Guess the Test #7 Name: ____________________
Find these terms and names in the reading and define them. The Indus River
The Himalaya and Hindu Kush
Harappa and Mohenjo Daro
Essay questions: Write 5 good sentences for each:
1. Explain how geography and weather helped people thrive in India.
2. Discuss the earliest civilization in the Indus Valley
3. Describe the Vedic period in Indian history:
4. Summarize the events and leaders of the Mauryan Empire:
5. Mention two key pieces of info about the Gupta Empire
One of the ancient world’s great river valley civilizations originated along the Indus River. This river flows across the northwestern edge of the Indian subcontinent, a large landmass that is part of the Asian continent. The Indian subcontinent is divided into 3 geographic zones. In the far north, the Himalaya and Hindu Kush mountains separate India from the rest of Asia. The Northern Plains cover the middle of the subcontinent, where society first developed in India. This area is covered by rich soil deposited by floods from the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra rivers. The southern part of the Indian subcontinent is the high, flat, and dry Deccan Plateau.
In the Northern Plains summer winds called monsoons bring warm air from the Indian Ocean which causes most of the annual rainfall. In the winter, northeast monsoons blow cool, dry air from Central Asia.
India’s first civilizations depended on the monsoons to bring rain which flooded rivers, leaving behind fertile soil for excellent farming conditions. However, monsoons could also destroy crops and homes. If rains came too late or were not heavy enough, crops would not grow. If that happened, famine became a threat.
EARLY INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
People have lived in the northern parts of the India for thousands of years. The first were hunter-gatherers. Later, in the Indus river valley, farming communities grew into India’s first civilization. Historians believe this started around 2500 BC, when people there developed a system of writing that we still haven’t been able to translate.
Ruins of this civilization were discovered in the 1920s when archaeologists found the remains of two large cities: Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, as well as those of hundreds of smaller towns
. The cities were planned and laid out carefully, suggesting that a strong central authority was in power. Streets ran in a grid pattern and people shared wells and a drainage system. In the largest cities, a walled, elevated citadel - or fortress - protected government buildings. Homes, workshops, and shrines were built outside the citadel’s walls.
The economy of the Indus civilization focused on agriculture and trade. Most people farmed and herded livestock. Others made pottery,
metalwork, and jewelry. Trade took place with nearby communities and distant peoples.
The Indus Valley civilization thrived from about 2500 BC to 2000 BC. Repeated flooding, the disappearance of a river that ran through the valley, invasion, and disease may have been factors in the decline of the civilization.
After 2000 BC, a group known as the Aryans entered India and established their authority. The word Aryan comes from a Sanskrit (the ancient Indian language) word meaning “noble.” We don’t know where they came from, but we do know that Aryans were light-skinned, probably with blue eyes and red or blond hair. Much of what is known about Aryan history and society comes from their sacred writings: the Vedas.
According to the Vedas, people lived in groups of villages that banded together under regional leaders known as rajas, who protected them in exchange for food or money.
Vedic society had four social classes called varnas. The highest was for highly educated scholars and priests; warriors and administrators belonged to the 2nd class. The 3rd varna was for farmers, tradesmen and shopkeepers. Unskilled laborers were the
lowest class. Later, the varnas were divided into hundreds of smaller groups called castes. A person’s caste determined what job they could hold and whom they could marry.
People in Vedic society prayed to many aspects of a single eternal spirit. The Vedas describe fire sacrifices and the chanting of sacred hymns. Over time, the religious rituals became more complicated and the priests became powerful.
THE MAURYAN EMPIRE
By the 300s BC, India was filled with small, independent kingdoms. Around 321 BC, a military leader named Chandragupta Maurya seized a northeast Indian kingdom. This launched the Mauryan Empire, India’s first empire. With an army of some 600,000 men aided by chariots and war elephants, Chandragupta conquered more kingdoms. By 303 BC, the Mauryan Empire controlled northern India and much of what is now Afghanistan.
To secure his power and crush resistance, Chandragupta established a strong, centralized government. He used spies and
assassins to maintain power and control. Chandragupta set up districts run by a loyal supporters and a secret spy society to root out
threats to the state. The government also controlled the economy. It taxed the farmers and made them pay rent for the government land they used to grow crops and raise animals.
Although his reign brought prosperity, low crime, and a capital with fantastic palaces, temples, and parks, Chandragupta gave up his
throne in 301 BC to become a monk.
Chandragupta’s grandson Ashoka became one of India’s greatest rulers after he took the throne in 270 BC. Ashoka continued to expand the Indian empire to the south. However, after a particularly brutal military campaign, Ashoka converted to Buddhism. He adopted a policy of nonviolence, turning his efforts from military conquest to improving the lives of his subjects. He dug wells, made travel better, and urged people to practice Buddhism. Bollywood – India’s version of Hollywood – has made several movies about Ashoka, who is revered as a hero in Indian history. Sorry, the movies are too violent to show in class! (I checked!)
After Ashoka died in 232 BC, his sons battled for power as invaders threatened the empire. Control weakened as distant provinces slipped away. The last Mauryan emperor was killed in 184 BC by one of his own generals, ending an empire that lasted 140 years.
It was not until the 320s after Christ that India was again united as a single empire by the Gupta emperors. Chandra Gupta I invaded and conquered his neighbor’s lands, eventually bringing much of northern India under his control.
Chandra Gupta I’s heirs further expanded the empire to the east, west, and south. The Gupta Empire reached its height under Chandra Gupta I’s grandson, Chandra Gupta II. His reign was a period of cultural achievement in India. The people of the empire were rich and prosperous, punishments were fair and the government did not use capital punishment.
Under the Guptas, Hinduism became the main religion in India. The Gupta rulers supported the building of Hindu temples and promoted a revival of Hindu writings.
Gupta rule remained strong until the late 400s when nomads invaded from Central Asia. By the mid-500s after Christ, the Gupta dynasty ended and India again divided into small kingdoms.