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The Aryans and the Vedic Age Decline of the Indus River Valley civilizations – Harappa and Mohenjo-daro were the largest cities – Civilizations participated in long-distance trade – Possible causes: • Monsoons destroyed irrigation and farming prospects • Invasions • Long distance trade collapsed Aryans • Root of the word is arya meaning “noble” or “pure” • Spoke an early form of Sanskrit – This Indo-European language is closely related to Persian, Latin, Greek and modern Romance languages – Nazis glorified Aryans as a superior race because they were credited with this important language development Aryans • Where did they come from? – Most scholars argue that the Aryans descended upon North India through the Hindu Kush around 1500 BC – Some scholars now think that they arrived much earlier, and perhaps descended from the Harappan Aryans and Vedas • Vedas – A collection, in multiple volumes, of hymns, rituals, and philosophies • The vedas include stories that attempt to explain how the world was created, who the gods are, etc. – Thought to be the earliest written texts Aryans and Vedas • Rig Veda – The earliest Veda – Originally was recited orally and passed down generation to generation – Children began learning the Rig Veda at an early age, would learn to chant each syllable in perfect order Aryans and Vedas • Portrays Aryans as fierce warriors with military skill • Aryans did not spread through India quickly, did not carry out well organized military campaigns • Aryans were a collection of tribes who gradually, over generations of warring with each other came to power in North India Aryans and Social Order • Each tribe was headed by a raja, or chief • Priests were next in importance – They learned complicated rituals – Rituals typically focused on honoring or appeasing the gods Aryans and Social Order • Warrior class • Farmers • Non-Aryans made up the lowest class – They were not slaves – They were only allowed to perform the most menial tasks Early Indian Society • 1000-500 BC • Tribal rajas were no longer necessary because tribal life was in decline • Kings controlled large pieces of territory • The Aryan-influenced areas extended all the way to the Ganges River Caste System • The system of dividing society into hereditary groups that limited interaction with each other, especially marriage between castes • The hierarchical strata into which Indian society was divided is called varna Caste System • • • • • Brahmans (priests) Kshatriya (warriors and officials) Vaishya (merchants and artisans) Shudra (peasants and laborers) Dalit, or untouchables – outside the caste system Varna Brahmins Kshatriyas Social Hierarchy Vaishyas Shudras Outcasts [Harijan] Untouchables The castes upper class BRAHMAN They are the priestly class, who are entitled to study the Vedas, which are the sacred scriptures, and perform rites rituals for themselves and for others. They are the men between the gods and the people. They are expected to show excellent behavior and spend their lives in the pursuit of divine knowledge and preservation the traditions of Hinduism. KSHATRIYAS They are the warrior class, who are commanded to protect the people, give gifts to the Brahmins, offer sacrifices to gods and ancestors, study the Vedas, and dispense justice. It was their responsibility to protect the caste system and the social order and lavish the priests with generous gifts at every opportunity. The castes middle class VAISYAS They are the merchant and peasant classes, who are expected to tend cattle, offer sacrifices, study the Vedas, trade, lend money and farm the land. They had the right to perform and participate in certain Vedic rituals but they were not allowed to marry women of higher castes. The castes lowest classes SUDRAS The are the laboring class, whose only duty is to serve the other three castes. They were not required to observe any Vedic rituals. They were not allowed to study the Vedas or even hear the sacred chants. They were not allowed to eat food in the company of higher castes or marry their women. HARIJAN/DALITS also called Untouchables The lowest of the sudras were called harijan or the untouchables. They were outside of the caste system because of their religious practices, rites and unclean habits. In ancient times they were not allowed to enter a village or city during day time or walk in the same street where men of other castes walked. HARIJAN/DALIT (cont) Even their shadow was considered impure and seeing an untouchable was considered bad luck. So they lived mostly on the edges of society, unknown and uncared for, and working in graveyards or as hunters, butchers and professional cleaners of human waste. Leprosy: A disease that still exists, but used to be considered a sign of unclean spirits. Those infected were shunned. It is a bacterial infection that causes open skin scores, and nerve damage.