2. Explain the meaning of the term classical as it applies to periods in history. Describe specific examples in India that demonstrate characteristics of a classical civilization.

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India One of the major migrations in human history was that of the Indo-Europeans in the second and third millennium B.C. Perhaps the most prominent of these migrations was the gradual decent of the Aryans, a group of Indo-European pastoral nomads, through the Hindu Kush mountains around 1500 B.C. As these people settled in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, they learned to use iron tools and began agriculture. Consequently, their population grew to enable them to press farther down the Indian subcontinent and soon they gave up the pastoral life completely and established permanent agricultural settlements. Although they never established a large centralized empire, their tribal organization gradually evolved into more formal regional kingdoms ruled by counsels of elders.  Over a period of time, these Aryan migrants imposed their rule over the local Dravidian inhabitants of the subcontinent. Perhaps the most important step of this change was the formation of the Indian caste system. The sharp distinctions in this caste system were the result of the Aryans establishing a social system in which the indigenous people of India were subservient to them. The Aryans placed themselves in the upper castes as rulers over the inhabitants who were designated a lower place in the social structure. Gradually, four primary castes, or social classes, emerged in Indian society. In a land divided into numerous regions, the caste system served as the primary unifying force across the politically fragmented subcontinent. Indeed, most people came to identify themselves with their caste more so than with their city or region. Thus the caste system became a major characteristic of Indian culture across the ages. Like other agricultural societies, India’s society was male dominated, or patriarchal. All public authority was made of up men. There were no women priests, warrior or tribal leaders. These gender distinctions were outlined in a book of religious mythology called the Laws of Manu. This book called on men to treat women with respect but insisted that women be subject to their fathers and husbands. Women were promised by their fathers to husbands (betrothed) at very early ages, 8 or 9 years old, and then, as soon as puberty, married older men.  Trade and economic growth created many new skilled craft laborers and merchants whose existence altered the Indian caste system. Individuals working in the same trade—such as textiles or metallurgy—often banded together to form guilds. These guilds did not fit easily into the existing caste system and in turn became subcastes or jati. Soon the jati became the backbone of Indian society. They formed their own courts through which Indian society was regulated in the absence of a strong central government. Thus Indian families tended to associate closely with other families involved in the same occupations as themselves. This tendency has survived.

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