Gondophares

Based on the reports of Damis, a native of Mesopotamia, who was linguist and diarist, we have a detailed report of the life of Gondophares, an Indo-Parthian king in Taxila.

Damis’ diary informs us that the court of Gondophares was remarkably simple. The Greek philosopher, a follower of Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, was pleased no end with the lack of display, a pleasant contrast to the pomp he had seen in Babylon and Persia. Damis tells us that the palace showed no “extraordinary magnificence, and was just like the house of any citizen of the better class”. There were no guards, a few servants and three or four persons waiting to speak with the king.

The guest waited as the king finished his business with the persons already in audience. Then sat down with the travellers and following the preliminaries Apollonius asked him about his “mode of life”. The king explained that as a vegetarian and a keen gardener, he grew his own vegetables and fruit. Damis does not say so, but it seems as if the visitors were given a glimpse of the garden, which might have been right outside the audience hall. One wonders if the king also tried his hand at the now barely remembered sungtara orange that grows to this day in the last surviving sungtara orchards just a kilometre from the king’s palace.

As for drinking, he drank most abstemiously. This temperance was an old Taxilian tradition for we hear from those who came here with Alexander that the people of Taxila frowned upon drunkenness. We are told that folks did appreciate a local rice wine, but were rarely found intoxicated. Taxilian society was evidently very cultured back then and we could surely learn a few things from it if we were to study it in any detail. But again I digress. [In the throne room of Gondophares via India Archaeology]

Gondophares, who ruled while Jesus Christ was alive, is also mentioned in early Christian texts, especially in connection with St. Thomas. Romila Thapar writes that, according to tradition, Thomas arrived at the court of Gondophares from eastern Mediterranean. John Keay notes that the word referred in the Acts of St Thomas was actually ‘Gudnaphar’ and it bears coincidental resemblance to Gondophares, the name found in the coins. John Keay also says that if this Thomas was really the Apostle or if he reached Punjab is really open to doubt.

References: Early India : From the Origins to AD 1300, India: A History