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Iranian Invasion of India

Historical Context

  • Timeline:
    • Iranians invaded India in the 6th century B.C, during the rule of King Darius I in Iran.
    • Invasion and occupation of territories in the North-Western Frontier Province, Sind, and Punjab in 516 B.C.

Occupation Duration:

  • The Iranian Empire maintained control over these territories until Alexander’s invasion of India.

Condition in India during the Invasion:

  • North-East India:
    • Smaller principalities and republics gradually merged with the Magadhan Empire.
  • North-West India:
    • Presented a different picture in the sixth century BC.
    • Several small principalities, including the Kambojas, Gandharas, and Madras, were engaged in conflicts.
    • Absence of a powerful kingdom like Magadha in the region to unify the warring communities.
    • The area’s fertility and rich natural resources made it attractive to neighboring regions.
    • Vulnerability to penetration through the passes in the Hindu Kush.

Iranian Invasion of India: Key Points

Achaemenian Rulers’ Strategy:

  • Time Frame:
    • Achaemenian rulers of Iran expanded their empire concurrently with Magadhan princes in India.

Political Disunity Exploited:

  • Achaemenian rulers took advantage of the political disunity prevailing on the north-west frontier of India.

Darius’s Invasion (516 B.C.):

  • Ruler:
    • Darius I led the invasion, penetrating north-west India in 516 B.C.
  • Territories Annexed:
    • Annexed the Punjab, west of the Indus, and Sindh.
  • Creation of Satrapy:
    • The annexed area transformed into the twentieth province or Satrapy of Iran.
    • The Iranian Empire comprised a total of twenty-eight satrapies.
  • Composition of Indian Satrapy:
    • The ‘Indian satrapy’ encompassed Sindh, the north-west frontier, and part of Punjab west of the Indus.
  • Military Inclusion:
    • Indian subjects were enlisted in the Iranian army.

Role in Greek War (Xerxes’s Reign):

  • Xerxes, Darius’s Successor:
    • Employed Indians in the long war against the Greeks.
  • Continued Rule until Alexander’s Invasion:
    • India appeared to remain a part of the Iranian empire until its invasion by Alexander.

Impact of Iranian Invasion on India

1. Political Impact:

  • Exposure of Weakness:
    • Invasion exposed the weakness of Indian defense in the region, paving the way for Alexander’s conquest.
  • Satrap System:
    • Persian Satrap system of administration served as a model for later dynasties, especially the Sakas and Kushanas.
  • Lesson on Unity:
    • Indians learned the necessity of a strong and united empire to repel foreign invasions.

2. Encouragement to Trade:

  • Mutual Contacts:
    • Growth of trade between the two countries.
    • Indian traders reached distant places in the vast Persian Empire.
    • Persian goods flowed into India.

3. Settlement of Foreigners:

  • Migration:
    • Large numbers of foreigners (Greek, Persian, Turks) settled in North-Western India.
  • Integration:
    • With time, foreigners were completely absorbed among the Indian population.

4. Impact on Art and Architecture:

  • Iranian Influence on Indian Art:
    • Ashoka adopted Iranian custom of inscribing ideals on stone pillars.
    • Iranians influenced the art of polishing in India.
  • Cultural Exchange:
    • Indian scholars went to Persia, exchanging views with Persian intellectuals.
    • Closer ties between the two cultures.

5. Indo-Persian Cultural Exchange:

  • Philosophical Exchange:
    • Indian scholars visited Persia, fostering an exchange of ideas.
  • Change in Outlook:
    • Contact with Persia brought a change in the outlook of Indian people.

6. Influence on Mauryan Rule:

  • Ceremonies and Rituals:
    • Mauryan rulers adopted certain Persian ceremonies and rituals.
  • Asoka’s Edicts:
    • Asoka’s architecture influenced by Persian architecture.
    • Influence seen in preamble to Ashoka’s edicts and terms used.

7. Kharoshti Script:

  • Development:
    • Aramaic writing introduced by Persians developed into Kharoshti script in North-Western India.
  • Asokan Inscriptions:
    • Asokan rock inscriptions in North-West India were engraved in the Kharoshti script.

8. Coinage Impact:

  • Refined Minting:
    • Persian silver coins in circulation known for refined minting.
    • Indian rulers adopted similar techniques for minting coins on the Persian model.

9. Greed for Indian Wealth:

  • Learning from Iranians:
    • Greeks learned about the great wealth of India through Iranians.
    • This information fueled Alexander’s invasion of India.




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