This article provides a short essay on the Persian Invasion.

The Iranians or the Persians and the Indians of the Aryan stock were bifurcated in ancient past, one entering into Persia and the other into India.

But relations between them were not forgotten. In those days the boundaries of India and Persia were not well defined and naturally in the bordering areas of the two countries a mixture of Persian and Indian languages and manners and customs took place.

In the period of the Sixteen Janapadas the people of Kamboja used to speak the Iranian Aryan language. Further, the Oxus valley is described in ancient Sanskrit literature as a part of India. Similarly in the ancient Persian literature the same area has been described as part of Persia. This was obviously because the boundary between Persia and India was not well demarcated.


In the sixth century B.C. the north-western region of India (now in Pakistan) was divided into a number of small independent states. The most noteworthy of these states were Gandhara, Kamboj and Madra. When Bimbisara was expanding Magadha into an empire, the north-western parts, i.e. Uttarapatha was still divided into small independent states with no political unity among them.

It became, therefore, easy for the Achaemenid emperors of Persia to conquer these small states. It is said that in the Persian religious epic Zendavesta there is reference to the inclusion of some places of Uttarapatha in the Persian Empire long before the sixth century B.C. But this is not acceptable to historians for the lack of corroboration by any other source.

However, from the Greek historians and writers like Herodotus, Ktesias, and Xenophon etc. we know that the Persian emperors after having established their sway over Western Asia proceeded towards India. Cyrus is said to have conquered Gandhara. But it is doubtful. It is also said by Ktesias that Cyrus died of a wound inflicted by an Indian soldier.

Xenophon refers to the sending of an emissary by an Indian king to the Court of Cyrus with some money. But in the writings of Nearchus, an admiral of Alexander who came to India with him we know that Cyrus’ Indian invasion was a failure. There is also no reference to Cyrus’ invasion of India by Megasthenes.


On the other hand, Pliny, a Roman writer, refers to the conquest of Kapisa, i.e. Gandhara by Cyrus. From these con­flicting evidences although it is difficult to come to any definite conclusion yet the historians feel that Cyrus might have conquered the area between Kabul and the Indus.

Next emperor Cambyses was too much occupied in quelling rebellion in the empire to think of any invasion of India. He was also unbalanced and ultimately became completely mad.

Darius who came to the throne (522-486 B.C.) seems to have extended the Persian Empire upto northern Punjab. About his reign we have reliable evidence. In his Behistun inscription a list of twenty-three provinces of the Persian Empire is found, but it does not include the name of India. But in two later inscriptions at Persepolis and Nakshi-Rustam mention of northern Punjab as a part of his dominion is found.

This leaves us in no doubt that northern Punjab was included by him in the Persian Empire (518 B.C.). This part of India was the twentieth Province of the Persian Empire and the annual revenue earned from this province was gold dust of the value of ten lakh pound-sterlings. One-third of the total revenue of the Persian Emperor came from Indian province. In order to have a better idea of the course of the river Indus, Darius is said to have appointed Scylax to explore the Indus. This we get from Herodotus.


It may, however, be mentioned here that in the Behistun inscrip­tion of Darius there is reference to one place called Gadara. It is also mentioned in the Susa palace inscription of Darius that teak was brought from Gadara for the construction of the palace. From these references to the place called Gadara historians suppose that Gadara might have been Gandhara and it might have been conquered by him.

Darius was succeeded by his son Xerxes (under whom the Indian province continued to be a part of the Persian Empire). This is attested by his claim that he obtained the military services of an Indian contingent in his war against Greece. The Indian recruits were called the Gandharians and Indians.

Thus it was in such a remote past that the Indian soldiers fought on the European soil. The fighting ability of the Indians impressed the Persians and later Darius III had also recruited Indian soldiers for his army. From Arrian we know that the Indian soldiers fought for Darius III against Alexander in the battle of Gaugamela.

Herodotus gives an interesting account of the Indian soldiers:

“The Indian clad in garments made of cotton, carried bows of cane and arrows of cane, the latter tipped with iron; and thus accoutered the Indians were marshalled under the command of Pharnazathres, son of Artabates.” With the final defeat of Darius Hi at the hands of Alexander, the Persian dominance over the Indian province came to an end (330 B.C.).