9. Peoples and World Empires: Classical India

 
I. What Were the Major Characteristics of the Early Classical Age?
A. Settlement in the Granges River region

1. By about 600 B.C.E. settling down of the Aryas tribes in the fertile region of the Ganges River

2. Establishment of Tribal territoties and small rival kingdoms
> 16 larger kingdoms arose with Magadha the most powerful

B. Politics and Society
1. dominated by the Brahmins and warrior rulers
- power of the Brahmins derived from their role as priests and their ability to read and write
- reading of the Vedas restricted to the Brahmins

2. Social division became increasingly complex as the caste system expanded

3. Women’s status declined
- no longer educated
- sati

C. Religion
- Religious change developed in response to the violence of the times, the dominance of the Brahmins, and the caste system

1. The Ascetics
> spiritual seekers who retreated from society, lived austerely, meditated as a means of achieving spiritual bliss

2. Jainism
a) Mahavira (born c. 540 B.C. E.)
- Gave up his privileged position to become an ascetic (sky-clad)
- achieved enlightenment that was the source of his teaching

b) Teachings
- Concerned with putting an end to suffering by breaking the cycle of death and rebirth (reincarnation)
- He taught that every living thing possessed a soul in the form of tiny particles – Jiva
- the karma of past deeds (ajiva) clings to this Jiva and prevents salvation
- the way to free one’s soul and achieve salvation is to live a life of asceticism and to renounce destruction of any kind (ahimsa)
- only a few could maintain such a high standard of behavior, but the Jains are highly supported for their moral stance

3. Buddhism
a) Siddhartha Gautama (563 B.C.E.)
- a prince who became concerned about the problem of suffering when he received the Four Signs
- took up the life of a wandering ascetic
- in his 36th year, he achieved Nirvana and became the Buddha > “Enlightened One”

b) Teachings (dharma – law)
1) The Middle Way

2) The Four Noble Truths
- suffering is inevitable as it is part of the human condition
- suffering is caused by self-centered desires and cravings
- suffering can be overcome by eliminating our desires and cravings
- the way to achieve this is to follow the
Eightfold Path

3) Eightfold Path
- attitude - right views; right intention;
- behavior - right speech; right action; right livelihood
- meditation - right effort; right mindfulness; right concentration

4) Nirvana
- the extinguishing of desire and craving and release from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth

c) the spread of Buddhism
1) Buddhist followers who later formed the first monastic devoted themselves to spreading the teachings of Buddha

2) Buddhism addressed religious and social discontent:
- Buddha retained the notion of Karma and reincarnation but rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Brahmins
- Buddha welcomed followers from all castes for salvation was attainable by all
- Buddha agreed to the establishment of an order of nuns giving women an alternate to marriage

d) Division in Buddhism
1) Mahayana Buddhism (Greater Vehicle)
- Buddha came to be worshiped as a god
- Boddhisatva - “enlightened ones”
- Donations to monasteries were considered as acts that merited salvation
- Salvation became equated with heaven

2) Theravada Buddhism (Lesser Vehicle)
- closer to Buddha’s original teachings

3) Regions
- Mahayana Buddhism spread to Central Asia, China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea
- Theravada spread to Ceylon, Burma, Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia

4. Hinduism
- developed as a faith that drew from the old Vedic scriptures, native fertility cults, Buddhism and Jainism

II. What were the Origins, Organization and Legacy of the Mauryan Empire (322-185 B.C.E.)?
A. Chandragupta Maurya (r. 322-298 B.C.E.)
- regional ruler who founded the Empire

B. Administration
- to unite the diverse people of his empire, a centralized government with an enormous bureaucracy that included spies and extensive military was established
- subjects were heavily taxed
- Capital city of Pataliputra built


> Chandragupta retired to a Jain monastery, and was succeeded by his son, Bindusara who enlarged the Empire

C. Ashoka (r. 268-232 B.C.E.)
1. Disturbed by his ruthless conquest of Kalinga, he embraced Buddhism

2. Ruled by Buddhist Principles
- In place of force as the principle of his rule, he defined the state’s function as providing for the well-being of his subjects
- Built public works, roads, inns, hospitals, veterinary clinics
- Outlawed war, encouraged vegetarianism, limited animal sacrifice

3. Promoted Buddhism
- Ashoka practiced religious tolerance, ignored the caste system
- supported Buddhist missionaries in India and abroad

D. Mauryan Decline
1. Ashoka’s successors weak


2. Discontent of the displaced Brahmins and regional rulers who wanted to reclaim their kingdoms

3. The last Mauryan ruler was assassinated by one of his generals

4. India became a land of rival kingdoms once again

E. Brahmin Revival
1. While the Buddhists monks tended to retreat into their monasteries, the Brahmins sought to revive Hinduism

2. Reforms:
- stressed personal worship of a god or gods rather than focus on sacrifices offered by the Brahmins
- developed devotional cults that were open to all castes, men and women
- focus on salvation
- built new temples
- absorbed Buddhism by making Buddha an avatar of the Hindu god, Vishnu

3. Elimination of monasteries and convents
- women lost an important alternative to marriage

III. What were the Origins, Organization and Legacy of the Gupta Empire (319-540 C.E.)?
A. Chandragupta I
- founded the empire conquest
- successors continued to expand the Empire

B. Administration
1. Employed a mixed system:
- nearby territories annexed and ruled directly by the Guptas
- border kingdoms paid tribute and their rulers attended the Emperor’s court
- beyond alliances were made and difficult to conquer states were contained


2. Promoted peace and prosperity

C. Golden Age
1. Hindu Revival

2. Flowering of Sanskrit literature
- the Puranas

3. Achievements in math
- developed the Arabic numeral system
- developed the concept of zero
- calculated the value of π

4. A made in science, medicine and technology

D. Decline of the Guptas
- invasion by the Huns in 540 C.E. weakened the state and regional states regained their independence
 

 

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