Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Gandharans

Geographical definition
Gandhara (O.P. Gandâra) was located in the Peshawar and Kabul River valleys in modern Pakistan and Afghanistan, north of the Indus Valley, northeast of Arachosia and east of Bactria.  It was regarded more as part of South Asia than of Greater Iran.  The name is possibly related to Sanskrit gandha, meaning "perfume."

Gandhara grew out of Indo-Aryan settlements known as the Gandhara grave culture beginning around 1600 BC.  Gandharis are mentioned in the Vedas, and in the Puranas they are said to be Druhyus who followed King Gandhara north of the Sapta Sindhu.  The country enters the annals of the Persian empire in the Behistun inscrption.  Darius did not conquer it, so he presumably inherited it from his predecessors, likely starting with Cyrus.  In ancient times, its capital was at Pushkalavati, modern Charsadda in the Peshawar Valley of Pakistan.

Gandhara was among the eastern parts of the empire surveyed by Scylax of Caryanda, a Carian navigator sent by Darius in preparation for an invasion of the Indus Valley.  Herodotus places Gandhara in the seventh and poorest tax district, with the Sattagydians, Dadicae and Aparitae, taxed 170 talents all told.  At the Persepolis apadana, the Gandharans are shown together with the Sattagydians bringing a water buffalo in tribute.  They also bring spears and a shield, either as tribute or because the delegation was unusually heavily-armed.  In his Susa palace inscription, Darius says that he obtained yakâ wood (possibly teak) from Gandhara and Carmania.

Gandharans participated in Xerxes' invasion together with the Dadicae under the command of Artyphius, a son of Darius the Great's brother Artabanus.  I have not found mention of them in the major battles.  If they are grouped with the Indians then they may have took part in Plataea.

The history of Gandhara in the latter fifth and fourth centuries is largely unknown.  The Achaemenids may have pulled out of the region by the time of Alexander the Great.  When he arrived in 329, he found no Persian satraps, but instead a number of small states.  He re-founded the old Achaemenid settlement Kapisa (near modern Bagram) as "Alexandria in the Caucasus."  During 326, he and Hephaestion led armies along two routes, himself along the Kunar and Swat rivers and Hephaestion along the Kabul, conquering the Gandharan states one by one.

After Alexander, the country belonged for a time to Seleucus, but in 304 he handed it to Chandragupta Maurya, then a resident of Taxila and advisee of the famous Gandharan political scientist Chanakya.  For about 120 years the country remained part of the Mauryan empire.  Like other southwesterly parts of the Persian empire, it became a frontier between Indian and Hellenistic civilizations.  In the ensuing centuries, a myriad of different powers took control, including (among others) Scythians, Parthians, Kushans, the Sassanid Persian empire and finally the Kabul Shahi, a dynasty of native or perhaps Kambojan origin.

In the early 11th century AD, the Kabul Shahi was laid waste by the Ghaznavids of Afghanistan.  Historians generally consider this the end of Gandhara as well as that particular dynasty. 

I can find nothing on Gandharan religion in our period.  Gandhara was historically a center of Buddhism, but at this time Buddhism had only begun as a teaching and may not have even reached Gandhara.  More likely, the Gandharans followed early Vedic traditions.

Gāndhārī was an Indo-Aryan prakrit, attested first by several edicts of Ashoka written in the local language in the third century BC.  Iranica Online's article has a section comparing the morphology of the recorded stages of Gāndhārī to Vedic Sanskrit which could give some idea of how the language might have looked during the Achaemenid period.  It is possible that the Kharoṣṭhī script was already in development at that time.  Kharoṣṭhī was used from at least the mid-third century BC until about the third century AD.

Gandhara played a noteworthy role in the development of Indian linguistic studies, as it was here, in the fourth century BC or earlier, that the famous Pushkalavati grammarian Pāṇini documented and codified Classical Sanskrit in his book the Aṣṭādhyāyī.

At Naqs-e Rostam, the Gandharans and Sattagydians are dressed in only a knee-length, wraparound dhoti.  The party at Persepolis are more heavily dressed in short-sleeved tunics which also appear to wrap around, as well as long cloaks whose upper corners are not pinned together but instead hang in front of both shoulders down to past the waist and end in small tassels or gathers.  On their feet are flat-soled sandals with thongs around the heel, high on the instep and around several or all of the toes, as well as one connecting the toe and instep straps.  Both representations wear belts or narrow sashes and flat headbands.

Herodotus claims the Gandharans had the same equipment as the Bactrians ("reed bows and short spears"), while at Persepolis they and/or the Sattagydians are portrayed carrying only spears and a large, round double-gripped shield, and at Naqš-e Rostam the Gandharan wears a long sword of some kind.  The spears of Persepolis are of a generic Achaemenid appearance (short with small points and round finials) and may not accurately reflect Gandharan styles.  The shield superficially resembles an Argive shield, but this may mean nothing; apart from anything else, it has a fixed hand grip instead of an antilabe.

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