I. Framework for Indian History: Geography and a Formative Period
1. Describe the contacts India had with other civilizations.
open to influences from Middle East & Mediterranean world. Persian empires spilled into India at several points with artistic styles/political concepts. Alexander the Great briefly invaded India & =Indian contacts with Hellenistic culture. Influences from Middle East continued after classical age.
2. How did India’s topography shape its civilization?
subcontinent partially separated from rest of Asia in north by Himalayas. Northwest passes in mts. linked India to civ. in Middle East. India not isolated, but set apart within Asia; divisions in subcontinent >> political unity difficult. India= greater diversity than China. Agricultural regions: along Indus & Ganges Rivers; mountainous northern regions = herding economy; southern coastal rim, separated by moun¬tains & Deccan plateau= active trading /seafaring economy. India’s separate regions >> economic diversity & racial & language differences.
3. Identify/significance: monsoons
Summer >> monsoon rains; sometimes too little or too late> drought>famine; too much >>catastrophic floods. With favorable monsoons >>Indian farmers plant/harvest 2 crops >> support large population.
4. Identify/significance: Aryans
nomadic Indo-Europeans; migrated into Indus Valley> took over early Indus Valley civilization; gradually adapted to agriculture & impacted culture/social structure of new home. Vedic Age (1500-1000 B.C.E.) Indian agriculture extended from Indus River valley to more fertile Ganges valley; Aryans used iron tools to clear dense vegetation.
5. Identify/significance: Vedas
oral literary epics of Aryans; later written in Sanskrit -first literary language of new culture.)
6. Identify/significance: Rig Veda
first epic of Vedic Age=1028 hymns by priests dedicated to Aryan gods
7. Identify/significance: Mahabharata and Ramayana and Upanishads
New stories of Epic Age (1000- 600 B.C.E.) includes the Mahabharata, India’s greatest epic poem & the Ramayana; both deal with real & myth¬ical battles; reflect more settled agricul¬tural society & better-organized political units than the Rig-Veda. Upanishad= poems of Epic Age with mystical religious flavor.
8. Describe the influence of Aryans on family structure in India.
patriarchal; extended fam¬ily (grandparents, parents, children)
9. Describe the development and characteristics of the caste system that began to take shape in the Vedic and Empire Ages. (varnas, Kshatriyas, Brahmans, Vaisyas, Sudras, Untouchables)
caste system may have developed to establish relationships between Aryan conquerors & indigenous people. Aryan social classes (varnas) enforced divisions famil¬iar in agricultural societies. >> warrior or gov¬erning class- Kshatriyas & priestly class -Brahmans = top of social pyramid, fol¬lowed by traders / farmers -Vaisyas & common laborers- Sudras. A 5th group gradu¬ally evolved, later called untouchables, who were confined to unclean jobs. Gradually five social groups became hereditary, with mar¬riage between castes forbidden & punishable by death; basic castes divided into smaller subgroups, called jati, each with distinctive occupations & each tied to its social station by birth.
10. Characteristics of Aryan gods and goddesses and religious ideas
The Aryans brought distinctive religious ideas that included many gods/goddesses who regulated natural forces & had human qualities. This system = similarities to Greek & Scandinavian mythology because all derived from common Indo-European oral heritage. India constructed a complex religion that still exists.
II. Patterns in Classical India
11. How did the rhythm of Indian history differ from that of China?
India= no structure of rising/falling dynasties like China. Political eras less clear than in clas¬sical Greece. Rhythm of Indian history irreg¬ular; marked by invasions from northwest.
12. Describe the political divisions in India from the end of the Epic Age until the 4th century.
Indian plains divided into powerful regional states in n.India: some monarchies, others republics dominated by assemblies of priests & warriors. Warfare common.
13. Identify Chandragupta Maurya and describe his achievements.
322 B.C.E.soldier Chandragupta Maurya seized power along Ganges River>>first of Mauryan dynasty /first ruler to unify much of subcontinent; might have bor¬rowed from Persian political models or example of Alexander the Great. Chandragupta& successors= large armies, thousands of chariots & elephant-borne troops. The Mauryan rulers developed bureau¬cracy, including postal service.
14. Describe Chandragupta’s government.
highly autocratic; based on ruler’s personal & mili¬tary power; always protected by bodyguards. Style would surface periodically in Indian history, just as in Middle East, a region with which India had contacts.
15. Identify and describe the achievements of Ashoka and his conversion to Buddhism.
Chandragupta’s grandson, Ashoka (269—232 B.C.E.) =greater figure in India’s history. Governor of 2 provinces= lavish lifestyle; studied nature; influenced by spiritualism of Brahmans & Buddhism; extended Mauryan conquests> gained control of all but southern tip of India by bloodthirsty methods. Ashoka eventually converted to Buddhism; he saw it as a kind of ethical guide that might unite & discipline diverse people under his rule. Ashoka vigorously spread Buddhism throughout India, sponsoring shrines for worshippers. Ashoka sent Bud¬dhist missionaries to Hellenistic kingdoms in Middle East & Sri Lanka. The “new” Ashoka urged humane behavior by his officials & insisted they oversee moral welfare of his empire.
16. How did Chandragupta and Ashoka improve trade and communications?
sponsored extensive road network with wells/ rest stops; stability & expansion of empire’s territory encouraged growing commerce.
17. What happened in India after Ashoka’s death?
(Kushans) Guptas) After Ashoka, empire began to fall apart >> regional kingdoms again. New invaders, the Kushans, pushed into central India from northwest. The greatest Kushan king, Kanishka, converted to Buddhism; it hurt this religion’s popularity in India by associating it with foreign rule. Kushan state collapsed by 220 C.E. >>another hundred years of political instability. New line of kings, Guptas, created large empire in 320 C.E.
18. Describe the achievements of the Gupta rulers.
Gupta empire was smaller & = no rulers as influential as great Mauryan rulers, but had greater impact. Gupta rulers preferred to negotiate with local princes & intermarry with their families>>>expanded influence without constant fighting. Two centuries of Gupta rule gave classical India its greatest period of political stability. Gupta empire over-turned in 535 C.E. by an invasion of nomadic war¬riors –the Huns-
19. How did political development in India compare to China or Greece and Rome?
Classical India did not develop the solid political traditions and institutions of Chinese civilization, or the high level of political interest that would charac¬terize classical Greece and Rome.
20. What were the most persistent political features in India?
Regionalism & diversity in political forms. There were autocratic kings & emperors, but also aristocratic assemblies in some regional states with power to consult & decide on major issues.
21. Explain how Gupta rulers tried to consolidate support.
claimed they were appointed by gods to rule; favored Hinduism over Buddhism because Hindus believed in such gods. Guptas created taxation system= 1/6 of agri¬cultural produce. No extensive bureaucracy; allowed local rulers they had defeated to keep regional control if they recognized Gupta dominance; put personal representative at each ruler’s court to ensure loyalty; no single language imposed; promoted San¬skrit= language of educated people, but this made no dent in diversity of popular regional languages.
22. In what ways was the Gupta period a golden age of Indian history?
spread uniform law codes; like Mauryan rulers, they sponsored general ser¬vices, such as road building; > patrons of cultural activity, including university life, art, literature.
23. Describe the political culture of India.
little formal political theory; few institutions /values other than regionalism. Chandragupta’s chief minister, Kautilya, wrote treatise on politics telling rulers how to maintain power (similar to Legal¬ists). It encouraged authority but didn’t spread political values or sense of importance of political service, in contrast to Confucianism & to interest in political ethics in Greece & Rome. Ashoka saw Buddhism as an ethic for good behavior & spiritual guidance. Bud¬dhist leaders not inter¬ested in politics; Indian religion didn’t stress importance of politics, but viewed priests as sources of authority.
24. How did the caste system affect government and order?
Caste rules regulated social relationships/work roles; religious encouragement in performance of caste duties did for Indian life what more conventional government structures did in many other cultures in promoting public order.
25. Explain how the Indian caste system became more complex.
after Epic Age five initial classes sub-divided into 300 jati, which became further divided into a multitude of sub-castes. Hereditary principles grew stronger>>virtually impossible to rise above caste in which a person was born or to marry someone from a higher caste. Upward mobility could occur within castes. The system gave India most rigid overall framework for a social structure of any other classical civilizations.
26. How did the caste system affect society and culture in India?
provided way for India’s various races, conquerors & conquered, to live together without conflict & without full integration of cultures & values. Different kinds of people could live side by side in village or city, separated by caste. Castes promoted tolerance-this was useful, given India’s varied peoples and beliefs. The caste system also meant that extensive outright slav¬ery was avoided. The lowest, untouchable castes were scorned, confined to poverty/ degrading work but their members were not directly owned by others.
27. What were the political consequences of caste system?
rules governed marriages, jobs & social habits (eating /drinking); rules made detailed political administration less necessary; No state could command full loyalty from subjects= first loyalty to caste.
28. How did Hinduism help to produce continual and cultural cohesiveness in India?
Hinduism gained ground on Buddhism under Guptas=clearest cultural cement of society; Hinduism is major system of belief in India today; promotes other features in Indian culture: contemporary Indian children are encouraged to exercise their imaginations longer than Western chil¬dren; some argue even Indian adults are less interested in agreed upon truths than in individually satisfying versions. This mind-set goes back to religious patterns cre¬ated in classical India, where Hinduism encouraged imaginative links with a higher, divine reality. Classical India, not source of enduring political institutions beyond local level, pro¬duced a civilization that would retain clear continuity & cultural cohesiveness from this point onward—even though the subcontinent was rarely politically united, at least under indigenous rulers.
III. Religion and Culture
29. How Hinduism differed from other religions.
no single founder & no central figure; It unfolded gradually, sometimes in reaction to competing religions such as Buddhism or Islam. Hinduism pursued many religious approaches, from strictly rit¬ualistic ceremonial approach to high-soaring mysticism that sought to unite individual humans with an all-embracing divine principle. Part of Hinduism’s success was the result of its ability to adapt to different needs of various groups & to change with circumstance.
30. Explain the beliefs of Hinduism as it became a more formal religion by the first centuries of the common era. (gurus, brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, reincarnation)
mystics, called gurus as they gathered disciples & brahman priests agreed on certain doctrines, as Hinduism became an increas¬ingly formal religion by first centuries of the com¬mon era. The basic holy essence, called brahma, formed part of everything in this world. Every living creature participates in this divine principle. Divine aspects of brahma are manifested in forms of sev¬eral gods, including Vishnu, the preserver & Shiva, the destroyer. The world of our senses is far less important than the world of the divine soul; a proper life is devoted to seeking union with this soul. This quest may take many lifetimes, so Hindus stressed principle of reincarnation, in which souls do not die when bodies do but pass into other beings, either human or animal. Whether the soul it rises to a higher-caste person or falls to an animal, depends on how good a life the person has led. After many good lives, the soul reaches full union with the soul of brahma & worldly suffering ceases.
31. Identify/significance: Bhagavad Gita (dharma)
concept of dharma directed attention to moral consequences of action. Each person must meet obligations of life. In the Bhagavad Gita, a classic sacred hymn, a warrior is sent to do battle against his own relatives. Fearful of killing them, he is advised by an incarnation of Brahma (Krishna) that he must carry out his duties. He will not really be killing his victims because their divine spirit will live on. This ethic urged that honorable behavior is compatible with spirituality & can lead to a final release from the life cycle & to unity with the divine essence.
32. Explain why Hinduism was able to spread through India and briefly to parts of Asia.
It accommodated extreme spiri¬tuality & provided satisfying rules of conduct for ordinary life, including rituals & emphasis on distinction between good & evil behavior. It allowed many people to retain older beliefs/ ceremonie. It reinforced caste system, giving people in lower castes hope for a better time in lives to come & giving upper-caste people, including brahmans, satisfaction that if they behaved well, they might be rewarded by com-munion with the divine soul.
33. Explain how Siddhartha Gautama became Buddha and explain his beliefs.
(nirvana) Indian prince born 563 B.C.E.> began to question fairness of earthly life with poverty/misery. Later called Buddha “enlightened one,”>lived as Hindu mystic>felt he had found truth>gathered disciples & spread ideas. Buddha accepted Hindu beliefs of reincarnation, but he denied caste. He saw material world as trap that> pain/frustrations; men/women suffer as they struggle to hold on to youth, health, life though all are destined to pass away. Buddha saw sal¬vation in destruction of self & full union with divine essence in state of “nirvana”- a realm where suffering/decay are no more, a world beyond exis¬tence. Great stress placed on self-control. By arguing a holy life could be achieved through individual effort by people at every level of society, Buddhism denied spiritual value of caste & performance of rituals, but also of priests.
34. Explain how Buddhism spread and changed.
It spread through example & teachings of groups of monks in monasteries who preached in the world. It attracted many follow¬ers in India; greatly spurred by conversion of emperor Ashoka. Increasingly, Buddha was seen as divine. Prayer/ contemplation at Buddhist holy places & works of charity/piety gave substance to idea of holy life on earth.
35. Why didn’t Buddhism find a permanent following in India?
Hindu opposition to Buddhism was strong; it was aided by influence of Gupta emperors. Hinduism showed adaptability by emphasizing its mystical side, thus keeping loyalties of many Indians.
36. Where were Buddhism’s greatest successes?
Buddhism’s greatest successes, aided by the missionary encouragement of Ashoka and later the Kushan emperors, came in other parts of southeast Asia, including the island of Sri Lanka, off the south coast of India, and in China, Korea, and Japan. Still, pockets of Buddhists remained in India, particularly in the northeast.
37. Describe the characteristics of Indian drama under Guptas.
stressed themes of romantic adventure- lovers separated & reunited after many perils; Contemporary Indian movies reflect tradi¬tion of romance & heroic action.
38. Identify/significance: Nalanda
Guptas supported vast university center (one of world’s first) in town of Nalanda=attracted Indian brahmans & students from other parts of Asia. Nalanda = over 100 lecture halls, 3 large libraries, astronomical observatory. Curriculum: religion, philos¬ophy, medicine, architecture, agriculture.
39. Describe the accomplishments of Indian scientists.
borrowed a little from Greek learning after conquests of Alexander Great>> advances in astronomy/ medicine; calculated length of solar year; improved mathematical measurements; astronomers calculated daily rotation of earth on its axis; predicted/ explained eclipses, developed theory of gravity, identified 7 planets with telescopes. Medical research hampered by reli¬gious prohibitions on dissection, but surgeons made advances in bone setting & plas¬tic surgery; inoculation against smallpox; hospitals stressed cleanliness & sterilization; doctors promoted high ethical standards.
40. Describe the accomplishments of Indian mathematicians.
We use Indian number system today; we call it Arabic because Europeans imported it secondhand from Arabs. Indians invented concept of zero & >> decimal system. Indian numbering = writing as key human inventions. Indian mathematicians devel¬oped concept of negative numbers, calculated square roots & table of sines, & computed value of pi more accurately than Greeks.
41. Describe the characteristics of Indian art under Guptas.
sculpture & painting moved from realistic portrayals of human form to more stylized representation. Indian artists painted people & animals captured in lively color= keen appreciation of nature. It could reflect reli¬gious values and could celebrate joys of life.
42. Explain how the cultural tone of India differed from that in the West or in China.
Cultural tone of West was more rational and Chinese concentrated more on political ethics. In various cultural expressions, Indians developed an interest in spontaneity & imagination whether in fleshly plea¬sures or mystical union with divine essence.
43. How caste system affected daily life.
described key features of Indian social/economic life; assigned people to occupations ®ulated marriages. Low-caste had few legal rights; servants often abused by masters, who were restrained only by ethical promptings of religion toward kindly treatment. Caste system made its mark on daily life & formal structure of society.
44. Describe the characteristics of family life and the role of women.
Family life emphasized hierar¬chy/ dominance by husbands/fathers; rights of women >increasingly lim¬ited as Indian civilization took shape. Great epics stressed control by hus¬band/ father but recognized women’s contributions. As agriculture >better organized &improved technology reduced women’s economic contributions male authority expanded. Arranged marriage evolved –parents contracted unions for chil¬dren, especially daughters, at early ages, to spouses they had not met to ensure solid economic links; child brides contributed dowries of land or animals to family estates> girls drawn into new family structure with no voice.
45. Describe the characteristics of manufacturing in classical India.
invented new uses for chem¬istry ;steel= best in world; ironmaking outdistanced European levels until a few centuries ago; techniques in textiles advanced as India was 1st first to manufacture cotton cloth, calico, cashmere. Most manufacturing done by artisans who formed guilds & sold goods from shops
46. Describe the characteristics of trade and merchant activity in classical India.
Indian emphasis on trade and merchant activity was far greater than in China & greater than classical Mediterranean world. Indian mer¬chants =relatively high caste status; traveled over subcontinent & by sea to Middle East & East Asia. Seafaring peoples along southern coast, usually outside large empires of northern India were particularly active. These southern Indians, the Tamils, traded cotton, silks, dyes, drugs, gold, ivory, often earning great fortunes. From Middle East & Roman Empire, they brought back pottery, wine, metals, some slaves, and especially gold; trade with southeast Asia even more active; Indian mer¬chants transported sophisticated manufac¬tured goods & trappings of India’s active culture to Malaysia & larger islands of Indonesia; also caravan trade developed with China
47. What was the role of agriculture in classical India?
Economy=agricultural base; most people lived at margins of subsistence.
V. Indian Influences
48. Why was the Indian Ocean so important?
Indian Ocean was most active linkage point among cultures. The Mediterranean, which channeled contact from the Middle East to north Africa &Europe was a close second. Indian dominance of waters of southern Asia & impressive creativity of Indian civilization, car¬ried goods & influence beyond subconti¬nent’s borders.
49. Describe Indian influence on Southeast Asia.
India didn’t attempt political domination, dealt with regional king¬doms of Burma, Thailand, parts of Indonesia, Vietnam; but Indian travelers brought persuasive way of life. Many Indian mer¬chants married into local royal families; Indian-style temples were built; other forms of Indian art traveled widely. Buddhism spread from India to many parts of southeast Asia; Hinduism con¬verted many upper-class people, especially in Indonesian kingdoms.
VI. China and India
50. In what ways did India and China show the diversity that existed in the classical age?
restraint of Chinese art/ poetry contrasted with dynamic styles of India.. China’s political struc¬tures/values found little echo in India where caste> social rigidity much greater than in China. India’s cultural emphasis=more other worldly than in China, despite Daoism; in sci¬ence= similar interest in pragmatic discoveries, Chinese placed greater stress on practical findings &Indians more into math¬ematics.
51. In what ways were China and India similar in the classical age?
As agricultural societies both relied on large peasant class in close-knit villages with much cooperation. Cities & merchant activity played secondary role. Political power with those who controlled land. Power of husbands /fathers in family encompassed Indian & Chinese families.
52. In what ways did the ordinary people in India and China differ?
Hindu peasants placed less emphasis on personal emotional restraint & detailed etiquette; expected different emotional interactions with family; Indian peasants less constrained than Chinese by efforts of large landlords to gain control of their land; there were wealthy landlords in India but system of village control of most land was more firmly entrenched than in China. Indian merchants played greater role than Chinese counterparts; more sea trade& commercial vitality. India’s expanding cultural influence due to merchant activity,Chinese expansion involved govt. initiatives in gaining new territory & sending emissaries to satel¬lite states.
53. Why were the coastal areas of India important for centuries?
= core area of expanding trading network that would eventually include most of Eastern Hemisphere. Indian manufactured goods- cotton textiles & bronze statuary> some of most coveted commodities. Indian merchants/sailors would carry them throughout Indian Ocean & to emporiums of Silk Roads that dominated overland trade beyond Himalaya Mountains.