India after the Mauryans - History of India
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Post-Mauryan India

caves with columns carved into the side of a cliff

February 2017 - About 150 BC, when the Mauryan Empire collapsed, India split up into a lot of small kingdoms. These small kingdoms were weak and so they were often invaded by stronger neighbors. The Greeks under their king Seleucus came back in 150 BC and conquered the Indus Valley (modern Pakistan) again, but they didn't stay for long. Taxila (now in eastern Pakistan) may have conquered part of western China, opening up Silk Road trade. In return, Chinese armies, under the strong Han Dynasty, invaded over and over. And the Parthians and Sassanians sometimes attacked India too.

But even though they suffered from all these invasions, India was still rich (like its neighbors) from trading on the Silk Road. Indian traders sold cotton cloth, steel, cinnamon, black pepper, silver and pearls and glass beads and opium, and in exchange they bought horses - it's too hot to breed good horses in India - silk from Central Asia, glass from the Parthians, and ivory and gold from Africa.

ruined buildings with columns around a courtyard
Nalanda University

A lot of people in India were Buddhists at this time, and people came from all over - from as far away as China - to study with the botanists, doctors, mathematicians and astronomers at India's great universities at Taxila and at Nalanda (on the banks of the Ganges River). It was during this time that Indian mathematicians, in cooperation with China, worked out the number system we use today (1,2,3, etc.).

Along with all this trade and travel, the first cases of smallpox reached India sometime during this period; the doctor Charaka described the disease around 200 AD.

All this trade and exchange of knowledge only increased in 319 AD, when the Guptan Empire reunited all of northern India into one empire again.

Learn by doing: string glass beads into a bracelet
More about Buddhism
More about Indian mathematics
More about Guptan India

Bibliography and further reading about post-Mauryan India:

More about post-Mauryan architecture
More about Buddhism
Go on to the Guptan Empire home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 23 April, 2017