Ancient India: Religions Ancient History X Mr. Rhymes Ancient India: Religions • Important Periods covered in this presentation: • The Indus Period (Before 2000 BCE) • The Vedic Period (1500 BCE – 500 BCE) • The Epic, Puranic, & Classical Age (500 BCE – 500 CE) • The Medieval Period (500 CE – 1500 CE) Ancient India: Hinduism • The Indus Period: • There is no known starting point of the Hindu religion. It is a religion that grew out of several religious traditions, some of which go back thousands of years. • Some Hindus believe that the religion has existed since the beginning of time, that its teachings are eternal • Hindus tend to be more concerned with what a religious text says than how old its teachings are. Ancient India: Hinduism • Hindus believe that time is cyclical, like the seasons, and eternal (no beginning or ending) rather than linear (one with a definite beginning). • They define this cycle of ages using the metaphor of precious metals: gold, silver, copper and iron. • They believe that, during the golden age, people are devout worshippers and follow the dharma (meaning truth, duty, law). Ancient India: Hinduism • However, the power of the dharma diminishes over the ages. Good qualities of humanity slowly go away until the Age of Iron arrives, which is marked by cruelty, materialism, hypocrisy, hate, etc. • The Age of Iron ends only when the gods finally intervene and reset the cycle of ages once again. • Believing in reincarnation, a Hindu is forced to live a perpetual cycle of birth & death until enlightenment is reached. • This is different from other world views that suggest humanity is always progressing. Ancient India: Hinduism • Statuettes that appear to be an early likeness of the god Shiva have been found among Indus ruins. • It is believed that the pools and baths found among ruins in the Indus valley were for ritual bathing and animal sacrifice – but because no one has yet been able to decipher the language of the Indus, historians debate this. Ancient India: Hinduism • The Vedic Period (1500 BCE – 500 BCE) • Marks the period when the Vedas were written. • Early Vedic religion practises included ritual sacrifice, including the slaughter of animals or the offering of other things like butter into a sacred fire. They would share this sacrifice as a meal among themselves, and with the gods they were hoping to please. Ancient India: Hinduism • There are many Vedic gods, but they fall into a hierarchy of three distinct categories: • 1) Gods of the Earth (fire, religious power) • 2) Gods of the Atmosphere (wind, storms) • 3) Gods of the Sky (night, cosmic law, sky) • Many Vedic traditions continue to exist in modern day India. Ancient India: Hinduism • The Epic, Puranic, & Classical Age (500 BCE – 500 CE) • This period marks one where many more religious texts are written in sanskrit, many of which remain central to the modern practise of Hinduism. • Sacrificial fires start to disappear in favour of the worship of images of deities in temples. • Adopted from Buddhism, meditation and yoga emerge as ways that Hindus ‘pray’ or contemplate their devotion. Ancient India: Hinduism • Medieval Period (500 CE – 1500 CE) • With the collapse of the Gupta Empire, smaller regional kingdoms develop their own religious practises, worshipping particular deities. • Hindu scholar Shankara (720 CE – 820 CE) travels India to defeat and remove most of these unorthodox practises. He re-establishes the authority of the Vedic religious traditions. Ancient India: Buddhism • In 500 BCE, Siddhartha Gautama is born into a royal family. It is believed that he travelled throughout India seeking spiritual fulfillment. • Through much guidance and meditation, he achieved enlightenment, or an understanding of the connection between humans and the spiritual realm. Ancient India: Buddhism • From this point forward he becomes known as Buddha, meaning “The Enlightened One”. He would then travel all over the region spreading his ideas about the path to enlightenment and salvation. • After the Buddha’s death, his students continue to spread his teachings eastward throughout Asia. • At this time, Hinduism is very tightly controlled through the priests and upper classes through the caste system. Buddhism offers hope and access to an alternative spiritual understanding to ordinary people. Ancient India: Islam • Islam would be introduced to India through Muslim invasions and trade with Arabs in the 7th & 8th Centuries, with the first Mosque built in 629 CE, but Islam did not spread right away. • The Islamic expansion in the 12th century meant that large Islamic communities would develop inside India. • The Sufi Islamic tradition shares many similar philosophies with Hinduism, making it easier for some areas to be conquered and converted. • Muslims today make up almost 14% of the population of India. Ancient India: Jainism • Jainism is an Indian religion outside of the Vedic tradition that developed at the same time. • Jains believe in the equality of all living things (even insects), and that non-violence and self-control are the way to escape the cycles of reincarnation and become one with the universe. This is similar to many of the teachings of the Buddha. • Jains are among the first to suffer as Shankara and other Hindu scholars attempt to restore the Vedic tradition throughout India between the 8th and 12th centuries. Their tradition of non-violence means they do not resist. Ancient India: Jainism • However, many rulers would simply adopt certain Jain practises so they would not need to kill all those who refused to convert to Hinduism. • As a result, we see elements of Jainism in Buddhism and Hinduism today. Ancient India: Sikhism • Compared to other major religions, Sikhism is rather young, having started in the early 1500s. • Founded by Guru Nanak in the Punjab province. • He believed that all people were equal, regardless of gender, religion and even caste. This philosophy was a direct challenge to the existing order in India. • He believed there was only one god that people could worship directly without clergy or rituals Ancient India: Sikhism • Because all people are equal, anyone can achieve mukti (liberation) and free themselves of the cycle of birth and death (reincarnation). Sikh temples are called gurdwara, but according to their faith, any building that has a community kitchen, a place to share food and a copy of their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, can be used as a gurdwara. The most well-known Sikh temple is the Golden Temple of Amritsar. Ancient India: Sikhism • Modern Sikhs observe symbols of their faith through “The 5 K’s” • Kesh (hair, should not be cut) • Kanga (comb, always carried in the hair) • Kirpan (sword, usually a small dagger worn to symbolize their willingness to defend themselves and fight injustice. It is not to be used as an offensive weapon.) • Kara (steel bracelet, worn around the wrist, its shape symbolizing the cycle of life, and steel symbolizing strength. • Kachha (short pants, once a part of the Sikh military uniform, symbolizing cleanliness and restraint) • Also, because they don’t cut their hair, most Sikh men and some women wear their hair tightly wrapped in cloth and then covered with a turban.