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Introduction

Wisdom. The most noble of human pursuits. Medicine, literature, art, religion and science; all of these find their refinement in the city of Taksashila. For many an age this city has been a centre of learning, culture and commerce. The ancient hymns of the Rigveda are still recited in the temples, and in the streets can be heard the strange tongues of Yavanas, Parasikas and other Mlecchas. And under the guardianship of the great emperors Chandragupta and Bindusāra, the city has been allowed to prosper. Indeed, it was here, in this very city, that Chandragupta and his Brahmin minister, Kautilya, first began their struggle to create the Mauryan Empire. Thus, Taksashila has always held an important position in the empire, and a great honour has been bestowed upon you, great Taksashilarajya, to be named Uparajya, and thus represent the imperial power in this great city.

But these are troubled times, and the hymns have been replaced by the sound of the war-drum. Barely had the soul of Emperor Bindusāra, the slayer of foes, departed from his body, before his sons were at each others' throats, fighting amongst themselves to decide who would inherit their father's domains. Now, with the empire in turmoil, you are on your own. However, despite the apparent chaos, there might be gains to be made from the situation. The people of Taksashila have always had a taste for freedom, and perhaps the situation can be exploited in order to strengthen your control over the neighbouring lands. But nothing lasts forever, and sooner or later one of the claimants to the throne will emerge victorious, and no doubt he will come to you, demanding your acknowledgement of his suzerainty. Will you accept him as your overlord, or defy the emperor’s will and declare yourself independent? Both alternatives have some merit to them. The imperial Mauryas are your kin, both by nationality and blood, and should you remain loyal, you can rely on them to help you in times of need. Should you defy them, however, you will no doubt face their wrath. But freedom also has its benefits.

No matter where you position yourself in the politics and internal struggles of the empire, you must also be aware of the many other powers that rule the vast tracts beyond the Hindu-Kush, and who behold the riches of India with covetous eyes. Across the Mountains lie first the vast domains of the great Antiyoka, king of the Yavanas. His father was a valued ally of Chandragupta, and the good relations still remain with his son. He also commands many warriors and great wealth, but his domains are vast, and on the fringes of his empire various lords are starting to grow ever bolder and more independent. In particular, it might be prudent to keep a watchful eye on the Yavanas who control Baktria, for their domains are the closest to ours. Further north, the great steppes spread out over a seemingly infinite area. Here, the horsemen of the Shakas and Pahlavas roam, fierce nomads, always searching to find new lands for their herds to graze on, and for their kings to rule over. They fight in a fashion quite unlike that of our ancestors, relying on the speed and stamina of the horse, instead of the power and impact of the glorious chariot. Our ways of war have long served us well, but perhaps this could be a good time to glimpse beyond the confines of our land, to learn from the Mlecchas, and use their own weapons against them. The Yavanas, too, have proven their worth in combat, and should you desire it, they would surely enter your service. Also, throughout the years, emissaries have arrived at the court of Chandragupta and Bindusāra from a certain king Tulamay, who rules a kingdom of Yavanas, far to the west. Relations with this king have been amiable, but he is not on good terms with the other Yavana king. It might be wise to seek the friendship of this king, should we ever find ourselves at war with Antiyoka or his successors.

So, great Taksashilarajya, you have much work before you. You rule a great city, a city of wisdom and knowledge, but these are times that call for warriors and generals, not scribes and brahmins. So be vigilant. Rule wisely, and choose your actions carefully, for regardless of your wisdom and knowledge, you must be prepared for war. But then again, wisdom is power, and power is the key to victory.

History

The City of Taksashila may have been founded in the late 6th century BC, as has been inferred by excavations at the earliest archaeological site in the Taksashila complex, known as the Bhir Mound (Wheeler 1959). Later carbon dating of objects from the lowest strata of occupation have yielded later dates, bringing the foundation forward to the last decades of the 5th century BC (Allchin & Erdosy 1995). Mentions of the city in various epic texts, and the importance it has been given therein, seems to point to it being an important Native Indian centre, but due to its connection with the west, it has also been suggested that the city might in fact have been founded by the Achaemenid Persians (Marshall 1951; Keay 2000). Whatever the case, the area of Gandhara, in which Taksashila is located, was already of great importance before being conquered by the Persians, and a king called Pukkusāti is known from Buddhist sources to have ruled Gandhara sometime during the late 6th century BC. (Majumdar et al. 1960), and a king of Gandhara is also mentioned in the Mahabharata .

The first reliable information about Gandhara that we can tentatively date, however, is the takeover of the area by the Achaemenid Persians. According to Xenophon, it was Kuruš (Kyros) who conquered India, and made the Erythraean Sea, which must be identified as the Indian Ocean, the empire’s border (Cyr 1.1; Cyr 8.6.). This is possible, given the fact that in the Behistun inscriptions of 518 BC, listing the possessions of Dāriūsh (Dareios), something called “Gadara” is included, and this can only be interpreted as Gandhara. Thus, Gandhara must have beenadded to the empire before this date. The conquest must also have occurred during or after the reign of the Magadhan king Bimbisāra, as this king received an emissary from king Pukkusāti of Gandhara, which implies that Gandhara was still independent at this point. The dating of king Bimbisāra’s reign is uncertain. According to legend he ascended the throne 60 years before the death of the Buddha, however estimates of this event cover a time span of almost 200 years. The most reliable estimates of the death of the Buddha are 486 or 483 BC, though, which would place the ascension of Bimbisāra between 546 and 543 BC (Majumdar et al. 1960). Further, we know that Bimbisāra reigned for 52 years, before he was murdered by his son (Rapson 1955), which means that he died no later than 491 BC. If we assume that Gandhara was either conquered by Kuruš or Dāriūsh, which seems plausible, given that both these kings are known to have conducted campaigns on the empire’s eastern front, while Kambūjiya (Kambyses) is only accredited with the conquest of Egypt, we can then narrow the possible dates down considerably. Thus, the Persian annexation of Gandhara must have occurred after the coronation of Bimbisāra, as Gandhara was obviously independent at some point during his reign, and before 518 BC. If we compare this with the reigns of Kuruš (558 - 530 BC) and Dāriūsh (521 - 485 BC), we find that the conquest must have taken place in one of the two intervals 546 - 530 BC or 521 - 518 BC. As the exact date of Bimbisāra’s coronation is uncertain, and we know that he was already established on the throne of Magadha when he received an emissary from the Gandharan king, which is unlikely to have happened during the first years of his reign, when he, as a mere boy of 15, had not yet begun the expansionist policies that would eventually lead to the golden age of Magadha, we can probably narrow the possible intervals down further. The Persian occupation thus ought to have occurred during the last few years of the reign of Kuruš, or the first three years of the reign of Dāriūsh.

A later inscription further lists Hindhu among the domains of Dāriūsh, which is probably best identified as either Sindh or the Punjab and adjacent areas along the Indus River. Thus, even though Stein (1998) claims that the Panjab was likely not controlled by the Persians, this indicates that further Persian conquests were made in India during the reign of Dāriūsh. He also sent a Greek adventurer by the name of Skylax of Karyanda on an expedition down the Indus, in order to explore the mouth of the Indus, and from there to return to Egypt (Hist. 4.2). This implies that the Persian domains most likely did not include Sindh, neither did they, except in the northern parts, stretch much further east of the Indus. It appears as though all the Indian domains were part of one administrative entity, though, which would most likely have been based at Taksashila. The area remained under Persian domination for some time, which is attested to by the fact that Herodotos mentions that Indians were included in the army of Ḫšayāršā (Xerxes) as it crossed into Europe (Hist. 7.1.), and in addition to this, coins from the Persian period, mostly copying Greek styles, but some with a Persian archer on the obverse, have been found in India (Rapson 1955).

Despite being ruled by foreign overlords, the culture in Taksashila seems to have flourished at this time. The Mahabaratha, which was probably, to a large extent, compiled in the 4th or 5th century BC, is said to have first been recited in Taksashila, and it was also here that the grammarian Panini lived during the same period (Keay 2000). His works regarding Sanskrit were so thorough and influential that they are still considered some of the most important writings on that subject today, and the rules laid out therein have set a standard for the Sanskrit language, apparently stopping it from developing much further from that point. Many modern Indo-European languages spoken in the Indian subcontinent can, however, trace their ancestry back to the original Vedic-Aryan Sanskrit.

Still, Persian culture and administration were to have a great impact on India in general as well. Wheeler (1959) notes that it was most likely through the Persians that the minting of coins was introduced, and a mint producing the aforementioned types with an archer was established at Taksashila. Some historians have, based on some interpretations of passages in the Rigveda, dated the introduction of coinage to India to the early Vedic period (Kosambi 1941), i.e. the second millennium BC, but the first speciments of the so called punch-marked coins, or Satamānas, found in India, are, according to Dhavilkar (1975), inspired by Achaemenian coinage, and dates from the late sixth or early fifth century, i.e. around the time of the Persian conquest of India beyond Gandhara. There have been earlier finds that might be interpreted as standardised currencies, for instance at Mohenjo Daro (Kosambi 1941), but these are most likely the results of trade with western merchants, as they greatly resemble Babylonian Mana and Shekele, and are imprinted with Cuneiform text (Kosambi 1941). However, in the late fifth century, the punch-marked coins had already been replaced by real coins of cut silver (Majumdar 1977), implying that coinage was becoming more prevalent in the Indian subcontinent.

Another important aspect which may have been the result of the Persian dominion was the introduction of the Karoshti script, which was to be one of the most prevalent scripts in northwest India (Gokhale 1995). According to Megasthenes (fragm. 27), the Seleukid diplomat sent to the Mauryan king Chandragupta’s court in the third century BC, and who is quoted by Strabon, the Indians did not have any written language at all. It has then been claimed that writing was introduced in the northwest by the Achaemenid Persians, and that this practice was then adopted for governmental needs by Chandragupta Maurya, who had the new Brāhmī script system devised based on the Karoshti (Fussman 1988). However, this is mostly based on conjecture, and other historians have attributed the introduction of a script system in India to the period of Ashoka (Salomon 1995), on account of the Ashokan pillar and rock edicts being the first precisely dated written sources in India. It has further been argued that Karoshti, which was regionally limited to the northwest, was also a development of Mauryan times (Salomon 1995), based on the Aramaic script of the Achemenid Persians. In either case, the predominant opinion among historians seems to be that it was the Achaemenid introduction of written Aramaic in the northwest that sparked the evolution of writing in the Indian subcontinent.

Further, the introduction of ironworking to India has repeatedly been attributed to the Persians, primarily by Wheeler (1959). This position has been seriously challenged by several Indian historians, who have pushed the introduction of ironworking further back to the late Vedic period. Kosambi (1963) dates the introduction of the Iron Age in India to around 800-700 BC. This dating is based partly on the mention of Indian iron in ancient sources, such as Herodotos, where it is claimed that the arrowheads of the Indian warriors in the army of Ḫšayāršā were of iron (Hist. 7.1). Furthermore, it is based on the idea of continuous contact between the various branches of the Aryan peoples, even after they had established themselves in other areas. Thus, Kosambi (1963) claimes that the Hittites, who invented ironworking, through their close cultural links with the Vedic Aryans transferred this knowledge to them, via the Aryan Medians. This argument is not wholly satisfactory, though, as even though the Hittites and Vedic Aryans had great cultural similarities, the similarities in religion and symbolism was almost certainly the result of retaining the original Aryan belief system even after the various branches had been separated, and need not in imply that these groups were in close contact still. A further argument put forward by Kosambi (1963) is the allusions to ironworking in the Buddha’s sermons. It does not clearly mention iron, but it alludes to how a plowshare is created by working the hot metal, and then quickly chilling it in water; a process not used for copper- or bronzeworking (Kosambi 1963). As this implies that the procedures of ironworking were generally known in India at that time, this means that iron must have been introduced before, or at least early in the life of the Buddha. Going by the dating of the death of the Buddha in 486 or 483, this means that ironworking was known in India at least in the middle of the sixth century BC. This is in line with the conclusions of Bhardwaj (1978), who mentions some findings of iron objects in India dating to 600-400 BC. These objects were discovered at Rajghat in the Gangetic Valley, and hence outside of the area of Achaemenid control, meaning that by this time, iron working had spread outside the confines of the northwestern part of the subcontinent. Still, this does not conclusively prove that ironworking developed in India independent of Achaemenid influence, even though Bhardwaj (1978) gives an even earlier date than Kosambi (1963), placing the introduction of iron at around 1000 BC. The earliest mentions of iron in the Rigveda, on which Bhardwaj (1978) bases his argument can also be interpreted as referring to copper (Kosambi 1963), leaving the unclear implications from the Buddha’s sermons the only evidence to conclusively date the introduction of ironworking in India to before the Persian period. Hence, Wheeler’s (1959) original hypothesis cannot be wholly rejected.

However, by the 4th century BC, Persian control seems to have diminished in the area, possibly a result of the loss of momentum in the expansion and the internal struggles that affected the Achaemenid Empire after the Graeco-Persian Wars. Instead we find a number of minor kings, most of them probably owing nominal suzerainty to the Achaemenids, but in practice acting as sovereign rulers (Majumdar et al. 1960). According to ancient souces, the king of Taksashila at the time of the Makedonians was named Taxiles (Anabasis 4.22.), but is also otherwise mentioned as Omphi. He has later been identified in an appendix to the grammar of Panini as a certain Ambhi (Keay 2000), and though his exact domain is uncertain, one could probably assume that it only encompassed the city itself and parts of Gandhara. To the east of his domain was the land of the Pauravas, encompassing much of the western Panjab, which was ruled by a king whose original name is unknown, but who has come down to us through Greek sources as Poros. That Poros and Ambhi were enemies is made clear by ancient sources (Anabasis 5.8.), and if Persian domains stretched as far as the Panjab, this must be interpreted as clear evidence of the absence of Achaemenid authority in India at this point. Even if we go by the more common view that the land of the Pauravas lay beyond Persian domains, the prevalence of many independent tribes and states at the time of Alexander’s campaign in the area in the late fourth century seems to indicate that Achaemenid authority in the area had eroded long before the fall of Dāriūsh III.


The Rise of Magadha and the Mauryan Empire

At the time of the Persian conquest of northwestern India, the major part of the northern subcontinent was divided up between a number of states, also known as Janapadas. Ancient sources list many such states, but we shall now turn our attention to the ones located in the western Gangetic Plain, especially the small Janapada of Magadha, which was to play a central role in the events that were to unfold.

By the 6th century, the main powers in the Gangetic plain and northern India were Vriji, Avanti, Vatsa, Kosala and Magadha (Majumdar et al. 1960). Of these, Vriji is noteworthy in that it was a republic, where government was handled by the leaders of a number of Kshatriya clans, who met at an assembly where each clan had equal saying (Thapar 2002). Among the most prominent of the Vriji clans were the Lichchhavis, who were said to have over 7,700 chiefs, and who would play an important role throughout much of India’s ancient history (Majumdar et al. 1960). The four others were kingdoms, however, ruled by dynasties, often of Kshatriya ancestry (Thapar 2002). Such dynasties had evolved from the previous tribal societies that had existed during the Vedic age, and according to Kosambi (1964), this development represented a centralisation of power in the tribes, and the development of an economic system with private ownership, which created a viable tax base. This movement from tribal groupings to states has sometimes been connected to the development of agriculture. When agricultural surplus beyond subsistence level was produced, this allowed greater economic diversification, and hence a process of urbanisation was started, with power concentrated between the urban rulers (Thapar 2002). Furthermore, such economic development would also require social development, with the creation of clearer social hierarchies and property rights, in order to function fully. However, this growing urbanisation and state formation was only the beginning of a process that would continue for several hundred years, and which came to be headed by the Kingdom of Magadha.

One of the fist historical characters in India whom we can relatively safely date is King Bimbisāra of Magadha, who assumed the throne in 546 or 543 BC. The dynastic origin of this king is debated, as the Buddhist chronicles and the Purānic lists differ in this respect. While the Purānas list all the early Magadhan kings up to the Nanda dynasty as belonging to a single dynasty, named the Sisunāga dynasty after its founder, Buddhist sources claim that Bimbisāra belonged to a preceding dynasty, called Haryanka, and that the Sisunāga dynasty came between the Haryanka descendants of Bimbisāra and the Nandas (Majumdar et al. 1960). As this has some implications regarding the chronology of Magadha, it is interesting to briefly discuss the dynasties of Magadha.

Magadha had a mixed population of both Vedic-Aryan and non-Aryan descent, over which the Purānas list a long succession of dynasties, being traced back to before the age of the Mahabaratha . During this period, a line of kings called the Brihadrathas are said by the Purānas to have reigned. Following this long-lived dynasty, the Purānic text mention two separate dynasties before the Nanda dynasty, namely the Pradyotas and the Sisunāgas (Rapson 1955), while the Haryanka dynasty is not mentioned. According to this source, the first Pradyota disposed of the last Brihadratha and seized power in Magadha, whereupon his descendants reigned until they were replaced by the Sisunāgas. However, much of this chronology has been challenged using evidence from Buddhist scriptures, which give a very different picture. The Buddhist sources first mention the Haryanka dynasty of Bimbisāra, which is then followed by the Sisunāgas, without including the Pradyotas either before or after their reign (Majumdar et al. 1960). Meanwhile, a man named Pradyota is also mentioned as king of Avanti in modern Malwa and contemporary of Bimbisāra, and it seems very plausible that this refers to the same person as the Pradyota of the Purānas (Rapson 1955). Hence, it is suggested that the difference in the accounts is due to a scrambled chronology in the Purānic text. This does also seems plausible, and Keay (2000) notes that Buddhist scriptures often are more strict in keeping correct chronologies than Vedic text, where symbolism and dramatic exaggeration is common. The Buddhist chroniclers' view is further supported by the fact that the Purānas also mention that Sisunāga would become king of all that Bimbisāra and Ajātasatru, the first two kings listed as Haryankas by the Buddhists, ruled, as well as the areas ruled by Pradyota (Majumdar et al. 1960). This statement seems paradoxical, unless the Purānic writers misplaced Sisuāaga before Bimbisāra, when he in reality reigned long after. Hence, we must draw the conclusion that Bimbisāra must have belonged to another dynasty, namely the Haryanka dynasty. Thus, from having been listed as the most important dynasty of Magadha before the Mauryans, the Sisunāgas have been reduced in significance at the expense of the Haryankas, and Thapar (2002) even reduces their significance to a brief succession of rulers during a period of merely 50 years, and of scant importance. Meanwhile, the inclusion of the Pradyotas as rulers of Magadha has been traced to brief occupation of the area by the kingdom of Avanti during the reign of the Haryanka king Ajātasatru, which is further supported by the fact that both Pradyota and Ajātasatru are said to have been contemporaries of the Buddha, and not two centuries apart, as the Purānas would have it (Rapson 1955).

Bimbisāra was a mere youth of 15 when he became king, but went on to rule for over 50 years (Rapson 1955). During this time, he set the course for the kingdom of Magadha, which had previously constituted only South Bihar, to become the major player in the northern India for centuries to come. One of the most pivotal steps in the early development was the conquest of the Kingdom of Anga, of which Magadha had previously been a vassal (Darian 1970). In conquering Anga, Bimbisara not only secured the kingdom’s eastern borders, but also gave Magadha access to the wealthy trading port of Champa in west Bengal, which provided welcome revenue. In addition, there was revenue to be gained from the lucrative river trade, although this may have been diminished during these troubled times of war (Darian 1970). With such resources at his disposal, it would have been possible for Bimbisāra to challenge his western contenders with an equal footing. In addition, he started building up the administrative system of the kingdom, allowing more efficient resource utilisation (Thapar 2002). However, another oft-mentioned explanation for the growth of Magadha was the resource deposits, primarily of iron, that were readily available in the area (Thapar 2002). Most likely, it was a combination of the aforementioned factors, and Bimbisāra’s shrewd political manoeuvring, including several marital alliances (Majumdar et al. 1960), that led to the quick ascendancy of the Kindom of Magadha. However, it was Bimbisāra’s son and successor who would ultimately oversee Magadha's triumph over her contending kingdoms.

Bimbisāra’s son Ajātasatru seized the throne of Magadha, allegedly by assassinating his father (Majumdar et al. 1960), although some stories claim that Bimbisāra willingly abdicated in favour of his son (Keay 2000). Whatever the case, Ajātasatru quickly had to prove his worth as a ruler, as his reign began with a full-out war against the other states of the Gangetic Plain. The Kingdom of Kosala, to the northwest of Magadha, declared war on Ajātasatru not long after Bimbisāra’s death, possibly to avenge the death of Bimbisāra’s Kosalan queen, who had died of grief upon the demise of her husband (Majumdar et al. 1960). They entered into an alliance with the Vriji Confederacy, who also had grievances with the Magadhan dynasty. Allegedly, the reason for this was that Bimbisāra, in disguise, was supposed to have infiltrated the Vriji capital and seduced a Lichchhavi princess, and this outrage had resulted in increased animosity between the two states (Keay 2000). However, through luck and skillful political manoeuvring, Ajātasatru managed to fight off the impending threat. According to some sources, it was by by taking advantage of a revolt in Kosala, which resulted in the expulsion and death of his previous enemy, his uncle king Prasenajit, that Ajātasatru managed to invade Kosala, whereupon it was annexed (Keay 2000). The story further relates that Ajātasatru was assisted in his war by the unwise decision of the new Kosalan king, Vidudabha, to encamp his army on a dry riverbed, where it was unexpectedly destroyed by sudden flooding, allowing Magadha to capture Kosala unopposed (Kosambi 1964). Other sources claim that Prasenajit was forced to sue for peace, and give his daughter as wife to Ajātasatru, but that Kosala was left, albeit severely weakened (Majumdar et al. 1960). Whatever the case with Kosala, the Vriji state was annexed, and incorporated into the growing kingdom of Magadha. During this period of war, Ajātasatru also focused on reinforcing the urban centers of Magadha, not only founding the city of Rajagriha, which became the kingdom’s capital, but also building the fortress of Pataligrama (Majumdar et al. 1960), which was to become important in a later age. The city of Rajagriha was built around the walls of a royal fortress, and excavations of the site have unearthed the remains of a walled settlement, with an outer rampart around the settlement attributed to Ajātasatru, and an inner core with a more extensive brick wall, which seems to corroborate this story. Early excavations at the site seemed to suggest a later dating for this fortress, but more recent excavations have yielded pottery fragments that may date to the 6th century BC, which would suggest that the fortress was located here during the reigns of Bimbisāra and Ajātasatru (Chakrabarti 1976).

The kingdom flourished during Ajātasatru’s reign, but after his death the chronology becomes slightly blurred. Buddhist chroniclers and the Purānas disagree on the following kings, and little information about the expansion of Magadha is provided during this period (Keay 2000). Purānic lists incert a figure called Darsaka as Ajātasatru's successor, but both Buddhist and Jain traditions agree that the next king was in fact Ajatasatru’s son Udāyi (Majumdar et al. 1960). Upon this seems to have followed a succession of kings who, according to tradition, were all parricides, up until the last was deposed by the Sisunāga dynasty (Thapar 2002). The Sisuāaga dynasty was cut short by an usurper, by the name of Mahāpadma Nanda, and he was to found the next dynasty, the Nandas, who were to finally forge Magadha into an empire. The ancient sources differ regarding the identity of this king. While Purānic sources claim he was the illegitimate son of the last Sisunāga king, in Jain sources he is claimed to be the son of a barber who had seduced one of the king’s courtesans (Majumdar et al. 1960). This Jain account is also corroborated by Quintus Curtius Rufus, who relates a similar story. According to his account, the queen had taken this barber as her lover, and after having deposed the previous king and murdered his children, the barber had installed their son, called Agrammes, on the throne (Curtius 9.2). This Agrammes, or Xandrames as he is also known, is often identified with Mahāpadma’s son Dhana-Nanda (Majumdar et al. 1960), which seems to suggest that Curtius has skipped a generation, and excluded Mahāpadma.

What is interesting with respect to this is that as the son of a barber, Mahāpadma, and hence the entire Nanda dynasty, would have been shudras, the lowest of the four castes. Curtius' account makes clear that such a low-born king was very unpopular with the people (Curtius 9.2), and the Purānic description of him slaughtering the Kshatriyas could be interpreted as the higher castes being reluctant to follow such a leader, with the king taking measures to curb such unrest. Thapar (2002), however, interprets this merely as a relation of Mahāpadma’s conquest of various Kshatriya states in the Gangetic Plain. Whatever the case, it seems clear that the Magadhan Kingdom expanded rapidly during the Nanda dynasty. An inscription in Kalinga, in modern Orissa, suggests that the Nandas conquered this area (Majumdar et al. 1960), and it is likely that it was during the Nandas that Maghada expanded westwards, ultimately conquering the kingdoms of Avanti and Vatsa. No clear date or reference to this event is known, but it seems clear that these were under the control of Magadha at the time of Chandragupta Maurya. It is possible that they had already been conquered under the Sisunāgas or even the late Haryankas (Keay 2000), however the fact that Buddhist scriptures list Mahāpadma Nanda as the fist “one-umbrella ruler”, a title denoting a single king ruling over a large swathe of land (Keay 2000), could point to such conquests being credibly attributed to him. The fact that he is denoted a “one-umbrella ruler” seems to indicate, for the first time in Indian history, aspirations of imperial power by a native king, something which is also hinted at in the Purānas (Thapar 2002). That he ruled a mighty kingdom is further emphasised by the size of his army, which Quintus Curtius Rufus claims was over 200,000 strong, with 20,000 horsemen, 2,000 chariots and 3,000 war-elephants (Curtius 9.2). However, the imperial ambitions of the Nandas also furthered the dissent among the local populace, due to the oppressive rule and heavy taxation imposed to maintain the empire, and their Shudra heritage (Majumdar et al. 1960). However, Keay (2000) argues that the very negative posthumous reputation of the Nandas was in no small part due to their defiance of Vedic Brahmanic, as well as Buddhist, tradition, the religions to which most chroniclers of ancient India adhered, and that they have thus been more harshly judged by posterity that they deserve.

It was at this point, with Nanda wealth and power at its peak, that a new dynasty would arise, which would reshape the history of India. The founder of this dynasty was a young man by the name of Chandragupta Maurya, a man of uncertain origin, but well attested in many historical sources. While some sources claim that he was in fact related to the Nandas, and hence a Shudra, other claims of his ancestry range from a simple Vaisya (Keay 2000), to a noble Kshatriya (Majumdar et al. 1960). How Chandragupta came to usurp the Nanda throne is debated, but much points toward this course of events being masterminded by a Brahman minister by the name of Kautilya (indeed, the same Kautilya who is accredited with composing the Arthashastra). Keay (2000) suggests that Kautilya, possibly a native of Taksashila, had previously been expelled from the Nanda court, and now, together with an ambitious adventurer named Chandragupta Maurya, took it upon himself to depose the Nanda dynasty. Whether this was the case, or whether Chandragupta indeed had connections to the Nanda court shall remain open to debate, but it seems clear that they took advantage of the power vacuum in left in the northwest after the campaign of Alexander to start an uprising. Chandragupta started raising an army in the northwest, supposedly to a large extent composed of mercenaries (Majumdar et al. 1960). These have sometimes, based on relatively uncertain sources such as ancient Indian dramas, been regarded as Greek mercenaries from among the colonies left by Alexander in the northwest (Woodcock 1966), but this remains pure conjecture. Using this army, Chandragupta instigated a guerilla war against the Nandas, causing the peripheral areas to break away from central Magadhan rule (Thapar 2002). After having severely weakened the Nandas, Chandragupta descended on their capital at Pataliputra, the former fortress of Pataligrama built by Ajatasatru, which had by now superseded Rajagriha in importance, and made himself emperor of Magadha (Keay 2000).

Though several times mentioned in both Graeco-Roman and Indian sources, very little is known about Chandragupta's reign, and the extent of his empire. It would have comprised the former empire of the Nandas, but in addition, the northwestern provinces would also have been incorporated. Ancient sources mention a chief from the northwest who aided Chandragupta in his revolt against the Nandas, but whom Kautilya later had assassinated (Keay 2000). The evidence from ancient Indian plays related by Woodcock (1966) could actually point to this being king Poros, against whom Alexander had fought. In the play, Kautilya orders the assassination of an ally of Chandragupta named Parvatarka. This would mean that the northwest had already revolted to Chandragupta before his overthrowing the Nanda, and that he was subsequently removing any potential political threats in that area. This seems to go against the account of Diodorus Siculus, who claims that Poros was murdered by the Macedonian general Eudamos, left in charge of the Macedonian holdings east of the Indus, who then seized his elephants before he marched west (Diodorus 19.14). Woodcock (1966) argues that Diodorus is mistaken, and that the king murdered by Eudamos was in fact Ambhi of Taksashila, while Poros aligned himself with Chandragupta. This would then mean that with the Makedonians evacuated and Ambhi out of the picture, Chandragupta only had to remove Poros in order to gain full control of the area. This view is not in line with that proposed by Majumdar et al. (1960), who states that if it was the case that Poros aligned himself with Chandragupta, thus forging the northwest to the Mauryan cause before the fall of the Nandas, then Justin’s description of Chandragupta’s conquest of the area must be false. According to Justin (15.4), Chandragupta met with Alexander during his campaign along the Indus, but insulted him and was forced to flee. After his flight, a portent, where a tame lion approached him in the forrest, made him take up arms against the invaders, and drive them out of India, whereupon he made himself king. This would not make sense if the northwest had already been handed over to Chandragupta by Poros, and hence Majumdar et al. (1960) argue that Chandragupta’s conquest of the northwest was a separate campaign against the free states and Macedonian enclaves left there, which occurred following the fall of the Nandas. It has sometimes been argued that the “Alexandrum” of Justin’s text should in fact be rendered “Nandrum”, implying that it was from the court of the Nanda king that Chandragupta fled, and that was the Nandas (perhaps in their role as shudras) that is meant by the “foreign overlords” mentioned in Justin’s account (Justin 15.4). Majumdar et al. (1960), however, reject this hypothesis, arguing that Chandargupta’s meeting with Alexander is corroborated by other sources.

In addition to the northwest, Chandragupta appears to have also ruled over Saurashtra in western India, where he is mentioned in inscriptions (Keay 2000). This area would most likely not have been part of the Nanda Empire, and hence it must have been conquered by Chandragupta. The area of Kalinga, however, was most likely no longer part of the Empire, as this area had to be re-conquered by Ashoka in 261 BC. Most likely, this area had already broken free during the period of Nanda rule (Majumdar et al. 1960). Further territory was added in 305 BC, when Seleukos Nikator, on a quest to restore the eastern borders of Alexander’s former empire advanced on India with his army. Chandragupta seems to have marched out against him, but whether any battle was actually fought, and what the results of such a battle were, is uncertain (Woodcock 1966). What is known is that Seleukos gave up the provinces of Arachosia, Gedrosia and Paropamisadai, and in return received 500 war elephants, whereupon the two empires established friendly diplomatic relations which were to last for the better part of the following century. What actually transpired during the campaign is debated. Keay (2000) argues that the terms of the treaty seem to imply that Seleukos was defeated; however, the gift of 500 elephants has been interpreted both as a symbolic payment for the provinces the defeated Seleukids were forced to give up, and as a gift from the humbled Indian king to the foreign conqueror (Woodcock 1966). The fact that Antiochos III, on his eastern campaign, received a gift of a number of elephants as tribute from an Indian king named Shubagasena could be interpreted as evidence of the latter claim. However, most historians, such as Thapar (2002), and Majumdar et al. (1960) argue that it was the Seleukids who were defeated, and indeed the amount of territory ceded certainly implies that. The alliance between the two empires was concluded through a marital alliance, where the daughter of Seleukos was given in marriage to either Chandragupta himself, or, more likely, his son Bindusāra. This seems to further point towards the Seleukids being the losing party in the preceding conflict. In addition, the Seleukid diplomat Megasthenes was dispatched to Pataliputra, where he went on to write the Indika, which would be one of the most quoted ancient sources on the subject of India. Whether Chandragupta made any conquests in the Deccan, the high plateu in southern central India, is unknown. Mauryan hegemony is known to have extended thus far later in history, but cannot be certainly dated before the reign of Ashoka (269 – 231 BC). However, Jain tradition claims that Chandragupta retired to a hill in Karnatka upon his abdication, where he then lived out his days as an ascetic (Keay 2000). This could suggest that Maurayn influence stretched this far, but the evidence is far from conclusive.

Upon the abdication of Chandragupta, his son Bindusāra took over the throne. Not much is known about the reign this monarch, who reigned from 297 BC to 273 BC. He is mentioned in Greek sources as Amitrochates, which may be a Greek rendering of the Sanskrit Amitraghata, which can be translated as “slayer of foes” (Thapar 2002). This name seems to imply that he further expanded the boundaries of the Mauryan Empire (Keay 2000), although in what direction is unknown. Perhaps he conquered parts of the Deccan, as the only conquest of the area which his successor Ashoka is credited with is the re-conquest of Kalinga in 261 BC. Bindusāra may also have put down a revolt at Taksashila at some point (Majumdar et al. 1960). Upon his death in 273 BC, a short interregnum followed, possibly due to a civil war between two of more of Bindusāra's sons over who should become the next emperor. The eventual victor was Ashoka Maurya, and the empire he inherited was one of a power and glory far greater that that of the kingdom once inherited by the young king Bimbisāra, some 270 years earlier.

Units

Tomara Kseptrayah (Indian Tribal Levies)

Rajya, the chiefs of the forest and mountain tribes under your rule send these men to bolster your ranks, and thus pay their tribute to the Chakravartin! Lightly armed and light of feet, they can screen the flanks of your army and harass the enemy infantry, chariots and elephants. Brought up in the harsh jungles and forested mountains of your realm, these are hardy men, used to the travails of war, but they are not professional soldiers, and in the end their loyalty lies with their village elders and Gramanis, and not with the Emperor, Viceroy or Pradeshika.

Excellent skirmishers, these men are armed with iron-tipped javelins, and carry small leather or wicker shields for protection. As speed and flexibility is a key part of their battlefield tactics, they wear no cumbersome armour, and their dress is the same simple clothes that they would wear on the hunt or out foraging. The tribal warriors come from a diverse range of peoples, ranging from relatively civilized semi-autonomous republics, to savage jungle men, and this is reflected in the diversity of their clothes and hairstyles. Thus, while some of them are nigh indistinguishable from city dwellers, others wear clothes fashioned from the plants of the jungle, and adorn themselves with bones, teeth and other trophies from their hunt.

Historically, auxiliary troops from the forest tribes was one of the five main categories of troops listed by Kautilya in his Arthashastra. According to Kautilya, the troops levied from subservient tribes could not be relied on to hold the main battle line, but should instead be used for skirmishing and harassing the enemy, as well as for hunting down routing troops. The exact nature of these troops and their equipment is not specified, but it seems plausible that they would use the same implements in war as they used in their daily life for hunting, fishing and foraging. Ancient Indian art have several examples of tribal warriors, often shown wearing simple loincloths, or even skirts made out of plants, and sometimes armed with simple spears or bows. While not directly subjects of the emperor, a substantial part of ancient Mauryan armies would probably have consisted of auxiliary troops levied from allied kingdoms and subservient tribes, and used to bolster the size of the army. Just as in the Persian Empire, on which many Mauryan institutions were modeled, this would lead to armies of copious sizes compared to what most Mediterranean kingdoms could muster in that era, but the quality of such armies were sometimes doubtful.

Kseptrayah (Indian Tribal Slingers)

Rajya, the chiefs of the forest and mountain tribes under your rule send these men to bolster your ranks, and thus pay their tribute to the Chakravartin! Lightly armed and light of feet, they can screen the flanks of your army and harass the enemy infantry, chariots and elephants. Brought up in the harsh jungles and forested mountains of your realm, these are hardy men, used to the travails of war, but they are not professional soldiers, and in the end their loyalty lies with their village elders and Gramanis, and not with the Emperor, Viceroy or Pradeshika.

These slingers from the mountain and forest tribes carry small leather slings, just as easily used for hunting game as for hunting men. They carry no shields, as they do not intend to close with their prey until already downed. Nonetheless, they carry simple wooden clubs, useful for disposing their injured prey, but which can also be used for self-defence in melee, should the situation call for it. As speed and flexibility is a key part of their battlefield tactics, they wear no cumbersome armour, and their dress is the same simple clothes that they would wear on the hunt or out foraging. The tribal warriors come from a diverse range of peoples, ranging from relatively civilized semi-autonomous republics, to savage jungle men, and this is reflected in the diversity of their clothes and hairstyles. Thus, while some of them are nigh indistinguishable from city dwellers, others wear clothes fashioned from the plants of the jungle, and adorn themselves with bones, teeth and other trophies from their hunt.

Historically, auxiliary troops from the forest tribes was one of the five main categories of troops listed by Kautilya in his Arthashastra. According to Kautilya, the troops levied from subservient tribes could not be relied on to hold the main battle line, but should instead be used for skirmishing and harassing the enemy, as well as for hunting down routing troops. The exact nature of these troops and their equipment is not specified, but it seems plausible that they would use the same implements in war as they used in their daily life for hunting, fishing and foraging. Ancient Indian art have several examples of tribal warriors, often shown wearing simple loincloths, or even skirts made out of plants, and sometimes armed with simple spears or bows. While not directly subjects of the emperor, a substantial part of ancient Mauryan armies would probably have consisted of auxiliary troops levied from allied kingdoms and subservient tribes, and used to bolster the size of the army. Just as in the Persian Empire, on which many Mauryan institutions were modeled, this would lead to armies of copious sizes compared to what most Mediterranean kingdoms could muster in that era, but the quality of such armies were sometimes doubtful.

Kauntikas (Indian Spearmen)

These men, armed with spears and protected by shields, are the mainstay of the Indian infantry. Most of these men are not part of the Kshatriya warrior caste, but can be men of varying origin who have taken up arms. Their spears, which they wield in an underarm position, are made of wood or bamboo, with iron spearheads. Barbed spearheads are known to have been used, but pictorial sources provide evidence for a multitude of different types. The shields are flat and bell-shaped, some of them with painted patterns, while others are just reinforced with leather straps. It seems likely that this type of shield was actually strapped to the arm, making it easier to block with. Most of the warriors are dressed in their everyday clothing, which includes loincloths, skirts, and short-sleeved shirts. The majority would have fought bare-chested, however. Some of the warriors wear a simple type of armour corselet, made from strips of hardened leather and tied at the back by what is in the epics referred to as a corselet strap. This type of armour can, for instance, be seen on some of the warriors on the reliefs on the Toranas at Sanchi. Some of them wear turbans, which might have been used to deaden the blows of blunt weapons, while others have the characteristic Indian hair knot. These were sometimes tied up with cloth to form a simple type of turban.

These warriors are neither the best nor the bravest men in the Indian armies. They are primarily meant to add mass to the infantry formations, where they do a decent job holding the line, but cannot be expected to defeat better trained warriors, and nor are they suitable as assault infantry. Such roles are better filled by macemen or swordsmen.

Historically, spearmen were some of the most common warriors in Indian armies, which is attested to by their prevalence on murals and reliefs, and the fact that the epics list a plethora of different names for designating various types of spears, such as barbed spears, throwing spears, pikes and metal spears. The spear remained primarily an infantry weapon, and was generally not considered as heroic as the bow, or melee weapons that put more emphasis on individual combat skills, such as the mace or sword.

In the classical "Four-Armed Army", or Caturangabala, the infantry was one of the four main arms. Even though Kautilya, the author of the Arthashastra, proposed that an army should preferably be made up entirely of Kshatriyas, most armies probably contained large contingents of members of other castes as well, especially after the ascension of Buddhism during Mauryan times. The Seleukid ambassador Megasthenes reported in c. 300 BC that Chandragupta had over 600,000 infantrymen under his command, and most of these were probably levies armed with whatever they had to hand. Spears and shields were cheap and easy to make, and spearmen would likely have made up a large part of the melee infantry. Other empires that conquered India also made use of the warriors they could muster there. Indian warriors were likely present at Thermopylai as part of the Achaemenid army, and later dynasties that ruled north-west India, such as the Baktrians, Sakas and Kushanas, were not slow to incorporate these warriors into their armies.

Cápadhara Yoddhr (Indian Longbowmen)

These men are armed with the weapon most closely associated with the ancient Indian warrior: the longbow. The longbows would have been made of either bamboo or wood, and it would have been drawn in a particular fashion, described by ancient authors. The archer would put the bottom end of the bow against the ground, supported by his foot, when he shot the arrow, to give the bow stability. Quivers would have been worn on the back, as can be deduced from several ancient stone reliefs of warriors all carrying the quiver on their shoulders. In addition to the bows, these warriors also carry a broadsword. According to Arrianos, the broadsword and the bow were the weapons of choice of Indian warriors, and the sword was used in a slashing fashion. There were several different types of swords, some of native Indian design, but through foreign influence, other types, such as the Hellenic kopis made their way into the hands of Indian warriors. In fact, the design of the kopis sword remains in use in India today in the famed kukri knifes, which retain the shape of the Greek original, so great was the influence of Hellenic warfare in India. Most of the warriors are dressed in their everyday clothing, which includes loincloths, skirts, and short-sleeved shirts. The majority would have fought bare-chested, however. Some of the warriors wear a simple type of armour corselet, made from strips of hardened leather and tied at the back by what is in the epics referred to as a corselet strap. This type of armour can, for instance, be seen on some of the warriors on the reliefs on the Toranas at Sanchi. Some of them wear turbans, which might have been used to deaden the blows of blunt weapons, while others have the characteristic Indian hair knot. These were sometimes tied up with cloth to form a simple type of turban. These archers can use their bows with great efficiency, and though they may not have the best aim, the power and range of their weapons more than make up for this. Though their broadswords make them more capable in melee than most archers, they are primarily ranged warriors, and may break if facing better trained warriors in hand-to-hand combat.

Historically, archers with longbows were one of the most prominent aspects of Indian warfare, as can be attested to by reliefs and Murals from the time, in addition to their mention in Epics and also in accounts of classical authors like Arrianos. Archery had always been an important aspect of warfare already for the Vedic Aryan tribes that started migrating into the Indian subcontinent in the 2nd millennium BC, and in literature, archery was emphasised as the nobility's means of fighting. The armament of these men differs from that of the noble kshatriya charioteers in that while they used composite bows, the infantry used longbows.

In the classical "Four-Armed Army", or Caturangabala, the foot archers were considered part of the infantry. Even though Kautilya, the author of the Arthashastra, proposed that an army should preferably be made up entirely of Kshatriyas, most armies probably contained large contingents of members of other castes as well, especially after the ascension of Buddhism during Mauryan times. The Seleukid ambassador Megasthenes reported in c. 300 BC that Chandragupta had over 600,000 infantrymen under his command, and most of these were probably levies. A substantial proportion of these would probably have been longbowmen. \n\nOther empires that conquered India also made use of the warriors they could muster there. Indian warriors were likely present at Thermopylai as part of the Achaemenid army, and later dynasties that ruled north-west India, such as the Baktrians, Sakas and Kushanas, were not slow to incorporate these warriors into their armies.

Laghu Asvánika (Indian Light Cavalry)

Armed with javelins and swords, the Indian light cavalry is very good for skirmishing duties and to pursue routing enemies. Though better soldiers than the mere levies that make up the bulk of Indian armies, these men are still no professional warriors. Along with their javelins, they carry small cavalry shields, which resemble the bell-shaped infantry shields, but are smaller and with a rounded bottom. Just like the infantry's shields, they are made of leather on a wooden frame, and either painted or covered with leather straps as reinforcement. They also wield swords for use in melee. Like the levies, most are dressed in their everyday clothing, some with shirts on, while others fight bare-chested. Some wear the particular short shirts that are seen on the Ajanta murals, which leaves the abdomen bare, but covers the upper thorax area. Unlike the infantry, they do not wear any armour at all, as these men are intended for skirmishing duties, and not engaging in melee. Some wear protective turbans, which might help to deaden blows to the head, while others have the characteristic Indian hair knots. They ride well-bred Kambojan horses, which were famed for being excellent war horses. Some of the earliest known stirrups can be seen on Indian monuments, but far from all riders used them, and these relatively light cavalry units had not the same need for such devices as the heavier cavalry used for melee. Some do have saddles, probably reinforced with wood, but most just use a piece of cloth or leather. These warriors are light skirmishing cavalry, and not intended for charging or fighting in melee. They are primarily used for support and screening purposes, and will quickly break if caught in close combat by enemy troops. They are best used for harassing the enemy's flanks and their speed makes them excellent for chasing down routing enemy units.

Historically, cavalry played a rather minor role in ancient Indian armies, although it was slightly more important in the northwestern parts of the subcontinent. Still, cavalry was most certainly present in all Indian armies, as can be attested to by their appearance on several monuments, such as the stuphas at Sanchi and Barhut, and on the Ajanta murals. The great majority of the horsemen seen on these monuments are light cavalry, armed with javelins and short spears, and unarmoured.

Though relatively seldom mentioned in the epics, cavalry was considered one of the arms of the classical "Four-Armed Army", or Caturangabala. Their role was primarily supportive, though, and in the Arthashastra, Kautilya states that skirmishing and pursuing routing enemies are the main tasks of the cavalry. The role of shock troops was instead given to the elephants and chariots. Only later, with the development of heavier cavalry types, did horsemen play any significant role in battle. Nevertheless, light cavalry of this type remained a part of Indian armies for scouting or skirmishing purposes until medieval times. Other empires that conquered India also made use of the warriors they could muster there. Indian warriors were likely present at Thermopylai as part of the Achaemenid army, and later dynasties that ruled north-west India, such as the Baktrians, Sakas and Kushanas, were not slow to incorporate these warriors into their armies.

Prasadhara Asvanika (Indian Lancers)

The chariot and elephant will surely always have their place on the battlefield, but perhaps there are also lessons to be learned from the peoples that live to the west of the Hindu Kush mountains. These warriors are an example of this, mounted on horses and wielding lances and swords, they can charge into enemy lines and engage enemy cavalry on an equal footing. Wearing armour and helmets, and with shields to protect them, these warriors come from the upper tiers of the Kshatriya class, and no doubt, some among them may have Shaka or Yavana blood mixed in their veins.

Although better able to handle themselves in a melee than any other native Indian cavalry available, primarily through their use of armour and helmets, these men cannot be compared to the heaviest of the cavalry troops fielded by other nations. Although inspired by the tactics and equipment of the Yavanas and the peoples of the steppe, cavalry is not a traditional part of the classical Vedic-Aryan four-armed army, or Caturangabala, and more traditional commanders may not know how to use them. Indeed, they themselves might be a bit uneasy in their role, and if engaged by more experienced heavy cavalry, or heavy pikemen, might not be able to hold their own. Nevertheless, they are the most powerful cavalry fielded by native Indian commanders, and fill a much needed role in the army if employed correctly.

Historically, in the traditional four-armed army, or Caturangabala, of Vedic-Aryan times, cavalry played a very small role. Its main purpose was to screen the main army as it advanced, and to harass and pursue routers after the victory was a fact. Any operations that needed more force or momentum than could be achieved by regular infantry was mostly handled either by chariots or by elephants. There would on occasion have existed more heavily armoured horsemen, and Kautilya states in his Arthashastra that the armoured horsemen should hold the centre of the cavalry columns. However, with the arrival of foreign powers on the borders of India, which used cavalry to a much greater degree than had been the case in India during the Vedic age, armoured cavalry became more common. The Indo-Greek king Menandros had a substantial cavalry force in his army as he conquered the Gangetic plain, no doubt with sizeable native Indian contingents to flesh out the Greek component. The presence of the Sakas and Kushanas, both of nomad ancestry, would also have affected the cavalry tradition of India, for by Gupta times, not only do we find many coins showing equestrian figures, but descriptions of the royal armies include mention of cavalry armed with lances and bows, wearing helmets and coats of armour that go to their knees. By the time of the Sunga Empire, in the second century BC, such armour would still have been fairly uncommon, but cavalrymen wearing more traditional Indian suits of armour seem to appear from this period on in depictions and mentions, and were no doubt an import from neighbouring peoples, rather than an indigenous invention.

Ksatriya Khadgacarmadharas (Indian Swordsmen)

Armed with big chopping swords and tall shields, Indian swordsmen are the shock infantry of Indian armies. The swords they wield have a curved shape, resembling the Greek kopis, but are bigger. They were most likely the product of Hellenic influences on Indian armament, where the Indians adapted the shape to fit other purposes as well. Hence, just like the more traditional broadswords, they would have been used as a slashing and chopping weapon in melee, the curve only increasing their effectiveness. In addition, they carry javelins which they throw before melee commences. Some javelins have barbed heads, as such heads are known both from the murals at Ajanta, and from the Epics.

The shields they carry are long and narrow and most are slightly curved. Such shields are known both from murals and reliefs, and Arrianos describes them as being narrower than a man, but almost as tall. Their size and curved shape would have almost enveloped the warrior carrying it, and given much protection from arrows. Though this type of shield is sometimes seen in other contexts, it is for the most part seen carried along with the curved swords mentioned above, and warriors thus equipped seems to have been prevalent in ancient Indian armies. These warriors do not wear any body armour, nor do they wear helmets, making them lighter than the macemen, who make up the heavier part of the infantry, but less resilient in melee. Being Kshatriyas, many of whom are part of the standing royal army, they can afford finer clothing than the levy infantry, and some even wear jewellery. Judging by mural paintings, most would have worn white clothes with coloured patterns on, although more colourful examples are sometimes seen.

These warriors make quite good assault infantry, while their large shields make them relatively resistant to arrows and other ranged weapons. Their slashing swords may cut through most infantry, but their lack of armour may prove fatal if they are caught in prolonged melee. Historically, swords were important weapons in India since ancient times, and already during the bronze age, the people of the Gangetic Plain wielded swords. However, with the advent of the Vedic Aryans, the sword became more associated with the knights and Kshatriyas. Though nothing is mentioned in ancient Indian sources about the Macedonian campaign in the northwest, Alexander left a lasting legacy on the military culture of the subcontinent, and the kopis sword especially was widely used. In fact, the design of the kopis sword remains in use in India today in the famed kukri knifes, which retain the shape of the Greek original. These swords were most likely adaptations of the kopis to the Indian style of sword fighting, and hence they were enlarged.

Ksatriya Gadáhasta Yoddhr (Indian Macemen)

Warriors from the higher tiers of the Kshatriya caste, these men have chosen to fight with the mace, a weapon with a substantial symbolic importance in India. These men are professional soldiers, paid by the government and very well trained in combat. As such, they can afford better equipment and armour, but they also wear some jewellery to further emphasise their high status. They wield their maces in one hand with a bell-shaped shield, decorated with various painted motifs, in the other. Many of these motifs have a religious significance, such as the chakra and bodhi tree in Buddhism, and the swastika in Hinduism. The maces are made out of a multitude of materials, but most had iron or bronze heads with wooden handles. Some maces have spikes on them, to increase their lethality.

Being relatively wealthy, these men can afford better clothing than the average warrior, with some dyed cloth and some jewellery being in evidence. Some of them wear armour too, namely corselets of hardened leather and scale armour. The leather corselets can, for instance, be seen on some of the warriors on the reliefs on the toranas at Sanchi. The scale armour is a short, armless cuirass, the simplest type of metal body armour described by Kautilya in the Arthashastrsa. In addition to the traditional hair knots and turbans, some wear helmets. The helmets, made of iron or copper, are of the type seen on the Nagarjunakonda relief, with a pointed shape. Helmets are rarely seen on ancient Indian depictions, and even though occasionally mentioned in the ancient literature, they seem to have been of limited use. Yet compared to the turbans that might help deaden blows, but do not protect from slashing or missile weapons, helmets are very effective means of protection, and saw use among more high-ranking warriors. Still, some sport the classic hair knots, or long flowing hair, which was popular among the upper classes in ancient India. \n\nHeavily armed, armoured and well trained, these men are excellent infantry to send into the fiercest melee. They may not have the same impact as the swordsmen, but their fighting skill and superior armour gives them far better staying power. Hence, the macemen are good medium/heavy infantry for Indian armies. \n\nHistory\n\nHistorically, the mace, generally known as Gada, was a very popular weapon among knights, and many knights took pride in their skill of mace fighting. In fact, there existed several different fighting techniques, some of which included hurling the mace at the enemy. Several types of maces are seen on reliefs and mentioned in textual sources. Some, such as the great mace, or Mahagada, was probably wielded two-handed, while other types were wielded with one hand, with or without a shield. The reliefs provide us with ample evidence for various types of mace heads, ranging from square and hexagonal forms, to spiked varieties, and some shaped as simple clubs or batons.

Traditionally, most knights fought mounted on chariots, and would mostly only fight dismounted if the chariot broke down or if they were caught in melee. However, some knights, although of higher standing than most, would probably have fought as a part of another arm of the classic "four-armed army", or Caturangabala. Many would likely have made up the heavier contingents of the infantry. Further, not all kshatriyas were knights, and the wealthier of these would likely have fought as part of the heavier troops, although not from chariots.

According to Kautilya in the Arthashastra, the armoured infantry was supposed to hold the centre of the battle line. Such warriors would most likely have been almost exclusively kshatriyas, and were often full-time warriors, being provided for by the state in peacetime. Indeed, Kautilya argues that the army should preferably be made up exclusively of men of the kshatriya caste. Still, given the size of ancient Indian armies, some comprised of over 600,000 men, it is likely that a substantial part was of other castes, and only a fraction of the Kshatriyas would have been wealthy enough to be as well equipped as the knights.

Ksatriya Árya Rathas (Indian Chariot Archers)

Riding in horse-drawn chariots, these warriors come from the elite section of the Kshatriya caste, superseding most other warriors in both skill and wealth. They take honour in fighting in the same manner as the ancient Vedic-Aryan heroes of bygone days, and attempt to equal the bravery of Krishna and Arjuna in battle. They are skilled in all types of fighting, but their favoured weapon is the composite bow. In the Artashastra, Kautilya lists wood, bone and sinew as the material of which such bows were made. Like most Indian warriors, they wear their leather quivers on their backs. Some extra quivers would likely have been carried in the chariots as well. All warriors carry Indian broadswords for use in melee if the chariot breaks down or they want to engage in a duel on foot. Each chariot carries three men: two warriors armed with bows and one charioteer.

The wealth of these men is clearly seen on their clothing, which is coloured with expensive dyes and, like most Indian clothing, made of cotton. Cotton had been known in India for a long time, and was extensively used for clothing. Megasthenes reports that there were bushes in India which produced wool, which must refer to cotton, but many western readers at the time found this unbelievable. On their heads, some wear turbans of dyed cloth, which serve to deaden blows from blunt weapons. Others wear the traditional Indian hair knot and a small decorative garland. Many wear decorative jewellery in gold, such as necklaces and earrings. Many of the warriors wear heavy armour. Kautilya describes several types of armour, such as foot-length and knee-length armour coats. Both types are represented on the chariot warriors, mostly of scale, but some are also leather coats with metal plates attached to them. The armour is made of a leather base, with metal armour, either of iron, bronze or copper, attached to it. The leather extends slightly below the end of the metal to avoid injury to the wearer. Some warriors also wear helmets. The helmets seen are of the pointed type seen on the reliefs from Nagarjunakonda, and also a round type seen on the reliefs at Sanchi. Some helmets have gilded and painted decorations along the rim. Their bracers are presumably repoussés with gold attachments. \n\nThe chariot consists of a box, probably of leather or wicker on a wooden frame, to which an axle, extending some distance outside the box on each side, is attached with leather strings, roughly to the middle of the box, although some depictions seem to hint at it being located somewhat more towards the front of the chariot. The floor in the front of the chariot, where the driver stands, is slightly raised. The wheels are fastened to the end of the axle, possibly with linchpins, but this remains uncertain. The wheels had at least eight spokes, although some depictions show many more.

This could, however, be a way to implement the chakra symbol into the pictures. The wheels are made of wood, but with a sort of metal tyre. The felloe may have been made of several parts, or one big piece of wood which had been bent. The chariot pole is fastened at the bottom of the box, and goes through a hole in the yoke. Sometimes an object called a "three-fold piece" is mentioned in sources, but what it was remains uncertain. The most plausible explanation is to interpret it as a pair of wooden poles, supporting the main chariot pole, and fastened to a third pole, situated under the chariot, which is parallel to the axle. A small piece of wood is also attached to the back of the chariot, so that it will not tip over when no horses are attached to it. The chariot warriors are heavily armoured, and well protected in the chariot, making them very resistant to archer fire. They are élite warriors, and the bravest men an Indian general can muster, so they will not break unless badly worn out. Racing across the battlefield, they can rain arrows upon their enemies, or break formations by charging through them. They are very vulnerable if caught in melee, though, as their tactics rely entirely on speed and manoeuvrability. Used wisely, they may tip the balance greatly in their general's favour, but if used carelessly, they may cause the battle to end in bitter defeat.

Historically, one of the most distinguishing features of ancient Indian warfare was the prevalence of war chariots carrying knights and nobles into battle. Chariots were known in India since the time of the Indus civilisation, but it was the Vedic-Aryans that turned it into the horse-drawn two-wheeled vehicle which was to become associated with heroism in India forever after. Wheeled vehicles were known among the Indo-Europeans at least since the time of the Afanasevo culture in the 3rd millennium BC, and had both religious and practical importance. When the Indo-European peoples started to migrate into the outer Eurasian regions from their central Asian homeland, they brought this technology with them. Their most important contributions were no doubt the spoked wheel, which was far superior to the solid wheels that had previously been prevalent, for instance in Sumeria, and the use of horses as draft animals. Previously, mules had been used, something which is attested to both in Sumeria and among the people of the Indus civilisation. In India, the two-wheeled chariot became a powerful weapon on the open fields of the Gangetic Plains, and thus gained its position as the preferred transportation of the upper classes. Potentates riding chariots can be seen on many early monuments, not least the murals at Sanchi. Chariots were considered one of the four main arms of the so called "four-armed army", or Caturangabala. Kautilya describes the use of the chariot as breaking the mass of the enemy force, and frightening it with magnificence and loud noises. He also notes that it is useful for occupying positions on the battlefield. From this, it is clear what importance the chariot had on ancient Indian battlefields, and that it was, to a large extent, the speed of the chariot which gave it the elevated role it held. Chandragupta had over 8,000 chariots in his army, according to Megasthenes, which is slightly fewer than the number of elephants at his disposal. Given that each chariot had a crew of two or three men, this means that the chariot corps consisted of at least 16,000 or maybe even 24,000 men. The ranks of the chariot military arm would have been swollen still further by the servants and support personnel that according to Kautilya should accompany the chariot corps, and hence, a quite substantial number of men would have occupied with the chariot arm.

However, despite its illustrious past, it soon became clear that the age of chariot warfare was past. Already at the Battle of the Hydaspes, the chariots commanded by Poros's son were destroyed by Alexander's forces when they got stuck in mud, and during the next two centuries, further exposure to the types of warfare practised by the peoples to the northwest of the Indian subcontinent forced Indian rulers to gradually abandon the chariot as an effective weapon. Its battlefield role was gradually transferred to the cavalry, which became more heavily armed and armoured, but still retained the speed and manoeuvrability of the chariots, while the elephants took over the role of heavy shock forces and archery platforms. Chariots lingered in Indian armies up to the 8th century AD, but by that time, their role was primarily symbolic.

Váru (Indian Elephants)

Towering high above the rest of the battlefield, the war elephant is indeed a sight to behold. The thick skin of this pachyderm makes it hard to bring down, and its strength can crush many an obstacle in its way, making it an invaluable weapon to any general, Indian or Mleccha, who may wish to utilise it in combat. The elephant is covered with rugs or padded cloth, and on its back a wooden tower holds two warriors armed with bows. This tower would have been made as light as possible, probably from wood, bamboo and leather, and was fastened with leather straps or chains over the elephant's chest, backside and belly. Sometimes, elephants may have been painted with different motifs, often with symbolic or religious meaning. A mahout, or "elephant-driver", is also seated on the beast's neck, from whence he directs it with a goad.

The warriors in the tower are equipped with longbows of the kind used by much of the infantry. The warriors wear no armour except the occasional leather corselet of the type seen at Sanchi, and are dressed in everyday clothing. They wear quivers of hardened leather slung across their backs, and there may also have been spare quivers in the tower, to prevent the archers from running out of ammunition. The patterns on the shields on each side of the tower are based on murals from Ajanta.

Elephants are best used as cavalry screens, where their presence can scare away enemy cavalry. They can also be used to ram through an enemy battle line, though they are less useful when faced with loose order or phalanx infantry. Beyond their obvious use against enemy infantry or cavalry, they can also be used in siege combat, battering down wooden gates and walls with ease. They are highly vulnerable to better prepared and fortified installations, though. Their greatest vulnerability is against skirmishers, slingers and archers, who can pepper them with missiles - eventually toppling them by virtue of their cumulative impact. To counter the effect of enemy skirmishers, a wise general will arrange his own skirmishers in opposition, or try to maintain constant attacks upon each individual group.

Historically, elephants had been used in battle at least since the Vedic-Aryan tribes first arrived on the Indian subcontinent. Depictions of elephants on seals are known from the Indus civilisation, but whether they were already used for war at this point is not known. However, in the Vedic period, elephants were quickly domesticated and trained for war. During the Mauryan period, as the importance of chariots declined, the importance of elephants grew dramatically. According to Megasthenes, Chandragupta Maurya had over 9,000 elephants in his army, and nobody except the king himself was allowed to own an elephant. \n\nElephants were one of the arms of the traditional Indian four-armed army, or Caturangabala. According to Kautilya in the Arthashastra, war elephants were used to break up compact forces and trample the enemy. Furthermore, the elephants could frighten the enemy, and even break down gates and fortifications. In addition to these battlefield uses, the elephant could also be used as a transport during marches or while the army was encamped. When the army was arrayed for battle, the elephants were placed in front, where they could be driven straight into the mass of the enemy army.

It seems as though most Indian war elephants in fact were not equipped with a tower from which the warriors fought, but most depictions seem to show the riders mounted directly on the elephant's back. However, most of the depictions of elephants on reliefs, such as the ones from Sanchi, do not depict elephants in actual battle, so it cannot be accurately deduced whether this was always the case. The murals at Ajanta show elephants in battle, and though some warriors seem to be seated directly on top of the elephants, one of the major battle scenes seems to show the elephants carrying some sort of platform on their backs, where the warriors are stationed. Further, javelins seem to be stacked on some of these platforms, which could imply that they are to be interpreted as towers. In addition to this, a Seleukid depiction displays an elephant with an Indian mahout, clearly carrying a tower with warriors, which is also in line with Aelian's description of Indian war elephants carrying towers.

Foreign powers were also interested in utilising Indian elephants in battle. Most powers that conquered northwestern India, such as the Saka, Baktrian Greeks, and the Gondopharid Indo-Parthians, made use of elephants in their armies. But in addition to this, elephants were bought or taken from India to be employed elsewhere. After the war between Seleukos Nikator and Chandragupta Maurya in the late 4th century, Seleukos gave up a large swathe of land in exchange for 500 elephants as part of the peace arrangements, which shows the importance of these animals. Indian elephants became an important part of Hellenistic warfare, being used as far away as Italy by Pyrrhos. Even Antiochos III received some elephants as a tribute from the Indian King Subhagasena during his Indian campaign in 206 BC.

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