Foundations of Indian Civilization 1500 B.C.E. – 300 C.E.
3 topographical zones:
Northern mountainous zone
Indus and Ganges basins
Vindhya Mountains and Deccan plateau divide peninsula from other two zones
4 sub-regions in Peninsula:
Tropical Kerala coast in west
Coromandel Coast in east
Flat area of Tamil Nadu in south
Island of Sri Lanka
Map of India
Weather, Crops, and Geography
Peninsular India and Ganges Valley have a subtropical climate and plentiful rainfall.
Indus Valley is dry and agriculture relies on irrigation.
Staple crop of the Ganges Delta is rice.
Staple crops elsewhere are wheat, millet, and barley.
All of this geographic diversity made it difficult for any political power to unify all of India for any length of time.
Indian Crops Wheat Rice Barley Millet
Beginning the Vedic Age
Indo-European warriors migrated into India after fall of Indus Valley civilizations.
Organized into patriarchal families or kinship groups and herded cattle in northwest.
After 1000 B.C.E., began to push into the Ganges Valley.
Used iron tools to cultivate land and knock down trees
Vedic Oral Tradition
Light-skinned Arya tribes tell of a violent struggle with the darker-skinned Dravidian-speaking Dasas.
The Arya tribes state they drove the Dasas into southern India.
Developed because of struggle between Dasas and Aryas.
People were born into one of four Varna:
Fifth group, the untouchables, were outside the system and consisted of persons who did demeaning or ritually polluting work.
Varna System "When they divided Purusa, how many ways did they apportion him? What was his mouth? What were his arms? What were his thighs, his feet declared to be? His mouth was the Brahmin, his arms were the Rajanaya [Kshatriya caste], his thighs the Vaishya; from his feet the Shudra was born." -- Rig Veda concerning the origin of the members of the Caste System
Subdivision of the Varna
Four Varna were subdivided into hereditary occupational groups called jati (caste).
Jati were arranged in order of hierarchy
Complex rules governed the appropriate occupation, duties, and rituals of each jati, including interaction between people of different jati.
Systems of Varna and Jati were rationalized by the concept of reincarnation.
Each individual has an immortal spirit (atman) that will be reborn in another body after death.
One’s station in the next life depends on one’s actions (karma) in this and previous lives.
Emphasized the worship of male deities through sacrifice.
Religious knowledge and practice was the monopoly of the Brahmin priestly varna.
Memorized rituals, prayers, and hymns
May have opposed writing of this information to maintain their monopoly of religious information
Do not know much about status or roles of women in the Vedic period.
Participate in rituals
Married in middle or late teens.
Reacting to Rigidity
People reacted against rigid social hierarchy and religious monopoly.
Did so by retreating to the forest to persue yoga, special diets, or meditation.
Goal was to achieve moksha – liberation from cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
Ideas are reflected in the Upanishads.
Founded by Mahavira (540 – 468 B.C.E.)
Jains practiced nonviolence and went to extremes not to kill any living thing
Most extreme went naked and starved themselves to death
Less extreme devoted themselves to commerce and banking
Did not require them to kill like agriculture did
Founded by Siddhartha Gautama
Title was Buddha, which means “Enlightened One”
Taught the “Four Noble Truths” and the Eightfold Path that would lead individuals to enlightenment.
Some of his followers took vows of celibacy, nonviolence, and poverty
Original form of Buddhism centered on individual’s attempts to gain enlightenment through:
Goal was to achieve nirvana or release from cycle of birth, death, and rebirth
All things were composite, including the individual.
This was in contrast to the Vedic belief in the existence of an eternal soul (atman).
Death of Buddha
After the death of the Buddha, some of his followers organized themselves into monasteries and nunneries
Also developed a complex, hierarchical religion complete with:
Worship of the Buddha
Reverence for bodhisattvas
Artistic representations of the Buddha
Two Branches of Buddhism
Religion broke into two major schools:
Mahayana incorporated new Buddhist beliefs
Theraveda followed original teachings of the Buddha more closely.
Rise of Hinduism
Reform of old Vedic religion because of new religions Jainism and Buddhism.
Foundations of Vedic religion incorporated:
Intense personal religious devotion
Symbolism of the southern Dravidian cultures
Elements of Buddhism
Sacrifice was not as important and role of personal devotion to the gods increased.
Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi
Two formerly minor Vedic deities now had places of honor in the Hindu religion:
Vishnu, the preserver
Shiva, the destroyer
Goddess Devi was also prominent in new religious tradition
Other countless gods and goddesses were understood to be manifestations of a single divine force.
Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi Shiva Vishnu Devi
Centered on temples and shrines
Included puja (service to a deity) and pilgrimage
Ganges River became a popular pilgrimage site.
Religious duties of an individual varied according to gender, social status, and age.
Transformation from Vedic religion to Hinduism
So successful that Hinduism became dominant religion of India.
Appealed to common people’s need for personal deities with whom they could have a direct connection.
Theraveda Buddhism too austere to have popular appeal.
Mahayana Buddhism so close to Hinduism its beliefs could be easily absorbed by larger religion.
Imperial Expansion and Collapse 324 B.C.E. – 650 C.E.
324 B.C.E. – 184 B.C.E.
Core of empire was the Kingdom of Magadha.
Plentiful agriculture and iron resource
Founded by Chandragupta.
Expanded by him, Vindusara, and Ashoka until it included most of subcontinent.
Mauryan Emperors Chandragupta Ashoka
Map of Mauryan Empire
Capital at the walled and moated city of Pataliputra.
Establishment, including a large army, was paid for by:
25% tax on agricultural products of the empire
State monopolies on mines, shipbuilding, and armaments.
Most famous Mauryan emperor
Ruled from 269 – 232 B.C.E.
Converted to Buddhism after seeing effects of warfare in south
Buddhist policies of government are preserved in edicts inscribed on rocks and pillars throughout his empire.
Pillar with Inscription
Collapse of the Mauryan Empire
Collapsed in 184 B.C.E.
Northern India fell into a period of political fragmentation
Included rule of Northwest by the Shakas and Kushans
Accompanied by economic development in which guilds of artisans and merchants played a dominant role
Period of political fragmentation also characterized by cultural development that included the writing of the:
Period also saw developments in herbal medicines and linguistics
Addresses contradiction between duty to society and duty to one’s own soul.
Suggests this contradiction can be resolved when one is aware that any form of disciplined action taken without regard for personal benefit is a service to the gods.
Andhra dynasty established in an independent state in the Deccan (2 nd century B.C.E. to 2 nd century C.E.)
Southern India divided among 3 Tamil kingdoms:
Period of great artistic achievement
Began with the kingdom of Magadha
Brought northern and central India under their control, but not the southern part.
Guptas controlled iron deposits, established state monopolies, and collected a 25% agricultural tax.
Never were as strong as Mauryan Empire.
Used army to control core of the empire.
Provincial administration was left to governors who often made posts into hereditary and subordinate kingdoms and kingship groups.
Exercised power as a “theater-state”
Redistributed profits and luxury goods from trade
Dazzling dependents with elaborate ceremonies in return for gifts and other favors
About the Gupta
Very little archaeological data and few contemporary accounts from which we can learn about the Gupta.
Court supported mathematics and astronomy
Gupta invented our “Arabic” numerals and the concept of “zero”.
Women in the Gupta period
Lost right to inherit and own property
Could not participate in key rituals
Treated like lowest varna (Shudra)
Married very young
In some places, a widow was required to burn herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.
Ways to escape low status:
Join religious community
Be a courtesan
Hinduism in the Gupta period
Development of the classic form of Hindu temples.
Trade and Collapse
Gupta India was linked to the outside world by extensive trade networks.
Trade with southeast and east Asia was particularly flourishing.
Gupta empire collapsed under the financial burden of defense against the Huns.
Southeast Asia 50 – 1025 C.E.
Three geographical zones:
The area stands in between India and China.
It has been influenced by both cultures
Fertile agricultural lands
Dependable monsoon rains
Several growing seasons a year
Allowed area to support a large, dense population
Practiced swidden agriculture
Domesticated important crops and animals
Southeast Asia received waves of migration of Malay peoples from southern China.
Continued into Pacific islands and into the Indian Ocean.
Early Malay groups in Southeast Asia lived in small villages, manufactured bronze tools, and were organized in small political units.
First large states in Southeast Asia emerged in the early centuries C.E. in response to the position of Southeast Asia as a crossroads for trade and travel between India and China.
Trade brought business as well as the Hindu and Buddhist cultures.
First major state to appear in Southeast Asia in the Mekong delta area.
First through sixth centuries B.C.E.
Thrived due to its domination of the Isthmus of Kra.
Decline in the sixth century may be related to the opening of new trade routes that bypassed Funan.
Located on Sumatra
Dominated the new southern trade route through the Strait of Malacca as well as other shipping routes through the area of modern Malaysia and Indonesia.
Political system knit together four ecological zones and their local rulers under the authority of the Srivijayan king.
Four zones were:
Core area along the Musi River
Upland Sumatran interior
Fertile rice lands of central Java
Maintained their control over this complex system through a combination of:
Control of trade
Techniques of the “theater-state”
Kings used splendor of capital to attract resources and labor
Power of kings enhanced by popular belief in their “magical powers”
Kings associated with forces of fertility
Patronized Buddhist monasteries and schools
Indian culture exercised a powerful influence on Srivijayan concepts of kingship and government
Hindu and Buddhism became dominant faiths of the region
The Srivijayan did not simply imitate India, they borrowed selectively from Indian civilization and adapted what they borrowed to their own culture and needs.
Decline of Srivijayan Kingdom
Changes in trade routes led to the decline of the Srivijaya in the eleventh century.
Capital was destroyed in 1025 by the Chola kingdom.