The bi-annual flooding of the Indus river allowed for early civilizations in India to have thriving agriculture. This led to the development of many farming villages in the Indus Valley by 7000 B.C.E.
The Harappan society thrived between 2500 and 2000 B.C.E. Their cities had a modern like design in that they were set up in grids with rows of houses. They were also similar to modern cities as they were separated by class. They had a very rich culture, however it seemed to decline after 2000 B.C.E.
Historians found evidence that these ancient cultures had definite trade connections with other cultures. Items that were clearly Mesoptoamian have been found in India suggesting trade between the regions. They also found sculptures with heroes from Sumerian cultures clearly demonstrating trade that must have been made possible through West Asia.
After 2000 B.C.E. the society in the Indus valley decline greatly. Historians have many theories as to why this happened. They speculate that it could have been due to natural causes such as climate changes or effects that may have been caused due to tectonic plate movement. This could have caused floods and earthquakes. Due to this disruption of their food and water surpluses most people from the Indus Valley moved on to where they could live more comfortably.
The Aryans were a group of nomads who travelled to the Indus valley from the west and the north. They were warriors who conquered many of the areas that they encountered. There light skin and ruthless tactics would later make them pillars of Nazi and white supremacist culture.
The Aryans had moved into northern India by 1500 B.C.E. They brought with them Vedic culture. This culture was fond of warfare and the caste system. They also brought with them their religious beliefs in multiple gods and life after death.
The Aryan caste system was divided into groups called varnas. Priests and were warriors were at the top, followed by commoners, and at the bottom were the servants or conquered peoples. Originally these classes were more flexible and marriage between them was not uncommon. However, it eventually became solidified that people did not want to risk moving down in the caste system so most people stayed within their own group. It even eventually became associated with religious beliefs, where those at the top were more pure than those at the bottom.
Religion had a big impact on the lives of the untouchables. Reincarnation, or what they called samsara, was their belief that their soul would go onto live many lives after this one. Dharma was the specific duties that they must carry out based on their caste in this life. Karma was a measure of how well they performed these duties. If they lived up to their dharma in this life, they would have good karma and be born into a higher caste in their next life. It was probably very reassuring for those born into the lower caste to feel as though they could someday achieve a higher status in one of their lives.
Buddhism was born out of the lessons of Siddhartha Gautama. He lived a very comfortable life until the age of 29 when he came across an old man, a sick man, and a dead man. He decided then to find the meaning of aging, illness, and death and spent years on a path of discovery traveling all over India. He eventually became known as "the enlightened one" or the Buddha. His beliefs were different from other religions at the time as he believed that the path to nirvana was through self-awareness and the curbing of desires in search of true inner peace.
Buddhism had an especially powerful impact on the ruler Ashoka. Although his claim to power was violent, it eventually bothered him so much that he renounced it and became a Buddhist. He used his powers to spread the word of the Buddha; building temples and shrines and establishing religious communities. He sought to improve the lives of his people and treated them with kindness. He also practiced religious tolerance which was very unusual during these times. Overall he was a very humanitarian and kind ruler which is very different from the kinds of rulers that were known back then.