Central Asians

In eastern India, central India and the Deccan, the Mauryas were succeeded by a number of native rulers such as the Shungas, the Kanvas, the Satavahanas. In north west India, they were succeeded by a no of ruling dynasties from central Asia.

The Indo Greeks

A number of invasions took place around 200 BC. The first to invade India were the Greeks, who were also called the Indo Greeks or Bactrian Greeks (because they ruled Bactria). It is said that they pushed forward as far as Ayodhya and Pataliputra. The most famous IndoGreek ruler was Menander (165-145 BC), also known as Milinda. He had his capital at Sakala (modern Sialkot) in Punjab.
He was converted into Buddhism by Nagasena. The conversation between the two has been described in the Pali text, Milinda panho or 'The Questions of Milinda'. Greeks were the first to issue coins which can be definitely attributed to the kings, and also the first to issue gold coins in India. They also introduced the practice of military govenorship. The governors were called ‘Strategos’. The Greek rule introduced features of Hellenistic art in the north-west frontier of India. Gandhara art was its best example
The term ‘Horshastra’, used for astrology in Sanskrit is derived from the Greek term ‘Horoscope’

The Shakas or Scythians (90 BC)

The Greeks were followed by the Shakas, who controlled a larger part of India than the Greek did.
There were 5 branches of the Shakas with their seats of power in different parts of India and Afghanistan.
A king of Ujjain, who called himself Vikramaditya, defeated Shakas. An era called i Vikram Samvat is reckoned from the event of his victory over the Shakas in 57 BC (From this time onward, Vikramaditya became a coveted title).
The most famous Shaka ruler in India was Rudradaman 1 (AD 130-150), ll achievements are highlighted in his Junagarh inscription. This inscription recordsi details the repairs of Sudrashana lake in Kathiarwar. It is the first major inscription, be written in Sanskrit.

 The Parthians

Originally they lived in Iran, invaded at the beginning of Christian era, from where they moved to India. In comparison to Greeks and Shakas, they occupied only a Small portion in north west India in the first century. 
The most famous Parthian King was Gondpphernes (AD 19-45), in whose reign: Thomas is said to have come to India for the propagation of Christianity.

The Kushans (45 AD)

Came from north central Asia near China. Their empire included a good part of central Asia, a portion of Iran, a portion of Afghanistan, Pakistan and almost the whole of north India.
Kanishka (AD 78-144) was their most famous king. He had two capitals first Peshawar, near modern Peshawar and second at Mathara.
He patronized the following persons:

  • Ashwaghosha (wrote ‘Buddhacharita’, which is the biography of Buddha a ‘Sutralankar’)
  • Nagarjuna (wrote ‘Madhyamik Sutra’)
  • Vasumitra (Chairman of fourth Buddhist Council)
  • Charak (a physician, wrote ‘Sasruta’)

Kanishka controlled the famous silk route in Central Asia, which started from China and passed through his empire in Central Asia and Afghanistan to Iran and West Asia which formed part of Roman empire. Kanishka is known in history for two reasons:
He started an era in AD 78, which is now known as Saka era and is used by Govt. of India.
He extended his whole-hearted patronage to Buddhism (Held the fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir).
Some of the successors of Kanishka bore typical Indian names as Vasudeva.
The Gandhara school of art received royal patronage of the Kushans.

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