Middle Kingdoms of India
BY: SUN STAFF
The extent of Maurya Empire
Mar 21, 2015 CANADA (SUN) A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.
This Earth planet was formerly known as Ajanabha, in reference to the reign of King Nabhi, but after Bharata Maharaja ruled the planet, it became celebrated as Bharata-varsa. (Srimad Bhagavatam 5.7.3) There are many references to the name, origin and general description of Bharata-varsha found in sastra. The word "varsha" refers to countries, such as Bharata-varsha (Sri Brhad-Bhagavatamrta 2.2.8). Rsabhadeva was the son of King Nabhi and the grandson of King Agnidhra, and he was the father of King Bharata, after whose name this planet earth was called Bharata-varsa. (SB 2.7.10 p)
In his article, "Who Is Crazy?", originally published in 'Back to Godhead' #66, Srila Prabhupada explains how places are named over time:
"These are all designations that are constantly changing. From the Vedic literatures we can understand that this whole planet was known as Ilavrita-varsha, and one king, Maharaja Bharata, who ruled the entire planet, changed the name of the planet to Bharata-varsha. Gradually, however, the planet became divided again, and different continents and sectors became known by different names. Even recently India has been divided into a number of countries, whereas earlier in the century India had included Burma, Ceylon and East and West Pakistan. In actuality the land is neither Bharata-varsha, India, Europe, Asia or whatever-we simply give it these designations in accordance with time and influence."
While much of India's history is memorialized in the great sastric epics, a great deal of the historical detail available today was produced by mundane historians. Nevertheless, we have an opportunity to research and understand contemporary historical perspectives by dovetailing them with, or comparing them to sastra, the teachings of the Acaryas, temple records, and Vaisnava literature. In this series, we will present an outline of the most broadly accepted historical record of India's history known as the Middle Kingdom, in the context of available information from Guru, Sadhu and Sastra.
"Middle kingdoms of India (or Classical India) refers to the political entities in India from the 3rd century BC after the decline of the Maurya Empire, and the corresponding rise of the Satavahana dynasty, beginning with Simuka, from 230 BC. This is known as the classical period of India, during which India is estimated to have had the largest economy of the world controlling between one third and one fourth of the world's wealth. The "Middle" period lasts for some 1,500 years, and ends in the 13th century, with the rise of the Delhi Sultanate and the end of the Chalukya Cholas (Rajendra Chola III died 1279).
The Mauryan Empire, during the 2nd century BC, became a collage of regional powers with overlapping boundaries. The whole of north-west attracted a series of invaders between 200 BC and 300 AD. The Puranas speak of many of these tribes as foreigners and impure barbarians (Mlechhas). First the Satavahanas and later the Gupta Empire, both successor states to the Mauryan Empire, attempt to contain the expansions of the successive before eventually crumbling internally due pressure exerted by these wars.
The invading tribes were influenced by Buddhism which continued to flourish under the patronage of both the invaders and the Satavahanas and Guptas and provided a cultural bridge between the two cultures. Over time, the invaders became "Indianized" as they influenced society and philosophy across the Gangetic Plains, and are conversely influenced by it. This period is marked by both intellectual and artistic achievements inspired by cultural diffusion and syncretism as the new kingdoms straddle the Silk route."
In our next segment, we will begin a brief survey of the first of these tribes, the Indo-Scythian Sakas, whose participation at Kurukshetra is documented in the Mahabharata. Along with the Sakas, the Kiratas, Yavanas, Sivis and Vasatis marched in the huge army of the Kauravas (Mh. 5,198 & 6,20).
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