Wars And Kites And Crows

Wars And Kites And Crows

The Maurya empire ended about sixty years after Asoka’s death. With Asoka’s passing we go from light to darkness and confusion. Our evidence for the next five hundred years or more is mostly derived from coins. Yet we can see that the hills in India’s north-west frontier continued to be the pivot of her political story. Indian history has a repetitional quality; warlike peoples establish themselves in the Afghan highlands as in a castle, and from it raid far into India, usually until too weary to go further, for they have rarely met with determined resistance. It is very like the story of Europe when districts were subject to robber barons who took toll of the peaceful villages near their fortresses.

There were disturbances in Central Asia, which sent down successive waves of Bactrian, Parthian, Scythian, and even Chinese raiders. A number of semi-Greek kings reigned, some of them over a considerable area, which included much of what we call India. One of these, Menander, who reigned in Kabul about 150 B.C., and, conquered a big tract of West and Central India, left a great shadow on legend and memory, for wisdom and justice. Another, Gondophares, is interesting because of a tradition which at last brings South India into at least the twilight; St. Thomas is said to have come to his kingdom, which covered the Panjab and Afghanistan, and then to have gone to South India and been martyred. I think the tradition must be accepted. The Syrian Church of South India is very ancient, and the tradition connecting it with St. Thomas can be traced to the third century of our era and is strong outside India.

From this time onward we can see, but dimly, the outlines of three, perhaps four, kingdoms in South India; and in North India an immigration that, like the Aryan, was to result in a large permanent accession of population, took possession of Sind, threatening the Indo-Greek kingdoms of the Panjab. This was the Saka or Scythian immigration, which made its way into Rajputana to found the ruling families of that land. South India, freer from war than North India, traded with Arabia and the Persian Gulf; the apes and ivory of the Book of Chronicles have names which some think are Tamil words.