ch08 - Chapter 8 Religious Rivalries and India's Golden Age...

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Chapter 8 Religious Rivalries and India 's Golden Age CHAPTER SUMMARY The basis for Indian civilization after 1500 B.C.E. was laid by Aryan invaders who ended Harappan civilization. By 500 B.C.E. states ruled by kings claiming divine descent controlled much of the Ganges plains. Its settlement resulted in the clearing of forest lands and contributed to broad climatic changes. Rigid social castes developed, with brahmans emerging as dominant because of their literary and religious functions. Discontented with empty rituals, ascetic holy men offered new religious ideas. Buddha began a religion that challenged Vedic tradition; the resulting rivalry led to a revitalized Hinduism that survived the Buddhist challenge. The religious unfolding accompanied the rise of India's 1st empire. The Mauryan empire spread Buddhist teachings through Asia before falling to nomadic invasions. A later dynasty, the Gupta, restored unity, reasserted brahmanic dominance Hinduism, presided over an age of splendid artistic and intellectual achievement. The Age of Brahman Dominance. Brahmans became the dominant force in regions where the Aryans settled. In the Himalayan foothills they founded small states based on sedentary agriculture and livestock breeding; they were ruled by warrior councils who elected or removed tribal rulers. Endemic warfare kept brahman power in check, and religious skepticism flourished. A religiously-sanctioned hierarchy of social groups ( jatis ), the caste system, emerged. Brahmans and warriors were at the top of the system, but by 500 B.C.E. major challenges emerged. A new religion coalesced around the teachings of the Buddha. The Kingdoms of the Ganges Plains. After 1000 B.C.E. Aryan settlers moved into the Ganges plains. Many rival kingdoms, dominated by warrior elites with few formal checks on their authority, competed for power. The rulers were expected to protect their subjects and to follow the advice of brahmans. Constant internal and external conflicts made such conduct unlikely. Sources of Brahman Power. Brahmans, the only literate group, dominated bureaucracy and administration. They alone performed the rituals awarding rulers divine status. Above all, brahmans were able to mediate between gods and humans. They monopolized the performance of properly executed sacrifices necessary to win divine favor. Brahmans alone knew the Vedic texts containing the rituals. All brahmans were privileged individuals exempt from taxes and protected from injury. The ethical prescriptions in the Vedas also influenced the lives of individuals. An Era of Widespread Social Change. Other important social changes included the growth of towns around royal capitals or riverbank trading and manufacturing centers. Merchants and artisans became distinctive social groups. As farming replaced herding, peasants made up a large percentage of the population. Peasant villages, their members developing better irrigation systems and tools, spread through the rain forest. Both subsistence and luxury crops were grown.
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