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Transcript of Classical India
Following the collapse of India’s earliest river civilization, Aryan invaders (~1,500 BCE) expanded their territory and spread Hinduism for over 600 years. The Aryans created the caste system in order to secure their status as political and social elites.
Two great dynasties, the Maurya (321 BCE – 232 BCE) and Gupta (320 CE – 535 CE), supported the spread of Buddhism and Hinduism respectively, while also further unifying India and developing advanced mathematical and scientific ideas and technologies.
At its height, stretched across the Indian Subcontinent. Its most notable ruler was Asoka who converted to Buddhism and sought to impose peace and prosperity on his subjects. Asoka’s efforts did not prevent the collapse of his empire in 232 BCE.
Gupta rule is remembered as the “Golden Age of Hindu Culture” because of the peace & overall stability of the period and as a result of the tremendous scientific and artistic accomplishments of the period
Spherical Earth rotating on an axis
Concept of zero
Hindu-Arabic numerals (later used by Arab merchants who transmitted it all along the Silk road as far as Europe)
Stupa temples and rock cliff monasteries and shrines
Major Ideas in Art, Math, Science & Technology
Origins – introduced by Aryan invaders and influenced by local customs/beliefs
Ideas – A polytheistic religion in which there is one supreme being who can appear as various gods and goddesses, Hinduism is based upon a few major beliefs
Reincarnation – a person’s soul experiences countless cycles of birth-death-rebirth
Karma – actions in a person’s life will determine their reincarnated form in the next life
Ganges River is sacred, as are cows
Caste system – the Indian system of social hierarchy that is based upon the tenets of Hinduism. Within the caste system, rigid hereditary classes are imposed on society and strictly enforced. The only way to move up the social hierarchy is to be reincarnated into a higher caste.
Spread – Hinduism coupled with the caste system served as a useful, stabilizing institution that allowed for the growth and consolidation of civilizations conquered by the Aryans. The Gupta dynasty further facilitated its spread throughout India during its rule. As a system of social ordering, the caste system is still (unofficially) in practice in India today.
Origins – Buddhism originated with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama who became the Buddha after reaching enlightenment following years of searching & meditation.
Ideas – as a spiritual practice, Buddhism is rather unique in that Buddhists do not believe in or worship a god or gods.
Enlightenment – Buddhists strive to reach a state of nirvana (eternal peace) through self-denial and meditation.
Four Noble Truths – Buddhists believe that the cause of human suffering is selfish desires. Nirvana can only be attained through a purging and elimination of such earthly desires.
There is suffering
There is a cause for suffering
There is an end to suffering
To end suffering one must follow the Eight Fold Path
All forms of life are considered sacred
Buddhists reject the caste system
Spread – Buddhist teachers acted as missionaries, facilitating the spread of Buddhism from India into East and Southeast Asia. The Maurya dynasty in India supported this spread with the hope that Buddhism might exert a unifying and stabilizing influence on its empire.