Hindu India: 300 to 1100 ce

Hindu India:
300 to 1100 ce

  During these eight centuries,
empires, religion, commerce,
science, technology, literature
and art flourished in India.
In ways vitally important
to Hindus to this day, the
Hindu faith was advanced
by temple building, the
Bhakti Movement, holy texts
and great philosophers,
saints and sages.

Note to Students, Parents and Teachers

This Educational Insight is the second chapter in our series
on Hindu history intended for use in US primary schools.
During this period, India was the richest region of the
world and one of the most populous. Great agricultural
abundance, plus plentiful natural resources, were key to
the region’s prosperity. India lay in the center of the world’s
ancient trade routes. Merchants sent spices, cotton, sugar
and exotic items east to China and west to Europe. Hindu
religion and culture and the Sanskrit language linked all of
India. Great scientific discoveries as well as major religious
movements came out of this advanced and stable society.
This lesson was written and designed by the editorial
staff of Hinduism Today in collaboration with Dr. Shiva Bajpai,
Professor Emeritus of History, California State University,
Northridge. Academic reviewers: Dr. Klaus Klostermaier,
Professor of Religious Studies, University of Manitoba; Dr.
Jeffrey D. Long, Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Elizabethtown
College; Dr. Vasudha Narayanan, Distinguished
Professor, Department of Religion, University of Florida; Dr.
Anantanand Rambachan, Professor of Religion, St. Olaf College;
Dr. T.S. Rukmani, Professor and Chair in Hindu Studies,
Concordia University. Research Assistant: Justin Stein, MA
candidate at the University of Hawaii and former middle
school teacher in New York..

Of Kings and

If YOU lived then...

You live in a village in a small kingdom in central India. One day you
hear that the king of a neighboring realm has attacked your king and
conquered the royal city. The conquerer demands that your king pay
a portion of his income. In return, he will allow your king to continue
to rule, and also protect the kingdom from others.
(Should your king accept the offer?)

Understanding India

The triangle-shaped Indian subcontinent is naturally bounded by
ocean on two sides and the high Himalayan mountains on the third.
Hindu tradition, scriptures and the Sanskrit language link people
from one end to the other of this immense and fertile area. Our
period, 300 to 1100 ce, was a golden age in India. There was widespread
prosperity and remarkable social stability. Advances were
made in science, medicine and technology. Many Hindu saints lived
during this time and magnificent temples were built. Hinduism as
practiced today evolved over this glorious period of Indian history.

Geographical regions

There are three major geographical regions in India. The first region
is the Indo-Gangetic Plain. This vast, fertile region stretches northeast
and southwest along the base of the Himalayas. During our period,
this area was heavily forested. The second region is the Deccan
Plateau, bounded by the Vindhya mountain range in the north and
the Nilgiri Hills in the south. It contains several major rivers and is
rich in minerals. The third region is South India, the area south of
the Nilgiri Hills extending to Kanyakumari at the tip of India. It has
rich agricultural farm lands.

Language areas

India is divided linguistically into two major
regions. In the north are mainly Sanskritbased
languages, such as Hindi. In the
south are the Dravidian languages, such
as Tamil, which include many Sanskrit
words. This division cuts across the middle
of the Deccan Plateau. Often today when
people speak of South India, they mean the
Dravidian-speaking areas. These are the
modern-day states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka,
Kerala and Tamil Nadu. During our
period, regional dialects developed within
both the Sanskrit and Dravidian areas.
Sanskrit was the language of religion, law
and government throughout India. Travelers
could use Sanskrit to communicate
wherever they went on the subcontinent.

Empires and regional kingdoms

In 300 ce, an estimated 42 million people
lived in India, 23% of the world’s
population of 180 million. Approximately
60% of the Indian people lived
in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. There were
many towns and cities, but more than
90% of the population lived in villages.
As our period began, the Indo-Gangetic
Plain again became the most important
region of India, as it had been in the past.
From 300 to 550, the Imperial Guptas
established an extensive empire from the
Himalayas deep into the south of India.
Samudra Gupta (335-370) was the most
heroic conqueror. The reign of his son,
Chandra Gupta II Vikramaditya (375-414),
was the most brilliant in the entire Hindu
history. The Gupta kings granted local
and regional autonomy. The frontier states
were nearly independent. The empire was
responsible for security, major roads, irrigation
projects and common welfare.

The Guptas created both political and
cultural pan-India unity. India made original
literary, religious, artistic and scientific contributions
that benefitted the entire known
world. Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-hsien
(Faxian) reported in the early 5th century,
“In the cities and towns of this country, the
people are rich and prosperous.” Hinduism
thrived under the Guptas, taking forms
which endure until today. Gupta culture and
economy influenced much of Eurasia, notably
China and Southeast Asia.

The Gupta Empire declined in the late
5th century because of internal strife and
invasions by fierce Central Asian Hunas
who ruled areas west of the Indus. The
Hunas were driven back in the mid-6th
century by emerging Hindu rulers.
During his 17-year journey through India,
7th century Chinese monk-scholar Hsuantsang
(Xuanzang) wrote that there were
about 70 regional powers. Many were part
of the empire of King Harsha in the North
and the major empires of the South.
In the 8th century, the Rashtrakutas
took control of the entire Deccan, parts
of West Central India and much of the
South. Between the 8th and 10th centuries,
they competed with the Pratiharas
and Palas for pan-India dominance. The
Pratiharas at their peak ruled much of
northern India. They were the first to
effectively stop Arab Muslim invasions
into western India, holding them in check
until the 10th century. The Palas, a Buddhist
dynasty centered in eastern India,
reached their zenith in the early ninth century.
Then the Pratiharas displaced them
from much of the Gangetic Plain.
There were several large Hindu kingdoms
in the Deccan and South India in
our period. They included the Vakatakas,
Chalukyas, Pallavas and Pandyas. Rajendra
Chola I, who ruled from 1014-1044, unified
the entire South. The Cholas had a large
army and navy. In an effort to protect their
trade routes, they subdued kingdoms as
far away as Malaysia and Indonesia. Their
expeditions are unique in Indian history.
The Cholas dominated trade between South
India and the Middle East and Europe in
the West, and Southeast Asia and China
in the East. Indian traders brought Hindu religion
and classical culture to Southeast Asia. Hindu and
Buddhist kingdoms arose in present-day Malaysia,
Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and South Vietnam.

Government and legal system

The kingdoms of India were guided by the Shastras,
Hindu legal texts written in Sanskrit.  The Dharma
Shastras, such as Manu and Yajnavalkya,
recorded laws and customs regarding family, marriage,
inheritance and occupation, as well as suggested
punishments for crimes. The Artha Shastra
and Niti Shastras offered rules and advice on the
king’s behavior, war, justice, administration and
business regulation. People believed that when the
king was brave and just, the kingdom prospered.
Shastras, local customs, advice of the wise and
sound judgment of the king together produced sophisticated,
stable and enlightened government.

Muslim invasions

Arabia, where the new religion of Islam began in
610 ce, had long traded with India. Arab merchants
belonging to Islam settled peacefully in
South India in the early 7th century. By 711 Arab
Muslim armies had conquered North Africa, Spain
and the Persian empire. They attacked India’s
frontiers as well. Arab Muslims conquered Sindh
(now in southern Pakistan) in 712. Their further
invasions were stopped by the Pratiharas, who
confined Muslim rule to the Sindh region. Northwestern
India remained stable under Hindu rule
until the Turkish King, Mahmud of Ghazni (in
modern Afghanistan), invaded India for plunder
and the expansion of Islam. Ruling from 998-1030,
Mahmud raided the country 17 times, wreaking
large-scale destruction of temples, cities and
palaces. The sack of the famed Siva temple of Somanatha
in 1025 was the most horrific, involving
the massacre of 50,000 defenders and the theft of
fabulous wealth. This battle marked the beginning
of Muslim domination of northwestern India.

Society, Science And the Arts

If YOU lived then...

Your father is a master potter. One day a leader of the potter’s guild visits
from a nearby city. He says he can sell your father’s wares at a better
price than he gets in the village. He explains that a caravan will come
periodically through the village to collect his pots. In fact, he tells your
father the guild can sell all the pots the village potters can make.

(Should the potters accept the guild’s offer?)

The Abundance of India

Throughout the period from 300 to 1100, India was a wealthy
country. It produced a large amount of food, manufactured goods
and various items for domestic and foreign trade. The nation made
advances in medicine, mathematics, astronomy and metallurgy.
People enjoyed prosperity, peace and freedom and achieved
unprecedented artistic and culture excellence.

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

Economic historians estimate that between the first and eleventh
century ce, India produced roughly 30% of the world’s Gross
Product, or GDP. The GDP is the total value (the “gross”)
of everything a country or region produces. It includes the value of
food, manufactured items (such as cloth, jewelry, tools and pottery)
and services (such as the incomes of doctors, teachers, authors and
artists). India had the highest GDP in the world for this entire period.
China was the next highest, with 25% of the world’s GDP. By
comparison, in 1,000 ce Europe’s GDP was just 11%.

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.
The capitals where the kings lived were
usually the biggest. Cities and towns grew
up along important trade routes, at sea and
inland river ports and adjacent to major temples
and pilgrimage centers. Temples had become
an important focus of life in cities and
villages. They served as places of worship,
scholarship, education and performing arts.
City life was dynamic, diverse and fulfilling,
as seen in the excerpt from an ancient poem,
The Ankle Bracelet,
on pages 10 and 11.
Larger houses were two- or three-story
structures with tile roofs, built around an
open-air, central courtyard. The homes of
wealthy citizens had attached gardens. Cities
maintained public gardens, parks and
groves. Prosperous citizens were expected to
be highly sophisticated and to lead an active
social and cultural life. Ordinary citizens
lived in humbler circumstances.
Then, as now, the Hindu calendar was
filled with home celebrations and public
festivals. Some festivals, such as Sivaratri,
took place in temples. Others, like Diwali,
Holi and Ramnavami,
were held city-wide

Singing, dancing and gambling were available
in special city areas throughout the
year. Traveling troupes of musicians, acrobats,
storytellers and magicians provided
Cities served as centers of commerce and
were largely self-governing. A four-person
ruling council included a representative from
the big business community, the smaller
merchants and the guilds of artisans. The
fourth member, the chief clerk, was responsible
for making and keeping records, such
as land deeds.
The wealth of the region depended
upon the abundant agricultural harvests
and the diverse products of many artisans.
It was in the city that this wealth was
concentrated. The king and well-to-do
citizens actively supported the fine arts,
including literature, music, dance and
drama. They promoted medicine, technology
and science. They patronized the
skilled jewelers, weavers, painters, metalworkers
and sculptors.

Ahead of Their Time

Scientific Adva nce ment

Among India’s greatest contributions to the world are the concept of zero and
counting with ten numbers. This decimal system was best explained by Brahmagupta.
He was born in 598 ce and lived during the time
of King Harsha. It was much easier to multiply,
divide, add and subtract with the Indian system.
At right you can see the English numbers and the
Sanskrit they were derived from. Note how you
can recognize some shapes, such as 3 and some
names, such as nava for nine. Aryabhata (pictured
here), born in 476 ce, lived in the Gupta age. He
determined that the Earth is a sphere spinning on
its axis. He calculated its circumference within
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.
0 shunya 0
1 eka 1
2 dvi 2
3 tri 3
4 chatur 4
5 pancha 5
6 shash 6
7 sapta 7
8 ashta 8
9 nava 9

Understanding the village

The villages, where 90 percent of the
people lived, were usually surrounded by
agricultural land. Each had for common
use a pond or water reservoir, wells, grazing
grounds and at least one temple. The
year-round warm climate and monsoon
rains allowed farmers to produce two crops
a year. The villages enjoyed a food surplus,
except when struck by natural disaster. The
villages had priests, doctors and barbers
and skilled craftsmen, such as carpenters,
blacksmiths, potters, oil pressers and weavers.
Some villages specialized in one or
more trades, which were organized into
guilds, or shrenis. There were daily and
weekly markets in the villages and nearby
towns to barter and sell goods.
Hindu society evolved into many jatis,
based on specific occupations. The jatis are
called castes in English. Jatis are grouped
under the four-fold class division, or varna:
priests, warriors, merchants and workers.
A fifth group gradually developed
that included scavengers, leather workers,
butchers, undertakers and some tribal people.
This group, about ten percent of the
population, was considered “untouchable”
and lived outside the city or village.
The Chinese pilgrim Fa-hsien reported
that when a member of one of these castes
entered a city, he had to clap two sticks
together to announce his presence.
Because the jatis were hereditary, the
families became expert farmers, craftsmen,
merchants, etc. Each family in the village
interacted with all other jatis and were
bound together in a permanent relationship

There would be a family barber, washerman,
priest, doctor, carpenter, etc., routinely
serving the family needs. Thus the village
was an interlocked economic unit. Each village
was self-governed by an assembly of
five elders, called the panchayat.
The central unit of the town and village
was the joint family, as it is today among
many Hindus. Father, mother, sons and their
wives, unmarried daughters and grandchildren
all lived under one roof. Land and
finances were held in common, and everyone
worked for the advancement of the family.
Marriages were often arranged by the
parents. The boy and girl had little say in
the matter, but if a couple eloped, the marriage
was recognized. In the system called
swayamvara, a woman, usually a princess,
could choose her husband from a group of
assembled suitors.
Villages were interconnected with one
another, due in part to arranged marriages.
The girl often came from a different village,
one not more than a day’s journey away. A
day’s journey (on foot or by bullock cart)
was about 60 kilometers. Visits to relatives
created an interlocking communications
network through which news, technology
and ideas freely flowed. Merchants, Hindu
holy men and women, storytellers and
pilgrims added to this network of communication
and to cultural enrichment. Such
itinerants often traveled long distances
throughout India. Each village along the
way offered abundant hospitality.

Science, technology and art

India’s enduring prosperity allowed for
great progress in science, technology and
the arts. The most visible examples are the
great stone temples that stand today. These
temples were expertly carved using simple
iron chisels and hammers.
Knowledge was taught in many schools.
The world’s first universities were built,
including Takshashila,
Nalanda, Vikramashila
and Vallabhi. Students entered Takshashila
at age 16 and studied the Vedas
and the “eighteen arts and sciences,” which
included medicine, surgery, astronomy, agriculture,
accounting, archery and elephant
lore. One could later specialize in medicine,
law or military strategy. Nalanda was
described by Hsuan-tsang as a center of
advanced studies with 10,000 students and
2,000 teachers.
Indian medicine, ayurveda, developed
sophisticated systems of disease prevention,
diagnosis and treatment. Widely practiced
today, this holistic system aims to create and
preserve health, rather than just cure disease.
From the Gupta Empire onward, India
witnessed a vast outpouring of literature in
the form of plays, poems, songs and epics.
Performing arts were noted for portraying
the nine rasas, or emotions: love, humor,
compassion, anger, heroism, fear, disgust,
tranquility and wonder.
All these achievements created what historians
call a “classical age.” India developed
strong moral values and noble ethical principles.
High standards of intellectual and
artistic sophistication and refined patterns of
living were set that served as models for following

 City Life in South India

Translation by Alain DanielouThe

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.

Try to visualize what the city looked and felt like.
The Sun appeared, peering over the eastern hills. He tore off
the mantle of night, spread his warm and friendly rays over
the pale Earth. The sunshine lighted up the open terraces,
the harbor docks, the towers with their arched windows like
the eyes of deer. In various quarters of the city the homes of
wealthy Greeks were seen. Near the harbor, seamen from faroff
lands appeared at home. In the streets hawkers were selling
unguents, bath powders, cooling oils, flowers, perfume, incense.
Weavers brought their fine silks and all kinds of fabrics made
of wool or cotton. There were special streets for merchants of
coral, sandalwood, myrrh, jewelry, faultless pearls, pure gold
and precious gems.
In another quarter lived grain merchants, their stocks piled
up in mounds. Washermen, bakers, vintners, fishermen and
dealers in salt crowded the shops, where they bought betel
nuts, perfume, sheep, oil, meat and bronzes. One could see
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
street for priests, one for doctors, one
for astrologers, one for peasants. In
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, astronomers,
clowns, actresses, florists, betelsellers,
servants, nadaswaram players,
drummers, jugglers and acrobats.
On the first day of spring,
when the full moon is in Virgo, offerings of rice, cakes of
sesame and brown sugar, meat, paddy, flowers and incense
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
from the altar, the dancers cried, “May the king and his vast
empire never know famine, disease or dissension. May we be
blessed with wealth—and when the season comes, with rains.”
The people made merry on Indra’s chosen day. Great rituals
were performed in the temples of the Unborn Siva, of Murugan,
the beauteous god of Youth, of Valiyon, brother of Krishna,
of the dark Vishnu and of Indra himself, with His strings of
pearls and His victorious parasol. A festive crowd invaded the
precincts of the temple, where Vedic rituals, once revealed by
the God Brahma, were faultlessly performed. The four orders
of the Gods, the eighteen hosts of paradise and other celestial
spirits were honored and worshiped. Temples of the Jains and
their charitable institutions could be seen in the city. In public
squares, priests were recounting stories from the scriptures of
the ancient Puranas.

Leading a Sacred Life

If YOU lived then...

It is your first visit to the thriving city of Puhar. When you arrive with
your parents, you see not only Hindus but also Jains and Buddhists.
You observe Buddhist monks debating philosophical points with
Hindus, but afterwards all having snacks together as friends. The
king of Madurai, you learn, is a Hindu, but he also shows his religious
tolerance by supporting Jain temples and Buddhist monasteries.
What is the value of religious harmony?

Leading a Sacred Life

Daily life in villages and towns was guided by the principles of
righteous living as taught in the Hindu scriptures. Every day began
with a time of worship in the home shrine. Temples were the center
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.

Truth is One, paths are many

Most kings of this period were Hindus; some were Buddhists and
Jains. With rare exceptions, all supported the various religions during
their reign. A Rig Veda verse declares: Ekam sat vipra bahudha
vadanti. “Truth is one, sages describe it variously.” This means that
there are different ways to speak of the One Truth that is God.
The Rashtrakuta rulers, for example, not only patronized Saivism
and Vaishnavism, but also supported Jainism and Buddhism. Rulers
of the period welcomed Christians, Jews, Muslims and Parsis and
encouraged them to settle in their kingdoms and practice their
faiths. This policy maintained religious harmony in society and even
aided international trade.

Evolution of temple worship

From ancient times, Vedic fire worship rites,
called yajna, had been practiced. Families
continued to perform these rites at home each
day. Rulers across India held spectacular Vedic
ceremonies, including coronations and other
royal celebrations. Scholars believe that the devotional
worship of God and the Gods in small
shrines existed alongside or even predated Vedic
rites everywhere, especially in South India.
Since at least the third century bce, devotional
worship became increasingly popular. It
eventually became the central practice of Hinduism.
Some small shrines evolved into great
temples with more complex worship, called
puja. Puja is the ritual offering of water, food,
flowers and other sacred substances to the
enshrined Deity. Yajna rites, Sanskrit chanting
and verses from the Vedas were all incorporated
into the temple rituals.

The Bhakti Movement

Many Hindu saints of this time preached the
importance of devotion to God in what is
called the Bhakti Movement. Adoration for
God, known as bhakti, stresses one’s personal
relationship with the Divine as a love-centered
path of spiritual advancement. It 
meditation and yoga, offering an
all-embracing means to enlightenment
and liberation from birth and rebirth
through divine grace.
The most famous early saints of the
Bhakti Movement are the Vaishnavite
Alvars and the Saivite Nayanars. They
came from all castes and were a voice
for equality. Four of the Nayanars enjoy
prominence to this day: Appar, Sundarar,
Sambandar and Manikkavasagar.
While pilgrimaging from temple to
temple, the Nayanars composed poems
and songs in praise of the loving God
Siva. These became part of a massive
body of scripture called the Tirumurai.
These passionate hymns, composed in
the Tamil language, remain popular today
in South India. Saints emerged all over
India composing devotional songs to Siva,
Vishnu, Krishna, Rama and Devi in local
languages. There was a massive response
to this stirring call of divine bliss.
Great teachers and philosophers, such as
Ramanuja and Yamunacharya, were critical
to the Bhakti Movement. They explained
how to relate to God through worship.

Adi Shankara

The guru Adi Shankara (788-820) developed
the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta
during this time. In summary, his philosophy
can be stated as: “Brahman (the Supreme
Being) is the only truth. The world is
an appearance. There is ultimately no difference
between Brahman and the atma, or
individual soul.” He taught this philosophy
across India. He established four monastic
centers which remain influential today.
His teachings and the Bhakti Movement
together brought back many Jains and Buddhists
to Hinduism.

Temple worship

All over India great Hindu temples were
built or expanded between 300 and 1100 ce.
Many are at the center of large cities, such
as Varanasi on the Ganga in the North, and
Madurai in the South, and remain powerful
places of worship.
In the temples, the people worshiped
their chosen Deity with great devotion and
paid respects to the many other enshrined
Deities. The priest conducted the holy rituals,
but did not stand between the devotee
and God.
Temple worship was defined in great
detail in the Agamas
and parts of the Puranas.
The refined art of building with stone,
brick and other materials was the subject of
the Vastu Shastras. These books on architecture
cover temple design, town planning
and house construction. All these texts are
in Sanskrit. The Agamas include rituals and
Sanskrit chants for every act connected
with the temple, from its conception and
construction to the details of daily worship.
Temples were central to the social and
economic life of the community. Large
temples also served as centers for education
and training in music and dance. Over
the centuries, many temples acquired
agricultural land and great wealth. During
festivals, thousands of people pilgrimaged
to the famous temples. This flow of visitors
helped the local economy and spread cultural
practices and religious belief.
The Purana Scriptures
Puranas are dedicated to a particular Deity.
Each contains a description of the origin of
the universe, lists of kings, Hindu philosophy
and traditional stories about the Gods
and Goddesses. Among the most important
Puranas are the Bhagavata, Vishnu, Siva
and the Markandeya, especially for its
Devi Mahatmya section. The Bhagavata
narrates the greatness of Lord Vishnu and
His ten avatars, of whom the two most important
are Lord Rama and Lord Krishna.
The Siva Purana extols the four-fold path
leading to oneness with Lord Siva: service,
worship, yoga and wisdom. It also explains
Namah Sivaya, regarded by Saivites as the
most sacred of mantras.

The Puranas record an important feature
of Hinduism, the assimilation of different
ethnic and religious groups. They tell us
that earlier migrants into India, such as the
Greeks, Persians and central Asian peoples,
including the Hunas, had been completely
absorbed into Indian society and Hindu
religion. Various tribes were also brought
into the mainstream and their beliefs and
practices assimilated. The stories of these
people are recorded in the Puranas.

Ramayana and Mahabharata

You read in chapter one about the two great
historical tales of India, the Ramayana
and the Mahabharata.
These epics were
revised into their present form and gained
popularity all over India, and beyond, during
our period. They played a crucial role
in the development of devotional Hinduism.
Unlike the Vedas, which could be understood
only by those who studied Sanskrit,
the epics were retold into local languages.
Drama, dance, song, painting and sculpture
based on the epics became the main means
of teaching the Hindu way of life.
During our period, Hinduism and Buddhism
spread to Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia,
Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
It was made popular in these countries
through the epics and other Sanskrit texts.

Chapter Summary

The time from 300 to 1100 ce was a
golden age in India. Its prosperity, stability
and religious harmony encouraged
scientific and artistic achievements that
set standards for the entire world. Devotional
Hinduism developed in a powerful
manner. Through songs and stories,
it brought Hindu principles and values
into the languages of the common people.
Temples became popular centers for worship
of Gods and Goddesses. The Puranas,
Ramayana and Mahabharata
an abundant library of history, philosophy,
religious practices and moral teachings in
stories that were passed from generation
to generation. This great devotional tradition
inspired and sustained the people in
their daily life, as it continues to do today.

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

Standards Assessment

 Direct ions: Read each question and circle the letter of the be best response

1. The Indian subcontinent was united as a one country by:

A Hindu religion, customs and the Sanskrit language
B The Buddhist Pala kings of Northeast India
C Outside invaders who conquered the subcontinent
D A confederation of rulers

2. From 300 to 1100 ce, India comprised about
what percent of the world population?

A 5%
B 15%
C 25%
D 35%

3. What were the Guptas not famous for?

A Advances in art, science and technology
B Creating a pan-Indian empire
C Suppressing the Buddhist and Jain religions
D A prosperous economy with strong foreign trade

4. Why did Mahmud of Ghazni invade India?

A To remove unjust Hindu kings from power
B To establish his own pan-India empire
C To seek revenge for an Indian invasion of his country
D For plunder and the expansion of Islam

5. Which is the correct list of GDPs for our period?

A India 50%, China 25%, Europe 5%
B India 20%, China 20%, Europe 20%
C India 11%, China 25%, Europe 30%
D India 30%, China 25%, Europe 11%

6. The cities of India were ruled by whom?

A A council representing the major interest groups
B A council elected by vote of all residents
C A hereditary ruler
D A military general

7. What is a jati?

A A priest, warrior, merchant or worker
B A group following the same hereditary occupation
C A group of foreign sailors
D A group assigned to an occupation by the king

8. Hindu villages were in close contact because:

A Runners daily delivered news from village to village
B Many women married into families of nearby villages
C People wrote letters to each other frequently
D Villages met monthly

9. Why was our time period considered a “classical age?”

A Greeks ruled India throughout this time
B Great Hindu kings conquered areas outside of India
C India’s advances in knowledge and
development of refined patterns of living
D The land was very prosperous

10. The city of Puhar described in the poem, Ankle Bracelet:

A Was a city intolerant of religions other than Hinduism
B Was an underdeveloped city
C Was home to many merchants and craftsmen
D Had little to offer by way of entertainment

11. Which of these religious groups were welcomed in India?

A Muslims
B Jews and Christians
C Parsis
D All of the above

12. Why is the Kailasa Temple in Ellora unusual?

A It was built from 10,000 granite blocks
B It was carved out of solid rock
C It was the largest clay brick structure in India
D Though made of wood, it lasted 500 years

13. The Bhakti Movement was based on:

A Rules set by the brahmin caste
B Temple worship, scriptures and devotional songs
C The religions of Buddhism and Jainism
D A royal command of the Rashtrakuta rulers

14. The Ramayana and Mahabharata influenced:

A Mainly the community of merchants
B Only the people of the Indo-
Gangetic Plain region of India
C Mostly South India
D All of India and countries in Southeast Asia

1.India was a wealthy country
during this period.

2. Towns and villages provided
economic and social structures
that brought prosperity.

3. Important advances
in science, technology,
literature and art were made.

a high-pitched, doublereed
wooden horn

unhusked rice

extreme shortage of food

here, a highly decorated,
ceremonial umbrella

Main Ideas

1. Ancient Indians regarded the
subcontinent as one country.

2. From 300 to 1100 ce, India
was a land of prosperity
whose economic, religious
and cultural influence
extended across Asia.

3. Empires and kingdoms dominated
most of India. Toward
the end of this period, more
regional powers emerged.

Hindu culture, Sanskrit language
and imperial tradition
unified India during this age.

Hindu temple
continues to be
performed in
modern times,
using Sanskrit
chanting and
from the Agama

The Ramayana
and Mahabharata
continue to
enrich religious
life. They have
even been made
into popular
movies and TV

Hinduism Today’s
Teaching Standards

This column in each of the
three sections presents our
subject outline for India and
Hinduism from 300 to 1100 ce.

1. Describe the physical and
linguistic geography of India,
along with population figures.

2. Describe the major empires
and kingdoms, including the
Guptas, Vakatakas, Chalukyas,
Pallavas, Rashtrakutas,
Pratiharas, Palas and Cholas.

3. Discuss the importance of
Sanskrit and the Dharma
Shastras in uniting India.

4. Describe India’s early Arab
trade settlements and the
later Islamic invasions.

Arab Muslims conquer the Sindh
region of western India. Their
further advance is halted by Hindu
armies. No further conquests
occur for nearly 300 years.

Chola dynasty is at its height. Its
influence extends across Southeast
Asia. Builds great temples at
Thanjavur and creates world-famous
bronze statues of Siva Nataraja

Charles Martel decisively stops
Arab expansion into Europe at the
Battle of Tours (in central France)

Jayavarman II founds Indianized kingdom
of Kambuja in what is now Cambodia, with
capital at Angkor.

Mahmud of Ghazni sacks Somanatha temple in
western India as part of his campaigns to plunder
the fabulous wealth of India and expand Islam’


Om Tat Sat

(My humble salutations to Sadguru Sri Sivaya Subramuniyaswami ji, Hinduism Today  dot com  for the collection) 

(The Blog  is reverently for all the seekers of truth, lovers of wisdom and   to share the Hindu Dharma with others on the spiritual path and also this is purely  a non-commercial)


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