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Chapter 7: State, Society and the Quest for Salvation in India

1. According to the introduction, what was the principal difference in terms of political
organization/centralization between India on the one hand and China/Persia on the other?
-In India, there was an absence of a continuous imperial tradition. Usually, India was not ruled
under centralized empires, but rather had regional kingdoms

2. Why did Alexander of Macedon (aka Alexander the Great) contribute to the formation
of the first centralized state in northern India?
-When came to northern Punjab for 2 years after defeating the Persian Empire, he did not make a
profound impression on the ppl. Hwvr, he created a political vacuum in NW India by destroying
the existing states and then withdrawing his forces. This allowed the kingdom of Magadha to
expand and conquer neighboring states.

3. Describe Chandragupta Maurya’s policies and approach to governance. How did this
compare to the system created in Persia and China?
-Had a political advisor name Kautalya
-Used spies, like Darius did
-Like Persia and China, bureaucratic administrative system; policies apply thoughout the state

4. Describe Ashoka Maurya’s policies and approach to governance. How did it differ from
his grandfather Chandragupta’s? Any continuities between the two?
-Like Chandragupta, he had a tightly organized bureaucracy
-Came into power as a conqueror: bloody campaign for territory of Kalinga
-Best known as a governor
-Capital @ PAtaliputra
-Central treasury, taxes (like Chandragupta)
-Had edicts created that encouraged Buddhist values and promoted his good intentions (“rock
and pillar edicts)
-India has integrated economy and stable gov’t
-Irrigation systems; roads

5. Why did the Mauryan Empire decline? Were any of these causes rooted in Ashoka’s
-After Ashoka dies, empire collapses
-Administrative costs of running the large empire, cost of army and gov’t officials was high 
financial and economic collapse

6. Why were the Bactrian Kingdom and the Kushan Empire important states? Hint:
Consider their strategic locations.
~After the Mauryan empire falls, NW India is under control of Greek-speaking conquerors from
-Bactriam kingdom: Thriving commercial center linking the Far East to the Mediterranean,
promoting cross-cultural exchange and trade routes
-Kushan empire: Nomadic conquerors from central Asia attack Bactria, most prominent of whom
were the Kushans, who ruled an empire in much of N. India and central Asia from 1-300 CE
-Facilitated commerce btwn India and lands to the north.
-Silk Roads

7. How did the political organization of the Gupta Empire differ from that of the Mauryan
~Gupta Empire was slightly smaller
~Chandra Gupta makes alliances with power families in Ganges region
-Unlike Mauryan, Gupta Empire left local gov’t in the hands of their allies in the various regions

8. Why did the Gupta Empire decline?

-White Huns invade
-Resources and energy spent on repelling the enemy weakens the state
-Gupta dynasty continues in name only: regional governors often usurp power
~Evidence that imperial centralized rule rarely worked in India

9. Why were towns important in the development of the Indian economy?

-Towns helped the agricultural economy by supplying manufactured goods as well as luxury
-Help development of trade

10. Explain India’s role in overland and maritime long‐distance trade routes. What goods
did India produce for markets abroad?
-Long-distance trade passed overland through the Hindu Kush and across the silk roads. Indian
trade overseas benefited from the monsoon seasons, making sailing easy.
-Main exports: cotton, pepper, jewels, spices

11. Why did the monsoon wind patterns in the Indian Ocean basin benefit India with
regard to trade? [Hint: Look on a map at India’s location . . .]
-The winds allowed Indian trade to reach anywhere in the Indian Ocean basin, including SE Asia

12. Describe women’s roles and status in India society. Did status improve or decline
during the Gupta period? How did literature like the Ramayana and Mahabharata
reinforce ideas about proper gender roles?
-Women were generally seen as subservient to husbands (patriarchal)
-Wives dominate domestic affairs in households
-Ramayana and Mahabhrata (Indian epics) portray women as weak-willed
-During Gupta, child marriage becomes common
-Ensures that women remain at home

13. Describe the function of jati in Indian society. How were jati related to guilds?
~As trade expanded, new groups of artisans, craftsmen, and merchants appeared, many of whom
didn’t fit into established societal structure
-Ppl in the same occupation form guilds: supervised wages and prices in that industry and
provided for members’ families
-Functioned as occupational subcastes: jati
-Jati maintains social order: regulates community affairs
-Guilds and jati perform services the central govt’s provided elsewhere

14. Did wealth always correspond to social status in Indian society after 600 BCE? How did
this contribute to the development/popularity of new religious traditions?
-No: trade and industry often brought wealth to those of lower castes, such as vaishyas and even
shudras. People with lower social status could become wealthier and more influential than the
highly respected Brahmins.
-Because these old Aryan beliefs about social structure seemed irrelevant, new religions emerge

15. Explain the main ideas of Jainism, including ahimsa. What view of the caste system did
Jains have?
-Belief that everything in the universe has a soul
-These souls experience suffering when trapped in mortal life
-To escape this, one must abandon selfishness and live an ascetic lifestyle
-Ahimsa: nonviolence toward other souls / living things
-Rejected the caste system and social hierarchies

18. What did Jainism and Buddhism have in common? Which religion became more
popular in Indian society? Why?
-Buddhism also recognize ahimsa as an important way of life
-Also rejects caste system
-Buddhism becomes more popular because Jainism’s asceticism is too hard to follow
-Buddhism more popular with merchants, Jainism more popular w/ lower castes
19. Describe the reasons why early Buddhism gained popularity in India. What is a stupa?
What role did Ashoka Maurya play in Buddhism’s spread?
-Language: Buddhist monks avoid Sanskrit and used vernacular tongues (teachings understood
by more people)
-Recognized holy sites and stupas (shrines housing relics of the Buddha)
-Organization of the movement
-Monastic organizations help the spread of the religion
-Ashoka’s official support of Buddhism helped it spread
-He sends missionaries abroad
-He builds monasteries and stupas

20. How did Buddhism change in the centuries after Buddhism’s initial establishment?
Why did these changes occur?
-People begin to worship Buddha as a god
-Mahayana and Theravada
-Monasteries accept gifts
~Bc it makes it easier for people to feel closer to salvatrion

21. What is a boddhisatva? How do boddhisatvas compare to Christian saints?

-An enlightened being
-Like saints, examples of spiritual excellence and inspiration
23. What is the Bhagavad Gita? How does it support the caste system?
-Short poetic work that illustrates the expectations Hinduism had on its followers and the
promise of salvation
-Part of Mahabharata

24. How did Hinduism become a more “popular” religion that could appeal to all social
groups, and not just Brahmins?
-Offered salvation to all people, not just Brahmins
-Goes against old teachings of Uphanishads; devotional Hinduism

25. Why did Hinduism eventually displace Buddhism in popularity in India?

-Buddhist monks don’t actively spread religion anymore
-Hinduism is endorsed by rulers, esp. by Gupta emperors