Classical India

Now that we've moved past China, it's time for us to tackle Classical India - today, we learned about the Mauryan Dynasty.

How come he doesn't look that fierce?
From Wikipedia

This is part of the 180 Days of History series, by the way.

It's key for us to remember four things about India's geography.

•The Indian subcontinent is somewhat separated from the rest of Asia, with mountains creating a barrier in the northeast and northwest.
•However, India was more open to outside influence and diverse groups than China. (and was invaded more frequently.)
•India was influenced by Middle Eastern civilizations, including Persia, as well as the Mediterranean world. (Remember that Alexander the Great’s empire extended all the way to the Indus River Valley.)

•Differing regions within the subcontinent made unity difficult.  Therefore much of Indian history is characterized by regional kingdoms and differing cultures and dialects.

Next, the foundations of Indian Culture and Society are rooted in these eight facts.

•Around 1500 BCE, a nomadic Indo-European group known as the Aryans invaded/migrated into the Indus River Valley.
•Ancient Indian history from the time of the Aryan migration is divided into periods:  The Vedic Age (about 1500 – 1000 B.C.E.) and the Epic Age (1000 – 600 B.C.E.)
•Archaeologists and historians believe the Aryans may have encountered, absorbed, and been influenced by the Indus River Valley civilization.
•Cultural diffusion between the Aryans and these indigenous peoples, known as Dravidians, occurred over centuries. 
•As the Aryans settled down to agriculture, political structure became based on village organization, with village chiefs initially drawn from the leadership of Aryan tribes.
•The Indian caste system began to develop in the Vedic and Epic Ages.
•Gradually, one’s caste, or social group became hereditary, and marriage between castes was forbidden.
•The caste system was made up of four main varnas, which are similar to classes, and many sub categories within each class known as jatiOne’s jati determined one’s occupation.

There are four main varnas.

  • The Brahmins are the priestly class, at the top.
  • The Kshatriyas are the warrior class. Remember that the Aryan invaders were warriors themselves, and the Kshatriyas were previously higher than the Brahmin - and only later did the Brahmin triumph over the Kshatriyas.
  • The Vaisyas are like merchants and farmers.
  • The Sudras are lowly workers like household servants.
  • The Pariahs were not in the original caste system, but eventually developed.

There are six major things about Hinduism:

•Developed over time; no single founder
•Aryan religious traditions were eventually written down in the sacred Vedas.
•Vedas (and all classical Hindu literature) written in Sanskrit
•Hinduism is cyclical; goal is to achieve release from the cycle of reincarnation; term for this is Moksha
•No missionary activity, but Hinduism is an inclusive religion
•There are many gods, but the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva is most important; most gods are incarnations of these three
•The Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavad Gita are important epics which explain religious beliefs and values.
•The Upanishads are a collection of philosophical texts which discuss Hindu philosophy, beliefs, and values, and many have a mystical tone.
(Mystical, or mysticism, refers to the individual search for the divine, or the individual’s desire to commune with the divine.  Fasting, meditation, and intense prayer are common mystical activities in which people try to get closer to god.)

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