Ch3. Classical Civilization: India


Development and Transformation of Social Structures

• Gender roles and relations

• Family and kinship

-Hierarchy and tight organization

Dominance of husbands and fathers remained strong. One Indian code of law recommended that a wife worship her husband as a god. The rights of women became increasingly limited as Indian civilization took clearer shape. Although the great epics stressed the control of husband and father, they also recognized women’s independent contributions. As agriculture became better organized and improved technology reduced women’s economic contributions, the stress on male authority expanded. There was even a debate among Hindu thinkers whether a woman could advance spiritually without first being reincarnated as a man. The limits imposed on women were reflected in laws and literary references. A system of arranged marriage evolved in which parents contracted unions for children, particularly daughters; at quite early ages to spouses they had never even met. The purpose of the arranged marriage was to promote a family’s economic well-being, and almost everyone lived in a family setting.

Families served as an important and explicit emotional function as well as a role in supporting the structure of society and its institutions. As in all agricultural societies, they formed economic units. Children were expected to work hard after early years of indulgence. Adults were obligated to assist older relatives. 

Regardless, women were featured as clever and strong-willed and goddesses.

• Social and economic classes

-Caste System

  • initially established as a means of relationships between the Aryan conquerors ad the indigenous people(inferior)
  • Aryan social classes(varnas) partly enforced divisions familiar in agricultural societies
  • Kshatriyas- warrior or governing class
  • Brahman- priestly class
  • Vaishyas- traders& farmers
  • Sudras- common laboreres
  • Untouchables-the lowest rank of the caste system, confined to few jobs


India was a melting pot of religions, and it still is today. Two major popular religions that began in India were Hinduism and Buddhist. These religions helped shape the Indian social structure and culture. Hinduism greatly stressed on a social structure and was highly ritualistic and mystical. Meanwhile, Buddhism’s ideologies were based on control over one’s self and overcoming difficulties. As different as these two religions were, both maintained a mystical quality that appealed to the Indian people. However, both religions believed in reincarnation, which is a rebirth into another body when the original body dies. The Indians erected great temples and monuments in tribute to their gods, and most of their culture revolved around their religions. There were also many frescoes painted to show their devotion to their gods.


India did not develop the solid political traditions and institutions of Chinese civilization, or the high level of political interest that would characterize classical Greece and Roe. The most persistent political features of India, in the classical period and beyond, involved regionalism, and considerable diversity in political forms. Autocratic kings and emperor dotted the history of classical India, but there were also aristocratic assemblies in some regional states with the power to consult and decide on major issues.


Interaction Between Humans and the Environment


-       Demography and disease

-       Migration

-       Patterns of settlement

-       Technology

The interactions between humans and the environment of the Indian civilization were far more unique and extensive than other ancient civilizations in history. Demography and disease, migration, patterns of settlement, and technology were all contributions to the formation of this civilization that would later contribute to global interactions with other civilizations as well.


                        The Indians made successful innovations towards the area concerning demography and disease and technology. At the research level, Indian scientists made advancements in the study of disease and technology (along with astronomy), borrowing small portions from the Greeks after the conquests of Alexander the Great. The astronomer, Aryabhatta, accurately calculated the length of the solar year and improved mathematical measurements. He also believed the earth to be round, precisely pinpointing the measurements for him to calculate the circumference. Indian astronomers made calculations on the daily rotation of the earth on its axis, explained eclipses, and developed their own theory of gravity. They also identified seven planets with telescopic observation. Medical research was also advanced in bone setting and plastic surgery. Vaccination against smallpox was also introduced, using cowpox serum. Doctors were led to promote high ethical standards, which made them stress cleanliness such as sterilization of wounds. Indian mathematics produced many advancements today as well. The Indian numbering system is the one used today, though it is referred to as Arabic because Europeans imported it secondhand from the Arabs. They invented the concept of zero and were able to develop the decimal system. They calculated square roots, table of sines, and computed the value of pi more accurately than the Greeks.


                        Migration was also highly rated during this time of formation. Gurus were Hindu mystics who sought communication with the divine soul. They often gathered disciples and spread their ideas about enlightenment. These people became increasingly important as the popularity of Hinduism spread. Invasions were also a form of migration from outside countries.  The Greeks invaded India, bringing with them influential Hellenistic cultures. The Kushan dynasty overtook the Mauryan dynasty and invaded central India from the northwest. However, it was not able to last long because the religions and foreign rule could not mix well together.


Theme 3: State-Building, Expansion, and Conflict

-       Political structures and forms of governance

-       Empires

-       Nations and nationalism

-       Revolts and revolutions

-       Regional, transregional, and global structures and organizations

The themes mentioned above were the infrastructures of India’s regime of politics and empires. Political structures and forms of governance and empires were the key factors in the regime behind India. A highly valued nation, India was a country that experienced many changes and challenges, while at the same time, influencing other nations that eventually formed into global conquests of influence..


India was much closer to the influence of other civilizations than China. China was more affected during the trading contacts with the two civilizations, which developed late in the classical period. India however, was more open to external influences from the Middle East and the Mediterranean world. Persian empires spilled over into India at different times, introducing novel styles of the arts and political concepts. Alexander the Great invaded India; though he did not establish a long lasting, stable empire, he did make possible important Indian contacts with Hellenistic culture. Periodic influences from the Middle East continued even after the classical age, forcing the nation to habituate in ways its shaper made it; China however, was isolated so therefore, it largely avoided external influences and progressed as a successful nation on its own. This topic goes hand in hand with migration, discussed in the theme above.


Regionalism was the political institution used throughout India. As a result of India’s diversity and regionalism, even some of the greatest empires that invaded India had a rather shaky base. Caste systems and hierarchies were also present as a form of social inequality and government. The caste system described many key features about Indian inequality and inferiority. In family life, the theme of hierarchy was also emphasized as it evolved from the Vedic and Epic ages. Husband and father dominance was also a factor that remained strong. One Indian code of law stressed that a wife worship her husband as a good. These were influences and products of the regional governmental system used throughout India.


Ch3. Classical Civilization: India

1. Alexander the Great

  • conquered most of the known Western world in the 4th century BC.
  •  The king of Persia who invaded India in 327 ~ 325 B.C.E. 
  • did not establish a durable empire; made  Indian contacts with Hellenistic culture possible 

2. Aryans

  • Indo-European nomadic caucasian pastoralists
  • Hunting and herding peoples originally from central Asia
  • Invaded India in 1600 ~ 1000 B.C.E
  • came to terms w/ agriculture but had their own impact on the culture & social structure
  • use of Iron tools
  • development of literary epics( ex. Rig-Veda, Mahabharata, Ramayana,.etc)
  • brought distinctive structures to family & society. (ex. patriarchy, caste system,.

3. Maurya dynasty

  • Dynasty established in Indian subcontinent in 4th century B.C.E following invasion by Alexander the Great
  • Chandragupta Maurya: the first of the Mauryan dynasty of Indian rulers, who in turn were the first rulers to unify much of the entire subcontinent
  • Expansion of the border
  • Autocratic style of government; relied on the ruleer's personal& military power

4. Ashoka(269~232B.C.E)

  • Chandragupta's grandson, became a ruler after Chandragupta's death
  • First served as a governeor of two provinces
  • lavish lifestyle
  • engagement in a study of nature
  • Strongly influenced by the intense spiritualism of the Bramin and Buddhism
  • Propagation of Buddihsm throughout India (also honoring Hinduism)
  • Improved trade & communication, sponsered an extensive road network
  • Stbility and sheer expansion of the empire's territory
  • Growth of commerce
  • Fall of Maurya dynasty by Kushans

5. Caste System

  • initially established as a means of relationships between the Aryan conquerors ad the indigenous people(inferior)
  • Aryan social classes(varnas) partly enforced divisions familiar in agricultural societies
  • Grew more complex over time into a multitude of subcastes. 
  • Governed society more than any political body.
; Kshatriyas were replaced by Brahmans
-signal of the importance of religious links in Indian life

6. Untouchables

  • the lowest rank of the caste system
  • confined to a few jobs (ex. transporting the dead bodies or hauling refuse)
  • It was believed that touching these people would defile anyone from superior class
  • despite having menial jobs, they weren't slaves. 

7. Hinduism

  • major system of belief in India today
  • clearest cultural cement of Guptas
  • cut across political and language barriers and across caastes
  • embraced considerale variety
  • gave rise to important religious dissent
  • promotes other features in Indian culture
  • contemporary Indian children are encouraged to indulge their imaginations longer than Western children and are confronted less sharply with outside reality

8. Sanskirt

  • First literary language of the new culture of Aryans
  • Became the language of educated people, but never became the universal language of India.
  • Vedas- sacred books written by Sanskirt


BUDDHA (563 - 483 BCE)

Siddartha Gautama was born to royalty, but then came to question the poverty and unfairness in the world. Full of questions, he gave up his seat on the throne and meditated for about six years under a tree. After he became enlightened, he spread his ideas throughout India and started the religion of Buddhism. In Buddha's teachings, he stresses self-control and to overcome all sins in order to reach nirvana, which is the concept of having no suffering. 


 Meaning hymns to the gods; the Vedas are one of the oldest manuscripts in Hinduism, and is written in Sanskrit. It is a compilation of literary epics that are dedicated to the Hindu gods. There are four Vedas; the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda. 


Mahabharata is India's greatest epic poem and was written during the Epic Age between 1000-600 BCE. Both Mahabharata and Ramayana are full of stories of real and mythical battles. These two epics have a lot of morals in them, including four life lessons, which are dharma(right action), kama(pleasure), artha(purpose), and moshka(liberation).


Varnas are the social classes of India, or the caste system. There are five classes. On the top is the Brahmins, who are the priests. Then there is the Kshatriyas, which is made up of warrior or governing class. The second class was the Vaisyas, who were the traders and the farmers. Then there was the Sudras, whom were common laborers. The fifth most lowly class were the "untouchables", who were given the worst jobs. It was believed that the untouchables had been bad their previous lives so thus they had to suffer in this life. The social castes were extremely rigid, and it was hard to move from one class to another.


Indra is the Hindu god of the atmosphere, storms, rain, and battle and is the king of the demi-gods. Has authority over the sky and has the power to make it rain with his weapon; the thunderbolt. He is also the most celebrated Vedic god with 250 hymns addressed to him. 


Chandragupta was the founder of the Mauryan empire, and the first ruler of the Mauryan dynasty. He seized power along the Ganges River. He was able to succeed in conquering most of the Indian subcontinent. His government maintained a large military power and established a substantial bureaucracy in India.


The Kushan dynasty overtook the Mauryan dynasty, and invaded central India from the northwest. However, it was not able to last long because the religions and foreign rule could not mix well together.


Kautilya was Chandragupta's chief minister, and he wrote an important treatise of politics. However, his ideas were not widespread as Confucianism was in China.


Gurus were Hindu mystics who sought communication with the divine soul. They often gathered disciples and spread their ideas about enlightenment. These people became increasingly important as the popularity of Hinduism spread. 


The gurus and the brahman priests established certain doctrines and beliefs due to the act that Hinduism became an increasingly formal religion by the early centuries of the common era. The basic holy essence they established was called brahma, it was the belief that brahma formed part of everything in this world, and every living creature participates in this divine principle. 


The world of our physical senses is less important than the world of spiritual senses and divine soul, and a proper life is one devoted to seeking union with this soul. This journey on finding union with the soul may take many lifetimes, so therefore, Hindus stressed the meaning of reincarnation, in which souls do not die when bodies do but pass into other beings (either human or animal). How good a life the person led is what determines where the soul goes.


For people who renounced this world in search of salvation, they practiced the meditation and self discipline of yoga. Meaning "union", it allowed the mind to be freed to concentrate on the divine spirit. Yoga today is practiced throughout many parts of the world to practice health and relaxation.

Bhagavad Gita

The Hindus stressed the idea of a central emphasis on the moral law of dharma as a guide to living in this world and simultaneously pursuing higher goals. The concept of dharma directed attention to the moral consequences of action, and the Hindus stressed that each person must meet the obligations of life. Bhagavad Gita is a classic sacred hymn where a warrior is sent to do battle against his own relatives. He is advised by Krishna that he must carry out his duties, regardless of his feelings. He will not actually be killing them as his victims' spirit will live on.  


Nirvana is the transcendent state where there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of reincarnation. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.  


Indian literature was at a lively state, defining terms and establishing laws. Indian thinkers wrote about various aspects of the human life, and a great deal of political writing occurred. The theme of love was a theme that was highly valued; a manual of the "laws of love", the Kamasutra, written in the 4th century C.E., discusses relationships between men and women. 


As well as literature, India produced lively art as well, although much of it perished under later invasions. Ashoka sponsored many spherical shrines to Buddha, called stupas. Stupas and statues honoring Buddha were very common. Under the Guptas, artistic values moved away from realistic portrayals of the human form toward more stylized representation.  

Vishnu & Shiva

Two of the three gods (along with Brahma) who are responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. Vishnu is the preserver and protector of the universe who's role is to return to earth in troubled times to restore the balance between good and evil. Shiva's role is to destroy the universe in order to re-create it.


Epic poems with a mystical religious flavor, Upanishads were created during the Epic Age. Upanishads also attacked the conventional Brahman view of what religions should belike. They also stressed the shallowness of worldly concerns.


The law of moral consequences, an ethical guide that might unite and discipline the diverse people.


 Sanskrit for "five principles", an ancient Indian collection of animal fables. The stories are now well known throughout the world.


The southern Indians, and the natives of India before the Aryans who traded cotton and silks, dyes, drugs, gold, and ivory and had a strong merchant spirit in classical India They enjoyed relatively high caste status and the flexibility of the Hindu ethic.

Relevance To Theme 2:

India is a melting pot of many cultures and religions. Two of the major religions of India are Hinduism and Buddhism. These two religions helped shape India's social structure and culture. The Indians were able to build great temples and monuments for their gods and painted many frescoes to devote them. 

Indians were also successful in making great innovations in science and technology. In terms of astronomy, they made the accurate calculation of the solar year, explanation of eclipses, development of their own theory of gravity, and the observation of seven planets with telescopes. In terms of medicine they made their own way of plastic surgery, and vaccination against smallpox with cow serum. In terms of math, the Indian numeral system is the one used today, despite being from the Arabs. They also invented the zero and were able to create the decimal system and calculated square roots, table of sines and computed the value of pi more than the Greeks. 

Relevance To Theme 5:

In India, the caste system and hierarchies were used as a form of social inequality and government. In the caste system, the Kshatrias were the warrior and governing class. The untouchables were the lowest class whom were confined to few jobs that were considered dirty and unsanitary. They were not allowed to be touched.

Husbands and fathers were the dominators of family life. Children were expected to work hard after early years of indulgence. Adults were also to assist older relatives. The rights of women were limited, however, they were considered clever and strong willed. 

Make a Free Website with Yola.