Ancient India
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Map of India
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Geography and Early India
The Big Idea
Indian civilization first developed on the Indus River.
Main Ideas
• The geography of India includes high mountains, great
rivers, and heavy seasonal rain.
• Harappan civilization developed along the Indus River.
• The Aryan invasion of India changed the region’s
civilization.
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Indian Geography
Mountains
• North: The
Himalayas are
the highest
mountains in
the world.
• West: The
Hindu Kush
provide
protection from
enemies.
Plains and
Plateaus
• Rivers and
melting snow kept
the plains fertile.
• Both sides of the
river thrived.
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Water
• Monsoons
• Heavy rainfall
• Civilizations
arose around
seasonal rainfall.
The Harappan Civilization
3300 BCE - 2400 BCE
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Harappan Civilization
People
Cities
• Population grew
in the Indus
River Valley.
• Harrapa
• Growth came as
irrigation and
farming
techniques
improved.
• Fortresses for
defense against
enemies
• Mohenjo Daro
• Well-planned
public areas
• Cities were built
as surplus food
was produced.
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Achievements
• Wells and indoor
plumbing
• Pottery, cotton
clothing, jewelry
• India’s first
writing system
Citadel
Of
MohenjoDaro
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Aerial View of Mohenjo-Daro
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Wide View, Mohenjo-Daro
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The Great Bath,
Mohenjo-Daro
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Bath Area, Mohenjo-Daro
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Well, Mohenjo-Daro
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Granery, Mohenjo-Daro
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pottery, Mohenjo-Daro
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Bison Seal, Mohenjo-Daro
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A Horned-God Seal,
Mohenjo-Daro
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A Male Head, MohenjoDaro
Dravidian
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A Priest-King, Mohenjo-Daro
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Necklace, Mohenjo-Daro
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Public Well, Harappa
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Drain, Harappa
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Unicorn Seal, Harappa
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Female Figures, Harappa
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Bull Figurine, Harappa
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Elephant Figurine, Harappa
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Burial Pottery, Harappa
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Male Skeleton, Harappa
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Female Skeleton with
Child, Harappa
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Harappan Writing
Undecipherable to date.
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Aryan Migration

pastoral  depended on their cattle.
 warriors  horse-drawn chariots.
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Aryan Invasion
Invaders from
the West
When the Harappan civilization dissipated in
1700 BC, Central Asians called Aryans began
taking over territory.
Religion
The Aryans left behind vast collections of
poems, hymns, myths, and rituals. They
also had religious writings known as Vedas.
Government
No central government: small communities
ruled by rajas
Language
Sanskrit is the root of many modern South
Asian languages.
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Summary
Harappan Civilization
• Two major cities: Harappa, Mohenjo Daro
• Advanced civilization that thrived between 2300 and 1700 BC
• Culture, artistry, city planning
Aryan Invasion
• South Asian warriors pushed through the Hindu Kush
mountains and settled in the Indus Valley
• Oral tradition in religion and mythology resulted in the most
important language of ancient India: Sanskrit.
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Sanskrit
writing
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The Vedas
 1200 BCE-600 BCE.
 written in SANSKRIT.
 Hindu core of
beliefs:

hymns and poems.

religious prayers.


Rig Veda  oldest work.
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magical spells.
lists of the gods
and goddesses.
Varna (Social Hierarchy)
Brahmins
Kshatriyas
Vaishyas
Shudras
Pariahs [Harijan] -> Dalits 
Untouchables
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The Vedic Age
The foundations for
Hinduism were
established!
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Origins of Hinduism
The Big Idea
Hinduism, the largest religion in India today,
developed out of ancient Indian beliefs and practices.
Main Ideas
• Indian society divided into distinct groups under the
Aryans.
• The Aryans practiced a religion known as Brahmanism.
• Hinduism developed out of Brahmanism and influences
from other cultures.
• The Jains reacted to Hinduism by breaking away to form
their own religion.
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Indian Society Divides
Varnas
Social divisions in Aryan society
Brahmins
Priests
Kshatriyas
Rulers and warriors
Vaisyas
Farmers, craftspeople, and traders
Sudras
Laborers and non-Aryans
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Caste System
Individuals
• Place in society based
on birth, wealth, or
occupation
• 3,000 castes once
existed in India.
• Individuals could rarely
change castes.
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Caste Rules
• Sutras (guides) listed all
the rules for the caste
system.
• Breaking rules resulted
in a transfer to a lower
class.
The Caste
System
WHO IS…
Brahmins
Kshatriyas
 The mouth?
 The arms?
Vaishyas
 The legs?
 The feet?
Shudras
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Brahmanism develops into Hinduism
Brahmanism
• Aryan priests
were called
Brahmins.
• Wrote Vedic
texts, which
were their
thoughts about
the Vedas
Evolving
Beliefs
The Vedas,
Upanishads, and
other Vedic texts
began blending
with beliefs from
different cultures,
creating Hinduism.
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Hinduism
• Many gods
• Reincarnation:
could be reborn
into new forms
and castes
• Men and women
could both gain
salvation, but
women were
inferior.
Hinduism
• Also known as The Sanatana
Dharma
• Hinduism is a way of life, not a
religion.
• Third most popular religion
• Believe in one God reincarnated
into different forms
• Follow The Vedas
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Hinduism
• A Hindu’s goal is to become free from
continuous reincarnations.
• Three ways to end the cycle of
reincarnation
1. Be devoted to any of the Hindu God or
Goddesses
2. Mediation. Acknowledge life as an illusion
and realize that Brahman is the only real
thing
3. Dedicate oneself to various religious
ceremonies
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The Vedas
• Religious text also called Shruti
• Arranged into four parts
1.
2.
3.
4.
The
The
The
The
Samhitas
Brahmanas
Aranyakas
Upanishads
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Gods
Hindus believe in only one God, Brahman, but
they worship other reincarnations of Brahman.
There are 300,000 different reincarnations of
Brahman.
Three Majors Gods Three Major Goddess
• Brahma (Creator)
• Vishnu (Preserver)
• Shiva (Destroyer)
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• Saraswati (Knowledge)
• Lakshmi (Wealth)
• Parvati or Shakti
(Power)
Shiva
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Vishnu
Hindu Gods
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Hindu Gods
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Jains React to Hinduism
Origins of Jainism
• 599 BC, established as an alternative to Hindu ritualism
• Based on the teachings of Mahavira, who abandoned his life
of luxury to become a monk
Four Principles of Jainism
• Injure no life.
• Tell the truth.
• Do not steal.
• Own no property.
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Origins of Buddhism
The Big Idea
Buddhism began in India
and became a major religion.
Main Ideas
• Siddhartha Gautama searched for wisdom in many
ways.
• The teachings of Buddhism deal with finding peace.
• Buddhism spread far from where it began in India.
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Siddhartha Gautama
Quest for Answers
Enlightenment
• Siddhartha was born a
prince, but he questioned
the meaning of life.
• Found it under the Tree of
Wisdom while meditating
• Determined to find
answers using:
• Meditation
• Fasting
• Learning from
different teachers
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• Called the Buddha
(Enlightened One)
• Spent the rest of his life
traveling and teaching his
ideas
Teachings of Buddhism
Four Noble Truths
1.
Suffering and unhappiness are a part of human life. No one
can escape sorrow.
2.
Suffering comes from our desires for pleasure and material
goods.
3.
People can overcome desire and ignorance and reach
nirvana, a state of perfect peace.
People can overcome ignorance and desire by following an
4. eightfold path that leads to wisdom, enlightenment, and
salvation.
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Challenging Hindu Ideas
Ancient Ways
• The Buddha
taught that
following the
Vedic texts was
unnecessary.
• Challenged the
authority of
Hindu priests
Changing Society
• A more
individualistic
approach to
enlightenment
• Rebirth as a
means to evolve
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Caste System
• Opposed caste
system
• The Eightfold
Path could lead
any individual to
nirvana.
• The Buddha’s
teachings
reached all
classes.
Buddhism began in India and then
became a major religion.
Buddhism branches out
• Asoka, one of the most powerful kings in India, became a
Buddhist and spread Buddhism in India and foreign lands.
• Buddhist missionaries traveled the world to teach
enlightenment.
Buddhism splits
• Buddhism split into two main sects: Theravada and Mahayana.
• Members of the Theravada followed the Buddha’s teachings
exactly.
• Members of the Mahayana believed that individual
interpretation was important.
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Religions of South Asia
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Buddhism in the Subcontinent
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The Essence of Buddhism
 The “middle way of wisdom and
compassion.”
 2,500 year old tradition.
 The 3 jewels of Buddhism:
 Buddha, the teacher.
 Dharma, the teachings.
 Sangha, the community.
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Siddhartha Gautama






(563-483 BCE)
Born in NE India
(Nepal).
Raised in great luxury
to be a king.
At 29 he rejected
his luxurious life to
seek enlightenment
and the source of
suffering.
Lived a strict,
ascetic life for 6 yrs.
Rejecting this extreme, sat in
meditation, and found nirvana.
Became “The Enlightened One,” at 35.
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What is the fundamental
cause of all suffering?
Desire!
 Therefore, extinguish the self,
don’t obsess about oneself.
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Four Noble Truths
1. There is suffering in the world.
To live is to suffer. (Dukkha)
 The Buddha found this out when
he was young and experienced
suffering and death in others.
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Four Noble Truths
2. The cause of
suffering is selfcentered desire and
attachments. (Tanha)
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Four Noble Truths
3. The solution is to
eliminate desire and
attachments.
(Nirvana = “extinction”)
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Four Noble Truths
4. To reach nirvana, one must
follow the Eightfold Path.
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Eightfold Path
Nirvana
 The union with the ultimate
spiritual reality.
 Escape from the cycle of
rebirth.
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Buddhist Altar
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Types of Buddhism
 Therevada Buddhism
(traditional type)
 Mahayana Buddhism (modern
type)
 Tibetan Buddhism
 Zen Buddhism
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Theravada Buddhism
 The oldest school of Buddhism.
 The “Way of the Elders” or the “Small
Vehicle.”
 Found in southern Asia.
 The monastic life is the best way
to achieve nirvana.
 Focus on wisdom and meditation.
 Goal is to become a “Buddha,” or
“Enlightened One.”
 Over 100,000,000 followers today.
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Theravada Buddhism
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Mahayana Buddhism
 The “Great Vehicle.”
 Founded in northern Asia (China, Japan).
 Buddhism “for the masses.”
 Seek guidance from Boddhisatvas, wise
beings.
 Goal: Not just individual escape from the
wheel, but the salvation of all humanity
through self-sacrifice of those
enlightened few.
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Mahayana Buddhism
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Boddhisatva
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Tibetan Buddhism
 The “Diamond Vehicle.” [Vajrayana]
 Developed in Tibet in the
7c CE.
 A mix of Theravada and Mahayana.
 Boddhisatvas include
Lamas, like the
Dalai Lama.
 The Tibetan Book
of the Dead
[Bardo Thodol].
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The
Dalai
Lama
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Zen Buddhism
 The “Meditation School.”
 Seeks sudden enlightenment [satori]
through meditation, arriving at
emptiness [sunyata].
 Use of meditation masters [Roshi].
 Beauty, art, and aesthetics:
 Gardens.
 Archery.
 Tea ceremony.
 Calligraphy.
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Buddhism in America
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Relieve Stress & Meditate:
Get a Mantra !
Ohm...mani...padme...hung...
Hail to the jewel in the lotus!
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Indian Empires
The Big Idea
The Mauryas and the Guptas
built great empires in India.
Main Ideas
• The Mauryan Empire unified most of India.
• Gupta rulers promoted Hinduism in their empire.
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Mauryan Rule
Candragupta Maurya
Asoka (304 – 232 BCE)
(321 BCE-298 BCE)
• The grandson of Candragupt
extended Mauryan rule over
most of India.
• Candragupta seized control
of northern India and
created a society dominated
by war.
• Candragupta became a
Jainist monk and gave up his
throne.
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• Asoka converted to
Buddhism and stopped
waging war, choosing
instead to rebuild cities and
spread Buddhist teachings.
Asoka’s law code
 Edicts scattered in
more than 30 places
in India, Nepal,
Pakistan, & Afghanistan.
 Written mostly in
Sanskrit, but one was in
Greek and Aramaic.
 10 rock edicts.
 Each pillar [stupa] is 40’-50’ high.
 Buddhist principles dominate his laws.
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The Mauryan Empire
321 BCE –
185 BCE
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Turmoil & a power Vacuum:
220 BCE – 320 CE
The
Maurya
Empire is
divided into
many
kingdoms.
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Gupta Empire
• After the decline of the Mauryan Empire, India remained
primarily Buddhist for 500 years.
• Under the rule of Candra Gupta I, India became unified and
prosperous again.
• Gupta rulers spread Hinduism in their empire through the
building of temples and the promotion of Hindu writings and
rituals.
• Widespread religious tolerance was encouraged for Buddhists
and Jainists.
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Gupta Rulers
 Chandra Gupta I


r. 320 – 335 CE
“Great King of Kings”
 Chandra Gupta II


r. 375 - 415 CE
Profitable trade with
the Mediterranean
world!
 Hindu revival.
 Huns invade – 450 CE
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Candra Gupta II
Growth
Under Candra Gupta II, the Gupta Empire
reached the height of its power. It spread
across northern India and prospered.
Economy and
Culture
The economy boomed, allowing citizens the
time and money to create great works of art
and literature.
The Caste
System
It was believed that keeping citizens under
strict caste rule would stabilize the empire.
Social
Ramifications
Women in the caste system were not seen
as equals and had few basic rights.
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Gupta Empire:
CE
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320 CE – 647
Chandra Gupta II
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International Trade Routes
during the Guptas
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Extensive Trade:
4c
spices
gold & ivory
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Kalidasa
 The greatest of Indian poets.
 His most famous play was Shakuntala.
 During the reign of Chandra Gupta II.
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Gupta
Art
Greatly influenced
Southeast Asian art & architecture.
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500 healing
plants identified
Printed
medicinal guides
Plastic
Surgery
Gupta
Achievements
1000 diseases
classified
Kalidasa
Literature
Medicine
Inoculations
Gupta
India
C-sections
performed
Decimal
System
Mathematics
Concept
of Zero
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PI = 3.1416
Solar
Calendar
Astronomy
The earth
is round
The Decline of the Guptas
 Invasion of the White Huns in the 4c signaled
the end of the Gupta Golden Age, even though
at first, the Guptas defeated them.
 After the decline of the Gupta empire, north
India broke into a number of separate Hindu
kingdoms and was not really unified again until
the coming of the Muslims in the 7c.
QUESTION:
Is the best literature and art written as
the civilization is on the rise, at its
height, or in its decline?
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Time Line
• 320 BC Candragupta Maurya becomes the first Mauryan
emperor.
• 301 BC Candragupta Maurya relinquishes the throne to
become a Jainist monk.
• 270 BC Asoka becomes the second Mauryan emperor.
• 261 BC Asoka’s empire gains great power, and he leaves
to become a Buddhist.
• AD 375 Candra Gupta I invades and conquers northern
India and brings Hinduism, prosperity, and a strict caste
system back into popular culture.
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Indian Achievements
The Big Idea
The people of ancient India made great contributions to the
arts and sciences.
Main Ideas
• Indian artists created great works of religious art.
• Sanskrit literature flourished during the Gupta period.
• The Indians made scientific advances in metalworking,
medicine, and other sciences.
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Religious Art: Temples
• Both Hindu and Buddhist temples began flourishing under
Gupta rule.
• Once simply constructed meeting places, Hindu temples
became complex towers covered with intricate carvings.
• Buddhist temples were large and impressive, some carved
out of mountainsides. Most famous Buddhist cave temple
is located at Ajanta.
• Buddhist stupas were built to house sacred objects from
the life of the Buddha. They were covered with detailed
carvings.
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The Taj Mahal
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Religious Art:
Paintings and Sculpture
• Great artists were commissioned by rich and powerful
members of society.
• Paintings offered a perspective on the daily life and
religious belief of the ancient Indians; many of these
paintings could be found on the walls of temples.
• Indian sculptors carved columns, statues, and entire
temples in the likenesses of the Buddha and Hindu gods.
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Sanskrit Literature
Mahabharata
Ramayana
• One of the world’s longest
literary works
• The story of a god, Vishnu,
who has taken human form
• The story of two Indian
families struggling for
control of a kingdom
• Written long after the
Mahabharata; contains
models for the ideal ruler
(Rama) and the ideal mate
(Sita)
• Many long passages of
Hindu beliefs and practices
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Sanskrit Literature
Other Works
• Chadra Gupta II hired a famous writer named Kalidasa to
write plays for the royal court.
• The Panchatantra, a book of stories intended to teach moral
lessons and quick thinking, was translated into many
languages.
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Scientific Advances
Metalworking
Pioneers of metallurgy, the Indians created
tools and weapons by mixing iron and other
metals together.
Mathematics
The Indians invented the concept of zero and
developed a sophisticated number system,
the Hindu-Arabic numerals.
Medicine
Using plants and minerals, Indian doctors
made advances in medicinal science. They
were among the first to practice inoculation
and perform surgery.
Astronomy
Indian astronomers knew of seven about the
nine planets in the solar system and could
predict eclipses of the sun and moon.
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