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300 to
1100 ce
During these eight centuries,
empires, religion, commerce,
victoria and albert museum

science, technology, literature

and art flourished in India.
In ways vitally important u
ti o

to Hindus to this day, the

Hindu faith was advanced n

si t
g h

by temple building, the

Bhakti Movement, holy texts
and great philosophers,
saints and sages. This is an 8th century South Indian bronze of Supreme God Siva as
Nataraja. This divine dance depicts His five cosmic powers of creation,
preservation, dissolution, veiling grace and revealing grace.

Note to Students, Parents and Teachers

This Educational Insight is the second chapter in our series staff of Hinduism Today in collaboration with Dr. Shiva Baj­
on Hindu history intended for use in US primary schools. pai, Professor Emeritus of History, California State University,
During this period, India was the richest region of the Northridge. Academic reviewers: Dr. Klaus Klostermaier,
world and one of the most populous. Great agricultural Professor of Religious Studies, University of Manitoba; Dr.
abundance, plus plentiful natural resources, were key to Jeffrey D. Long, Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Eliz­
the region’s prosperity. India lay in the center of the world’s abethtown College; Dr. Vasudha Narayanan, Distinguished
ancient trade routes. Merchants sent spices, cotton, sugar Professor, Department of Religion, University of Florida; Dr.
and exotic items east to China and west to Europe. Hindu Anantanand Rambachan, Professor of Religion, St. Olaf Col­
religion and culture and the Sanskrit language linked all of lege; Dr. T.S. Rukmani, Professor and Chair in Hindu Studies,
India. Great scientific discoveries as well as major religious Concordia University. Research Assistant: Justin Stein, MA
movements came out of this advanced and stable society. candidate at the University of Hawaii and former middle
This lesson was written and designed by the editorial school teacher in New York.
o c t o b e r / n o v e m b e r / d e c e m b e r , 2 0 0 8     h i n d u i s m t o d ay    I-1
1 Of Kings and
What You Will Learn... If YOU lived then...
Main Ideas You live in a village in a small kingdom in central India. One day you
1. Ancient Indians regarded the hear that the king of a neighboring realm has attacked your king and
subcontinent as one country. conquered the royal city. The conquerer demands that your king pay
2. From 300 to 1100 ce, India
was a land of prosperity
a portion of his income. In return, he will allow your king to continue
whose economic, religious to rule, and also protect the kingdom from others.
and cultural influence
extended across Asia.
Should your king accept the offer?
3. Empires and kingdoms domi-
nated most of India. Toward
the end of this period, more Building Background The 4th-century Vishnu Purana describes
regional powers emerged. India: “The country that lies north of the ocean and south of the
snowy mountains is called Bharata, for there dwelt the descendants
of Bharata. It is the land of works, in consequence of which people

go to heaven, and ultimately attain oneness with God.”

The Big Idea
Hindu culture, Sanskrit lan-
guage and imperial tradition
unified India during this age. Understanding India
The triangle-shaped Indian subcontinent is naturally bounded by
ocean on two sides and the high Himalayan mountains on the third.
H induism Today ’s
Teaching Standards Hindu tradition, scriptures and the Sanskrit language link people
from one end to the other of this immense and fertile area. Our
This column in each of the period, 300 to 1100 ce, was a golden age in India. There was wide-
three sections presents our
spread prosperity and remarkable social stability. Advances were
subject outline for India and
Hinduism from 300 to 1100 ce. made in science, medicine and technology. Many Hindu saints lived
1. Describe the physical and during this time and magnificent temples were built. Hinduism as
linguistic geography of India, practiced today evolved over this glorious period of Indian history.
along with population figures.
2. Describe the major empires Geographical regions
and kingdoms, including the There are three major geographical regions in India. The first region
Guptas, Vakatakas, Chalukyas,
Pallavas, Rashtrakutas,
is the Indo-Gangetic Plain. This vast, fertile region stretches north-
Pratiharas, Palas and Cholas. east and southwest along the base of the Himalayas. During our pe-
3. Discuss the importance of riod, this area was heavily forested. The second region is the Deccan
Sanskrit and the Dharma Plateau, bounded by the Vindhya mountain range in the north and
Shastras in uniting India. the Nilgiri Hills in the south. It contains several major rivers and is
4. Describe India’s early Arab rich in minerals. The third region is South India, the area south of
trade settlements and the the Nilgiri Hills extending to Kanyakumari at the tip of India. It has
later Islamic invasions.
rich agricultural farm lands.

I-2   h i n d u i s m t o d ay     o c t o b e r / n o v e m b e r / d e c e m b e r , 2 0 0 8
• Takshashila  • Kashmir
Ghazni Region
Sakala  •
Afghanistan India: Geography

Multan  •
hu Ya
Si un

v Ga
Mathura  • er  
Kannauj  •
ive ver
putra Ri
Sindh Region
r  Brahma
eti Kashi  •
•  Pataliputra
•   •  Vikramashila
Deval  • c P Nalanda
Ujjain  • n Vanga Region
Vindhya Range
Bharuch er 
Tamralipti  •
Valabhi  • • da Riv
Somnath  •
Ellora  • Deccan Puri  •
Plateau Go

Arabian Sea
Manyakheta  •
na R •  Amaravati
Bay of Bengal
Badami  • Kris

This satellite photo shows
India’s three major regions, its
India •  Kanchipuram
il ls
ri H
principal rivers and the major Nil
gi er •  Puhar
ri Riv
cities of the period 300 to 1100. Kave • Thanjavur  
India lay at the center of the Madurai  •
bustling sea and land trade
routes to Europe, Arabia, Persia, Kanyakumari  •
China and Southeast Asia Sri Lanka

Language areas Empires and regional kingdoms

India is divided linguistically into two major In 300 ce, an estimated 42 million peo-
regions. In the north are mainly Sanskrit- ple lived in India, 23% of the world’s Sanskrit
based languages, such as Hindi. In the population of 180 million. Approxi-
south are the Dravidian languages, such mately 60% of the Indian people lived
as Tamil, which include many Sanskrit in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. There were
words. This division cuts across the middle many towns and cities, but more than
of the Deccan Plateau. Often today when 90% of the population lived in villages. Linguistic Regions
people speak of South India, they mean the As our period began, the Indo-Gangetic
Dravidian-speaking areas. These are the Plain again became the most important
modern-day states of Andhra Pradesh, Kar- region of India, as it had been in the past.
nataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. During our From 300 to 550, the Imperial Guptas
period, regional dialects developed within established an extensive empire from the Academic
both the Sanskrit and Dravidian areas. Himalayas deep into the south of India. Vocabulary
Sanskrit was the language of religion, law Samudra Gupta (335-370) was the most autonomy
and government throughout India. Trav- heroic conqueror. The reign of his son, self-rule,
elers could use Sanskrit to communicate Chandra Gupta II Vikramaditya (375-414), independence
wherever they went on the subcontinent. was the most brilliant in the entire Hindu

o c t o b e r / n o v e m b e r / d e c e m b e r , 2 0 0 8     h i n d u i s m t o d ay    I-3
history. The Gupta kings granted local and the major empires of the South.
and regional autonomy. The frontier states In the 8th century, the Rashtrakutas
were nearly independent. The empire was took control of the entire Deccan, parts
responsible for security, major roads, irriga- of West Central India and much of the
tion projects and common welfare. South. Between the 8th and 10th centu-
The Guptas created both political and ries, they competed with the Pratiharas
cultural pan-India unity. India made original and Palas for pan-India dominance. The
Gupta Empire:
literary, religious, artistic and scientific con- Pratiharas at their peak ruled much of 300-550, with its
capital at Patali­
tributions that benefitted the entire known northern India. They were the first to putra (present-day
world. Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-hsien effectively stop Arab Muslim invasions
(Faxian) reported in the early 5th century, into western India, holding them in check Academic
“In the cities and towns of this country, the until the 10th century. The Palas, a Bud- Vocabulary
people are rich and prosperous.” Hindu- dhist dynasty centered in eastern India, pan-India
ism thrived under the Guptas, taking forms reached their zenith in the early ninth cen- relating to the
which endure until today. Gupta culture and tury. Then the Pratiharas displaced them whole of India
economy influenced much of Eurasia, nota- from much of the Gangetic Plain. sack
bly China and Southeast Asia. There were several large Hindu king- to seize all
valuables and
The Gupta Empire declined in the late doms in the Deccan and South India in
destroy buildings
5th century because of internal strife and our period. They included the Vakatakas,
invasions by fierce Central Asian Hunas Chalukyas, Pallavas and Pandyas. Rajendra
a group of
who ruled areas west of the Indus. The Chola I, who ruled from 1014-1044, unified kingdoms under
Hunas were driven back in the mid-6th the entire South. The Cholas had a large one authority
century by emerging Hindu rulers. army and navy. In an effort to protect their imperial
During his 17-year journey through India, trade routes, they subdued kingdoms as of, or relating to,
7th century Chinese monk-scholar Hsuan- far away as Malaysia and Indonesia. Their an empire
tsang (Xuanzang) wrote that there were expeditions are unique in Indian history. plunder
about 70 regional powers. Many were part The Cholas dominated trade between South property seized by
of the empire of King Harsha in the North India and the Middle East and Europe in violence
the West, and Southeast Asia and China
Timeline: 300 to 1100 ce

320 500
Gupta dynasty Bhakti Movement begins,
flourishes through gaining strength over the next
550 during a golden thousand years. It was led by
s. rajam

age of literature, art, saints such as Sambandar of

science and religion South India (at right with God
Gold Coin of Chandra Gupta II Siva and Goddess Parvati) Child Saint Sambandar
300 CE 400 500 600 700
300-1000 476 542 641
World-famous Rome falls. Indian trading Hindu kings defeat Harsha, ruler of
Ajanta and Ellora shifts from Europe to Arabia Hunas and end their much of north India,
Caves are created and the Middle East while brutal rule in central establishes diplomatic
continuing with China and northern India relations with China

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in the East. Indian traders brought Hindu religion invasions were stopped by the Pratiharas, who
and classical culture to Southeast Asia. Hindu and confined Muslim rule to the Sindh region. North-
Buddhist kingdoms arose in present-day Malaysia, western India remained stable under Hindu rule
Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and South Vietnam. until the Turkish King, Mahmud of Ghazni (in
modern Afghanistan), invaded India for plunder
Government and legal system and the expansion of Islam. Ruling from 998-1030,
The kingdoms of India were guided by the Shas­ Mahmud raided the country 17 times, wreak-
tras, Hindu legal texts written in Sanskrit. The ing large-scale destruction of temples, cities and
Dhar­ma Shastras, such as Manu and Yajnavalkya, palaces. The sack of the famed Siva temple of So-
recorded laws and customs regarding family, mar- manatha in 1025 was the most horrific, involving
riage, inheritance and occupation, as well as sug- the massacre of 50,000 defenders and the theft of
gested punishments for crimes. The Artha Shastra fabulous wealth. This battle marked the beginning
and Niti Shastras offered rules and advice on the of Muslim domination of northwestern India.
king’s behavior, war, justice, administration and
Section 1 Assessment
business regulation. People believed that when the
king was brave and just, the kingdom prospered. Reviewing Ideas, Terms and People
Shastras, local customs, advice of the wise and
1. List: What are India’s major geographic regions?
sound judgment of the king together produced so- 2. Describe: Where did most Indians live in 300ce?
phisticated, stable and enlightened government. What was it like? Who ruled this area at that time?
3. Explain: How did the Cholas succeed in unifying
Muslim invasions South India and spreading Hindu culture overseas?
Arabia, where the new religion of Islam began in 4. Apply: What do you think are some rules and
610 ce, had long traded with India. Arab mer- advice that the Shastras should give for kings?
5. Evaluate: If you ruled a kingdom that was
chants belonging to Islam settled peacefully in attacked by a more powerful empire, would you
South India in the early 7th century. By 711 Arab fight back or try to join the empire? Why?
Muslim armies had conquered North Africa, Spain
and the Persian empire. They attacked India’s Focus on Writing

7. Analyze: Describe the Indian empires of the time and
frontiers as well. Arab Muslims conquered Sindh
(now in southern Pakistan) in 712. Their further explain why they were attacked by Mahmud of Ghazni.

Chola dynasty is at its height. Its
712 influence extends across Southeast
Arab Muslims conquer the Sindh

Asia. Builds great temples at

region of western India. Their Thanjavur and creates world-famous
further advance is halted by Hindu bronze statues of Siva Nataraja.
armies. No further conquests
occur for nearly 300 years.
Thanjavur Temple
800 900 1000 1100
732 802 1025
Charles Martel Jayavarman II founds Mahmud of Ghazni sacks
decisively stops Indianized kingdom Somanatha temple in
british museum

Arab expansion of Kambuja in what is western India as part of

into Europe at the now Cambodia, with his campaigns to plunder
Battle of Tours (in capital at Angkor the fabulous wealth of
central France) India and expand Islam Somanatha Ruins
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2 Society, Science
And the Arts
What You Will Learn... If YOU lived then...
Main Ideas Your father is a master potter. One day a leader of the potter’s guild vis-
1. India was a wealthy country its from a nearby city. He says he can sell your father’s wares at a better
during this period. price than he gets in the village. He explains that a caravan will come
2. Towns and villages provided
economic and social struc- periodically through the village to collect his pots. In fact, he tells your
tures that brought prosperity. father the guild can sell all the pots the village potters can make.
3. Important advances
in science, technology, Should the potters accept the guild’s offer?
literature and art were made.

Building Background: Scholars used to call the period from 500 to

1000 ce the Dark Ages or Medieval Period of European history. Medieval, a

Latin word, came to mean “backward,” though it really just means “mid-
The Big Idea dle age.” Unfortunately, these terms were also applied to Indian history. In
India’s towns and villages fact, Europe and—much more so—India flourished greatly in this age.
were largely self-governing.
The Abundance of India
Key Terms Throughout the period from 300 to 1100, India was a wealthy
Gross Domestic Product, p. 6 country. It produced a large amount of food, manufactured goods
commerce, p. 7 and various items for domestic and foreign trade. The nation made
varna, p. 8 advances in medicine, mathematics, astronomy and metallurgy.
jati, p. 8 People enjoyed prosperity, peace and freedom and achieved
panchayat, p. 9
unprecedented artistic and culture excellence.

The richest nation in the world for over 1,000 years

Hinduism Today’s Economic historians estimate that between the first and eleventh
Teaching Standards century ce, India produced roughly 30% of the world’s Gross
5. Explain how India was the ­Domestic Product, or GDP. The GDP is the total value (the “gross”)
world’s richest country of everything a country or region produces. It includes the value of
during this period. food, manufactured items (such as cloth, jewelry, tools and pottery)
6. Describe the main features and services (such as the incomes of doctors, teachers, authors and
of town and village life.
artists). India had the highest GDP in the world for this entire pe-
7. Explain the principal advances
riod. China was the next highest, with 25% of the world’s GDP. By
in art, science, technology
and mathematics, especially comparison, in 1,000 ce Europe’s GDP was just 11%.
the decimal system.
Cities: centers of wealth and culture
The Indian subcontinent’s population in the fifth century is estimated
at 50 million, of which perhaps five million lived in cities and towns.

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The capitals where the kings lived were Singing, dancing and gambling were avail-
usually the biggest. Cities and towns grew able in special city areas throughout the
up along important trade routes, at sea and year. Traveling troupes of musicians, acro-
inland river ports and adjacent to major tem- bats, storytellers and magicians provided
ples and pilgrimage centers. Temples had be- entertainment.
come an important focus of life in cities and Cities served as centers of commerce and
villages. They served as places of worship, were largely self-governing. A four-person
scholarship, education and performing arts. ruling council included a representative from
City life was dynamic, diverse and fulfilling, the big business community, the smaller
as seen in the excerpt from an ancient poem, merchants and the guilds of artisans. The
The Ankle ­Bracelet, on pages 10 and 11. fourth member, the chief clerk, was responsi-
Larger houses were two- or three-story ble for making and keeping records, such Academic
structures with tile roofs, built around an as land deeds. Vocabulary
open-air, central courtyard. The homes of The wealth of the region depended commerce
wealthy citizens had attached gardens. Cit- upon the abundant agricultural harvests buying and
ies maintained public gardens, parks and and the diverse products of many artisans. selling of goods
groves. Prosperous citizens were expected to It was in the city that this wealth was sophisticated
be highly sophisticated and to lead an active concentrated. The king and well-to-do educated and
social and cultural life. Ordinary citizens citizens actively supported the fine arts, refined
lived in humbler circumstances. including literature, music, dance and
Then, as now, the Hindu calendar was drama. They promoted medicine, tech-
filled with home celebrations and public nology and science. They patronized the
festivals. Some festivals, such as Sivaratri, skilled jewelers, weavers, painters, metal-
took place in temples. Others, like Diwali, workers and sculptors.
Holi and Ram­na­va­mi, were held city-wide.

Artistic achievement
The artisans of India produced masterpieces which included
huge temples, metal and stone statues and ornate gold coins.

Three Chola-era bronze

statues: Lord Vishnu
(center), Bhu­devi, the
Earth Goddess (left),
and Lakshmi, Goddess
of Prosperity (right)
photos: british museum

Sarasvati, Hindu Goddess of

This Gupta-era gold coin (actual knowledge, music and the arts, was
size) has a horse on one side and also worshiped in the Jain religion
Goddess Lakshmi on the other.
It weighs about eight grams.
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Ahead of Their Time

Scientific Advancement 0 shunya 0

Among India’s greatest contributions to the world are the concept of zero and 1 eka 1
counting with ten numbers. This decimal system was best explained by Brahmagupta. 2 dvi 2
He was born in 598 ce and lived during the time 3
tri 3
of King Harsha. It was much easier to multiply, 4 chatur 4
divide, add and subtract with the Indian system. 5 pancha 5
At right you can see the English numbers and the
Sanskrit they were derived from. Note how you
6 shash 6
can recognize some shapes, such as 3 and some
7 sapta 7
names, such as nava for nine. Aryabhata (pictured
8 ashta 8
here), born in 476 ce, lived in the Gupta age. He
9 nava 9
determined that the Earth is a sphere spinning on
its axis. He calculated its circumference within

d o na l e e h o u s t o n
just 67 miles. He understood and accurately
predicted solar and lunar eclipses. He also made
discoveries in mathematics. The Delhi Iron Pillar
(lower right) is 23 feet 8 inches tall, 16 inches in
diameter at the base, and weighs 6.5 tons. This
victory pillar was forged in the 4th century and has stood without rusting for the
past 1,700 years. Scientists have determined that an unusual chemical composition
has made it rustproof. Only a few foundries in the world today could duplicate it.
Skill analyzing information

Find a few English words or parts of words that are related to the Sanskrit
numbers. For example, the tri in triangle is related to Sanskrit tri, 3.

Understanding the village based on specific occupations. The jatis are

Academic The villages, where 90 percent of the called castes in English. Jatis are grouped
Vocabulary people lived, were usually surrounded by under the four-fold class division, or varna:
foundry agricultural land. Each had for common priests, warriors, merchants and work-
a workshop for use a pond or water reservoir, wells, graz- ers. A fifth group gradually developed
casting metal ing grounds and at least one temple. The that included scavengers, leather workers,
barter year-round warm climate and monsoon butchers, undertakers and some tribal peo-
exchange of rains allowed farmers to produce two crops ple. This group, about ten percent of the
goods or services
a year. The villages enjoyed a food surplus, population, was considered “untouchable”
for other goods or
services (without except when struck by natural disaster. The and lived outside the city or village.
using money) villages had priests, doctors and barbers The Chinese pilgrim Fa-hsien reported
guild and skilled craftsmen, such as carpenters, that when a member of one of these castes
an association of blacksmiths, potters, oil pressers and weav- entered a city, he had to clap two sticks
craftsmen who ers. Some villages specialized in one or together to announce his presence.
cooperate in the more trades, which were organized into Because the jatis were hereditary, the
production and guilds, or shrenis. There were daily and families became expert farmers, craftsmen,
sale of goods
weekly markets in the villages and nearby merchants, etc. Each family in the village
towns to barter and sell goods. interacted with all other jatis and were
Hindu society evolved into many jatis, bound together in a permanent relationship.

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There would be a family barber, washer- including Taksha­shi­la, Nalanda, Vikrama­ Academic
man, priest, doctor, carpenter, etc., routinely shila and Vallabhi. Students entered Tak- Vocabulary
serving the family needs. Thus the village shashila at age 16 and studied the Vedas elope
was an interlocked economic unit. Each vil- and the “eighteen arts and sciences,” which to run away and
lage was self-governed by an assembly of included medicine, surgery, astronomy, agri- get married
without parent’s’
five elders, called the panchayat. culture, accounting, archery and elephant
The central unit of the town and village lore. One could later specialize in medi-
was the joint family, as it is today among cine, law or military strategy. Nalanda was one who travels
many Hindus. Father, mother, sons and their described by Hsuan-tsang as a center of from place to
wives, unmarried daughters and grandchil- advanced studies with 10,000 students and place
dren all lived under one roof. Land and 2,000 teachers. ayurveda
finances were held in common, and everyone Indian medicine, ayurveda, developed Literally, “science
worked for the advancement of the family. sophisticated systems of disease prevention, of life,” a system
Marriages were often arranged by the diagnosis and treatment. Widely practiced of health and
parents. The boy and girl had little say in today, this holistic system aims to create and prevention of
the matter, but if a couple eloped, the mar- preserve health, rather than just cure disease.
riage was recognized. In the system called From the Gupta Empire onward, India
swayamvara, a woman, usually a princess, witnessed a vast outpouring of literature in
could choose her husband from a group of the form of plays, poems, songs and epics.
assembled suitors. Performing arts were noted for portraying
Villages were interconnected with one the nine rasas, or emotions: love, humor,
another, due in part to arranged marriages. compassion, anger, heroism, fear, disgust,
The girl often came from a different village, tranquility and wonder.
one not more than a day’s journey away. A All these achievements created what his-
day’s journey (on foot or by bullock cart) torians call a “classical age.” India developed
was about 60 kilometers. Visits to relatives strong moral values and noble ethical prin-
created an interlocking communications ciples. High standards of intellectual and
network through which news, technology artistic sophistication and refined patterns of
and ideas freely flowed. Merchants, Hindu living were set that served as models for fol-
holy men and women, storytellers and lowing generations.
pilgrims added to this network of commu-
Section 2 Assessment
nication and to cultural enrichment. Such
itinerants often traveled long distances Reviewing Ideas, Terms and People
throughout India. Each village along the 1. a. Define: What is Gross Domestic Product?
way offered abundant hospitality. b. Identify: What country had the biggest GDP in the
world for 1,000 years? What country was next richest?
Science, technology and art 2. a. Explain: Where were cities and towns located?
b. Analyze: Who ran the city? Do you
India’s enduring prosperity allowed for
think this was a good system? Why?
great progress in science, technology and c. Contrast: Give three ways that Indian
the arts. The most visible examples are the villages were different from the cities.
great stone temples that stand today. These 3. a. Evaluate: Do you think the system of jatis was a
temples were expertly carved using simple good system? How is it different from modern life?
iron chisels and hammers. Focus on Writing
Knowledge was taught in many schools. ✎
4. Analyze: Why is this time a “classical age” in India?
The world’s first universities were built,

o c t o b e r / n o v e m b e r / d e c e m b e r , 2 0 0 8     h i n d u i s m t o d ay    I-9
Original Source

City Life in
South India
Translation by Alain Danielou­

The Ankle Bracelet is an ancient Tamil poem. This excerpt

describes the port city of Puhar during an annual Hindu
festival. Puhar was typical of the port cities of our period.

As You Read Try to visualize what the city looked and felt like.
Guided Reading
The Sun appeared, peering over the eastern hills. He tore off
Word Help
the mantle of night, spread his warm and friendly rays over
Ancient language of the pale Earth. The sunshine lighted up the open terraces,
South India the harbor docks, the towers with their arched windows like
Puhar the eyes of deer. In various quarters of the city the homes of
A port city 240 1 wealthy Greeks were seen. Near the harbor, seamen from far-
kilometers south of off lands appeared at home. In the streets hawkers were selling
modern Chennai
unguents, bath powders, cooling oils, flowers, perfume, incense.
an ointment
Weavers brought their fine silks and all kinds of fabrics made
of wool or cotton. There were special streets for merchants of
a large marketplace coral, sandalwood, myrrh, jewelry, faultless pearls, pure gold
and precious gems.
1 G
 reek merchants had
In another quarter lived grain merchants, their stocks piled
homes in the city of Puhar. up in mounds. Washermen, bakers, vintners, fishermen and
dealers in salt crowded the shops, where they bought betel
Why do you think they nuts, perfume, sheep, oil, meat and bronzes. One could see
were wealthy?
coppersmiths, carpenters, goldsmiths, tailors, shoemakers and
clever craftsmen making toys out of cork or rags, and expert
musicians, who demonstrated their mastery in the seven-tone
scale on the flute and the harp. Workmen displayed their skills
in hundreds of small crafts. Each trade had its own street in
the workers’ quarter of the city.
At the center of the city were the wide royal street, the street
of temple cars, the bazaar and the main street, where rich
merchants had their mansions with high towers. There was a

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street for priests, one for doctors, one
for astrologers, one for peasants. In

v & a m u s e u m / s h i va d aya l l a l o f pat na

a wide passage lived the craftsmen
who pierce gems and pearls for the
jewelers. Nearby were those who
make trinkets out of polished sea
shells. In another quarter lived the
coachmen, bards, dancers, astrono-
mers, clowns, actresses, florists, betel-
sellers, servants, nadaswaram players,
drummers, jugglers and acrobats. This 19th-century painting
On the first day of spring, portrays a typical Indian food
when the full moon is in Virgo, offerings of rice, cakes of market. About 50 different
sesame and brown sugar, meat, paddy, flowers and incense items are for sale. How many
can you identify?
were brought by young girls, splendidly dressed, to the altar
of the God who, at the bidding of Indra, king of heaven, had
settled in the town to drive away all perils. As they went away Guided Reading
from the altar, the dancers cried, “May the king and his vast Word Help
empire never know famine, disease or dissension. May we be nadaswaram
blessed with wealth—and when the season comes, with rains.” a high-pitched, double-
The people made merry on Indra’s chosen day. Great rituals reed wooden horn
were performed in the temples of the Unborn Siva, of Muru- paddy
gan, the beauteous god of Youth, of Valiyon, brother of Krishna, unhusked rice
of the dark Vishnu and of Indra himself, with His strings of famine
extreme shortage of food
pearls and His victorious parasol. A festive crowd invaded the
precincts of the temple, where Vedic rituals, once revealed by
here, a highly decorated,
the God Brahma, were faultlessly performed. The four orders ceremonial umbrella
of the Gods, the eighteen hosts of paradise and other celestial
spirits were honored and worshiped. Temples of the Jains and 2 2 T he city had both Hindu
and Jain temples.
their charitable institutions could be seen in the city. In public
squares, priests were recounting stories from the scriptures of How does this show
the ancient Puranas. religious tolerance on the
part of the citizens?
Understanding Original Sources

1. Comparing: The scenes described in this poem took 2. Analyzing: In these times, each craft or trade was the
place over 1,800 years ago. What are the similarities work of a separate jati. How many jatis can you identify
and differences between the people and activities from the crafts and trades mentioned in this poem?
portrayed here and those of a modern city?

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3 Leading a
Sacred Life
What You Will Learn... If YOU lived then...
Main Ideas It is your first visit to the thriving city of Puhar. When you arrive with
1. Hinduism permeated the your parents, you see not only Hindus but also Jains and Buddhists.
lives of India’s people. You observe Buddhist monks debating philosophical points with
2. A great devotional
movement developed
Hindus, but afterwards all having snacks together as friends. The
during this time. king of Madurai, you learn, is a Hindu, but he also shows his religious
3. The Hindu religion tolerance by supporting Jain temples and Buddhist monasteries.
made it possible for
anyone to reach God. What is the value of religious harmony?

Building Background: Physical evidence of ancient culture is sparse.

The Big Idea Wood, paper and cloth disintegrate over time; bricks and stones are
India’s rulers and people recycled. This makes it hard to answer some questions about history.
held a tolerant attitude But scientific methods such as carbon dating and DNA analysis are
toward all religions. giving new data and correcting wrong theories about ancient times.

Key Terms Leading a Sacred Life

religious harmony, p. 12 Daily life in villages and towns was guided by the principles of
Bhakti Movement, p. 13 righteous living as taught in the Hindu scriptures. Every day began
puja, p. 13
with a time of worship in the home shrine. Temples were the center
Agama, p. 14
Purana, p. 14 of village and city life. Families visited them to worship God and
participate in festivals and celebrations which were held throughout
the year. Holy men and women were honored. One’s daily work was
considered sacred. The people respected all the religions.
Hinduism Today’s
Teaching Standards Truth is One, paths are many
8 . Explain how Hindu Most kings of this period were Hindus; some were Buddhists and
kings maintained Jains. With rare exceptions, all supported the various religions dur-
religious harmony.
ing their reign. A Rig Veda verse declares: Ekam sat vipra bahudha
9. Describe the Bhakti
vadanti. “Truth is one, sages describe it variously.” This means that
Movement and the
importance of the Puranas, there are different ways to speak of the One Truth that is God.
Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Rashtrakuta rulers, for example, not only patronized Saivism
10. Describe the importance and Vaishnavism, but also supported Jainism and Buddhism. Rulers
of the Agamas and the of the period welcomed Christians, Jews, Muslims and Parsis and
development of temple encouraged them to settle in their kingdoms and practice their
worship during this period.
faiths. This policy maintained religious harmony in society and even
aided international trade.

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Life of Lord Krishna

indra sharma
Lord Krishna, depicted at center with blue complexion, celebrates
the Holi festival with friends in Vrindavan, a town of his youth

Evolution of temple worship

From ancient times, Vedic fire worship rites, mented meditation and yoga, offering an
called yajna, had been practiced. Families all-embracing means to enlightenment
continued to perform these rites at home each and liberation from birth and rebirth the impact

day. Rulers across India held spectacular Vedic through divine grace. Today
ceremonies, including coronations and other The most famous early saints of the Hindu temple
royal celebrations. Scholars believe that the de- Bhakti Movement are the Vaishnavite worship
continues to be
votional worship of God and the Gods in small Alvars and the Saivite Nayanars. They
performed in
shrines existed alongside or even predated Ve- came from all castes and were a voice modern times,
dic rites everywhere, especially in South India. for equality. Four of the Nayanars enjoy using Sanskrit
chanting and
Since at least the third century bce, devo- prominence to this day: Appar, Sundarar, following
tional worship became increasingly popular. It Sambandar and Manikkavasagar. instructions
eventually became the central practice of Hin- While pilgrimaging from temple to from the Agama
duism. Some small shrines evolved into great temple, the Nayanars composed poems
temples with more complex worship, called and songs in praise of the loving God
puja. Puja is the ritual offering of water, food, Siva. These became part of a massive
flowers and other sacred substances to the body of scripture called the Tirumurai.
enshrined Deity. Yajna rites, Sanskrit chanting These passionate hymns, composed in
and verses from the Vedas were all incorpo- the Tamil language, remain popular today deep love and
rated into the temple rituals. in South India. Saints emerged all over respect
India composing devotional songs to Siva, Saivite
The Bhakti Movement Vishnu, Krishna, Rama and Devi in local worshiper of Siva
Many Hindu saints of this time preached the languages. There was a massive response Vaishnavite
importance of devotion to God in what is to this stirring call of divine bliss. worshiper of
called the Bhakti Movement. Adoration for Great teachers and philosophers, such as Vishnu
God, known as bhakti, stresses one’s personal Ramanuja and Yamunacharya, were critical
relationship with the Divine as a love-centered to the Bhakti Movement. They explained
path of spiritual advancement. It comple- how to relate to God through worship.

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Temple Wonder

Rock-Cut Temple
The Kailasa Temple to Lord Siva at Ellora, Maharashtra, in West
India, was begun in the 8th century by Rashtrakuta King Krishna
I and completed by his successor. Amazingly, it was carved out of
a solid mountain of rock. It took the stone workers 100 years to
remove 200,000 tons of rock. The temple, measuring 160 feet by
280 feet, was created in the South Indian style by architects of that

region. It was designed to resemble Mount Kailasa, the Himalayan
home of God Siva. Along the same rock cliff are 34 caves that were
excavated from the solid rock between the 5th and 10th centuries.
They served as monasteries and temples. Twelve were built for the
Buddhists, 17 for Hindus and five for Jains. The fact that these
were all built in the same complex testifies to the religious
harmony and diversity of the period.
Skill analyzing information

Why do you think the king went to so much

time and expense to build this large temple?

Adi Shankara their chosen Deity with great devotion and

Academic The guru Adi Shankara (788-820) devel- paid respects to the many other enshrined
Vocabulary oped the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta Deities. The priest conducted the holy ritu-
assimilation during this time. In summary, his philoso- als, but did not stand between the devotee
the absorption phy can be stated as: “Brahman (the Su- and God.
and integration
of a people,
preme Being) is the only truth. The world is Temple worship was defined in great
idea, religion or an appearance. There is ultimately no dif- detail in the A­ga­mas and parts of the Pura­
culture into a ference between Brahman and the atma, or nas. The refined art of building with stone,
society individual soul.” He taught this philosophy brick and other materials was the subject of
guru across India. He established four monas- the Vastu Shastras. These books on archi-
teacher tic centers which remain influential today. tecture cover temple design, town planning
epic His teachings and the Bhakti Movement and house construction. All these texts are
a long poem together brought back many Jains and Bud- in Sanskrit. The Agamas include rituals and
about herioc dhists to Hinduism. Sanskrit chants for every act connected
deeds and
with the temple, from its conception and
Temple worship construction to the details of daily worship.
All over India great Hindu temples were Temples were central to the social and
built or expanded between 300 and 1100 ce. economic life of the community. Large
Many are at the center of large cities, such temples also served as centers for educa-
as Varanasi on the Ganga in the North, and tion and training in music and dance. Over
Madurai in the South, and remain powerful the centuries, many temples acquired
places of worship. agricultural land and great wealth. During
In the temples, the people worshiped festivals, thousands of people pilgrimaged

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to the famous temples. This flow of visitors based on the epics became the main means the impact

helped the local economy and spread cul- of teaching the Hindu way of life. Today
tural practices and religious belief. During our period, Hinduism and Bud- The Ramayana
dhism spread to Burma, Indonesia, Malay- and Mahabharata
The Purana Scriptures sia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. continue to
enrich religious
Puranas are dedicated to a particular Deity. It was made popular in these countries life. They have
Each contains a description of the origin of through the epics and other Sanskrit texts. even been made
into popular
the universe, lists of kings, Hindu philoso- movies and TV
phy and traditional stories about the Gods programs.
and Goddesses. Among the most important Chapter Summary
Puranas are the Bhagavata, Vishnu, Siva
The time from 300 to 1100 ce was a
and the Markandeya, especially for its
golden age in India. Its prosperity, stabil-
Devi Mahatmya section. The Bha­ga­vata Academic
ity and religious harmony encouraged
narrates the greatness of Lord Vishnu and Vocabulary
scientific and artistic achievements that
His ten avatars, of whom the two most im- avatar
set standards for the entire world. Devo-
portant are Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. the Supreme
tional Hinduism developed in a power-
The Siva Purana extols the four-fold path Being appearing
ful manner. Through songs and stories, in human form
leading to oneness with Lord Siva: service,
it brought Hindu principles and values
worship, yoga and wisdom. It also explains yoga
into the languages of the common people. practices that
Namah Sivaya, regarded by Saivites as the
Temples became popular centers for wor- bring union with
most sacred of mantras.
ship of Gods and Goddesses. The Puranas, God
The Puranas record an important feature
Ramayana and Maha­bharata provided mantra
of Hinduism, the assimilation of different
an abundant library of history, philosophy, sacred sound
ethnic and religious groups. They tell us
religious practices and moral teachings in
that earlier migrants into India, such as the
stories that were passed from generation
Greeks, Persians and central Asian peoples,
to generation. This great devotional tradi-
including the Hunas, had been completely
tion inspired and sustained the people in
absorbed into Indian society and Hindu
their daily life, as it continues to do today.
religion. Various tribes were also brought
into the mainstream and their beliefs and Section 3 Assessment
practices assimilated. The stories of these
people are recorded in the Puranas. Reviewing Ideas, Terms and People
1. a. Explain: How did Hindu rulers show tolerance?
Ramayana and Mahabharata b. Define: What is bhakti?
You read in chapter one about the two great c. Elaborate: What is the purpose of the temple priest?
2. List: Name three important Puranas.
historical tales of India, the Ramayana
3. a. Explain: What does assimilation mean?
and the Maha­bharata. These epics were b. List: What peoples were assimilated into Hindu society?
revised into their present form and gained 4. a. Explain: What is the Bhakti Movement?
popularity all over India, and beyond, dur- b. Explain: What caste did its saints belong to?
ing our period. They played a crucial role c. Elaborate: What are the ways the Ramayana
in the development of devotional Hinduism. and Mahabharata are presented today?
Unlike the Vedas, which could be under-
stood only by those who studied Sanskrit,
Focus on Writing

5. Explain: Why do you think the Bhakti Movement
the epics were retold into local languages. became popular all across India?
Drama, dance, song, painting and sculpture

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2 Standards Assessment
Directions: Read each question and circle the letter of the best response

1. The Indian subcontinent was united as a one country by: 8. Hindu villages were in close contact because:
A Hindu religion, customs and the Sanskrit language A Runners daily delivered news from village to village
B The Buddhist Pala kings of Northeast India B Many women married into families of nearby villages
C Outside invaders who conquered the subcontinent C People wrote letters to each other frequently
D A confederation of rulers D Villages met monthly

2. From 300 to 1100 ce, India comprised about 9. Why was our time period considered a “classical age?”
what percent of the world population? A Greeks ruled India throughout this time
A 5% B Great Hindu kings conquered areas outside of India
B 15% C India’s advances in knowledge and
C 25% development of refined patterns of living
D 35% D The land was very prosperous

3. What were the Guptas not famous for? 10. The city of Puhar described in the poem, Ankle Bracelet:
A Advances in art, science and technology A Was a city intolerant of religions other than Hinduism
B Creating a pan-Indian empire B Was an underdeveloped city
C Suppressing the Buddhist and Jain religions C Was home to many merchants and craftsmen
D A prosperous economy with strong foreign trade D Had little to offer by way of entertainment

4. Why did Mahmud of Ghazni invade India? 11. Which of these religious groups were welcomed in India?
A To remove unjust Hindu kings from power A Muslims
B To establish his own pan-India empire B Jews and Christians
C To seek revenge for an Indian invasion of his country C Parsis
D For plunder and the expansion of Islam D All of the above

5. Which is the correct list of GDPs for our period? 12. Why is the Kailasa Temple in Ellora unusual?
A India 50%, China 25%, Europe 5% A It was built from 10,000 granite blocks
B India 20%, China 20%, Europe 20% B It was carved out of solid rock
C India 11%, China 25%, Europe 30% C It was the largest clay brick structure in India
D India 30%, China 25%, Europe 11% D Though made of wood, it lasted 500 years

6. The cities of India were ruled by whom? 13. The Bhakti Movement was based on:
A A council representing the major interest groups A Rules set by the brahmin caste
B A council elected by vote of all residents B Temple worship, scriptures and devotional songs
C A hereditary ruler C The religions of Buddhism and Jainism
D A military general D A royal command of the Rashtrakuta rulers

7. What is a jati? 14. The Ramayana and Mahabharata influenced:

A A priest, warrior, merchant or worker A Mainly the community of merchants
B A group following the same hereditary occupation B Only the people of the Indo-
C A group of foreign sailors Gangetic Plain region of India
D A group assigned to an occupation by the king C Mostly South India
D All of India and countries in Southeast Asia

Internet Resources: Go to http://www.hinduismtoday. URL are additional teaching resources and letters of
com/education/ for a PDF version of this chapter, as endorsement from academics and community leaders.
well as Chapter One, “Hinduism from Ancient Times,” To order additional copies of this educational insight,
with clickable links to resources. Also at the same go to
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