Home » Subject » History » Study Material » Additional Notes On Ancient History

ADDITIONAL NOTE

The post-Mauryan era is known for meaningdul contacts between central Asia and India. North-western India came under the rule of a number of dynasties hailing from Central Asia.

The first were the Indo-Greeks who earlier ruled over Bactria situated to the South of Oxus river in the area covered by north of Afghanistan. (For details see Indo-Greeks.)

The Indo-Greeks were followed by the Sakas. One of their branches settled in India with Taxila as their capital. Another branch ruled over western India. The latter came into conflict with the Satavahanas. There is nothing conspicuous regarding this contact. The only famous ruler was Rudradaman (130 to 150 A.D.) who undertook repairs to improve Sudarshana lake in Kathiawar, this lake was used for a very long time. Also, he was a patron of Sanskrit. It was the who first issued a long inscription in chaste Sanskrit.

After the Sakas, the Central Asians who influenced India were the Kushans. They originally came from the steppes of north Central Asia and lived in the neighbourhood of China. (Refer to the topic on the Kushans for further details).

In general the central Asia contactsled to certain developments. Building activity was very brisk. Burnt brick was used for flooring and tiles were used forboth flooring and roofing. Also, brick wells wre constructed. The typical pottery of the Saka-Kushan period was the red ware, both plain and polished. Some pots have spouted channels. Such like objects have been found in Soviet Central Asia also.

More important is the fact that the Sakas and the Kushans settled in India for good. They adopted the scripts, languages and religious of India. Thus they became integral parts of Indian society and this fusion of the Sakas and the Kushans with Indian society left its own imprint. They introduced better cavalry and use of riding hourses on a large scale. Use of reins and Saddles became common as shown in the Buddhist sculptures of the second and the third centuries A.D. Numerous equestian terracotta figures of the Kushan period have been found. Horsemen were heavily armed and fought with spears and lances. More important are the changes introduced by them in the ordinary pattern of life - turbans, tunics, truousers and heavy long coat. The first one is worn by the Afghans and Punjabis till today and probably the Sherwani of today is the successor of the long coat.

The close contacts between Central Asia and India also led to the import of gold from the Altai mountains in Central Asia. Also, as the Kushans controlled the silk Route they derived large revenues. This made the Kushans issue gold coins for the first time on a wide scale in India.

Furthermore, the rule of central Asian conquerors strengthened the feudal tendencies of society. The very fact that the Kushans called themselves 'King of kings' shows that they exercised suzerainty over small princes. Along with this new dimension in polity, the Sakas and Kushans introduced the concept of Divieright of kingship. The Kushan kings called themselves sons of god. Possibly this has made manu state that the king should be obeyed because he is a great god ruling in the form of human beings.

In matters relating to society, the Greeks, the Sakas, the parthians and the Kushans came to be absorbed as the Kshatriya community. These were known as the falled kshatriyas.

In matters of religion, a good number of foreign rulers believed in Vaishanavism. The greek ambassador Heliodorus got a pillar constructed in honour of Vishnu near Vidisa in Madhya Pradesh. A few took to Buddhism like the Greek ruler. Menander. The exchange of views between the Buddhist teacher Nagasena of nagarjuna and Menander constitutes a good source for the cultural history of this period. Finaly, some Kushan rulers took to worship of Shiva and the Buddha.

These contects with foreigners led to some changes in Indian religions. The old form of Buddhism was too puritanical and too abstract for foreigners. They were in no position to apprecie the philosophy of Buddhism as emphasized by the existing Buddhist schools. To satisfy these foreigners, the Mahayana or the Great Vehicle came into existence in which the Buddha is worshipped in the form of images. Those who followed the older version of Buddhism or lesser Vehicle were known as Hinayanists. Kanishaka was a great patron of Mahayana. He convened a council in Kashmir and he had set up many stupas in memory of the Buddha.

Also, these foreign rulers became patrons of Indian ort and literature. Masons and artisans trained in different schools of thought were employed by the Kushans particularly in north-western India Indian artisans came into contact with their Greek and roman counterparts. Such was the beginning of the Gandhara art in which images of the Buddha were made in Graeco-Roman style. This from of art gradually spread to Mathura is borne out by the famous headless statue of Kanishaka. This particular school of art was also instrumental for a good number of stone images of Mahavir.

It was this impetus that activated the artistic impulse of India. In several places south of the Vindhyas beautiful Buddhist caves were carved out of rocks, the famous ones in Maharashtra. In Andhra Pradesh, nagarjunkunda and Amravati were the centers of Buddhist art. The stories related to the Buddha have been portrayed in numerous panels.

The foreign rulers were also instrumental for providing a stimulus to literature and learning. The inscription of Rudradaman in Kathawar reveals the Kavya style in Sanskrit. More and more inscriptions came to be composed in chaste Sanskrit. It is also held that Asvaghosa was probably patronized by the Kushans. He wrote Buddha Charita, a biography of the Buddha. He also wrote Saundarananda which is a fine example of Sanskrit Kavya. In matters relating to theeatre also, the contact with central Asian rulers led to some changes. The feature of curtain in dramatic performances was borrowed from the Greeks.

Finally, in the field of science and technology contacts with central Asian foreigners led to certain developments. The presence of a great number of Greek terms in Sanskrit shows that Indian astronomy and astrology benefited from their contact with the Greeks. It is said that the term Horasastra' meaning astrology in Sanskrit was adapted from the Greek term horoscope. In technology, Indian gained from its contacts with the Central Asians. Kanishaka is represented as wearing trousers and long boots. It is conjectured that the practice of making leather shoes began in this period. Also, the copper and gold coins of the Kushans were imitations of the Roman coins. There was exchange of embassises between India and the Roman experors. These contactw might have led to new practices in technology. For certain, working in glass during this period was influenced by foreign ideas and practices.

Next » History Of Funan And Cambodia