The Old Indian Civilization
1. The “unknown land” of Asia – India.
2. Early Indian Civilization.
3. Key Features of Indian Society.
4. Religion and the Indian way of life.
5. Lack of Political Unity.
6. India’s literature represented by Mahabharata and Ramayana.
7. Customs in India – the practice of self-immolation by fire.
8. The role of muslims in India’s life.
9. Taj Mahal.
10. Art of India.
The “unknown lands” of Asia and Africa have fascinated Westerners for
centuries. The Orient, with her silks and her unique cultures, has
attracted travelers since early days. Despite the contacts, between Asia
and Africa remained virtually unaffected by Western influences until the
India is a land of great diversity, in its topography (the physical
features of a land), climate, and population, it is a study in contrasts.
This triangular subcontinent extends from southern Asia into the Indian
Ocean, forming a giant Pennsylvania. It’s terrain varies from subtropical
rain forest to barren deserts, from low coastal plains to the highest
mountain range in the world, the Himalayas. Between the rugged mountain
regions in the north and the coastal plains and tropical plateaus of the
south lie fertile valleys watered by two great river systems, the Indus and
the Ganges. Like the Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures, the earliest
Indian civilization began along riverbanks. The first inhabitants of India
settled in river valleys along the Indus and Ganges rivers.
These people must have felt secure from invaders and foreign
influences. They were protected by tall mountain ranges in the north and by
seas on the east and west. But despite these natural barriers, India did
not remain an isolated land.
Throughout her history, merchants, foreign invaders and Wandering
tribes crossed the mountains along India’s northwestern border and settled
in the fertile river valleys. As a result, India became a land of diverse
elements. Within Indian Society, a unique culture developed.
Early Indian Civilization
India derives its name from the Indus River, along whose fertile banks
the earliest Indian civilization flourished (ca 2300 BC). Much of our
limited knowledge of this civilization has come from excavations of two of
its leading cities: Mohenjo – Daro and Harappa. These carefully planned
cities had wide, straight streets lined with brick houses. Evidence
indicates that, these cities had elaborate drainage and sewer systems,
which were more advanced than those in most, modern Indian Villages.
Although a great distance separates India and the Near East, the early
inhabitants of India carried on trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia. From
archeological evidence it is known that the Indus civilization ended
suddenly – perhaps by flood on by enemy invasion. It was at this time that
a warlike people called the Aryans migrated into the Indus Valley.
The Aryans were a fair-skinned people who came from central Asia
sometime after 1500 BC and subdued the non Aryan people of northwest India.
Many historians believe that the Aryans were related to tribes that were
invading the Near East Greece and Rome about the same time. The Aryans were
herdsmen; they kept large numbers of cows and horses. Although they left
behind no cities as the Indus civilization did, they did establish a new
language in India – Sanskrit.
Our knowledge of the Aryans and their influence on Indian society
comes not from archaeology, but from a collection of religious literature
known as the Vedas, meaning “knowledge”. Preserved in the Vedas are early
traditions and religious beliefs of the Indians, which were passed down
orally from one generation to the next. From Sanskrit literature, we gain
insights into the Aryan way of life, which became the basis of Indian
culture and tradition.
Key Features of Indian Society
India has one of the oldest cultures in the modern world. The basic
characteristics of Indian society, described in the Vedas, have changed
little from ancient to modern days.
The family has always been one of the most important social units in
India. The extended or Joint-Family included the children, grandchildren
wives, and close blood relatives of a common ancestor. The oldest male of
the group was the dominant authority over the family. When married, sons
did not establish their own homes; instead they remained in their father’s
or grandfather’s household. Each family member had his own duties and
obligations. The interests of the family came before those of the
individual family members.
Parents chose the husbands or wives for their children in order to
maintain the family’s position and honor in society.
Imagine living in a country in which your status in life was
determined the moment you were born. India was such a country. Her
population was divided into rigid social groups called castes. The Indians
formulated strict rules governing the life of the members of each caste
group: where they lived, what they did (profession), what they wore, what
and with whom they could eat, as well as, whom they could marry.
India had between two and three thousand different castes and
subcastes. Each one fell into one of four broad “class” groups. The most
important group was the priests, called the Brahmans.
Next in rank were the rulers, and warriors, followed by the merchants
and traders. The lowest class group was the sudras – composed of servants
and serfs. Outside the caste system and at the bottom of the Indian social
ladder were the outcastes, or “untouchables”, for mere contact with them
was thought to bring defilement. While anyone could improve his status
within his caste system there was little change in the village and family
life of India.
This fact explains in part why Indian society remained nearly the same
for thousands of years.
Religion and the Indian Way of Life
Religion has played a dominant role in shaping Indian culture. From
India came two pagan religions that have had a major impact on Asian
culture: Hinduism and Buddhism.
Hinduism is ingrained in the Indian way of life. It developed from the
early culture and traditions of India: her social structure, literature,
arts and customs. It has not only preserved the traditional elements of
Indian’s past but also served as a unifying influence in India’s diverse
Because Hinduism has no formal statement of doctrine, it was able to
absorb into its system of belief a wide variety of gods and religious
concepts found among the many of the people of India. The majority of
people in India are Hindus.
The basic tenets of Hinduism are found in the religions literature of
ancient India, namely the Vedas and the Upanishads. Hindus believe that a
great god called Brahman permeates everything in the universe. The Hindus
acknowledge many gods; all deities, however, are considered only
manifestations of the eternal, unchanging Brahman .
Since Brahman is not a personal being, he is often referred to as the
great soul or world soul. The ultimate purpose and goal of man according to
the Vedas, is to reunite his soul with the world soul. This reunification
is accomplished through the process of reincarnation, in which a man’s soul
passes through many states (or rebirths) before it escapes the physical
world and unites with Brahman. This cycle of rebirths is called the wheel
The Hindu believes that a person’s deeds in this life determine his
status in the next. If he has lived a good life, then he will move to a
higher caste in the next life. The soul of an evil person may be reborn
into a lower caste or even into some form of animal life. By observing the
religious ritual and ceremonies prescribed by the Hindu priests and by
fulfilling the duties and obligations of his caste a Hindu believes that he
can ultimately gain release from the “wheel of life” and attain union with
the world soul.
India was also the birth of Buddhism. The founder of this new religion
was Siddhartha Gautama later know as Buddha, the Enlightened One”.
At the age of twenty-nine, Gautama became troubled over the world. He
became convinced that he should devote all his efforts to find the way of
deliverance from suffering. Therefore, he renounced his wife and child,
and set out to find peace and true happiness. After six frustrating years,
living as a hermit in self-sacrifice and meditation, Gautama was at the
point of despair. Sitting down under a tree, he vowed that he would not
move until the truth came to him. According to Gautama, he was pondering
the questions of life when he realized the truth and attained
enlightenment. Central to Buddha’s teaching are his Four Noble Truths: 1)
suffering is part of all existence; 2) suffering has a cause – selfish
desires. As long as man has a craving for pleasure, possessions, and power,
he will have sorrow and misery; 3) suffering can be overcome by destroying
selfish desires. 4) If man follows the Eightfold Path, he will destroy
selfish desires and end all suffering. This pattern for living includes
correct beliefs, intentions, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, thoughts,
Buddhism is a religion built upon works and moral behavior. Buddhists
believe that man does not need the help of the gods or membership in a
higher caste in order to obtain freedom from suffering. Once a man has
absolutely freed himself from his selfish craving, he will no longer be
reborn but will enter into Nirvana – the state of absolute peace and
happiness, where he loses himself in the world soul.
Lack of Political Unity
While many aspects of Indian Society have remained the same for
centuries, the political history of India has been one of constant change.
Through much of her history India has been little more than a patchwork of
small rival kingdoms. Successive waves of foreign invaders have streamed
into the Indian Subcontinent. The powerful empires established by these
invaders have provided brief periods of Unity and stability for the Indian
In 326 B.C. Alexander the Great threatened India. His armies crossed
the Indus River and conquered many small kingdoms in India’s northwestern
region. Alexander intended to advance further into India, but when his army
refused to continue, he had to turn back. According to traditional
accounts, he met a young man named Chandragupta Maurya while in India. As
Alexander’s empire began to disintegrate after his death, Chandragupta
conquered the disorganized and weak kingdoms in the north and created the
first strong empire of India – The Mauryan Empire.
The most famous of the Mauryan rulers was Chandragupta’s grandson
Asoka. He extended the Mauryan Empire to include all but the southern tip
of India. Sickened by the results of his own bloody conquests, Asoka
renounced war and became a convert to Buddhism. He spent much of his reign
promoting the Buddhist religion.
Asoca is created with building thousands of Buddhist shrines called
steepas. He also had Buddhist teaching inscribed on stone pillars still
stand, providing valuable information concerning Asoca’s reign.
One of his most far-reaching acts was the sending of Buddhist
missionaries abroad. Buddhism soon spread across much of Southeast Asia,
where it became a powerful force in other Asian cultures. It did not gain a
wide following in India, however.
Hindu priests viewed Buddhist teaching as dangerous to the caste
system. Fearing that they might lose their prestige and rank in society,
they worked against the acceptance of Buddhist beliefs.
The first great period of Indian unity was short-lived. Not long after
Asoka’s death (232 B.C.), the Mauryan Empire collapsed. The years between
the second century B.C. and the third century A.D. Witnessed new invasions
and the rise of small competing kingdoms. However, during this time of
turmoil, India did enjoy a profitable trade with Rome and China.
Even so, it was not until the fourth century A.D. with the rise of the
Gupta Empire, that India entered a new, and perhaps her greatest, era of
prosperity and achievement.
One historian has stated that “at the time India was perhaps the
happiest and most civilized region of the world”. The rulers of the Gupta
dynasty reunited northern India under a strong and effective government.
Trade flourished and the people prospered materially. India’s culture
spread throughout Southeast Asia. Her universities attracted students from
all over the continent, and she made great strides in the fields of
textiles and finest periods of Indian art, architecture, literature and
Gupta literature became renowned for its adventurous and imaginative
fables and fairy tales.
The foremost Indian poet and dramatist of this period was Kalidasa,
whose plays have earned him the title “the Indian Shakespeare”. The
popularity of various Indian Stories soon spread outside India, where many
of them found their way into the literature of other lands.
But Indian literature is represented by Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Mahabharata is one of the two great Sanscrit epics. It’s the story of
the Great Bharata War, a fratricidal war of succession between the Kaurava
and Pandava cousins (descendants of Bharata) in which nearly all the kings
of India joined on one side or the other. The Kauravas were destroyed and
the Pandavas attained sovereign power but in the end the eldest.
(Yo) Yudhishthira, renounced the throne and with his four brothers
(heroes of the war) and Daraypadi (the joint wife of all 5) parted for
Mount Meru, India’s heaven. Mahabharta is the longest poem in the World
(2.20.000 lines). It is perhaps 15 centuries old and is written in
classical Sanscrit. It consists of 18 books with a supplement, the
Harivamsa – a poem of 16.375 verses written by different people in
different times, and of a much later date, which has nothing to do with the
Book III Ch.313
The following represents a selection of the questions and answers that
passed between the Spirit and Youdhishthira:
1) “What is greater than Earth? What is higher than heaven?” “Mother is
greater than Earth; father is higher than heaven.”
2) “In what one thing is all dharma summed up? What single thing
constitutes all fame? What sole means takes one to heaven?” “Skill in the
discharge of one’s duties sums up all dharma; giving sums up all fame;
truthfulness is the sole road to heaven and good conduct is the one means
3) “What is the foremost wealth?” “Learning”.
4) “What is the best gain?” “Health”.
5) “What is the supreme happiness?” “Contentment”.
6) “What is superior to all other dharmas in the world?” “Benevolence”
7) “Whose control leads to absence of sorrow?” “The control of mind”.
8) “Which friendship ages not?” “That with good souls”.
9) “By abandoning what thing does man become rich?” “Desire”.
10) “By giving up what, does one become happy?” “Avarice”.
11) “What is penance?” “Penance is the observance of one’s own obtained
12) “What is self –control?” “Control of the mind”.
13) “What is forbearance?” “Putting up with opposites”. (pleasure and
pain, profit and loss)
14) “What is shame?” “Aversion to do reprehensible act is shame”.
15) “What is straight forwardness?” “Equanimity”.
16) “Who is the enemy hard to be won?” “Anger”.
17) “What is the endless disease?” “Avarice”.
18) “Who is said to be a good man?” “He who is benevolent to all things”.
19) “Who is a bad man?” “He who is barren of sympathy”.
20) “What is the best path?” “To cast away all mental dirt”.
21) “What is gift?” “Protection of life”.
22) “What is the wonder of the world?” “Every day live beings enter the
abode of death; those who remain think that they will survive; what
greater wonder is there than this?”
23) “What is the news of the world?” “With Earth as the pot, the firmament
as the covering lid, the sun as the fire, day and nights as faggots and
the seasons and months as the stirring ladle. Time cooks all beings; this
is the great news”.
Extract from Mahabharata
Romayana (adventures of Rama) is the earliest of the two great
Sanscrit epics, the incidents of which precede the Mahabharata by about
150 years. Rama was a king before he became translated into a deity. In
course of time, his story and epic became sacred and the belief became
established that spiritual and other blessings would be conferred on its
knowers ramayana became popular in India in every Hindy home. The story is
told in 7 books (96 000 lines).
At instigation of his second queen Dasaratha sends Rama, his eldest
son, into exile for 14 years. He is accompanied by Sita, his young Wife and
Lakshmana, his younger brother, when they are living happily in the forest,
Sita is abduced by Ravana (King of Lanka) Rama and Lakshmana go through
many adventures, battles, etc in their pursuit of Ravana, in which they’re
assisted by Sugriva, the monkey king and his general, Hanuman. Eventually,
Lanka is stormed and set fire to by Hanuman; Ravana is killed; Sita is
rescued and victorious party returns to Ayodhya, their capital city. Later
because her chastity is suspected (because she stayed in Ravana’s house),
Sita proves her innocence voluntarily undergoing an ordeal by fire.
Rama accepts her but for the same reason banishes her (again) the next
time. She goes away to Valmiki’s ashram, where her twin sons are born and
brought up. She prays to the earth goddess to take her away if she is
innocent who seated on her throne appears out of the earth and seating Sita
on her lap takes her away for good.
The epics Ramayana and Mahabharrata arose to supplement and reinforce
the teaching of the Vedas, particularly in respect of the moral, religious
and spiritual ideas of men and women. Since remote times, the two epics
have been the two eyes of the nation guiding it and holding up before it
the ideas of the truth and righteousness of Rama and Yudhishthira and of
chastity and wifely devotion of Sita, as also of the negative example of
Ravana and other characters who came to grief because of their lust,
avarice and wickedness.
These epics were expected to fulfil the mission of placing before the
people examples of how virtue triumphed and vicefell.
This was also an age of advance in mathematics, science, and medicine.
Our so called Arabic numerals originally came from India. Indian
mathematicians were among the first to use negative numbers, the decimal,
and the zero. Centuries before Isaac Newton, Indian Scientist developed
their own theories of gravity. Indian astronomers knew that the earth was
round and that it rotated on its axis. If in need of medical attention, the
people of the Gupta Empire could go to free hospitals where Indian
physicians were able to perform many surgical procedures and mention 300
different operations and 20 instruments.
Customs in India
India has many customs. The practice of self-information by fire has a
strange and terrible place in the lore of India, and it brings to mind the
practice of suttee, widow burning. This barbaric survival of ancient
customs lasted in India to a late day.
In 1817 there were 706 cases of suttee in Bengal alone. This was at a
time when the British authorities were making efforts to stop the practice.
They were afraid to prohibit window burning entirely in the face of
Hindu addiction to tradition, and resorted to intensive persuasion. No
suttee was permitted until the prospective, victim had been examined by a
magistrate, who made sure that she was proceeding of her own free will and
urged her to give up her ghastly intention.
The great source of information in that period is a massive volume
“Hindu Manners, Customs and ceremonies” by the Abbe Dubois, a French
missionary who spent years in India at the end of the eighteenth century
and the beginning of the nineteenth. He writes:
The last king of Tanjore, who died in 1801, left behind him four
lawful wives. The Brahmins decided that two of these should be burnt with
the body of their husband, and selected the couple that should have the
preference. It would have been the everlasting shame to them and the
grossest insult to the memory of the deceased had they hesitated to accept
this singular, honor, so they seemed perfectly ready to yield to the
terrible lot which awaited them. The necessary preparations for the
obsequies were completed in a single day.
Three or four leagues from the royal residence a square pit of no
great depth, and about twelve to fifteen feet square, was excavated
Within it was erected a pyramid of sandalwood, resting on a kind of
scaffolding of the same wood. The posts which supported it were so arranged
that they could easily be removed and would thereby cause the whole
structure to collapse suddenly. At the four courners of the pit were placed
huge brass jars filled with ghee, to be thrown on the wood in order to
hasten combustion .
The following was the order of the procession as it wended its way to
the pyre. It was headed by a large force of armed soldiers. Then followed a
crowd of musicians chiefly trumpeters, who made the air ring with the
dismal sound of their instruments. Next came the king’s body borne in a
splendid open palanquin, accompanied by his guru, his principal officers,
and his nearest relatives, who were all on foot and wore no turbans in
token of mourning.
Then came two victims, each borne on a richly decorated palanquin.
They were loaded rather than decked, with jewels. Several ranks of soldiers
surrounded them to preserve order and to keep back the great crowds that
flocked in from every side.
The two queens were accompanied by some of their favorite women, with
whom they occasionally conversed.
Then followed relatives of both sexes, to whom the victims had made
valuable presents before leaving the palace. An innumerable multitude of
Brahmins and persons of all castes followed in the rear.
On reaching the spot where their fate awaited them, the victims were
required to perform the ablutions and other ceremonies proper on such
occasions and they went through the whole of them without hesitation and
without the least sign of fear. When, however, it came to walking round the
pyre, it was observed that their features underwent a sudden change.
During this interval the body of the king had been placed on the top
of the pyramid of sandalwood. The two queen, still wearing their rich
attire and ornaments, were next compelled to ascend the pyre. Lying down
beside the body of the deceased prince, one on the right and other on the
left, they joined hands across the corpse.
The officiating Brahmins then sprinkled the pile with holy water, and
emptied the jars of ghee over the wood, setting fire on it at the same
moment. The flames quickly spread and the props being removed, the whole
structure collapsed and in its fall must have crushed to death the two
unfortunate victims. Thereupon all the spectators shouted aloud for joy.
During the sixth century the Gupta Empire collapsed under the repeated
attacks of the White Huns (perhaps related to the Huns who plagued the
Roman Empire during the fifth century) India again entered a period of
political disorder; the country became divided into small warring kingdoms.
Waves of foreign invaders again entered the land; but as in the past,
Hinduism absorbed these foreign elements into Indian society. However, the
history of India took a dramatic turn when northern India fell under the
domination of Muslims who brought with them a religion and culture as
strong as Hinduism.
After years of constant raids, Muslim warriors conquered much of
northern India, where they established a Muslim kingdom in 1206 near the
city of Delhi. Almost immediately a conflict arose between the Muslim and
Hindu elements within Indian society. This was a struggle not only between
two religions, but between two distinct ways of line. The Hindus believed
in many gods, but the Muslims acknowledged only one.
The Hindus followed the rigid caste system while the Muslims believed
in the equality of all men before their god, Allah.
Although Muslim control of northern India ended at the close of the
fourteenth century, the hostilities between Hindus and Muslims in Indian
society have continued to the present.
Muslims contributed to the development of Indian culture. They left
the valuable monument of art, the great masterpiece – Taj Mahal.
Of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World, two were dedicated to
sentiment in marriage: the Mausoleum, monument of a wife’s devotion to the
memory of her husband; the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, erected by a husband
for the happiness of a favourite wife. Among the wonders of the modern
world, one of the most famous commemorates a husband’s devotion to a wife.
It is, of course, the incomparable Taj Mahal, the tomb that Shah Jehan
created for the beauteous Mumtaz Mahal, at the city of Agra, in India. The
French traveler Francois Bernier, who toured the East three centuries ago,
was in Agra during the 1660s, saw the building when it had been up for less
than twenty years, and wrote in his journal: “Possibly I have acquired an
Indian taste, but I am of the opinion that this monument has much more
right to be included among the wonders of the world than the pyramids of
Egypt”. Some critics have gone beyond him, declaring the Taj Mahal to be
the most beautiful edifice ever erected by man. Shah Jehan was one of the
Mogul emperors who reigned over India in golden splendour. A Moslem, he
practiced the polygamy ordained in the Koran, which permitted four wife not
counting the concubines whom it was customary for an Islamic potentate to
have in his harem. Mumtaz Mahal, young dainty, and beautiful, was the
favourite wife. Taj Mahal, therefore, is a monument to romantic sentiment
in the harem, a husband’s devotion in polygamous family life.
The Taj Mahal is the masterpieces of Mohammedan Art. That it arose on
Indian soil is explained by history. The Moglus came originally from
Central Asia, their name being a variant of the world “Mongol”. They were
Moslems, and they conquered India.
The founder of the Mogul Empire was one of the remarkable men of all
time. In martial ardor and ability to command, Baber may have been a
typical princeling of Iartary, but he was also a man of culture, the author
of perhaps best political memoirs ever written by a reigning monarch. In
December of 1525 he led his army into India. The battle took place on April
12, 1526, and proved to be one of the decisive conflicts of world history
for Baber won the victory, that gave him a permanent foothold in the land
that was to be ruled by this descendants.
Baber did not finish the work of integrating an imperial domain. But
the Moguls were lucky in the next representative of their dynasty Akbar,
known to history as Akbar The Great. He introduced a new system of
government, bringing ale the land under his direct authority naming his own
viceroys, setting up a comprehensive tax levy, keeping the provincial
military forces in the pay of the central treasury to prevent local
rebellious before they could get started.
At his death (1605) he left behind an empire so closely knit and
organized that it could continue in much the same form for another century.
By patronizing artists and architects he forwarded the development of
style and skill to the point where under his grand son, the miracle of the
Taj Mahal became possible. Akbar was succeeded by his son Sahangir, the
potentate to whom the title of “The Great Mogul” was first applied. The
imagination of the west was inflamed, by stories of the beauty, power,
luxury and oriental splendour of the Mogul Empire. Merchants, travellers,
ambassadors, missionaries – all helped to fill in the picture of the Great
Mogul and his kingdom.
Iahangir died in 1627 and the throne passed to his son, Shah Jehan.
Under his popular rule the Mogul Empire reached its height. His reign was
remembered for its order, security and justice. In 1612 he had married
Argumand Banu a cousin, and their wedded bliss until her death in 1631
constitutes one of the great love stories of the world. It was not dimmed
by the fact that Shah Jehan, in Moslem fashion, had a harem of other wives.
She was his favourite, the one he called Mumtaz Mahal, or Ornament of the
Palace”. A powerful influence with him, she was largely responsible for his
orthodox Mohammedanism, for she held strictly to the tenets of Islam Mumtaz
Mahal bore her husband fourteen children, the last of which caused her
death on June 17, 1631.
Shah Ielah reacted to the tragedy as did Artemisia on the death
Mausolus. He was so inconsolable that it was feared he would die of grief.
In fact he never recovered from the shock, although he did rouse himself
because he wanted to venerate the memory of his wife, with a suitable
monument. The greatest thing he did during the rest of his reign was to
build the Taj Mahal. As a site he chose a high bank of the Yumna River, one
of the holy rives of Hundustan, where it bends around at Agra. He summoned
the finest architects and craftsmen from all over his empire and had them
submit plans for the proposed buildings. The Portuquese Iesuists in Agra
reported that the man who won was a Venetian Geronimo Verroneo, and that
this Westerner actually erected the Taj. But that story has been rejected
by some later scholars on the grounds that the building shows no European
influence. Other accounts name a Turk or a Persian.
The basic material used was wite marble, with the wall and gates of
red sandstone, a colour scheme, that has the remarkable effect of showing
different tints at different times of the day. The building stands on a 186-
foot square with the angles cut to form on octagon. Beneath it is a raised
marble platform, extending all around and marked by delicate minarets at
each corner. Above swells the great dome, about two thirds of a sphere,
surmounted by a crescent and flanked by smaller domes, each of the walls is
cut by arches of a similar but not at all mono fonous pattern, rather, they
contribute to the unity of the whole, Light enters through marble screens.
There is an old saying that “The Moguls built like titans and finished
like jewelers”. The Taj Mahal proves the truth of the remark. Looked from a
distance, its appearance is indeed dreamlike, with a grare and balance that
make us wonder how human beings ever achieved so miraculous a result from
marble and sandstone.
After Shah Jehan the Mogul Empire had no place to go except downward.
This great ruler lived to see the first bitter fruits of failure, for his
sons rebelled against him, and the one who came out on top, Aurangzeb,
deposed him and threw him into prison.
Then Aurangzeb moved the capital of the Mogul Empire from Agra to
Delhi. For seven years Shah Jehan remained in a cell in the fort at Agra,
protesting against the unfilial behaviour of the new emperor, and spending
much of his time gazing across at the Taj Mahal where the symbol of his
best days lay Buried. Shah Iahan died in 1658 and finally left prison to
lie by the side of Mumtaz Mahal in her glorious tomb. Aurangzeb maintained
his throne for fifty years, the last Mogul of any consequence. On his death
in 1767 fierce fighting among his sons broke out. Final ruin came in 1739
when the powerful king of Persia, Nadir Shah, invaded Hundustan. From then
on the Mogul Empire of Akbar, Yahangir, and Shah Jehan, was but a memory,
but it had left behind a colorful page of history climaxed by the enduring
monument that attracts and charms visitors to this day that wonder the
modern world, the Taj Mahal.
But India is famous not only for this monument of art – It has other
wonderful masterpieces of architecture.
Art of India
Indian civilization was one of the oldest and most original in the
East. Her contribution to world culture was great. In the ancient times,
India was famed for her wonderful miracles, vast natural resources and
In the 3rd century b.c. almost the whole Hindostan peninsula and some
neighbouring countries, were united into one gigantic empire under the
powerful king, Ashoch (273).
Only stone edifies in that period have survived till nowadays: temples
and cells, stone-shrines. Shrines were erected of brick and stone in the
form of hemisphere, surrounding by the fence with 4 gates in it.
Stone statues served as adornments of architecture and more often were
created in the form of scenic relief. Motions, gestures and poses of the
people on the relief are extremely expressive and graceful. That was under
the influence of the dance art, widely spread and popular in India.
Religious architecture of the Ashoch period is represented by cave
complexes and temples. Such temples were usually carved in the picturesque
and secluded places out of the solid rock massif. Excavations in the North
– West India brought the discovery of the wonderful statues created in the
1st century a.d.. These were mainly the statues of Buddha. Influence of
the Greco-Roman art was great here.
Figures of Buddha resemble much statues of the Roman emperors and some
of the Greek gods. They were made by Greek masters who lived in Indian and
adopted Indian religions. Later on the Indian apprentices of Greek masters
started sculpting Buddha according to the notion of the Indian people:
sitting with his legs crossed. Period of the blossoming Indian culture
dates back to the 4th –6th centuries a.d. Remarkable specimen of the
ancient Indian painting have survived in Buddhist temples and monasteries
in Adjanta. Walls, ceilings, pillars in these temples are painted with the
scenes from Buddhist legends and are decorated with statues and carving.
Murals in Adjanta are the visual encyclopaedia of life of the ancient
The Indian civilization was one of the oldest and most original in the
last. Its contribution to the culture of human kind is immense. At a very
early stage, ancient India maintained close cultural contacts with many
countries of the ancient Orient and with the Greco-Roman World.
Ancient traditions are highly viable in India and it is therefore not
surprising that many achievements of the ancient Indian civilization long
outlived the epoch of antiquity becoming an important component of the
country’s modern culture and of world civilizations.
1. “A Crown of Eagles” by Anne Covell.
2. “The Indians” by Blecker Sonia
3. “Across the Centuries” by S. Armento. G.B. Nash
4. “The story of Ancient Times” by Meclure C.H.
5. “People and Nations World History” by Mazour Anatol
6. “Lands and Peoples” by Bulliet Richard W.
7. “Investigations Man’s World” by Hanna Paul
8. ‘The West Indies” by Harman Carter
9. “Southeast Asia” by Karnow Stanley
10. “People” by Frederick King
11. “World History Atlas”
12. “Atlas of World and Environmental” by Middleton Nick
13. “World History” by David A. Fisher
14. “Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies” by Abbe Dubois
15. Encyclopedia “India”
16. “The New and Wander Book of Explorations and Discoveries” by D.
17. New English – Russian Dictionary (1999 Moscow)
18. Oxford Russian – English, English – Russian (Oxford)
19. English – Romanian, Romanian – English Dictionary by Andre Bantash