Delineate the nature and impact of India’s contact with Western Asia and the Mediterranean world during the Maurya period.
Nature of India’s contact with Western Asia and Mediterranean world
- Diplomatic contact:
- It can be seen in examples like presence of Greek Ambassador Megathenes in the court of Chandragupta, Syrian Ambassador Deimachus and Egyptian Ambassador Dionysius in Bindusara’s court.
- Cordial relationship:
- It can be seen in the story of Bindusara requesting Antiochus to buy and send him some sweet wine, dried figs and a sophist which indicates good relationship between India and Syria.
- Trade contact:
- Trade and Commerce between India and Western Asia and the Mediterranean world flourished which is supported by evidence of Greek and Persian coins and accounts of Megasthenes, Arabian etc.
- Cultural contact:
- It can be seen in several mutual impacts on cultural areas like art of making sculptures, religious contact etc.
- Dhamma missions were sent to different countries and Ashoka claims to have attained Dhamma-Vijaya in the dominions of Antiochus II, Ptolemy II, Philadelphus of Egypt, Magas of Cyrene (North Africa), Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia, and Alexander of Epirus.
- Matrimonial relationship:
- According to Roman historian Appian, Seleucus entered into the marriage relationship with Chandragupta Maurya, however, this account is not very reliable.
Impact of India’s contact
- Achaemenid rulers Cyrus and Darius annexed parts of Punjab and Sindh. Indian subjects enrolled in the Achaemenid army. Their rule lasted for 2 centuries.
- Flourishing trade and commerce between Persia and India.
- Some Persian gold and silver coins were found in Punjab.
- Impact on the administrative structure of Mauryan empire.
- For ex – Persian title of Satrapa (governor) continued to be used by Indian Provincial governors as Kshtrapa.
- Use of Kharosthi in Ashokan Inscriptions.
- Influence is seen in Ashokan edicts, Mauryan art and culture like in Ashokan pillars.
- Chandragupta Maurya used to take ceremonial hair bath. It used to be in typical Persian style.
- Presence of sacred fire shows Zoroastrian influence.
- Alexander’s conquest of North-west India and North-west India came under Seleucus Nikator, who declared himself king after Alexander’s death. It led to the destruction of many existing states and wiping out independent existence of some of them. It helped Chandragupta Maurya as it paved the way for unification and conquest of Northwest India by Chandragupta Maurya hence
- Discovery of routes by sea and land between India and Greek world led to increase in trade and commerce and increase in contact between India and Europe.
- Art of making well-shaped and beautifully designed gold and silver coins came from Greeks.
- Greek art of image making influenced Indian art which later on led to the development of Gandhara School of Art.
- Greek influenced Indian astrology.
- Greek accounts of Megathenes, Arrian etc provide valuable information about socio-economic life including crafts like carpentry, brisk trade, prosperity etc. They also closely observed the Indian philosophical systems and noted in their descriptions.
- Ideas and notions of Indian philosophy and religion went to the Western world.
- Greek accounts also helped in framing chronology of ancient Indian history. For ex – Date of Alexander’s victory in 326 BC. Indian texts like Puranas have ignored to record events in chronological order.
In this way the impact of contact was in every aspect of life which was visible not only in Mauryan period but in later time as well. selfstudyhistory.com