GeographyThe Indian subcontinent is composed of anumber of core regions including mountainranges, river valleys, dry interior plateausand fertile coastal plains. DeccanIn the north are the Himalayan Plateaumountains, the highest mountains in theworld.South of the Himalya is the Ganges Rivervalley, one of the chief regions of IndianCulture.To the west is the Indus RiverValley, which is the cradle of Indian India is dependent on the monsoon, acivilization. seasonal wind pattern that brings in moist air during the summer and dry air during theThe Deccan plateau extends from the winter. It also brings heavy rains in theGanges to the southern tip of India. It is southwest. Farmers depend on these rains tohilly and dry. grow crops. If the rain comes early or late, or not enough rain comes, the crops areThe coastal regions of India are lush and destroyed and people may starve.densely populated.
First Civilizations: Harappa & Mohenjo Daro Early civilizations in India flourished in the valleys of the Indus River. Between 3000 BCE and 1500 BCE, the Indus River valley supported civilizations that extended hundreds of miles from the Himalaya to the Arabian Sea. Archaeologists have found the remains of over 1,000 settlements in this region. Arabian Sea Two sites, Harappa and Mohenjo- Daro, were major cities with advanced civilizations.
Harrappa At its height, Harappa had about 35,000 inhabitants. The city was carefully planned. The main streets ran north-south and were crossed by smaller roads going east-west. Houses varied in size, with some as tall as three stories. Most buildings were made of Computer Rendering mud that was baked in ovens. Public wells were used to supply water and bathrooms had an advanced drainage system. The Harappans had one of the world’s first sewer systems. Harappan Ruins
Mohenjo-Daro Like Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro was a carefully planned city with wide streets and lanes. Mohenjo-Daro also had a sewer system that took wastewater under the streets and beyond the city walls. They also used a system of chutes to move trash from houses to street-level bins, just like we do today!
Politics Harappan rulers based their power on a belief in divine assistance. Religion and political power were closely linked. Harappan rulers lived in palaces that were also holy temples. These sites were built like fortresses or citadels, which were capable of being easily defended if attacked. Harappan Temple Around 1500 BCE, the Harappans were conquered by the Aryans, a group who moved from the Hindu Kush (Southeast Asia) into northern India.
Aryans1500 BCE – 400 BCE Around 1500 BCE, a group of Indo-European nomadic (wandering) people moved from their homeland in Asia to Northern India. They conquered the Harappans and created a new Indian society based on their own culture. The Aryans excelled at the art of war and over the next 500 years Movement of Aryans they advanced eastward from the Indus Valley, across the Ganges plain. They eventually moved south into the Deccan plateau and extended their control to most of India.
Aryan Culture After settling in India, Aryans settled as farmers. The introduction of iron (probably from near Mesopotamia) helped the Aryans settle in India. They used iron plows to farm and irrigate, and used iron tools to help clear the dense jungle growth along the Ganges River. Sanskrit enabled them to write down The Aryans had no written language legends, religious chants, and rituals. until they settled in India and The history written between 1500 developed Sanskrit. and 400 BCE portrayed India as separate warring kingdoms, with leaders carving out small territories and fighting other kings. The conquest of India by the Aryans had a lasting impact on Indian society that lasted through modern times.
Society India is famous for its caste system –rigid social categories that determine not only a person’s occupation and economic potential, but also his or her position in society. Based partly on skin color, but mostly on birth, it was rarely possible to move from one caste to another.
Caste System There were five major divisions of Indian classes (known as castes in English): Brahmans: The priestly class, whose members were called Brahmans, were the top of the social scale. They were in charge of religious ceremonies. Kshatriyas: The warrior caste, the Kshatriyas defended states and waged wars. Sometimes families from other castes were accepted into the warrior ranks. Vaisyas: Commoners, most Vaisyas were merchants or farmers. Sudras: The largest part of the Indian population, the Sudras were not Aryans and the term Sudras probably referred to dark- skinned natives of India. Most Sudras were peasants or manual laborers. They had only limited rights in society. Untouchables: The lowest level of Indian society, the untouchables were given menial, degrading tasks that others would not accept, such as collecting trash or handling the dead. They lived difficult lives, as their presence was considered harmful to members of other classes. None of the other classes would eat food handled by Untouchables and they lived in separate areas away from the other classes.
Family Life Family was the most basic unit of Indian society. It was not uncommon for three generations – grandparents, parents, and children – to live under one roof. The family was patriarchal (led by the oldest male), who held legal authority over every member of the family. Indians believed in the superiority of the male over the female; only males could inherit property (there were sometimes exceptions if there were no sons). Women could not be priests and were rarely educated. Upper-class men were not supposed to marry until they completed 12 years of study. Men could take a second wife if the first did not bear children. Marriages were arranged by the parents and girls often married very young. Children were important because they were expected to take care of their parents as they grew older. The most vivid symbol of male dominance was the ritual of suttee, where women were expected to throw themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre (fire) and thus die with their husbands.
Religion Hinduism had its origins in the religious beliefs of the Aryan people who settled in India after 1500 BCE. The Aryan people left behind Vedas, collections of hymns and religious ceremonies that were passed down through the centuries and eventually written down. Early Hindus believed in the existence of a single force in the universe, a form of ultimate reality or God, called Brahman. It was the duty of the individual self – called the atman – to seek to know this ultimate reality.
Hinduism Hindus believe the individual soul is reborn in a different form after death. This process is called reincarnation. After a number of existences in the earthly world, the soul reaches its final goal in a union with Brahman. Hindus believe all living beings seek to achieve this goal.An important part of reincarnation is the idea of karma, the force generated by aperson’s actions that will determine how the person will be reborn in the nextlife. According to karma, how you live in this life affects your next lives. Theconcept of karma is ruled by the dharma or divine law. The law requires allpeople to do their duty, depending on your status in society. More is expected ofthose at the top of the social scale than of the lower castes.
Hinduism The system of reincarnation was used to provide a justification for the strict social class system (the caste system) in Indian society. Their belief in karma and dharma allowed them to justify the privilege of the higher classes – they earned it through good karma and reincarnation. It also justified their treatment of the lower classes – who brought on their status through bad karma. The system also gave the lower castes hope, because if they lived a life of good karma, they would be reincarnated into a higher class.
Hindu Gods The Hindu religion had many human-like gods and goddesses that were worshipped by ordinary people. The three main gods were Brahman the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. These gods were worshipped in religious temples and with religious ceremonies and holidays. Vishnu Shiva
Buddhism In the sixth century BCE, a new religion, called Buddhism, appeared in northern India and soon rivaled Hinduism. Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, or “enlightened one.”Siddhartha Gautama was from a small village in the Himalaya (Nepal). Bornaround 563 BCE, he was the son of a wealthy ruling family. He was raised inwealth, married a princess at age 16, and started a family.In his twenties, Siddhartha became aware of the pain of illness, sorrow ofdeath, and the effects of old age on ordinary people. He decided to spend hislife seeking the cure for human suffering. He gave up his wealth, abandonedhis family, and set off to find the meaning of life.
Buddha (Siddhartha)Siddhartha followed the example ofascetics, people who practiced self-denialto achieve an understanding of reality.However, he almost died from not eating,so he abandoned the ascetic way of life.Instead, he practiced meditation.Siddhartha claimed he reachedenlightenment while sitting under a treemeditating.He spent the rest of his life teaching whathe had discovered, the basic principles ofBuddhism. Siddhartha Siddhartha believed that the material world – the physical surroundings of humans – were illusions (not real). He believed if people would let go of their worldy cares, their pain and sorrow could be forgotten and they could achieve bodhi, or wisdom. Once wisdom is achieved, one can achieve nirvana, the ultimate reality where the end of the self is reunited with the Great World Soul.
Four Noble Truths of Buddhism The beliefs of Buddhism are based on the Four Noble Truths: Life is full of suffering This suffering is caused by our desire to satisfy ourselves. The way to end suffering is to end desire for selfish goals and to see others as extensions of ourselves. The way to end desire is to follow the Middle PathEightfold Path (Middle Path) of Buddhism 1. Right View: We need to know the Four Noble Truths. 2. Right Intention: We need to decide what we really want. 3. Right Speech: We must seek to speak truth and to speak well of others. 4. Right Action The Buddha gave five precepts: do not kill; do not steal; do not lie; do not be unchaste; do not take drugs or drink alcohol. 5. Right Livelihood: We must do work that uplifts our being. 6. Right Effort: Following the way must be done with steady and forward- looking effort. 7. Right Mindfulness: We must keep our minds in control of our senses. 8. Right Concentration: We must meditate to see the world in a new way.
Buddhism Siddhartha accepted the idea of reincarnation, but he rejected the caste system of the Hindus. He believed all human beings could reach nirvana as a result of their behavior during their lives. Siddhartha also rejected the multitude of gods in Hinduism. Siddhartha died in 480 BCE at the age of 80. His followers spread Buddhism throughout India. Temples and monasteries sprang up throughout India and provided housing and training for monks dedicated to the simple life and pursuit of wisdom.
New Empires327 BCE – 300 CEBetween 1500 and 400 BCE,the Aryans were unable tounify India. After 400 BCE,India faced new threats fromthe west: Persia, Greece, andMacedonia all invaded India.The most effective invasion Alexander’s Empirecame from Alexander theGreat in 327 BCE. The mapshows the extent ofAlexander’s empire.Alexander wanted to conquer allof India, but his soldiers refusedto continue. He left India and theMauryan Dynasty was able tounite much of India in his wake.
Mauryan Dynasty Chandragupta Maurya united India and ruled from 324 to 301 BCE. He ruled from his capital, Pataliputra in the Ganges Valley. The government was centralized, with the king as the supreme power and law of the land. The king divide the country into provinces that were ruled by appointed governors. After Chandragupta died, Asoka, his grandson, inherited the kingship. Asoka is generally considered the greatest ruler in the Asoka history of India. Asoka converted to Buddhism and used Buddhist ideals as his guide to ruling. He expanded India’s role in trade and helped establish a vast network of roads across India. After his death in 232 BCE, the Maruyan empire began to decline. In 183 BCE, the last Maruyan ruler was killed and India fell back into disunity.
Kush Kingdom & The Silk Road After the Mauryan empire collapsed, new kingdoms rose along the edges of India. The Kushan kingdom developed over two centuries and spread over northern India as far as the central Ganges Valley. In the rest of India, multiple kingdoms were fighting for control.The Kushans prospered from the trade that passed through their land. Goodswere moved from China to the Mediterranean and back on the Silk Road. Itwas called the Silk Road because silk was China’s most valuable product. Alarge section of this road passed through the mountains northwest of India.
The Guptas The Kushan kingdom ended in 320 CE, when Persia overran the kingdom. A new state was made in the central Ganges valley by a local prince named Chandragupta (no relation to the Mauryan prince). The kingdom of the Guptas became the dominant political force in northern India. It also established some control over central India, making it the largest Indian empire since the time of the Mauryans. The Gupta empire actively traded with China, Asia, and the Mediterranean. They also encouraged religious pilgrims to come visit the major religious centers for Hinduism and Buddhism. The Guptas were eventually defeated by the Huns in the late fifth century CE. Northern India would not be reunited for hundreds of years.
Indian Culture & Innovation The earliest known literature in India were Vedas, which were primarily religious. When writing developed, Indian writers produced epics like the Mahabharata, which contained a section called the Bhagavad Gita, which is a sermon by the god Krishna on the eve of a major battle. It is one of the most famous pieces of Indian literature.
Indian Culture & Innovation Buddhist Stupa – note the mound-like shape Taj Mahal – note the pillars Indian architecture was famous for its pillars, rock chambers, and stupas. A stupa was made to house relics of Buddha and were built in the form of burial mounds. They eventually became a place for devotion and the most familiar form of Buddhist architecture. Rock chambers were carved out of rock cliffs to house monks or for religious ceremonies Ajanta Caves (rock chambers)
Indian Culture & Innovations The Ancient Indians possessed an impressive amount of scientific knowledge, particularly in astronomy. They charted the movements of the heavenly bodies and recognized that Earth is a sphere that rotates on an axis and revolves around the sun. You can also thank the Ancient Indians for Algebra, as Aryabhata, the most famous mathematician of the Gupta Empire was one of the first scientists to use Algebra. Indian mathematicians also introduced the concept of zero and used a symbol (0) to represent it. After Arabs conquered India in the eighth century CE, they adopted the Indian system. Today it’s known as the Indian- Arabic numerical system.