Ancient India is less wll studied than the other great early civilizations. Settlement of the Indus Valley is believed to have begun before 4000 BC. Archeologists have divided the history of ancient India into three principal eras. The early Indus River civilization dominated India for a millenium and a half (3000-1500 BC). This civilization was notable for planned cities hich had straight streets. Cotton is known to have been grown in India as early as 3,000 BC, but was almost ceratinly grown much earlier. Ancient Indians are known to have worn brightly colored clothes. Ancient India was conquered by the Aryans about 1500 BC by the Aryans, a nomadic people from from Central Asia. They entered the Indus Valley through the Khyber pass--the traditional invasion route into the Southern Asian sub-continent. As in so many cases, the Aryans were a war-like hearing people that conquuered a more ophisticated settled agaraian civilization. The Aryans employed chariots and engaged in constant warfare. They did not have sophisticated governmental structures and were instead still organized in tribal clans and warrior chiefs called rajas. They left few structures that archeologists could study. They did leave a rich setof stories at first sung and told orally. The principal Aryan beliefs as well as descriptions of daily life were set down in the Vedic Scriptures, a collection of poems and sacred hymns, about 1500 BC. Veda meant simply knowledge and include four parts: the Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. The ancient warriors caste, the Kashtriya, are described in the Vedic scriptures. The Aryan dominance gave way with the age of empire which began about 500 BC. There were numerous empires in different regions of India. The greatest of these empires was the The Gupta Empire (320 AD
to about 500 AD). The Gupta Empire existed at about the same time as the final yearsof the Roman Empire in the the West. The Gupta Empire controlled northern India. The Gupta Empire brought law and order to northern India. Elephants were incorporated into the emperial army. Some call the Gupta period, the "Golden Age" of ancient India. There was religious freedom and the Empire promoted education, literature and art.
Civililization in India as in other early civilization was powerfully shaped by geography. The first civilization emerged as in other areas in a river valley--the Indus. Here even primastive technology could produce high crop yields. Another major factor was the Himalayan Mountains in the north which had the impact of isolating the Indus Valley and protecting it from invasion. It was of course not a perfect protection, but the Indus Valley civilization developed in far greater security than that of Mesopotamia. The Indus Valley civilization did not develop in total isolation because there were sea contacts with the Middle Eastern civilizations (Mesopotamia ad Egypt), but these contacts were limited. The monsoonal subtropical climate was another important influence and key to the development of agriculture and civilization.
Ancien India is less wll studied than the other great early civilizations. Relatively few artifacts have been found to shed insights into early Indian socities. Reasearchers have relied on linguistic studies and in recent years DNA evidence. Religious texts have also provided important evidence. Settlement of the Indus Valley is believed to have begun before
4000 BC. Europeans and Indins themselves were until very recent times unawate of the Indus River civilization and that it was one of the great river valley civilizayions. This only occurred during the British Raj when British archeologists began to work in northern India (early-20th century). Archeologists have divided the history of ancient India into three principal eras. Our information on ancient India is still very limited and we would be interested in any information insights readers may be able to offer.
The Indus River is the site of one of the earliest appearances of civilization. One interesting question is why civilization developed first along the Indus. Unlike Mesopotania and Egypt, there were more than one important rivers in the sub-continent. Mehrgarh is the oldest known city in the Indus Calley, dating to about 7000 BC. The people farmed barley, maize,wheat and dates and raised cattle. The early Indus River civilization dominated India for a millenium and a half (3000-1500 BC). One of the most important centers was Harappa which may date to 3500 BC. The Indus Valley civilization is also known as Harappan culture because Harsppra which was discovered by accident, was the first city to be escavated by archeologists. John Marshall began to work in the Punjab in 1921. He escavated Moen jo daro . As a result of his work and other archeologists, we now know that the Indus River civilization was one of the four great river valley civilizations where civilization first appeared. Ut was centered on the Indus River and thus covered a large area of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and north-western India. The high point of the civilzation wa about 2900-1900 BC. The basis of the economy as the other river valley civiizations was agricultute. But the Indus people were also traders, gandling products like lapiz azuela and teak. The civilization encompased about 2,000 towns and villages. This civilization was notable for planned cities hich had straight streets. Cotton is known to have been grown in India as early as 3,000 BC, but was almost ceratinly grown much earlier. Ancient Indians are known to have worn brightly colored clothes. The early Indus River culture is the least studied of the five great river valley cultures. When we began looking at ancient India, we assumed that given HBC's primarily European focus, our lack of information was due to the fact that we were unfamiliar with work on India. We have since found that there have been relatively few archeological finds on the early Indus River civilization and much less scholarly work. It is not precisely known why there have been relatvely few sites found. One factor may be that it was smaller civilization in terms of people and thus sites, although scholars have begun to increase population estmstes. Scholars noe estimate a populstion of about 5 nillion people. Another problem is that the humid climate and high water table has destroyed archeological evidence that in dry, arid Egypt and Mesopotamia has been preserved. Another possibility is that the Aryan invaders that conquered the Indus Valley people found their civilization abhorent and sought to destroy it. If the civilization had a relatively small population, this would have made it easier to destroy than a civilization with a larger population. There are only limited written records from the Indus Valley civilization and the script which has been found are still undechired. Thus we do not know why the Indus cities began to dissapear about 1700-1500 BC. Most scholars believe it was probably the result of climate change, in the case of India--the failure of the monsoons. The monsoon rains are central to agriculture on the sub-continent. The failure of vthe monsoons probably caused the rivers to shift and dry up. The Indus itself probably did not dry up, but important tributaries probably did. Invaders from central and western Asia are another possibility. Whatever the cause, the population seems to have shifted eastward into the central part of the subcontinent. It is at this time that the Ganges becomes more important.
Ancient India was conquered by the Aryans (about 1500 BC). The actual chronology is the subject of considerable scholarly dispute. The Aryans were a nomadic people from from Central Asia. The fact that there are considerable similarities between Sandcript and European languages is strong evidence of an original Aryan language. They entered the Indus Valley through the Khyber pass--the traditional invasion route into the Southern Asian sub-continent. As in so many cases, the Aryans were a war-like hearding people that conquuered a more sophisticated settled agaraian civilization. The Aryans employed carts and engaged in constant warfare. DNA evidence suggests that their numbers were realtively small as they have not left a substantial genetic imprint in modern India. The Aryans did not have sophisticated governmental structures and were instead still organized in tribal clans and warrior chiefs called rajas. They left few structures that archeologists could study. Much of our understanding of this era come from two national epics , The Ramayana and the Mahabhrata. These are not histories in the Western sense, but provide insights into the origins and development of Indian history and most importabtly the Vedic tradition. This was part of a rich set of stories at first sung and told orally. The principal Aryan beliefs as well as descriptions of daily life were set down in the Vedic Scriptures, a collection of poems and sacred hymns, about 1500 BC. Veda meant simply knowledge and include four parts: the Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. The ancient warriors caste, the Kashtriya, are described in the Vedic scriptures. The theme of war between the powers of light and darkness is central to the ancient Aryan Vedic scriptures. Scholars see this as a literary expression of the conflict between light and dark skinned peoples. We have noted scholars questioning the standard Aryan invasion theory. [Frawley] We are not sure at this time if this is a rejection of the theory as it is not very politically correct or if there are well-grounded reasons for revaluating this theory. The Rig Veda appears with the Aryan Vedic culture. It is believed that it was written About 1500-1200 BC. One reader describes it as 'the oldest book in the world'. The word book confuses the issue, but it does appear to be one of the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language.
The Aryan dominance gave way with the age of empire which began about 500 BC. This was the India that Alexander the Great encountered. There were numerous empires in different regions of India. The political eography of the sub-Continent was quite complicated. The greatest of these empires was the The Gupta Empire well after Alexander's invasion (320 AD
to about 500 AD). The Gupta Empire existed at about the same time as the final years of the Roman Empire in the the West. It controlled northern India. The Gupta Empire brought law and order to northern India. Elephants were incorporated into the imperial army. Some call the Gupta period, the "Golden Age" of ancient India. Some historians have described the Gupta Empire as the foundation of modern India. There was religious freedom and the Empire promoted education, literature and art. It was the Gupta who turned backed the fearsome Huns who so plagued European history. The Gupta wa only the largest empire and located in northern India. There were many other important stsates , espoecially n the south as well as shorter lasting smaller kingdoms.
India's most important Hindu pilgrimage sites are known as tirathas (fords), crossings between the worldly and divine spheres. A tiratha may be a river such as, Ganges, or a mountain peak, such as mount Kailash - the mysthical Himalayan retreat of Lord Shiva. Several such tirathas are places where the Gods are belived to descended to earth, and which may then act as gateways for thr pilgrim to enterbdivine realms. There are seven sacred cities in Hindu India, which are the principal pilgrimage centers: Varanasi and Hardwar (on the Ganges River), Ayodhya (the birthplace of lord Rama), Mathura (Lord krishna's Birthplace), Dwarka (where the adult Krishna ruled as a king and where the krishna Vasudeva was born), Kanchipuram (the great Shaivite temple city of Tamil Nadu), and Ujjan (where every 12 years the Kumbha Mela is celebrated).
The clothing worn in ancint India was very diverse. This was due the long period of involved and the range of climatic conditionsfrom the temperate north to the tropical south. India has played a major role in the hisory of fahion and textile. It was in ancient India that cotton was first cultivated. Many Indian terms are important fashion and garment terms, including dungarees, khakis, pajamas, and may other terms. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of ancient Indian clothing is that it is still widely worn in modern India. The clothing and garmnts of ancient India are the only styles from the ancient world still widely worn today. Here it is probably the suitability for the climate and low cost and simplicity that are the key factors. It is the fashion of the Vedic era that have proved the most important. Clothing in the Vedic era was often extensively embroidered and embelished with precious metals and gold.
Two major world religions emerges in the Indian Subcontinent--Hinduism and and Buddhism. Religion in the Subs-Continent after the Indus alley civililization has to be seen within the context of the Vadic Tradition and Hindu religion. Hinduism is the religion of those who believe that the Vedas are sacred truth. The rise and influence of Janism, Buddhism, and Islam all ocurred within the context of the Vedic tradition. By the time that Europeans arrived, Buddhism had faded to such an extent that it was not until the 19th century that it was realized that Buddhism had been born in India. Islam arrived in India as the faith of Arab traders, but it did not become important until brough by conquering warriors. The Moguls nearly conuered all of the Subcontinent, but as their moderate rule hanged to intolerant suuppression of other faiths, they ultimately failed. Over time like other religions it had to come to terms with the dominant Vdic tradition. This may explain the relatively moderate form of Islam in modern India compared to the strident Islam of Pakistan where Hindu influences have been expelled. Smaller relgious communities (Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and others) also exist , primarily in trading ports.
There were both land ans sea trading routes connecting the sub-Continent to the rest of the known world. The famous Slik Road conncting China and Europe had a branch running through northern India. Alexander conquered Egypt, but European trade with India did begin in great measure until Roman times. Greek and Roman traders reached India (1st century BC). This comincided with brining Egypt in the Empire which meant that Roman traders had access to Red Sea ports. This opened the sea-based spice route. Romans developed the technology for the strongly built vessels needed to cross the Arabian Sea (northern-eastern Indisn Ocean). The Indians had a great deal the Roman merchants wanted, including cotton cloth, spices, and ivory. The Romans did not have much the Indians wanted so they primarily traded metals (Goldm silver, antimony, and others). One popular Roman product was wine and many ampora shards have been found in India. Greek and Roman merchants established ports all along the Indian coast as swell as the East African coast. It is at this time thst Judaism and Christianity reach India. The Greek and Roman merchants took advantage of the monsoon winds to reach Indua. This trade continued after the fall of the Western Empire as Byzantium continued to control the trade routes. It dended with Arab outburst (7th century AD). The Arabss seized control of the sea trade routes to India and China. India traders dominated trade to the East and impacted Southeast Asia, ncluding the Spice Islands (modern Indonesia). They would eventually be supplanted by th Arabs before the arrival of the Aarabs. In southeast Aia Hinduism would vie with Buddhism, although the Arab traders would become well established n the Malay Peninsula.
India is believed to have the largest collection of old, hand written manuscripts of any country in the world. Unfortunately they are scattered in a huge number of temples and to a lesser extent mosques where they are poorly cared for and slowly deteriorating. Most of these manuscripts are unknown to scholars. The Government estimates that there are about 5 million manuscripts and complicating archiving, in hundreds of languages. The Indian Government launched the 5-year National Mission for Manuscripts -- NMM (2003-08). The Government has deployed 30,000 manuscript hunters including linguistic scholars and history students to find and catalog these manuscripts as well as to advise the holders how to properly care for their treasure of old manuscripts. The NMM is also preparing a computer catalog to assist scholars. The oldest known manuscript in India is a 6th century AD Buddhist text found in Kashmir during te 1940s. This seems a relatively recent find given India's long history. The NMM has reported thousands of finds in classical Sandskrit and many related successor language. (Sandskrit is related to modern Indian languages as Latin is related to European Romance languages.) The NMM is also reporting important finds of Arabic treaties. Many of the manuscripts concern religion. There have been important finds related to India's Buddhist past, a relatively poorly understood era of Indian history. The NMM has found manuscripts on many other subjects, including, art, architecture, astronomy, astrology, literature, mathemativs, philosophy, science, and other subjrcts.
Frawley, David. Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization.
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