World History 1 76 - 5.4 Vedic India to the Fall of the Maurya Empire

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the caste system and the way it functioned in Indian society
  • Identify the main elements of Buddhism
  • Describe India’s faith traditions: Brahmanism, Buddhism, and Hinduism

Few areas of the world are as important to our understanding of the emergence of human civilizations as India. Occupying an enormous subcontinent in South Asia, India has three distinct geographic zones: a northern area defined by the Himalayas that forms a natural barrier to the rest of the Asian mainland, the densely populated river valleys of the Indus and Ganges Rivers that lie to the south and northwest of that area, and lastly the tropical south, cut off from those valleys by many mountains and thick forests (Figure 5.20).

A map labelled “Indus Valley Civilization” is shown. The Arabian Sea is shown in blue in the southwest corner of the map. The rest of the map shows the following countries, from north to south: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and India. In the legend at the top left, thick black lines indicate “International boundary,” solid black lines with a dot in the middle indicate “Province-level boundary,” black stars indicate “National capital,” a black circle with a dot in the middle indicates “Province-level capital,” black lines with tick marks on it indicate “Railroad,” and solid red lines indicate “Road.” “Sites:” are indicated with a red square and “Rivers:” are indicated with a green wavy line. A scale is shown as well in kilometers and miles and is cited with “Lambert Conformal Conic Projection, SP 12N/38N.” Gold colored areas that appear bumpy are shown on the terrain of the map north and northwest of India.
Figure 5.20 This map outlines the major features of the Indian subcontinent, where the Himalayas stand as a northern border with the rest of Asia. (credit: “The major sites of the Indus Valley Civilization fl 2600–1900 BCE in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan” by US Federal Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Early humans traveled into Asia in waves around sixty thousand to eighty thousand years ago, moving from Africa to the Arabian Peninsula into India and beyond, on routes that hugged the coast. Some of the earliest evidence of this migration was found at Jwalapuram, India. Here, hundreds of stone tools dating to 74,000 BCE were discovered that resemble those of roughly the same age found in Africa, Laos, and Australia. But the roots of India’s ancient civilizations lie in the north, amid the archaeological remains of two ancient cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 1: to 1500 textbook by Openstax