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Chapter 5. Ancient India and Persia. A subcontinent is a large region of land that is separated from the rest of the. continent by a mountain range or other large landform. The country of India is. an example of a subcontinent.

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Ancient India and Persia

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Chapter 5

Ancient India

and Persia

A subcontinent is a large region of land that is separated from the rest of the

continent by a mountain range or other large landform. The country of India is

an example of a subcontinent.

According to plate tectonics, Earth’s surface is made of several slowly moving plates.

The movement of these plates may cause changes such as the development of

mountain ranges, basins, and bodies of water. Smaller plates pushing up under

larger plates formed the Himalayas, and they are still rising.

The Himalayas are the highest mountains in the world with Mount Everest its

highest peak, which was measured in the late 1990’s and found to reach

29,045 feet into the sky.

In some areas on Earth, moving plates cause earthquakes.

South Asia is made up of eight different countries which include: India, Pakistan,

Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives Islands

or Maldives.

Despite the differences in landforms, much of South Asia has a similar climate.

Unlike us, South Asia only has three seasons. From October through February

temperatures are mild to cool, from March through May they quickly shift to very hot, and from June

through September comes the rainy season or monsoon


Nearly all the year’s precipitation, or rain and snow, falls during the

monsoon season. The monsoon refreshes the land and it is full of life again. Farmers

depend on these rains for crops.

Three great rivers flow through the subcontinent: the Indus, the Ganges, and the

Brahmaputra. All begin in the Himalayas and fan out east and west through the

Indo-Gangetic Plain or Indo-Ganges Plain. The rivers carry water and silt to

the farmlands to irrigate and keeps the soil rich. The monsoons cause the water and silt

to spread out farther. Barley, wheat, rice, peas, beans and other vegetables are

some of the crops grown on the plain.

Subsistence farming consists of families growing food for themselves or

sometimes trading food with small groups of people in their villages.

The Indus River Valley lies on the plain in Pakistan.

South of the Indo-Ganges Plain the land narrows towards the point of a “diamond.”

This region is called the Deccan Plateau which lies between the

Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

The Deccan Plateau is framed on the west and east by rugged mountains, the

Western Ghats, and rolling mountains, the Eastern Ghats. Each of these

mountain chains extend about 1000 miles in length. Here is a photo of Eastern.

Photos now of the Western Ghats.

People began to settle in the Indus River Valley about 3500 B.C. with the first

civilization beginning about 2500 B.C. The cities of Harappa and

Mohenjo-Daro were home to thousands of people. Artifacts tell us they had a

system of writing, but we are still unable to decode it.

The people farmed, stored grain, worked with metal crafts and pottery, wove

cotton and traded and sold goods. The people believed in many gods and made

toy boats and beads for jewelry.

In 2500 B.C. the Harappan civilization was thriving and much of its culture had

spread throughout the Indus Valley. Sometime around 1700 B.C. the

Harappan civilization vanished suddenly, which archaeologists

suspect was caused by some type of natural disaster such as monsoon,

earthquake, or flood.

Remains found at Mohenjo-Daro reveal complex architecture and city planning. The

people used a system of weights and measures to construct buildings and roads. Brick

homes were laid out in a grid system, and people enjoyed a large public bath

and even garbage collection.

About 1500 B.C. the Aryans migrated to the Indus River Valley. They

spoke Sanskrit, a different language from other people who were living in the valley.

The Aryans continued their nomadic ways of herding cattle, sheep, and goats.

The Aryans rode horse drawn chariots, and farmed and traded in the

towns and villages they established. Few artifacts of their culture remain.

What they did leave was literature and their main language Sanskrit.

For hundreds of years their stories and songs were written down. These Vedas or

Books of Knowledge contain these writings.

The Aryans formed groups who were headed by a rajah or priest leader.

These groups traded with each other and after the groups became more

prosperous there were conflicts among them.

The Aryans believed what a person did in life had much to do with who he or

she was. Priests and teachers, or brahmins held high positions in society. Warriors,

kings, and other rulers took the next position, followed by a group called the

cultivators – artisans, traders, and merchants. The sudras or serfs were given

the lowest position in society; they were ordered to farm the land and serve others.

The Persians began to arrive in the Indus Valley by the 700 B.C. and their empire

reach as far as the Mediterranean Sea. One aspect of their culture

that can be found in South Asia today is Zoroastrianism a religion that

although recognized many gods, one god was identified as supreme and the

enemy of evil.

The Gupta empire lasted for about 200 years. During this time India made great

achievements in science, which involved astronomy, and math in which the

number system we use today was expanded to include nine digits, zero, and

the decimal.

Hinduism is the main religion of India, and one of the world’s oldest religions.

The Rig Veda is the oldest of the vedas. Some hindus recognize only one

universal being, Brahman, the source and final destination of everything.

Hindus believe in dharma the order of the universe and reincarnation the

belief that after a person dies, he or she is reborn into a new life.

Every Hindu in India is traditionally a member of a caste, a lifelong

social group he or she is born into.





Castes determined which job each member was qualified for. Marriages were

permitted only between persons of the same caste. Some jobs that no one else

was willing to do was assigned to castes that were treated as “untouchables.”

Individuals were untouchables if they worked with animal skins, dealing with dead

bodies and cleaning toilets, the occupation of taking life for a living, such as

fishing, killing or disposing of carcasses, tanning leather. If a person’s job

involves any contact with human emissions such as sweat, urine, feces, or

spittle, such as sweepers or washer men, then they too are considered to be

Untouchables. The activities of a person that include eating meats such as

cattle, domestic pigs, and chickens made them an Untouchable.

Unclean people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings

were considered polluted.

They had to use drums to let others know of their arrival. Even their shadows

In the south, some Brahmins ordered Untouchables to

keep at least 65 feet away from them.

Castes have been illegal in India since 1950.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Budha, or enlightened one was born during

the 6th. Century B.C.

Meditation is a way of clearing the mind, and enlightenment is a state of pure

goodness. The religion of Buddhism is based on the Four Noble

Truths of human suffering which are: 1.Suffering is part of all people’s lives.

2.People suffer because they want so many things. 3.People will end

their suffering when they stop wanting things. 4.People can be free of wants and

suffering by following the Eight- fold path.

The Eightfold Path is as way of living for Buddhists to find relief from

suffering by developing three qualities: wisdom, morality, and meditation.

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