Centre for Traditional Education

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

History of India

History of India

The History of India can be traced in fragments to as far back as 700,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, one of the oldest in the world, dates back at least 5,000 years.
According to the Indo-Aryan migration hypothesis, the Aryans, a nomadic people, possibly from Central Asia or northern Iran migrated into the north-west regions of the Indian subcontinent between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE.
Their inter-mingling with the earlier Dravidian cultures apparently resulted in classical Indian culture as we know today.
The births of Mahavira and Buddha around 550 BCE mark the beginning of well-recorded Indian history.
For the next 1500 years, India produced its classical civilisation, and is estimated to have had the largest economy of the ancient world between the 1st and 15th centuries AD, controlling between one third and one fourth of the world's wealth up to the time of the Mughals, from whence it rapidly declined during European rule.
Incursions by Arab and Central Asian armies in the 8th and 12th centuries were followed by inroads by traders from Europe, beginning in the late 15th century. By the middle of the 19th century (1858), the British Crown had assumed political control over virtually all of India. Indian armed forces in the British army played a vital role in both the World Wars.
Nonviolent resistance to British colonialism led, by Mohandas Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru brought independence in 1947. The subcontinent was partitioned into the Secular Democratic Republic of India and the smaller Islamic Republic of Pakistan. A war between the two countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. In the 21st century, India has made impressive gains in economic investment and output, and stands as the world's largest democracy with a population exceeding 1 billion, is self sufficient in terms of food, and is a fast-growing, economically strong country.
Human civilizations in India are some of the earliest recorded, and were equal contemporaries of civilizations in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. India's history essentially includes all of the Indian subcontinent, including the more recent nations of Pakistan and Bangladesh. India is also inalienably linked with the history and heritage of the other geographically South Asian nations like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, and India's culture, economy and politics has influenced, and has been influenced in turn, by the history and culture of the nations in South East Asia, East Asia and Central Asia, such as Bali, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, China, Tibet, Persia and Afghanistan, over thousands of years.
After Arab incursions into India during the early part of the 2nd Millenium AD, similar quests for access to India's fabled wealth strongly influenced the history of medieval Europe, after the landing of Vasco Da Gama. Christopher Columbus discovered America whilst seaching for a new route to India, and the British Empire gained much of its resources after the incorporation of India as the 'Jewel in the Crown', from the 1700s to 1947.

The Paleolithic Era
Isolated remains of Homo Erectus in Hathnora in the Narmada Valley in Central India indicate that India might have been inhabited since atleast the Middle Pleistocene era [1]. The precise date of these remains is unclear, and archaeologists put it anywhere between 200,000 to 500,000 years [2]. The fossils are the earliest human remains found in South Asia. Recent finds include a quarry along the Malaprabha and Ghataprabha rivers in the Kaladgi Basin in Karnataka. Modern humans seem to have settled the subcontinent towards the end of the last Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. The first confirmed permanent settlements appeared 9,000 years ago in Bhimbetka in modern Madhya Pradesh.

The Neolithic Era
The early Neolithic culture in South Asia is represented by the Mehrgarh culture which began in 7000 BC, now in Baluchistan, Pakistan. The Mehrgarh community were mostly pastoral, lived in mud houses, wove baskets and tended to goats and their farms. By 5500 BC, pottery began to appear and later chalcolithic implements began to appear. By 2000 BC, the settlement was abandoned.
Late Neolithic cultures sprang up in the Indus Valley region between 6000 BC and 2000 BC (see below), and in southern India between 2800 BC and 1200 BC.

The Bronze Age

Indus Valley Civilization

Indus Valley Seals
The transition of settlements from agricultural to complex urban communities, a salient feature of all late Neolithic and early Bronze Age cultures, occurred in the Indian subcontinent sometime between the early settlements at Mehrgarh and c. 3300 BC. This period marked the beginning of the earliest urban society in India, known as the Indus Valley Civilization (or, the Harappan Civilization), which thrived between 3300 BC and 1900 BC. It was centred along the Indus River and its tributaries, including the Ghaggar-Hakra River, and extended into the Ganges-Yamuna Doab, Gujarat, and northern Afghanistan.
The civilization is noted for its cities built of brick, road-side drainage system and multi-storeyed houses. The earliest historic references to India may be those to the Meluhha in Sumerian records, possibly referring to the Indus Valley civilization. When compared to the contemporary civilizations of Egypt and Sumeria, the Indus Civilization possessed unique urban planning techniques, covered the largest geographical area, and may have been a single state, as suggested by the amazing uniformity of its measurement systems.
The Mohenjo-daro ruins were once the centre of this ancient society. Indus Civilization settlements spread as far south as present-day Bombay, as far east as Delhi, as far west as the Iranian border, and as far north as the Himalayas. Among the settlements were the major urban centres of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, as well as Dholavira, Ganweriwala, Lothal, Kalibanga and Rakhigarhi. At its peak, some archaeologists opine that the Indus Civilization may have had a population of well over five million.
To date, over 2,500 cities and settlements have been found, mainly in the general region to the east of the Indus River in Pakistan along what is claimed by many to be the Saraswati River mentioned in the Vedas. It is thought by some that geological disturbances and climate change, leading to a gradual deforestization may ultimately have contributed to the civilization's downfall.
Archaeological resources suggest that the diverse geography of ancient India was increasing in the amount and specialization of faunal remains around 2400 to 1500 BC. This specialization suggests that the Indus Valley Civilizations were dependent upon the alluvial soils of the rivers, which produced high yield crops. By 2600 BC, the presence of a state level society is evident, complete with hierarchical rule and large scale public works. These include accomplishments such as irrigation, warehouses for grain, public streets, and brick-lined drainage systems for sanitation. Around the mid 2nd millennium BC, the region of the Indus River basin, in which approximately two-thirds of currently known sites were located dried up, and the sites were abandoned.

Vedic Civilization
The Vedic civilization is the Indo-Aryan culture associated with the Vedas, which are some of the oldest extant Indo-European texts, orally composed in Vedic Sanskrit. But this is a misconception for the simple reason that vedas were the earliest text that originated in India. The exact connection of the genesis of this civilization with the Indus Valley civilization on one hand, and a possible Indo-Aryan migration on the other hand, is the subject of disputes. Early Vedic society was largely pastoral. After the Rigveda, the society became increasingly agricultural, and was organized around four Varnas, or classes. Several small kingdoms and tribes merged to form a few large ones, such as the Kuru and Panchala, some of which were often at war with each other.
In addition to the principle texts of Hinduism, (the Vedas), the great Indian epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the latter of which constitutes the longest poem in the world after the Kyrgyz Manas, are said to have their ultimate origins during this period, from an oral tradition of unwritten Bardic recitation. The Bhagavad Gita, another primary text of Hinduism, is contained within the Mahabharata.
Early Indo-Aryan presence probably corresponds, in part, to Ochre Coloured Pottery, archaeologically. The kingdom of the Kurus marks flowering of the Vedic civilization, corresponding to the Black and Red Ware and the beginning of the Iron Age in Northwestern India begins, around 1000 BC, likely also contemporary with the composition of the Atharvaveda. Painted Grey Ware spread over much of Northern India marks the Middle Vedic period, followed by a wave of urbanization that occurred across the Indian sub-continent, from Afghanistan to Bengal, in the 6th century BC. A number of kingdoms and oligarchies, often called republics, emerged across the Indo-Gangetic plain and the northern part of South India during this period. 16 of them, called Mahajanapadas (great lands), are referred to in the ancient literature of the period.

By 500 BC, sixteen monarchies and 'republics' known as the Mahajanapadas stretched across the Indo-Gangetic plains from modern-day Afghanistan to Bangladesh. The largest of these nations were Magadha, Kosala, Kuru and Gandhara. The right of a king to his throne, no matter how it was gained, was usually legitimized through religious right and genealogies concocted by priests who ascribed divine origins to the rulers.
Hindu rituals at that time were complicated and conducted by the priestly class. It is thought that the Upanishads, late Vedic texts dealing mainly with incipient philosophy, were first composed early in this period. The educated speech at that time was Sanskrit, while the dialects of the general population of northern India were referred to as Prakrits. In 537 BC, Gautama Buddha gained enlightenment and founded Buddhism, which was initially intended as a supplement to the existing Vedic dharma. Around the same time period, in mid-6th century BC, Mahavira founded Jainism.
Both religions had a simple doctrine, and were preached in Prakrit, which helped it gain acceptance amongst the masses. While the geographic impact of Jainism was limited, Buddhist nuns and monks eventually spread the teachings of Buddha to Central Asia, East Asia, Tibet, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.

Achaemenid Empire

Much of the northwestern Indian Subcontinent (present day Eastern Afghanistan and most of Pakistan) was ruled by the Persian Achaemenid Empire from c. 520 BC during the reign of Darius the Great, up intil its conquest by Alexander the Great. Lands in present-day Punjab, the Indus river from the borders of Gandhara down to the Arabian Sea, and some other parts of the Indus plain, became a satrapy of Alexander's empire. According to Herodotus of Halicarnassus, it was the most populous and richest of all the twenty satrapies of the empire. Achaemenid rule lasted about 186 years. The Achaemenids used the Aramaic script for the Persian language. After the end of Achaemenid rule, the use of Aramaic in the Indus plain diminished, although we know from inscriptions from the time of Emperor Asoka that it was still in use two centuries later. Other scripts, such as Kharosthi (a script derived from Aramaic) and Greek became more common after the arrival of Alexander the Great.

Alexander the Great
The interaction between Hellenistic Greece and Buddhism began when Alexander the Great conquered Asia Minor and the Achaemenid Empire, reaching the north west frontiers of the Indian subcontinent in 334 BC. There, he defeated King Puru in the Battle of the Hydaspes (near modern-day Jhelum, Pakistan) and conquered much of the Punjab. However, Alexander's troops refused to go beyond the Beas river, and he was forced to march his army southwest.
Alexander created garrisons for his troops in his new territories, and founded several cities in the areas of the Oxus, Arachosia, and Bactria, and Macedonian/Greek settlements in Gandhara and the Punjab. The regions included the Khyber Pass - a geographical passageway south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush mountains - and the Bolan Pass, on a trade route connecting Drangiana, Arachosia and other Persian and Central Asian kingdoms to the lower Indus plain. It is through these regions that most of the interaction between South Asia and Central Asia took place, generating intense cultural exchange and trade.

Greco-Buddhist Period

Greco-Buddhism, sometimes spelled Gr¾co-Buddhism, is the cultural syncretism between the culture of Classical Greece and Buddhism, which developed over a period of close to 800 years in the area corresponding to modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, between the 4th century BC and the 5th century AD. Greco-Buddhism especially influenced the artistic development of Mahayana Buddhism, before it was adopted by Central and Northeastern Asia from the 1st century AD, ultimately spreading to China, Korea and Japan.

The Magadha Empire

Amongst the 16 Mahajanapadas, the kingdom of Magadha rose to prominence under a number of dynasties that peaked in power under the reign of Asoka Maurya, one of India's most legendary and famous emperors. The kingdom of Magadha had emerged as a major power following the subjugation of two neighboring kingdoms, and possessed an unparalleled military.

Shishunaga Dynasty
According to tradition, the Shishunaga dynasty founded the Magadha Empire in 684 BC, whose capital was Rajagriha, later Pataliputra, near the present day Patna. This dynasty lasted till 424 BC, when it was overthrown by the Nanda dynasty. This period saw the development of two of India's major religions. Gautama Buddha in the 6th or 5th century BC was the founder of Buddhism, which later spread to East Asia and South-East Asia, while Mahavira founded Jainism.

Nanda Dynasty
Nanda dynasty was established by an illegitimate son of the king Mahanandin of the previous Shishunaga dynasty. Mahapadma Nanda died at the age of 88 and, therefore, he ruled the bulk of the period of this dynasty, which lasted 100 years. The Nandas were followed by the Maurya dynasty.
The first Nanda, the Mahapadma Nanda has been described as the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas. He defeated Ikshvakus, Panchalas, Kasis, Harhayas, Kalingas, Asmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Surasenas, Vitihotras, etc.,. He expanded his territory till south of Deccan. The last of the Nandas was Dhana Nanda. Plutarch tells that Chandragupta Maurya had stated that Nanda was hated and despised by his subject on account of the wickedness of his disposition. The bloody fight between the Nandas and the Mauryas overthrew the dynasty of Nandas.
The Nandas who usurped the throne of the Shishunaga dynasty were of low origin. Some sources state that the founder, Mahapadma , was the son of a Shudra mother, others that he was born of a union of a barber with a courtesan. Nandas were the first of a number of dynasties of northern India who were of non-kshatriya origin.The Nandas are sometimes described as the first empire builders of India. They inherited the large kingdom of Magadha and wished to extend it to yet more distant frontiers. To this purpose they built up a vast army consisting of 20,000 cavalry, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots and 3,000 elephants. But the Nandas never had the opportunity to use this army against the Greeks, who invaded India at the time Dhana Nanda, since Alexander's campaign terminated in the Punjab.
The Nandas made the methodical collection of taxes by regularly appointed officials a part of their administrative system. The treasury was continually replenished, the wealth of the Nandas being well-known. The Nandas also built canals and carried out irrigation projects. The possibility of an imperial structure based on an essentially agrarian economy began to germinate in the Indian mind. But further development of the Nandas was cut short by Chandragupta Maurya and his mentor Chanakya. Chanakya dethroned Dhana Nanda in a battle of wits and replaced him with Chandragupta Maurya, a young adventurer. Dhana Nanda was murdered which finally signaled the advent of the Mauryan era in 321 B.C.

Maurya Dynasty
In 321 BC, exiled general Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya dynasty after overthrowing the reigning king Dhana Nanda to establish the Mauryan Empire. Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara, who expanded the kingdom over most of present day India, barring the extreme south and east. During this time, most of the subcontinent was united under a single government for the first time.
The kingdom was inherited by his son Ashoka The Great who initially sought to expand his kingdom. In the aftermath of the carnage caused in the invasion of Kalinga, he renounced bloodshed and pursued a policy of non-violence or ahimsa after converting to Buddhism. The Edicts of Ashoka are the oldest preserved historical documents of India, and from Ashoka's time, approximate dating of dynasties becomes possible. The Mauryan dynasty under Ashoka was responsible for the proliferation of Buddhist ideals across the whole of East Asia and South-East Asia, fundamentally altering the history and development of Asia as a whole. Ashoka the Great has been described as one of the greatest rulers the world has seen.

Shunga Dynasty
The Sunga dynasty ruled the Sunga empire of central and eastern India from 185 BCE to around 73 BCE. The last ruler of the Mauryan dynasty was Brhadrata. He was killed by his own commander-in-chief Pusyamitra Sunga in 185 BCE. With the fall of Mauryas, India lost its political unity. Pushyamitra Sunga became the ruler of the Magadha and neighbouring territories. The north-western regions comprising Rajputana, Malwa and Punjab passed into the hands of the foreign rulers. The kingdom of Pushyamitra was extended upto Narmada in the south, and controlled Jalandhar and Sialkot in the Punjab in the north-western regions. Pushyamitra died after ruling for 36 years (187-151 BCE). He was succeeded by son Agnimitra. This prince is the hero of a famous drama by one of India's greatest playwright, Kalidasa. Agnimitra used to hold his court in the city of Vidisa, modern Besnagar in Eastern Malwa. The power of the Sungas gradually weakened. It is said that there were ten Sunga kings.

Early Middle Kingdoms - The Golden Age

The middle period, especially that associated with the Gupta dynasty, is known as India's Golden Age, a time of unparalleled cultural development. The Kushanas invaded northwestern India about the middle of the 1st century CE, from Central Asia, and founded an empire that eventually stretched from Peshawar to the middle Ganges and, perhaps, as far as the Bay of Bengal. It also included ancient Bactria (in the north of modern Afghanistan) and southern Tajikistan. Their power also extended into Turkestan and helped spread Buddhism to China. In South India, several kingdoms emerged.
The earliest of these is the Pandya kingdom in southern Tamil Nadu, with its capital at Madurai. The Indo-Greek Kingdoms following the conquests of Alexander the Great ruled much of Gandhara from 180 BC to 10 CE. Around the same time in southern India, the Dravidian Pandyan kingdom began to take shape. An important source for the geography and history of that period is the Greek historian Arrian.

Satavahana Empire
The Satavahanas, also known as the Andhras, were a dynasty which ruled in Southern and Central India starting from around 230 BC. Although there is some controversy about when the dynasty came to an end, the most liberal estimates are of about 450 years. Long before that their kingdom had disintegrated into successor states. Conflict with the Sakas and the rising ambitions of their feudatories, led to their decline. Several dynasties divided the lands of the kingdom among themselves.

Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire (c. 1stÐ3rd centuries) was a state that at its height, about 105Ð250, stretched from Tajikistan to the Caspian Sea to Afghanistan and down into the Ganges river valley. The empire was created by Tocharians from modern East Turkestan, China, but was culturally dominated by north India. They had diplomatic contacts with Rome, Sassanian Persia and China, and for several centuries were at the centre of exchange between the East and the West, spreading Buddhism through trade with China.

Gupta Dynasty
In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Gupta Dynasty unified northern India. During this period, known as India's Golden Age, Hindu culture, science and political administration reached new heights. After the collapse of the Gupta empire in the 6th century, India was again ruled by numerous regional kingdoms. The Gupta 'golden age' marked a period of significant cultural development.
Their origins are largly unknown, however the Chinese traveller I-tsing provides the first evidence of the Gupta kingdom in Magadha. The Vedic Puranas are also thought to have been written around this period. The empire came to an end with the attack of the Huns from central Asia. A minor line of the Gupta clan continued to rule Magadha after the disintegration of the empire. These Guptas were ultimately ousted by the Vardhana king Harsha, who established an empire in the first half of the seventh century that, for a brief time, rivalled that of the Guptas in extent.


Figure in Sassanian dress North-western India,
probably Punjab Hills Late 6th/early 7th century Sandstone
The Sassanian empire of Persia, who were close contemporaries of the Guptas, began to expand into the northwestern part of ancient India (now Pakistan), where they established their rule. The mingling of Indian and Persian cultures in this region gave birth to the Indo-Sassanian culture, which fluorished in the western part of the Punjab and the areas now known in Pakistan as the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan. The last Hindu kingdom in this region, the Shahis, also may have arisen from this culture.

Late Middle Kingdoms - The Classical Age

Later, the Chola kingdom emerged in northern Tamil Nadu, and the Chera kingdom in Kerala. The ports of southern India were involved in the Indian Ocean trade, chiefly involving spices, with the Roman Empire to the west and Southeast Asia to the east. In the north, the first of the Rajputs, a series of kingdoms which managed to survive in some form for almost a millennium until Indian independence from the British.

Harsha's Empire
King Harsha of Kannauj succeeded in reuniting northern India during his reign in the 7th century. His kingdom collapsed after his death. From the 7th to the 9th century, three dynasties contested for control of northern India: the Pratiharas of Malwa and later Kannauj; the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan.

The Chalukyas and Pallavas
The Chalukya Empire ruled parts of southern and central India from 550 to 750 (from Badami, Karnataka)and again from 970 to 1190 (from Kalyana, Karnataka). The Pallavas of Kanchi were their contemporaries to the south. Over a period of roughly a century, the two kingdoms fought a series of low-intensity wars, each conquering the other's capitals at various points. The kings of Sri Lanka and the Keralan Cheras rendered support to the Pallavas, while the Pandyas rendered support to the Chalukyas. Whilst the northern concept of a pan-Indian empire had collapsed at the end of Harsha's empire, the ideal instead shifted to the south. The two dynasties were responsible for some of the greatest examples of both rock-cut and free-standing temples.

Chola Empire
The Cholas emerged as the most powerful empire in the south in the 9th century and retained their pre-eminent position until the 13th century when the Vijayanagar empire was founded. The Cholas, like the Chalukyas and Pallavas before them, and the Vijaynagar after them, were responsible for some of India's finest monuments, and being located on the south tip of the peninsula, ruled Sri Lanka, and culturally dominated most of South East Asia, where the Hindu Srivijaya and Khmer empires of Indonesia and Cambodia used south Indian temple design. The Chola Navy was the most powerful for its time having conquered the neighboring island of Lanka and other areas across the Bay of Bengal.

History of South India

Pratiharas -- Palas -- Rashtrakutas
The Pratiharas, also called the Gurjara-Pratiharas were an Indian dynasty who ruled kingdoms in Rajasthan and northern India from the sixth to the eleventh centuries. The Pala Empire controlled Bihar and Bengal, from the 8th to the 12th century. The Rashtrakutas of Malkhed (Karnataka) were a dynasty which ruled the Deccan during the 8th-10th centuries after the end of Chalukya rule. Each three kingdoms vied for north Indian domination around the same time that the Cholas were flourishing in the south.

The Rajputs
The first recorded Rajput kingdoms emerged in Rajasthan in the 6th century, and Rajput dynasties later ruled much of northern India, including Mewar (Sisodias), Gujarat (Solankis), Malwa (Paramaras), Bundelkhand (Chandelas), and Haryana (Tomaras). The Pallava dynasty of Kanchipuram ruled southeastern India from the 4th century to the 9th century. The Pratihara ruled northern India before the Rajputs. Various other dynasties such as the Yadav, Chera, Hoysala of Halebidu, Sena and Pala controlled various empires of their own.

Vijayanagar Empire
The brothers Harihara and Bukka founded the Karnataka Empire, also known as the Vijayanagara Empire, in 1336. The Vijayanagara empire prospered during the reign of Krishnadevaraya. It suffered a major defeat in 1565 but continued for another century or so in an attenuated form. Southern Indian kingdoms of the time expanded their influence as far as Indonesia, controlling vast overseas empires in south east Asia. The Hindu dynasty came into conflict with Islamic rule (the Bahmani Kingdom) and the clashing of the two systems, the prevailing indigenous Hindu/Muslim religion, which caused a mingling of the indigenous and foreign culture that left lasting cultural influences on each other. The later Mughal rule also saw such influences of Gujarati and Rajasthani culture contributing towards this.

The Islamic Sultanates
After the Arab-Turkic invasion of India's ancient northern neighbor Persia, various short lived Islamic empires invaded and spread across the subcontinent over a period of 1000 years. Prior to Turkish invasions, Muslim trading communities flourished throughout coastal South India, particularly in Kerala.

Delhi Sultanate
In the 10th and 11th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded parts of northern India and established the Delhi Sultanate at the beginning of the 13th century. The Slave dynasty managed to conquer large areas of northern India approximate to the ancient extent of the Guptas, while the Khilji Empire was also able to conquer most of central India, but they were ultimately unsuccessful in conquering most of the subcontinent, until the onset of the Mughals.

The Mughal Era

Mughal Empire

Taj Mahal

Other Mughal Architecture
In 1526, Babur, a Timurid descendant of Timur, swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal Empire, which lasted for over 200 years. The Mughal Dynasty ruled most of the Indian subcontinent by 1600; it went into a slow decline after 1707 and was finally defeated during the Indian rebellion of 1857. This period marked vast social change in the subcontinent as the Hindu majority were ruled over by the Mughal emperors, some of whom showed religious tolerance, while others liberally patronized Hindu culture, and some of whom destroyed historical temples and imposed taxes on non-Muslims. During the decline of the Mughal Empire, which at its peak occupied an area slightly larger than the ancient Mauryan Empire, several smaller empires rose to fill the power vacuum or themselves were contributing factors to the decline.

The Maratha Confederacy
The Maratha Kingdom was founded by Shivaji in 1674 when he annexed a portion of the Bijapur Sultanate. Shivaji had declared war upon the oppressive Mughal dynasty in order for the Hindu majority of the subcontinent to once again be free of the various Islamic dynasties that had appeared over the last 600 years. By the 18th century, it had transformed itself into the Maratha Confederacy under the rule of the Peshwa. By 1760, the Empire had stretched across practically the entire subcontinent. This expansion was brought to an end by the Maratha's defeat by an Afghan army at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761. The last Peshwa, Baji Rao II, was defeated by the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War.

The Kingdom of Mysore
The Kingdom of Mysore was a kingdom of southern India, which was founded around 1400 CE by the Wodeyar dynasty. The rule of the Wodeyars was interrupted by Hyder Ali and his son Tippu Sultan. Under their rule Mysore fought a series of wars sometimes against the combined forces of the British and Marathas, but mostly against the British with some aid or promise of aid from the French. After the death of Tippu Sultan in the Fourth War of Mysore in 1799, the Wodeyar dynasty regained limited power as a Princely State under the British. The Kingdom of Mysore became part of the modern day, Indian state of Karnataka.

The Punjab - Sikh Empire
The Punjabi kingdom, ruled by members of the Sikh religious movement was a political entity that ruled the region of modern day Punjab. Founded by the ten Gurus of the Sikh faith, it expanded its borders during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at the height of the Sikh Empire to include surrounding areas like Kashmir and Peshawar, and was among the last areas of the subcontinent that was conquered by the British. The Anglo-Sikh wars marked the downfall of the Sikh Empire.

Company Rule

Colonial India and European Colonies in India
Vasco da Gama's discovery of a new sea route to India in 1498 paved the way for European colonization of India. The Portuguese set up bases in Goa, Daman, Diu and Bombay. They remained the longest colonial rulers for 500 years till 1962. The British established their first outpost in South Asia in 1619 at Surat on the northwestern coast of India, arriving in the wake of Portuguese and Dutch visitors. Later in the century, the British East India Company opened permanent trading stations at Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta, each under the protection of native rulers.

French India
The French set up base along with the British in the 17th century. They occupied large parts of southern India. However subsequent wars with the British, led to the loss of almost all their territory. They however retained the colonies of Pondicherry -(Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam, and MahŽ.) and Chandernagore. Pondicherry was ceded to India in 1950.
The Dutch did not have a major presence in India. The towns of Travancore were ruled by the Dutch. However they were more interested in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and their prize of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). They were responsible for training the military of the princely state of Kerala. In 1845, the Danish colony of Tranquebar was sold to the United Kingdom.

The British Raj

The British established a foothold in Bengal when the British soldiers, funded by the East India Company, and led by Robert Clive, defeated Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and plundered the Bengali treasure. Bengal became a protectorate, and then directly went under the rule of East India Company. The British East India Company monopolized the trade of Bengal. The Bengali craftsmen were inevitably fixed at foreign posts of the Company, where they were obliged to render their labour at minimal compensation while their collective tax burden increased harshly. The result was the famine of 1769 to 1773 in which 10 million Bengalis died, followed almost a century later by the catastrophic Great Calamity period, resulting in part from an extension of similar policies, in which up to 40 million Indians perished from famine amidst the collapse of India's native industries and skilled workforce.
By the 1850s Britain controlled most of the Indian sub-continent, which included present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh. From 1830, the defeat of the Thugs played a part in securing establishing greater control of diverse Indian provinces for the British.
The Indian rebellion of 1857 in the north, led by mutinous Indian soldiers, was crushed by the British. It is also called the first war of Indian independence. In the aftermath all political power was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown, which began administering most of India directly. It controlled the rest through local rulers.

The Independence Movement

In the late 19th century "British India" took its first steps toward self-government with the appointment of Indian councillors to advise the British viceroy, and the establishment of provincial Councils with Indian members; the British subsequently widened participation in legislative councils. Beginning in 1920, Indian leaders such as Mohandas K. Gandhi (also known as Mahatma (Great Soul) Gandhi) and Subhas Chandra Bose transformed the Indian National Congress into a mass movement to campaign against British colonial rule. The movement eventually succeeded in bringing independence to the people of the Indian subcontinent, by means of parliamentary action and non-violent resistance and non-cooperation. Following the division of India into the secular Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in August 1947, rioting broke out between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims in several parts of India, including Punjab, Bengal and Delhi, leaving some 200,000 dead. Also, this period saw the largest mass migration ever recorded in modern history, with a total of 12 million Hindus and Muslims moved between the newly created dominions of India and Pakistan.

Republic of India

Since independence, India has fought a number of wars against its neighbours, most notably four wars against Pakistan, and one against China. It also detonated a nuclear device in 1974 and became a Declared nuclear state in 1998 following a series of tests. From a socialist-inspired economy to the early 1990s , India continued to make slow progress away from the state the British had left the country in, however, it was only after extensive economic reforms in the early 90s (initiated by Present Prime minister of India Manmohan Singh) that India's economy began to grow at a high rate. Today, in the 21st century, India is considered an emerging economic superpower, and is currently the tenth largest economy in terms of gross GDP, and 4th largest when accounting for purchasing power parity.
Since independence, India has fought three major wars and one minor war with Pakistan (see Indo-Pakistani Wars). The Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 started over the control of Kashmir. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 was also fought over Kashmir. In 1971, India hosted refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan and helped the Bangladeshi freedom fighters (Mukti Bahini) with resources and training during the Bangladesh Liberation War. During the final stages of that war, India became directly involved in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which ultimately resulted in Pakistan's defeat and the independence of Bangladesh. India also fought a border war with China in 1962 (see Sino-Indian War).
As well as being a declared nuclear state, India has an advanced space program designed to benefit the country economically, rather than merely create prestige. In the 1990s, following economic reform from the socialist-inspired economy of post-independence India, the country began to experience rapid economic growth, as markets opened for international competition and investment. In the 21st century, India is an emerging economic power with vast human and natural resources, and a huge knowledge base. Economists predict that by 2050, India will be among the top three economies of the world.

History of India

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Hindu Calendar

Hindu Calendar

The hindu calendar used in ancient times has undergone many changes in the process of regionalization, and today there are several regional Indian calendars, as well as an Indian national calendar. Nepali calendar, Bengali calendar, Malayalam calendar, Tamil calendar, Telugu calendar, Kannada calendar etc. are some prominent regional Hindu calendars.
Most of these calendars are inherited from a system first enunciated in Vedanga Jyotisha of Lagadha, a late BCE adjunct to the Vedas, standardized in the Surya Siddhanta (3rd century CE) and subsequently reformed by astronomers such as Aryabhata (499 CE), Varahamihira (6th c. CE), and Bhaskara (12th c. CE). Differences and regional variations abound in these computations, but the following is a general overview of Hindu lunisolar calendar.

Early History
The oldest system, in many respects the basis of the classical one, is known from texts of about 1000 BC. It divides an approximate solar year of 360 days into 12 lunar months of 27 (according to the early Vedic text Taittiriya Samhita or 28 (according to the Atharvaveda, the fourth of the Vedas, 19.7.1.) days. The resulting discrepancy was resolved by the intercalation of a leap month every 60 months.
Time was reckoned by the position marked off in constellations on the ecliptic in which the Moon rises daily in the course of one lunation (the period from New Moon to New Moon) and the Sun rises monthly in the course of one year.
These constellations (naksatra) each measure an arc of 13 20' of the ecliptic circle. The positions of the Moon were directly observable, and those of the Sun inferred from the Moon's position at Full Moon, when the Sun is on the opposite side of the Moon. The position of the Sun at midnight was calculated from the naksatra that culminated on the meridian at that time, the Sun then being in opposition to that naksatra.
The year was divided into three thirds of four months, each of which would be introduced by a special religious rite, the caturmasya (four-month rite). Each of these periods was further divided into two parts (seasons or rtu): spring (vasanta), from mid-March until mid-May; summer (grisma), from mid-May until mid-July; the rains (varsa), from mid-July until mid-September; autumn (sarad ), from mid-September until mid-November; winter (hemanta), from mid-November until mid-January; and the dews (sisira), from mid-January until mid-March.
The spring months in early times were Madhu and Madhava, the summer months Sukra and Suci, the rainy months Nabhas and Nabhasya, the autumn months Isa and Urja, the winter months Sahas and Sahasya, and the dewy months Tapas and Tapasya.
The month, counted from Full Moon to Full Moon, was divided into two halves (paksa, "wing") of waning (krsna) and waxing (sukla) Moon, and a special ritual (darsapurnamasa, "new and full moon rites") was prescribed on the days of New Moon (amavasya) and Full Moon (purnimas).
The month had theoretically 30 days (tithi), and the day (divasa) 30 hours (muhurta).
This picture is essentially confirmed by the first treatise on time reckoning, the Jyotisa-vedanga ("Vedic auxiliary [text] concerning the luminaries") of about 100 BC, which adds a larger unit of five years (yuga) to the divisions. A further old distinction is that of two year moieties, the uttarayana ("northern course"), when the Sun has passed the spring equinox and rises every morning farther north, and the daksinayana ("southern course"), when it has passed the autumnal equinox and rises progressively farther south.

The Classical Calendar
In its classic form (Surya-siddhanta, 4th century AD) the calendar continues from the one above with some refinements. With the influence of Hellenism, Greek and Mesopotamian astronomy and astrology were introduced.
Though astronomy and time reckoning previously were dictated by the requirements of rituals, the time of which had to be fixed correctly, and not for purposes of divination, the new astrology came into vogue for casting horoscopes and making predictions.
Zodiacal time measurement was now used side by side with the older naksatra one. The naksatra section of the ecliptic (13 20') was divided into four parts of 3 20' each; thus, two full naksatras and a quarter of one make up one zodiac period, or sign (30).
The year began with the entry of the Sun (samkranti) in the sign of Aries. The names of the signs (rasi) were taken over and mostly translated into Sanskrit: mesa ("ram," Aries), vrsabha ("bull," Taurus), mithuna ("pair," Gemini), karkata ("crab," Cancer), simha ("lion," Leo), kanya ("maiden," Virgo), tula ("scale," Libra), vrscika ("scorpion," Scorpius), dhanus ("bow," Sagittarius), makara ("crocodile," Capricornus), kumbha ("water jar," Aquarius), mina ("fish," Pisces).
The precession of the vernal equinox from the Sun's entry into Aries to some point in Pisces, with similar consequences for the summer solstice, autumnal equinox, and winter solstice, has led to two different methods of calculating the samkranti (entry) of the Sun into a sign. The precession (ayana) is not accounted for in the nirayana system (without ayana), which thus dates the actual samkranti correctly but identifies it wrongly with the equinox or solstice, and the sayana system (with ayana), which thus dates the equinox and solstice correctly but identifies it wrongly with the samkranti.
While the solar system has extreme importance for astrology, which, it is claimed, governs a person's life as an individual or part of a social system, the sacred time continues to be reckoned by the lunar naksatra system. The lunar day (tithi), a 30th part of the lunar month, remains the basic unit. Thus, as the lunar month is only about 29 1/2 solar days, the tithi does not coincide with the natural day (ahoratra). The convention is that that tithi is in force for the natural day that happened to occur at the dawn of that day. Therefore, a tithi beginning after dawn one day and expiring before dawn the next day is eliminated, not being counted in that month, and there is a break in the day sequence.
The names of the naksatras, to which correspond the tithis in the monthly lunar cycle and segments of months in the annual solar cycle, are derived from the constellations on the horizon at that time and have remained the same. The names of the months have changed: Caitra (March-April), Vaisakha (April-May), Jyaistha (May-June), Asadha (June-July), Sravana (July-August), Bhadrapada (August-September), Asvina (September-October), Karttika (October-November), Margasirsa (November-December), Pausa (December-January), Magha (January-February), and Phalguna (February-March).
In this calendar the date of an event takes the following form: month, fortnight (either waning or waxing Moon), name (usually the number) of the tithi in that fortnight, and the year of that era which the writer follows. Identification, particularly of the tithi, is often quite complicated, since it requires knowledge of the time of sunrise on that day and which 30th of the lunar month was in force then. Eventually, India also adopted the seven-day week (saptaha) from the West and named the days after the corresponding planets: Sunday after the Sun, ravivara; Monday after the Moon, somavara; Tuesday after Mars, mangalavara; Wednesday after Mercury, budhavara; Thursday after Jupiter, brhaspativara; Friday after Venus, sukravara; and Saturday after Saturn, sanivara.
A further refinement of the calendar was the introduction into dating of the place of a year according to its position in relation to the orbital revolution of the planet Jupiter, called brhaspati in Sanskrit. Jupiter has a sidereal period (its movement with respect to the "fixed" stars) of 11 years, 314 days, and 839 minutes, so in nearly 12 years it is back into conjunction with those stars from which it began its orbit. Its synodic period brings it into conjunction with the Sun every 398 days and 88 minutes, a little more than a year.
Thus, Jupiter in a period of almost 12 years passes about the same series of naksatras that the Sun passes in one year and, in a year, about the same naksatras as the Sun in a month. A year then can be dated as the month of a 12-year cycle of Jupiter, and the date is given as, for example, grand month of Caitra. This is extended to a unit of five cycles, or the 60-year cycle of Jupiter (brhaspaticakra), and a "century" of 60 years is formed. This system is known from the 6th century AD onward.
At the other end of the scale, more precision is brought to the day. Every tithi is divided into two halves, called karanas. The natural day is divided into units ranging from a vipala (0.4 second) to a ghatik) (24 minutes) and an "hour" (muhurta) of 48 minutes; the full natural day has 30 such hours. The day starts at dawn; the first six ghatikas are early morning, the second set of six midmorning, the third midday, the fourth afternoon, the fifth evening. Night lasts through three units (yama) of time: six ghatikas after sundown, or early night; two of midnight; and four of dawn.

The Sacred Calendar
There are a few secular state holidays (e.g., Independence Day) and some solar holidays, such as the entry of the Sun into the sign of Aries (mesa-samkranti), marking the beginning of the new astrological year; the Sun's entry into the sign of Capricornus (makara-samkranti), which marks the winter solstice but has coalesced with a hoary harvest festival, which in southern India is very widely celebrated as the Pongal festival; and the mahavisuva day, which is New Year's Eve. But all other important festivals are based on the lunar calendar.
As a result of the high specialization of deities and events celebrated in different regions, there are hundreds of such festivals, most of which are observed in smaller areas, though some have followings throughout India. A highly selective list of the major ones, national and regional, follows. Ramanavami ("ninth of Rama"), on Caitra S. (= sukla, "waxing fortnight") 9, celebrates the birth of Rama.
Rathayatra ("pilgrimage of the chariot"), Asadha S. 2, is the famous Juggernaut (Jagannatha) festival of the temple complex at Puri, Orissa. Janmastami ("eighth day of the birth"), Sravana K. (= krsna, "waning fortnight") 8, is the birthday of the god Krsna. Ganesacaturthi ("fourth of Ganesa"), Bhadrapada S. 4, is observed in honour of the elephant-headed god Ganhsa, a particular favorite of Maharashtra. Durga-puja ("homage to DurgaT), Asvina S. 7-10, is special to Bengal, in honor of the destructive and creative goddess Durga. Dasahra ("ten days"), or Dussera, Asvina 7-10, is parallel to Durga-puja, celebrating Rama's victory over Ravana, and traditionally the beginning of the warring season.
Laksmipuja ("homage to Laksmi"), Asvina S. 15, is the date on which commercial books are closed, new annual records begun, and business paraphernalia honored; for Laksmi is the goddess of good fortune.
Dipavali, Diwali ("strings of lights"), Karttika K. 15 and S. 1, is the festival of lights, when light is carried from the waning to the waxing fortnight and presents are exchanged. Maha-sivaratri ("great night of Siva"), Magha K. 13, is when the dangerous but, if placated, benevolent god Siva is honored on the blackest night of the month. Holi (name of a demoness), Phalguna S. 14, is a fertility and role-changing festival, scene of great fun-poking at superiors. Dolayatra ("swing festival"), Phalguna S. 15, is the scene of the famous hook-swinging rites of Orissa. Guru Nanak Jayanti, Karttika S. 15, is the birthday of Nanak, the founder of the sect of Sikhism.

The Eras
Not before the first century BC is there any evidence that the years of events were recorded in well-defined eras, whether by cycles, as the Olympic Games in Greece and the tenures of consuls in Rome, or the Roman year dating from the foundation of the city. Perhaps under outside influence, the recording of eras was begun at various times, but these were without universal appeal, and few have remained influential.
Among those are (1) the Vikrama era, begun 58 BC; (2) the Saka era, begun AD 78 (these two are the most commonly used); (3) the Gupta era, begun AD 320; (4) the Harsa era, begun AD 606. All these were dated from some significant historical event.
Of more mythological interest is the Kali era (Kali being the latest and most decadent period in the system of the four Yugas), which is thought to have started either at dawn on February 18, 3102 BC, or at midnight between February 17 and 18 in that year.
The Hindu calendar used in ancient Vedic times has undergone many changes in the process of regionalization, and today there are several regional Indian calendars, as well as an Indian national calendar.
Mostly, these are inherited from a system first enunciated in Jyotish Vedanga (one of the six adjuncts to the Vedas, 12th to 14th century BC), standardized in the Surya Siddhanta (3rd century) and subsequently reformed by astronomers such as Aryabhata (499), Varahamihira (6th century), and Bhaskara (12th century). There are differences and regional variations abound in these computations, but the following is a general overview.
Hindu Calendars Wikipedia

Kali Yuga

Mayan Calendar Corroborates Hindu Prophecy
In the "Brahma-Vaivarta Purana", Lord Krishna tells Ganga Devi that a Golden Age will come in the Kali Yuga - one of the four stages of development that the world goes through as part of the cycle of eras, as described in Hindu scriptures. Lord Krishna predicted that this Golden Age will start 5,000 years after the beginning of the Kali Yuga, and will last for 10,000 years.
Yuga in Hindu philosophy is the name of an 'epoch' or 'era' within a cycle of four ages. These are the Satya Yuga (or Krita Yuga), the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga and finally the Kali Yuga. According to Hindu cosmology, life in the universe is created, destroyed once every 4.1 to 8.2 billion years, which is one full day (day and night) for Brahma. The lifetime of a Brahma himself may be 311 trillion and 40 Billion years. The cycles are said to repeat like the seasons, waxing and waning within a greater time-cycle of the creation and destruction of the universe. Like Summer, Spring, Winter and Autumn, each yuga involves stages or gradual changes which the earth and the consciousness of mankind goes through as a whole. A complete yuga cycle from a high Golden Age of enlightenment to a Dark Age and back again is said to be caused by the solar system's motion around a central sun.

Mayan Calendar (above) Matches the Hindu Calendar
It is interesting that this prediction of the emergence of a new world is prophesied to appear about the same time that the Mayans predicted it to come. The Mayan calendar began with the Fifth Great Cycle in 3114 BC and will end on December 21, 2012 AD. The Hindu Kali Yuga calendar began on 18 February 3102 B.C. There is only a difference of 12 years between the Hindu's beginning of the Kali Yuga and the Mayan's beginning of the Fifth Great Cycle.
The Golden Age Could Begin in 2012
The ancient Hindus mainly used lunar calendars but also used solar calendars. If an average lunar year equals 354.36 days, then this would be about 5270 lunar years from the time when the Kali Yuga started until 21 Dec 2012. This is the same year that the Mayans predict rebirth of our planet. It is also about 5113 solar years of 365.24 days per year, and is day number 1,867,817 into the Kali Yuga. By either solar or lunar years, we are over 5,000 years into the Kali Yuga and it is time for Lord Krishna's prophecy to happen according to the ancient Hindu scriptures. Lord Krishna's Golden Age could easily begin in 2012!
Mayan Prophecy Matches Hindu Prophecy
It is amazing that both calendars began at about the same time over 5,000 years ago and both calendars predict a totally new world and/or golden age after about 5,000 years into their calendars! We are definitely on to something with these Mayan and Hindu 2012 predictions. Historically, this is an amazing fact since these two ancient cultures did not have any contact.
The end of Kali Yuga occurs "When flowers will be begot within flowers, and fruits within fruits, then will the Yuga come to an end. And the clouds will pour rain unseasonably when the end of the Yuga approaches."

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Philosophy in Ancient India

Philosophy in Ancient India

The Bhagavad Gita is revered as a sacred text of Hindu philosophy. The name 'Bhagavad Gita', when translated into English, literally means 'Song from (the mouth of) God'. Its written format is that of a poem which is 700 verses long, originating from the famous puranic epic Mahabharata (Bhishma Parva chapters 23 40.).
Commonly referred to as The Gita, it is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna which takes place on a battlefield, just prior to the start of a climactic war. During the conversation, Krishna proclaims that he is God Himself (Bhagavan), and at the request of Arjuna, displays His divine form, which is described as timeless, that leaves the latter awestruck. The conversation summarizes a number of different Yogic and Vedantic philosophies, explaining the meaning and purpose of life and existence. The Bhagavad Gita refers to itself as an 'Upanishad'.
It is not exactly clear when the Bhagavad Gita was written. Astronomical evidence cited in the Mahabharata place the incidents upon which the Gita is based in the year 3137 BCE, while the Puranas suggest a date of c. 1924 BCE. Scholarly estimates place the actual writing of the Gita in the latter half of the 1st millennium BC (roughly 4th century BC), making it a contemporary of the older Upanishads.

Hindu Philosophy

Hindu philosophy (one of the main divisions of Indian philosophy) is traditionally seen through the prism of six different systems (called darshanas in Sanskrit) that are listed here and make up the main belief systems of Hinduism. The characteristic of this philosophy is to consider being (consciousness) together with the other issues and is part of the thought systems of the vast Vedic religion of Hinduism.

The Six Main Schools of Thought

Samkhya is widely regarded to be the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems in Hinduism. Its philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two eternal realities: purusha and prakrti. The purushas (souls) are many, conscious and devoid of all qualities. They are the silent spectators of prakrti (matter or nature), which is composed of three gunas (dispositions): satva, rajas and tamas (steadiness, activity and dullness). When the equilibrium of the gunas is disturbed, the world order evolves. This disturbance is due to the proximity of Purusha and prakrti. Liberation (kaivalya), then, consists of the realisation of the difference between the two.
This was a dualistic philosophy. But there are differences between the Samkhya and Western forms of dualism. In the West, the fundamental distinction is between mind and body. In Samkhya, however, it is between the self (purusha) and matter, and the latter incorporates what Westerners would normally refer to as "mind". Samkhya was originally atheistic, but in confluence with its offshoot Yoga later, it accepted God.

The Nyaya school of philosophical speculation is based on a text called the Nyaya Sutra. It was written by Aksapada Gautama at an indeterminate date, but probably in the second century BCE. The most important contribution made by this school is its methodology. This is based on a system of logic that has subsequently been adopted by most of the other Indian schools (orthodox or not), much in the same way that Western science and philosophy can be said to be largely based on Aristotelian logic.
But Nyaya is not merely logic for its own sake. Its followers believed that obtaining valid knowledge was the only way to obtain release from suffering. They therefore took great pains to identify valid sources of knowledge and to distinguish these from mere false opinions. According to the Nyaya school, there are exactly four sources of knowledge (pramanas): perception, inference, comparison and testimony.
Knowledge obtained through each of these can of course still be either valid or invalid, and the Nyaya scholars (Naiyanikas) again went to great pains to identify, in each case, what it took to make knowledge valid, in the process coming up with a number of explanatory schemes. In this sense, Nyaya is probably the closest Indian equivalent to contemporary Western analytical philosophy. The later Naiyanikas gave logical proofs for the existence of God (see Ishvara) and also for his uniqueness, especially during their arguments against the Buddhists who at that time were fundamentally atheistic. An important later development in Nyaya is the system of Navya Nyaya (New Logic).

The Vaisheshika system, which was founded by the sage Kanada, postulates an atomic pluralism. In terms of this school of thought, all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a certain number of atoms. God is regarded as the fundamental force who causes conscioussness in these atoms.
Although the Vaishesika system developed independently from the Nyaya, the two eventually merged because of their closely related metaphysical theories. In its classical form, however, the Vaishesika school differed from the Nyaya in one crucial respect: where Nyaya accepted four sources of valid knowledge, the Vaishesika accepted only perception and inference as being such.

The Yoga system is considered by some to have arisen from the Samkhya philosophy. Its primary text is the Bhagavad Gita, which explores the four primary systems: Karma-Yoga; Buddhi-Yoga; Dhyana-Yoga; and Bhakti-Yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita itself the Yoga system is described as being many millions of years old (See Chapter 4.1). It is essentially described as a universal method of union with The Supreme. There has been much debate on the personal/impersonal nature of the Supreme by various Yoga practitioners over the years.
The sage Patanjali wrote an extremely influential text on Raja Yoga (or meditational) entitled the "Yoga Sutra". The most significant difference from Samkhya is that the Yoga school not only incorporates the concept of Ishvara (a personal God) into its metaphysical worldview, which the Samkhya does not, but also upholds Ishvara as the ideal upon which to meditate. This is because Ishvara is the only aspect of Purusha that has not become entangled with prakrti. It also utilizes the Brahman/Atman terminology and concepts that are found in the Upanishads, thus breaking from the Samkhya school by adopting concepts of Vedantic monism.
The Yoga system lays down elaborate prescriptions for gradually gaining physical and mental control and mastery over the "personal self", both body and mind, until one's consciousness has intensified sufficiently to allow for the awareness of one's "real Self" (the soul, or Atman), as distinct from one's feelings, thoughts and actions. Realization of the goal of Yoga is known as moksha, nirvana and samadhi. They all speak to the realization of the Atman as being nothing other than the infinite Brahman. See the articles on Yoga and History of Yoga for an in-depth discussion.

Purva Mimamsa
The main objective of the Purva ("earlier") Mimamsa school was to establish the authority of the Vedas. Consequently this school's most valuable contribution to Hinduism was its formulation of the rules of Vedic interpretation. Its adherents (Mimamsakas) believed one must have unquestionable faith in the Vedas and perform the fire-sacrifices or yaj–as regularly. They believe in a magical power of the mantras and yaj–as which sustains all the activity of the universe. In keeping with this belief, they laid great emphasis on dharma, which they understood as the performance of Vedic rituals.
The Mimamsa accepted the logical and philosophical teachings of the other schools, but felt that these paid insufficient attention to right action. They believed that the other schools of thought, which pursued moksha (release) as their ultimate aim, were not completely free from desire and selfishness. In Hinduism, we are all illuminated under the light of god. When we have moksha, we believe that we become closer to god.
According to the Mimamsa, the very striving for liberation stemmed from a selfish desire to be free. Only by acting in accordance with the prescriptions of the Vedas could one attain salvation (rather than liberation) - which includes a belief in the varna and ashrama system. At a later stage, however, the Mimamsa school changed its views in this regard and began to teach the doctrines of God and mukti (freedom). Its adherents then advocated the release or escape from the soul from its constraints through what was known as jnana (enlightened activity). While Mimamsa does not receive much scholarly attention these days, its influence can be felt in the life of the practicing Hindu. All Hindu ritual, ceremony and religious law is influenced by it.

Carvaka also known as Lokayata, is a thoroughly materialistic and atheistic school of thought with ancient roots in India. It is a system of Indian philosophy that assumes various forms of philosophical skepticism and religious indifference. In overviews of Indian philosophy, it is classified as a "faithless" system, the same classification as is given to Buddhism and Jainism. It is characterized as a materialistic and atheistic school of thought. While this branch of Indian philosophy is not considered to be part of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, some describe evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism. The Carvaka school of philosophy had a variety of atheistic, materialistic, and naturalistic beliefs.

Ancient Indian Architecture

Ancient Indian Architecture

Famous Hindu Akshardham temple in South Delhi

Indian architecture is that vast tapestry of production of the Indian Subcontinent that encompasses a multitude of expressions over space and time, transformed by the forces of history considered unique to the sub-continent, sometimes destroying, but most of the time absorbing. The result is an evolving range of architectural production that none the less retains a certain amount of continuity across history. There are many monuments and buildings to exhibit, Expedia flights to India are always available.

Ajanta Caves

The Ajanta Caves in India are 29 rock-cut cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE. The caves include paintings and sculptures considered to be masterpieces of both Buddhist religious art (which depict the Jataka tales) as well as frescos which are reminiscent of the Sigiriya paintings in Sri Lanka. The caves were built in two phases starting around 200 BCE, with the second group of caves built around 600 CE.
Since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The caves are located in the Indian state of Maharashtra, near Jalgaon, just outside the village of Ajintha. Caves are only about 59 kilometers from Jalgaon Railway station (on Delhi - Mumbai, Rail line of the Central railways, India); and 104 kilometers from Aurangabad (from Ellora Caves 100 Kilometers).

Indus-Sarasvati Civilization and the Vedic Village
The earliest production in the Indus Valley Civilization was characterized by well planned cities and houses where religion did not seem to play an active role. The presence of drainage systems and public baths showed advanced standards of hygiene and sanitation and ingenious planning. The Vedic village had certain distinct characteristics that influenced subsequent architectural production. The Vedic grama could have a pur, or a fort-like structure within it. The Vedic hymns speak of "purs" made of stone and metal.
The Vedas have many words for houses. It appears that the main distinction was between chardis (house with a thatched roof), harmyam (a house of brick and stone that had a courtyard in the middle), and gotra (a multi-dwelling complex with sheds for animals). The Rig-Veda speaks once of a palace with 1000 doors, and twice of a palace with 1000 columns.

Buddhist and Jaina Architecture
Buddhism gained prominence during the reign of the emperor Ashoka. It is primarily represented by three important building types- the Chaitya Hall (place of worship), the Vihara (monastery) and the Stupa (hemispherical mound for worship/ memory)- exemplified by the magnificent caves of Ajanta and Ellora and the monumental Sanchi Stupa. The Greek influence led the Indian architecture of the time, especially the rock-cut art, to fall under one of the two categories: the Mathura school of art which was strictly Indian in spirit and did not adopt from the Greek styles, and the Gandharva school of art which incorporated influences of the Greek art. The division of Buddhism into Hinayana and Mahayana phases also influenced the nature of rock-cut art, the former being represented by artifacts used by the Buddha, and the latter by images of the Buddha. The Jaina temples are characterized by a richness of detail that can be seen in the Dilwara Temples in Mt. Abu.

Ellora Cave Architecture
 World Heritage Site
Other Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu Caves and TemplesTemples

The Hindu Temples
Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal
The reference to temples in literature go back early with Panini (520 BC - 460 BC) and Patanjali mentioning temples which were called prasadas. Early beginnings of Hindu temple architecture have been traced to the remains at Aihole and Pattadakal in present day Karnataka, and have Vedic altars and late Vedic temples as described by Panini as models. Later, as more differentiation took place, the Dravidian/ Southern style and or the Indo-Aryan/ Northern/ Nagara style of temple architecture emerged as dominant modes, epitomized in productions such as the magnificent Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur, and the Sun Temple, Konark. The older terminologies of Dravidian and Indo-Aryan are not used in current practice because of their racial and dubious origins. Buddhist elements and motifs have influenced temple architecture to a considerable extent.
Early temples were rock-cut, later structural temples evolved. The Kailasanatha temple at Ellora is a good example of the former, excavated from top to bottom out of a massive rock face.
The pyramid formed an essential architectonic element in any temple composition- stepped in the Dravidian style, stepped and slightly curved in the Northern style. The structural system was essentially trabeated and with stone being the basic raw material for the Indian craftsman, construction could be carried out with minimal or no mortar. Decoration was fundamental to Indian architecture and is seen in the myriad details of figured sculpture as well as in the architectural elements. The concept of fractals has been used to examine the form of the Hindu temple, both in terms of its planning and external appearance.
The garba-griha or the womb chamber forms the central focus housing the deity of the temple and is provided with a circumambulation passage around. However, there are also many subsidiary shrines within temple complexes, more particularly in the South Indian (the Dravidian style) temple. As the Hindu temple is not meant for congregational worship, the garba-griha is small in scale when compared to the whole temple complex. However, it is articulated externally by the vimana or the sikhara. Pillared halls or mandapas are found preceding the garba-griha.
The spatial experience of a South Indian temple complex is considered particularly rich and meaningful. In many of them, such as the Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangam, the concentric enclosures or prakaras along with the series of gopurams or entrance gateways reducing in scale as they move towards the garbha-griha set up a rhythm of solids and voids as well as providing a ritual and visual axis.The principles of temple architecture were codified in treatises and canons such as Manasara, Mayamatam, and Vaastu Shastra. These offered an ordering framework yet allowed a certain latitude for contextual articulation.
Today most of the ancient Hindu architecture thrives in temples of south India and south-east Asia as the subsequent forces of Islam transformed the cultural landscape of India more dominantly in the north.

Influence of Islam and the Mughal Architecture

With the advent of Islam, the erstwhile Indian architecture was slightly adapted to allow the traditions of the new religion, but it remained strongly Indian at its heart and character. Arches and domes began to be used and the mosque or masjid too began to form part of the landscape, adding to a new experience in form and space. The sahn or the open courtyard for congregational worship with the enclosing cloisters or liwans and the sanctuary at the Western end offered a different architectural vocabulary. The fundamental difference lay in the fact that Islam prohibited idol worship and therefore a concentrated point of focus such as the garba-griha was unnecessary. However, the mihrab on the Western wall of the sanctuary articulating the Qibla or the direction towards Mecca offered a notional focus. As idolatory was prohibited, the main means of adornment was surface decoration through the use of geometry, arabesque and calligraphy. Later, mosques began to be built with original material. The Jami masjid at Delhi is a representative example of an Indian mosque. Islamic architecture was also represented by distinct regional styles that drew a lot of inspiration from the local context.

Taj Mahal
The most famous Islamic buildings in India emerged during the Mughal period. Mughal architecture built on the traditional Hindu architecture with influences from the Persian world. Over time, Hindu and Islamic architecture produced a synthesis that is exemplified in the glorious production of Akbar- the city of Fatehpur Sikri, considered by many to be superior to the Taj Mahal (often seen as representing India) in terms of what it has to teach to civilisation- syncretism, tolerance and the best of different worlds, and the Taj itself, renowned for its beauty in white marble, its intricate engravings, its minarets and its setting.
The most popular Islamic building type in India is the tomb or the mausoleum which evolved from the basic cube and hemisphere vocabulary of the early phase into a more elaborate form during the Mughal period where multiple chambers are present and tombs were set in a garden known as the char-bagh. The tomb chamber houses the cenotaph below which is the grave. Well known examples are the Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur and the Taj Mahal, Agra.

Secular Architecture

The colonial attention towards Indian architecture was mainly focused towards religious buildings and hence there is much scholarship in this area. In recent times, the secular production of India is gaining the attention it merits. Cities of the desert region in the North such as Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, towns such as Srirangam in Tamil Nadu evolving around the temple as nucleus, the stepped wells of Gujarat, the vernacular architecture of the warm, humid area of Kerala- all these are unique in their response to socio-cultural and geographic context.

Architecture Under the Colonial Rule

With colonization, a new chapter began. Though the Dutch, Portuguese and the French made substantial forays, it was the English who had a lasting impact.
The architecture of the colonial period varied from the beginning attempts at creating authority through classical prototypes to the later approach of producing a supposedly more responsive image through what is now termed Indo-Saracenic architecture- a mixture of Hindu, Islamic and Western elements. Institutional, civic and utilitarian buildings such as post offices,railway stations, etc., began to be built in large numbers over the whole empire. Perhaps the most famous example is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) in Mumbai, originally named in honor of Queen Victoria. The creation of New Delhi in early 20th century with its broad tree lined roads and majestic buildings generated lots of debate on what should be an appropriate architecture for India.

Post-independence architecture of India

With the introduction of Modern Architecture into India and later with Independence, the quest was more towards progress as a paradigm fuelled by Nehruvian visions. The planning of Chandigarh- a city most architects hate/love- by Le Corbusier was considered a step towards this. Later as modernism exhausted itself in the West and new directions were sought for, in India too there was a search for a more meaningful architecture rooted in the Indian context. This direction called Critical Regionalism is exemplified in the works of architects such as B.V. Doshi, Charles Correa, etc.,


Indian architecture as it stands today is a pluralistic body of production that cannot in all justice be exemplified by the approaches, buildings and architects cited above.It has evolved over the centuries and has been affected by numerous invaders aho have brought different styles from their motherlands.But it is an unavoidable fact that certain expressions tend to get magnified and others reduced when set against the vast canvas of the world. In that sense, there is a distillation to an essence that does not have all the ingredients. A more representative selection can occur only at a deeper level of study.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Ancient India's Daily Life

Ancient India's Daily Life

What did the ancient Indians wear? What did they eat? Did kids play with toys? Did they go to school? This site shares daily life in three major time periods of ancient India history; the mysterious and so cool Indus Valley Civilization, the Vedic & Epics Periods, and the Age of Empires. Welcome to ancient India!  
Indus Valley Civilization Daily Life 
3000-1500 BC
We know very little about this civilization, but what we know is fascinating! Over 4,000 years ago, in the Indus Valley, people built huge, planned cities, with straight streets, and brick homes with private baths!  Kids played with toys and women wore lipstick!
How do we know this? In 1922, archaeologists found something exciting! They found the remains of an ancient city called Harappa. They found another city, located 400 miles southwest of Harappa, called Mohenjo-Daro. Other ancient cities from the same period, arranged in the same way, have been found since. Collectively, this civilization is referred to as the Indus Valley Civilization (sometimes, the Harappan civilization). This civilization existed from about 3000-2,500 BC to about 1500 BC, which means it existed at about the same time as the Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations.
What was life like, over 4,000 years ago, in Harappa and in Mohenjo-Daro, two busy cities of about 35,000 people each?  Would you have wanted to live in one of these flourishing ancient cities? (I think they sound neat!) Let's see what you think!  
Homes: Houses were one or two stories high, made of baked brick, with flat roofs, and were just about identical. Each was built around a courtyard, with windows overlooking the courtyard. The outside walls had no windows. Each home had its own private drinking well and its own private bathroom. Clay pipes led from the bathrooms to sewers located under the streets. These sewers drained into nearly rivers and streams. This was a very advanced civilization!
Clothing:  Men and women dressed in colorful robes. Women wore jewelry of gold and precious stone, and even wore lipstick! Among the treasures found was a statue of a women wearing a bracelet. (Bracelets with similar designs are worn today in India.)
Entertainment: A beautiful small bronze statue of a dancer was found, which tells us that they enjoyed dance and had great skill working with metals. In the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro, scientists have found the remains of a large central pool, with steps leading down at both ends. This could have been a public swimming pool, or perhaps have been used for religious ceremonies. Around this large central pool were smaller rooms, that might have dressing rooms, and smaller pools that might have been private baths.
Food: Dinner might have been warm tasty wheat bread served with barley or rice. It would appear they were very good farmers. They grew barley, peas, melons, wheat, and dates. Farms raised cotton and kept herds of sheep, pigs, zebus (a kind of cow), and water buffalo. Fish were caught in the river with fish hooks!  Each town had a large central storage building for grain. Crops were grown, and the harvest stored centrally, for all in the town to enjoy.   
Toys:  Some of the toys found were small carts, whistles shaped like birds, and toy monkeys which could slide down a string!
Art:  This ancient civilization must have had marvelous craftsmen, skilled in pottery, weaving, and metal working. The pottery that has been found is of very high quality, with unusually beautiful designs. Several small figures of animals, such as monkeys, have been found. These small figures could be objects of art or toys. There are also small statues of what they think are female gods. So far, scientists have found no large statues. They have found bowls made of bronze and silver, and many beads and ornaments. The metals used to make these things are not found in the Indus Valley. So, either the people who lived in this ancient civilization had to import all of these items from some other place, or more probably, had to import the metals they used to make these beautiful things from somewhere else.
Transportation: The people used camels, oxen and elephants to travel over land. They had carts with wooden wheels. They had ships, with one mast, probably used to sail around the Arabian Sea. Seals with a pictographic script, which has not as yet been deciphered, were found at the Indus Valley sites. Similar seals were found in Mesopotamia, which seems to indicate possible trade between these two civilizations.
The Riddle of the Indus: What does it take to build a city with straight streets and well designed sewers? It takes smart engineers and a lot of planning! These well organized cities suggest a well organized government and probably a well-developed social life.
What is amazing is that it appears the Harappan cities did not develop slowly, which suggests that whoever built these cities learned to do so in another place. As the Indus flooded, cities were rebuilt on top of each other. Archaeologists have discovered several different cities, one built over the other, each built a little less skillfully. The most skillful was on bottom. It would appear that builders grew less able or less interested in perfection over time. Still, each city is a marvel, and each greatly advanced for its time.
So far, scientists have found no wall carvings or tomb paintings to tell us about their life. We do know they had a written language, but only a few sentences, on pottery and amulets, have been found. We don’t know what it says. Scholars have quite a few mysteries to solve about the ancient Indus civilization.  For one thing, the people who lived in these marvelous cities disappeared around 1500 BC. Perhaps they ran out of wood to hold back flooding, or perhaps their soil gave out and no longer would grow crops. No one knows what happened these people, or where they went. Historians are very curious. It will be interesting to see what archaeologists "dig up" next!
UPDATE ON THE INDUS VALLEY! (Spring, 1998) Thanks to modern technology and international rivalry, nearly 1,400 Indus sites (towns!) have now been discovered. That is a very big civilization, large enough to be called an empire, only there is no evidence that these people were governed by emperors who lived in palaces or large estates. Rather, the opposite has been discovered. Some homes are a bit larger than others, but that might be due to a larger family unit.  
What else have scientists discovered about this fascinating culture? LOTS! Their towns were laid out in grids everywhere (straight streets, well built homes!) These people were incredible builders! Scientists have found what they think are giant reservoirs for fresh water. They have also found that even the smallest house at the edge of each town was linked to that town's central drainage system. (Is it possible that they not only drained waste water out, but also had a system to pump fresh water into their homes, similar to modern plumbing? What a neat thought! Who were these people? Remember-these systems were built over 3,500 years ago!)
Although scientists can not yet read the language, they are beginning to believe these people had a common language! That's incredible! As well, scientists have found artifacts at different sites (towns) with the same or similar picture of a unicorn on them.India Today suggested humorously that perhaps it was a logo - like Pepsi and Coke, only this one was Unicorn!
What next? Scientists remain very curious about these people, who lived about the same time in history as the ancient Mesopotamians and the ancient Egyptians. Did these ancient civilizations know each other in ancient times? My personal opinion is - yes! As scientists continue to unravel the riddle of the Indus, we may find we will have to rewrite history! Was it the ancient Mesopotamians who first invented the sailboat and the wheel, or was it perhaps the people in the Indus Valley? Where did these people come from, and where did they go? It's a fascinating riddle.

To explore the ancient city of Harappa in pictures and articles, see Harappa!

Aryan Civilization Daily LifeThe Vedic & Epics Periods
1500-500 BC
The VEDASThe Aryan beliefs and daily life are described in the four Vedas, a collection of poems and sacred hymns, composed in about 1500 BC.  Veda means knowledge. The Vedas are composed of the Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. This is why the period from roughly 1500 BC to 1000 BC is called the Vedic Period.
Aryan Houses:  The people in the Vedic period lived in straw and wooden huts. Some homes were made of wood, but not until later, during the Epics Period.
Yagna (central fire-place):  The life of the tribal Aryans was focused around the central fireplace called the Yagna.  Dinner time was social time. The tribe would gather around the central fireplace, and share news, and the days happenings. Those who tended the central fireplace also cooked for the rest of the tribe. This was a very special job. The fire tenders were the go-between between the fire god and the people. These fire tenders, later on, formed the caste of priests.
What did they do when they were not working or fighting each other? The Aryans loved to gamble. They introduced the horse to ancient India and raced chariots. They played fighting games. They loved to tell stories. The ancient Aryans were proud and fierce, and deeply religious.
Jobs:  As the Aryans settled in and began to grow crops, people started to have occupations. In each tribe, people began to belong to one of four groups: the Brahmana (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaishya (traders and agriculturists), and Shudra (workers).  In the beginning, these were just occupations. You could move from group to group. This changed over time, until a person's occupation or group depended upon birth. If your father was a farmer, you had to be farmer. Change from one group to another became very difficult.
Education  Kids were taught by a guru (a teacher). Even chiefs sons had to obey the guru. All students followed a rigorous course of studies which were imparted orally. Writing was done on bark and leaves, and hence was perishable, so we have very few rock edicts to tell us what they studied or what they wrote.
Clothing was initially made of animal skins. As the Aryans settled down, clothing began to be made of cotton.  

Age of Empires Daily Life
500 BC- 647 AD
The next thousand years saw a great many kings and emperors! Some did fabulous things, like plant trees along the roads and built rest houses for travelers. Other started great public works programs. Let's take a closer look at just one of the empires - my favorite - the Gupta Empire.
The Gupta Empire (320 AD to about 500 AD). The Gupta Empire existed at about the same time as the Roman Empire. It dominated northern India. The Gupta Empire was neat. Villages were protected from bandits and raids with local military squads. Each squad was made up of one elephant, one chariot, three armored cavalrymen and five foot soldiers. In times of war, all the squads were brought together to form the royal army!
People were happy during the Gupta period, the "Golden Age" of ancient India. They had religious freedom. They were given free medical care, which included simple surgery. Criminals were never put to death. Instead, they were fined for their crimes. Rewards of money were given to writers, artists, and scholars to encourage them to produce wonderful work, and they did. Very few of the common people were educated, but the Gupta Empire had many universities. Students came from as far away as China to study at Gupta universities!
"Indian cities are prosperous and stretch far and wide. There are many guest houses for travellers. There are hospitals providing free medical service for the poor. The viharas and temples are majestic. People are free to choose their occupations. There are no restrictions on the movement of the people. Government officials and soldiers are paid their salaries regularly. People are not addicted to drinks. They shun violence. The administration provided by the Gupta rulers is fair and just." Chinese traveller Fa Hien, during the reign of Chandragupta II.
Gupta homes: In the villages and towns, homes were mostly one room huts made of wood or bamboo, with thatched roofs. Even the palaces were made of wood! Larger homes had several rooms and balconies.

Gupta villages: Streets between the homes were narrow and twisted. Stalls for selling things were located on both sides of the street. People mostly walked where they wanted to go inside their village. Villages were very noisy places. Not only were they full of happy, busy people, they were full of animals. A monkey might sneak up and steal food right out of your hand! Imagine coming home from the market, and telling your mother that the monkeys stole the food you bought, again!
Art:  The craftsmen worked with iron and copper. Their iron work, especially, was outstanding. Even today, statues exist from this period, made of iron, that show very little rust!  
Jobs:  People worked on roads and other public works, but, (as they were in ancient Egypt), they were paid for their work. In the Gupta Empire, wheat was the main crop, and they kept cows for milk. This civilization produced great works of literature and marvelous works of art. Sculpture was their thing, though. They were very good at it.
They were also very smart scientists. They believed the earth was a sphere, and rotated around the sun. They also figured out that the solar year had 365.358 days. (Today, our scientists think it's probably more like 365.242, which means they only missed by 3 hours!) They were great with math. Ancient India gave us the number system we use today - 9 digits, the zero, and the decimal!
What did they eat?  The concept of breakfast did not exist. In earlier times, meals were both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, depending upon your religious beliefs. After the coming of Buddhism, Jainism and other pacifist religion and reforms in Hinduism, vegetarian food (strictly excluding animal and fish meat) became the norm for as much as half of the population. In the Gupta Empire, they mostly ate vegetables, cereals, fruits, breads, and drank milk.
School: Older kids, who went to school, lived at school. School (ashram) life was tough. You had to do everything yourself. There were no servants. Even princes had to wash their clothes, cook their food, and follow a rigorous course of studies. They had a lot to learn. They studied math, science, engineering, literature, art, music and religion.
Marriage: In ancient India, the most popular form of marriage was called Swayamvara. In this type of marriage, potential grooms assembled at the bride's house and the bride selected her spouse. Instances of Swayamvara ceremony are found in India's national epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. There were other types of marriage as well, such as Gandharva Vivaha (love marriage) and Asura Viviha (marriage by abduction).
Sports and Games:  Ancient Indians invented many of the games we play today, like chess, polo, and playing cards (which are said to have gone from India to the other parts of our globe). They practiced martial arts, wrestling, and fencing.  Hunting was also a favorite pastime of the nobility.
What kind of pets did they have? The pets were mainly birds like parrots. The royals had peacocks. (Monkeys were not usually pets. Monkeys were mostly a nuisance, but cute!)
in Northern India:  In the north, Ancient Indians wore (some still wear) an unstiched garment called dhoti. This was a 9 meter long cloth that was draped around the legs and tied at the abdomen. Both sexes wore it the same way. Women wore bright colours. Men wore either white or dark colors.
Ancient Indians did not use banks, so the family "fortune" was worn by the Vaishnav women in the northern half of India. In the north, they wore lots of jewelry. It was used both by men and women. Jewelry included armbands, waist belts, leg and ankle bangles for both sexes, ear rings, nose rings, rings on fingers and toes, crowns and other hair adornments. In 326 BC, Alexander (that Greek!) invaded northwest India. Here's his account: They use parasols as a screen from the heat! They wear shoes made of white leather and these are elaborately trimmed, while the soles are variegated, and made of great thickness, to make the wearer seem so much taller. 
in Southern India: In the south, however, ancient scriptures describe women as wearing saris. A sari is a single cloth wrapped around the body. It covers the woman from head to toe.  A dhoti is less modest. In ancient times, it was considered very important for women to be covered from the neck down to the feet. The southern half of India has been almost exclusively Shaivite for thousands of years. Shaivites typically have very, very few possessions. A Shaivite woman would not have worn such jewelry. Shaivite men have typically worn only a loin cloth and perhaps a cloth on the head to protect from the sun, never jewelry.
Fashion in Ancient India

Clothing in Ancient India was for the most part, similar for both men and women. The basic costume of ancient society was a length of cloth wrapped around the lower part of the body, and a loose fitting garment for the upper body, which was usually another length of fabric. A headdress was also worn, mainly by the men.
Women in Vedic society wore a variety of garments. The first being a skirt type garment (dhoti), with a blouse (choli) and scarf. Second is a sari, which is a length of fabric wound around the body with the loose end (pallu) thrown over the shoulder. Sometimes a choli would be worn with this. The last garment was worn mainly by tribal women. The Adivasi is a length of fabric tied around the waist with no upper garment worn.
Men also had a choice in their clothing though not as varied as the women. Men usually wore a Dhoti, which is a length of fabric wrapped around the waist. This could be left as a skirt or brought through the legs and made into a pants type garment. Men of the south rarely wore shirts, but men of the north wore a fitted upper garment. Male headdress was also a length of fabric, wrapped around the head, called a Turban. Women sometimes wore the turban also.
Due to the large area of India many differences in clothing emerged, mainly due to climate differences. The southern Indians wore much less than in the colder north. Women in the south rarely wore a upper garment. Northern women adopted a fitted upper garment to be worn under the loose fitting one.
Clothing was made from resources found in each region. Cotton and wool were the most abundant, since silk was not introduced from China until around the 1st century B.C.E.
Vedic people also enjoyed lavish embroidery and embellishments. Gold being the preferred, though there was also an abundance of silver and precious gems.
Glossary of Terms
  • Nivi – Pleats in the front or back of a Sari or Dhoti.
  • Choli – A short blouse like garment with no back.
  • Sari – (or Saree) A length of cloth about 2 yards by 6-10 yards (depending on the region) wrapped around the lower part of the body with the loose end being thrown or wrapped around the upper body.
  • Pallu - The loose end of the sari.
  • Adivasi – A length of fabric tied around the waist, Usually smaller than the sari.
  • Dhoti – A length of fabric about 1 ½ yards by 6-9 yards, which is wrapped around the body with the loose end either tied at the waist or thrown over the shoulder.
  • Turban – A length of fabric wrapped or tied around the head to create a headdress.
  • Hirano-Drapi – Ornamentation of garments.
  • Atka – Flowing garments.
  • Drapi – Embroidered garments.
Suggested Reading
  1. Saris – an illustrated guide to the Indian art of draping, Shataki Press International, 1997, Chantal Boulanger.
  2. Costumes of India, Diamond Pocket Books
  3. Indian Costume 2nd Edition, Popular Prakashan P. Ltd, 1966, G.S. Ghurye