ancient indian history


Pushyamitra – The early Indo Greek hindu Ruler.

Consequent to Alexander’s death at Babylon in about 323 B. C. his vast empire was apportioned among his generals. Central Asia fell to the share of Seleucus Nicator, whose descendants continued to rule over this extensive region from their headquarters at Antioch in Syria. About 20 B. C. Diodotus I, the satrap of Bactria, threw off the Seleucid yoke and began to rule independently. But his son and successor, Diodotus II, was assassinated in a court intrigue by Euthydemus, himself, a satrap of the former. This event took place well before 208 B. C., since on this date Antiochus III of Syria led an expedition to reassert his authority over Bactria, and finding himself unable to crush Euthydemus, he concluded an alliance with this Bactrian king. In return for recognition of nominal Seleucid suzerainty, which soon became a dead letter, Antiochus left him his kingdom and gave his daughter in marriage to youthful Demetrius, the promising and handsome son of Euthydemus. This fact of marriage, referred to by Polybius, is confirmed by a pedigree coin of Demetrius son, Agathocles. In the legend, he traces his descent from “Antiochus the Conqueror.”

By the closing years of the 3rd century B. C. India had lost the unity and cohesion given to her by the powerful early Mauryas. This great family had split up, into several branches, each ruling independently over small dominions. Jalauka, a son of Asoka, was ruling over Kashmir. We know from Polybius that about 212 B. C., Subhagasena, presumably another Maurya, was ruling in Afganistan. The imperial throne at Patliputra was occupied by Salisuka. But it appears that his dictate did not run beyond the borders of ancient Magadha, for we know that Brihadratha, a pretender to the imperial Mauryan crown, was running his court at Saketa. The Brahmanda and the Vayu Puranas seem to uphold the claim to imperial status of the line of rulers to which Brihadratha belonged, to the exclusion of Salisuka and his predecessors. But the sway of the Saketa house, too, did not extend in the west beyond the river Yamuna. The princes ruling in Vidisa (Gwalior) and Vidarbha (Berar) owed nominal allegiance to one or the other of the two houses. The entire country west of the Yamuna as far as the Indus was under the control of tribal republics (Janapadas) and city corporations (nigamas) who probably began to issue coins about this time. Later about 1st century B. C., influenced by the superior art of the Indo-Greek mint-men, the tribal republics are known to have issued even inscribed coins. Such were the conditions in India, when the remaining check to the political ambitions of Bactria was removed. About 194 B. C. Antiochus III of Syria got hopelessly involved in hostilities with the Romans. Defeated first at Thermopylae and shortly afterwards at Magnesia, he became powerless to interfere in the designs of Euthydemus and his son, Demetrius. Subhagasena of Afghanistan, too, was presumably dead about, this time. Euthydemus at once seized the opportunity and began to extend his power in all directions. He snatched from Parthia the satrapies of Astauene and Apavarktikene. These, under the names Tapuria, and Traxiane respectively, were added to the Bactrian province of Margiane to form a sub-kingdom with headquarters at Merv for his third son, Antimachus.

Euthydemus reoccupied Sogdiana and Ferghana. Thus strengthened, he sent his eldest son, Demetrius, on an expedition into India. On this occasion the latter advanced as far as Sakala, and renamed this city as Euthydemia in honour of his father and sovereign. At this point his father suddenly died. Demetrius returned to Bactria to be crowned. But the Greek garrisons left behind at Sakala were annihilated by Jalauka of Kashmir. Thus the traces of his first invasion into India proper disappeared. He may, however, have retained hold over Kapisa and parts of Gandhara. Soon after accession in about 192 B. C. Demetrius occupied Arachosia.” Apollodotus, his younger brother, was appointed sub-king with head-quarters at Alexandria (mod. Kandahar) to govern this region. About this time, when Apollodotus was encamped at Kalasi-grāma, his queen gave birth to Menander. Demetrius now began to equip his art for an invasion into the interior of India. Consolidation of his hold over Kapisa, Arachosia and Gandhära and preparation for further aggression may have taken about two years. When ready, he reorganised his administration in a way that left him and Apollodotus free to lead the invading armies. The eldest son, Euthydemus II, was appointed sub-king of Bactria. The next son, Demetrius II, was made sub-king of Kapisa and possibly Arachosia. And the third son, Pantaleon, was appointed to administer Gandhara with headquarters at Pushkalavati (near mod. Charsadda). Antimachus, the youngest brother of Demetrius, was already ruling as sub king at Merv. Before Demetrius could set off from his base at Taxila two accidents occured that seriously affected his plans. Euthydemus II died. Immediate arrangements had to be made for the governance of the Bactrian satrapy. Demetrius II was, therefore, given the additional charge of administering Bactria. The second and more serious happening was the revolt in Gandhara. Freedom-loving people of this region, known as Gandharvas or Asvkas, shock off the foreign yoke, killed Pantaleon, the Greek sub-king, and possibly put the forces of occupation to flight. According to the Mahabharata” it took Demetrius three years in re-establishing his authority there. After quelling this insurrection, he appointed his youngest son, Agathocles. as sub-king in Pancaleon’s place. We can presume, he left some trusted lieutenant to assist the young prince.

In about 187 B. C. Demetrius was free from domestic preoccupations to launch his Indian expedition, which he had been planning for many years. His strategy was to drive around northern India, two pincers which were planned to close in on Pataliputra, Led by Apollodotus one jaw of the pincers was driven into Sindh and Surashtra. Thence, turning inland this column advanced towards Vidisā. The stronghold of Madhyamikä near Chittor stood in the way.. Here his advance was finally checked by some Indian ruler, who, on circumstantial evidence, appears to have been Agnimitra Sunga. In the Malavikagnimitram of Kalidasa the latter figures as the sub-king of his father, Pushyamitra, at the provincial headquarter, Vidiša, located nearby. The siege of Madhyamika failed, and Apollodotus was driven back across Surashtra into Sauvira or Sindh.

Demetrius placed himself at the head of the other pincer, which comprised the major part of the Greek army. He crossed Panjab and set up his advance base at Mathura, from where he proceeded to lay stege to Saketa. Having failed to subdue this city even after a long siege he decided to by-pass Saketa and advance to the famous city of Pataliputra. His sudden advance, it appears, gave a shattering blow to the power and prestige of the Maurya rulers. Pushyamitra Sunga, the Commander-in-Chief of the Maurya forces, took advantage of the general discontent of the army and the people at the cowardly policy of the Maurya rulers, who fondly described their inaction and cowardice as Dharma-vijaya. On the occasion of an army review and in full view of the assembled forces Pushyamitra cut off the head of king Brihadratha Maurya” and took over the reigns of government. Thus freed from the emasculating Maurya overlordship, he, at once, attacked the Greek base at Mathura. Demetrius, who was at the moment pounding at the mud-walls of Pataliputra, fell back in confusion. Apollodotus, too, had suffered a crushing defeat about this time at Madhyamika and was fleeing post-haste towards Sauvira. While the Greeks were in retreat everywhere. Pushyamitra instigated a revolt in Bactria through one Eukratides. With a handful of followers the latter evaded Demetrius II, the sub king at Bactria, for quite some months and ultimately drove him south of the Hindu Koh.

(Mahabhashya. speaks of this Yavana siege which became renowned obviously for the heroism of the defenders. Yuga Purana of the Garza Sambită, also refers on this regard)

त्रिवर्ष-कृत-यत्नस्तु गंधर्वाण: मुपप्लवे । अर्जुन-प्रमुखः पार्थः सौवीरः समरे हृतः॥ दत्तामित्रमिति ख्यातं संग्रामे कृतनिश्चयम् |सुमित्रं नाम सौवीरमर्जुनोऽदमयच्छरैः ॥ Pushyamitra eventually overtook and overpowered the fleeing Greek hosts. Having killed Demetrius in the final battle, Pushyamitra crossed the Indus and occupied the Swat valley, where his descendants, Viyakamitra and Vijayamitra continued to rule till Saka-Pahlava times. Apollodotus, who succeeded Demetrius, sought peace. He was allowed to rule over Sauvira, as a Sunga vassal.

After driving out the invaders, the first task before Pushyamitra was to re-establish central authority over the disintegrating Maurya dominions. As the Maurya power collapsed numerous upstarts had proclaimed their independence in various parts of the empire. Pushyamitra performed an Aśvamedha sacrifice by way of proclamation of his authority as an imperial power. In the process he destroyed not only the free-booters like Kharavela of Kalinga but also the remnants of the Maurya authority, such as represented by Salisuka of Paraliputra. It is known from the Malavik Agnimitram of Kalidasa, that his son, Agnimitra, ruling over Vidisa as his sub king, had captured an escaping minister of an unnamed Maurya king. It has already been mentioned that on hearing the debacle of Demetrian armies in India. Eukratides had revolted and established himself in Bactria. A long drawn out struggle for power between him and the descendants of Demetrius is indicated by what are known as pedigree or propaganda coins. Eukratides issued his Heliocles and Laodike type of coins, by way of proclaiming his descent from the Seleucid house of Syria. This seems to have caused a large number of defections to his side from Demetrian legions. The loyalty of Greek armies to the house of Seleucus is well-known. In order to stem the tide of largescale defections from their ranks the Demetrian princes, Antimachus I and Agathocles, issued many pedigree typer one after the other. Resort to patent falsehoods, such as claiming descent even from Diodotus and Alexander, shows the desperate state to which they were driven.

Eukratides occupied even Kapist and perhaps Arachosia. Eventually he killed Antimachus and Agathocles, his Demetrian adversaries. But by this time the Greek armies had discovered that Eukratides was merely a Sunga stooge. Greek emotions ran so wild against him that his son Heliocles got panicky and killed him when he was returning in triumph after destroying his enemies of the Demetrian house. In order to assert his dissociation from his father’s treachery to the Greek cause, Heliocles drove his chariot over Eukratides dead body and ordered it to be cast away unburied.

Pushyamitra ruled peacefully for 36 years. His empire extended from the Swat valley to Vidarbha and from Surashtra to Kamarupa. But during the later part of his long reign peace was again disturbed by the Greeks. Apollodotus, who had been defying Sunga authority for quite some time, now crossed the Indus and occupied the Sindh Sagar, Doab as far as Taxila. This aggression forced the hands of Pushyamitra. A second horse sacrifice was planned. The sacrificial horse was deliberately driven into the occupied region. Apollodotus challenged the Sunga forces which were operating under the command of young Vasumitra, grandson of Pushyamitra. In an encounter on the southern bank of the Indus, the youthful prince inflicted а crushing defeat on the Yavanas. battle-field can be located somewhere north of Taxila near the bridge-head of Ohind. Apollodotus was killed. The Sunga authority was re-established in the Sindh Sagar Doab.

( Mahabharata, alludes to the Yavana defiance of Indian authority and records the death of Apollodotus in battle)

Menander, son and successor of Apollodotus, must have come to terms with the Sungas on the basis of Status quo ante. By this time, he had attained considerable administrative experience. Menander’s father had associated him in administration at a very young age. On the earliest coins he issued as a sub-king he is depicted as a boy in his teens. About 160 B.C., when he came to the throne, Menander was thirty or a few years older. He was a shrewd and powerful ruler. Sungas were at the height of their power. Menander maintained correct relations with them and looked to the north for expansion. He seems to have recovered Gandhara and Kapisa from Heliocles. is indicated by his Pushkalavatl and Kapiśī types. At about 140 B. C. the powerful Sunga emperor Agnimitra died. Menander was not tardy in taking advantage of the situation. He occupied west Panjab. At Sakala (modern Sialkot) he met the Buddhist sage Nagasena, whose discourses impressed him to such an extent that he entered the Buddhist faith. The Sungas did not wait long for retaliation. Plutarch records Menander’s death in camp. probably in war, against the Sungas. Scarcity of his Buddhist coinage indicates a brief reign after the conversion. He may have lost his life about 138 B.C. Menander’s teen-aged son, Strato, was raised to the throne, with queen Agathocleia acting as the regent. The joint rule of mother and son lasted about three years, during which they issued at least four joint types. These types provide an interesting commentary on how rapidly power slipped from the hands of Agathocleia, till she altogether disappeared from the coinage. Heliocles, though old now. took advantage of the essential weakness of a woman’s administration, and annexed Kapisi, and Pushkalavati, the cities he had earlier lost to Menander.

(The Milinda-panho records his visit and consequent conversion)

He, in turn, was driven out of Bactria by the Sakas about 130 B. C. Heliccles, or perhaps, his successor Antialkidas, occupied even Taxila, which was the latter’s seat of government, in about 100 B. C., according to the Besnagar inscription. It appears, the Sungas, too, reoccupied the west Panjab as far as the Jhelum, thereby linking up with their old allies, the Eukratidian princes, and exchanged ambassadors with them.

Antialkidas and Strato both lived long and witnessed the gradual erosion of Greek power in north-west India. The Sakas spread over Arachosia, Seistan and Sindh. About 80 B. C. they overwhelmed Strato in his helpless old age. Soon they moved west into the territories of Antialkidas and set up in Kapisi-Nikaea region of northern Afghanistan puppet Greek princes, who became pawns in the struggle for power between Maues in the south and Azes in Seistan and Arachosia, till they were wiped out by one or the other of these two Saka rulers.

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