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Ancient History / Post-Mauryan Era

Indo Parthians

Arsaces I of Parthia (North Eastern Iran) founded the Parthian Empire by rebelling against the Seleucid Empire of Iran. King Mithridates I, expanded the empire further by capturing the regions of Mesopotamia and Media from the Seleucid Empire. Over a period, the Parthian kingdom was further expanded upto Turkey in the west to Western Pakistan in the east. In the eastern side, the sub-kingdom of Parthian Empire that became independent from the Parthian authority and which later further got expanded towards India, is called Indo Parthian kingdom, also sometimes called Pahlava kingdom. It was ruled over by the Gondopharid dynasty, the name derived from its founder, Gondophares I.

Indo-Parthian Kingdom and its History

  • King Gondophares I is the founder of Parthian dynasty in India and is the most famous ruler of Indo-Parthian kingdom. According to Syrian texts, he was converted to Christianity but it is still disputed.

    On Gondophares coins, he called himself as the "King of kings". This indicates that Indo-Parthian empire was having a number of smaller kingdoms ruled by local rulers.

  • Indo Parthians ruled over some parts of Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan and the Punjab region in India. Their capital cities were being Taxila and Kabul.

  • During the reign of Gondophares I, a Christian missionary from Syria named Saint Thomas who is a disciple of Jesus Christ, visited India. He is the first Christian to enter India.

    Marco Polo, an Italian explorer, who visited India on his way to China in 13th century, wrote that he saw the Tomb of Saint Thomas in Chennai.

  • Even though successive Indo-Parthian rulers ruled the kingdom for quite some time, the empire started getting fragmented after the death of Gondophares I.

    Quite a number of their rulers issued the Indo Parthian coins, which typically showed the Parthian clothing style.

  • A number of stone palettes that were found in Gandhara region, are viewed as good examples of the Art of Indo-Parthians. These palettes have Persian and Greek influences on them. Frontality representation is regarded as the main characteristic feature of the Indo-Parthian Art.