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THE connections between Persia and India date back to the gray dawn of the period of Indo-Iranian unity, when the Aryan ancestors of the Hindus and Persians still formed an undivided branch of the Indo-European stock. Though the separation of these two kindred peoples, through their migrating into the respective countries they have occupied in historic times, must have taken place more than three thousand years ago, nevertheless there long remained a certain community of interest, which had a bearing upon the early history of the north of India, where Persian influence, and even dominion, was strongest. The aim of the present chapter, therefore, is to bring out the main points of contact between the two nations from the earliest times and to indicate the effect of the sway exercised by Persia in Northern, or rather North-western, India prior to the invasion of Alexander the Great and the fall of the Achemenian Empire of Iran in the latter part of the fourth century BC.

To begin the sketch with the most remote ages, it may be assumed that every student is familiar with the evidence that proves the historic relationship between the Hindus and the Persians through ties of common Aryan blood, close kinship in language and tradition, and through near affinities in the matter of religious beliefs, ritual observances, manners, and customs.

An illustration or two may be chosen from the domain of religion alone. The Veda and the Avesta, which are the earliest literary monuments of India and Persia, contain sufficient evidence of the fact of such connection, even though each of these works may date from times long after the period of Indo-Iranian separation. A certain relationship, for example, is acknowledged to exist between the Vedic divinity Varuna and the Avestan deity Ahura Mazda, or Ormazd, the supreme god of Zoroastrianism. Equally well known are the points of kinship between the Indian Mitra and the Iranian Mithra, and, in less degree, between the victorious Indra Vritrahan of the Rigveda and the all-triumphant Vere­thraghna of the Avestan Yashts. Nor need more than mention be made of the parallels between Yama and Yima or of the cognate use made by the Indians and the Persians of the sacred drink soma and haoma in their religious rites. Scores more of likenesses and similarities might be adduced to prove the long-established connection between India and Iran, but they are generally familiar.

Additional evidence, however, has comparatively recently been furnished by certain cuneiform tablets which the German professor Hugo Winckler discovered, in 1907, at Boghaz-Koi in North-eastern Asia Minor. These documents give, in their own special language, a record of treaties between the kings of Mitanni and of the Hittites about 1400 BC. Among the gods called to witness are deities common in part to India and Persia, whatever the relation may be. The names involved in the tablets are Mi-it-ra, U-ru-w-na, In-da-ra, and Na-sa-at-ti-ia, corresponding respectively to Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya (the latter regularly a dual in the Veda, and representing the two Ashvins) in the Indian pantheon. They answer likewise in due order to the Persian Mithra and to those elements common between the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda and the Vedic Varuna, as explained above; but on the other hand Avestan Indra and Naonhaithya appear as demons in the Zoroastrian scriptures. It is not the place here to enter into a discussion of the question as to whether the super­natural beings thus mentioned in the Boghaz-koi clay tablets are to be interpreted as being proto-Iranian, Vedic, Aryan, or even Mitannian alone, because the matter is still open to debate by scholars. It is sufficient to draw attention to the general bearings of such a discovery upon the subject of relationship between India and Persia, however direct or indirect the connection may be.

Common Indo-Iranian Domains 

The geographical connection between India and Persia historically was a matter of fact that must have been known to both countries in antiquity through the contiguity of their territorial situation. The realms which correspond today to the buffer states of Afghanistan and Baluchistan formed always a point of contact and were concerned in antiquity with Persia’s advances into Northern and North-western India as well as, in a far less degree, with any move of aggrandizement on the part of Hindustan in the direction of Iran. Evidence from the Veda and the Avesta alike attests the general fact.

Vedic scholars, for example, will agree with Avestan students that the partly common Indo-Iranian domains comprised in the river-system above the Indus basin, and verging toward the north­western border adjacent to Iran, are referred to in the Rigveda in certain allusions to the district indicated by the rivers Kubha (Kabul), Krumu (Kurram), and Gomati (Gumal). They will equally unite in emphasizing the fact that there are other incidental allusions in the Veda, such as those to Gandhara and Gandhari, which may certainly be interpreted as referring to the districts of Peshawar and Rawalpindi S.E. from Kabul. A part of these districts has belonged rather to Iran than to India in historic times, but it is equally impossible to deny or to minimize the role they have played in India’s development ever since the remote age when the tribal ancestors of the present Hindus occupied them on their way into their later established homes. For the earliest period, we may well agree with the opinion expressed by Eduard Meyer in an encyclopedia article on Persia : “The dividing line between Iranian and Indian is drawn by the Hindu-Kush and the Soliman mountains of the Indus district. The valley of the Kabul (Cophen) is already occupied by Indian tribes, especially the Gandarians; and the Satagydae (Pers. Thatagu) there resident were presumably also of Indian stock”. These facts, because of their importance in regard to this bridge between India and Iran, will be touched upon again below.

Regarding the interpretation of certain other references in the Rigveda as containing allusions, direct or implied, to Persia in a broader sense, there is a wide divergence of opinion among Sanskritists, even though the Iranian investigator may feel assured of the truth of so explaining such passages. Vedic specialists are at variance, for example, as to whether an allusion to the Parthavas in Rv. VI, 27, 8, is to be understood as a reference to the ancestors of the Parthians, and as to whether the Persians are really referred to under the designation Parshavas, especially as the difficulty is increased by the uncertainty in determining the real significance historically of the names Prithu and Parshu from which the terms Parthavas and Parshavas are derived. The name Balhika (Atharvaveda, v, 22, 5, 7, 9) has been interpreted by some Indic scholars as containing an allusion to the ancient Iranian tribe of the Bactrians, especially because it is mentioned in connection with the Mujavants, a northern people; but other specialists oppose this view and deny an appeal to certain other Vedic words that might be cited. Nevertheless, and in spite of the differences among Sanskrit authorities, there is more than one Iranian investigator who feels positive that some at least of the Rigveda references in question allude to Persia or to Persian connections in by-gone days. The assumption may reasonably be made that scholarship in the future will tend to prove the correctness of the attempts (wide of the mark though some of them may have been in the past) to show through the Veda the continuity of contact between India and Persia during the period under consideration.

From the Iranian side, if we may judge by the sources available, the evidence seems to be much stronger in favor of Persian influence upon India and modifying control over the northern part of the country than it is for a reverse influence of India upon Iran. Throughout ancient history, as indicated above, Persia was the more aggressive power of the two. Yet it is uncertain how far the sphere of Iranian knowledge and authority in India may have extended prior to the time of the Achemenian Empire, at which era our information takes on a more definite form. At no time, however, does the realm of Persian activity in this direction appear to have extended much beyond the limit of the Indus.

Evidence of Veda and Avesta 

As already intimated, the Avesta is in general the oldest source showing Persia’s interest in India, although the greatest uncertainty still prevails among specialists in regard to assigning any precise date or dates. The present writer shares the opinion of those scholars who believe that, however late may be some of its portions, the Avesta in the main is pre-Achaemenian in content; in other words, even though it is possible to recognize Achaemenian, Parthian, and, perhaps, Sassanian elements in the collection, the general tenor of the work and the material on which it is based represent a period antedating the fifth century BC, or the era when the Persian Empire reached its heights. For that reason (and with due emphasis on the broad latitude that is to be allowed in the matter of dates) it is appropriate to cite the Avestan references to India, or the region of the Indian frontier, directly after the possible allusions to Persia in the Veda already given.

The name for India in the Avesta is Hindu, which, like the Old Persian Hi(n)du, is derived from the river Indus, Sanskrit Sindhu,— the designation of the stream being transferred to the territory adjacent to it and to its tributaries. The first chapter of the Avestan Vendidad (whatever may be the age of the chapter) contains an allusion to a portion of Northern India in a list which it gives of sixteen lands or regions, created by Ahura Mazda and apparently regarded as under Iranian sway. The fifteenth of these domains, according to Vd. 1, 18, was Hapta Hindu, ‘Seven Rivers’, a region of ‘abnormal heat’, probably identical with the territory of Sapta Sindhavas, ‘Seven Rivers’, in the Veda. The district in question, which was more comprehensive than the modern Punjab, or ‘Five Rivers’, must have included the lands watered in the north and north-west of Hindustan by the river Indus and its affluents—answering, apparently, to the Vedic Vitasta (now Jhelum), Asikni (Chenab), Parushni (later named Iravati, whence its present designation Ravi), Vipac (Beas), and Cutudri (Sutlej), the latter being the easternmost stream .

In connection with this Avestan passage, moreover, in its bearing on Persian domains in Northern India, it is worth while to call attention to the Pahlavi gloss of the Middle Persian rendering of the paragraph in Sassanian times. Whatever may be the full import of this difficult gloss, the passage may be literally translated as follows : “The Seven Hindukan: the expression ‘Seven Hindukan’ is due to this fact, that the overlordship is seven; and therefore I do not say ‘Seven Rivers’, for that is manifest from the Avesta [passage], from the Eastern Indus (or India) to the Western Indus (India)”. In partial support of the scholiast’s interpretation as ‘the overlordship is seven’ it has been further pointed out that a tradition as to the dominions involved may have lingered down to Firdausi’s time, inasmuch as he mentions in one passage seven princes of India, namely the lords of Kabul, Sindh, Hindh, Sandal, Chandal, Kashmir, and Multan; but too much stress need not be laid on the point.

The Eastern and Western Indus

The Avestan fragment above cited—from the Eastern Indus (India) to the Western Indus (India)—is best interpreted as alluding to the extreme ends of the Iranian world; for Spiegel has clearly shown by sufficient references that, at least in Sassanian times and doubtless earlier, there prevailed an idea of an India in the west as well as an India in the east. This is borne out by a passage in Yasht (x, 104) in which the divine power of Mithra, the personification of the sun, light, and truth, is extolled as destroying his adversaries in every quarter. The passage, which is metrical and therefore relatively old, runs thus: “The long arms of Mithra seize upon those who deceive Mithra; even when in Eastern India he catches him, even when in Western [India] he smites him down; even when he is at the mouth of the Ranha (river), [and] even when he is in the middle of the earth”. The same statement is repeated in part in Yasna (LVII, 29) regarding the power of Sraosha, the guardian genius of mankind, as extending over the wide domain from India on the east to the extreme west : “even when in Eastern India he catches [his adversary], even when in Western [India] he smites him down”.

There is still another Avestan allusion which may possibly be interpreted as referring in a general way to Indian connections; it is the mention of a mountain called Us-Hindava, which stands in the midst of the partly mythical sea Vouru-kasha and is the gathering place of fog and clouds. The name Us-Hindava means ‘Beyond (or, Above) India’, according to one way of translating; but another rendering makes it simply the ‘mountain from which the rivers rise’. Owing to this uncertainty, and to a general vagueness in three passages in which the mountain is referred to as Usind and Usindam in the Pahlavi, or Middle Persian, texts of Sassanian times, it seems wiser for the present to postpone an attempt to decide whether the allusion is to the Hindu Kush or possibly the Himalaya, or even some other range.

Precisely as was noted above, in considering the Vedic material as sources for the historian’s review of the distant past, there are likewise a number of Avestan names of places located south of the Hindu Kush in the territory that once at least was common in part to the Indians and the Iranians and has had, as a natural borderland, an important influence upon India’s history in later ages. A portion of these domains corresponds to a considerable section of Afghanistan and possibly to a part of Baluchistan, realms once under direct British influence or included politically as a part of the Indian Empire. One of the proofs of this community of interest is the fact that the territory of Arachosia, which corresponds to the modern province of Kandahar, was known, at least in later Parthian times, as ‘White India’. This we have on the authority of the geographer Isidor of Charax (first cent. AD), who, when mentioning Arachosia as the last in his list of Parthian provinces, adds, “the Parthians call it White India’.” As a supplement to this statement, in its historic aspect, may be quoted a pertinent observation made by the French savant James Darmesteter in touching upon the realms of Kabul and Seistan. He regards the language of Vd. I as indicating that “Hindu civilization prevailed in those parts, which in fact in the two centuries before and after Christ were known as White India, and remained more Indian than Iranian till the Musulman conquest”.

The Persian Provinces 

All of the realms concerned in the next Avestan references to be cited have their historical and political bearing, important for the statesman as well as for the historian of India; and they can be identified with the provinces under the imperial sway of Darius I of Persia, as mentioned in his cuneiform inscriptions. The dominions are equally included in the account of the ancient Persian satrapies given by Herodotus and are comprised in the geographical descriptions of Iran by his successors. For that reason, in the following enumeration, the Old Persian, Greek, and modern designations are recorded in every case together with the Avestan.

To confine attention first to the land that is now Afghanistan, it may be noted that the Hindu Kush range may possibly be referred to in the Avestan allusion to Us-Hindava, mentioned above. It is likewise possible to conjecture that the ridge of Band-i-Baian, somewhat to the west, may perpetuate the old Avestan name Bayana in the list of mountain names enumerated in the Nineteenth Yasht; while the chain familiarly known from the classics as Paropanisus or Paropamisus appears to be included under the Avestan designation Upairisaena, lit. ‘Higher than the eagle’. To the north of these barriers lay Bactria, a centre which was destined to play an important part in India’s history.

Herat, on the west, including the district watered by the Hari Rud, was known in the Avesta as Haroiva. Kabul, to the east and nearer the present Indian frontier, appears as Vaekereta (answering to the western part of O.P. Gandara, or El. Paruparesanna, and possibly in part to O.P. Thatagu). The region corresponding to the modern province of Kandahar, as already stated, is represented by Av. Harahvaiti. In the territory to the south-west, the river Helmand and the lagoon districts of Seistan around the Hamlin Lake (which the natives call Zirrah, i.e. Av. Zrayah, 'sea') are respectively known in the Avesta as the Haetumant and as Zrayah Kasaoya; while the river systems that empty into this lagoon depression from the north are mentioned in Yasht (XIX, 67) by names that can be identified exactly with their modern designations in almost every case. It is worth noting that the majority of these particular allusions are found in the Nineteenth Yasht, which is devoted to the praise of the ‘Kingly Glory’ of the ancient line of the Kayanians, heroes who are known to fame also through Firdausi’s epic poem, the Shahnamah, and from whom some of the families in the regions named still claim to be descended.

With regard to Avestan place names that may be localized in parts of Baluchistan there is more uncertainty. It is thought by some, for example, but denied by others, that Av. Urva may thus be a locality near the Indian border. It might also be possible to suggest that the Avestan name Peshana may still survive in the Baluchi town Pishin, near Quetta, but it would be difficult to prove this.

The quotations above given from Avestan sources serve at least to show the interest or share which Persia had traditionally in Northern India and the adjoining realms at a period prior to Achemenian times, provided we accept the view, already stated, that the Avesta represents in the main a spirit and condition that is pre-Achemenian, however late certain portions of the work may be.

Early Relations with India 

Prior to the seventh century BC, and for numerous ages afterwards, there is further proof of relations between Persia and India through the facts of trade in antiquity, especially through the early commerce between India and Babylon, which, it is believed, was largely via the Persian Gulf. Persia’s share in this development, although hard to determine, must have been significant even in days before the Achemenian Empire. Beginning with the sixth century BC, however, we enter upon the more solid ground of recorded political history. From unquestioned sources in the classics we know that the Medo-Persian kingdom, which was paramount in Western Asia during that century, was brought into more or less direct contact with India through the campaigns carried on in the east of Iran by Cyrus the Great at some time between 558 and 530 BC, the limits of his reign. The difficulty, however, of determining exactly when this campaigning occurred and just how the domains between the rivers Indus and Jaxartes came under the control or sphere of influence of the Persian Empire is a problem accounted among the hardest in Iranian history.

In the following paragraphs of discussion, which may be considered as a critical digression, statements or inferences from Herodotus, Ctesias, and Xenophon, with other evidence, have to be compared with those of Strabo and with the seemingly more conservative views of Arrian, in interpreting the question of the possible or probable control of the Indian borderland touching upon Iran.

In the first place, Herodotus says that ‘Cyrus in person subjugated the upper regions of Asia, conquering every nation without passing one by’; but this statement is so broadly comprehensive that it is difficult to particularize regarding North-western India except through indirect corroborative evidence. In fact, most of the allusions by Herodotus to India refer to the times of Darius and Xerxes. It is certain, however, that Cyrus, by his own personally conducted campaigns in the east, brought the major part of Eastern Iran, especially the realms of Bactria, under his sway. His conquests included the districts of Drangiana, Sattagydia, and Gandaritis, verging upon the Indian borderland, though we may omit for the moment the question of the extent of Cyrus’s suzerainty over the Indian frontier itself.

In the same connection may be mentioned the fact that Ctesias, especially in the tenth book of his lost Persica, if we may judge from quotations in later authors regarding the nations involved, appears to have given an account of the campaigns by Cyrus in this region. The stories, moreover, regarding the death of Cyrus, differ considerably, but the account recorded by Ctesias, which reflects local Persian tradition, narrates that Cyrus died in consequence of a wound inflicted in battle by an Indian, in an engagement when the Indians were fighting on the side of the Derbikes and supplied them with elephants. The Derbikes might therefore be supposed to have been located somewhere near the Indian frontier, but the subject is still open to debates.

Xenophon, in his romance of the life of Cyrus, entitled Cyropaedia, declares that Cyrus brought under his rule Bactrians and Indians, as forming a part of his widespread empire. In the same work he furthermore says that Cyrus, after reducing Babylon, started on the campaign in which he is reported to have brought into subjection all the nations from Syria to the Eritrean Sea (i.e. the Indian Ocean); and for that reason he repeats that the Eritrean Sea bounded the empire of Cyrus on the east. This reference, though indefinite, certainly contains a direct allusion to control over the regions bordering on the Indian Ocean; but it would be unwarranted to interpret it as indicating any sovereignty over the month of the Indus, such as could be claimed in regard to the Persian sea-route to India in the time of Darius and his successors.


In a general way, however, as possibly supporting the idea of some sort of suzerainty over Northern India by Cyrus, we may note the fact that Xenophon (introduces an account of an embassy sent to Cyrus by an Indian king. This embassy conveyed a sum of money for which the Persian king had asked, and ultimately served him in a delicate matter of espionage before the war against Croesus and the campaigns in Asia Minor. It may be acknowledged that the value of this particular allusion is slight, and that the Cyropaedia is a source of minor importance in this particular regard; but yet it is worth citing as showing, through Xenophon, a common acceptance of the idea that Cyrus was in a position to expect to receive direct consideration, if not vassalage, from the overlord of Northern India.

Descending to the Hellenistic age, when the Greeks began to have knowledge of India at first hand, we find that two of the principal authorities, Nearchus, who was Alexander’s admiral, and Megasthenes, the ambassador of Seleucus I at the court of Chandragupta, are at variance regarding an attempted conquest of India by Cyrus.

The account of Nearchus, as preserved by Arrian, links the names of Cyrus and of Semiramis, the far-famed Assyrian Queen, and states that Alexander, when planning his march through Gedrosia (Baluchistan), was told by the inhabitants ‘that no one had over before escaped with an army by this route, excepting Semiramis on her flight from India. And she’, they said, ‘escaped with only twenty of her army, and Cyrus, the son of Cambyses, in his turn with only seven. For Cyrus also came into these parts with the purpose of invading India, but was prevented through losing the greater part of his army, owing to the desolate and impracticable character of the route’.

Megasthenes, on the other hand, as quoted by, declares that ‘the Indians had never engaged in foreign warfare, nor had they ever been invaded and conquered by a foreign power, except by Hercules and Dionysus and lately by the Macedonians’. After mentioning several famous conquerors who did not attack India, he continues : ‘Semiramis, however, died before [carrying out] her undertaking; and the Persians, although they got mercenary troops from India, namely the Hydrakes, did not make an expedition into that country, but merely approached it when Cyrus was marching against the Massagetae’.

We may also take Megasthenes to be the authority for the statement of Arrian that, according to the Indians, no one before Alexander, with the exception of Dionysus and Hercules, had invaded their country, ‘not even Cyrus, the son of Cambyses, although be marched against the Scythians and showed himself in other respects the most enterprising of Asiatic monarchs’.

It appears, therefore, that both Nearchus and Megasthenes deny, the former by implication and the latter expressly, that Cyrus ever reached India, although Nearchus regards him as having made an unsuccessful campaign in Baluchistan. We must not, however, overlook the fact that Strabo and Arrian, our proximate sources, consider the river Indus to be the western boundary of India proper; and the foregoing accounts consequently leave open the possibility that Cyrus made conquests in the borderland west of the Indus itself. Indeed, Arrian elsewhere expressly states that the Indians between the river Indus and the river Cophen, or Kabul, ‘were in ancient times subject to the Assyrians, afterwards to the Medes, and finally submitted to the Persians and paid to Cyrus, the son of Cambyses, the tribute that he imposed on them’.

In regard to the supposed campaign of Cyrus in Baluchistan, we may note that Arrian  mentions the story, recorded elsewhere in connection with Alexander’s exploits, that Cyrus had received substantial help from the Ariaspian people (a tribe dwelling in a region that corresponds to the modern Seistan) when he was waging war in these territories against the Scythians. This folk received from him in consequence the honorific title Euergetae, ‘Benefactors’, a term answering to the Persian designation Orosangae mentioned by Herodotus.

One further point may be cited from a classical source. Pliny, Hist. Nat., credits Cyrus with having destroyed a city called Capisa in Capisene, a place supposed to be represented by Kafshan (Kaoshan, Kushan) in the modern Ghorband valley district, somewhat north of Kabul, and in any case it could not have been far from the Indian frontier.

To sum up, we may say that, even if there are just grounds for doubting that Cyrus actually invaded Northern India, there can be no question that he did campaign in the territories corresponding to the present Afghanistan and Baluchistan. It seems likely that Alexander’s historians may have been inclined to minimize the accomplishments of Cyrus the Great, especially in the light of his apparent set-back in Gedrosia1, in order to bring into greater prominence the achievements of the famous Greek invader.

Cyrus : Cambyses 

The view above stated, to the effect that Cyrus advanced at least as far as the borders of the Indus region, will be better understood from the ensuing paragraphs, in which the holdings of his successors and their control of regions integral to the Indian Empire of today are shown. The main point of this opinion is likewise in agreement with such an authority on the subject as Eduard Meyer, who expressly says : ‘Cyrus appears to have subjugated the Indian tribes of the Paropanisus (Hindu Kush) and in the Kabul valley, especially the Gandarians; Darius himself advanced as far as the Indus’.

Cambyses, whose activities were almost wholly engaged in the conquest of Egypt, could hardly have extended the Persian dominions in the direction of India, even though he may have been occupied at the beginning of his reign in maintaining suzerainty over the extensive realm inherited from his father. Xenophon, or his continuator, speaks of almost immediate uprisings by subject nations after the death of Cyrus, and these revolutions may have caused the postponement of the Egyptian expedition of Cambyses until the fifth year of his reign, 526-525 BC; but it would be hazardous to suggest any direct connection of India with these presumable campaigns. Herodotus makes two very broad statements; one to the effect that, when Darius became king, after the death of Cambyses and the assassination of the false Smerdis, “all the peoples of Asia, with the exception of the Arabians [who were already allied as friends], were subject to him, inasmuch as they had been subdued by Cyrus and afterwards by Cambyses in his turn”. Again he says, with reference to the death of the usurper Smerdis, that `”all the peoples of Asia felt regret, except the Persians themselves”. Although it would be a forced interpretation of these passages to construe them as including India proper among the subject nations of the Persian Empire, it seems clear, nevertheless, that Darius, when he assumed the sovereignty in 522 BC, had, as an Achemenian, an authentic claim to the realms immediately bordering upon India, if not to that land itself.

For the reign of Darius (522-486 BC) we have documentary evidence of the highest value in the inscriptions executed by that monarch’s command and containing his own statements. From these inscriptions, especially when they are compared one with another, we can trace the general outline of the Persian dominion in Northern and North-western India in the time of Darius, and we can even infer that he annexed the valley of the Indus early in his reign, a conclusion which is confirmed by the testimony of various passages in Herodotus. The three records in stone which require special consideration in this connection are the following:

1. The famous Bahistan Rock Inscription, which is presumably to be assigned to a period between the years 520 and 518 BC, with the exception of the fifth column, which was added later.

2. The second of the two Old Persian block tablets sunk in the wall of the Platform at Persepolis. It was probably carved between 518 and 515 BC.

3. The upper of the two inscriptions chiselled around the Tomb of Darius in the cliff at Naksh-i-Rustam, which must have been incised sometime after 515 BC.


The Bahistan Inscription itself does not include India in the list of the twenty-three provinces which came to Darius, as the Old Persian text says, or obeyed him, as the Babylonian version expresses it. The inference to be drawn, therefore, is that the Indus region did not form a part of the empire of Darius at the time when the great rock record was made, though it was incorporated shortly afterwards, as is shown by the two other inscriptions in question. Both of these latter expressly mention Hi(n)du, that is, the Punjab territory, as a part of the realm. The Northern Indian domain must therefore have been annexed sometime between the promulgation of the Bahistan edict and the completion of the two records just cited. The present tendency of scholarly opinion is to assign the Indus conquest to about the year 518 BC.

In addition to the evidence of the inscriptions, the fact that a portion of Northern India was incorporated into the Achemenian Empire under Darius is further attested by the witness of Herodotus, who, in giving a list of the twenty satrapies or governments that Darius established, expressly states that the Indian realm was the ‘twentieth division’. Some inference regarding its wealth and extent may furthermore be gathered from the tribute which it paid into the Persian treasury. Herodotus is our authority on this point, when he explicitly narrates: ‘The population of the Indians is by far the greatest of all the people that we know; and they paid a tribute proportionately larger than all the rest—[the sum of] three hundred and sixty talents of gold dust’. This immense tribute was equivalent to over a million pounds sterling, and the levy formed about one-third of the total amount imposed upon the Asiatic provinces. All this implies the richness of Persia’s acquisition in annexing the northern territory of Hindustan; and it may also be brought into connection with the curious story of the gold-digging ants in this region, which Herodotus tells directly afterwards.

There is likewise another passage in Herodotus which affords further proof, both of the Persian annexation or control of the valley of the Indus from its upper course to the sea, including therefore the Punjab and Sind, as well as of the possibility at that time of navigating by sea from the Indus to Persia. Sometime about 517 BC, Darius despatched a naval expedition under Scylax, a native of Caryanda in Caria, to explore the Indus. The squadron embarked at a place in the Gandhara country, somewhere near the upper course of the Indus, the name of the city being Kaspatyros or, more accurately, Kaspapyros. The exact location of this place is still a matter of discussion, but the town may have been situated near the lower end of the Cophen (now Kabul) River before it joins the Indus. The fleet, it is recorded, succeeded in making its way to the Indian Ocean and ultimately reached Egypt, two and one-half years from the time when the voyage began. From the statement of Herodotus it would appear that this achievement was accomplished prior to the Indian conquest, for he says that ‘after they had sailed around, Darius conquered the Indians and made use of this sea’ [i.e. the Indian Ocean]; but it seems much more likely that Darius must previously have won by force of arms a firm hold over the territory traversed from the headwaters of the Indus to the ocean, in order to have been able to carry out such an expedition. This conclusion appears still more convincing when we consider the difficulties which Alexander encountered in his similar undertaking of voyaging down the Indus to the sea, two centuries later, even after having first subdued most of the tribes of the Upper Punjab before starting on the voyage.

The Indian Realm of Darius 

The dominion of Persian authority under Darius, therefore, as is clear from the Greek sources in connection with the Inscriptions, comprised the realm from the embouchement of the Indus to its uppermost tributaries on the north and west. Regarding the Indians towards the south, we have the express statement of Herodotus to the effect that ‘these were never subject to King Darius’. Herodotus also evidently considers the sandy wastes in portions of the present Sind and Rajputana, to the east of the Indus, as the frontier in that direction; for he says that ‘the part of the Indian territory towards the rising sun is sand’, and he adds immediately afterwards that ‘the eastern part of India is a desert on account of the san. How far eastward the Persian dominion may have extended in the Punjab cannot be exactly determined; but it is significant that Herodotus never refers to the Ganges valley, and not one of our sources makes any mention of the famous Indian kingdom of Magadha, which was coming into prominence under the Buddhist rulers Bimbisara and Ajatasatru during the reign of Darius and simultaneously with the Persian conquests. On the whole, so far as the extent of the Persian control is concerned, no better summary need be given than the cautious expression of Vincent Smith, when he says: “Although the exact limits of the Indian satrapy [under Darius] cannot be determined, we know that it was distinct from Aria (Herat), Arachosia (Kandahar), and Gandaria (North-western Punjab). It must have comprised, therefore, the course of the Indus from Kalabagh to the sea, including the whole of Sind, and perhaps included a considerable portion of the Punjab east of the Indus”.

At this point it may not be out of place to refer briefly to the information that is afforded by the Inscriptions and by Herodotus regarding the sway exercised by Darius over the peoples of the Indian borderland. Of the twenty-three tributary provinces the names of which appear on the Bahistan Rock and are repeated with some slight variations in the Platform and the Tomb Inscriptions, three provinces, namely Bakhtri (Bactria), Haraiva (Herat), and Zaranka (Drangiana, or a portion of Seistan) as noted above, form a part of the present Afghanistan lying more remote from the Indian frontier. The five that are directly connected with the region of the Indus itself are, as partly indicated earlier in the chapter, Gandara (the region of the Kabul valley as far as Peshawar), Thatagu (either the Ghilzai territory to the south-west of Ghazni or the Hazara country further to the west and north­west), Harahuvati (the district about Kandahar in the broadest sense), Saka, and Maka. The term Saka may possibly allude to Sakastana (Seistan) and the dwellers around the region of the Hamun Lakes; but the distinction made in the Tomb Inscription of Darius between the Saka Haumavarga, answering to the Amyrgioi Sakai of Herodotus, and the Saka Tigrakhauda, ‘wearing pointed caps’, an attribute corresponding to the term Orthokorybantioi of Herodotus, may indicate a special division of the Shakas, or Scythians, living between the extreme northern sources of the Indus and the headwaters of the Oxus. The district Maka is believed to be identified with Makran, once occupied by the Mykans of Herodotus and now a part of Baluchistan.

Peoples of the Indian Frontier 

Herodotus mentions in his list of peoples that were subject to Darius—corresponding in a general way to the satrapies of the empire—four or five more which may be identified as having occupied districts in or near the present Afghanistan, in some cases adjoining the Indian frontier. The Sattagydai and Gandarioi, for example, have the Dadikai and the Aparytai linked with them in the same enumeration. Of these latter tribes, the Dadikai may be identified with the Dards of the Upper Indus valley, somewhere between the Chitral district and Kashmir; and the Aparytai are to be connected with the inhabitants of the mountainous regions of the Hindu Kush, north of Kabul. The Kaspioi, who, according to Herodotus constituted together with the Sakai the fifteenth division of the empire (and who are to be distinguished from the Kaspioi of the eleventh division, by the Caspian Sea), must likewise have been an easterly people, and they are perhaps to be located in the wild tract of Kafiristan, to the north of the Kabul River. The Thamanaioi, whom Herodotus mentions as forming a part of the fourteenth division of the tributary nations, occupied a section of Afghanistan not easy to define precisely, but presumably in the western or west-central region, as noted above. The territory of Paktyike in the thirteenth division and its people, the Paktyes, are to be located within the borders of the land now called Afghanistan; but whether the name is to be regarded as a tribal designation of the Afghans in general, and as surviving in the term Pakhtu or Pashtu applied to their language, is extremely doubtful.

Finally, for the sake of completeness, it may be noted that India appears as one of the limits of the Persian Empire under Darius in the apocryphal Greek version of the Book of Ezra known as I Esdras. The passage runs as follows: “Now King Darius made a great feast unto all his subjects, and unto all that were born in his house, and unto all the princes of Media and of Persia, and to all the satraps and captains and governors that were under him, from India unto Ethiopia, in the hundred twenty and seven provinces”. Inasmuch, however, as the apologue of the Three Pages, in which this reference is embodied, seems to be subsequent to the age of Alexander, we must regard the passage as merely a general tradition concerning the extent of the Achemenian Empire without insisting upon the chronological allusion to Darius.

For the reign of Xerxes (486-465 BC) the continuance of the Persian domination in Northern India is proved by the presence of an Indian contingent, consisting of both infantry and cavalry, among the troops from subject nations drawn upon by that monarch to augment the vast army of Asiatics which he marshaled to invade Greece. Herodotus describes the equipment of the Indian infantry as follows: “The Indians, clad in garments made of cotton, carried bows of cane and arrows of cane, the latter tipped with iron; and thus accoutered the Indians were marshaled under the command of Pharnazathres, son of Artabates”. It is worth remarking, perhaps, that the commander of these forces, as shown by his name, was a Persian. Regarding the Indian cavalry Herodotus says that they were ‘armed with the same equipment as in the case of the infantry, but they brought riding-horses and chariots, the latter being drawn by horses and wild asses’.

It may be observed, moreover, that a number of the tribes who inhabited the Indo-Iranian borderland in the time of Darius were represented in the host of Xerxes as well; namely the Bactrians, Sakai, Areioi, Gandarioi, Dadikai, Kaspioi, Sarangai, Paktyes, occupying the Afghan region, and the Mykoi of Baluchistan. On the whole, therefore, we may conclude that the eastern domain of the Persian Empire was much the same in its extent under Xerxes in 480 BC as it had been in the reign of his great fathers.

The period following the defeat of the Persian arms under Xerxes by Greece marks the beginning of the decadence of the Achemenian Empire. For this reason it is easy to understand why there was no forward movement on Persia’s part in India, even though the Iranian sway in that territory endured for a century and longer. Among other proofs of this close and continued connection may be mentioned the fact that Ctesias, who was resident physician at the Persian court about the beginning of the fourth century BC, could hardly have written his Indica without the information he must have received regarding India from envoys sent as tribute-bearers to the Great King or from Persian officials who visited India on state business, as well as from his intercourse with travelers and traders of the two countries. If the work of Ctesias on India had been preserved in full, and not merely in the epitome by Photius and in fragmentary citations by other authors, we should be better informed today as to Persia’s control over Indian territory during the period under consideration.

Extent of Persian Influence 

The fact, however, that this domination prevailed even to the end of the Achemenian sway in 330 BC is furthermore proved by the call which Darius III, the last of the dynasty, was able to issue to Indian troops when making his final stand at Arbela to resist the Greek invasion of Persia by Alexander. According to Arrian, some of the Indian forces were grouped with their neighbors the Bactrians and with the Sogdians under the command of the satrap of Bactria, whereas those who were called ‘mountainous Indians’ followed the satrap of Arachosia. The Sakai appeared as independent allies under their leader Alauakes. These frontier troops were supplemented by a small force of elephants ‘belonging to the Indians who lived this side of the Indus’.

Emphasis may be laid anew on the fact that the sphere of Persian influence in these early times can hardly have reached beyond the realm of the Indus and its affluents. We may assume, accordingly, that when Alexander reached the river Hyphasis, the ancient Vipash and modern Beas, and was then forced by his own generals and soldiers to start upon his retreat, he had touched the extreme eastern limits of the Persian domain, over which he had triumphed throughouts. The interesting articles by Dr D. B. Spooner in the Jour. R.A.S. for 1915, entitled The Zoroastrian Period of Indian History, make the strongest possible plea for a far wider extension of Persian influence upon India in the early historic period. While scholars are fully agreed to allow for the general and far-reaching theory of Persian influence, they have not found themselves prepared to accept many of the hypotheses put forward in Dr Spooner’s two articles, as the criticisms which succeeded their publication show.

With the downfall of the Achemenian rule before the onslaught of the conqueror from Macedon ends the first chapter in the story of the relations between India and Persia. It belongs elsewhere to indicate those which existed under the successors of Alexander, under the Parthian and Sassanian sovereigns, and down through Muhammadan times, until, in the eighteenth century, a Persian invader like Nadir Shah could carry off the Peacock Throne of the Mughals and deck his crown with the Koh-i-Nur.