Iran called Persia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2, it is the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, to the west by Turkey and Iraq; the country's central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the country's capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center. Iran is home to one of the world's oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millennium BCE, it was first unified by the Iranian Medes in the seventh century BCE, reaching its greatest territorial size in the sixth century BCE, when Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire, which stretched from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valley, becoming one of the largest empires in history.
The Iranian realm fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE and was divided into several Hellenistic states. An Iranian rebellion culminated in the establishment of the Parthian Empire, succeeded in the third century CE by the Sasanian Empire, a leading world power for the next four centuries. Arab Muslims conquered the empire in the seventh century CE; the Islamization of Iran led to the decline of Zoroastrianism, by the country's dominant religion, Iran's major contributions to art and science spread within the Muslim rule during the Islamic Golden Age. After two centuries, a period of various native Muslim dynasties began, which were conquered by the Seljuq Turks and the Ilkhanate Mongols; the rise of the Safavids in the 15th century led to the reestablishment of a unified Iranian state and national identity, with the country's conversion to Shia Islam marking a turning point in Iranian and Muslim history. Under Nader Shah, Iran was one of the most powerful states in the 18th century, though by the 19th century, a series of conflicts with the Russian Empire led to significant territorial losses.
The Iranian Constitutional Revolution in the early 20th century led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and the country's first legislature. A 1953 coup instigated by the United Kingdom and the United States resulted in greater autocracy and growing Western political influence. Subsequent widespread dissatisfaction and unrest against the monarchy led to the 1979 Revolution and the establishment of an Islamic republic, a political system that includes elements of a parliamentary democracy vetted and supervised by a theocracy governed by an autocratic "Supreme Leader". During the 1980s, the country was engaged in a war with Iraq, which lasted for eight years and resulted in a high number of casualties and economic losses for both sides; the sovereign state of Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, NAM, OIC, OPEC. It is a major regional and middle power, its large reserves of fossil fuels – which include the world's largest natural gas supply and the fourth largest proven oil reserves – exert considerable influence in international energy security and the world economy.
The country's rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 22 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the third largest number in Asia and 11th largest in the world. Iran is a multicultural country comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, the largest being Persians, Azeris and Lurs. Organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized Iran's women's rights record; the term Iran derives directly from Middle Persian Ērān, first attested in a third-century inscription at Rustam Relief, with the accompanying Parthian inscription using the term Aryān, in reference to the Iranians. The Middle Iranian ērān and aryān are oblique plural forms of gentilic nouns ēr- and ary-, both deriving from Proto-Iranian *arya-, recognized as a derivative of Proto-Indo-European *ar-yo-, meaning "one who assembles". In the Iranian languages, the gentilic is attested as a self-identifier, included in ancient inscriptions and the literature of the Avesta, remains in other Iranian ethnic names Alan and Iron.
Iran has been referred to as Persia by the West, due to the writings of Greek historians who referred to all of Iran as Persís, meaning "land of the Persians", while Persis itself was one of the provinces of ancient Iran, today defined as Fars. As the most extensive interaction the Ancient Greeks had with any outsider was with the Persians, the term persisted long after the Greco-Persian Wars. In 1935, Reza Shah requested the international community to refer to the country by its native name, effective March 22 that year; as The New York Times explained at the time, "At the suggestion of the Persian Legation in Berlin, the Tehran government, on the Persian New Year, March 21, 1935, substituted Iran for Persia as the official name of the country." Opposition to the name change led to the reversal of the decision, Professor Ehsan Yarshater, editor of Encyclopædia Iranica, propagated a move to use Persia and Iran interchangeably. Today, both Iran and Persia are used in cultural contexts, while Iran remains irreplaceab
The Saffarid dynasty was a Muslim Persian dynasty from Sistan that ruled over parts of eastern Iran, with its capital at Zaranj. Khorasan and Sistan from 861 to 1003. One of the first indigenous Persian dynasties to emerge after the Arab Islamic invasions, its founder was Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, born in 840 in a small town called Karnin, located east of Zaranj and west of Bost, in what is now Afghanistan - a native of Sistan and a local ayyār, who worked as a coppersmith before becoming a warlord, he seized control of the Sistan region and began conquering most of Iran and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Pakistan and Uzbekistan. The Saffarids used their capital Zaranj as a base for an aggressive expansion westward, they first invaded the areas south of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan and overthrew the Persian Tahirid dynasty, annexing Khorasan in 873. By the time of Ya'qub's death, he had conquered the Kabul Valley, Tocharistan, Kerman, Fars and nearly reached Baghdad but suffered a defeat by the Abbasids.
The Saffarid empire did not last long after Ya'qub's death. His brother and successor, Amr bin Laith, was defeated at the Battle of Balkh against Ismail Samani in 900. Amr bin Laith was forced to surrender most of his territories to the new rulers; the Saffarids were subsequently confined to their heartland of Sistan, with their role reduced to that of vassals of the Samanids and their successors. The dynasty began with Ya ` a coppersmith who moved to the city of Zaranj, he left work to become an Ayyar and got the power to act as an independent ruler. From his capital Zaranj he moved east into al-Rukhkhadj and Zamindawar followed by Zunbil and Kabul by 865, he invaded Bamyan, Balkh and Ghor. In the name of Islam, he conquered these territories which were ruled by Buddhist tribal chiefs, he took vast amounts of plunder and slaves from this campaign. Nancy Dupree in her book An Historical Guide to Afghanistan describes Yaqub's conquests as such: Arab armies carrying the banner of Islam came out of the west to defeat the Sasanians in 642 and they marched with confidence to the east.
On the western periphery of the Afghan area the princes of Herat and Sistan gave way to rule by Arab governors but in the east, in the mountains, cities submitted only to rise in revolt and the hastily converted returned to their old beliefs once the armies passed. The harshness and avariciousness of Arab rule produced such unrest, that once the waning power of the Caliphate became apparent, native rulers once again established themselves independent. Among these Saffarids of Sistan shone in the Afghan area; the fanatic founder of this dynasty, the coppersmith’s apprentice Yaqub ibn Layth Saffari, came forth from his capital at Zaranj in 870 and marched through Bost, Ghazni, Bamyan and Herat, conquering in the name of Islam. The Tahirid city of Herat was captured in 870 and his campaign in the Badghis region led to the capture of Kharidjites which formed the Djash al-Shurat contingent in his army. Ya'qub turned his focus to the west and began attacks on Khorasan, Khuzestan and Fars; the Saffarids seized Khuzestan and parts of southern Iraq, in 876 came close to overthrowing the Abbasids, whose army was able to turn them back only within a few days' march from Baghdad.
These incursions, forced the Abbasid caliphate to recognize Ya'qub as governor of Sistan and Kerman, Saffarids were offered key posts in Baghdad. In 901, Amr Saffari was defeated at the battle of Balkh by the Samanids, which reduced the Saffarid dynasty to a minor tributary in Sistan. In 1002, Mahmud of Ghazni invaded Sistan, dethroned Khalaf I and ended the Saffarid dynasty; the Saffarids gave great care to the Persian culture. Under their rule, the eastern Islamic world witnessed the emergence of prominent Persian poets such as Fayrouz Mashriqi, Abu Salik al-Jirjani, Muhammad bin Wasif al-Sistani, a court poet. In the 9th century, the Saffarids gave impetus to a renaissance of New Persian literature and culture. Following Ya'qub's conquest of Herat, some poets chose to celebrate his victory in Arabic, whereupon Ya'qub requested his secretary, Muhammad bin Wasif al-Sistani, to compose those verses in Persian. From silver mines in the Panjshir Valley, the Saffarids were able to mint silver coins.
Iranian Intermezzo Nasrid dynasty Mihrabanids Samanids Ghaznavids List of kings of Persia List of Sunni Muslim dynasties Encyclopædia Iranica Saffarids
The Indo-Parthian Kingdom known as the Suren Kingdom, was a Parthian kingdom founded by the Gondopharid branch of the House of Suren, ruling from 19 to c. 240. At their zenith, they ruled an area covering parts of eastern Iran, various parts of Afghanistan and the northwest regions of the Indian subcontinent; the kingdom was founded in 19 when the Surenid governor of Drangiana Gondophares declared independence from the Parthian Empire. He would make expeditions into the west, conquering territory from the Indo-Scythians and Indo-Greeks, thus transforming his kingdom into an empire; the domains of the Indo-Parthians were reduced following the invasions of the Kushans in the second half of the 1st. Century, they managed to retain control of Sakastan, until its conquest by the Sasanian Empire in c. 240. The Indo-Parthians are noted for the construction of the Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi. Gondophares I seems to have been a ruler of Seistan in what is today eastern Iran a vassal or relative of the Apracarajas.
Around 20–10 BC, he made conquests in the former Indo-Scythian kingdom after the death of the important ruler Azes. Gondophares became the ruler of areas comprising Arachosia, Sindh and the Kabul valley, but it does not seem as though he held territory beyond eastern Punjab. Gondophares called himself "King of Kings", a Parthian title that in his case reflects that the Indo-Parthian empire was only a loose framework: a number of smaller dynasts maintained their positions during the Indo-Parthian period in exchange for their recognition of Gondophares and his successors; these smaller dynasts included the Apracarajas themselves, Indo-Scythian satraps such as Zeionises and Rajuvula, as well as anonymous Scythians who struck imitations of Azes coins. The Ksaharatas held sway in Gujarat just outside Gondophares' dominions. After the death of Gondophares I, the empire started to fragment; the name or title Gondophares was adapted by Sarpedones, who become Gondophares II and was son of the first Gondophares.
Though he claimed to be the main ruler, Sarpedones’ rule was shaky and he issued a fragmented coinage in Sind, eastern Punjab and Arachosia in southern Afghanistan. The most important successor was Abdagases, Gondophares’ nephew, who ruled in Punjab and in the homeland of Seistan. After a short reign, Sarpedones seems to have been succeeded by Orthagnes, who became Gondophares III Gadana. Orthagnes ruled in Seistan and Arachosia, with Abdagases further east, during the first decades AD, was succeeded by his son Ubouzanes Coin. After 20 AD, a king named Sases, a nephew of the Apracaraja ruler Aspavarma, took over Abdagases’ territories and became Gondophares IV Sases. According to Senior, this is the Gondophares referred to in the Takht-i-Bahi inscription. There were other minor kings: Sanabares was an ephemeral usurper in Seistan, who called himself Great King of Kings, there was a second Abdagases Coin, a ruler named Agata in Sind, another ruler called Satavastres Coin, an anonymous prince who claimed to be brother of the king Arsaces, in that case an actual member of the ruling dynasty in Parthia.
But the Indo-Parthians never regained the position of Gondophares I, from the middle of the 1st century AD the Kushans under Kujula Kadphises began absorbing the northern Indian part of the kingdom. The Indo-Parthians managed to retain control of Sakastan, which they ruled until the fall of the Parthian Empire by Sasanian Empire; the city of Taxila is thought to have been a capital of the Indo-Parthians. Large strata were excavated by Sir John Marshall with a quantity of Parthian-style artifacts; the nearby temple of Jandial is interpreted as a Zoroastrian fire temple from the period of the Indo-Parthians. Some ancient writings describe the presence of the Indo-Parthians in the area, such as the story of Saint Thomas the Apostle, recruited as a carpenter to serve at the court of king "Gudnaphar" in India; the Acts of Thomas describes in chapter 17 Thomas' visit to king Gudnaphar in northern India. As Senior points out, this Gudnaphar has been identified with the first Gondophares, who has thus been dated after the advent of Christianity, but there is no evidence for this assumption, Senior's research shows that Gondophares I could be dated before 1 AD.
If the account is historical, Saint Thomas may have encountered one of the kings who bore the same title. The Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana is related by Philostratus in Life of Apollonius Tyana to have visited India, the city of Taxila around 46 AD, he describes constructions of the Greek type referring to Sirkap, explains that the Indo-Parthian king of Taxila, named Phraotes, received a Greek education at the court of his father and spoke Greek fluently: "Tell me, O King, how you acquired such a command of the Greek tongue, whence you derived all your philosophical attainments in this place?" -"My father, after a Greek education, brought me to the sages at an age somewhat too early for I was only twelve at the time, but they brought me up like their own son. It describes the presence of Parthian kings fighting with each other
The Maurya Empire was a geographically-extensive Iron Age historical power based in Magadha and founded by Chandragupta Maurya which dominated the Indian subcontinent between 322 and 187 BCE. Comprising the majority of South Asia, the Maurya Empire was centralized by the conquest of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, its capital city was located at Pataliputra; the empire was the largest political entity to have existed in the Indian subcontinent, spanning over 5 million square kilometres at its zenith under Ashoka. Chandragupta Maurya raised an army, with the assistance of Chanakya, overthrew the Nanda Empire in c. 322 BCE. Chandragupta expanded his power westwards across central and western India by conquering the satraps left by Alexander the Great, by 317 BCE the empire had occupied northwestern India; the Mauryan Empire defeated Seleucus I, a diadochus and founder of the Seleucid Empire during the Seleucid–Mauryan war, thus acquiring territory west of the Indus River. At its greatest extent, the empire stretched along the natural boundary of the Himalayas, to the east into Assam, to the west into Balochistan and the Hindu Kush mountains of what is now eastern Afghanistan.
The dynasty expanded into India's southern regions by the reign of the emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, but it excluded Kalinga, until it was conquered by Ashoka. It declined for about 50 years after Ashoka's rule, dissolved in 185 BCE with the foundation of the Shunga dynasty in Magadha. Under Chandragupta Maurya and his successors and external trade and economic activities all thrived and expanded across South Asia due to the creation of a single and efficient system of finance and security; the Maurya dynasty built the Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia's oldest and longest trade networks, connecting the Indian subcontinent with Central Asia. After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced nearly half a century of centralized rule under Ashoka. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism increased socio-religious reform across South Asia, while Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism and sponsorship of Buddhist missionaries allowed for the expansion of that faith into Sri Lanka, northwest India, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Hellenistic Europe.
The population of the empire has been estimated to be about 50–60 million, making the Mauryan Empire one of the most populous empires of antiquity. Archaeologically, the period of Mauryan rule in South Asia falls into the era of Northern Black Polished Ware; the Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are the primary sources of written records of Mauryan times. The Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath is the national emblem of the modern Republic of India; the name "Maurya" does not occur in Ashoka's inscriptions, or the contemporary Greek accounts such as Megasthenes's Indica, but it is attested by the following sources: The Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman prefixes "Maurya" to the names Chandragupta and Ashoka. The Puranas use Maurya as a dynastic appellation; the Buddhist texts state that Chandragupta belonged to the "Moriya" clan of the Shakyas, the tribe to which Gautama Buddha belonged. The Jain texts state. According to the Buddhist tradition, the ancestors of the Maurya kings had settled in a region where peacocks were abundant.
Therefore, they came to be known as "Moriyas" "belonging to the place of peacocks". According to another Buddhist account, these ancestors built a city called Moriya-nagara, so called, because it was built with the "bricks coloured like peacocks' necks"; the dynasty's connection to the peacocks, as mentioned in the Buddhist and Jain traditions, seems to be corroborated by archaeological evidence. For example, peacock figures are found on the Ashoka pillar at Nandangarh and several sculptures on the Great Stupa of Sanchi. Based on this eviedence, modern scholars theorize that the peacock may have been the dynasty's emblem. According to Dhundiraja, a commentator on the Vishnu Purana, the word "Maurya" is derived from Mura, the name of the wife of a Nanda king and the mother of the first Maurya king. However, the Puranas themselves make no mention of Mura and do not talk of any relation between the Nanda and the Maurya dynasties. Dhundiraja's derivation of the word seems to be his own invention: according to the Sanskrit rules, the derivative of the feminine name Mura would be "Maureya".
The Maurya Empire was founded by Chandragupta Maurya, with help from Chanakya, at Takshashila, a noted center of learning. According to several legends, Chanakya travelled to Magadha, a kingdom, large and militarily powerful and feared by its neighbours, but was insulted by its king Dhana Nanda, of the Nanda dynasty. Chanakya vowed to destroy the Nanda Empire. Meanwhile, the conquering armies of Alexander the Great refused to cross the Beas River and advance further eastward, deterred by the prospect of battling Magadha. Alexander re-deployed most of his troops west of the Indus River. Soon after Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BCE, his empire fragmented into independent kingdoms led by his generals; the Greek generals Eudemus and Peithon ruled in the Indus Valley until around 317 BCE, when Chandragupta Maurya orchestrated a rebellion to drive out the Greek governors, subsequently brought the Indus Valley under the control of his new seat of power in Magadha. Chandragupta Maurya's rise to power is s
The Ghurids or Ghorids were a dynasty of Iranian descent from the Ghor region of present-day central Afghanistan, but the exact ethnic origin is uncertain. The dynasty converted to Sunni Islam from Buddhism, after the conquest of Ghor by the Ghaznavid sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in 1011. Abu Ali ibn Muhammad was the first Muslim king of the Ghurid dynasty to construct mosques and Islamic schools in Ghor; the dynasty overthrew the Ghaznavid Empire in 1186, when Sultan Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad of Ghor conquered the last Ghaznavid capital of Lahore. At their zenith, the Ghurid empire encompassed Khorasan in the west and reached northern India as far as Bengal in the east, their first capital was Firozkoh in Mandesh, replaced by Herat, Ghazni. Lahore was used as an additional capital in the late Ghurid period during winters; the Ghurids were patrons of Persian heritage. The Ghurids were succeeded in Khorasan and Persia by the Khwarazmian dynasty, in northern India by the Mamluk dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.
In the 19th century, some European scholars, such as Mountstuart Elphinstone, favoured the idea that the Ghurid dynasty relate to today's Pashtun people, but this is rejected by modern scholarship, and, as explained by Morgenstierne in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, is for "various reasons improbable". Instead, the consensus in modern scholarship holds that the dynasty was most of Tajik origin. Bosworth further points out that the actual name of the Ghurid family, Āl-e Šansab, is the Arabic pronunciation of the Middle Persian name Wišnasp; the Ghuristan region remained populated by Buddhists till the 12th century. It was Islamised and gave rise to the Ghurids; the Ghurids' native language was different from their court language Persian. Abu'l-Fadl Bayhaqi, the famous historian of the Ghaznavid era, wrote on page 117 in his book Tarikh-i Bayhaqi: "Sultan Mas'ud left for Ghoristan and sent his learned companion with two people from Ghor as interpreters between this person and the people of that region."
However, like the Samanids and Ghaznavids, the Ghurids were great patrons of Persian literature and culture, promoted these in their courts as their own. Contemporary book writers refer to them as the "Persianized Ghurids". There is nothing to confirm the recent surmise that the inhabitants of Ghor were Pashto-speaking, claims of the existence of Pashto poetry from the Ghurid period are unsubstantiated. A certain Ghurid prince named Amir Banji, was the ruler of Ghor and ancestor of the medieval Ghurid rulers, his rule was legitimized by the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid. Before the mid-12th century, the Ghurids had been bound to the Ghaznavids and Seljuks for about 150 years. Beginning in the mid-12th century, Ghor expressed its independence from the Ghaznavid Empire. In 1149 the Ghaznavid ruler Bahram-Shah of Ghazna poisoned a local Ghurid leader, Qutb al-Din Muhammad, who had taken refuge in the city of Ghazni after having a quarrel with his brother Sayf al-Din Suri. In revenge, Sayf defeated Bahram-Shah.
However, one year, Bahram returned and scored a decisive victory against Sayf, shortly captured and crucified at Pul-i Yak Taq. Baha al-Din Sam I, another brother of Sayf, set out to avenge the death of his two brothers, but died of natural causes before he could reach Ghazni. Ala al-Din Husayn, one of the youngest of Sayf's brothers and newly crowned Ghurid king set out to avenge the death of his two brothers, he managed to defeat Bahram-Shah, had Ghazna sacked and burned and put the city into fire for seven days and seven nights. It earned him the title of Jahānsūz, meaning "the world burner"; the Ghaznavids lost it to Oghuz Turks. In 1152, Ala al-Din Husayn refused to pay tribute to the Seljuks and instead marched an army from Firozkoh but was defeated and captured at Nab by Sultan Ahmed Sanjar. Ala al-Din Husayn remained a prisoner for two years, until he was released in return for a heavy ransom to the Seljuqs. Meanwhile, a rival of Ala al-Din named Husayn ibn Nasir al-Din Muhammad al-Madini had seized Firozkoh, but was murdered at the right moment when Ala al-Din returned to reclaim his ancestral domain.
Ala al-Din spent the rest of his reign in expanding the domains of his kingdom. Ala al-Din died in 1161, was succeeded by his son Sayf al-Din Muhammad, who shortly died two years in a battle. Sayf al-Din Muhammad was succeeded by his cousin Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, the son of Baha al-Din Sam I, proved himself to be a capable king. Right after Ghiyath's ascension, he, with the aid of his loyal brother Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad, killed a rival Ghurid chief named Abu'l Abbas. Ghiyath defeated his uncle Fakhr al-Din Masud who claimed the Ghurid throne and had allied with the Seljuq governor of Herat, Balkh. In 1173, Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad reconquered the city of Ghazna and assisted his Ghiyath in his contest with Khwarezmid Empire for the lordship of Khorasan. Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad captured Multan and Uch in 1175 and annexed the Ghaznavid principality of Lahore in 1186, he was alleged by contemporary historians to exact revenge for his great grandfather Muhammad ibn Suri. After the death of his brother Ghiyath in 1202, he became the successor of his empire and ruled until his assassination in 1206 near Jhelum by Khokhar tribesmen.
Indus Valley Civilisation
The Indus Valley Civilisation was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent, lasting from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE, in mature form from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. Along with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia it was one of three early civilisations of the region comprising North Africa, West Asia and South Asia, of the three, the most widespread, its sites spanning an area stretching from northeast Afghanistan, through much of Pakistan, into western- and northwestern India, it flourished in the basins of the Indus River, which flows through the length of Pakistan, along a system of perennial monsoon-fed, rivers that once coursed in the vicinity of the seasonal Ghaggar-Hakra river in northwest India and eastern Pakistan. The civilisation's cities were noted for their urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, clusters of large non-residential buildings, new techniques in handicraft and metallurgy; the large cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa likely grew to containing between 30,000 and 60,000 individuals, the civilisation itself during its florescence may have contained between one and five million individuals.
Gradual drying of the region's soil during the 3rd millennium BCE may have been the initial spur for the urbanisation associated with the civilisation, but also reduced the water supply enough to cause the civilisation's demise, to scatter its population eastward. The Indus civilisation is known as the Harappan Civilisation, after its type site, the first of its sites to be excavated early in the 20th century in what was the Punjab province of British India and now is Pakistan; the discovery of Harappa and soon afterwards Mohenjo-Daro was the culmination of work beginning in 1861 with the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India during the British Raj. There were however earlier and cultures called Early Harappan and Late Harappan in the same area. By 2002, over 1,000 Mature Harappan cities and settlements had been reported, of which just under a hundred had been excavated, there are only five major urban sites: Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Ganeriwala in Cholistan and Rakhigarhi; the early Harappan cultures were preceded by local Neolithic agricultural villages, from which the river plains were populated.
The Harappan language is not directly attested, its affiliation is uncertain since the Indus script is still undeciphered. A relationship with the Dravidian or Elamo-Dravidian language family is favoured by a section of scholars; the Indus Valley Civilisation is named after the Indus river system in whose alluvial plains the early sites of the civilisation were identified and excavated. Following a tradition in archaeology, the civilisation is sometimes referred to as the Harappan, after its type site, the first site to be excavated in the 1920s. A section of scholars use the terms "Sarasvati culture", the "Sarasvati Civilisation", the "Indus-Sarasvati Civilisation" or the "Sindhu-Saraswati Civilisation", because they consider the Ghaggar-Hakra river to be the same as the Sarasvati, a river mentioned several times in the Rig Veda, a collection of ancient Sanskrit hymns composed in the second millennium BCE. However, recent geophysical research suggests that unlike the Sarasvati, whose descriptions in the Rig Veda are those of a snow-fed river, the Ghaggar-Hakra was a system of perennial monsoon-fed rivers, which became seasonal around the time that the civilisation diminished 4,000 years ago.
In addition, proponents of the Sarasvati nomenclature see a connection between the decline of the Indus civilisation and the rise of the Vedic civilisation on the Gangetic plain. The Indus civilization was contemporary with the other riverine civilisations of the ancient world: Egypt along the Nile, Mesopotamia in the lands watered by the Euphrates and the Tigris, China in the drainage basin of the Yellow River. By the time of its mature phase, the civilisation had spread over an area larger than the others, which included a core of 1,500 km up the alluvial plane of the Indus and its tributaries. In addition, there was a region with disparate flora and habitats, up to ten times as large, shaped culturally and economically by the Indus. Around 6500 BCE, agriculture emerged on the margins of the Indus alluvium. In the following millennia, settled life made inroads into the Indus plains, setting the stage for the growth of rural and urban human settlements; the more organized sedentary life in turn led to a net increase in the birth rate.
The large urban centres of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa likely grew to containing between 30,000 and 60,000 individuals, during the civilization's florescence, the population of the subcontinent grew to between 4–6 million people. During this period the death rate increased as well, for close living conditions of humans and domesticated animals led to an increase in contagious diseases. According to one estimate, the population of the Indus civilization at its peak may have been between one and five million; the Indus Valley Civilisation extended from Pakistan's Balochistan in the west to India's western Uttar Pradesh in the east, from northeastern Afghanistan in the north to India's Gujarat state in the south. The largest number
The Alchon Huns known as the Alchono, Alkhon, Alkhan and Walxon, were a nomadic people who established states in Central Asia and South Asia during the 4th and 6th centuries CE. They were first mentioned as being located in Paropamisus, expanded south-east, into the Punjab and central India, as far as Eran and Kausambi; the Alchon invasion of the Indian subcontinent contributed to the fall of the Gupta Empire. The invasion of India by the Huna peoples follows invasions of the subcontinent in the preceding centuries by the Yavana, the Saka, the Palava, the Kushana; the Alchon Empire was the third of four major Huna states established in South Asia. The Alchon were preceded by the Kidarites and the Hephthalites, succeeded by the Nezak Huns; the names of the Alchon kings are known from their extensive coinage, Buddhist accounts, a number of commemorative inscriptions throughout the Indian subcontinent. To contemporaneous observers in India, the Alchon were one of the Hūṇa peoples, whose origins are controversial.
A seal from Kausambi associated with Toramana, bears the title Hūnarāja. The Hunas appear to have been the peoples known in contemporaneous Iranian sources as Xwn and similar names, which were Romanised as Xionites or Chionites; the Hunas are linked to the Huns that invaded Europe from Central Asia during the same period. The word Hun has three different meanings, depending on the context in which it is used: 1) the Huns of Europe; the Alchon have been labelled "Huns", with the second meaning, as well as elements of the third. The name "Alchon" given to them comes from the Bactrian legend of their early coinage, where they imitated Sassanian coins to which they added the name "alchono" in Bactrian script and the tamgha symbol of their clan. Several original coins such as those of Khingila bear the mention "alchono" together with the Tamgha symbol. Philologically, "alchono" may be a combination of al- for Aryan and -xono for Huns, although this remains hypothetical. Another ethymology could be al-, Turkish for scarlet, -xono for Huns, meaning "Red Huns", red being a symbol of the south among steppe nomads.
Early confrontations between the Sasanian Empire of Shapur II with the nomadic hordes from Central Asia called the "Chionites" were described by Ammianus Marcellinus: he reports that in 356 CE, Shapur II was taking his winter quarters on his eastern borders, "repelling the hostilities of the bordering tribes" of the Chionites and the Euseni making a treaty of alliance with the Chionites and the Gelani, "the most warlike and indefatigable of all tribes", in 358 CE. After concluding this alliance, the Chionites under their King Grumbates accompanied Shapur II in the war against the Romans at the Siege of Amida in 359 CE. Victories of the Xionites during their campaigns in the Eastern Caspian lands were witnesses and described by Ammianus Marcellinus. Around 370 CE, still during the reign of Shapur II, the Sasanian Empire and the Kushano-Sasanians lost the control of Bactria to these invaders from Central Asia, first the Kidarites the Hephthalites and the Alchon Huns, who would follow up with the invasion of India.
The Alchon Huns emerged in Kapisa around 380, taking over Kabulistan from the Sassanian Persians, at the same time the Kidarites ruled in Bactria and Ghandara. They are said to have taken control of Kabul in 388; the Alchon Huns issued anonymous coins based on Sasanian designs. Several types of these coins are known minted in Bactria, using Sasanian coinage designs with busts imitating Sasanian kings Shapur II and Shapur III, adding the Alchon Tamgha and the name "Alchono" in Bactrian script on the obverse, with attendants to a fire altar, a standard Sasanian design, on the reverse. Around 430 King Khingila, the most notable Alchon ruler, the first one to be named and represented on his coins and took control of the routes across the Hindu Kush from the Kidarites; as the Alchons took control, diplomatic missions were established in 457 with China. In 460, the Alchons conquered Taxila. Between 460 and 470 CE, as they took over Gandhara and the Punjab, they undertook the mass destruction of Buddhist monasteries and stupas at Taxila, a high center of learning, which never recovered from the destruction.
It is thought that the Kanishka stupa, one of the most famous and tallest buildings in antiquity, was destroyed by them during their invasion of the area in the 460s CE. The rest of the 5th century marks a period of territorial expansion and eponymous kings, several of which appear to have overlapped and ruled jointly. In the First Hunnic War, the Alchon reached their maximum territorial extent, with King Toramana pushing deep into Indian territory, reaching Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in Central India, contributing to the downfall of the Gupta Empire. To the south, the Sanjeli inscriptions indicate that Toramana penetrated at least as far as northern Gujarat, to the port of Bharukaccha. To the east, far into Central India, the city of Kausambi, where seals with Toramana's name were found, was sacked by the Alkhons in 497–500, before they moved to occupy Malwa. In p