People in the Indus River Valley developed a civilization about the same time civilizations developed in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The two most important sites uncovered so far by archeologists are Harappa and Mohenjo-Dara; both cities show considerable development including multi-level houses and city-wide plumbing. The Indus Valley civilization appears to have collapsed because natural disaster altered the course of the Indus River.
Few countries in the world have such an ancient and diverse culture as India's. Stretching back in an unbroken sweep over 5000 years, India's culture has been enriched by successive waves of migration which were absorbed into the Indian way of life. It is this variety which is a special hallmark of India. Its physical, religious and racial variety is as immense as its linguistic diversity. Underneath this diversity lies the continuity of Indian civilization and social structure from the very earliest times until the present day. Modern India presents a picture of unity in diversity to which history provides no parallel.
A Brief History
India - Cultural exchange between the Indus Valley civilization and Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) is especially prominent.
India - The Aryans invade the Indus Valley region.
India - Between these dates, the Early Vedic period of Indian civilization unfolds.
India - Writing disappears from India for a time with the destruction of the Indus Valley civilization.
India - During this period of Indian civilization, the Late Vedic period, the Aryans are integrated into Indian culture. The caste system emerges.
India - The Rig Veda, the first Vedic literature, is written.
India - The Brahmans, a priestly caste, begin to emerge.
India - The Upanishads are written around this time; the doctrines of rebirth and the transmigration of souls start to appear, leading to important theological transformations within Hinduism.
India - Gautama Siddharta Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is born somewhere in what is today Nepal. He will die sometime around 483.
India - Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, is born. He will die around 486.
India - Cyrus the Persian campaigns west of the Indus River.
India - Darius the Persian conquers the Indus Valley region, making the area a province of the Persian Empire.
India - The Mahabharata, of which The Bhagavad Gita is a part, is put into final form.
India - Panini's Sutra, the earliest Sanskrit grammer, is written.
India - Alexander the Great passes through the Indus Valley installing Greek officials in the area.
India - Alexander the Great dies, providing the opportunity for an independent state in India. Chandragupta Maurya founds the Maurya dynasty, the first Indian empire. Its capital is in Patna. By 184, this dynasty will conquer most of India.
India - Chandragupta trades 500 war elephants to Seleucus in exchange for the Indus region and regions immediately to the West.
India - Ashoka, grandson of Chandragupta Maurya and most impressive ruler in the Maurya dynasty, rules in India and institutes a series of edicts designed to bring about moral reform. His policy on reform flows from his Buddhist orientation.
India - The Aryan Hindus occupy Celyon.
India - A general council of Buddhist monks is held in Patna, where the canon of Buddhist scriptures is selected.
India - The Maurya dynasty ends when the last ruler is assassinated by an ambitious army commander.
India has long been known as a center for spiritual, and religious mixing. In 600 B.C., around the time of the birth of Siddhartha Guatama, better known as the Buddha, India was comprised of many small communities under different rulers, some organized in to kingdoms but for the most part, in to small city states.
Long had been in the process of the caste system which still exists today. The noble class, Priestly Class, the Merchant class, the Worker class and the Slave class still exist in India in some form or another. People are born into their caste and cannot change their position in life.
Indian culture takes what it can from the known history of the people of India, and incorporates some of the legends from their religious texts, The Rig Veda and the Bhagavad Gita.
In India, religion is a way of life. It is an integral part of the entire Indian tradition. For the majority of Indians, religion permeates every aspect of life, from common-place daily chores to education and politics. Religious India is home to Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and other innumerable religious traditions. Hinduism is the dominant faith, practised by over 80% of the population. Besides Hindus, Muslims are the most prominent religious group and are an integral part of Indian society. In fact India has the second largest population of Muslims in the world after Indonesia.
Everyday practices have made their way into most religious faiths in India and many of the festivals that mark each year with music, dance and feasting are shared by all communities. Each religion has its own pilgrimage sites, heroes, legends and even culinary specialties, mingling in a unique diversity that is the very pulse of Indian society.
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