Classical India HIST 1110
University of Memphis
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Date Created: 03/14/16
Chapter 7 Classical India India Before the Mauryan Dynasty • In 527 BCE, Persian Emperor Darius conquered northwestern India, the kingdom of Gandhara in the northern Punjab. • Introduced Persian techniques of administration. • In 327 BCE, Alexander the Great destroys Persian Empire in India. • Two years later, 325, his troops mutiny, and the Macedonians depart, leaving political vacuum. Kingdom of Magadha • Located in the central Ganges plain, kingdom of Magadha stepped into this vacuum, providing framework for India’s ﬁrst empire. • Its economic strength from extensive agriculture and trade in Ganges valley and Bay of Bengal. • Dominated regions nearby in northeastern India. Chandragupta Maurya (321 BCE) • Founding ruler of the Mauryan Dynasty (321-185 BCE), Chandragupta consolidated his control over northern India, from the Indus to the Ganges. • Overthrew Magadha rulers and created ﬁrst uniﬁed Indian empire. • As in Persia, Chandragupta centralized his administration, relying on ofﬁcials appointed by him and using network of spies. • First to build a bureaucratic administration in India. Ashoka Maurya • As grandson of Chandragupta, Ashoka became emperor in 297 BCE. • High point of Mauryan Empire, 268-232 BCE. • Expanded empire to include all of Indian subcontinent with exception of south. • In 260 BCE, led successful, but bloody campaign against the kingdom of Kalinga to the east. • As result of bloodshed, Ashoka became a Buddhist and actively sponsored new religion. Ashoka’s Rule • Further centralized administration by displaying law in public. • Extended number of ofﬁcials and military personnel, paid out of royal treasury (taxation). • Capital established at Pataliputra, a cosmopolitan city linked by roads to other commercial centers of India and beyond (Bactria, Persia, up to Mediterranean). • After his death, empire faced decline as expenses outstripped revenues. • By 185 BCE, empire dissolved as regions abandoned Mauryan allegiance. Gupta Dynasty (320-550 CE) • Like the Mauryan, this empire based its power in kingdom of Magadha, with Pataliputra as capital. • Unlike Mauryan, the Gupta Dynasty left local government and administration in hands of allies, who ruled separate regions, as in imperial China. • Slightly smaller in geographical size than Mauryan Empire. Decline of Gupta Dynasty • Series of invasions by White Huns, a nomadic people from Central Asia occupying Bactria during the 4th century CE. • Gupta empire split along regional fault-lines of allied kingdoms, each of whom looked after their own affairs. • Smaller local kingdoms characterize Indian civilization until the Mughal Empire of the sixteenth century CE (1500s). Imperial Indian Economy • Trade and towns spread to Ganges region. • Towns had own bustling marketplaces, stocked with agricultural and manufactured goods, brought along road networks. • India established trade with Mediterranean through Bactria, Persia, and Anatolia, from contacts with Persians and Greeks. Imperial Indian Economy • The Silk Roads established trade with China, where India exchanged cotton, black pepper, incense, gems, and pearls for Chinese silk. • In the Mediterranean, these goods were exchanged for horses and silver bullion (for coinage). • Trade was also established in the Indian Ocean basin with southeast Asian mainland and the “spice islands” of Indonesia. • This trade facilitated by use of seasonal monsoon winds (sping-summer: from southwest; fall-winter: from northeast). Imperial Indian Society • This increase in trade, based on agricultural surpluses, led to expansion in number of merchants, artisans, and craftsmen. • Wealth of rich peasants increased rapidly. • New orders of peoples began to strain prevailing caste system, with emphasis shifting to occupational jati. • Fueled increasing dissatisfaction with Vedic religious tradition and ritual roles of Brahmins, increasingly suspected of corruption--fees from sacriﬁcial functions. New Indian Religions • Beginning in early seventh century BCE, Jainism became popular through teachings of Vardhamana Mahavira, 540-468 BCE. • Stressed ascetic detachment from world as means to enlightenment. • Took on disciples and began monastic order, stressing that all things have a soul, life principle (jiva), which should not be violated by unnecessary violence. Jainism • Jains stress the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence. • Demanded a strict vegetarian diet and rituals to avoid harming insects and other unseen creatures. • Avoidance of physical comfort, even to point of not wearing clothes; toughening the body (immune system) through exposure to elements. • Had little appeal for most people because of demands of asceticism and retirement from the world. Buddhism • Developed by Siddhartha Gautama, of the Sakya clan (“Sakyamuni Buddha”), 563-483 BCE. • Siddhartha born of warrior caste; son of a king of small province, in Ganges River basin in northeastern India (southern Nepal); kingdom paid tribute to rulers of Magadha kingdom. Life of the Buddha • At age 29, Siddhartha (“He who achieves his goal”) began to travel beyond gates of palace, against wishes of father, where he encountered for ﬁrst time, on four separate occasions, an old man, a sick person, a corpse, and a monk (ascetic). • On last occasion, he decided to give up his throne and his family and devote his life to achieving liberation from life’s suffering through ascetic practices. Life of the Buddha • After six years of asceticism, Siddhartha discovered that he would not attain enlightenment, or liberation from suffering, by asceticism. • Determined to sit under a bodhi (or Banyan) tree and meditated for 40 days/ nights, vowing not to get up until he had achieved enlightenment. • After being tempted several times by Mara, the divine king of earthly pleasures, he achieved nirvana, the state beyond all desire (including the Self, or atman), becoming the “Buddha” (“the Enlightened One”). Life of the Buddha • After enlightenment, the Buddha gave his ﬁrst speech at the Deer Park outside Varanasi (Banares), where he assumed his role as teacher of the dharma (“that which holds one back from falling into suffering”), through the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path (the “First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma”). • For rest of his life, the Buddha traveled with a group of disciples, teaching and establishing monastic communities of monks/nuns (called bhikshu), who wore saffron robes, shaved their heads, and begged meals from neighboring villages. Four Noble Truths • Life is suffering; the principle of impermanence (anitya). • The cause of suffering is desire (hatred, ignorance); based on belief of an enduring Self (atman), which is an illusion and the source of misdeeds. • To end suffering, one must end desire; nirvana is this state beyond desire, where desire ceases. • One can end desire by following the Eight-fold Path (principles of ethics, meditation, and wisdom). Eight-fold Path • Whole action, whole speech, whole thought, whole purpose, whole meditation, whole occupation, whole effort, whole concentration. • Ethics-restraint of non-virtuous deeds of body/speech/mind. • Meditation-Attaining sufﬁcient concentration where mind becomes pliant tool to cut through illusion of Self. • Wisdom-insight that there is no Self, ending accumulation of karmic residue, escape from cycle of birth/death called samsara. No more incarnations. Major Buddhist Traditions • Buddhism splintering into two main groups, the Theravada (or Hinayana, “Lesser Vehicle”) and the Mahayana (or “Greater Vehicle”). • Theravada maintained the orthodox tradition of attaining enlightenment through many rebirths and after a long period of monastic life. • Mahayana opened enlightenment to laity (non-monastics) through the role of the Bodhisattva (enlightened Being) who vowed not to enter ﬁnal nirvana (parinirvana), until a certain number of beings had attained the Path. Major Buddhist Traditions • The Theravada tradition established in southeast Asia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Burma. • The Mahayana established in Tibet, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. • Spread by traveling monks from India. Popular Hinduism • Composition of major Hindu epics from older oral tradition • Mahabharata and Ramayana • Emphasis on the god Vishnu and his incarnations as Krishna and Lord Rama (with consort, Sita). • Central text, Bhagavad Gita (“Song of the Lord”). • Dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna during war between Pandavas and Kauravas. Hindu Ethics • Emphasis on meeting caste obligations (dharma). • Pursuit of economic well-being and honesty (artha). • Enjoyment of social, physical, and sexual pleasure (kama). • Salvation of the soul (moksha). • Hinduism gradually replaced Buddhism in India. • Gupta Dynasty gave this new devotional Hinduism considerable support.
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