Though it was not as isolated as China, the subcontinent was nevertheless set apart within Asia. The most important agricultural regions are along the two great rivers, the Ganges and the Indus. During its formative period, called the Vedic and Epic ages, the Aryans (Indo-Europeans), originally from central Asia, impressed their own stamp on Indian culture. During these ages, the caste system, Sanskrit, and various belief systems were introduced.
In its own way, the caste system promoted tolerance, allowing widely different social classes to live next to each other, separated by social strictures. Loyalty to caste superseded loyalty to any overall ruler. Religion, particularly Hinduism, was the only uniting influence in Indian culture.
Buddhism was founded on the teachings of an Indian prince, Gautama, later called Buddha, or “enlightened one.” Buddha accepted many Hindu beliefs but rejected its priests and the caste system it supported. Buddhism spread through missionaries into Sri Lanka, China, Korea, and Japan.
|Politics||Caste System; Mauryan Dynasty; Gupta Dynasty|
|Intellectual/Science||Algebra, concept of zero, “Arabic” numerals, decimal system|
|Geography||Sub-continent somewhat isolated; monsoon influence|
|Economics||Indian Ocean trade (“Southernization”)|
|Religion||Hinduism (Vedas, Upanishads); Buddhism (563 BCE)|
|People||Aryans; Gautama Buddha; Ashoka Maurya; Chandra Gupta|