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Chapter 5…Ancient India


Chapter 5 Vocabulary

  1. Subcontinent – a large landmass that is similar to a continent

  2. Monsoons – seasonal wind patterns that cause wet and dry seasons

  3. Sanskrit – the most important language of ancient India

  4. Caste System – divided groups of Indian society that was based on a person’s birth, wealth, or occupation

  5. Hinduism – the largest religion in India today

  6. Reincarnation – the process of rebirth

  7. Karma – the effects that good or bad actions have on a person’s soul

  8. Jainism –religion based on the teachings of a man named Mahavira

  9. Nonviolence – the avoidance of violent actions

  10. Fasting – going without food

  11. Meditation – the focusing of the mind on spiritual ideas

  12. The Buddha – a man named Siddhartha Gautama; means the “enlightened one”

  13. Buddhism – a religion based on the teachings of the Buddha

  14. Nirvana – a state of perfect peace

  15. Missionaries – people who work to spread their religious beliefs

  16. Candragupta Maurya – a military leader in the 320s BC who founded the Mauryan Empire

  17. Asoka – Emperor of Mauryan Empire around 270 BC

  18. Candra Gupta II – became Emperor of India in 375

  19. Metallurgy – science of working with metals

  20. Alloys – mixtures of two or more metals

  21. Hindu-Arabic Numerals – numbers created by Indian scholars; still used today

  22. Inoculation – injecting a person with a small dose of a virus to help him or her build up defenses to a disease

  23. Astronomy – the study of stars and planets

  24. Establish – to set up or create

  25. Process – a series of steps by which a task is accomplished


Section 1: Geography and Early India

Geography of India

Landforms and Rivers

  • India is called a subcontinent because it is so big and is separated from the rest of the continent by physical features like mountains.

  • The Himalayas are in northern India and are the highest mountains in the world.

  • Must of India is fertile plains and rugged plateaus.

  • The first civilization, the Indus, was in the valley leading from the Himalayas; located in Pakistan today.


  • Most of India is hot and humid, especially during winter.

  • Climate is influenced by monsoons.

  • Monsoons are in the summer and bring heavy rains and flooding; some areas get 100 to 200 inches of rain during a season.

Harappan Civilization

  • Located in the Indus River Valley.

  • Grew as irrigation and agriculture improved.

  • Surplus of food led to towns and cities.

India’s First Cities

  • Harappan civilization was named after the city of Harappa, Pakistan, where ruins were discovered.

  • Thrived between 2300 and 1700 BC.

  • Had 2 large cities: Harappa and Mohenjo Daro; both on the Indus River about 300 miles apart.

  • Both had a fortress, brick streets, storehouses, workshops, market stalls, and houses; also public wells.

Harappan Achievements

  • Very advanced civilization; bathrooms with indoor plumbing, excellent artisans with high quality tools, developed system of weights and measures.

  • Developed India’s first writing system; not yet able to read it

  • Possibly had kings and strong central governments; king may have been worship like a god

  • Ended by early 1700s BC, cause unknown

Aryan Invasion

  • Took power in Indus Valley after Harappan fell.

Invaders from the West

  • Skilled warriors, using advanced weapons and chariots

  • Took control of entire Indus Valley

  • Most info comes from Vedas, religious writings like poems, hymns, myths, and rituals written by priests.

Government and Society

  • Were nomads who, over time, settled into villages and farmed.

  • Villages based on family ties with one group leader, no single ruling authority for all.

  • Leaders were called rajas; they often fought each other.


  • Didn’t originally read or write so memorized poems and hymns ,like the Vedas.

  • Spoken language was Sanskrit. Became root of many languages today.

Section 2: Origins of Hinduism

Indian Society Divides

The Varnas (or social hierarchy)

  • 4 main varnas: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (rulers and warriors), Vaisyas (farmers, craftspeople, and traders), and Sudras (laborers and non-Aryans)

  • Strict interaction rules!

The Caste System

  • Each varnas divided into castes based on person’s birth, wealth, or occupation.

  • Castes rose and fell in popularity.

Caste Rules

  • Developed sutras (guides) which listed rules for caste system; very strict.

  • Rule breakers could be banned and become untouchables.


The Vedas

  • Aryan religion based on Vedas, each has poems and hymns.

  • Oldest Veda is Rigveda, written before 1000 BC.

Later Vedic Texts

  • Texts are thoughts of Brahmins about the Vedas.

  • Oldest Veda is Rigveda, written before 1000 BC.

Hinduism Develops

Hindu Beliefs

  • Polytheistic: 3 major gods: Brahma the Creator, Siva the Destroyer, and Vishnu the Preserver

  • All are part of single universal spirit called Brahman

Life and Rebirth

  • Hindu teaches that everyone has a soul that makes them who they are.

  • Believe that the soul will reunite with Brahman.

  • Believe that the world is an illusion and may take several lifetimes to see through the illusion.

Hinduism and the Caste system

  • Reborn into new physical form; form based on karma.

  • Good karma leads to rebirth in higher caste…leads to salvation or Moksha.

  • Teaches that one should accept place in the world without complaint; obeying one’s Dharma.

Hinduism and Women

  • Teaches that women could reach salvation but women were inferior to men.

  • Not allowed to read Vedas or other sacred texts.

Jains React to Hinduism

  • Not everyone agreed with Hinduism.

  • Based on teachings of Mahavira (born about 599 BC) …was a monk and established Jainism.

  • 4 Principles: Injure no life, Tell the truth, Do not steal, and Own no property.

  • Practiced non-violence of any life (human, bug, plant, animal, etc.)

  • Vegetarians

Section 3: Origins of Buddhism

Siddhartha’s Search for Wisdom

The Quest for Answers

  • Siddhartha Gautama, born about 563 BC, was a prince (warrior class)

  • Saw others suffering and struggling/ pain in the world

  • Left home to look for answers about meaning of life.

The Buddha finds Enlightenment

  • Spent time searching for answers in various ways: fasting, meditations, etc.

  • Sat under a tree near Gaya and meditated for 7 weeks

  • His realization: suffering comes from 3 things: wanting what we like but don’t have, wanting to keep what we have and like, and not wanting what we dislike but have.

  • 7 more weeks of meditation (Tree of Wisdom) then spoke to companions (First Sermon)

  • From this point on, he is called the Buddha or “Enlightened One”

Teachings of Buddhism

Four Noble Truths

  • Suffering and unhappiness are apart of human life. No one can escape sorrow.

  • Suffering comes from our desires for pleasure and material goods. People cause their own misery because they want things they cannot have.

  • People can overcome desire and ignorance to reach nirvana. Nirvana frees the soul from suffering and the need for further reincarnation.

  • People can overcome ignorance and desire by following an eightfold path.

    • Right Thought-Believe in the Four Noble Truths

    • Right Intent-Think of kindness, compassion and non-violence,

    • Right Speech-Avoid lies and gossip; say the truth and praise others.

    • Right Action-Respect and love others; Don’t steal, kill, act selfishly.

    • Right Livelihood-Make a living in a way that doesn’t harm others.

    • Right Effort-Embrace good and prevent evil.

    • Right Mindfulness-Be responsible for oneself and the environment; control your feelings and thoughts.

    • Right Concentration-Focus and practice meditation.

Challenging Hindu Ideas

  • Rejected animal sacrifice.

  • Challenged authority of Hindu priests.

  • Opposed the caste system; won much support for this.

  • Empowered people to change their lives.

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