• Kanishka: Patronised Buddhism
Multi-sided Importance of the Age The collapse of the mighty Maurya
empire in the first quarter of the second century BC, ushered in a phase in
ancient Indian political history that is marked with the end of the political
paramountcy of a single power over the greater parts of the subcontinent and
the arrival and consolidation of several foreign powers in the subcontinent.
The fall of the Maurya empire and the series of incursions from the north-
west had previously influenced many historians to consider this as a dark age.
This stance has gradually been discarded. Politically speaking, the downfall
of the Maurya power did not signal any catastrophe, as the process of the
formation of states continued unabated and spread in a noticeable manner to
the Deccan. This is perceived as the advent of ‘secondary’ states, more or less
after the pattern of the formation of the ‘primary’ states, first experienced in
the Ganga valley during the sixth-fifth centuries BC. One may also discern
the fruitful dialogues between the historians of early India and political
anthropologists, in the study of the state in ancient India. Repeated external
invasions may have brought loss of life and property and some political
uncertainties. But the subcontinent in general, came into closer contact with
the west and that bore some fruits in socio-economic and cultural life.
Economic Boom In material culture, the period spanning from 200 BC to
300 AD shows remarkable development of agriculture and irrigation,
diversification of crafts and a spectacular growth of trade (especially external
contacts) and increasing use of coins. These five hundred years are especially
noted for the proliferation of urban centres in virtually the entire
subcontinent. The second urbanisation reached its peak during this phase.
The spread of the state society and urban development seem to have taken
place simultaneously and in an interrelated manner.
Batrian Greeks Among the external powers reaching the subcontinent
through its north-western borderlands, the Bactrian Greek rulers – originally
subservient to the Seleucid house in West Asia – were the earliest to invade
India, coinciding almost with the eclipse of the Maurya empire in 187 BC.
The Greek presence in the north-western borderlands of the subcontinent is