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Persians And Greek Invasion – The Cumulative Effect

An influence on Indian Culture

Both the Persian and Greek invasions left significant impact on Indian civilization. The political systems of the Persians influenced the potential formats of governance and administration on the Indian subcontinent, as well as the administration of the Mauryan dynasty. In addition to this, the Gandhara region (today’s eastern Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan), gave rise to a Multi-Cultured Civilization which was formed by influence of Indian, Persian, Central Asian and Greek cultures.

Invasion by Persians

India’s extraordinary history is intimately tied to its geography and has always been an invader’s heaven. After Aryans invasion into India, the second great invasion occurred by Persians. The Persian Achaemenid Empire, in 520 BC, succeeded in occupying much of the northwestern Indian Subcontinent (Eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan of today) lead by the kings Cyrus and Darius. The Indus Valley remained under them for two centuries thereafter. In comparison with Aryan Empire, the Persian influence was trivial, possibly because they could possibly occupy the region for only a brief time period of 150 years.

Arrival of Alexander, The Great

Then in 326 BC, Asia Minor and the Persian Achaemenid Empire was defeated by Alexander the Great, who started occupying most of it, reaching till the north-west frontiers of the Indian subcontinent. There, King Puru was defeated by him in the Battle of the Hydaspes (near Jhelum, Pakistan) and conquered a vast portion of the Punjab. Then Alexander’s started marching towards East Frontier confronting with the Nanda Empire of Magadha and Gangaridai Empire of Bengal. His army, out of exhaustion and panic by the prospect of fighting the larger Indian armies at the River Ganges, rebelled at the Hyphasis (modern Beas) and refused to march further.

Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, namely Coenus, was persuaded to return. He took most of his army southwestern part of the region, adding almost all of ancient Pakistan to his empire. Alexander created defense force for his troops in his new territories, and founded several cities in the areas of the Arachosia, Oxus and Bactria, and Macedonian/Greek settlements in Gandhara, such as Taxila, and Punjab. These regions had a geographical passageway south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush mountains known as the Khyber Pass. In addition, the Bolan Pass was on a trade route connecting Arachosia, Drangiana, and other Persian and Central Asia areas to the lower Indus region. It is through above mentioned regions that most of the dealings between South Asia and Central Asia took place, making possible most of influential cultural exchange and trade deals.

As the Persians and Greeks subdued the Indus Valley region and the northwest, Aryan kingdoms continued prospering in the East. Around 5th century BC, the religion Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama. The overextension of Hellenistic sphere declined, and a king namely Chandragupta swept back through the region from Magadha (today’s Bihar) and occupied his way well into Afghanistan. This was the onset of one India’s greatest dynasties, known as the Maurya. The Empire of Mauryan was founded by King Chandragupta Maurya around 324 BC. Chandragupta Maurya’s rule was ended in 298 BC that saw the expansion of his kingdom to large part of Northern India. It has also spread up to present day Afghanistan and many provinces from Central Asia.

Due to the cumulative effect of Greek culture and spreading Buddhism, Greco-Buddhism, a hybrid culture was developed in parts of Afghanistan, Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan. This reflects the result of Greek annexation over Northern part of India which ultimately led to foundation of Mahayana Buddhism which is considered as one of the main branches of Buddhism.

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