Chapter_4 - GS 1003 World Civilization Chapter 4 Indian...

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Unformatted text preview: GS 1003 World Civilization Chapter 4 Indian Civilization Government is the science of punishment. Kautilya I consider that my duty is the good of the whole world. Ashoka Turning from Greece and Rome to India, we enter an altogether different world. The differ- ences are not simply those that might naturally emerge from contrasting physical environ- ments—differences in occupations, diet, habita- tion, dress, and the like. The differences were much more far-reaching and fundamental. There were nothing in the West remotely resem- bling basic Indian concepts and institutions such as caste, ahimsa (nonviolence), reincarna- tion, and karma (the law of moral conse— quences). These were not just eccentric or ab- stract ideas. They constituted the bedrock of Indian civilization, molding the thought and daily lives of all Indians. The pattern that re- sulted was so distinctive and so enduring that Indian civilization to the present day has distin- guishing characteristics that mark it off from all other Eurasian civilizations. Distinctiveness also characterizes the civil- ization of China, as will be noted in the follow- ing chapter, but this is natural because of the unparalleled geographic and historical isolation of that country. In India, by contrast, the begin- nings appeared to be basically similar to those of the other regions to the west where Aryan in— vaders ‘had settled—the Iranian plateau and the Balkan and Italian peninsulas. As noted earlier the Aryan tribes that de- scended on India about 1500 B.C. possessed the same physical features, the same pastoral eco- nomy, the same. social institutions, the same gods, and the same epics as did, for example, the Achaeans and the Dorians. Furthermore the Indo—Aryans were not isolated in their subconti- nent to anywhere near the degree that the Chi- nese were on the eastern extremity of Eur- asia. The mountain ranges of northwest India are nbt impassable, so that armies and mer- chants and pilgrims crossed back and forth through the centuries. In fact, during much of the time there was more interaction between northern India and the Middle East and central Asia, than between northern India and the southern part of the peninsula. The question naturally arises, then, why the Indo-Aryans should have developed a civil- ization so basically different from those of their kin to the west. The scanty evidence available does not allow for a specific or definitive an- swer, but the most simple and likely explana- tion is that the Indo—Aryans were Indianized. In contrast to the Achaeans or Dorians or Latins, who settled in relatively uncivilized areas, the Indo~Aryans encountered in the Indus valley a highly developed civilization with large urban centers and a dense population. The na- tive population, although subjugated and de- spised, was too numerous and too advanced to be exterminated or pushed aside or assimilated, leaving few traces of the original culture. In- stead, as the Aryan pastoralists settled down and took up agriculture, they perforce lived in close proximity with the prior inhabitants of their new land. After some centuries of such coexistence and intermarriage, the inevitable result was a cultural synthesis. The circum- stances, nature, and consequences of this syn- thesis are the subject of this chapter. I. ARYAN IMPACT Following their penetration into the Indus val- ley, the Aryans concentrated in the more rainy, parts of the Punjab where the pasture was ade- quate for their herds. Gradually they began to _ madwinto the “heavily forested basin of the Gang§,_Their expansion was slow at first, since only__stonei.12r_onze. and. copper axes were avail- able. But iron was introduced about 800 B.C., and the expansion pace quickened. The main oc- cupation shifted from pastoralism to agricul- ture. The monsoon, climatesof the Ganges valley was ideal for rice cultivation, whichrwas more Indian Civilization productive than the wheat and barley grown in the Punjab. As a result the center of population density shifted from the northwest to the east, which then became the seat of the first powerful kingdoms. The shift to agriculture stimulated various crafts necessary for the new villages, including carpentry, metallurgy, weaving, and tanning. Agriculture also promoted trade, with the river serving as the natural highway for transporting surplus food. Barter was common practice at first, and the cow was the unit of value in large— scale transactions. When coins appeared, the earliest weight standards, significantly enough, were exactly those of the pre—Aryan Indus civil- ization. Towns grew out of villages that were strategically located for trade or that had speo cialized in particular crafts. This economic growth in turn facilitated political consolidation. Originally the Indo—Ary- ans, like their relatives in the West, were organ- ized under tribal chiefs assisted by councils of elders and general assemblies. With economic development the tribes gave way to kingdoms in the Ganges plain and to republics in the Punjab and in the foothills of the Himalayas. Of these early states the kingdom of Magadha in the lower Ganges soon rose to preeminence because of its location on two main trade routes and its control over rich iron-ore deposits. With these advantages Magadha was to serve as the base for the formation of both the Maurya and Gupta empires. The Nanda dynasty in the fourth century B.C. was the first to exploit systematically the re- sources of Magadha for state—building purposes. They built canals, organized irrigation projects, and established an efficient administrative sys- tem for the collection of taxes. The Nandas have been described as the earliest empire builders of India. In fact, they laid the foundations of an empire but were not destined actually to fash- ion the first imperial structure. This was to be the historic role of Chandragupta Maurya, the young adventurer who usurped the Nanda throne in 321 B.C. and went on to build the fa- mous empire named after him. Economic and political developments were ‘ KUSHAN EMPIRE ' c. A.D. :00 C. A.D. 400 MAURYAN EMPIRE , 500 MILES X CLASSICAL AGE EMPIRES IN INDIA paralleled by fateful changes in social struc- ture. Originally the Indo—Aryans, like other Ary— ans, were divided into three classes: the warrior nobles, the priests, and the common people. They had none of the restrictions associated with caste, such as hereditary professions, rules limiting marriages to people of the same caste, and taboos about dining companions. But by 500 BC. the caste system was functioning with all its essential features. Although many theo- ries have been advanced concerning its origins, it is generally agreed that color was a basic fac- tor. Indeed the Sanskrit word for caste, varna, means color. The Aryan newcomers were very conscious of the difference in complexion betweenthem- selves and the dark natives, and dubbied them Dasas, or slaves. With their strong sense of ra- cial superiority, the Aryans strove to prevent mixture with their despised subjects. Accord- Indiun Civilization ineg they evolved a system of four hereditary ' castes. The first three comprised their own ()t cupational classes, the priests (Bra/imam“, 5.» warrior nobles (Kshatriyas), and the . (Vaishyas). The fourth caste (Shudmx) was ic— served for the Dasas, who were excluded from the religious ceremonies and social rights en~ joyed by their conquerors. This arrangement ceased to correspond to racial reality with the passage of time. Arysm tribes frequently made alliances with Dasux tribes to wage war against other Aryan it iiw Also Aryan settlers mingled with the with who then adopted Aryan speech and customs. In such cases the Dasas' priests became Bi'al‘ mans, and their chiefs, Kshatriyas. Thus today black southern Indian Brahmans are no less ari~ stocratic by reason of their dark skin, nor are the light~skinned, grey~eyed untouchables of some northern Indian regions any more ele— These Brahmans are of India's priestly caste, the highest in the caste system, 1907. (The New York Public Library Picture Collection) Indian Civilization hated because of their pale complexion. In re— sponse to these realities, traders and some land- owners were classified as Vaishyas, and Cultivators and general laborers became Shu- dras. A bewildering variety of castes have grown up within these four broad divisions. The castes have four basic features in common. One is characteristic employment, so that bankers and merchants often belong to the Vaishya caste. Another feature of caste is the hereditary prin- ciple, expressed in complex marriage regula- tions and restrictions. Caste also involves fur- ther restrictions concerning food, water, touch, and ceremonial purity. Finally each caste has its dharma, or moral code, which stipulates such duties as maintenance of the family unit and performance of prescribed ceremonies at mar- riage, birth, and death. Outside this system are the pariahs, or un- touchables, comprising today about a seventh of the Indian population. They are condemned to trades or crafts regarded as unclean because their function involves some ritual defilement or the taking of human or animal life. These oc- cupations include hunters, fishermen, butchers, executioners, gravediggers, undertakers, tan- ners, leather workers, sweepers, and scaven- gers. Involvement in these occupations has led in turn to social segregation. Untouchables live in isolated villages or in quarters outside town limits and are required to use their own temples and wells. They have to be most careful to avoid polluting members of the castes by any kind of physical contact or, in extreme cases, by even coming within their sight. For this reason, until recent decades they never moved outside their quarters or villages without striking a pair of clappers together to warn others of their ap— proach. ' The untouchables are further subjected to psychological disabilities that are as crippling and degrading as the physical. The doctrine of karma holds that one's status in present life has been determined by the deeds of previous lives. The untouchables therefore deserve their low position because of past sins, and their only hope for improved status in future lives is the dutiful performance of their present duties. This combination of social and religious sanctions has enabled caste to function to the present day. Of course, with its manifold provi- sions for mutual aid, caste does provide secu- rity as long as one follows its rules. 80 it contin- ues to serve as the steel framework of Hindu society. And although it has been attacked by re— formers and undermined by the pressures of modern industrial society, caste nevertheless still operates in rural India, where three-fourths of the total population continues to live. II. REFORMATION AND COUNTER—REFORMATION Caste, with its basic tenents of dharma, karma, and reincarnation, is part and parcel of the Hindu religious system. Originally the Aryans had typical tribal gods personifying natural forces, such as Indra, god of thunder and war; Agni, god of fire; and Soma, god of their sacred intoxicant of the same name. Gods of this nature were appropriate for pastoralists, but as the Ar- yans settled down to agriculture they perforce turned to new deities. Hence the advent of the “great gods" of Hinduism—Brahma, the Crea- tor; Vishnu, the gracious Preserver; and Shiva, the Mighty and the Destroyer. It is not acciden- tal that these new gods, particularly Shiva, bear striking resemblances to finds in the Indus val- ley sites. At this time, the Aryans naturally ap- propriated native religious ideas and practices that had evolved through the millennia in the ancient agriculture-based civilization. With the new gods there came also a grow- ing concentration of power in the hands of the priestly class, or Brahmans. This also was prob ably derived from pre-Aryan religious tradition. The Brahmans, who in some regions were in contact with native religious leaders, presum- ably leamed of the magical claims and practices of their counterparts in the Indus civilization. Whatever the historic prototypes in the distant past, the Brahmans effectively exploited their mastery of the Vedas, or hymns, that were re- cited aloud during rituals and sacrifices. These were transmitted orally through the gener- ations and were considered so sacred that they were memorized word for word, sound for sound. As the custodians and transmitters of this precious heritage, the Brahmans were able to assert and enforce their claims as the leaders of Hindu society, superior to the Kshatriya, or secular heads. The Brahmans enjoyed numerous preroga- tives and exemptions because of the sacred na— ture of their functions. Donors of gifts were as- sured definite reward in this, as well as in subsequent, lives. A "gift of land" was rated most highly, for it “liberated from all sin." Thus the Brahmans acquired vast estates, including entire villages. Additionally they were exempt from all taxes, since they were deemed to have discharged such debts through "acts of piety." And being sacrosanct, the Brahmans could not be sentenced to death or to any type of corporal punishment. Finally the doctrines of karma, re- incarnation, and dharma provided virtually ir- resistible means for Brahman control of the mind. There was little chance for individuals to assert themselves when a person's station in life was the inescapable result of one's own past ac- tions, and when hope for a better life in the fu~ ture depended entirely on one's faithful obser- vance of specific caste duties, regardless of how onerous or degrading they might be. The Brahman pretensions and exactions were one factor in the religious reformation in India in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. Another was the economic growth previously noted, which created a wealthy merchant, or Vaishya, caste that reSented the special privi- leges enjoyed by the two upper castes. Finally there was the tension between the Brahmans and the non-Aryans who had been admitted to the Hindu fold but who resented the priestly domination. Thus the Shakya tribes in the Nepal hills from which the Buddha came are thought to have been of Mongolian stock. This combination of factors lay behind the ferment in Indian religious and intellectual circles dur- ing these centuries. The demand arose for moshka, or . freedom—for something more meaningful and satisfying than prescribed rit- uals and rigid doctrines. One manifestation of the unrest was 3 Indian Civilization trend toward asceticism. Some of the most ac- tive minds, alienated by the society about them concentrated on pure introspection. They (.ic‘xr‘l oped techniques for disciplining or “yoki..g (yoga) the senses to an inward focus, ending in. a state of trance or ecstasy, which mystics de» scribe as “enlightenment” and sceptics cali “self-hypnotism." Out of this inward searching and speculating came many reform movements, of which the most important was Buddhism. The new religion had no place for caste or for Brahmans. It required that the scriptsuw. should be understood by all believers and not merely by a few at the top. Buddhism also banned all magic, sacrifices, and obscure writ- ings. Buddhism became a powerful force not only in India but also in central Asia and East and Southeast Asia. After AD. 600, however, it Shiva Nataraja—Shiva as Lord of the Dance. Bronze sculpture dating from about AD. 1000. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase 1964. Harris Brisbane Dick Fund) lmliaiz Civilization Braham, Relief dating from about A.D. 600-700. (A rborio MeIIa) lost ground within India. Eventually it existed in only a few localities in the land of its birth. One reason for the decline of Buddhism at home was that it failed to provide for the usual crises of life. It offered no ceremonies for birth. mar- riage, death, and other critical turns in the lives of the laity. By contrast the Brahmans were ready with their rites, and their survival was as- sured despite the attacks of the reformers. More important, the Brahmans themselves embraced reform. In their philosophical texts, the Upani- shads, they set forth their own paths to moshka ~—to freedom and release. They taught ,that the supreme spirit per- meating the universe was Brahman, a being cap- able of all knowledge and feeling. He was the universal soul and the all-pervading breath; all else was illusion. The individual soul—Atman— was a spark of the supreme being. By transmi- gration it passed from state to state until it at- tained release by reabsorption into Brahman, the Soul of the universe. This identification of the individual soul and the Soul of the universe was the ultimate goal that holy men sought to reach by discipline, meditation, and withdrawal from the world of the senses. Seekers after truth could now abandon the world and rest within the fold of Hinduism. Although Bud- dhism aS‘a practicing faith disappeared in lu- dia, it has survived to the present because its basic tenets have been incorporated in the Hindu counter-reformation. III. MAURYA EMPIRE Turning from religious m‘ovements to political developments, the outstanding political event was the emergence of India’s first imperial structure, the Maurya Empire. As noted earlier in this chapter, the migration of the Aryans to the Ganges valley had shifted the center of grav- Indian Civilization . \ ~ . _~ ,' b . ~ riftii‘lii _ Fifteenth-century representation of the infant Mahavira with his mother. It was Mahavira (about 540—467 B.C.) who consolidated Jaina ideas and gave them institutional organization. (Arborio Mella) f‘u‘diull Civilization :tv to that region, and particularly to the king- ,»tém of Magadha. Meanwhile the northwest provinces had been going their own way, iso- lated from the rest of India because of their (3056 ties with Persian civilization. In fact, Em- peror Darius crossed the Hindu Kush moun- [alIlS about 518 BC. and made the western Pun- jab the twentieth province of his empire. Two centuries later, in 327 8.0, Alexander the Great also invaded India from the northwest. But he stayed only two years, and soon after he left, Greek rule in the Punjab ended. Despite his short stay, Alexander did have considerable in- fluence on India. One effect was the growth of the east-west trade from northwest India through Afghani~ stan and Iran to Asia Minor and Levant ports. The Greek colonies planted throughout the Mid- dle East by Alexander doubtless contributed much to this trade, and the Hellenistic states that followed Alexander promoted it for two centuries. Most important for Indian history was Alexander’s role in creating a political vacuum in northwest India by overthrowing several 16 cal kingdoms and republics. Chandragupta Maurya promptly filled the void and founded the empire namedafter him... In 322 BC, three years after Alexander's departure, Chandra- gupta, then an ambitious young general, un- seated the Nanda dynasty of Magadha and founded his own. In the following years he ex- tended his rule steadily northwestward until his empire extended from the Ganges to the Indus, including the deltas of both rivers. At the same time he organized a powerful army and an effi- cient administration to sustain his realm. Thus when Seleucus became king of the Middle East as one of the successors to Alexander and at- tempted to recover Alexander’s Indian prov- inces, Chandragupta easily repelled the Greek forces. Chandragupta's son conquered the Deccan region in the south, and his grandson, the fa- mous Ashoka (273—232 BC), conquered Kalinga, or eastern India. Thus the Maurya Empire un- der Ashoka included the whole Indian peninsula except for the southern tip. India under the Mauryas was wealthy and well governed, like the Roman Empire at its height. Numerous highways were crowded wt-‘h merchants, soldiers, and royal messenger "'Eae conquest of Kalinga on the east coast stimu- lated trade, and an admiralty department main- tained waterways and habors. The capital, Pa- taliputra, known as the "city of flowers," was famous for its parks, public buildings, and river frontage of over nine miles. Its educational in- stitutions were crowded with students from all parts of the empire and from abroad. All this was supported by “the king's sixth" of the harvest, which in practice was more commonly raised to a fourth, leaving the peasants with barely enough for existence. Law was severe, and order ruthlessly maintained. The army reputedly numbered 700,000 men, with 9,000 elephants and 10,000 chariots. Spies were efficient and numerous, sending in a stream of reports to the capital by messenger and carrier pigeon. Torture was frequently used as a means of punishment and to extort confes- sions. All in all, it was an efficient, harsh, bur- eaucratic society, based on the principle that “Government is the science of punishment.” Ashoka’s reign differed radically from this traditional type of imperial rule. Having con— quered the kingdom of Kalinga in a particularly bloody campaign, Ashoka underwent a spiritual experience. He himself described how over 100,000 prisoners were killed and how he felt “profound sorrow and regret." From then on, Ashoka tried to apply the gentle teachings of Buddha. He issued edicts based on Buddhist principles: simplicity, compassion, mutual tol- erance, and respect for all forms of life. He or- dered many public works that benefited his people rather than his government, including hospitals and medical care at state expense, orchards and resting places on highways, alms that were distributed to all sects, and Buddhist missions to several foreign countries. Ashoka did not make Buddhism the state faith, nor did he persecute the other sects. To the contrary, he helped the worthy of whatever denomination. It was not a change of religion, then, but of general attitude. He laid most stress on tolerance and nonviolence, not only because they were morally desirable but also because they would promote harmony in his huge and diverse empire. This attitude proved successful during his reign, for Ashoka ruled with great popularity for forty-one years. But within half a century after his death his dynasty was over- thrown and his empire destroyed. This has been the pattern of Indian history to modern times. In contrast to China, where imperial unity was interspersed with short in- tervals of fragmentation, in India it was pre— cisely the opposite—~brief unity and prolonged fragmentation. This is not to say that India had no unity. It did, but it was cultural rather than political. And this culture emphasized loyalty to the social order rather than to the state, as we see by the fact that higher status was accorded to caste than to any political institution. Thus the culture that enhanced unity in one sphere undermined it in another. IV. INVADERS, TRADERS, AND MISSIONARIES With the end of the Maurya Empire early in the second century B.C. there followed five hundred years of confusion and obscurity. But one con- stant factor is clear throughout this period. That was the increasing interaction between In- dia and the outside world, with manifold reper- cussions in all areas—political, economic, and cultural. First there were the numerous invaders. Beginning with Alexander and his Greeks, there followed the Parthians, the Scythians, and the Kushans, to mention only the most important. The empires of all these peoples were based at least as much in Central Asia or the Middle East as in India. Their linking of India with foreign lands stimulated trade overland and overseas. Roman traders went to southern and western India, whereas Indian traders settled in large numbers in Southeast Asia. Just as the Greeks traded and colonized all through the Mediterra- nean, so did the Indians all through Southeast Asia. 10 Indian Civilization Lion capital from Ashoka column in Samath. This work on display in the New Delhi Museum, dated from the reign of Ashoka (273—232 B.C.) and is one of the many monuments that this ruler of the Maurya Empire ordered‘erected in honor of the memory of Buddha. (Arborio MeIIa) Indian Civilization In the realm of culture, Indian Buddhist missionaries during these centuries were carry- ing their message to all the surrounding coun- tries. The begging priest could move among hos— tile or disordered peoples with safety since he was too poor to be worth robbing and also was respected as a man of religion. There was little incentive for robbing or injuring such a man, since the only return was the possibility of retri- bution from above. Hence there was diffusion of Buddhism and Brahmanism from India to the surrounding countries, with all the culture that went along with such transfer of religions. Nor was the culture flow exclusively one~sided. The succession of invaders from the north brought with them a variety of Greek, Persian, and cen- tral Asian influences. And by sea there came to India in the first century AD. a new religion— Christianity. According to legend St. Thomas ar- rived about A.D. 52 on the Malabar coast of southwest India, where he established a num- ber of churches. Thence he traveled overland to the east coast. His preaching, however, was strongly opposed, and he was killed in AD. 68 near Madras. His work in the Malabar region, however, bore fruit, for considerable Christian communities exist there to the present day. V. GUPTA CLASSICAL AGE In the fourth century AD. the great Gupta age began—a time when the invaders of the preced- ing centuries were assimilated and when var- ious cultural trends reached fruition. This was the classical period of Indian civilization, com- parable to the Early Empire or Augustan age in the West. The GuptaEmpire, like the Maurya, had as its base the Magadha state in the Ganges valley. This state had managed to preserve its independence following the Maurya collapse, and then, with the end of the Kushans, it began to expand once more into the resulting vacuum. The Gupta era began with the accession of Chandragupta I, about 320, and reached its height under his grandson, Chandragupta II, who reigned from 375 to 415. He expanded his empire until it stretched from the Indus to the 11 Bay of Bengal, and from the northern moun- tains to the Narbada River. The Gupta Empire was a north Indian empire and did not include the entire peninsula. Indeed south India at this time was in many ways a world apart, with the Vindhya range still an effective barrier dividing the peninsula in two. The peoples of the south spoke Dravidian or pre-Aryan languages— Tamil, Telugu, and Kanarese—in contrast to the Indo—Aryan speech of the north. On the other hand, the south had accepted the Hindu and Buddhist religions and social customs and used Sanskrit as its language of scripture and learn- ing. Thus a single civilization bound together the diverse peoples despite their disparate eth- nic and linquistic backgrounds and the exist- ence in the south of several independent king- doms. TheGupta Empire enjoyed much prosper- ity, especially after Chandragupta 11 introduced standard gold and silver coins. The volume of trade reached new heights, both within the pen- insula and with outside countries. The degree of security under Gupta rule is reflected in the drop of interest rates on loans for overseas trade from 240 percent during the Maurya pe- riod to 20 percent at this time. One of the chief industries was textiles—silk, muslin, calico, linen, wool, and cotton—which were produced in large quantities for both domestic and for- eign markets. Other important crafts included metallurgy, pottery, carving, and the cutting and polishing of precious stones. Judging from the reports of Chinese Bud- dhist pilgrims, Gupta rule was milder than that of the Maurya. Fa-hien, who spent the years 401 to 410 in India, traveling from monastery to monastery, was impressed by the state services and by the general prosperity. Although the dy- nasty was". Hindu, he found no discrimination against Buddhists. The countryside was peace- ful and prosperous, and not overrun by police and spies as under the Maurya. Fa-hien also noted that The people are numerous and happy; they have not to register their households, or attend to any magis— trates and their rules; only those who cultivate the royal land have to pay (a portion of) the gain from it. If they want to go, they go; if they want to stay on, they stay. The king governs without decapitation or (other) corporal punishments. Criminals are simply fined, lightly or heavily, according to the circum- stances. Even in cases of repeated attempts at wicked rebellion, they only have their right hand cut off. The king's body-guards and attendants all have salaries .. . in the markets there are no butchers' shops and no dealers in intoxicating drink.l In linguistics and literature, this was the period of the triumph of Sanskrit. Hitherto the learned and rather archaic language of the A CHINESE VIEW OF INDIA Chinese Buddhist pilgrims have left valuable descriptions of India in the Classical Age. The most famous was Hsijan-tsang, who visited all parts of the country between AD. 629 and 64S, and left the following vivid picture.* The towns and villages have inner gates; the walls are wide and high; the streets and lanes are tortu- ous, and the roads winding. The thoroughfares are dirty and the stalls arranged on both sides of the road with appropriate signs. Butchers, fishers, dancers, executioners, and scavengers, and so on, have their abodes without the city. In coming and going these persons are bound to keep on the left side of theroad till they arrive at their homes. Their houses are surrounded by low walls, and form the suburbs. The earth being soft and muddy, the walls of the towns are mostly built of brick or tiles. The towers on the walls are constructed of wood or bamboo; the houses have balconies and belvederes, which are made of wood, with a coat— ing of lime or mortar, and covered with tiles. The different buildings have the same form as those in China: rushes, or dry branches, or tiles, or boards are used for covering them. The walls are covered with lime and mud, mixed with cow’s dung for pu- rity. At different seasons they scatter flowers about. Such are some of their different customs. . . . Indian Civilization Brahmans, Sanskrit now staged a comeback and spread to administration and to secular lit- erature. Poetry and prose flourished with the stimulus of lavish royal patronage. Outstanding were the works of Kalidasa, “the Indian Shakes- peare," who rendered ancient legends and popu- lar tales into both dramas and lyrics. His Sa- kuntala was translated into English in the late eighteenth century and has since been widely acclaimed and presented on foreign stages. Per- haps the greatest cultural achievement of the Gupta era was the reduction into final form of the two great national epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Dating back to many centu- They are very particular in their personal clean- liness, and allow no remissness in this particular. All wash themselves before eating; they never use that which has been left over(from a former meal); they do not pass the dishes. Wooden and stone ves- sels, when used, must be destroyed; vessels of gold, silver, copper, or iron after each meal must be rubbed and polished. After eating they cleanse their teeth with a willow stick, and wash their hands and mouth. Until these ablutions are finished they do not touch one another. Every time they perform the functions of nature they wash their bodies and use perfumes of sandal~wood or turmeric. The most usual food is milk, butter, cream, soft sugar, sugar-candy, the oil of the mustard-seed, and all sorts of cakes made of corn are used as food. Fish, mutton, gazelle, and deer they eat generally fresh, sometimes salted; they are forbidden to eat the flesh of the ox, the ass, the elephant, the horse, the pig, the dog, the fox, the wolf, the lion, the mon- key, and all the hairy kind. . . . There is no lack ofsuitable things for household use. Although they have saucepans and stewpans, yet they do not know the steamer used for cooking rice. They have many vessels made of dried clay; they seldom use red copper vessels: they eat from one vessel, mixing all sorts of condiments together, which they take up with their fingers. They have no spoons or cups, and in short no sort of chopstick. *Si-Yu-Ki, Buddhist Records of the Western World, trans. S. Beal (Kegan Paul, 1884), I, pp. 70— 89. Reprinted by Paragon Reprint Corp., New York (l968). ‘ Indian Civilization ries before Christ, the early versions of these works have been entirely lost. Today they are known only in the form left by Gupta writers, in which they have remained the classics of Hindu literature and the repositories of Hindu tradi- tion. Their heroes and heroines are a part of the life of the people; their mine of stories has been used by generations of writers, and their phil- osophical poem, the Bhagavad Gita, is the su- preme scripture of the Hindus. In the field of science the Gupta period was outstanding. Contact with Greeks resulted in mutually beneficial exchanges of ideas. Arya- bhata, born in AD. 476 at Pataliputra, is one of the greatest figures in the history of astronomy. He taught that the earth is a sphere, that it ro- tates on its own axis, that lunar eclipses are caused by the shadow of the earth falling on the moon, and that the length of the solar year is 3653586805 dayS—a calculation with a remark- ably slight margin of error. The greatest achievement doubtless was the' formulation of the theory of zero and the consequent evolution of the decimal system. The base could have been any number; the Hin— dus probably chose ten because they counted on their fingers. With this system, individual num- bers were needed only for 0, l, 2 . . . 9. By con- trast, for the ancient Greeks each 8 in 888 was different. And for the Romans, 888 was DCCC- LXXXVIII. The difficulty of division and multi- plication with these systems is apparent. The simple Hindu numerals were carried westward by Arab merchants and scholars, and so became known as "Arabic numerals." Despite their ob- vious advantage they were long scorned as pa~ gan and as too vulnerable to forgery; one stroke could turn 0 into 6 or 9. It was not until the late fifteenth century that Hindu-Arabic numerals prevailed in the West and the door was opened to modern mathematics and science. In retro- Reference: spect, this Indian contribution stands out as comparable to the invention of the wheel, the le- ver, or the alphabet. Stavrianos, Leften Stavros. A Global Histmy .' From Prehistmy t0 the Present. New Jersey : Prentice Hall. Englewood Cliffs, 1991. 13 ...
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Chapter_4 - GS 1003 World Civilization Chapter 4 Indian...

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