Ancient India Summary Guide

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1 Name Period Date Ancient India Summary Guide Be able to spell and define the following key concept terms: Subcontinent: a large landmass, usually partially separated by land forms, that is smaller than the whole continent. Mohenjo Daro: one of the first major cities in ancient India that became the center of the Indus Valley civilization. Granary: a building or other place specifically built to story grain. Hinduism: a major world religion that developed in India over many centuries; it traces it roots to older traditions, such as Vedic traditions and Brahm anism. Vedas: a collection of ancient writings that are considered sacred texts by many Hindus. Sanskrit: an ancient Indian language that did develop a writing system. Varnas: one of the four main social classes in India: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras Caste: a division within India s class system primarily based on birth, occupation, rank, or wealth. Dharma: a belief that a person has a duty or obligation to live an honorable life. Each Varna, and each caste within each Varna, has a specific dharma. Karma: a belief that the good and evil done in a past life determines the nature of that soul s next life. Samsara: a continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth where the soul is reborn into a new body. Moksha: the end of samsara for a soul; a soul with enough good karma does not have to be reborn, but can join with Brahman. Reincarnation: the belief that a person s soul is reborn into a new body after death. Buddha: A Sanskrit word meaning enlightened: the name given to Siddhartha Gautama after he was enlightened with wisdom. Ascetic: a person who give up worldly pleasures, usually to seek wisdom or peace. Enlightenment: the state of gaining spiritual insight and finding universal truth; the goal of Buddhists. Nirvana: an ideal state of happiness and peace.

2 In northern India, the Indus, the Ganges, and the Brahmaputra rivers carry rich silt from the mountains to the plains. India s early settlers farmed and later built walled settlements in the river valleys. The Indus Valley civilization, located in modern Pakistan, was one of the largest ancient civilizations. It flourished for about 800 years, from about 2700 to 1900 B.C.E. This civilization was very advanced. They build their cities from fired bricks which could stand up to the rain. They had a sewer system that connected the houses to a network of drains that took waste out of the city. The society seems to have been peaceful. They had a system of weights and measures, played games, and had a writing system historians have not been able to decipher yet. No one know for sure why this civilization came to an end. Another civilization grew along the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers in what is now India. This civilization gave us two of the world s major religions - Hinduism and Buddhism. For most of history, India was divided into many separate kingdoms. Hinduism grew out of older traditions brought to the Indian subcontinent by the Aryans. The Aryans were members of a group of nomadic herders whose homeland was near the Black and Caspian Seas. Some of these Aryans migrated into India and settled with the people already living there. The Aryans brought their language, Sanskrit, and their religion. Both greatly influenced the culture in India. Some Hindus believe that Brahman is the ultimate divine force in the universe that will always exist. Everything in the world is part of Brahman: the many gods are part of Brahman, the souls of every person are part of Brahman, all the birds and beasts, flowers and trees, land and sea are part of Brahman. Three important gods are: Brahma, the creator Vishnu, the preserver Shiva, the destroyer. There are four main varnas, or social classes, in ancient Indian society: Brahmins - priests and scholars Kshatriya - rulers and warriors Vaishyas - herders, artisans & craftsmen, and merchants & traders Shudras - unskilled laborers and servants Within each of these four varnas were many different castes which were based on birth, occupation and wealth. People lived their whole lives within a caste; they worked in their caste s job and they married someone from their caste. A person s caste did not change; you died in the same caste you were born into. Beneath the four varnas were people that did not belong to any caste - the outcastes. They had very difficult lives, doing the jobs that no one wanted to do. They are also known as the untouchables. People born as an untouchable put up w ith it because they wanted to follow their dharma in order to get good karma and a better life next time.

3 Hindus believe that everyone has a dharma that they must follow. Dharma is a person s sacred duty and moral responsibility to do the right thing in any situation. If you follow your dharma, you will have good karma, which will help your soul when you are reincarnated. People must live honorably and carry out their duties and responsibilities. Each class has its own dharma, as well as a common set of values. Karma was used to explain why people were in particular castes. The law of karma governs what happens to people s souls after death. If you were born a Brahmin, it was because your karma made it so, Likewise, if you were born a servant, it was because your karma caused you soul to be born at this lower status. The founder of Buddhism was Siddhartha Gautama. He was born a prince and he led a carefree childhood of luxury and ease. His father wanted him to be the next king, but there was a prediction from an old sage that the prince might grow up to be a spiritual leader and not a king, so his father tried to protect him from anything bad. Siddhartha had a sheltered life, even after marrying and having a child. But while traveling outside the palace, Siddhartha saw a old, a sick man and a dead man. Siddhartha now learned that there was suffering and sorrow in the world, and he wanted to solve the reason why. Siddhartha left his life of luxury and his family to seek the answer to suffering and sorrow in the world. He tried to live the life of an ascetic, but realized it gave him no answers. He then meditated under a tree for 49 day and finally reached enlightenment. He spent the rest of this life teaching about the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path. He taught that everyone should do things in moderation and follow the Middle Way. He believed that people could reach enlightenment by living according to the teachings of the Eightfold Path. India s Golden Age was during the Gupta Empire around 320 C.E. This was a period of stability and prosperity. Ancient India had a stable food supply. The northern plains of India near the Ganges River contain some of the most fertile farmland in the world allowing for large scale crop production including wheat, barley, sesame, and dates. Ancient Indian farmers used an irrigation system to both control flooding and create a steady water supply which helped them produce a surplus of food. One governor built a dam across the Gimar river which created a lake that provided irrigation water. The dam was maintained for almost 800 years. Ancient India had a system of government. Ancient India had a monarchies. The rulers were kings. For most of recorded history, India was made up of a lot of small, independent kingdoms, each with their own kings. There were two important empires in ancient Indian history: the Mauryan Empire and the Gupta Empire. The government collected taxes from land use, trade, and industries so the government had money to develop the kingdoms.

4 Each kingdom had its own army that needed to be trained and ready to fight off an attack of a rival kingdom. The warriors were from the Kshatriyas class. The government made laws to direct people s behavior and maintain order. There were government officials that helped enforce the king s laws. Ancient India had specialization of labor. Brahmins were the priests who conducted religious rituals and studied the sacred texts. Kingdoms in ancient India had the Kshatriyas class of professional soldiers who fought the wars. Sumer had government officials who collected taxes, administered the outlying towns, and acted as judges. Ancient India had merchants and traders who bought and sold goods like gems, perfumes, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, other spices, and cotton cloth to far away places like China and the Middle East. Ancient India had iron workers who made a type of iron that didn t rust. There were guilds of craftsmen for each type of job including tailors, potters, ivory carvers, carpenters, and weavers. Cotton growers and weavers made fine cloth out of cotton. Ancient India had Social Levels There are four main varnas, or social classes in Indian society: Brahmins - priests Kshatriyas - rulers and warriors Vaishyas - craftspeople, merchant & traders, skilled farmers & herders These people made the things people needed or traded for. Shudras - servants & unskilled laborers Each Varna had its own duties and responsibilities that the people m ust follow (dharma). The caste system describes the rigid divisions within the four Varnas. People were born into a caste and could not change it; they could only work and marry within their own caste. At the bottom were people that weren t even considered to be part of society and didn t belong to any caste. These people had extremely difficult lives and were call the untouchables or outcastes. Ancient India had a highly developed culture. Religion: Two of the world s major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, developed in ancient India. Hinduism is considered a polytheistic religion because some Hindus believe in many different gods. Three important gods are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva Hindu gods can take on a human form and interact with people to help guide them.

5 Writing: The Indus Valley civilization created a system of writing, but historians have not been able to decipher it yet. The ancient Sanskrit language was used in the Vedas, some of the sacred texts of Hinduism. Advances in Math and Science: Ancient Indian mathematicians were the first to treat zero as a number. Hindu-Arabic numerals, developed in ancient India, are the same ones we us today. Ancient Indian mathematicians invented a decimal system. Ancient Indian doctors knew how to protect against some diseases by giving inoculations (shots) as a preventive measure. Some Indian doctors were able to perform surgery, repair broken bones, remove infected tonsils, and repair torn earlobes or noses that had been cut off. Ancient Indian scientists determined that the earth was sphere shaped and knew seven of the planets in our solar system. Literature: There are two famous Sanskrit religious epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Writers created poetry, fables, folktales, and plays. Scholars wrote about law, medicine, and religion. Ancient literature frequently describes heroic gods battling evil. Architecture: Hindu and Buddhist temples were built all around India and remain some of the most beautiful building in the world today. Hindu temples are often topped with huge towers and covered with complex carvings of the god worshiped inside. Stupas are Buddhist temples with domed roofs to house sacred items from the life of the Buddha. Many of these were also covered with detailed carvings. Education: There were both Hindu and Buddhist universities attended by students from the upper classes who studied religion, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, sculpture, painting, music, and Sanskrit.

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