(modern Kabul). The one river mentioned in the North of Kabul is Suvastu (modern swat). But the main focus of the Rig Vedic settlements was in the Punjab and the Delhi region. When the Rig-Vedic hymns were compiled the focus of Aryan settlement was the region between the Yamuna and the Sutlaj, south of modern Ambala and laong the upper course of river Saraswati. The most frequently mentioned rivers are the Sindhu (Indus), the Sarasvati (modern Sarsuti), the Drishadvati (modern Chitang), and the five streams of the Punjab. Regarding the other geographical features, the Vedic poets knew the Himalayas but not the land south of Yamuna, since they did not mention the Vindhayas, In the east also the Aryans did not expand beyond Yamuna; for the river Ganga is mentioned only once in one late hymn. And possibly, the Aryans had no knowledge of the oceans since the word ‘samudra’ in the Vedic period meant a pool of water. But the later Vedic knowledge shows that the Aryans knew the two seas, the Himalayas and the Vindhyan mountainas and generally the entire Indo-Gangetic plain. The Aryans used various kinds of pottery and the sites where the painted grey were are found, confirm the Aryan settlements. The Vedic texts show that the Aryans expanded from the Punjab over the whole of western Uttar Pradesh covered by the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. The Bharatas and Purus known as Kuru people first lived between Sarasvati and Drishadvati just on the fringe of the Doab. Soon the Kurus occupied Delhi and the Upper portion of the doab, that is the area called Kurukshetra, After this event, the Kurus joined with the people called Panchalas who occupied the middle portion of the Doab or the moder districts of bareilly Dadaun and Farrukabad. It was the Kuru-Panchalas who had set up their capital at Hastinapur situated in the district of Meerut. Later the Kauravas and the Pandavas belonging to the same Kuru clan fougth out a battle which led to the extinction of the Kuru clan. And by 600 B.C. the Aryans spread from the Doab further east to Kosala in Eastern U.P. and Vedeha in north Bihar. The former town is associated with the story of Ramchandra, but it is not mentioned in Vedic literature.
FOREIGN RELATIONS OF ASOKA Diplomacy and geographical proximity primarily determined the foreign relations maintained by Asoka. Particularly, the century in which, Asoka lived was one of continued interactions between the Eastern Mediterranean and South Asia. That is why most of Asoka’s contacts were with South Asia and the West. It appears that this interest was not one sided. A fair number of foreigners lived in Pataliputra to necessitate a special committee under the municipal management to look after the needs of welfare of the visitors. Apart from these major factors determining the foreign relations of Asoka, one more parameter was the desire of Asoka to spread his policy of dhamma to distant lands. To begin with, Asoka in his foreign relations was a realist defeat and annexation of Kalinga. Also his realism is to be seen in Asoka not annexing the southern kingdoms (Cholas, Pandvas, Satyaputras and Keralaputras) while being satisfied with theirac knowledgement of his suzerainty. He probably felt that it was not worth the trouble to annex the small territories too.
In other foreign relations Asoka reveals as an idealist or a monarch who wore the robes of a monk. He sent various missions, though not embassies, to various countries. Their main purpose was to acquaint the countries they visited with his policies, particularly that of dhamma. They may be compared to modern goodwill missions helping to create an interest in the ideas and peoples of the country from which they came. Also, the fact that they are quite unheard of in contemporary literature or in later sources would suggest that they made only a short-lived impression. In spite of the above reservations, the missions must have opened a number of channels for the flow of Indian ideas and goods. It is unlikely that Asoka expected all the kings who had received missions to put the policy of dhamma into practice, although he claims that his did happen. It is curious to observe that there is no reference to these missions in the last important public declaration of Asoka, the seventh pillar edict. In this edict Asoka mentions the success he had with his welfare services and the widespread propagation of dhamma but all within the empire. The territory immediately adjoining the empire of Asoka on the West and that Antiochus. There is ample evidence of contacts of similarity in cultures. The use of Kharoshti in the Shahbazgarhi and Mansehra edicts in the north is evidence of strong contact with Iran. The fragmentary Aramaic inscription at Taxila and another of the same kind from Kashmir point to continue inter communication between the two areas. Apart from contacts with Iran, Asoka Empire was close to various Greek kingdoms. There are references to the Greeks in the rock edicts of Asoka. On certain occasions the word used refers to the Greek settlements in the north-west and on others to the Hellenic Kingdoms. Antiochus II these of Syria is more frequently mentioned. He other Hellenic Kings where missions were sent were Ptolemy-II Philadephus of Egypt, Magas of Cyrene, Antigonus gonatas of Messedonia, and Alexander of Eorius. Apart from these western contacts, tradition maintains that Asoka visited Khotan. This cannot be substantiated. On the other hand, Asoka maintained close relations with modern Nepal. Tradition states that his daughter, Charumati was married to Devapala of Nepal. 2
On the East, the Mauryan empire included the provice of Vanga, Since Tamralipti was the principal port of the area, Indian missions to and from Ceylon are said to have traveled via Tamaralipti. The extent of the influence of Asoka’s power in South India is better documented than in north India. The edicts of Asoka are found at Gavimathi, Palkignuda, Brahmagiri, Maski, yerragudi and Siddapur, Tamil poets also make references to the Mauryas. More Important were the contacts with Ceylon. Information is available in the Ceylonese Chronicles on contacts between India and Ceylon. Coming of Mahindra to Ceylon was not the first official contact. Earlier, Dhamma missions were sent. A Ceylonese king was so captivated by Asoka that the top called himself as Devanampiya. Asoka maintained close relations with Tissa, the ruler of Ceylon. Relationship between Asoka and Tissa was based on mutual admiration for each other. What interests of the country or the aims of Asoka were served through his
missions? Asoka primarily tried to propagate his dhamma and may be incidentally Buddhims. He claimed that he made a spiritual conquest of all the territories specified by him as well as a few more territories beyond them. This claim definitely appears to bean exaggeration. There is no historical evidence to show that Asoka missions did succeed in achieving their aim particularly when the dhamma happened to be highly humanistic and ethical in nature. After all, Asoka was neither a Buddha nor a Christ to appeal to various people. Neither a St. Peter nor an Ananda to successful spread the message of their Masters. Not did he possess fighting men to spread his message just as the followers of prophet Mohammed. Thus, when there is no follow up action after the missions visited the various parts of the world, it is understandable that no one paid any heed to his message. Evertheless, there is one intriguing point about the success of his foreign missions. In likelihood, the history of the Buddha and his message must have spread to the various parts. What did they need to? Although it is difficult to answer this question, it is of importance to observe that there are certain similarities between Christianity and Buddhism – suffering of man, Mara & Satan, Sangha Monasteries with Bikshus and Monks, and the use of rosary by Buddhist and Christian’s monks DECLINE OF THE MAURYAS The decline of the Maurya Dynasty was rather rapid after the death of Ashoka/Asoka. One obvious reason for it was the succession of weak kings. Another immediate cause was the partition of the Empire into two. Had not the partition taken place, the Greek invasions could have been held back giving a chance to the Mauryas to re-establish some degree of their previous power. Regarding the decline much has been written. Haraprasad Sastri contends that the revolt by Pushyamitra was the result of brahminical reaction against the pro- Buddhist policies of Ashoka and pro-Jaina policies of his successors. Basing themselves on this thesis, some maintain the view that brahminical reaction was responsible for the decline because of the following reasons. (a) Prohibitino of the slaughter of animals displeased the Brahmins as animal sacrifices were esteemed by them. (b) The book Divyavadana refers to the persecution of Buddhists by Pushyamitra Sunga.
(c) Asoka’s claim that he exposed the Budheveas (brahmins) as false gods shows that Ashoka was not well disposed towards Brahmins. (d) The capture of power by Pushyamitra Sunga shows the triumph of Brahmins. All these four points can be easily refuted. Asoka’s compassion towards animals was not an overnight decision. Repulsion of animal sacrifices grew over a long period of time. Even Brahmins gave it up by the book Divyavadana, cannot be relied upon since it was during the time of Pushyamitra Sunga that the Sanchi and Barhut stupas were completed. Probably the
impression of the persecution of Buddhism was created by Menander’s invasion who was a Budhhist. Thridly, the word ‘budheva’ is misinterpreted because this word is to be taken in the context of some other phrase. Viewed like this, this word has nothing to do with brahminism. Fourthly, the victory of Pushyamitra Sunga clearly shows that the last of the Mauryas was an incompetent ruler since he was overthrown in the very presence of his army, and this had nothing to do with brahminical reaction against Asoka’s patronage of Budhism. Moreover, the very fact that a Brahmin was the commander in chief of the Mauryan ruler proves that the Mauryas and the Brahmins were on good terms. After all, the distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism in India was purely sectarian and never more than the difference between saivism and vaishnavism. The exclusiveness of religious doctrines is a Semitic conception, which was unknown to India for a long time. Buddha himself was looked upon in his lifetime and afterwards as a Hindu saint and avatar and his followers were but another sect in the great Aryan tradition. Ashoka was a Buddhist in the same way as Harsha was a Budhist, or Kumarapala was a Jain. But in the view of the people of the day he was a Hindu monarch following one of the recognized sects. His own inscriptions bear ample withness to the fact. While his doctrines follow themiddle path, his gifts are to the brahmibns, sramansa (Buddhist priests) and others equally. His own name of adoption is Devanam Priya, the beloved of the gods. Which gods? Surely the gods of the Aryan religion. Buddhism had no gods of its own. The idea that Ashoka was a kind of Buddhist Constantine declearing himself against paganism is a complete misreading of India conditions. Asoka was a kind or Buddhist Constantine declearing himself against paganism is a complete misreading of India conditions. Asoka was essentially a Hindu, as indeed was the founder of the sect to which he belonged. Raychaudhury too rebuts the arguments of Sastri. The empire had shrunk considerably and there was no revolution. Killing the Mauryan King while he was reviewing the army points to a palace coup detat not a revolution. The organization were ready to accept any one who could promise a more efficient organisation. Also if Pushyamitra was really a representative of brahminical reaction he neighbouting kings would have definitely given him assistance. The argument that the empire became effete because of Asokan policies is also very thin. All the evidence suggests that Asoka was a stern monarch although his reign witnessed only a single campaign. He was shrewd enough in retaining Kalinga although he expressed his remorse. Well he was wordly-wise to enslave and-andhalf lakh sudras of Kalinga and bring them to the Magadha region to cut forests and cultivate land. More than this his tours of the empire were not only meant for the sake of piety but also for keeping an eye on the centrifugal tendencies of the empire. Which addressing the tribal people Asoka expressed his willingness to for given. More draconian was Ashoka’s message to the forest tribes who were warned of the power which he possessed. This view of Raychoudhury on the pacifism of the State cannot be substantiated. Apart from these two major writers there is a third view as expressed by kosambi. He based his arguments that unnccessary measures were taken up to increase tax and the punch-marked coins of the period show evidence of debasement. This contention too cannot be up held. It is quite possible that debased coins began to
circulate during the period of the later Mauryas. On the other hand the debasement may also indicate that there was an increased demand for silver in relation to goods leading to the silver content of the coins being reduced. More important point is the fact that the material remains of the post-Asokan era do not suggest any pressure on the economy. Instead the economy prospered as shown by archaeological evidence at Hastinapura and Sisupalqarh. The reign of Asoka was an asset to the economy. The unification of the country under single efficient administration the organization and increase in communications meant the development of trade as well as an opening of many new commercial interest. In the post – Asokan period surplus wealth was used by the rising commercial classes to decorate religious buildings. The sculpture at Barhut and Sanchi and the Deccan caves was the contribution of this new bourgeoisie. Still another view regarding of the decline of Mauryas was that the coup of Pushyamitra was a peoples’ revolt against Mauryans oppression and a rejection of the Maurya adoption of foreign ideas, as far interest in Mauryan Art. This argument is based on the view that Sunga art (Sculpture at Barhut and Sanchi) is more earthy and in the folk tradition that Maruyan art. This is more stretching the argument too far. The character of Sunga art changed because it served a different purpose and its donors belonged to different social classes. Also, Sunga art conformed more to the folk traditions because Buddhism itself had incorporated large elements of popular cults and because the donors of this art, many of whom may have been artisans, were culturally more in the mainstream of folk tradition. One more reasoning to support the popular revolt theory is based on Asoka’s ban on the samajas. Asoka did ban festive meetings and discouraged eating of meat. These too might have entagonised the population but it is doubtful whether these prohibitions were strictly enforced. The above argument (people’s revolt) also means that Asoka’s policy was continued by his successors also, an assumption not confirmed by historical data. Further more, it is unlikely that there was sufficient national consciousness among the varied people of the Mauryan empire. It is also argued by these theorists that Asokan policy in all its details was continued by the later Mauryas, which is not a historical fact. Still another argument that is advanced in favour of the idea of revolt against the Mauryas is that the land tax under the Mauryas was one-quarter, which was very burden some to the cultivator. But historical evidence shows something else. The land tax varied from region to region according to the fertility of the soil and the availability of water. The figure of one quarter stated by Magasthenes probably referred only to the fertile and well-watered regions around Pataliputra. Thus the decline of the Mauryan empire cannot be satisfactorily explained by referring to Military inactivity, Brahmin resentment, popular uprising or economic pressure. The causes of the decline were more fundamental. The organization of administration and the concept of the State were such that they could be sustained 5
by only by kings of considerably personal ability. After the death of Asoka there was definitely a weakening at the center particularly after the division of the empire, which inevitably led to the breaking of provinces from the Mauryan rule. Also, it should be borne in mind that all the officials owed their loyalty to the king and not to the State. This meant that a change of king could result in change of officials leading to the demoralization of the officers. Mauryas had no system of
ensuring the continuation of well-planned bureaucracy. The next important weakness of the Mauryan Empire was its extreme centralization and the virtual monopoly of all powers by the king. There was a total absence of any advisory institution representing public opinion. That is why the Mauryas depended greatly on the espionage system. Added to this lack of representative institutions there was no distinction between the executive and the judiciary of the government. An incapable king may use the officers either for purposes of oppression or fail to use it for good purpose. And as the successors of Asoka happened to be weak, the empire inevitably declined. Added to these two factors, there is no conception of national unity of political consciousness. It is clear from the fact that even the resistance against the greeks as the hated miecchas was not an organized one. The only resistance was that of the local rulers who were afraid of losing their newly acquired territory. It is significant that when Porus was fighting Alexander, or when Subhagasena was paying tribute to Antiochus, they were doing so as isolated rulers in the northwest of India. They had no support from Pataliputra, nor are they even mentioned in any Indian sources as offering resistance to the hated Yavanas. Even the heroic Porus, who, enemy though he was, won the admiration of the Greeks, is left unrecorded in Indian sources. Another associated point of great importance is the fact that the Mauryan Empire which was highly centralized and autocratic was the first and last one of its kind. If the Mauryan Empire did not survive for long, it could be because of the failure of the successors of Asoka to hold on to the principles that could make success of such an empire. Further, the Mauryan empire and the philosophy of the empire was not in tune with the spirit of the time because Aryanism and brahminism was very much there. According to the Brahmin or Aryan philosophy, the king was only an upholder of dharma, but never the crucial or architecture factor influencing the whole of life. In other words, the sentiment of the people towards the political factor, that is the State was never established in India. Such being the reality, when the successors of Asoka failed to make use of the institution and the thinking that was needed to make a success of a centralized political authority. The Mauryan Empire declined without anyone’s regret. Other factors of importance that contributed to the decline and lack of national unity were the ownership of land and inequality of economic levels. Land could frequently change hands. Fertility wise the region of the Ganges was more prosperous than northern Deccan. Mauryan administration was not fully tuned to meet the existing disparities in economic activity. Had the southern region been more developed, the empire could have witnessed economic homogeneity. Also the people of the sub-continent were not of uniform cultural level. The sophisticated cities and the trade centers were a great contrast to the isolated village communities. All these differences naturally led to the economic and political 6
structures being different from region to region. It is also a fact that even the languages spoken were varied. The history of a sub-continent and their casual relationships. The causes of the decline of the Mauryan empire must, in large part, be attributed to top heavy administration where authority was entirely in the hands of a few persons while national consciousness was unknown. Asoka’s Dhamma
NEED OF DHARMA 1. There was considered intellectual ferment around 600 B.C. healthy rivalry was apparent among the number of sects such as the Charvaks, Jains and Ajivikas, whose doctrines ranged from bare materialism to determinism. This intellectual liveliness was reflected in the elected interests of the Mauryan rulers. It was claimed by the Jainas that Chandragupta was supporter and there is evidence that Bindusara favoured the Ajivikas. Thus, the Empire of Asoka was inhabited by peoples of many cultures who were at many levels of development. The range of customs, beliefs, affinities, antagonisms, tensions and harmonies were galore. True, Magadha and the fringes of these areas. The north was in close contact with the Hellenized culture of Afganisthan and Iran. The far south was on the threshold of a creative efflorescence of Tamil culture. The ruler of such as Empire required the perceptions were addressed to the public at large. It is in these inscriptions that the king expounds his ideas on dhamma. It appears, Asoka aimed at creating an attitude of mind among his subjects in which social behavior was accorded the highest place. The ideology of dhamma can be viewed as a focus of loyalty and as a point of convergence for the then bewildering diversities of the Empire. In a way, Asoka’s dhamma was akin to the preamble in the constitution of India. 2. A centralized monarchy demands oneness of feeling on the part of its people. The ethics of the dhamma was intended to generate such a feeling, comparable to the preamble of the Indian Constitution. 3. The Mauryan Society with its heterogeneous elements and with economic, social and religious forces working against each other posed the threat of disruption. Asoka, therefore, needed some binding factor to allow the economic activity to proceed on an even keel and thereby ensure the security of his state. 4. Also as the commercial classes gained economic importance and resented the inferior social status as per the sanctions of the Brahmins, they want over to Buddhism, which preached social equality. Their support to the Mauryan king was very vital for the peace and prosperity of the Empire. Asoka thought that he could attract them by the propagation of this dhamma by weaning them away from too closely identifying themselves with Buddhism. 5. Asoka felt that the aforesaid forces of contrary pulls would threaten the peace of the realm not in the general interest of his Empire. Asoka’s dhamma therefore, was intended to serve a practical purpose. The dhamma was not meant to be a religion but what behooves a man of right feeling to do, or what man of sense would do. Such being the nature of his dhamma, it is primarily an ethic of social conduct. Asoka’s Moral code is most concisely formulated in the second Minor Rock Edict. 7
Thus saith His Majesty: ‘Father and mother must be obeyed; similarly respect for living creatures must be enforced, truth must be spoken. These are the virtues of the law of Duty (or “Peity”. Dhamma) which must be practisd. Similarly, the teacher must be reverenced by the pupil, and proper courtesy must be shown to relations. This is the ancient standard of duty (or “Piety”) – leads to length of days and according to this men must act. The three obligations – of showing reverence, respecting animal life, and telling the
truth – are inculcated over and over again in the edicts. Besides, it was meant for all – Buddhists, brahmins, Jains and Ajivikas, In the way, it was the sara or the essence of the good principles of all religions. Also, while pleading on behalf of his dhamma, Asoka passionately appealed for toleration towards all religions and a reverence for each other. Had this dhamma got anything to do with Buddhist principles, Asoka would have openly stated so in his edicts since he never southt to hid/his support for Buddhism. For that matter, Asoka did not incorporate any of the fundamental tenets of Buddhist faith such as the Four Noble Truths, the chain of casualty the sacred eight-fold path, and the Nirvana. The omissions, also with repeated reference to the concept of svarga or heaven (a Hindu belief) show that his dhamma cannot be identified with Buddhism. Since Asoka’s dhamma was not intended for the cause of Buddhims during his dharama-yatras, he not only visited various places of Buddhist importance, but also gave gifts to sramanas and Brahmins. Most of all, even after entrusting the propagation of dhamma to the Dharma Mahamatras, Asoka continued to style himself as the beloved of the devas, a Hindu concept, since there were no Gods in Buddhism at that time. SUCCESS OF HIS DHARMA Asoka specifically states that his missions were sent to various places (Ceylon and various Western countries) and maintains that they were all successful. It is difficult to accept this claim because historical evidence shows that his officials overshot the mark. Definitely, there was resentment against their way of doing things. It is known from evidence that Asoka presumed that not only he was a seeker of truth but also he did reach the truth. Such convictions are always harmful. Most of all, it is important to note that there is no authentic proof that his missions were a success. Significantly, none of Asoka’s successors continued the propagation of dhamma. Far worse is the fact that in the later ages, his pillar inscriptions came to be misunderstood as symbols of phallus. The splendour of the ‘Dark Centuries’ The five centuries which passed between the decline of the first great Indian empire of the Mauryas and the emergence of the great classical empire of the Guptas has often been described as a dark period in Indian history when foreign dynasties fought each other for short-lived and ephemeral supremacy over Northern India. Apart from Kanishka’s Indo- Central Asian empire which could claim to be similar in size and importance to has china, the parthians of Persia and to the contemporary Roman empire this period did lack the glamour of large empires. But this ‘dark period’ particularly the first two centuries AD was a period of intensive economic and cultural contact among the various parts of the Eurasian continent. 8
Indian played a very active role in stimulating these contacts. Buddhism which has been fostered by Indian rulers since the days of Ashoka was greatly aided by the international
connections of the Indo-Greeks and the Kushanas and thus rose to prominence in Central Asia. South India was establishing its important links with the West and with Southeast Asia in this period. These links especially those with southeast Asia, proved to be very important for the future course of Asian history. But India it self experienced important social and cultural changes in this period. For centuries Buddhism had enjoyed royal patronage. This was partly due to the fact that the foreign rulers of India found Buddhism more accessible than orthodox Hinduism. The Vedic Brahmins had been pushed into the background by the course of historical development all though Hinduism as such did not experience a decline. On the contrary new popular cults arose around gods like Shiva, Krishna and Vishnu-Vasudeva who had played only a marginal role in an earlier age. The competition between Buddhism which dominated the royal courts and cities and orthodox Brahminism which was still represented by numerous Brahmin families every where left enough scope for these new cults to gain footholds of their own, of great importance for the further development of Hinduism and particularly for the Hindu idea of kingship was the Kushana rulers identification with certain Hindu gods – they were actually believed to attain a complete identity with the respective god after their death. Religious legitimation was of greater importance to these foreign rulers than to other Indian kings. Menander’s ashes had been distributed according to the Buddhist fashion and Kanishka was identified with Mithras but wima kadphises and Huvishka were closer to shiva as shown by the images on their coins. Huvishka’s coins provide a regular almanac of the iconography of the early Shiva cult. The deification of the ruler which was so prevalent in the Roman and Hellenistic world as well as among the Iranians was thus introduced into India and left a mark on the future development of Hindu Kingship. Another future of crucial importance for the future political development of India was the organization of the Shaka and Kushana Empires had been, but were based on the large-scale incorporation of local rulers. In subsequent centuries many regional Empires of India were organized on this pattern. The most well-known contribution of the ‘dark-period’ was a course, to Indian art. After the early sculptures of the Mauryas which were greatly influenced by the Iranian style, a new Indian style, a new Indian style has fist emerged under Shungas and their successors in the Buddhist monuments of Bharhut and Sanchi which particularly showed a new style of relief sculpture. The merger of the Gandhara school of art, with its Graeco-Roman style and the Mathura school of art which included ‘archaic’ Indian elements and became the center of Indo-Kushana art, finally led to the rise of the Sarnath school of art. This school then set the pattern of the classical Gupta style. Less-well-known, but much more important for the future development of Hindu society, was the compilation of the authoritative Hindu law books (dharmasastra), the foremost of them being the code of Manu which probably originated in the second or third century AD. After the breakdown of the Maurya and Shunga Empires, there must have been a period of uncertainty, which led to renewed interest in traditional social norms. These were then codified so as to remain inviolate for all times to come. If we add to this the resurgence of Sanskrit, as
testified by Rudradaman’s famous rock inscription of the second century AD. We see that this ‘dark-period’ actually contained all the element of the classical culture of the Gupta age, Thus the many splendoured and much maligned ‘dark-period’ was actually the harbinger of the classical age. POST-MAURYAN PERIOD (20BC – 300AD) ECONOMY AND SOCIETY In the post-Mauryan era (200 BC. To 300 A.D.) the economy moved at an accelerated tempo. Society witnessed structural reorientation as significant groups of foreigners penetrated into India and chose to be identified with the rest of the community. The occupation of craftsmen was an important segement of the day’s socioeconomic milieu. The craftsment were not only associated with the towns but also villages like Karimnagar in the Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh. The categories of craftsmen who were known in this period bear out the truth that there was considerable specialization in mining and metallurgy. A large number of iron artifacts have been discovered at various excavated sites relating to the Kushan and Satavahans Periods. It is surprising to notice that the Telengana region appears to have made special progress in iron artifacts – not only weapons but also balance rods, sickles, ploughshares, razors and ladels have been found in the Karimnagar and Nalgonda districts. Also, cutlery made out of iron and steel was exported to the Abyssinian ports. Equally significant was the progress made in cloth-making and silk-weaving. Dyeing was a craft of repute in some south Indian towns like Uraiyur, a shurb of Tiruchirapalli, and Arikamedu. The use of oil was also high because of the invention of oil wheel. The inscriptions of the day mention weavers, goldsmiths, dyers, workers in metal and ivory, jewelers, sculptors, fishermen, perfumers and smiths as the donors of caves, pillars, tablets, cisterns etc. Among the luxury items the important ones were ivory and glass articles and beed cutting. At the beginning of the coristian era the knowledge of glass-blowing reached India and attained its peak. Coin minting also reached a high level of excellence made out of gold, silver, copper, bronze, lead and potin. A coint mould of the Satavahans period shows that through it half a dozen coins could be turned out a time. In urban handicrafts the pride of place goes to the beautiful pieces of terracotta produced in profuse quantities. They have been found in most of the sites belonging to the Kushan and Satavahans periods. In particular, terracotta figures of great beauty have been found in the Nalgonda district of Telengana. The terracotta figures were mostly meant for the use of upper classes in towns. This immense manufacturing activity was maintained by guilds. At least to dozen kinds of guilds were there. Most of the artisans known from inscriptions hailed from the Mathura region and the western Deccan which lay on the trade routes leading to the ports on the western coast. The guilds, coming from the days of the Mauryan period, became a more important factor in the urban life both in being instrumental to increase in production and moulding public opinion. The primary guilds of the day were those of the potters, metal workers and carpenters. Some guilds organized their own distribution system 10
while owning a large number of boats to transport goods from various ports on the Ganges. The guilds of the day fixed their own rules of work and the standards of the finished products. They exercised care regarding price also to safeguard the interest of both the artisan and the customer. They controlled the price of the manufactured articles. He conduct of the guild members was regulated through a guild court. The customary uses of the guilds had the same force as those of laws. The extensive activity of the guilds can be known from their seals and emblems. The banners and insignia of each guild were carried in procession of festive occasions. These prosperous guilds in addition, donated large sums of money to religious institutions and charitable causes. Since the activity of the guilds was so buoyant, it appears that they attracted the attention of kings too. It is said that kings had financial interests in guilds. Royalty invested its money in commercial activities. This naturally led to protection being provided by State to the guilds. Regarding the activities of guilds, it appears from inscriptions that they acted asbankers, financiers and trustees although these activities were carried out by a separate class of people known as sresthins. Usury was a part of banking and the general rate of interest was around 15% loans extended to sea-trade carried higher interest rate. An authority of the day states that the rate of interest should vary according to the caste of the man to whom money is lent. Interestingly, apart from the guilds, there were workers bodies also. The workers cooperative included artisans and various crafts associated with a particular enterprise. The classic example of this activity was the co-operative of builders, which has its members drawn from specialized workers such as architects. Engineers, bricklayers etc. The immense commercial activity was bolstered by the thriving trade between India and the Easter Roman Empire. With the movement of Central Asian people like Sakas, Parthians and Kushans, trade came to be carried across the sea. Among the ports, the important ones were Broach and Sopara on the western coast, and Arikamedu and Tamralipti on the eastern coast. Out of these ports Broach was the most important as not only goods were exported from here but a also goods were received. Across land, the converging point of trade routes was Taxila, which was connected with the Silk Route passing through Central Asia. Ujjain was the meeting point of good number of trade routes. The trade between India and Rome mostly consisted of luxury goods. To begin with Rome got her imports from the southern most portions of the country. The Roman imports were Muslims, pearls, jewels and precious stones from Central and South India. Iron articles formed an important item of export to the Roman Empire. For certain articles India became the clearing house, as for example, silk from China because of impediments posed by the Parthian rule in Iran and the neighboring areas. The Romans, in return, exported to India various types of potters found in excavations at places like Tamluk in West Bengal, Arikamedu nevar Pondicherry and a few other places. Probably lead was important from Rome. It is also presumed that the Kushans had brisk trade with the Romans as they conquered Mesopotamia in 115 A.D. At a place close to Kabul, glass jars made in Italy, Egypt and Syria have
come to light, apart from small bronze statues of Greko-Roman style, And the most significant Roman export to India was the gold and silver coins – nearly 85 finds of Roman coins have been found. There is nothing surprising in the lamentation of the Roman writer Pliny in the 1st century A.D. that Roman was being drained of gold on account of trade with India. Indian kingdoms sent embassies to Rome the best known being the one sent about 25 B.C. Which included strange collection of men and animals-tigers, snakes, tortoises a monk and an armless boy who could shoot arrows with his toes. This mission reached Rome during the days of Emperor Augustus in 21 B.C. In the southern kingdoms maritime trade occupied the pride of place. The literature of the day refers to harbours, docks, light houses and custom offices. Large variety of ships were built, both for short distance as well as long distance voyages. According to pliny the largest Indian ship was 75 tons. Other sources mention higher figures. In the self-same period there was a boom in trade with south-East Asia. This was first occasioned by the Roman demand for spices. Gradually this trade grew in dimensions. The growing number of strangers in the port towns and trade centers led to their absorbing Indian habits as their numbers grew, social laws of the day became rigid as to be seen from the law code of Manu. Further as conversions to Hinduism was technically impossible the non-Indian groups gradually grew into separate subcastes. After all the conversion of a single individual was a problem but the device of caste made such absorption easier. Moreover the foreigners found it easier to become Buddhists instead of Aryans. Faced one theoretical knowledge confined to brahmins and the other practical and technical knowledge which became the preserve of the professionals. It was during this period Dharmashastras came to be written. These Shastras made the social structure to be rigid. Apart from these writings poetry and drama were also popular. The outstanding poem in Tamil was Shilappadigaram. Another poem in Tamil was Manimegalai. In Sanskrit, Asvaghosa and Bhasa were the two great dramatists. The manuscripts of Asvaghosa were found in a monastry in Turdan in Central Asia. Both of his plays deal with Buddhist themes. Bhasa appeared a couple of centuries later. His plays are based on the incident from the spics or historical romances around the exploits of king udayan in Avanti. In the field of plastic art. Great were the achievement of this period like the stupas at Sanchi and Bar hut the caves at Karlellora and Ajanta. At Amravati the great age of painting began. Also the sculptures at Amravati show a mastery of stone sculpture and with the mathura school of sculpture the Indian tradition of sculpture began. The booming trade and commerce of the period was at the base of the urban settlements that came into existence. The important towns of northern India were Vaishali, Pataliputra, Varanasi, Kausambi, Sravasti, Hastinapur, Mathura and Indraprastha. Most of the towns flourished in the Kushan period as revealed by excavations. The excavations at Sonkh in Mathura show as many as seven levels of the Kushan are but only one of the Gupta period. Again in Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Ropar also several sites show good Kushan structures. The Satayahans kingdown also witnessed thriving towns like Tagar, Paithan, Dhanyakataka, Amravati, Nagarjunakonda, Broach, Sopara, Arikamedu and Kaveripattanam.
HISTORY AND IMPACT OF Indo-Greeks After Alexander the Great, the greed seleukidan dynasty of Persia held on to the trans-Indus region. After seleukos Nikator was defeated by Chanragupta Maurya in 303 B.C. the trans-Indus region was transferred to the Mauryas. In mid third century B.C. the seleukidan rule was ended by two peoples. In Iran the parthiar became independent and their sassanians in 226 A.D. In like manner the greeks of Bactria rose in revolt under the leadership of Diodotus. These Greeks were later known as Indo-Greeks when they gained a foot-hold in the Indian sub-continent. Bactria situated between the Hindu Kush and the oxus, was a fertile region and it controlled the trade routes from Gandhara to the West. The greek settlement in Bactria began in the 5th century B.C. when Persian emperors settled the Greek exiles in that area. Bactria figured in history with the revolt of diodotus against Antiochus the seleukidan king. This breakaway of Bactria was recnised by the seleukidans when the grandson of Diodotus, Enthymemes. Was given a seleukidan bride in about 200 B.C. About the same time the seleukidan king defeated king subhagasena after crossing the Hindu Kush in 206 B.C. This defeat reveals the unguarded nature of northwestern India. Thus begins the history of Indo-Greeks. The history of the Indo-Greeks is mainly gathered from their coins. This evidence is very often confusion because many kings had identical names. The son of Euthydemos, Demetrios, Conquered modern southern afghanistion and the Makran area he also occupied some parts of Punjab. Then around 175 B.C. the homeland of Bactrians came to be ruled by Eukratides, another branch of the Bactrians. His son Demetrios-II penetrated deep into the Punjab proceeding along the Indus, he penetrated till kutch. The most known Indo-Greek was Menander, whose claim rests on the Buddhist treatise the Questions of king Milinda-discussion between menander and the Buddhist philosopher, Nagasena and he ruled the Punjab from C.160 to 140 B.C. Menander not only stabilized his power but extended his frontiers. His coins are to be found in the region extending from Kabul to Mathura near Delhi. He attempted to conquer the Ganges valley but in vain. Probabley he was defeated by the Sungas. After menander one Strato ruled. At that time Bactaria was rule by a different group of Bactrians. Probably Mitrhadates – I of Persia annexed the region of Taxila during the third quarter of the second century B.C. A little later, Antialkidas ruled from Taxila as known from the inscription from besnagar near Bhilsa. This inscription was incised on the order of Heliodoros, who was the envoy of antialkidas in the court of Besnagar. Heliodoros got a monolithic column built in honour of vasudeva. Thus began the Bhakti cult of Vasudeva. The last known greek kings were hippostratos and Hermaeus, the former defeated by moga and the latter by khadphisus. Indo-Greek influence declined from the time Bactria itself was attacked by the nomadic tribes from central Asia, the scythians. 13
The penetration of Indo-Greeks, as well as of sakas pahlavas and Kushana influenced the government, society, religion literature and art of ancient India. The
very fact that India absorbed influences of these foreigners speaks for the then youthful nature of Indian civilization. The extent of Greek influence of Indian Civilisation is a most point. Whatever the Greek influence that was felt by India came in the wake of Alexander’s invasion of the cast and the settlement of Greeks in the Bactrian region. Alexander himself cannot be regarded as the standard bearer of the heritage of ancient Greece. By the time Alexander and his soldiers marched towards the east the culture of Greece was on the decline hence at the most Alexander and his men could have spread a debased version of the great Geek civilization represented by Socrates, Plato, Phidia, Aristotle, Sophocles, Pythagoras and others. Despite the fact that Alexander and his men could not be the true torch bearers of Greek culture to the east, the traces of Greek influence could be definitely found on India civilization. To begin with, the invasion of Alexander left very little imprint on Indian civilization. Indian rulers did not adopt the military tactics of Alexander, but continued to rely on their forefold organization. Although the region that was beyond the Hindu Kush in the Mauryan period was definitely in close contact with whatever the Greek influence that was there, the Greek influence was not felt in the interior of India. Probably the use of stone in buildings and sculptures by the Mauryas was inspired by the Greek practice of working in stone. Columns of the Ionic order were definitely used in the buildings of Taxila. To speak point wise, the first influence of the Greeks was on the divine right theory of kingship. The Indo-Greeks took high sounding title e like divine kings, sons of gods, etc. and maintained the myth of Empire. Even before Indo-Greek rulers established themselves in India the services of the Greeks were utilized. Ashoka appointed a Greek as very viceroy of his province. And after the Indo-Greek period, a Greek, during the period of Kushans, was entrusted with engineering work. Talking of social life, a number of Greeks figure as donors in the inscription of the Karle caves. The Greek mode of wearing hair and the habit of eating in a lying posture came into vogue. Also when some of the Indo-Greeks settled in India, they took to trade and they became affluent merchants. Even Tamil literature refers to Greek ships bringing cargoes, and the Greek section of Kaveripatnam was very prosperous. And some of the Tamil kings kept Greek body-guards. Regarding science, contemporary writers admit the greatness of the Greek scientists. The Gargi Samhita admits that the Greeks were like gods in science and they penetrated into India as far as Pataliputra. Varahmihira, during the Gupta age was in the know of Greek science and used a number of Greek technical terms in his works, It is also argued that Charaka was influenced by the works of Hippocrates, the father of Medicine, but there is not evidence to confirm this view. Thus it is difficult to conjecture the extent to which ancient scientists of India were influenced by the scientific knowledge of Greeks. In the field of art, first the Indo-Greeks did contribute to die cutters’ art. They showed a remarkable skill in making the portraits of rulers. Also the Greek kings adopt some of the indigenous methods of minting the coins. Although Indians did not fully learn the fine art of die-cutting, the coins of Indian rulers were influenced by the Greeks. Indian adopted the art of striking coins with two dies, the obverse and the reverse. 14
Secondly, the curious open air theatre that came into being in this period was directly a Greek legacy. The term Yavanika for curtain shows that Indian drama, at least on
one point, was influenced by the Greek model, Thridly, the Greek form of sculpture influenced the Gandhara art of the Kushan period. The school began in the Kabul valley where the Greek influence was the maximum. Accordingly tone author, the terracottas of toys and plaques were all influenced by the Greeks. In the religious field too, the Greek influence was felt, as borne out byMillinda-Panho and the Besnagar inscription. Legions of Greeks were converted into Indian religions of the day. One Greek officer, Theodorus, got the relics of the Buddha enshrined in the Swat valley. Besides, Hindu iconography was greatly changed because of the Indo-Greek influences. It is difficult to say how many Babylonian and Iranian Gods were incorporated in Hindu religions. A few deities were taken over by the Parthians and they were adopted by the Kushans. But it is doubtful to say as to which of the Greek dieities were incorporated in the Pantheon of Indian gods. All told, the Greek influence was mostly felt in art (the Gangdhara sculptures, which probably influenced the later day Mathura sculptures) and in religion (gave a fillip to Mahayana Buddhism and popularized the Bhakti aspect of religion as pioneered by the vasudeva cult).