CHAPTER 9: ANCIENT INDIA
PAY CLOSE ATTENTION AT THE "MORE FACTS"
AT THE END OF THE NOTES
Lesson 1 Early Civilizations
Much of the advanced Harappan civilization came about
through human interaction with their geographic environment.
Not only did the Indus River provide water for crops, but it also
produced mud for making bricks. Mud bricks enabled people to
make stronger buildings. This skill developed because the
environment by the river made mud bricks possible.
Over hundreds of years, the people’s relationship with the
river grew. They learned how to use the water to wash away
waste and to build boats for water transportation and trade.
Gradually, they got better at using the environment for human
The Harappan civilization was affected by its geography in
other ways. The Himalaya sit on an unstable geographical
break between Asia and India, where earthquakes are
common. There is evidence that somewhere close to the end
of the Harappan civilization, the Indus River changed its
course. Severe flooding followed. It is possible that an
earthquake caused this change in the river and many Indus
Valley cities were destroyed.
There also may have been changes in the pattern of the
monsoons. These changes may have caused a drought that
lasted hundreds of years. Between these two events—flooding
and drought—little would be left of this early culture.
India’s three most important major rivers are the Ganges, the Indus and the Brahmaputra.
The large cities of the Indus Valley civilization featured homes made mostly of brick.
Earthquakes and floods are the natural disasters that most possibly caused the people of the Indus Valley to begin to abandon their cities and villages.
The Aryans were a nomadic people that entered the Indus River valley around 1500 B.C.
In India’s caste system, the Kshatriyas class contained the warriors and rulers.
A caste- a social group that one is born into and cannot change
Raja-. the prince or leader of an Aryan tribe
Himalaya-mountain range blocking Indian subcontinent from Asia
Sanskrit-the written language developed in Aryan village
Monsoons- strong seasonal winds that have a large influence on India’s climate
Subcontinent- A large landmass that is smaller than a continent
Vaisyas-common people or middle class
LESSON 2: RELIGIONS OF ANCIENT INDIA
The sacred texts of Hinduism are the Vedas and the
Upanishads, writings of Sanskrit prayers and ceremonies.
• The basic beliefs of Hinduism include: a single spirit called
Brahman encompasses all living things; the ultimate goal is
union with Brahman; this union is accomplished by creating
good karma (actions) in each reincarnation of the soul.
• Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, a wealthy
prince who left his possessions to find enlightenment and
the end of suffering.
• Siddhartha’s teachings, stated in the Four Noble Truths and
the Eightfold Path, include: eliminating desire will eliminate
suffering, and meditation and giving up material things help
bring about enlightenment.
• There are two divisions of Buddhism. Theravada Buddhists
follow Buddha’s teachings, but do not believe that he was a
god. Mahayana Buddhists believe that worshipping the
Buddha helps them follow the Eightfold Path.
• Jainism was founded by Mahavira, who was called the Jina.
The main belief of the Jains, ahimsa, is that all life is sacred
and that followers must never take even an insect’s life. Like
the Buddhists, they believe in the elimination of desire.
• The teaching of ahimsa influenced twentieth-century Indian
patriot Mahatma Gandhi to seek freedom from British rule
through peaceful protest.
LESSON 3: THE MAURYAN EMPIRE
• Chandra Gupta Maurya unified northern India through
military might and established the Mauryan Empire. As a
ruler, he was well organized. He was also harsh, fearing
rebellion and harm to himself.
• Ashoka is considered the greatest Mauryan leader. Although
he began his reign with conquests, he turned to peaceful
rule when he converted to Buddhism. He worked to improve
the lives of his people. He set up carved pillars around the
empire with advice and sayings meant to inspire peaceful
and respectful living. He also built stupas (shrines) to
encourage Buddhist practice.
• Five hundred years after the fall of the Mauryan Empire, the
Indian people were again united under the Gupta dynasty.
Samudra Gupta, son of the first emperor of the Gupta
dynasty, Chandra Gupta, led the people into a golden age
under the Hindu religion. Religious temples, art, and
literature developed during this time, as did trade. Pilgrims
often traveled to temples and sacred sites.
• Gupta society was quite advanced. Literature in Sanskrit,
including religious texts and epic poems, was written.
Architecture consisted of religious structures, temples,
palaces, shrines, and monuments. Indian mathematicians
invented a symbol for zero, and they developed the written
number system we still use today. Their system of
astronomy was based on the idea of a round Earth revolving
around the sun. Medical doctors performed surgery and
tried to find the causes of illnesses.
1. The Indian subcontinent is part of the continent of Asia.
2. Most Indus Valley people lived in farming villages.
3. Mahayana Buddism spread to the country of China.
4. Mahavira developed the current form of Jainism.
5. Ashoka was the first ruler to promote Buddism.
6. The Gupta Empire thrived through the trade of goods such as iron.
7. Hindu epics taught correct and acceptable behavior through interesting stories.
8. Many people in early India accept the Buddha’s message because Buddhism did not accept the caste system. It believed that even Untouchables and Indians could achieve enlightenment. It also provide da path toward breaking the unending chain of reincarnation and suffering.
9. The most powerful varnas were the Brahmins and Kshatriyas.\
10. The Buddha followed some Hindu ideas and changed others, but he did not consider himself to be a god.
11. In the Theravada Buddhism, Buddha is not considered a god.
12. During Ashoka’s time as ruler he became very peaceful and decided to follow the Buddhists teachings.
13. Like the Ancient Greeks, Indian astronomers proposed the theory that the Earth was round and revolved around the sun.
14. India’s caste system affected people’s lives in many ways. People remained in the caste system for life. These castes determined the jobs that people could have. Small groups within the caste system had strict rules for diet and social customs. Castes also affected who people could marry and determined how successful they could be.
15. After Ashoka’s death the Mauryan Empire declined because the rulers that followed Ashoka treated merchants and peasants poorly. The Indian people rebelled against this harsh treatment. The Mauryan Empire eventually split into many small, warring kingdoms.
16. Siddhartha Gautama became known as the Buddha.
17. The Dalai Lama is the Buddhist leader that acts as the head of Tibet’s government.
18. Stuppas are domed-like structures that contained religious objects and served as places of worship.