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Ancient India  

This page will provide information about the history and culture of ancient India.
Last Updated: Jun 9, 2016 URL: http://libguides.sje.vic.edu.au/AncientIndia Print Guide RSS Updates
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Vedic Civilisation

The Verdic Periiod often relates to the time frame of which the Sanskrit texts were introduced into India society. The society that emerged during that time is known as the Vedic Period, or the Vedic Age, Civilization. The Vedic Civilization was evident between the years 1500 BC and 500 BC on the Indo-Gangetic Plains. This civilization laid down the foundation of Hinduism as well as the associated Indian culture. This civilization laid down the foundation of Hinduism as well as the associated Indian culture. The Vedic Age was followed by the golden age of Hinduism and classical Sanskrit literature, the Maurya Empire and the Middle Kingdoms of India.

 

Religion in Ancient India

Within India, three main religions are practiced and focused on. These religions include Hinduism, Buddishm and Jainism. 82% of the Indian population practice the Hinduism relgion, while 0.7% follow Buddhism and a small 0.5% practice Jainism.

Hinduism; 

http://www.ancient.eu/hinduism/

Buddhism; 

http://www.ancient.eu/buddhism/

Jainism;

http://www.ancient.eu/jainism/

 

the Mayuran Empire & Ashoka

The Mayuran Empire in ancient India, was a centred state near Pataliputra. Right next to the junction of the Sons and Ganges rivers. This empire lastes from roughly 321 to 185 BCE. 

Emperor Ashoka was one of the last to rule within the Mayuran Dynasty. Ashoka was a follower of the Buddhism religion, and through his patronage during his reign it expanded throughout India. He ruled form 268 BCE to 232 BCE and became a model of kingship in the Buddhist tradition.  After the death of Ashoka, the Mayuran dynasty started to deplete and soon it came to an end. 

 

 

Caste System

Within India, an individual was born into a caste system, of which determined the social status that they held. An individuals caste was a sense of their identity. The caste system would determine who you associated with, what you did as an occupation, where you lived and even who you married. Social rules outlined how to behave when you are associated with a specific caste, and then in the presence of another caste. 

There was a hierarchial presence that belonged in the caste system. At the top of the hierarchy sat is Brahmin, of which usually consisted preists, teachers or judges. Following were the Kshatriya, the ones who were said to run the government, and be warrior like leaders. The skilled farmers and producers came next, who were known as the Vaishyas. Those who worked for these farmers were known as the Sudras, who sat at the bottom of the chain. 

 

Food

Ancient India did not supply fancy foods like there would be seen today. Those who lived during this time would most likely have eaten the basics. Lots of rice and wheat would have been eaten because it could be harvested from the farmers of the land. They would also eat cows, sheep and pigs, from those who farm them. Along with wheat and barley consumption, early India saw a lot of fruit and vegetables been grown and therefore utilised within their cooking. Sugar Cane was also big, with farmers growing this and then using it within recipes to make their food tasty. 

During the Indus Valley Civilisation, it was found that fish was a significant source of nutrition for many people during ancient India. 

 

Entertainment

Ancient India loved entertainment! 

To keep the children entertained, they had such toys as carts to roll down hills in, whistles that were shaped like birds and toy monkeys that were able to roll down string. Ancient Indian adults would find their entertainment from swimming in a public swimming location, or celebration and dancing for a religious event. Because there was no such thing as television back then, they had to go outside and find different ways to entertain themselves. This often included socialising with different people and going out into the community. 

 

Ajanta Caves

The Ajanta Caves are a very fasinating part of Ancient India. They are located about 12kms away from a village called Ajanta and that is how they got their name. They were discovered by British Army Regiment in 1819 on a hunting expedition after they had been forgotton about for thousands of years. 

The Ajanta caves were esthablished as a place of worships for the Buddhism religion. It was a place where the monks lived and prayed their Buddha, and practiced their religion. They carved every room out of the side of a mountain, and also their furniture. As Hinduism begam more popular in Ancient India, Buddhism began to decline, along side with the use of the Ajenta Caves and soon enough, the caves were abandoned and not used any longer. 

 

Geography

In ancient times, India was much more extended to the North West and west (consisting of parts of modern Pakistan and Afghanistan). The Himalayas lay to the north as they are today. In ancient period there were many other rivers besides the preset ones. The most important of them was River Saraswati, which is not traceable now. The geography of India is one of great extremes, encompassing desert, mountains, forest, and jungle. All of these environments are susceptible to unpredictable periods of flood, drought, and monsoon. 

 

Timeline of Ancient India

 

Education

During the Verdic period in ancient India, their education was highly based on the Veda. The Veda can be described as hymms, formulas, incantations, recited or chanted by priests of a pre-Hindu tradition. After this time period, Hindu texts where introduced and then followed by those who were to learn and become educated. 

             During the time in Ancient India, a child would usualy follow the occupation of this father, regardless of what field that he may be in. Over time, there were education systems established and adhered by. The first system is called the Vedic systems, where the name implies, the Verda, Verdangas and Upanishads where taught in a latter system. The other system was the Buddhist system, where a majority of the Buddhism information was taught and learnt. 

 

Clothing

During ancient India, lots of farmers grew cotton, therefore a majority of their clothing that was made and worm was made from the cotton that they had grown, this was during the Harappan period. When it came time for the Verdic period, women would wrap themselves in a cloth made from silk. They wrapped them in different ways depending on different occasions. The women called this a Saris, and it could be utilised and made into a skirt, dress or even pants! 

The men wore a long piece of cloth called a Dhoti. These Dhoti's were usually white, and were made into pants or something covering their lower half, most of the time their upper half not being covered. They also used a piece of cotton cloth to wrap around their head and make a turban. 

Although time changed in India, the men and women who followed the tradition of the saris and the dhoti remained the same. With several invasions of different cultures, there was an introduction of trousers and tunics. The women or the families that could afford it, started to wear gold and silver jewlery, to express their worth. 

 

Housing

The very first houses that were built in ancient India were made from wood, but here they realised that the houses that they did build from wood could not survive all of what the weather through at it. Soon after this realisation, building were constructed out of stone. These stone houses were dirt blocks covered in a stone outside to make them more durable during all seasons. The houses were all build fairly close to each other, and there was usually a public water pool in the center of the communtity, also made out of stone. 

Not long after the contrustion of cities, the builders started to create buddhist temples in the side of cliffs. They thought it would be easier to take away the stone from something rather than build with it. This only lasted until around 350 AD where they then began to build temples outside the cliffs and closer to the civilisation. 

 

 

Holi - The Hindu Festival

Within modern India, Holi is celebrated through the throwing of coloured powers and water over each other after the annual bonfire. It symbolises the start of spring, alongside a religious mythology and disregards the social norms within the society. Everyone indugles themselves in merrymaking alongside the rest of the community. 

Within Ancient India, it was celebrated for a little different reason. This festival is commemorated due to an evil king named Hiranyakshipu. He forced people to worship him as the only leader of the time, except, agaisnt his wishes, his son did different. His son, Prahlad, worshipped Vishnu, of which made Hiranyakshipu very angry. He began to punish his son in cruel ways, only for none of them to harm or impact on his son. He soon challeneged his son to sit on a pyre of wood, with his evil aunt Holika, who was said to be immune to the effect of fire. When doing so, Holika was burnt to death, while Prahlad was left unharmed. While buring, Holika begged Prahlad to forgive her sins, and therefore he named a celebration after her, now known as Holi and celebrated annually. 

Subject Guide

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Laura Gorman
 

Indus Valley Civilisation

The Indis Valeey The Indus Valley Civilisation was an ancient civilisation located in what is Pakistan and Northwest India today, on the fertile flood plain of the Indus River and its vicinity. 

Evidence of religious practices in this area date back approximately to 5500 BCE. Farming settlements began around 4000 BCE and around 3000 BCE there appeared the first signs of urbanization. By 2600 BCE, dozens of towns and cities had been established, and between 2500 and 2000 BCE the Induse Valley Civilisation was at its peak. 

 

Ramayana & Mahabharata

The Ramayana gives a description of the battle fought between the Hindu God, known as Vishnu and a demon called Ravana. None of the gods could managed to fight Ravana due to the fact that they had made a very foolish promise earlier one. Ravana had control over nearly everyone and was corruptly using his power. Vishnu decided to be reborn as a man, and then he would not be seen as a god, and able to defeat the demon Ravana. 

Find the story here;

https://www.maxwell.syr.edu/moynihan/sac/The_Ramayana_A_Telling_Of_the_Ancient_Indian_Epic/ 

 

Heritage

The customs, beliefs and traditions that modern India follow today were established thousands of years ago, in Ancient India, where they were a determinant in the Indian society. There were different religions that were followed in India during this time, yet the base foundation of their culture remained the same. 

 

Economy

The economy of ancient India begins with the civilisation of the Indus Valley. The Indus Valley civilisation seemed to depend highly on the trading of goods and products, which was significantly facilitated in the improved and use of transport. 

During the ancient India period, a lot of their products came from farmers. Those who produced rice, wheat or cotton for example, gave products to individuals and neighbouring countries to help with their development of their country. Due to India being central to some major trading countries, they were always very successful in their trades and established a steady economy for their citizens to see. 

For a period in time, India was self-sustained due to the agriculture occupation which satified a large majority of the citizens. Imports from other countries was not usually neccessary. 

 

Transport

During medievil time within ancient India, there was a mode of transportation called the Palki. The Palki was a wheelless, human powered way of travelling from one place to another. Usually, it was when there was a marriage celebration that such things were used. The bride would sit inside the carriage and would be taken to the groomes house. 

Most common mode of land transport was a cart, which was usually pulled by some sort of animal, or even in some cases human slaves. During the time of Great Epics (Ramayana and the Mahabharata) the arrival of Chariots changed the way of transportation in India, these were drawn by 1 or more horses depending upon the load carried. Over land transport looked at using ox or bullocks to pull their carts or cabins when travelling a very far distance. Water transport looked at using ships to travel over their waters and have trade with surrounding countries.  

 

Employment

The vast majority of people who lived in Ancient India were seen to do labour intensive jobs. The most common occupation that would have been seen was farming and producing products. The farmers of Ancient India would have farmed food sources suchas wheat and rice, alongside cotton for clothing and other materials. 

Carpentry was also a specialised job in Ancient India. The Indians were the first to create bricks made of soil, clay and water. They needed these bricks in order to build their civilizations. Another job was being a scribe. This job was limited because you had to be able to read and write and a majority of people were unable to do that. 

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