Maharashtra State BoardHSC Arts 11th
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Indian Subcontinent and Iran

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Indian Subcontinent and Iran:

Excavated evidence has sufficiently proved that the trade and cultural relations between the Indian subcontinent and Iran have continued since the Harappan times. The empire of Elam, contemporary to the Harappan civilisation, existed in the southwest regions of Iran. It was culturally closer to Mesopotamia. Its capital was at ‘Susa’. Hence, it was also known as ‘Susiana’.It was also called as Susana. In geographical terms, Susiana basically represents the Iranian province of Khuzestan around the river Karun. In ancient times, several names were used to describe this area. The great ancient geographer Ptolemy was the earliest to call the area Susiana, referring to the country around Susa.

Another ancient geographer, Strabo, viewed Elam and Susiana as two different geographic regions. He referred to Elam ("land of the Elymaei") as primarily the highland area of Khuzestan. Many dynasties ruled Iran at later dates but all of them maintained their capital at ‘Susa’. The archaeological evidence found at Susa has confirmed the trade and cultural relations between Iran and the Harappan civilisation. Iranian Empire was established by Cyrus II of the ‘Achaemenid Dynasty’. Belong to the tribe of ‘Pars’. The majority of Pars' inhabitants were Zoroastrians, which is confirmed by the linguistic and historical evidence found in the region, such as the burial practices found in the region and "that the Avesta was canonized on the basis of the tradition of Pars." A large Christian community also lived in Pars, due to the large deportation of inhabitants from the Roman Empire by Shapur I to the province. This tribe dwelt in the mountainous region in the northwest of Iran and adjacent to Afghanistan. This region was known by the tribe’s name, ‘Pars’. Even the main city of the region was known by the same name, ‘Pars’. Greeks knew the city by the name, ‘Persepolis’. The Iranian empire was known as the ‘Persian empire’ because it originated in the Pars region. Emperor Cyrus II had begun to build a new capital at ‘Pasargade’. However, it did not get completed in his lifetime. His son, Cambyses II succeeded him. He moved back to Susa and re-established his capital there. Cambyses II had conquered Egypt. Daryush I, who succeeded Cambyses II reinforced the fortification walls of Susa. He also built a massive palace and a hypostyle (many columned) halls known as ‘Apadana’. He also built the city of ‘Persepolis’ in a style similar to Susa. He built a palace and apadana in Persepolis also.

Apadana (Old Persian) is a large hypostyle hall in Persepolis, Iran. It belongs to the oldest building phase of the city of Persepolis, in the first half of the 6th century BC, as part of the original design by Darius the Great. Its construction was completed by Xerxes I. Modern scholarship "demonstrates the metaphorical nature of the Apadana reliefs as idealised social orders".

The ancient routes used by caravans of merchants were provided with safety and security by the Persian emperors. They rebuilt some of the routes. Cyrus II and Daryush I developed the route beginning from Susa and reaching the Mediterranean Sea. This route is known as the ‘Royal Road’. Some of the branches of the Royal Road linked the Indian subcontinent and Egypt. Alexander started from Macedonia on his expedition to India. He used the same route to reach India.

The Royal Road was an ancient highway reorganized and rebuilt by the Persian king Darius the Great (Darius I) of the first (Achaemenid) Persian Empire in the 5th century BCE. Darius built the road to facilitate rapid communication throughout his very large empire from Susa to Sardis. Mounted couriers of the Angarium were supposed to travel 1,677 miles (2,699 km) from Susa to Sardis in nine days; the journey took ninety days on foot.

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  • ‘Ariana’ is another name of Iran. Greek historians mention it as ‘Ariane’. ‘Ariana’ is the Latin variation of the Greek name ‘Ariane’.
  • To see, how the name Alexander was changed to ‘Sikander’ in Indian languages, is a matter of linguistic analysis. Alexander is a common version of the Greek name ‘Alexandros’. The meaning of ‘Alexin’ is ‘to protect’. ‘Andros’ means man’. Thus, the name ‘Alexander’ means ‘the protector’. ‘Iskander’, ‘Skander’ are the Persian variations of Alexander. Iskadnser or Skander turned into ‘Sikandar’.
  • The inscriptions of the emperor, Daryush I at Susa, Pasargade, Persepolis, and Behistun have been enlisted as the ‘World Cultural Heritage’.
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