Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | History
11-Indian History-BC-1 (2300-500 BC)
India has a continuous civilization since 2500 BC. During the 2nd millennium, Aryan speaking tribes migrated from northwest into the Indian subcontinent Most of this material is taken frm "A New History of India" by Stanley Wolper, 2004. [Text written in green is my comments]
Excavations of Mohenjo-daro - a city on the west bank of Sindhu River, about 250 miles north of the Arabian Sea. There are estimated at least 10 cities at that time. A very spacious building, 230 x 78 feet, possibly a royal court, has been found. Almost 400 different pictographic signs usually above their animal figures have been identified on the seals. Harappaa (population estimated to be 35,000, and circumference about 3 1/2 miles) along the Sindhu River show that people in those times had a written language, and no temples. Some of these seals have been found in the Sumerian dig at Ur in 1932. This shows that merchants from here were trading with their Sumerian counterparts between 2300 and 2000 BC.
A dyed cotton cloth piece, maybe of around 2000 BC, has been found at Mohenjo-daro, No graves have been discovered yet, but cemeteries have been found at Harappaa. The one found in 1946 shows the fractional burial of bones in large urns. Some skeletons found at Mohenjo-daro show that there was some kind of earthquake or flood or both and they were killed by being trapped - not buried.
Those culture seems to have disappeared as dramatically, almost as inexplicably, as it had emerged washed over by the silt over Sindhu River.
c 1500-800 BC
Since the Rig Ved was not written until before circa 600 BC, and the earliest surviving writing dates back only as far as about 1200 AD; but then how we can know that these hymns were actually composed as early as 1500 BC, when it is generally assumed the Aaryans first invaded India?
Age of Literature Before 1909
Many of their ideas are similar to those in early Buddhism. Muller reasoned that they must have been composed at about the time the Buddha lived, or somewhere during the 6th century BC. Besides among 108 Upanishad texts, there has been significant ideological, if not linguistic, evolution, which probably took several centuries. This would move the date of their composition back to about 8th century BC, from whence it should have taken at least two centuries for the Braahaman to have been written. If the last of the Vaidik Sanhitaa was then completed and ready for commentary by 1000 BC, it seems safe to say that the oldest section of the Rig Ved must have been at least four centuries older, hence the estimated date of around 1400 BC for the compilation of the Rig Ved.
Age of Literature After 1909
This confirmation of Muller's estimates leads us to assume that, since the Rig Ved itself does not mention the Aaryan invasion of India, the process must have begun at least a century earlier, or probably around 1500 BC. This was the most important invasion in all of India's history, since the Aaryan brought with their Caucasian genes, a new language - Sanskrit, a new pantheon of gods, patriarchal and patrilineal family system and the three class social structure - Braahman (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), and commoners.
The term Aarya means "highborn" or "noble". the commoners or "Vish" (later used to denote the largest class - Vaishya) were mostly divided into tribes or "Jana". The foremost Aaryan tribe was called "Bharat", probably by the name of its first king (Raajaa). This "Bhaarat" word has been now its official Sanskrit name with the inauguration of its constitution in 1950.
Social System -
Country's Rivers -
The Four Varn -
Agriculture, Animals etc -
The game of dice, like chess, was invented in India, and many dice carved of nuts were found at Mohenjo-daaro [If Aarya came after Mohenjo-daro civilization was extinguished, and the game of the dice was the game of Aarya, then why dices should have been found at Mohenjo-daro site?] "Cast on the board like magic bits of charcoal, though cold themselves, they burn the heart to ashes." lamented the Rig Ved's gambler in one of the secular hymns of that sacred collection.
Religion and Gods -
[If Vritra was a dam, then it shows that pre-Aarya people had the concept of farming, and technology to build the dam to control water over such a big river and use it for irrigation purposes. Besides, in Hindu scriptures, Vritr has been depicted as an Asur and he used to afflict people, that is why Indra had to think about killing him and when he had killed him, it is said that "He killed him." and people were happy. If he were a dam, this description could not fit there.]
Once Indra won pre-Aarya, Varun, initially "Rit" and later "Dharm", to take up the Aaryan religious authority. Presiding over the Sun filled sky, he spread out the earth, as a butcher spreads the hide, extended the air above the trees... put strength in the horses, milk in the cows, willpower in the hearts, fire in waters, the Sun in the Heaven, and Som upon the mountain. Older and wiser than Indra, Varun was most honored by Aarya. He was closely connected to Soorya and with one of his lesser manifestations in the Rig Ved, Vishnu, who later shared with Shiv virtual monotheistic dominance over Hinduism.
Agni was the god of fire, and as such had many forms, traversing the three realms of earth, atmosphere and Heaven. He was needed or every sacrifice, he mirrored the Sun, and he had the power to heal, save, defend or destroy. Som was the god of immortality, the nectar of whose drops impart freedom and protect one's body from disease.
To Vaidik man, the Universe was divided between earth's fair surface and the heavenly dome above it, the realm in which Sat (real) prevailed; and the Raakshasee darkness beneath this world where unreality and falsehood dominated. Soon speculations about Indra led to a question, "Who ever saw him? Who is he that we should praise him?"
Before the Rig Ved was finished such speculation created of a number of super deities whose characteristics resembled monotheistic, rather than pantheistic gods. Prajaapati emerged as a more comprehensive god than Indra. This evolution came at the very end of the Rig Ved (Book X, hymn 129), when we find a neuter pronoun, Tad Ekam ("That One"), cited as the source of all creation, self-existent, self-generating and unique.
By about 1000 BC, India's Aarya were trying to find solutions for their hypothetical problems. The Tapas or Tap (heat) was credited to creation, and later it was used in relation to Yogic contemplation, and its use in Rig Ved may reflect the emergence of Indra's oldest form of religion as well as science. "Desire" (Kaam), which later came to mean "love", was the source of "That One's" stirring to life, the force behind the creation.
c 1000 - 450 BC
Indian epic Mahaabhaarat is probably the account of around 1000 BC times. The artifacts found at Hastinaapur indicate that by then Aarya had mastered the metallurgy of iron which they may have learned from their Indo-European cousins who ruled the neighboring area of Eeraan.
[Here I differ with this idea, because Raam was born much earlier than this, and king Janak used plough to till the ground and he found Seetaa there. In fact we have all the kings' names etc even after the Mahaabhaarat events. Yagya were done in which many kinds of food were served and used. It cannot be true that the people were not familiar with other grains than barley and wheat.]
Several elaborated sacrifices appear in Braahman commentaries on the Ved, composed from about 1000 to 700 BC. The Shatapath Braahmanaa relates the eastward expansion of the Aarya as the spread of Agni's Divine fire, consuming forests as he advanced, pausing only at broad rivers long enough for his devotees to learn to carry him across without destroying themselves in his flames. Videh Mathav was credited with having rowed Agni across the river Gandak, the natural border of Koshal (modern Uttar Pradesh), hence the region east of that wide river was named Videh (modern north Bihaar). Rice was cultivated by now in this monsoon region. Koshal and Videh were the kingdoms in which Raam and Seetaa were born.
[He talks about Raam and Seetaa here at this time, while they were born long tome ago. Even Raam ruled for 10,000 years. This sequence doesn't seem right.]
Raamaayan Period -
Though Raavan's kingdom has been named Lankaa, it is doubtful that the island of Sri Lankaa (Ceylon) had as yet been discovered or conquered by the Aarya. Raavan was probably based on pre-Aaryan land closer to Avadh - the neighboring southern land of Maalavaa perhaps, or possibly the Deccan.
[It also seems untrue as Raam went to Maharshi Agastya's Aashram while He was in exile, while Maharshi Agastya was already settled across Vindhyaachal mountain, thus Raavan cannot be the king of northern region of Vindhyaachal.]
We know from the Mahaabhaarat, that the Aarya had probed south beyond Vindhya mountains (1,500-3,000 feet high), since the tale is told of how sage Agastya brought it down, because of the jealousy with Himaalaya, he had grown so big that he blocked the very path of the Sun. Gods approached Maharshi Agastya, Guru of Vindhyaachal. When Vindhya saw his Guru approach, he bowed low to greet him, and Agastya shrewdly asked him to remain in the same position until he came back from south, but he never came back. [This event took place before Raam.]The entire Raamaayan may be read as an allegory of Aaryan and pre-Aaryan conflict, culminating in the Aaryan conquest of the south.
Such a process of expansion, settled agricultural production, and pluralistic integration of new people led to the development of complex system of social organization, which was mistakenly labeled the cast system by the Portuguese. In fact what the Portuguese called "caste" in the 16th century was the ideal Rig Vaidik class (Varn) system; whereas Indians meant by that as much more narrowly limited - endogamous group related by birth. The actual social pattern which emerged in the later Vaidik period, was a combination of Varn and Jaati system. Soon a need arose to include an addition group of people, whose occupations were so unclean that even Shoodra wouldn't like to touch them; hence a fifth caste emerged as "untouchables".
Tribal fears of losing "identity", or racial fears of losing "purity" further complicated the casual pattern of the development of Jaati system. It eventually divided and subdivided into hundreds of sub-Jaati. In south India and Bangaal, for example, we find virtually no intermediary Varn between the conquering Braahman and their Shoodra converted to Braahman.
During the Rig Vaidik times the dead had been buried in their "little clay house"; by the Braahman age, the idea of Hell was elaborated upon, as was the concept of Heaven; and cremation became more common as Aarya moved east. A new theory, at least to Vaidik thought, for it might have already been existed in pre-Aaryan communities, that one might experience pain in Hell after death, that he might reawaken only to suffer again. Thus cities in Aaryaavart echoed with chants of Braahman and the air above Gangaa filled with smoke from funeral pyres and altars - some wise men watched in silence and wondered. [I don't know, all this existed in Raamaayan period also.]
"Asato Maa Sadgamaya; Tamaso Maa Jyotirgamaya; Mrityormaa Amritam Gamaya" - such was the threefold quest of the Upanishad mystics, 108 of whose poetic-philosophic dialogs survive as the final fruit of revealed Vaidik scripture. representing the orthodox intellectual revolt against Braahmanism which emerged in 8th century BC.
[This seems wrong, because normally all the teachings were transmitted by Braahman, because they were supposed to know all Dharm, scriptures etc.]
Without rejecting Rig Vaidik Mantra and sacrifices as possible aids to salvation, the authors of Upanishad stress different path, which becomes the goal of "Vedaant meditation". When the sage Yaagyavalkya is ready to leave household to be a forest wanderer with his wife Maitreyee requests her husband to tell her the "secret of immortality". Then he expounds upon the reality of Aatmaa (soul), that with the understanding of Aatmaa , this world is unknown.
In the Rig Ved, Aatmaa simply meant breath, and breath associated with life and its cessation with death. Many students found difficult to accept anything they could not see as the comic essence. Young Shwetaketu who thought himself wise after having studied with a conventional Braahman for 12 years, was such a skeptic; but his father instructed him in the reality of Aatmaa by asking him to "bring a fig". The dialog goes like this :-
"Here it is, Sir."
The last line equates the cosmic soul with the individual soul with the individual soul, offering the Upanishadik key to mastering reality and controlling cosmic forces and events - learning to master and control our real selves. such mystic knowledge and understanding was intuitive wisdom that might come in a flash or might never come at all, for learning its mystery is as hard as walking barefoot across "a razor's edge".
Some of the most difficult questions are asked by Upanishadik heroines like Gaargee Vaachannaavee, whose ever curious mind drove the Sage Yaagyavalkya to lose his temper. "On what, pray, is all this world woven, warp and woof?" asked Gaargee. The wise man began by answering merely "wind", but Gaargee only asked the same question of wind, and so on through "the worlds of the Sun", "the worlds of the Moon" etc till finally Yaagyavalkya was driven to admit that all was based upon, "the Worlds of Brahmaa". "On what then, pray, are the worlds of Brahmaa woven, warp and woof?" "Gaargee," the sage replied, "do not question too much, lest your head falls off."
To understand reality, therefore, one must appreciate the identity of that cosmic equation, whose distilled Vedaantik essence is the Sanskrit formula "Tat Twam Asi", "thou art that one". Tat, the third person singular pronoun (that one) stands for Braahman; Twam, the second person singular (thou) represents Aatmaa; and Asi, is merely the present singular form of "to be".
For thousands of years. Hindu would continue to ponder that seemingly simple equation, trying to grasp its mystic meaning. Whether we call it pessimism or realism, the Upanishadik view of this world and its inhabitants was ultimately negative. as old king Brihadrath, the hermit sage, put it, "in this ill-smelling, unsubstantial body, which is a conglomerate of bone, skin, muscle, marrow, flesh, semen, blood mucus, tears, rheum, feces, urine, wind, bile and phlegm, what is the good of enjoyment of desires?" That very problem was infinitely compounded now by the fully developed belief that there was an endless cycle of existence (Sansaar), of rebirth, re-death, whereby man found himself "like a frog in a waterless well."
The one hope, the only "way to escape" was through knowledge of the mystic identity of self and all. The law posited, that every action, good and evil, had repercussions, bore fruit in kind at some future time. The sum of our past individual Karm thus determines our present life, as our current behavior would dictate our future condition, and not only in this life time, but also in future lives. If one were evil enough, he might be reborn as a mosquito. Good Karm was naturally better than bad. and simply to be born human was considered a great advantage over Raakshas, animals, insects - the higher the Varn the better.
The Yogee living around Gangaa River looked beyond such pleasures to the pure bliss. This bliss has been described in Upanishad as "a dreamless sleep", even as Brahm has been described negatively as "not this, not this" (Neti, Neti). Like human life, Time was also deemed cyclical passing through "Kalp" (epochs) and "Yug" (ages) of millions of years, each of which is measured as but a moment of Brahmaa's life whose years are unlimited. what we see is illusion (Maayaa), and to which we gave name and form (Naam Roop) that is because of our ignorance of its unreality.
One Upanishad calls this illusion-maker "the mighty Lord" (Maheshwar), a name later used for Shiv whose Yaugik powers and creative force may have been equated by this time with control over life and death. "Verily, freedom from desire is like the choicest extract from the choicest treasure", notes the Maitree Upanishad. "In thinking, "This is I", and "This is mine", one binds himself with himself, as does a bird with a snare. being the opposite of that, he is liberated. Therefore one should stand free from determination [to become Nivritt], conception and self-conceit. This is the mark of liberation.
Kingship in 6th Century BC and Gautam Buddh (c 535-483 BC)
Kunik Ajaatshatru (535-518
BC) 17 years
Hearing the news of Buddha's
death, Kunik Ajaatshatru of Raajgriha, the Lichchhivi people of Vaishaalee, Shaakyas
of Kapilvastu, members of the Bulee tribe of Alakaapuree, the Kolis of Samaagraam
and the members of Malla tribe in Pava took away his ashes with due respect. They
collected it in a metal vessel and buried it and built a statue over it. Thus ended,
a pious and pure life.
Siddhaarth, at once fascinated but repelled by the civilized trappings of Aarya's rituals and rule, was driven to search solutions to same problems tackled by Upanishad teachers. When he was about 30, he left his home and wandered for 6 years in the woods of Koshal and South through the kingdom of Magadh. Later enlightenment changed his name to Buddha and he gave a new philosophy to the world.
Magadh, with its capital Raajgeer (or Raaj Grih), was a great source for mineral resources, especially iron, so it soon absorbed Bangaal Janapad Ang; and by the reign of Bimbisaar (Buddha's great patron) became the most powerful kingdom of north India. In a deer park at Saarnaath, on the outskirts of Kaashee, Buddha was believed to have set his "wheel of the law" (Dhamma in Paalee language for Dharm) in motion about 527 BC by preaching his first sermon on the four noble truths. It became the core of Theraavadaa (teachings of the elders), or what would later be called Heen-Yaan (lesser vehicle) by the post-Christian people Mahaa-Yaan (greater vehicle).
--The first noble truth was "suffering".
see also Jain Dharm
After Paarshwa Naath's death, Mahaaveer and his followers had split from the parent group to establish a new sect - Jain (means follower of Jeen - conqueror). He also came to be known as the 24th Teerthankar (ford maker), after the Jain canon was finally recorded at the Council of Vallabhee in 454 AD. The Teerthankar, who have crossed over the waters to preach the faith are the Jain equivalents of gods and Mahaaveer was the last of them - Paarshwa was the 23rd.
Mahaaveer adopted a more extreme form of asceticism than did the Buddha - he not only went naked but also advocated and practiced self-torture and death by starvation as the surest path to salvation. Though it took him 13 years from the time he resolved to starve himself to death, he was supposedly the last Jain to attain the pure and perfect peace of Teerthankar paradise , which resembled Moksh or Nirvaan.
According to Jain doctrine, all nature is alive and has some form of soul, called "Jeev". Like Aatmaa, all Jeev are eternal, but in contrast to Upanishadik idealism, there is no Jain equivalent to the infinite cosmic Aatmaa, only a finite number (millions of billions) of various degree of Jeev - some much more powerful than others. The Jeev of rock, for example, has only one sense, that of touch, and is thus weaker than the Jeev of a man, god or Hell-dweller which has multi-sensory capability of touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing and mind. Jeev are not themselves created by any divinity, but have always existed as an eternal cosmic pool of souls.
At the dawn of two-Kalp cycle of Jain time, all Jeev are free, unencumbered by :particles of matter" (Pudgal), that ensnare them with invisible Karm nets and thereafter burden and tarnish them through the trillions of years it takes for the cycle to run itself back to quiescence. Is another principle is A-Hinsaa. It is probably thanks to Jainism that A-Hinsaa became so significant an aspect of later Hinduism (Buddha's followers also had to take vow of A-Hinsaa).
Its important economic result of this A-Hinsaa was that even lay members of the community rejected agriculture for fear of ploughing under living things and turned to commerce and banking, nonviolent occupations and often lucrative ones. The Jain community, primarily centered in Gujaraat, soon became quite wealthy and remains one of the greatest mercantile communities of modern India. Paradoxically, the only living being, a Jain was encouraged to kill was himself through starvation. More than 2,000 years after Mahaaveer's suicide, Gandhi was to revive the fast-unto-death as a political weapon.
Aaryan tribes from the Eeraanian plateau began to penetrate eastward, clearing forests and establishing tribal settlements along Gangaa and Yamunaa rivers. Caste system as a social order began to be formed. Aaryan and non-Aaryan cultures fused in northern India whose language groups are the roots of 75% of Indian population today, including Hindi, Panjaabee, Raajsthaanee, and Bangaalee. Meanwhile Draavidian culture in southern India remained isolated from Aaryan culture especially in its languages - Kannad, Telagoo, Tamil, and Malayaalam. Although India never had a common language, but Sanskrit was the common language for religious literature.
The political map of ancient and medieval India of small kingdoms was of fluctuating boundaries.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 12/05/12