March 7, 2019
Indo Greek and Shakas
- The Indo-Greek kingdom was ruled by over 30 Hellenistic (Greek) kings in north-west and north India
- They ruled from the 2nd century BC to the beginning of the 1st century AD.
- The kingdom started when Graeco-Bactrian king Demetrius invaded India around 180 BC.
- He conquered southern Afghanistan and parts of Punjab.
- The Indo-Greek kings imbibed Indian culture and became political entities with a mix of Greek and Indian culture.
- For about 25 years, the Indo-Greek kingdoms were under the Euthydemid rule.
- The civil wars among the many Bactrian kings after the death of Demetrius facilitated the independent kingdom of Apollodotus I
- He can be regarded as the 1st proper Indo-Greek king (whose rule was not from Bactria).
- His kingdom included Gandhara and western Punjab.
- Most of the Indo-Greek kings were Buddhists and Buddhism flourished under their rule.
- In ancient Indian sources, Greeks were called Yavanas (Sanskrit) and Yonas (Pali).
Menander I (165 – 145 BC)
- Menander I was also known as Minedra, Minadra or Milinda (in Pali).
- He was initially a king of Bactria.
- His empire extended from Kabul river valley in the west to the Ravi River in the east, and from Swat valley in the north to Arachosia (Helmand in Afghanistan).
- His capital was Sakala, modern day Sialkot, Punjab.
- According to some Indian sources, Menander I went as far as Rajasthan and Pataliputra.
- Menander was converted to Buddhism and patronized the faith.
- He died in 130 BC and was succeeded by his son Strato I.
- The Milinda Panha records a dialogue between Menander I and the Buddhist sage Nagasena.
- Milinda Panha is composed around 100 BC and originally written in Sanskrit.
- In the Milinda Panha, Menander I is described as a wise, learned and able king.
- At the end of it, Menander accepts Buddhism and converts.
- He was defeated by the Parthians around the last quarter of the 2nd century BCE
- It led to the end of Greek rule in Bactria and the area to the south of the Hindu Kush
Decline of the Indo-Greek kingdom
- The last Indo-Greek king was Strato II.
- He ruled the Punjab region until 55 BC, some say until 10 AD.
- Their rule ended with the invasions of the Indo-Scythians (Sakas).
- It is believed that Greek people lived for several centuries more in India under the Indo-Parthians and the Kushans.
Impact of Indo-Greek Rule
- The Indo-Greeks were the 1st rulers in India to issue coins which can be definitely attributed to any dynasty
- Indo-Greeks were 1st to issue gold coins in India
- Basic features of coinage were the bilingual Greek and Kharoshthi (rarely in Brahmi) and bi-script.
- They introduced new features of Hellenistic art and literature such as Gandhara school of art.
- It was the outcome of the intermingling of both Indian and central Asian contacts.
- An example of this mingling is the Besnagar Pillar inscription of Heliodorus.
- The Hellenistic Greeks are also known for their monumental buildings
- Indo-Greeks also introduced practice of military governorship
- Governors were called strategos or satraps
- Scythians referred to as Shakas in Indian sources.
- They were a group of Iranian nomadic pastoral tribes.
- Patanjali in his Mahabhasya refers to the Shakas as ‘Anirvasita (pure) Shudras’
- In the 2nd century BC, central Asian nomadic tribes and tribes from the Chinese region invaded the region of present-day Kazakhstan whose inhabitants were Scythians.
- This promoted the Scythians to move towards Bactria and Parthia.
- After defeating the Parthian king, they moved towards India.
- Scythians who migrated to India are known as Indo-Scythians.
- The Shakas had an Indian kingdom larger than the Indo-Greeks.
- Syctho-Parthians ruled through their kshatrapas (viceroys) and mahakshatrapas (subordinate rulers).
Branches of the Shakas
- There were five branches of the Shakas settled in different parts of India and Afghanistan
- 1st branch of the Shakas
- Settled in Aghanistan.
- Prominent rulers of this branch were Vonones and Spalirises.
- 2nd branch
- Settled in Punjab with Taxila as their capital.
- Maues was a prominent ruler.
- 3rd branch
- Settled in Mathura, where it ruled for about two centuries.
- Azilises was a prominent ruler.
- 4th branch
- Established its hold over western India where they ruled until 4th century AD.
- Prominent ruler was Rudradaman I
- 5th branch
- Established its power in the upper Deccan.
Maues (80 – 65 BC)
- Maues, also known as Moga was the earliest Indo-Scythian king.
- He ruled over Gandhara, present day Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- His capital was at Sirkap (Punjab, Pakistan).
- Many coins issued by Maues have been found.
- Coins contain Buddhist and also Hindu symbols.
- The languages used in these coins were Greek and Kharoshti.
- His son Azes I acquired the remaining Indo-Greek territories by defeating Hippostratos.
Shaka Kshatrapas of Western India
Bhumaka (around 78 AD)
- Originally owed allegiance to Kanishka.
- His coins, with legends in Brahmi and Kharoshthi, found at Malwa, Ajmer area, and coastal Gujarat.
Nahapana (119 – 25 AD)
- Progressed in his career from kshatrapa to mahakshatrapa and ultimately to rajan or king.
- His capital was at Minnagara (modern day, between Ujjain and Broach)
- Malwa, Gujarat, Saurashtra, northern Maharashtra, and parts of Rajasthan and lower Indus valley were under his control.
- Shaka Kshatrapas were involved in continuous conflict with the Satavahanas
- Reason of conflict was the control over the Deccan and the western seaport areas
- Around 125 AD, Nahapana was killed by the Satavahana ruler, Gautamiputra Satkarni
- The Kardamakas are the another line of the Shaka kshatrapas who ruled
- western India after the Kshaharatas dynasty came to an end.
Chastana (78 – 130 AD)
- He was the founder of the Kardamaka dynasty, who ruled over Ujjain.
- Originally ruled in the Sind area as a subordinate of the Kushanas
- The Shaka Era is believed to have started at his ascension to power in 78 AD.
- Ptolemy mentions him as “Tiasthenes” or “Testenes”.
- The other dynasty was called Kshaharatas and included the king Nahapana (who was defeated by Satavahana king Gautamiputra Satakarni).
Rudradaman I (130 – 150 AD)
- Rudradaman I is considered the greatest of the Saka rulers, from the Western Kshatrapa dynasty.
- Rudradaman I was the grandson of Chastana.
- His kingdom included Konkan, Narmada valley, Kathiawar, other parts of Gujarat and Malwa.
- Rudradaman I is famous in history for his repair work of Sudarshana lake at Kathiawar
- This task is described in the famous Junagarh or Girnar Inscription
- This is the 1st chaste Sanskrit royal inscription of early India, when all others were generally composed in Prakrit.
- Rudradaman I married a Hindu woman and had converted to Hinduism.
- He supported Sanskrit literature and cultural arts and issued the first long inscription in chaste Sanskrit.
- Rudradaman I took up the title of Makakshatrapa after becoming king.
- He maintained marital relationships with the Satavahanas.
- Vashishtiputra Pulumavi was his son-in-law.
- But Rudradaman I also fought numerous wars with them and defeated Gautamiputra Satkarni.
- He regained through conquests most of the territories previously under Nahapana.
- It was during Rudradaman I reign that Yavaneshwara, the Greek writer lived in India and translated the Yavanajataka from Greek to Sanskrit.
Decline of the Shakas
- The Shakas Empire started declining after their defeat at the hands of the Satavahana Emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni.
- The Saka dynasty rule in nort-hwest India and Pakistan came to an end after the death of Azes II (12 BC) when the region came under the Kushanas.
- In western India, their rule came to an end in the 4th century AD when the last Western Satrap Saka dynasty ruler Rudrasimha III was defeated by Chandragupta II of the Gupta dynasty.