This series about the silk road seeks two things, to show the cultures currently living in these historic areas, and to explore their history and significance.
Nowhere is this better exemplified that is this week’s episode, where the team get to the Khyber Pass, but are unable to continue owing to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the time.
After looking at the Pashtun tribesmen and their settlements and way of life in the border regions, they trace the rise of Alexander the Great’s army, as it fought its way across Persia and right up to the Indus River. A march that took more than 7 years.
Seeing the greater forces of the Mauryan army facing them, together with a reputed 10,000 elephants, the soldiers revolted and insisted on proceeding no further.
Many of them settled in the region, taking wives from amongst the local peoples, and leaving an indelible Greek influence in the area, which had major consequences for Buddhism in the coming years, influencing everything from its philosophy to its art.
We see something of the Gandharan remains in the Swat Valley, and hear about Menander’s conversation with Nagasena, which became well-known as Milinda’s Questions in its Pali version.
And we also see some of the finest of the Gandharan Greek-influenced statues of the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas, which are now kept in the Pakistani Museums at Lahore and Peshwar.
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