Chapter 4: Early Societies in South Asia
- Indra was basically a god like you'd think of dwarven gods -- he ate a lot, drank a lot, and fought a lot.
In the early days of Aryan migrations, Indra was their chief god.
- They sung hundreds of hymns and told dozens of stories about him.
- Soma was originally a hallucinagenic drug taken by Aryian priests.
The Aryans took Indra as a leader against earthly forces, as well as heavenly foes.
- Instead of mounting an attack into India, they migrated in sizable numbers into south Asia.
- Indra did not survive as the permanent god of the Aryain people. As Aryian and Dravidian people intermixed, all memory of Indra faded.
- India was a paleolithic site at least 200,000 years before the Aryans introduced Indra to south Asia.
- Between 8000 and 5000 BCE, cultivators built a neolithic society west of the Indus River.
The Harappan society (so named after one of its two chiefs) developed in the Indus river valley.
- It is impossible to follow the developement of the Harappan society, as all the remains of their early development are underwater.
- The earliest remains accessable are from around 2500 BCE, during the high point of the Harappan society.
- The other main problem with studying the Harappan society is that they used a system of writing in which four hundred symbols represented sounds and words. It has yet to be deciphered, but scientists agree that it is most likely a Dravidian tongue.
The Indus river made an agricultural society possible for northern India.
- Cultivators grew wheat and barley, and supplemented their diet with cattle, sheep and goats. Additionally, they ate chicken, they kept the world's first chicken.
- Indian people had the first domesticated chickens.
Indus river valley inhabitants had cultivated cotton by 5000 BCE.
- Dyed cloth was found dating back to 2000 BCE.
- Between 3000 and 2500 BCE, Dravidian people build a complex society that dominated the Indus river valley until its decline in 1900 BCE.
- No evidence survices concerning the Harappan political system.
- Harappan settlements probably had about 1500 inhabitants.
- Both Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro had city walls, a fortified citadel and a large granary, suggesting they served as centers of political authority and sites for collection and redistribution of taxes paid in the form of grain.
- The two cities established patters that shaped the larger society -- weights, measures, architectural styles, and brick sizes were consistent throughout the land.
Harappans encouraged both foreign and domestic trade. Items produced in both Harappa and Mojenjo-daro found their wall all over the Indus river valley.
- From 2300 to 1750, they also traded with Mesopotamians.
- At the city's high point, from 2500 to 2000 BCE, it was home to 40,000 people.
- Almost all houses had private bathrooms with showers and toilets that drained into city sewage systems.
- Harappan religion reflected a strong concern for fertility.
- Some scholars believe that some of the Harappan dieties survived the decline of the larger society and found places later in the Hindu pantheon.
After 1900 BCE, the Harappan society largely collapsed.
- Firstly, because of deforestation, which lead to decreased rainfall and erosion.
- Another cause would be natural disasters, such as a sudden flood or earthquake.
By 1500 BCE, a group of nomadic people who called themselves the Aryans ("noble people") filtered through the Indian subcontinent, and settled throughout the Indus valley.
- This migration took place over several centuries.
- Aryans originally were quite dependant on a pastoral econoomy. They kept sheep, goats, and horses.
- The Aryan people calculated price of items in terms of cattle.
Aryans did not use a system of writing, but trasmitted numerous poems and songs called the Vedas orally, in their sacret language Sanskrit.
- Everyday communication happened in Prakt, which later evolved into Hindi, Bengali, and Urdu.
- There are four Vedas (collections of songs, prayers, and rituals honoring the gods of the Aryians), the earliest and most important being the Rig Veda, which was compiled between 1400 abd 900 BCE, and it was committed to writing.
- The Vedas represent what priests need to know.
- The Aryan people often clashed with Dravidians, but apparently also...had a friendly relationship with them sometimes?
- Aryans people had hundred of chiefdoms, instead of centralized government, and often fought amongst themselves viciously.
- Most of the chiefdoms have a leader known as a raja -- a Sanskrit term related to the Latin word rex ("king") --- who governened in collaboration with a council of elders.
During the early centuries of the Vedic age, Aryan groups settled in the Punjab, the upper Indus River valley that straddles the moder-day border between nothern India and Pakistan.
- After 1000 BCE, they settled between the Himalayan fotthills and the Granges River.
- By 750 BCE, populations increased enough that Aryans had established the first small cities in the Granges River valley.
- By 500 BCE, Aryan groups had migrated south as far as northern Deccan.
- Between 1000 and 500 BCE, tribal chiefs worked from more permanent capitals and depended on professional administrators.
- The term "caste" comes from the Portugese word "casta" which refers to the social class based on heredity distinctions, with unchangable social class.
- The Aryans used the word "varna" a Sanskrit word that means "color."
After 1000 BCE, the Aryans increasinly recognized for main varnas:
- Brahmins - priests
- Kshatriyas - warriars and aristocats
- Vaishyas - cultivators, artisans, and merchants
- Shundras - landlass peasants and surfs
- As time went on, a hierarchy of subcastes known as jati were formed.
- By the end of the Vedic age, caste distinctions became the central institutions of Aryan India, whereas in other places, states and empires maintained public order.
Aryan India had a strongly patriarchal society, in which women had no public authority.
- Because they had no responsibilities, women rarely learned the Vedas, and formal edication in Sanskrit was almost exclusively a male privilege.
- During 100 BCE, an anonymous sage prepared a work cknown as the Lawbook of Manu, which dealth with proper moral behavior and social relationships, including sex and gender relationships.
The practice of sati - in which a window voluntarily threw herself on her husband's funeral pyre to join him in death - demonstrated the dependance of some women on their husbands.
- This practice never became a popular or widely practice, though it was recommended strongly by moralists, particularly for the wives of socially prominent men.
- The fusion of Aryan traditions with Dravidian beliefs paved the way for the later beliefs of Hinduism.
The chief deity of the Rig Veda was Indra.
- Aryans recognized a host of other deities, including a god of the sun, the sky, the moon, fire, health, disease, dawn, and underworld.
Aryan people performed ritual sacrifices of animals to win the favor of the gods.
- Proper honor for the gods required that each household have a brahmins perform no less than five sacrifices per day.
Around 800 BCE, many people became dissatisfied with the sacrificial cults of the Vedas, and many retreated and lived as hermits while they pondered the relationship between human beings, the world, and the gods.
- They often drew on the religious beliefs of the Dravidian people, who worshipped nature spirits who they associated with fertility and new life.
- Dravidians also believed that the human soul took on a physical form after death, and they returned to plants or animals, sometimes in the bodily shell of newborn babies.
- Religious speculation achieved its fullest development in a works known as the Upanishads, which appeared in 800 - 400 BCE.
- Most religious disiplines were men, however a notable woman named Gargi Vakanavi is known for driving Yajnavalkya to exasperation because he was unable to answer all of her questions.
The Upanishads taught that appearances are decieving, and that individual human beings are in fact not separate and autonomous creatures. Instead each human is part of a larger cosmic order and forms a small universal soul, known as Brahman.
Even under the best circumstances, the cycle of rebirth was painful, as was human existance. The authors of the Upanishads sought to achieve moksha, a state characterized by a deep, dreamless sleep, where they were liberated from physical incarnation.
- To achieve moksha, they had to severe ties with the physical world which they could only do by aceticism and meditation.
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Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Chapter 4: Early Societies in South Asia" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 05 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2023. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/world-history/outlines/chapter-4-early-societies-in-south-asia/>.