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Chapter 3, Sections 1+2

Early Civilizations of India
by

Dan Priest

on 1 December 2015

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Transcript of Chapter 3, Sections 1+2

The Aryans were polytheistic. Their gods embodied natural forces such as the sky, sun, storms, and fires.
The chief god was Indra, the god of war
His weapon was the thunderbolt, used to destroy demons and also announce the arrival of rain
Varuna – another major god
God of order and creation
Agni – god of fire, and also communicated messages from humans to the gods

Aryans also honored animal gods such as the monkey and snake.
Sections 1+2
A much shorter epic.
Rama's wife Sita is kidnapped by the demon-king Ravana
Throughout the story, Rama must overcome obstacles to rescue Sita
He receives help from the monkey-general Hanuman
Ramayana
This is India’s greatest epic. It contains 100,000 verses (lines).

In the epic:
Battles between Aryan tribes are fought to gain control of the Ganges
Beliefs of immortality of the soul
Mahabharata
As the Aryans changed, their beliefs changed.
They moved toward the idea of
brahman
:
A single spiritual power that existed beyond the many gods of the Vedas
They also moved towards mysticism:
Mystics
are people who seek direct communion with divine forces
Aryan mystics would practice meditation and yoga to help achieve direct contact with the gods

This had a heavy influence on the religions of India in the future.
Religious Changes
Fourth group: “Sudras” – people who lived with the Aryans, but had little or no Aryan heritage
This group included fieldworkers, servants, and other laborers
Lowest group: “dalits” – was considered outside the Aryan system
These people would do jobs that others would not, like make leather from animal skins
Structured Society
From the Vedas, we’ve learned that the Aryans divided their society into ranked groups, based on occupation:

Highest group: “Brahmins” – priests
Second group: “Kshatriyas” – warriors
Third group: “Vaisyas” – herders, farmers, artisans, and merchants
Structured Society
In the Vedas:
The Aryan tribes appear as warriors who fought in chariots with bows and arrows
They loved food, drink, music, chariot races, and dice games
Valued cattle, which provided them with food and clothing
The Aryans had a special regard for these animals (this is known as
veneration
)
When they became farmers, their wealth was measured by how many cows and bulls they possessed
The Vedas
The Vedas
These nomads came from Europe and Asia, and intermarried with local peoples to form the Aryans.

Acculturation
: the blending of two or more cultures.

The Aryans blended different cultures from the nomads and the early Indian peoples.
The Aryans
Mohenjo-Daro, and a few smaller sites, showed signs of careful planning:
Organized patterns with long, wide main streets and large rectangular blocks
Houses were built with clay bricks
Plumbing systems with baths, drains, and water chutes that led to sewers beneath streets

Archaeologists have concluded that Indus cities had a well-organized government.
Careful Planning
We know that the civilization occupied the largest area of land before the Persians emerged.

We know that its cities rivaled those of Sumer.
There were at least five major cities with a few hundred smaller sites
Two cities,
Harappa
and
Mohenjo-Daro
, may have been capitals of Indus
Both were large cities (3 miles in circumference)
Each contained a massive hilltop structure – its purpose is unknown
What do we know?
2600 B.C.
The Indus Civilization emerged in the Indus River Valley in South Asia
This is modern-day Pakistan
They lived for only about 700 years
We didn’t discover them until 1920
We haven’t discovered any names of kings or queens, tax records, literature or accounts of famous victories
Written remains are rare, usually found on clay seals
The Indus Civilization
The Aryans had a strong oral tradition.
They memorized and recited ancient hymns
Also memorized 2 long epic poems:
Mahabharata
Ramayana

The “epics” mix history, mythology, adventure, and religion.
Epic Literature
By 500 B.C., Indian civilization consisted of many rival kingdoms.
Cities grew rapidly as people left the country to learn new jobs
Their written language –
Sanskrit
– began to be used in literature.
Before this it was only used by priests
Epic Literature
Brahmins
sacrificed food and drink to the gods.

Rituals and prayers would allow the Aryans to ask the gods for health, wealth and victory in war.
Religious Beliefs
Religious Beliefs

The rajah considered advice from the heads of the families.

Rajahs from different villages would often fight to control trade and territory.
Rajahs
Early Aryans built no cities and left behind very little archaeological evidence.

Most of what is known about them comes from
the Vedas
:
A collection of hymns, chants, ritual instructions, and other religious teachings

Before the Vedas was written, Aryan priests would memorize it and recite it:
They did this for 1000 years before they wrote it down
This time period is known as the Vedic Age
The Vedas
Between 2000 B.C. and 1500 B.C.:
Thousands of nomadic peoples migrated slowly into the region
The brought herds of cattle and horses from Central Asia
They traveled through the mountain passes in the north, between the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas
A New Civilization
- Invaders attacked and overran the cities of Indus.
Very unlikely. Why?

- Damage to the local environment brought destruction.

- A major flood near Mohenjo-Daro.

- A devastating earthquake.

- Some kind of combination of all of these??
Theories
How do we know anything about their beliefs?
Statues and images on small clay seals

They were most likely polytheistic.

They believed in a “mother goddess”:
She may have created the world
She was widely honored along with another, male god

Certain animals were sacred:
The buffalo and the bull
Religious Beliefs
Some people were merchants and traders.
Their ships carried:
Cotton cloth, grain, copper, pearls and ivory combs

Indus vessels reached Sumer by following the coast across the Arabian Sea and heading up the Persian Gulf.
Indus’ interactions with Sumer may have caused the people to develop their own writing system
However, Indus writing shows no relationship to Sumerian cuneiform writing
Farming and Trading
Most people were farmers.

Crops included:
Wheat, barley, melons, and dates

They also may have been the first to cultivate cotton and weave fibers into cloth.
Farming and Trading
Chapter 3
Early Civilizations of
India and Pakistan

Gradually the Aryans gave up their nomadic ways and settled into villages.
They cultivated crops and bred cattle

They eventually colonized the heavily forested Ganges basin.

800 B.C. – learned to make tools out of iron.
Iron axes and weapons
Change to Farming
1900 B.C.
Quality of life in the Indus Valley was declining
Signs of crude pottery replaced finer works
The use of writing stopped
Mohenjo-Daro was abandoned
Populations of other cities dwindled

No one really knows why.
Decline
Each year, people welcome the rains to water their crops:
If the rains are late, famine and starvation may occur
If the rains are too heavy, the rivers could flood and cause death
Seasonal winds that regularly blow from a certain direction for part of the year.

Winter monsoons
Start in October – blow from the northeast. Brings lots of hot, dry air that withers crops.
Summer monsoons
Start in mid-June – blow from the southwest. They pick up moisture over the Indian Ocean and drench India with rain.
Monsoons
Geography
Monsoons
The Indus Valley
Located in South Asia, or the Indian
subcontinent
Large landmass that juts out from a continent
Hindu Kush
Himalayas
There were steep passages that led through the mountains to reach India from the outside.
Three Major Regions
Gangetic Plain
Deccan Plateau
Coastal Plains
South of the Himalayas
Very fertile region:
Watered by major rivers
Indus (where India gets its name)
Ganges
Brahmaputra
These rivers carry melted snow from the mountains to the plains
Plateau
– raised area of level land
Arid, unproductive area of land
Lacks water from the melting snow
Poor agriculture
Sparsely populated
Separated from the Deccan Plateau by two small mountain ranges:
Eastern and Western Ghats
Rivers and heavy rain provide water for farming
The seas could be used for fishing and trade
Khyber Pass
Aryan tribes were led by chiefs called
rajahs
:
He was the most skilled warrior, and was elected by the other warriors
Religious Changes
Parents were responsible for arranging marriages for their children.

The bride’s family provided a
dowry
:
Payment to the groom
Financed the wedding activities

After the wedding, the daughter left her home and entered her husband’s family.
Parental Duties
Joint Family
: parents, children and their offspring shared a common dwelling

Indian families were
patriarchal
(the oldest male was head of the household)
Adult sons still lived with their parents, even after getting married and having children

A man enjoyed the authority, but he was still tied to laws and traditions:
A leader generally asked advice from the whole family
Joint Family Structure
Parents trained children in the rules and traditions of the society.
Children worked with older relatives in the fields
While young, daughters learned the roles of women:
They would obey and serve the husbands
Sons learned the rituals to honor ancestors:
Rituals linked the living and dead, making strong family connections
Family Duties
Women were taught to have “shakti”
A creative energy that men lacked
In marriage, a woman’s shakti made a man “complete.”

Husbands were to channel his wife’s shakti in a proper way.
If he didn’t, shakti could become a destructive force
Shakti
A woman could be reborn into a higher status by devotion to her husband.

Widows were expected to join her husband on the funeral fires:
They became virtuous, or “sati,” by doing so.
Women Reborn
Gender roles changed over time in India.
During the Aryan times, they enjoyed a higher status:
Some wrote Vedic hymns

By late Gupta times, upperclass women were restricted to the home:
They had to cover themselves from head to foot
Lower class women worked in the fields or worked at spinning and weaving
Roles of Women
Primal Shakti, I bow to Thee!
All-Encompassing Shakti, I bow to Thee!
That through which Divine Creates, I bow to Thee!
Creative Power of the Kundalini, Mother of all Mother Power, To Thee I Bow!

"Merge in the Maha Shakti. This is enough to take away your misfortune. This will carve out of you a woman. Woman needs her own Shakti, not anybody else will do it… When a woman chants the Kundalini Bhakti mantra, God clears the way. This is not a religion, it is a reality. Woman is not born to suffer, and woman needs her own power.”
The Gupta Indians are responsible for the number system we use today:
Their symbols are the same number symbols we use

Today, our numbers are called “Arabic” because the Arabs took these symbols out of India and spread its use to the Middle East.

Indian mathematicians also formed the concept of zero, and the decimal system we use today.
Gupta physicians were using herbs and other drugs to treat illnesses.

Surgeons were skilled at setting bones and simple surgeries to repair injuries.

They created vaccinations against smallpox:
1000 years before vaccinations were used in Europe
Medicine
Mathematics
The Gupta dynasty set up religious schools where students could gain an education.

These Hindu and Buddhist schools did not only teach religion, they also taught:
Math
Medicine
Physics
Languages and Literature
Advances in Education
The Guptas created a much looser system than the Mauryas:
Power was left to individual villages and city governments

The people are numerous and happy; … only those who cultivate the royal land have to pay [a portion of] the grain from it … The king governs without… corporal punishments. Criminals are simply fined, lightly or heavily, according to the circumstances [of each case].
- Faxian (a Chinese Buddhist monk)
Loose Power
Villages were typically allowed to do whatever they wanted, as long as they paid taxes.
"
"
The first time India was united was under the
Maurya
dynasty. It lasted from 321 B.C. – 185 B.C.

500 years after the Maurya dynasty:
The
Gupta
dynasty united much of India
Had a strong, organized government
320 A.D. – 540 A.D.

During their reign, India enjoyed a
golden age
, or a period of great cultural achievement.
The Golden Age
The Empire declined because of:
Weak rulers
Civil War
Foreign invasions
The “White Huns” invaded from Central Asia:
Destroying Gupta cities

India was split into many kingdoms… again.
There wouldn’t be another strong empire again for 1000 years.
Gupta Declines
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