Today’s Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh make up what was the ancient subcontinent of India. The only thing separating India and Asia is the mountain range called the Himalayas which contains the tallest mountain in the world, Everest. The Indian subcontinent is divided into two regions, The Northern Plains and the Deccan. The Deccan is a widespread plateau that is one part of the Indian subcontinent. The Indian subcontinent has two main rivers, the Ganges and the Indus river both of which have it’s source in the Himalayan mountain range. The Indus river includes the Punjab plains while the Ganges contains the Ganges plain. People made the Indus river into a civilization because of its fertile land.
They grew rice and peas and raised sheep, goats, and cattle. In the summertime it was always raining and the dry season was winter. Flooding had many advantages, but also many disadvantages. Some of the advantages are that if they planted some before the flood afterwards it would be ready for harvest also when it flooded it made the soil more fertile by depositing silt. The disadvantages were that sometimes people could die and so could livestock.
Soon after the civilizations became city-state's and they built their houses on mounds to protect them from flooding. The first city-state's where Harappa, Lothal, and Mohenjo-daro. Most of their cities were built in a grid like design and they had a big are walled off area they called the citadel. In the citadel they had building like the granary and government buildings.
People of Harappa were very good at trading and when they sold a item they put a seal on that item and many of these seals were found in central Asia. Also weavers made clothes out of cotton plants which must have been really soft.
Mohenjo-daro had a very good government and more than 35,000 people lived there. Almost all of the houses were made out of brick and the citadel was the center of economical, political, and religious life.
After the fall of the Harappan civilization the Aryans started to migrate into the Indian subcontinent. No one exactly knows why the Aryans left, but many people believe that is was because of overpopulation. They traveled to Mesopotamia, crossed Persia, and the Hindu Kush to get to the Punjab plain. Before they came to the Indian subcontinent the Aryan didn’t know how to farm, but the Indians taught them how to so they changed in some way when they got there. Some people think that the Aryans didn’t migrate, but invaded ancient India.
The language that the Aryans brought with them was called Sanskrit which was the bases for Hindi. The first religious writing was the Vades which evolved from Sanskrit. There were four Vedas that included Hymns, Tales, Lessons, and even battles songs. The longest story ever written was the Mahabharata which was 200,000 line poem. The most known part of the Mahabharata was the Bhagavad Gita which is a discussion between a God and a Vedic worrier. The Priestly book were called Brahmins since the religion was Brahminism which lead to Hinduism.
India had a caste system. The first two castes where nobles and commoners and above them was the Aryan ruler called the rajah. The caste system grew into four types that formed the body of India. The head was called the Brahmins, the arms where the Kshatriyas, the legs and body where the Vaisyas, and the feet where the Sardars. The caste you were in determined how you lived, but you couldn’t communicate with people from other castes. The people without a caste were called untouchables and they even have their shadows touch those of people with caste much less them themselves. You couldn’t change you caste no matter what and the caste system is still around today.
The most important Gods were Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Upanishads was the first Hindu writing that had evolved from the Vedas. The atman is the thing that gets reincarnated into the next life. What you get reincarnated into in the next life depends on how you were in the last life. Also the Indians believed in Dharma and Karma with determined the caste you were in. The only way you could escape this cycle of death and rebirth is by achieving moksha or spiritual purity.
The Beginning of Buddhism
The reincarnation believe became very important in Hinduism. Than a prince named Siddhartha Gautama started a religion that he called Buddhism. In the early years of his life his father never let him out of the palace because he thought that the world would make him rotten and evil. Then, when he was 29 he went and wandered the world and on his way he became the Buddha while sitting in the shade of a tree.
After he became the Buddha he wandered some more and as he did he taught people about the religion of Buddhism and what he taught was the four main teachings the most important being The Eightfold Path. When you completed these eight things you would reach enlightenment or nirvana. The Eightfold Path includes right thought, speech, understanding, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and right concentration. Also the Buddha thought that people should live the Middle Way since Buddhism didn’t have certain castes, priests, or holy writing. Both Hinduism and Buddhism believed in ahimsa or nonviolence. Soon another religion started called Jainism by a man named Vardhamana Mahavira. Jainism was very similar to Hinduism and Buddhism. Jainism impacted people like Gandhi and Dr. MLK Jr.
Eventually the Buddha became a monk and many others with him. The Buddhist monks followed the rules very strictly. Buddhism was mainly spoken and not really written and then it split into many different groups or “schools” as they called them. Then Buddhism just started to decrease in popularity in India, but in China, Korea, Central Asia, and Japan it remained just as it was.
Empires of India
Soon India became divided and no king could unite them so they ruled their own little city-state's. Then some tried to expand by conquering other city-state's and the main area for this was the Ganges River Plain. Also king's fought with each other even though that’s where most of India’s trading comes from. The landforms that divided each city-state made it harder for other kings to conquer them, but that didn’t stop invaders from coming and pillaging all of India. A man named Darius of the Persian Empire started to conquer all of India and for 200 years he controlled from the Indus River to the Western Punjab. Then Alexander the Great led greeks into India, but eventually both of them failed to conquer all of India. After Alexander the Great died many of his followers tried to finish what he started, but they all ended in defeat. Than a person named Chandragupta conquered many kingdoms and made an Empire
Chandragupta then organized his empire and had workers improve much of India. Also he introduced taxes to India and built his powerful army of the tax money. Then his empire started to suffer because he was a cruel ruler, but this helped his gain material. He had a huge book of rules that he and his followers followed very closely and they were really strict rules. Under his rule the empire grew in power, but his people grew with their hatred of him. Chandragupta feared many of his enemies so he slept in a different rooms every night and had his servants taste the food for poison (much like Shi Huangdi) and this method succeeded so his son became the ruler. Than the son of that son Ashoka became the ruler and he was the greatest ruler in Indian history.
Ashoka was at first a fierce warrior and led his armies into many battles. Also he united most of ancient India, but before that when he was young he was much like his grandfather Chandragupta in that he was cruel. He thought that superior people should attack inferior people, then he had a turning point in his life. It happened when he saw the bodies of his men, then he turned to Buddhism and rejected violence. After his change he became much kinder and he established Buddhism as the state religion and sent missionaries to other countries as a result Buddhism spread all over Asia. Ashoka had many different commands that people should carry out and he was very nice to all living things. Then all of his people supported him.
After Ashoka died so did the empire and for 550 years it was again a small kingdom. Than the Gupta empire emerged and it made India great again and it was called the Golden Age. In this Golden Age they made many achievements in religion and than the religious people divided into many different groups and people actually had jobs and earned money. One famous Poet was Kalidasu who wrote many works of art some of which were about politics, unfortunately only five of his famous works of art survived until now all of which are wall paintings that tell stories about The Buddha’s life. Also they learned how to smelt zinc which was very hard to do and zinc was an important material.
Than they made many more intellectual achievements. One of which was becoming smarter in math and medicine and they were the first people to use the Base Ten system which is a system that we still use today. The numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 are considered Indian-Arabic numerals and they are called this because the Arabs helped spread this system to all corners of the globe. They also lived longer lives because of the knowledge they now had in medicine. They learned to splint a broken bone to heal it faster, developed inoculations, and helped women give birth easier. Many places got many different things from Indian because they were so good at crafting and trading their crafts and some of these items reached Europe and Africa. Then in A.D. 453 the Huns invaded and destroyed India’s Golden Age.
What you may not know is that Ashoka was not always as peaceful as everyone thinks. He ruled his empire just like his grandfather did and his grandfather was Chandragupta who was not the nicest person. Then he went into battle and he saw that 100,000 of his men died and then he was changed and became peaceful. He made huge project to ease the suffering of his people and that is why he is considered the greatest ruler in India’s history.