Chapter 3 – Ancient India Part 3

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In the first half of sixth century BC, there were a number of small tribal states in north west India. There was no sovereign power to unite these warring tribes.

The Persian Invasion and Its Impact on Indian Culture

  • The Achaemenid rulers of Persia or Iran took advantage of the political disunity of this region.

  • Cyrus, the founder of the Achaemenid dynasty and his successor Darius I annexed parts of Punjab and Sindh.

  • It was believed to be the most fertile and populous part of the Achaemenid empire. Indian Subjects were also enrolled in the Achaemenid army.

  • The Persian rule in north western India lasted for nearly two centuries. During this period there must have been regular contact between the two regions.

  • The naval expedition of sky lax probably encouraged trade and commerce between Persia and India. Some ancient Persian gold and silver coins have been found in Punjab.

  • The administrative structure of the Mauryan empire was influenced in some measure by that of the Achaemenid rulers. It may be mentioned here that the Persian title of satrapa continued to be used by the Indian provincial governors as kshtrapa for quite a long time.

  • The culture effects of the contacts with the Persians were also significant.

The Greek Invasion and Its Impact on Indian Culture

  • During the fourth century BC, the Greeks and the Persians fought for supremacy over West Asia.

  • The influence of Greek art is found in the development of Indian sculpture as well. The combinations of the Greek and the Indian style formed the Gandhara school of art.

  • Indians also learnt the art of making well-shaped and beautifully designed gold and silver coins from the Greeks.

  • Many valuable information about the social and economic condition of northern and north western India of that time are known from the Greek accounts left by Arrian, admiral Nearchus, and Megasthenes.

  • As the Greek writers left dated records of Alexander’s campaign, it helped us a great deal to frame the chronology of ancient Indian History.

  • The date of Alexander’s invasion – 326 BC provides a definite ‘marker’ for arranging the sequence of historical events in India.

Ashoka the Great: Representing the Acme of Indian Culture

  • Ashoka occupies a unique place in the history of India. His polices of universal peace, non-violence and religious harmony find no parallel in the monarchs of the world.

  • Ashoka stand out as a monarch who combined successful kindship with idealism and philosophy.

  • Like other rulers, Ashoka too began his reign with war- the conquest of Kalinga.

  • However, the mindless destruction of life and property in this war shattered him so greatly that he vowed never to wage any war again.

  • Instead he adopted the policy of Dhamma Vijaya that is conquest through dhamma.

  • Ashoka was a true humanist. His policies were oriented towards the welfare of his people.

  • As a king, Ashoka set a very high ideal for himself. He saw himself as a father and the subjects as his children. He communicated his thoughts and philosophy to his people by inscribing them on stone pillars and rock surfaces.

  • Ashoka’s fame also rests on the measures that he took to spread the message of peace amongst the different regions of the worlds.

  • Ashoka unified the entire country under one empire and renounced the use of war as state policy.

  • On the other hand he says that he strives to discharge the debt he owes to all living creatures.

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