Ancient India GEOGRAPHY India is a subcontinent, a large land mass that is somewhat separated yet still part of a continent. The Indus River Valley was an ideal place for people to settle because the river flooded often— spreading fertile soil— and the monsoons brought regular rain fall. The Indus Valley Civilization Supported by a stable food supply, people settled in the Indus River Valley and eventually built cities. GOVERNMENT The Indus River Civilization probably had a strong central government with information flowing freely between towns. Trade took place with communities as far away as Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf. Contributions of the Indus River Valley People After lasting 1000 years, the Indus River Valley civilization finally declined. The Indus River Valley people were the first to raise chickens for food. Today chicken is eaten worldwide. The Indus Valley people made jewelry and cotton cloth, both of which are still made today. The Aryans The Aryans were part of a larger semi nomadic group we now call the Indo-Europeans. The Indo-Europeans left their homeland around 2000 B.C. and migrated throughout Europe, Asia, and India. Aryan beliefs and daily life were described in Vedas, a collection of sacred hymns and poems, passed down orally from generation to generation. Social Structure As the Aryans and the Indus Valley people combined cultures, they ended up with a four class system. Divisions within classes were called castes. People did not change castes. Religion The Aryans worshipped a number of nature gods, and priests became very powerful in their society. Contributions of the Aryans Sanskrit, the language spoken by the Aryans, is the root of Hindi, one of the most common languages of modern India. Many people in modern India still follow the caste system created by the Aryans thousands of years ago. The Beginning of Buddhism Siddhartha Gautama established Buddism, one of the world’s major religions. After much searching and meditation, Siddhartha reached a height of understanding that Buddhists call enlightenment. After his enlightenment, Siddhartha was called the Buddha. He preached Buddhist dharma for many years until he died. Teachings of Buddhism The Buddha preached that everyone could find peace, without the Vedic priests or animal sacrifices. The Buddha’s teaching centered on how people should think and act. The Buddha taught that the Eightfold Path leads to enlightenment. Buddhism gradually traveled to China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Burma and other areas of Southeast Asia. A Great Buddhist Ruler Asoka, a powerful emperor, converted to Buddhism and sent missionaries around and beyond the subcontinent. Asoka announced his Buddhist beliefs to his people in edicts, and ordered his empire to follow them. Hinduism Hinduism is both the major religion of India today, and a way of life, with roots in the Vedic religion of the Aryan people. Hinduism teaches its followers to do the duties of their caste. Certain Hindus go through different stages of life: the last stage is as a wandering holy person. The Gupta Empire Both India and Hinduism grew and flourished under the Gupta Empire. Under the Guptas, India traded with Rome and the rest of the Mediterranean, Saudi Arabia, Central Asia, China, and Southeast Asia. Guilds grew as trade increased under the Guptas. Achievements of Ancient India Under the Guptas, two important epics of Hinduism were written down for the first time. An Indian astronomer determined the world was a sphere that rotated around the sun and accurately calculated the length of a solar year. Indian mathematicians devised the number system we use today, featuring nine numerals, the zero, and the decimal.