanas (Greek: Assakenoi);
and the Asip/Isap (cf. Aspa-zai > Yusufzai) in the Kabul valley
(between the rivers Kabul and Indus) are believed to be modern
representatives of the Pāṇinian Aśvayanas (Greek: Aspasioi)