Ancient India History & Geography Lesson 1

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Ancient India History & Geography Lesson 1

Geography of India

  • India is located in southern Asia.
  • The northern border is formed by the Himalaya Mountains, the highest mountain range in the world.
  • Most of the country is surrounded by water:
    • The Arabian Sea to the west
    • The Bay of Bengal to the east
    • The Indian Ocean to the south
  • What positive and negative effects do you think the mountains and the oceans have had on India?


  • Almost every climate exists in India.
  • Glaciers are in the Himalaya Mountains.
  • In the western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan is the Thar Desert, one of the driest places on earth.
  • To the east in Meghalaya are the world’s two wettest cities, Cherrapunji and Mawsynram – 457 inches of rain each year.
  • The Ganges Plain, in the east is one of the world’s most fertile places.
  • The southern part of India is the Deccan Plateau that is bordered on both sides by mountains known as the Western and Eastern Ghats.
  • The Himalayas

Location Location Location

Indian Climate

  • Most of the year, the weather is very dry and sunny.
  • India has three seasons: hot – February to May
  • wet – June to November
  • cool – December - February
  • There is usually only one big weather event every year – the monsoon. Monsoon is the Arabic word for season. It is the rains that arrive between June and October.
  • During the monsoon, it usually rains every day.
  • By the end of September, the dry, brown-baked land has turned green and lush.

The Indus River Valley

  • The Indus Valley Civilization is one of the oldest civilizations.
  • In the 1920s, archaeologist found evidence of early human civilizations in the Indus River Valley dating back to 3,000 BC. These first people settled near the Indus River.
  • This civilization is known as the Harappan Civilization, named after the first city archaeologists discovered – Harappa.
  • The great cities of this civilization were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, which were located in present day Pakistan. There were at least 80 other villages and towns in this area.
  • What would it have been like to live in the United States in 3,000 BC?

Harappan Civilization & Neighbors c. 2000 B.C.E.

  • What might be some positive and negative effects of the location of the Harappan Civilization?

Indus River Valley History

  • Harappa grew on the floodplains of the Indus River. Because of flooding, it was rebuilt five times.
  • Mohenjo-Daro was rebuilt six times because of flooding.

Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro

  • Archaeologists discovered planned cities that were laid out in grids, with straight streets in Mohejo-Daro and Harappa.
  • They were the first people to plan the building of cities. The cities were built on a common plan:
    • About one square mile in size in a rectangular layout
    • Two sections for each city:
    • A Walled Citadel containing administrative buildings, religious centers, bathhouses,and granaries
    • A Lower Town – where the people lived


  • Streets were laid out in grids that formed blocks with homes.
  • Most homes had only one room, but some had multiple rooms and stories.
  • Some contained inner courtyards and brick staircases that led to upper floors or roofs.
  • Most buildings were made from baked bricks.

Indus Valley Plumbing

  • The Indus Valley Civilization was advanced in many ways:
  • Plumbing – many homes were equipped with bathrooms including toilets and baths
  • Houses received water from wells in their home’s courtyard or from a public well.
  • A drainage system, located underneath the streets, removed water from homes.


  • The Harappans were an agricultural people.
  • Each city had large storage areas for food called granaries. The food was shared by all.
  • The people grew many different crops including wheat, barley, peas, sesame seeds, melons, dates, and cotton.
  • Their economy seems to have been based on trade.
  • Most city dwellers were traders or artisans.
  • Materials obtained from trading were used in the cities for making seals, beads, jewelry and other objects.
  • Harappan people traded with cultures to the west. Harappan seals have been found in excavations in Mesopotamia.
  • Some of these seals were made from clay and used as stamps on traded goods.
  • Observe these seals discovered by archeologists in the Indus Valley. What do they tell us about the Harappan?
  • Harappan Economy
  • Religion
  • Many archaeologists think that Harappan people used figurines when they prayed.
  • Many of their figurines were of women, so archaeologist believe the Harrapan people worshipped a female goddess.

Harappan Culture

  • Musical instruments, toys and games were made by the artisans.
  • Apparently the Harappan people loved to play games. A chess board was also discovered by archeologists.
  • Dice
  • Dominoes
  • These gaming pieces discovered by archeologists are believed to be 5,000 years old.

Harappan Art

  • Various sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewelry and detailed figurines in terracotta, bronze and steatite have been found at the excavation sites.
  • The Dancing Girl of Mojenho-Daro
  • Terracotta Sculpture

Indus Valley Jewelry

  • The Indus Valley is rich in many metals and stones such as Carnelian, gold, copper, and turquoise.
  • The Harappan people made beautiful jewelry and sold it at their markets.


  • The Harappans were literate – able to read and write.
  • Many of the artifacts that have been found contain writing – pictographic script.
  • No one has been able to figure out what the writing means.
  • The writing was done on bricks or seals not on paper or clay tablets.

What happened to the Harappans?

  • Sometime between 1800 and 1700 BC, the Harappans disappeared.
  • No ones knows exactly what happened to them.
  • Some historians believe they were invaded or had a natural catastrophe.
  • Some believe that the frequent flooding of the Indus caused the civilization to disappear.
  • What do you think happened to them?

The Aryans Arrive c. 1500 BC

  • The Aryrans were nomadic people, traveling from one place to another in search of food and shelter.
  • They were originally from Black Sea and Caspian Sea areas.
  • For several hundred years the Aryans spread from Central Asia to the Indus River Valley.

The Aryans

  • They called themselves “noble ones” or “superior ones.”
  • The Aryans were tall, with light colored hair and had blue or green eyes.
  • The were a warring people, and often fought among themselves.
  • Aryans learned to farm the fertile soils of the Indus River Valley.

The Aryan’s raised cattle, sheep, goats, and other animals. They also farmed crops, and probably traded with other tribes.

  • The Aryan’s raised cattle, sheep, goats, and other animals. They also farmed crops, and probably traded with other tribes.
  • The most important indicator of wealth among the Aryans was the number of cattle that an individual owned. The more cattle a family, or tribe possessed the more wealthy they were.
  • Eventually cattle became so important in Aryan society that they made it illegal to kill or eat them.
  • Aryan
  • Farmers

Jobs & Occupations

  • In each tribe, people began to belong to one of four groups according to their jobs or Castes:
  • Brahmana – priests
  • Kshatriya – warriors or soldiers
  • Vaishya – traders & farmers
  • Shudra – perple in service to others
  • Your occupation was the occupation of your father. If your father was a farmer, you had to be a farmer.

Aryan Government

  • The Aryans were not unified under a single government. They shared the same language and traditions, but were organized into small tribes or clans. Each tribe was ruled by a chief known as a rajah or king. This was an inherited job, so if your father was the rajah, someday, you would be chief.
  • The Aryan world was ruled by the men. Woman were subject to their husbands, and were considered their property. Both boys and girls were allowed to attend schools, and receive an education.

For hundreds of years the Aryans did not have a written language so they passed their history down from one generation to another though stories, poems, and epics. These oral histories were memorized, word for word, and told over and over.

  • For hundreds of years the Aryans did not have a written language so they passed their history down from one generation to another though stories, poems, and epics. These oral histories were memorized, word for word, and told over and over.
  • The Aryans eventually developed a written language. Around 600 BC the Vedas were written down.

Aryan Houses

  • People in the Vedic period lived in straw and wooden huts.
  • Later on, they built homes of wood.


  • The Aryans believed in many gods. They worshiped Indra, the god of war; Agni , the god of fire; and Usha, the goddess of the morning, as well as many other minor gods and goddesses.
  • The religion grew to become Hinduism, which is one of the primary religions still practiced in India today.

Indian Invasion

  • The Persian kings, Cyrus and Darius, invaded India in 500 BC.
  • Alexander the Great of Greece invaded India in 326 BC changing the Indian culture forever.

Mauryan Empire 321 BC- 188 BC

  • In 321 B.C. a military leader by the name of Chandragupta Maurya overthrew the ruling king and began the Mauryan Empire.
  • Maurya developed infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and a post offices, that would help the empire grow and prosper for almost 150 years.
  • Chandragupta taxed his people and punished them harshly. To ensure that he was obeyed , he created a network of spies throughout his kingdom who reported to him.

Emperor Asoka

  • Maurya’s Grandson, Asoka, became emperor after Chandragupta died .
  • His military expanded the borders of the empire to include two thirds of the Indian subcontinent.
  • In later life, Asoka grew tired of war, and he converted to Buddhism. He taught his people to be kind to others, and to have respect for human life.
  • Under his rule, Buddhist teachers were able to spread Buddhism to the countries of China, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan.

End of Mauryan Empire

  • After the death of Asoka, the Mauryan Empire rapidly fell apart.
  • For 490 years following the fall of the Mauryan Empire, the Indian people would remain under the rule of small city-states.
  • Emperor Asoka the Great

Gupta Empire

  • Around 320 AD the Gupta Dynasty took over northern India.
  • Chandra Gupta I was the leader and first emperor.
  • The Hindu religion was very popular and grew.
  • Indian society prospered.

Chandra Gupta II

  • Ruled from AD 375 to 415 – greatest of the Gupta kings.
  • Expanded empire & strengthened economy.
  • Empire called the Golden Age of India because of the architecture, sculpture, & painting.
  • His reign brought about much prosperity.

Ajanta Cave Paintings

  • The wall-paintings of Ajanta Cave in the central Deccan are the greatest works of Indian art.

The Gupta Empire

  • Under the Guptas, Hinduism became the main religion.
  • Rulers built Hindu temples.
  • Buddhism began to lose influence.

End of Gupta Empire

  • In 480 the Huns (a group of people originally from north of China) conquered the Guptas.
  • Hun king on a coin.

Post-Guptan Era

  • After the Guptan empire fell apart in the 500's AD, India had a lot of smaller kings ruling a lot of small kingdoms.
  • There were a lot of wars among these small kingdoms, but there was also a lot of great architecture and art during this time.
  • Hindu Temple built to the Hindu god, Shiva.

Arab Invaders

  • By about 1100 AD, however, the Abbasid or Arab invaders conquered northern India.
  • Over the years many Hindu and Buddhist Indians in northern India converted to Islam (another religion).
  • Southern India was never conquered by the Arabs. They remained Hindu.

Modern History

  • Other groups of people conquered and ruled India until 1757, when a British company called the East India Trading Company changed from being traders with India to their rulers.
  • The Indian people were frustrated under British rule.
  • In 1919, 400 unarmed Indian people were killed by British soldiers.

Indian Independence

  • Mahatma Gandhi became India’s leader for freedom. He believed in peaceful, nonviolent protests instead of fighting. He used hunger strikes and prayer to achieve his goals.
  • In 1947, Great Britain granted India independence.


  •,1,Indus Valley Civilization

Ancient India Religion Lesson 2

Religion in Ancient India

  • Ancient India's religion can be traced right from the Harappan Civilization that grew up in two cities of Harrappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
  • Hinduism developed first by the Indo-Aryan people who moved south through India and displaced the Indus Valley Civilization.
  • Later, Gautam Buddha a royal prince founded a new religion out of Hinduism. He based his religion and his new social system on four noble truths.

Religion is an important part of life in Ancient India and India today.

  • India is the birthplace of two of the world’s major religions:
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism

What is Hinduism?

  • No leader or formal church
  • No single holy book like the bible
  • Believe in one superior being or god called Brahman. There are many gods and goddesses that are a part of Brahman.
  • Have many sacred writings. Most important are the Rig Veda

Some of the Hindu gods are…

  • Brahma- major god of Hindu religion-believed he created the universe- takes the form of a five headed being
  • Vishnu- protects the universe that Brahma created
  • Shiva- the god of destruction. Has the power to see what others cannot see.
  • Agni- god of fire

An important Hindu ritual is traveling to the holy city, Varanasi, to bathe in the Ganges River? (Read Sacred River by Ted Lewin)

Hindus also believe that cows are sacred and worship them as a source of life and fertility. No beef is ever eaten by a Hindu.

Hinduism is considered to be more of a way of life. It teaches…

  • Righteous living or moral duty
  • A person’s actions have a consequence
  • Continuous process of rebirth

Hindus use a social system that put people in social classes. They believe that one must live a good life and be reincarnated to move to a higher caste. This is called the Caste System.

5 social groups of the Caste System

  • Brahmans - the highest group: Priests, Scholars, Cows
  • Kshatriyas - Warriors, Rulers
  • Vaisyas - farmers, merchants, craftsmen
  • Sundras - peasants, servants, laborers, unskilled workers
  • Untouchables - the very bottom

Understanding Hindu beliefs in the Ramayana

  • The Ramayana is one of India's classic epic poems and was composed by a legendary holy man named Valmiki. The Ramayana is the story of the Hindu God Vishnu, who comes to earth as the human prince Rama. Vishnu is sent to earth to kill an evil demon named Ravana. Scholars believe that the Ramayana was probably written in the third century B.C.E., but that the poem has been changed and added to many times since. The poem consists of seven books and contains about 24,000 rhymed couplets.
  • The Ramayana is frequently dramatized throughout India and has had a profound influence on Indian literature. The Ramayana has historically been an engaging way for Hindus - particularly Hindu children - to learn about the fundamental beliefs of their religion.

Reader’s Theater

  • Adaptation of the Ramayana (Scene 1-5)

Create and illustrate a poem that summarizes the Hindu beliefs portrayed in the Ramayana.

What is Buddhism?

  • Today Buddhism is a major world religion.
  • There are over 330 million Buddhist in the world.
  • One man, Prince Gautama, started it all.

Prince Gautama (Buddha)

  • Prince Gautama was born about 553 BCE. He had parents who loved him, many servants to wait on him, the finest clothes, and a different palace for each season of the year. Yet, he found his world full of suffering. It upset him that painful old age, sickness, and death were all part of life in this world. 

He decided to give up everything he owned and seek an answer to why life was so hard.


  • .
  • For the next six years he traveled throughout India. But the answers he found were not enough. One day, while sitting under a fig tree, an understanding came to him. This understanding was a way to end suffering. That was the day Prince Siddhartha Gautama began to earn a new title, the Buddha, which means "Awakened One” or “Enlighten One”

Prince Gautama realized that there is always suffering in the world; that the suffering comes from wanting things, and that when a person stops wanting, the suffering stops.

Soon Siddhartha had many followers, who called him Buddha, which means “enlightened one”.

Four Noble Truths His journey to find the meaning of life had concluded. Buddha realized that life is ruled by Four Noble Truths:

    • Life is filled with suffering
    • Suffering is caused by people's wants.
    • Suffering can be ended if people stop wanting things, like more pleasure or more power.
    • To stop wanting things, people must follow 8 basic laws, called the Eightfold Path.

Eightfold Path In brief, these are the laws of the Eightfold Path:

    • To know the truth
    • To intend to resist evil
    • To not say anything to hurt others
    • To respect life, property, and morality
    • To work at a job that does not injure others
    • To try to free one's mind from evil
    • To be in control of one's feelings and thoughts
    • To practice appropriate forms of concentration


  • Using a double bubble map compare/contrast Eight Fold Path to Hammurabi’s Code

The teachings of Buddhism are based in reincarnation.

  • These teachings say that everyone is caught in a cycle of birth and death, birth and death.
  • This cycle repeats over and over, until people learn how to behave correctly.
  • The gods can’t help you. It’s up to you.


  • You will dwell forever in peace, happiness, and goodwill.

If you behave badly, Buddhists believe you will be reincarnated into a life that is even worse than your current one.

  • If you behave badly, Buddhists believe you will be reincarnated into a life that is even worse than your current one.
  • If you are good, when you are reincarnated, your life will be better- you will have moved up a step.
  • If you keep working at it, one day you will finally escape this repeating cycle of birth- death, birth-death, and move forever to the highest plain of existence (Nirvana).

Buddha spent the rest of his life traveling around India and sharing his message with everyone. He had many followers, who lived according to his Four Noble Truths. Some of his followers became Buddhist monks. They gave up all they owned and depended on other followers and kind hearted people to give them food. Their message was one of love.

After the Buddha's death in 483 BCE, Buddhism spread rapidly throughout Southern and Eastern Asia.

  • Buddha’s teachings have been followed by people ever since.

Ancient India Contributions Lesson 3

Arabian Muslims raided India and by 1206, Delhi was ruled by Muslim sultans, or kings.

  • Arabian Muslims raided India and by 1206, Delhi was ruled by Muslim sultans, or kings.
  • Muslim leaders worked their way east and south, converting lower cast Hindus to Islam. The Islamic Moguls ruled in India from 1526 to 1707. The Moguls replaced the weaker sultans to create a long and prosperous Mogul Empire. Under the Moguls, Hindu and Muslim traditions combined to make important contributions in poetry, music, and architecture. Islam is the second largest religious group in modern India.

Compare the Great Mogul Emperors

  • Name
  • Dates Ruled
  • Leadership Style
  • Contribution to Indian Culture
  • Babur
  • Humayun
  • Akbar
  • Jahangir
  • Shah Jahan
  • Aurangzeb

Writing Activity:

  • If you could be a Mogul Emperor which leader would you choose to be? Write a persuasive essay describing the leader of your choice. Give at least three supporting arguments. Make sure your composition is organized with and opening statement, your supporting arguments, and a strong closing statement.

European Exploration

  • Europeans began arriving in India during the 15th and 16th century. These explorers had heard unbelievable stories about the wealth of the East, and they came in search of trade. They sought to deal directly with India, cutting out the Arabian middle man who controlled trading and profits. Portuguese, Dutch, and English trades established companies to trade for various goods, including spices, fabrics, and dyes.

Gaining Independence

  • Toward the end of the 19th century, a new nationalist reform movement began to take hold in India. This movement eventually led to the independence in India in 1947. Research the following key figures, events, and organizations to learn their roles for India’s struggle for independence.
  • Mohandas Gandhi
  • Lord Mountbatten
  • Jawaharlal Nehru
  • Aga Khan
  • Mohammed Ali Jinnah
  • Indian National Congress
  • Muslim League
  • Rowlatt Acts of 1918
  • Massacre of 1919 at a Hindu festival
  • The Partition of India

After researching the road to independence, work with two partners to write personal diary accounts describing the feelings of the people in India during this tumultuous time. Each member of the group will write from a different viewpoint: a British Officer, a Hindu, a Muslim. Describe the different people from this time period from your perspective.

Can you think of anything we have in the U.S. that came from India?

Meditation exercises

  • Meditation exercises
  • Yoga
  • 2. Hindi phrase meaning loose trousers
  • Pajamas
  • Game of skill played on a checkerboard with moveable pieces
  • Chess
  • Sweaters made from goat hair
  • Cashmere
  • This digit means nothing, but the value of a number changes when it is added to the end.
  • Zero
  • 6. A brand of clothing; also a game played while riding horses.
  • Polo

United Streaming Video What the Ancients Knew: India

Indian Myths and Tales

  • Literature was possibly one of the greatest contributions. Indians wrote many myths and legends to explain the world around them. Read “Descent of the River Ganges”, which explains how the sacred Ganges River came to be on earth.
  • (Descent of the River Ganges attached)

Write your own Indian Tale

  • Write a myth that describes a natural phenomenon. Try to use as many references to Indian culture as possible. Use the plot outline to plan your myth.
  • (plot outline attached)

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