Monday, October 10, 2011

A Brief History of India - Greek conquests and Mauryan Empire(326-185 BC)

Persian influence:  Persians expanded eastward; built great cities and cultural centers; these help Persian civilization and culture spread into the India sub-continent.
Darius the Great
Much of the northwestern subcontinent (present-day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan) came under the rule of the Persian Achaemenid Empire in c. 520 BCE, during the reign of Darius the Great, and remained so for two centuries.

Alexander the Great and the Macedonians:  Alexander reached the Indus early in the 4th century, but soon had to withdraw; nevertheless, the Greeks brought Hellenic culture with them and established cities; these too had a last influence on the Indian sub-continent, particular with with regard to art and architecture.

In 326 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered Asia Minor and the Achaemenid Empire, reaching the northwest frontiers of the Indian subcontinent.
Alexander the Great
There he defeated King Porus in the Battle of the Hydaspes (near modern-day Jhelum, Pakistan) and conquered much of the Punjab.Alexander's march east put him in confrontation with the Nanda Empire of Magadha and the Gangaridai Empire of Bengal. His army, exhausted and frightened by the prospect of facing larger Indian armies at the Ganges River, mutinied at the Hyphasis (modern Beas River) and refused to march further East. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, was convinced that it was better to return.
Alexander the Great refuses to take water
After Alexander's death in 323 BCE, Chandragupta, had succeeded in defeating the Macedonian satrapies(name given to the governers of the provinces) in India and conquering the Nanda Empire.

Maurya Empire (322-185 BC):
Chandragupta Maurya began in 322 BC establishing a great empire in northern India and the lands abandoned by Alexander the Great.

  • The  Mauryan Empire included all of present-day northern India and much of modern Afghanistan. 
  • As an emperor holding supreme power, Chandragupta established a strong central government, governed with the aid of  paid officials, and defended his kingdom with an army of 600,000-700,000 men. Some argue that he learned the arts of war and government from Alexander's Macedonians
  • Established a capital of Pataliputra was located at the confluence of the Ganges and the Son rivers, and it was described by contemporary observers as having long wooden walls, towers, gates, and a moat. Within were grand palaces and other buildings.     
  • Chandragupta's minister Chanakya wrote the Arthashastra, one of the greatest treatises on economics, politics, foreign affairs, administration, military arts, war, and religion produced in Asia.  
According to legend, Chandragupta retired from the throne after ruling for twenty-four years, passed it to his son, and became a monk and starved himself to death.    
Later His grandson, Asoka, came to the throne about 270 BC.
  • Almost immediately, he launched a campaign to capture the south of India.  Eventually, his empire included Afghanistan as well as northern and central India. 
  • Laws and pronoucements were carved on massive stone pillars.  Asoka proclaimed:  "I consider that my duty is the good of the whole country."  Or:  "There is no better work than promoting the welfare of the whole world.  Whatever may be my great deeds, I have done them in order to discharge my debt to all beings."
Sarnath - Lion Capital of Ashoka
  • The four animals in the Sarnath capital are believed to symbolize different steps of Lord Buddha's life.
    • The Elephant represents the Buddha's idea in reference to the dream of Queen Maya of a white elephant entering her womb.
    • The Bull represents desire during the life of the Buddha as a prince.
    • The Horse represents Buddha's departure from palatial life.
    • The Lion represents the accomplishment of Buddha.
  •  He had, however, been sickened by the slaughter, leading him to adopt Buddhism and renounce violence.  He then helped Buddhism spread throughout India, and he sent missionaries to spread the faith throughout Asia and the Middle East.  His great historical legacies then were the dissemination of Buddhism and the creation of the idea of an Indian empire.
Following the death of Asoka in 232 BCE, the Mauryan Empire began to crumble. The last Maurya ruler was assassinated in 185 BCE, and northern India fell into the hands of foreign rulers.
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