Europeans established close cultural and commercial relations with the Indian subcontinent since Antiquity. Although there is some evidence of intercultural exchanges since Neolithic between Asia and Europe, as Marija Gimbutas noticed, a thorough and direct contact between Europeans and Indians was established only after the Great Geographical Discoveries started and the British Empire occupied the Indian subcontinent.
Influences occurred vice versa too, from Europe to Asia, an eloquent example being the military expedition of Alexander the Great to conquer Asia. The expedition of Alexander the Great in Punjab (327-325 BC) established a temporary Macedonian rule over the two satrapies founded in North-West, on this occasion was entailed the penetration of the Hellenistic culture. Alexander was interested in exploring and researching the newly conquered territories in Northern India as well, in this respect, he brought historians and scholars who offered an interesting description of India and, particularly, of Taxila. The region of Gandhara, in the North-West of ancient India, was a melting pot, a receptacle of the Persian, the Hellenistic-Roman, the Greco-Bactrian, the Kushan and the Indian civilizations and this was reflected eloquently in the regional art of Buddhist origin with Hellenistic features. Amita Bhose researched and presented, multum in parvo, the relations established between Europeans and Indians and their consequences of international importance.
India played an immense role in the expansion of the British Empire overseas, the British army used troops and funds from India. The British Raj was a long time-lapse of alternating periods of peace and turmoil. The British rule was at its height in the 1890s and the modernization process was in progress, despite some conflicts arising in different parts of the Indian subcontinent, which were forcefully repressed by the British Army. This picture of colonial India is depicted in some of Kiplingʼs works, Kim is an eloquent example.
Nevertheless, for westerners the Orient was always a magic land, a land of legends and incredible fairy tales, having extraordinary landscapes and interesting people, a mysterious place full of wisdom and sanctity.