Early Ancient India Prehistoric 7000 B.C.E. to the Gupta empire 550 C.E.(website,geocitiesites)

By Penny Lefert

The Ganges and Indus River Valley

  • The Ganges River crosses through the Himalayas, and unloads in the Bay of Bengal. The Indus River also traverses through the Himalayas, filtering out to the Arabian Sea. Both rivers despite threats of floods, and unpredictable climate conditions, have impacted early Indian civilization by providing rich land to farm, and provided the conditions needed to foster India's earliest appearance of complex civilizations. Around 7000 B.C.E. due in part to the feracity of the land, farming expanded from West Asia to the Indus Valley. (Judge,44-45)(Lindbald,74)

Early Society of The Indus Valley:

The Civilization of Harappan

Two primary Indus cities were discovered. Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (mound of the dead) cities developed around 3000 B.C.E. These cities combined along with the people was named the "Harappan civilization or Indus Valley". Food was abundant particularly around 2800 - 1700 B.C.E. The cities were in grid-like formations much like the city of Manhattan. A fortress named the Citadel was built on the cities highest point looking over the territory. Market place, a large public bath, massive structures with raised floors for flood protection to store grain all leading to a powerful, and centralized government. Farming was the root that Harappan was built around. Intricate symbols were designed for trade with outside societies. (Judge,44-45)(videos)

Civilization of Harappan covering territory approximately 500,000 square miles (Keay,11)

Harappan Patterns of Trade

Evidence was unearthed that shows trade between other cultures. By-products of commodities traded have been discovered in the Euphrates and Tigris basin. Harappan societies main export was lumber and copper, but other commodities traded were items like terra-cotta pots, beads, gemstones, metals, cotton cloth. Seals to mark goods traded were made of clay or sandstone and some were later located in Mesopotamia. Minerals were traded from Afghanistan, cedar tree wood from the Himalaya and Kashmir rivers, and Jade from China. (Judge,46-47)(Lecture)(Video)

shown above a seal, scale to measure for trade purposes, polished beaded jewelry, pot, clay figure "priest king" (website, archeology-online)

Harappan Societal and Cultural Decline

The Indus Valley revealed a cultural decline post 2000 B.C.E. There was evidence that there was a decline in the inhabitants. There are several theories of why the decline occurred. One is due to natural disaster causing flooding or earthquakes, depletion of the rich farm land, and changes in the climate that dried up water sources. Another theory is nomadic invasion. There was also the possibility of disease. Lastly natural laws of evolution a theory that suggests that once a culture grows to its peak it will naturally decline. (Judge,47)(lecture)

Image of Harappan society ruins (website, archeology-online)

Migration of The Aryans

Around 1500 B.C.E. the nomadic society named Aryans shifted from Central Asia to the Indus Valley vastly impacting the culture. The combination of the native people from the Indus Valley, and cultural clash of the Aryans (meaning noble) eventually made way for a birthing a new culture. New weapons, new livestock, trade, language, writing system, music, and rituals were brought. Despite the initial conflict and political unrest, social regulation and sustainability occurred. (Judge,47-49)(Lecture)

Map of the Migration of The Aryans (Judge,47)

Aryan Impact on Indus Culture

Upon the Aryans move to the Indus Valley in 1500 B.C.E. despite the contention and upheaval Indian culture changed and flourished. The new culture was called "Vedic Culture" which was derived from sacramental hymns called Vedas. These hymns came from the Aryan priests, in narrated format comprised for easy memorization. Once a writing structure was formulated post 800 B.C.E. the Vedas could be inscribed. Aryans thrived on warfare which was characterized by the war god Indra. This warfare mentality encompassed the Aryan dislike for those beneath them called Dasa (slave or subordinate). Many Indus peoples were enslaved. Over time Aryans integrated and combined beliefs with Indus people even marrying which occurred around 500 B.C.E. The religion of the Aryans was indoctrinated with the Indus farmers spiritual make-up putting emphasis on fertility and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. (Judge, 48-49)(recordings)

Sacrifice: Sati widow during, early Indi charioteers, chief god of vedas: Indra, Sanskrit

The New Culture Classified in The Cast System

In the Cast System status in life was defined, and classified by your birthright, and occupation, called Varnas. The top of the pyramid was the priests, or Brahmin who carried out and protected religious ceremonies and narrative. Kshatriya, was next, which were the defenders who guarded the society. The next lower level was the Vaishya, farmers, or merchants who carried out tasks as in trading, farming, and herding animals. Next the Shudra, or servants, most who had been enslaved as a result of war. The last level was the Untouchables or those considered unclean. Later Jatis, or sub-casts were created which further classified and occupation, deity, and territory. The essence of the cast system was associated with being pure as in a priest, or contaminated as in someone who's occupation dealt with human functions verses the spiritual. (Judge, 49-50)(recordings)

Cast Sytem (website, wise geeks)

The Cast System Untouchables

The priests called Brahmin were the focus of the society and the authority spirituality named Brahman which encompassed the religious ceremonies and other gods. The theology brought three main concepts to the forefront of Indian culture that helped to reinforce social design. These concepts were Karma, Dharma, and Samsara. Karma related to a persons predetermined course into the next manifestation in the cycle of life and rebirth, and was dependent on a persons accomplishments in their present life, or Dharma. Dharma is a persons dutiful performance of their assigned tasks related to their station in life or cast level. Samsara "reincarnation" is the idea that each person has a immortal spiritual nucleus named Atman where one is reborn after death into a new physical body. The connection of the three concepts reinforced social compliance and order because one would be afraid of acquiring bad karma stressing the notion for one to be faithful to his or her given tasks in life. This social structure was not challenged until approximately 500 B.C.E when some outside religious views threatened the structure. (Judge, 50)(recordings)

Untouchables (googleimages)

Buddhism verses Hinduism

There are two principal religions that emerged from India, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Buddhism came about around the sixth century B.C.E. deriving from a prince called Siddhartha Gautama how would be known as Buddha or "the enlightened one". Buddhism is different from Hinduism because it was a far cry from the cast system instead focusing on the remedy for human suffering. Buddhism taught the concepts of the Four Noble Truths, Life consists of suffering and pain, they are caused by being selfish, to break away from suffering one must restrain from selfish desires, this can be attained by living righteously. In contrast Hinduism focuses on three main gods, Brahman (creator), Vishnu (preserves), and Shiva (destroys), and the cast system. (Judge, 50-51)(recordings)(Lindblad,78-80)

Buddha (web, googleimages)

Ashoka's Significance

Ashoka's reign lasted from 270-232 B.C.E. it began with violent war driven extermination of thousands of lives as he expanded his reign. The violence affected Ashoka prompting him to completely change his way of life turning to Buddhism. Ashoka lived out the remainder of his reign practicing what he preached. Ashoka still used his position to maintain and obtain control over his territory and only allowed the use of force when he deemed necessary continuing to promote the non-violent teachings of Buddha.

The difference of his rule compared to other rulers we have studied is in his change of leadership in turning to Buddhism, and promoting peace, verses violence, and his altruistic support for his people. Ashoka sought to preserve others cultures, showing respect and in fact he sought out the needs of the people and rebuilt the infrastructure needed for irrigation, and wells, even hospitals. Other rulers that we have studied tend to focus on their needs and desires to conquer and obtain the world as opposed to looking to others needs and promotion non-violence. (Judge, 54-56)(recordings)

Ruler: Ashoka (web, googleimages)
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Penny Lefert
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