Classical civilization India summary and study guide




Classical civilization India summary and study guide


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Classical civilization India summary and study guide

Chapter 3, Classical Civilization: India


The oldest and most impressive civilizations of ancient India we know little beyond the archeological evidence.  The exotic picture writing remains largely undecipherable.  The Maurya and Gupta Empires were inheritors of the Aryan cast system.  They expanded the cast system and promoted Buddhism to give their empires a loose control of India.

Key Concepts:

The Framework for Indian History: Geography and a Formative Period:

  • Geography (including the mountainous northern region and agricultural regions along the Indus and Ganges rivers) and climate were major influences on Indian civilization.
  • The Aryan culture, which dominated India after the fall of the Indus River Valley civilization, also played a formative role.  Among other things, the Aryans brought the rudiments of the caste system.
  • The Vedas, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Upanishads formed the basis of a great Aryan literary tradition.


Patterns in Classical India:

  • Two major empires formed at the crucial periods in classical Indian history, the Mauryan and, later, the Gupta.
  • The Greek conquest of the Indus and the exchange of ideas with the Mediterranean basin and southwest Asia influenced the rise of the Mauryan dynasty.
  • Chandragupta Maurya was the first Mauryan ruler, and Ashoka the greatest.  Ashoka expanded the empire and promoted Buddhism.
  • The Guptas arose after a period of nomadic invasions, and created along period of political stability.


Political Institutions:

  • Regionalism and political diversity dominated classical Indian political life, so central authority was relatively weak.
  • The increasingly complex caste system promoted public order the way more conventional government structures did in many other cultures.


Religion and Culture:

  • Hinduism and Buddhims were integral parts of classical Indian life.  They had great influence on the arts and sciences, and both tended to promote religious tolerance.
  • Hinduism is a polytheistic faith that gradually became more complex.  It stresses reincarnation, the shallowness of worldly concerns, and dharma, the moral path.
  • Buddhism founded by Siddhartha Gautama in the 6th century B.C.E., scorned caste and the material world in favor of self control and the Eightfold Path to nirvana.
  • By the last centuries B.C.E., the Indian civilization developed a written language, built cities, and produced art and literature, and nurtured two of the great world religions.  Artistic patterns linked to religion and a significant scientific tradition developed.

Economy and Society:

  • Dominated by the caste system, India developed extensive internal commercial and international maritime trade.  However, India’s economy remained essentially agricultural.
  • Family life combined patriarchy with an emphasis on mutual emotional support.


Indian Influence:

  • Classical India had an enormous effect on other parts of the world.  India emerged as the center of a Eurasian trade system, a source of great wealth and a means of exporting Indian culture abroad.


China and India:

  • China and India offer important contrasts in political emphases, social systems, and cultures.
  • They also resembled each other in seeking to build stable structures over large areas and in using culture to justify social inequality.


Key Terms:

  • Alexander the Great:


  • Aryans:
  • Maurya dynasty:


  • Ashoka:
  • Gupta:


  • Caste system:
  • Untouchables:


  • Hinduism:
  • Sanskrit:


  • Upanishads:
  • Dharma:


  • Vishnu and Shiva:
  • Buddhism:


  • Panchatantra:
  • Tamils:


  • Buddha:
  • Himalayas:


  • Vedas:
  • Mahabharata and Ramayana:


  • Varnas:
  • Jati:


  • Indra:
  • Gurus:


  • Chandragupta Maurya:
  • Kushans:


  • Karma:
  • Sanskrit:


  • Brahma:
  • Hindu Kush:


  • Kautilya:
  • Gurus:


  • Brahma:
  • Reincarnation:


  • Yoga:
  • Bhagavad Gita:


  • Nirvana:
  • Stupas:


Chapter 3, Quiz Questions

1) Which of the following does NOT help explain why India was invaded more often than China?
A) Geographical position
B) Hostility to warfare
C) Regional diversities
D) Political tradition
E) Greater contact with other societies

2) The Aryan conquerors brought to India
A) its first civilization.
B) distinctive religious ideas.
C) admiration for India's earlier inhabitants.
D) new agricultural techniques.
E) political democracy.

3) The Mauryan dynasty differed from the Gupta dynasty in that
A) it was imposed by conquerors from Greece.
B) it ruled a larger territory.
C) it attacked Buddhist beliefs.
D) it refused to develop a strong army.
E) Mauryan rulers opposed the caste system.

4) India's political tradition
A) involved the renunciation of violence and warfare.
B) stressed the importance of regional and local units.
C) emphasized the emperor as Son of Heaven.
D) insisted on religious uniformity.
E) required frequent wars of expansion.

5) The Indian caste system served to an extent as a political institution by
A) enforcing rules about social behavior.
B) unifying the subcontinent under a single government.
C) creating widespread interest in constitutional issues.
D) promoting a belief in individual rights.
E) causing unrest and rebellion.

6) Confucian and Hindu values both
A) focused attention on the afterlife.
B) helped justify and preserve social inequality.
C) urged the importance of political activity.
D) tried to outlaw war.
E) resulted in the building of magnificent temples.

7) Hindu ethics involved
A) a detailed set of prohibitions on sexual activity.
B) emphasis on an individual carrying out the obligations of life.
C) attack on all opposing religious faiths.
D) condemnations of money-making.
E) finding ultimate happiness.

8) Hinduism urged that
A) withdrawal from the world was the only path to holiness.
B) Brahmins would automatically gain nirvana after death.
C) all living creatures participated in the divine essence.
D) worship of nature's spirits and images was blasphemous.
E) monotheism was superior to polytheism.

9) Buddhism differed from Hinduism by not believing
A) in the caste system.
B) in holy leaders.
C) in nirvana.
D) in the importance of moral obligations.
E) in spreading the faith.

10) Nirvana meant
A) full union with the divine essence.
B) reincarnation in a higher caste after a good life.
C) the Hindu holy book.
D) obedience to the rules of the caste system.
E) acquiring earthly wealth.

11) Which of the following does NOT describe important features of Indian art?
A) Lively color
B) Linked to religious beliefs
C) Opposed to the use of animal figures
D) Influenced by styles from other cultures
E) Showed human figures

12) Nalanda became famous for
A) being the first capital of the Gupta Empire.
B) its university that attracted students from all over Asia.
C) being the site where Buddha became enlightened.
D) site of battle between Alexander the Great and the Guptas.
E) being the birthplace of Ashoka and his capital.

13) India's trading network involved direct contact with all of the following EXCEPT
A) Southeast Asia.
B) the Middle East.
C) China.
D) Russia.
E) central Asia.

14) Compared to China, Indian social and economic structure
A) showed greater interest in technological innovation.
B) made it easier for a peasant to rise to higher status.
C) relied on conquest of foreign territories.
D) gave a stronger role to merchants.
E) tended to discourage commerce.

15) Compared to China, India
A) lacked regional diversity and was more centralized.
B) had greater contact with other societies and civilizations.
C) had a more flexible social structure that gave a greater role for women.
D) was more secular in outlook with a focus on commercial values.
E) had much more recent origins due to the invasion of the Aryans.

16) In the classical period, both China and India
A) showed considerable tolerance for different religions.
B) attempted to conquer the most territory possible.
C) developed a lasting tradition of strong, centralized government.
D) welcomed influences from other cultures.
E) created cultural traditions which rapidly died off.

17) In contrast to China, the social values that developed in classical India
A) promoted considerable equality between men and women.
B) encouraged greater emotional spontaneity.
C) urged that children not be required to work.
D) discouraged scientific research.
E) led to great political expansion.

Essay Questions:
Classical Civilization: India

  1. Why did the caste system develop and how was it perpetuated?


  1. What were the chief differences between Buddhism and the developing Hindu tradition?
  1. What differences between Indian and Chinese geography help explain differences in social and cultural patterns?


  1. Which society, Gupta India or Han China, was more successful?
  1. How did the Indian caste system differ from the organization of Chinese society?


  1. Compare the political implications of Hinduism and Confucianism.  How does each belief system help explain the political history of its native society in the classical period?
  1. Compare the social and family structures of India and China in the classical period.  What are the main differences?  The main similarities?


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