The Persian Invasions of India

Cyrus (558 – 530 B.C)

Cyrus the Great was the greatest conqueror of the Achaemenian Empire. He was the first conqueror who led an expedition and entered into India. He captured the Gandhara region. All Indian tribes to the west of the Indus river submitted to him and paid tribute. His son Cambyses had no time to pay attention towards India.

Darius I (522 – 486 B.C.)

Darius I, the grandson of Cyrus, conquered the Indus valley in 518 B.C. and annexed the Punjab and Sindh. This region became the 20th Satrapy of his empire. It was the most fertile and populous province of the Achaemenian Empire. Darius sent a naval expedition under Skylas to explore the Indus.

Xerxes (465-456 B.C.)

Xerxes utilized his Indian province to strengthen his position. He deployed Indian infantry and cavalry to Greece to fight his opponents. But they retreated after Xerxes faced a defeat in Greece. After this failure, the Achaemenians could not follow a forward policy in India. However, the Indian province was still under their control.

Darius III enlisted Indian soldiers to fight against Alexander in 330 B.C. It is evident that the control of Persians slackened on the eve of Alexander’s invasion of India.

Effects of the Persian Invasion

The Persian invasion provided an impetus to the growth of Indo-Iranian commerce. Also, it prepared the ground for Alexander’s invasion. The use of the Kharoshti script, a form of Iranian writing became popular in northwestern India and some of Asoka’s edicts were written in that script. We are able to see the influence of Persian art on the art of the Mauryas, particularly the monolithic pillars of Asoka and the sculptures found on them. The very idea of issuing edicts by Asoka and the wording used in the edicts are traced to Iranian influence. In short, the Iranian connection with India proved more fruitful than the short-lived Indo-Macedonian contact.

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