Mauryan India marked one of the twin peaks of Indian civilization. In the view of some, like Professor Toynbee, it was the climax of the original Indian civilization, the second flowering some centuries later being that of a separate "affiliated" civilization. Be that as it may, it is certain that the breakup of the Mauryan empire in the early second century B.C. was followed by a period of confusion and obscurity. India, as it were, was getting its second breath before the next outburst of creative activity.
But this was not all that happened in these obscure centuries. India was at the same time receiving a variety of influences from abroad which were to affect both the make-up of her culture and the composition of her population. This is the significance of the period for contemporary Indians. A modern Indian who returned to Mauryan India would find many familiar features. The social structure would be recognizable, though possessing unfamiliar traits. The great gods like Vishnu and Siva would be there, though their cults would vary widely. The Buddhist and other cults, though unfamiliar, would be readily assimilated. But language would present a real difficulty. No modern Indian language existed then, nor was Sanskrit still a spoken language. The appearance and habits of the people in large areas would also be a puzzle, because they would have customs unknown to him. He would miss familiar figures, such as the Rajput and the Jat. It is this period which fills some though not all of the gaps which exist between Mauryan India and contemporary experience. This period will therefore be treated in broad outline, disregarding for the most part dynastic lists and chronological controversies. Our concern is with what India received at this time.
The first of the foreign influences was that of the Greeks. Alexander's incursion, as we have seen, was brief. But the Greek invasions of the second century B.C. were a different story. The materials are scanty,