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==Ashoka Maurya (r.c.268-c.233 BCE): Chandragupta's grandson, becomes the greatest Maurya king and an effective Buddhist proselytizer (*wiki*). Conquered by ferocious fighting, his realm includes-- though in a swiss-cheesy way (*F. Smitha*)-- most of India (except the extreme south) and extends northwest through the whole northeastern part of Afghanistan: *the Mauryan Empire**. He does a stint as governor in Gandhara before becoming king, and his reign shows Greek and Persian cultural influences. [*Routes*]
==Ashoka's famous pillars: The dozens of animal-topped pillars (*DSAL*) that Ashoka erects (or in some cases inherits from predecessors and re-inscribes) in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are conspicuously influenced by those of Persepolis (*Univ. of Chicago*). On them, and on rocks, he carves his edicts: *access to insight*. [*Routes*]
==The first written records in South Asia: Ashoka's inscribed rocks and pillars are the first South Asian writing that we have. His main language is Magadhi Prakrit, though on some northwestern pillars he uses Aramaic (the official language of the Persian empire) and even Greek. His main script is Brahmi (*ancient scripts*; *omniglot*), which becomes the ancestor of the main Indian scripts and many Southeast Asian ones (*Eden Golshani*); but he also sometimes uses Kharoshthi (*ancient scripts*).
==the Barabar cave-temples (c.260) are cut by early Buddhists into the hills near Pataliputra (modern Patna); among them, "Lomas Rishi Cave" is the first one that introduces architectural patterns that later become common (*DSAL*). [*Routes*]
==the Greco-Bactrian kings (c.250-50 BCE): Under Seleukos's grandson, the Seleukid Empire begins to face rebellions. On its eastern border, a *Greco-Bactrian Kingdom* (*grifterrec*) takes shape, holding power for two centuries in Bactria (Balkh) and the region of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. More on such east-west connections: *Intercourse between India and the western world from the earliest times to the fall of Rome*, by H. G. Rawlinson [*Routes*]
==the Mahabharata: Scholars differ on when the earliest strata of the great Indian epics begin to develop; the best current consensus seems to be around this time if not before, with the Mahabharata possibly somewhat the earlier of the two: *Columbia Univ.* In its earliest forms, it seems not to have included the "Bhagavad Gita"; *the India of the Mahabharata*.  [*Routes*]
==the Ramayana: The earliest strata of this great Indian epic begin to develop: *Columbia Univ.*. Its development continues to the present, with new stories constantly being told that provide fresh slants on the older material. Nowadays Rama is still a perfect hero and ideal king to some Indians, but that's no longer a universal opinion; *the India of the Ramayana*. [*Routes*]

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