Why has Asceticism led to the weakening of Bharat

Rulers after Asoka 

Pushyamitra’s rule covered only the central portions of the old Mauryan Empire. In the south and the south-east the Andhras and the Kalingas, together with parts of Northern India, had already asserted their independence. Pushyamitra (187 to 151 BC) defeated the Greeks, performed 2 horse sacrifices, indicates he was a powerful ruler, was not intolerant of Buddhism. During his reign the great Buddhist stupa at Bharhut was erected. Pushyamitra is credited with stemming the tide of foreign invasions, arrested for the time being the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire. The Sunga period saw the revival of Brahmanical influence, importance of Bhagwata religion, the great grammarian Patanjali, was most probably a contemporary of Pushyamitra. Sunga rule ended in 75 BC.

The most interesting period of post-Mauryan history is the establishment of foreign supremacy in Uttarapatha and the adjoining region of Madhyadesa, successively ruled by several foreign powers, the Yavanas (about 2nd century BC) were the first among them. The Yavanas or Greeks of Bacteria gradually became Indianized by adopting Indian names, religious beliefs and were eventually absorbed into the Indian population. In fact the Nagar Brahmans of Punjab are supposed to be descendants of the Greeks. Areas of rule were mainly Southern Afghanistan and northwestern India.

Next were the Sakas (Scythians) and the Pahlavas (Parthians). The Sakas are believed to be from a tribe of Central Asia nomads, settled in Iran later. Their occupation of North Western India was principally the work of the Sakas of eastern Iran. In India they soon adopted Indian names and religious beliefs. They continued to dominate parts of western India till they Changragupta Maurya annexed their dominions to the empire.

Next invader was the Kushanas, a branch of the Yueh-chi tribe in Chinese Turkestan.  Kanishka (78 to 101 AD) was the greatest of the Kushana emperors. His rule extended over Madhyadesha, Uttapapatha and Aparanta divisions of ancient India. His empire seems to have stretched from Bihar to Khorasan in the west, from Khotan in the north to Konkan in the south. It shifted the centre of political power from Pataliputra to Peshawar. Their power declined after the reign of Vasudeva (145 to 176 AD). Saka satraps began to rule in large parts of Western and Central India while in U.P., Rajasthan subordinate ruling houses raised their head. But the Kushanas had complete control over Punjab, NW.F.P. and Afghanistan up to the middle of the 3rd century AD. The dynasty paved the way for Indian civilization to Central and Eastern Asia. The period saw the rise of Mahayana Buddhism, Gandhara art, the appearance of Buddha as a figure, the development of Saivism and the introduction of Buddhism into China by Kasyapa Matanga in 61-67 AD.

Under foreign rule, the social pattern accepted as part of divine origin reorganized itself, the orthodox cults revivified by a resistance to heterodoxy. For e.g. Kushana  was a Buddhist while his father Kadphises I was a Saivite and son a Bhagavata. In the end social and religious tenacity developed a mighty absorptive power.

There was a dilution of Aryan values in northwest India due to foreign rule forcing it to move southwards. The royal Naga houses, descendants of serpent worshipping non-Aryan tribes became protagonists of resurgent Dharma. The Andhras defeated the Sakas, Parthians and Indo Greeks. About the same time Kalinga under the great Jain conqueror Kharavela, played a great part in diffusing Indian culture beyond the seas.

Impact – The chapter tells you the impact of Ashoka’s compassionate policies. It led to the weakening of India starting 236 BC to the 3rd century AD except the rule of Pushyamitra. Starting with 236 BC, a weak central authority had been the bane of India, allowed foreign invaders to come and rule India. On the flip side, the Kushanas opened doors of communication with Central Asia, China allowing her to share her pearls of wisdom with that part of the world. What a tradeoff !

I have included this chapter to show the impact of Asoka’s compassion. At the end of this period, with foreign rulers vanquished and foreigners absorbed into Sanatan Dharm, the country was ripe for a mighty national revival, military, political and religious.

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