The Classical Period (1000 BCE – 500 CE) Chapters 2-5
Chapter 3Classical Civilization:India Pgs. 56-74
Classical India Much of its history was shaped by its geography. The vast Indian subcontinent is partially separated from the rest of Asia by northern mountain ranges (the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush). (#3) Though it was not as isolated as China, the subcontinent was nevertheless set apart within Asia. They had contact with Middle Eastern societies (Persian Empire) through mountain passes to the northwest (#2) and eventually by overseas trade routes.
“The Rooftop of the World”, Mt Everest stands 29,035 ft. above sea level making it the highest point on earth. In Nepal, its home country, Mt. Everest’s name means “goddess of the sky”. It is the most visible symbol of the largest mountain chain in the world. Mt. Everest
India’s Geography Rivers also played a major role in India’s formation. The most important agricultural regions are along the two great rivers, the Ganges (northeast) and the Indus, from which India gets its name (northwest). (#3)
Shaping factors of India Along with geography, India has been shaped by outsiders and climate. Aryans, nomadic invaders originally from central Asia, helped to settle the Indian subcontinent.(between 1500 and 500 BCE) (#1) Early records show that Alexander the Great even invaded India and brought Hellenistic (Greek) influences. (#2) Monsoon rains during the summer are crucial to farming and India’s livelihood, but very unpredictable. (#3)
India’s Diversity Because of all the different geographical barriers within India, several different racial and linguistic barriers arose throughout the subcontinent. There are at least 29 different languages spoken in India today with hundreds of different dialects. Northern and southern India are vastly different in types of language, food, climate, and religion.
Aryan Contributions Aryans passed down much of their history orally, until they were eventually written down in Sanskrit, the first language of the Indian culture. The sacred books written down were called the Vedas. This included epic poems and stories like the Rig-Veda, Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Upanishads. (#4) They brought to India a religion of many gods and goddesses, who regulated natural forces and possessed human qualities. These deities became the basis for Hinduism. As Aryans settled into the region, they developed tight village organizations, which later became the basis for the caste system in India.
The Caste System The Indian caste system developed as a means of establishing relationships between Aryan conquerors and the indigenous people, whom they considered inferior. (#5) The castes were as follows:
The Caste System (#6) Eventually, these five social classes became hereditary, with marriage between castes being forbidden and punishable by death.
Caste System Guidelines (#6) • Caste rules regulated social relationships and work roles. • The caste system in India really did what political institutions in other civilizations did by promoting political order. • There were very few chances for upward mobility. • In its origin, the caste system allowed the conquerors and conquered to live together without ongoing conflict. • The caste system governed marriages and jobs. It was so effectively enforced that people actually became more loyal to their caste than their rulers.
Indian Development and Empires Indian development during its classical era did not take on the structure of rising and falling dynasties, as in China. Classical India alternated between widespread empires and a network of smaller kingdoms. (#7) The invasion of Alexander the Great into India in 327 B.C.E. encouraged Indian leaders to unify in order to resist outside powers. (#7) This event will lead to the rise of the Mauryan dynasty.
The Mauryan Dynasty The 1st dynasty in classical Indian history. Established by Chandragupta Maurya. (#8) They unified much of the Indian subcontinent. Their most famous ruler was Chandragupta Maurya’s grandson, Ashoka (269-232 BCE) (#9) He conquered all of the Indian subcontinent except for the southern tip. (#9) Although he was highly religious, his methods of conquering were bloodthirsty. Read on p. 61
Ashoka (269-232BCE) (#9) Ashoka eventually converted to Buddhism, hoping that it could serve as a unifying force for his people. He also promoted trade through the region by building a series of interconnected road networks (Dotted with wells and rest stops!!)
Ashoka Cont’d (#9) He actively worked to spread Buddhism beyond the borders of his empire by sponsoring missionaries, but he still honored Hindu traditions. Trade flourished under his reign as he poured money into the road systems throughout the empire.
The Guptas (320CE – 535 CE) Eventually the Mauryans dynasty disintegrated and gave way to the Guptas. (#10) The Guptas did not produce as dynamic a leader as Ashoka, but they did provide classical India with its greatest period of stability.
Indian Political Institutions The Indian political system was not very stable but rather quite diverse from one ruling dynasty to another (Regionalism). (#11)
Indian Political Institutions (#12) The Gupta rulers did effectively use various devices to gain control and support. They claimed they were appointed by the gods, and therefore, endorsed Hinduism as opposed to Buddhism, since Hinduism believed in such gods. Set up a demanding taxation system. They spread uniform law codes, but DID NOT impose a single language. Served as patrons for much cultural activity like art and literature. These reasons combine to make the Gupta period the golden age in Indian history. Read on p. 62
How did the Caste System affect Indian politics? (#13) The caste system promoted toleration, allowing widely different social classes to live next to each other, separated by social restrictions. Caste rules regulated many social relationships and work roles. The caste system along with religious encouragement helped in the faithful performance of caste duties (karma) and helped promote public order.
Religion and Culture Two major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, marked classical India. Hinduism, the religion of India’s majority, is unique among world religions in that no central figure is credited for developing it. (#14) Over time, Hinduism changed and adapted to meet the various needs of its followers. (#15) Read on p. 64 Characteristics of Hinduism include union with Brahma (moksha) p.64, karma, reincarnation, and yoga.
Hinduism (#16) Hinduism reinforced the caste system by giving people in lower castes hope for a better time in the lives to come through reincarnation if they behaved well in this life. It also ensured the upper castes that if they lived virtuously they could maintain their status in lives to come.
Hindu gods Vishnu, the preserver god Shiva, the destroyer god
Roots of Buddhism Buddhism was founded on the teachings of an Indian prince, Siddartha Gautama, later called Buddha, or “enlightened one.” He actually began as a Hindu prince. Gautama believed in many of the Hindu staples like reincarnation, but disagreed with others like the caste system. He believed the material world was full of pain and suffering and to escape that suffering one had to reach a state of enlightenment and tranquility called nirvana. Buddhism spread through missionaries into Sri Lanka, China, Korea, and Japan (#18)
Buddhism Cont’d Buddhism shared many beliefs with the Hindu faith such as karma and reincarnation. Where as the end goal of Hinduism is moksha, the union with the divine presence, in Buddhism the end goal is nirvana, a state of enlightenment where suffering and pain cease to exist. Buddhists did strongly disagree with the validity of a caste system, believing that each individual could achieve a holy life, therefore denying the importance of a caste system. (#17)
Indian Culture Important were the mathematical advancements, including the concept of zero, “Arabic” numerals, and the decimal system. Indian artists created shrines to Buddha called stupas and painted in lively colors.
Economy and Society As in every area of Indian life, the caste system played a role in society and the economy. It assigned people to certain jobs and regulated marriages. Dominance of husbands and fathers in society remained very strong. (#20) Early Indian writings stressed women’s contributions, but as India became more and more agricultural, that importance declined. (#20) Early writings emphasize clever, strong-willed goddesses which increased women’s status. (#20) More emphasis was placed on love and friendship in marriages than in other societies. (#20)
Economy and Society A system of arranged marriage evolved in which parents contracted unions for their children, particularly daughters, to spouses they had never met. (#20) The economy in this era was extremely vigorous, especially in trade, surpassing that in China and the Mediterranean world. Merchants traded from the Roman Empire to Indonesia to China. (#21)
Indian Influence Because of its extensive trading network, Indian cultural influence spread widely, especially in southeast Asia. (#21) Buddhism was a leading cultural export. India was significantly important in terms of world history because:
India and the Outer World No classical civilization was more central to cross-cultural exchange. Placed between the great empires and trading networks of the Mediterranean and of China, India was ideally situated for its culture to influence both East and West.