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The Old Indian Civilization

The Old Indian Civilization


1. The Уunknown landФ of Asia Ц India.

2. Early Indian Civilization.

3. Key Features of Indian Society.

4. Religion and the Indian way of life.

5. Lack of Political Unity.

6. IndiaТs literature represented by Mahabharata and Ramayana.

7. Customs in India Ц the practice of self-immolation by fire.

8. The role of muslims in IndiaТs life.

9. Taj Mahal.

10. Art of India.

The Уunknown landsФ of Asia and Africa have fascinated Westerners for

centuries. The Orient, with her silks and her unique cultures, has

attracted travelers since early days. Despite the contacts, between Asia

and Africa remained virtually unaffected by Western influences until the

twentieth century.

India is a land of great diversity, in its topography (the physical

features of a land), climate, and population, it is a study in contrasts.

This triangular subcontinent extends from southern Asia into the Indian

Ocean, forming a giant Pennsylvania. ItТs terrain varies from subtropical

rain forest to barren deserts, from low coastal plains to the highest

mountain range in the world, the Himalayas. Between the rugged mountain

regions in the north and the coastal plains and tropical plateaus of the

south lie fertile valleys watered by two great river systems, the Indus and

the Ganges. Like the Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures, the earliest

Indian civilization began along riverbanks. The first inhabitants of India

settled in river valleys along the Indus and Ganges rivers.

These people must have felt secure from invaders and foreign

influences. They were protected by tall mountain ranges in the north and by

seas on the east and west. But despite these natural barriers, India did

not remain an isolated land.

Throughout her history, merchants, foreign invaders and Wandering

tribes crossed the mountains along IndiaТs northwestern border and settled

in the fertile river valleys. As a result, India became a land of diverse

elements. Within Indian Society, a unique culture developed.

Early Indian Civilization

India derives its name from the Indus River, along whose fertile banks

the earliest Indian civilization flourished (ca 2300 BC). Much of our

limited knowledge of this civilization has come from excavations of two of

its leading cities: Mohenjo Ц Daro and Harappa. These carefully planned

cities had wide, straight streets lined with brick houses. Evidence

indicates that, these cities had elaborate drainage and sewer systems,

which were more advanced than those in most, modern Indian Villages.

Although a great distance separates India and the Near East, the early

inhabitants of India carried on trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia. From

archeological evidence it is known that the Indus civilization ended

suddenly Ц perhaps by flood on by enemy invasion. It was at this time that

a warlike people called the Aryans migrated into the Indus Valley.

The Aryans were a fair-skinned people who came from central Asia

sometime after 1500 BC and subdued the non Aryan people of northwest India.

Many historians believe that the Aryans were related to tribes that were

invading the Near East Greece and Rome about the same time. The Aryans were

herdsmen; they kept large numbers of cows and horses. Although they left

behind no cities as the Indus civilization did, they did establish a new

language in India Ц Sanskrit.

Our knowledge of the Aryans and their influence on Indian society

comes not from archaeology, but from a collection of religious literature

known as the Vedas, meaning УknowledgeФ. Preserved in the Vedas are early

traditions and religious beliefs of the Indians, which were passed down

orally from one generation to the next. From Sanskrit literature, we gain

insights into the Aryan way of life, which became the basis of Indian

culture and tradition.

Key Features of Indian Society

India has one of the oldest cultures in the modern world. The basic

characteristics of Indian society, described in the Vedas, have changed

little from ancient to modern days.


The family has always been one of the most important social units in

India. The extended or Joint-Family included the children, grandchildren

wives, and close blood relatives of a common ancestor. The oldest male of

the group was the dominant authority over the family. When married, sons

did not establish their own homes; instead they remained in their fatherТs

or grandfatherТs household. Each family member had his own duties and

obligations. The interests of the family came before those of the

individual family members.

Parents chose the husbands or wives for their children in order to

maintain the familyТs position and honor in society.


Imagine living in a country in which your status in life was

determined the moment you were born. India was such a country. Her

population was divided into rigid social groups called castes. The Indians

formulated strict rules governing the life of the members of each caste

group: where they lived, what they did (profession), what they wore, what

and with whom they could eat, as well as, whom they could marry.

India had between two and three thousand different castes and

subcastes. Each one fell into one of four broad УclassФ groups. The most

important group was the priests, called the Brahmans.

Next in rank were the rulers, and warriors, followed by the merchants

and traders. The lowest class group was the sudras Ц composed of servants

and serfs. Outside the caste system and at the bottom of the Indian social

ladder were the outcastes, or УuntouchablesФ, for mere contact with them

was thought to bring defilement. While anyone could improve his status

within his caste system there was little change in the village and family

life of India.

This fact explains in part why Indian society remained nearly the same

for thousands of years.

Religion and the Indian Way of Life

Religion has played a dominant role in shaping Indian culture. From

India came two pagan religions that have had a major impact on Asian

culture: Hinduism and Buddhism.


Hinduism is ingrained in the Indian way of life. It developed from the

early culture and traditions of India: her social structure, literature,

arts and customs. It has not only preserved the traditional elements of

IndianТs past but also served as a unifying influence in IndiaТs diverse


Because Hinduism has no formal statement of doctrine, it was able to

absorb into its system of belief a wide variety of gods and religious

concepts found among the many of the people of India. The majority of

people in India are Hindus.

The basic tenets of Hinduism are found in the religions literature of

ancient India, namely the Vedas and the Upanishads. Hindus believe that a

great god called Brahman permeates everything in the universe. The Hindus

acknowledge many gods; all deities, however, are considered only

manifestations of the eternal, unchanging Brahman .

Since Brahman is not a personal being, he is often referred to as the

great soul or world soul. The ultimate purpose and goal of man according to

the Vedas, is to reunite his soul with the world soul. This reunification

is accomplished through the process of reincarnation, in which a manТs soul

passes through many states (or rebirths) before it escapes the physical

world and unites with Brahman. This cycle of rebirths is called the wheel

of life.

The Hindu believes that a personТs deeds in this life determine his

status in the next. If he has lived a good life, then he will move to a

higher caste in the next life. The soul of an evil person may be reborn

into a lower caste or even into some form of animal life. By observing the

religious ritual and ceremonies prescribed by the Hindu priests and by

fulfilling the duties and obligations of his caste a Hindu believes that he

can ultimately gain release from the Уwheel of lifeФ and attain union with

the world soul.


India was also the birth of Buddhism. The founder of this new religion

was Siddhartha Gautama later know as Buddha, the Enlightened OneФ.

At the age of twenty-nine, Gautama became troubled over the world. He

became convinced that he should devote all his efforts to find the way of

deliverance from suffering. Therefore, he renounced his wife and child,

and set out to find peace and true happiness. After six frustrating years,

living as a hermit in self-sacrifice and meditation, Gautama was at the

point of despair. Sitting down under a tree, he vowed that he would not

move until the truth came to him. According to Gautama, he was pondering

the questions of life when he realized the truth and attained

enlightenment. Central to BuddhaТs teaching are his Four Noble Truths: 1)

suffering is part of all existence; 2) suffering has a cause Ц selfish

desires. As long as man has a craving for pleasure, possessions, and power,

he will have sorrow and misery; 3) suffering can be overcome by destroying

selfish desires. 4) If man follows the Eightfold Path, he will destroy

selfish desires and end all suffering. This pattern for living includes

correct beliefs, intentions, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, thoughts,

and meditations.

Buddhism is a religion built upon works and moral behavior. Buddhists

believe that man does not need the help of the gods or membership in a

higher caste in order to obtain freedom from suffering. Once a man has

absolutely freed himself from his selfish craving, he will no longer be

reborn but will enter into Nirvana Ц the state of absolute peace and

happiness, where he loses himself in the world soul.

Lack of Political Unity

While many aspects of Indian Society have remained the same for

centuries, the political history of India has been one of constant change.

Through much of her history India has been little more than a patchwork of

small rival kingdoms. Successive waves of foreign invaders have streamed

into the Indian Subcontinent. The powerful empires established by these

invaders have provided brief periods of Unity and stability for the Indian


Mauryan Empire

In 326 B.C. Alexander the Great threatened India. His armies crossed

the Indus River and conquered many small kingdoms in IndiaТs northwestern

region. Alexander intended to advance further into India, but when his army

refused to continue, he had to turn back. According to traditional

accounts, he met a young man named Chandragupta Maurya while in India. As

AlexanderТs empire began to disintegrate after his death, Chandragupta

conquered the disorganized and weak kingdoms in the north and created the

first strong empire of India Ц The Mauryan Empire.

The most famous of the Mauryan rulers was ChandraguptaТs grandson

Asoka. He extended the Mauryan Empire to include all but the southern tip

of India. Sickened by the results of his own bloody conquests, Asoka

renounced war and became a convert to Buddhism. He spent much of his reign

promoting the Buddhist religion.

Asoca is created with building thousands of Buddhist shrines called

steepas. He also had Buddhist teaching inscribed on stone pillars still

stand, providing valuable information concerning AsocaТs reign.

One of his most far-reaching acts was the sending of Buddhist

missionaries abroad. Buddhism soon spread across much of Southeast Asia,

where it became a powerful force in other Asian cultures. It did not gain a

wide following in India, however.

Hindu priests viewed Buddhist teaching as dangerous to the caste

system. Fearing that they might lose their prestige and rank in society,

they worked against the acceptance of Buddhist beliefs.

Gupta Empire

The first great period of Indian unity was short-lived. Not long after

AsokaТs death (232 B.C.), the Mauryan Empire collapsed. The years between

the second century B.C. and the third century A.D. Witnessed new invasions

and the rise of small competing kingdoms. However, during this time of

turmoil, India did enjoy a profitable trade with Rome and China.

Even so, it was not until the fourth century A.D. with the rise of the

Gupta Empire, that India entered a new, and perhaps her greatest, era of

prosperity and achievement.

One historian has stated that Уat the time India was perhaps the

happiest and most civilized region of the worldФ. The rulers of the Gupta

dynasty reunited northern India under a strong and effective government.

Trade flourished and the people prospered materially. IndiaТs culture

spread throughout Southeast Asia. Her universities attracted students from

all over the continent, and she made great strides in the fields of

textiles and finest periods of Indian art, architecture, literature and


Gupta literature became renowned for its adventurous and imaginative

fables and fairy tales.

The foremost Indian poet and dramatist of this period was Kalidasa,

whose plays have earned him the title Уthe Indian ShakespeareФ. The

popularity of various Indian Stories soon spread outside India, where many

of them found their way into the literature of other lands.

But Indian literature is represented by Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Mahabharata is one of the two great Sanscrit epics. ItТs the story of

the Great Bharata War, a fratricidal war of succession between the Kaurava

and Pandava cousins (descendants of Bharata) in which nearly all the kings

of India joined on one side or the other. The Kauravas were destroyed and

the Pandavas attained sovereign power but in the end the eldest.

(Yo) Yudhishthira, renounced the throne and with his four brothers

(heroes of the war) and Daraypadi (the joint wife of all 5) parted for

Mount Meru, IndiaТs heaven. Mahabharta is the longest poem in the World

(2.20.000 lines). It is perhaps 15 centuries old and is written in

classical Sanscrit. It consists of 18 books with a supplement, the

Harivamsa Ц a poem of 16.375 verses written by different people in

different times, and of a much later date, which has nothing to do with the

main theme.

Book III Ch.313

УThe MahabharataФ

The following represents a selection of the questions and answers that

passed between the Spirit and Youdhishthira:

1) УWhat is greater than Earth? What is higher than heaven?Ф УMother is

greater than Earth; father is higher than heaven.Ф

2) УIn what one thing is all dharma summed up? What single thing

constitutes all fame? What sole means takes one to heaven?Ф УSkill in the

discharge of oneТs duties sums up all dharma; giving sums up all fame;

truthfulness is the sole road to heaven and good conduct is the one means

to happinessФ.

3) УWhat is the foremost wealth?Ф УLearningФ.

4) УWhat is the best gain?Ф УHealthФ.

5) УWhat is the supreme happiness?Ф УContentmentФ.

6) УWhat is superior to all other dharmas in the world?Ф УBenevolenceФ

7) УWhose control leads to absence of sorrow?Ф УThe control of mindФ.

8) УWhich friendship ages not?Ф УThat with good soulsФ.

9) УBy abandoning what thing does man become rich?Ф УDesireФ.

10) УBy giving up what, does one become happy?Ф УAvariceФ.

11) УWhat is penance?Ф УPenance is the observance of oneТs own obtained


12) УWhat is self Цcontrol?Ф УControl of the mindФ.

13) УWhat is forbearance?Ф УPutting up with oppositesФ. (pleasure and

pain, profit and loss)

14) УWhat is shame?Ф УAversion to do reprehensible act is shameФ.

15) УWhat is straight forwardness?Ф УEquanimityФ.

16) УWho is the enemy hard to be won?Ф УAngerФ.

17) УWhat is the endless disease?Ф УAvariceФ.

18) УWho is said to be a good man?Ф УHe who is benevolent to all thingsФ.

19) УWho is a bad man?Ф УHe who is barren of sympathyФ.

20) УWhat is the best path?Ф УTo cast away all mental dirtФ.

21) УWhat is gift?Ф УProtection of lifeФ.

22) УWhat is the wonder of the world?Ф УEvery day live beings enter the

abode of death; those who remain think that they will survive; what

greater wonder is there than this?Ф

23) УWhat is the news of the world?Ф УWith Earth as the pot, the firmament

as the covering lid, the sun as the fire, day and nights as faggots and

the seasons and months as the stirring ladle. Time cooks all beings; this

is the great newsФ.

Extract from Mahabharata

Romayana (adventures of Rama) is the earliest of the two great

Sanscrit epics, the incidents of which precede the Mahabharata by about

150 years. Rama was a king before he became translated into a deity. In

course of time, his story and epic became sacred and the belief became

established that spiritual and other blessings would be conferred on its

knowers ramayana became popular in India in every Hindy home. The story is

told in 7 books (96 000 lines).

At instigation of his second queen Dasaratha sends Rama, his eldest

son, into exile for 14 years. He is accompanied by Sita, his young Wife and

Lakshmana, his younger brother, when they are living happily in the forest,

Sita is abduced by Ravana (King of Lanka) Rama and Lakshmana go through

many adventures, battles, etc in their pursuit of Ravana, in which theyТre

assisted by Sugriva, the monkey king and his general, Hanuman. Eventually,

Lanka is stormed and set fire to by Hanuman; Ravana is killed; Sita is

rescued and victorious party returns to Ayodhya, their capital city. Later

because her chastity is suspected (because she stayed in RavanaТs house),

Sita proves her innocence voluntarily undergoing an ordeal by fire.

Rama accepts her but for the same reason banishes her (again) the next

time. She goes away to ValmikiТs ashram, where her twin sons are born and

brought up. She prays to the earth goddess to take her away if she is

innocent who seated on her throne appears out of the earth and seating Sita

on her lap takes her away for good.

The epics Ramayana and Mahabharrata arose to supplement and reinforce

the teaching of the Vedas, particularly in respect of the moral, religious

and spiritual ideas of men and women. Since remote times, the two epics

have been the two eyes of the nation guiding it and holding up before it

the ideas of the truth and righteousness of Rama and Yudhishthira and of

chastity and wifely devotion of Sita, as also of the negative example of

Ravana and other characters who came to grief because of their lust,

avarice and wickedness.

These epics were expected to fulfil the mission of placing before the

people examples of how virtue triumphed and vicefell.

This was also an age of advance in mathematics, science, and medicine.

Our so called Arabic numerals originally came from India. Indian

mathematicians were among the first to use negative numbers, the decimal,

and the zero. Centuries before Isaac Newton, Indian Scientist developed

their own theories of gravity. Indian astronomers knew that the earth was

round and that it rotated on its axis. If in need of medical attention, the

people of the Gupta Empire could go to free hospitals where Indian

physicians were able to perform many surgical procedures and mention 300

different operations and 20 instruments.

Customs in India

India has many customs. The practice of self-information by fire has a

strange and terrible place in the lore of India, and it brings to mind the

practice of suttee, widow burning. This barbaric survival of ancient

customs lasted in India to a late day.

In 1817 there were 706 cases of suttee in Bengal alone. This was at a

time when the British authorities were making efforts to stop the practice.

They were afraid to prohibit window burning entirely in the face of


Hindu addiction to tradition, and resorted to intensive persuasion. No

suttee was permitted until the prospective, victim had been examined by a

magistrate, who made sure that she was proceeding of her own free will and

urged her to give up her ghastly intention.

The great source of information in that period is a massive volume

УHindu Manners, Customs and ceremoniesФ by the Abbe Dubois, a French

missionary who spent years in India at the end of the eighteenth century

and the beginning of the nineteenth. He writes:

The last king of Tanjore, who died in 1801, left behind him four

lawful wives. The Brahmins decided that two of these should be burnt with

the body of their husband, and selected the couple that should have the

preference. It would have been the everlasting shame to them and the

grossest insult to the memory of the deceased had they hesitated to accept

this singular, honor, so they seemed perfectly ready to yield to the

terrible lot which awaited them. The necessary preparations for the

obsequies were completed in a single day.

Three or four leagues from the royal residence a square pit of no

great depth, and about twelve to fifteen feet square, was excavated

Within it was erected a pyramid of sandalwood, resting on a kind of

scaffolding of the same wood. The posts which supported it were so arranged

that they could easily be removed and would thereby cause the whole

structure to collapse suddenly. At the four courners of the pit were placed

huge brass jars filled with ghee, to be thrown on the wood in order to

hasten combustion .

The following was the order of the procession as it wended its way to

the pyre. It was headed by a large force of armed soldiers. Then followed a

crowd of musicians chiefly trumpeters, who made the air ring with the

dismal sound of their instruments. Next came the kingТs body borne in a

splendid open palanquin, accompanied by his guru, his principal officers,

and his nearest relatives, who were all on foot and wore no turbans in

token of mourning.

Then came two victims, each borne on a richly decorated palanquin.

They were loaded rather than decked, with jewels. Several ranks of soldiers

surrounded them to preserve order and to keep back the great crowds that

flocked in from every side.

The two queens were accompanied by some of their favorite women, with

whom they occasionally conversed.

Then followed relatives of both sexes, to whom the victims had made

valuable presents before leaving the palace. An innumerable multitude of

Brahmins and persons of all castes followed in the rear.

On reaching the spot where their fate awaited them, the victims were

required to perform the ablutions and other ceremonies proper on such

occasions and they went through the whole of them without hesitation and

without the least sign of fear. When, however, it came to walking round the

pyre, it was observed that their features underwent a sudden change.

During this interval the body of the king had been placed on the top

of the pyramid of sandalwood. The two queen, still wearing their rich

attire and ornaments, were next compelled to ascend the pyre. Lying down

beside the body of the deceased prince, one on the right and other on the

left, they joined hands across the corpse.

The officiating Brahmins then sprinkled the pile with holy water, and

emptied the jars of ghee over the wood, setting fire on it at the same

moment. The flames quickly spread and the props being removed, the whole

structure collapsed and in its fall must have crushed to death the two

unfortunate victims. Thereupon all the spectators shouted aloud for joy.

During the sixth century the Gupta Empire collapsed under the repeated

attacks of the White Huns (perhaps related to the Huns who plagued the

Roman Empire during the fifth century) India again entered a period of

political disorder; the country became divided into small warring kingdoms.

Waves of foreign invaders again entered the land; but as in the past,

Hinduism absorbed these foreign elements into Indian society. However, the

history of India took a dramatic turn when northern India fell under the

domination of Muslims who brought with them a religion and culture as

strong as Hinduism.

After years of constant raids, Muslim warriors conquered much of

northern India, where they established a Muslim kingdom in 1206 near the

city of Delhi. Almost immediately a conflict arose between the Muslim and

Hindu elements within Indian society. This was a struggle not only between

two religions, but between two distinct ways of line. The Hindus believed

in many gods, but the Muslims acknowledged only one.

The Hindus followed the rigid caste system while the Muslims believed

in the equality of all men before their god, Allah.

Although Muslim control of northern India ended at the close of the

fourteenth century, the hostilities between Hindus and Muslims in Indian

society have continued to the present.

Muslims contributed to the development of Indian culture. They left

the valuable monument of art, the great masterpiece Ц Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal

Of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World, two were dedicated to

sentiment in marriage: the Mausoleum, monument of a wifeТs devotion to the

memory of her husband; the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, erected by a husband

for the happiness of a favourite wife. Among the wonders of the modern

world, one of the most famous commemorates a husbandТs devotion to a wife.

It is, of course, the incomparable Taj Mahal, the tomb that Shah Jehan

created for the beauteous Mumtaz Mahal, at the city of Agra, in India. The

French traveler Francois Bernier, who toured the East three centuries ago,

was in Agra during the 1660s, saw the building when it had been up for less

than twenty years, and wrote in his journal: УPossibly I have acquired an

Indian taste, but I am of the opinion that this monument has much more

right to be included among the wonders of the world than the pyramids of

EgyptФ. Some critics have gone beyond him, declaring the Taj Mahal to be

the most beautiful edifice ever erected by man. Shah Jehan was one of the

Mogul emperors who reigned over India in golden splendour. A Moslem, he

practiced the polygamy ordained in the Koran, which permitted four wife not

counting the concubines whom it was customary for an Islamic potentate to

have in his harem. Mumtaz Mahal, young dainty, and beautiful, was the

favourite wife. Taj Mahal, therefore, is a monument to romantic sentiment

in the harem, a husbandТs devotion in polygamous family life.

The Taj Mahal is the masterpieces of Mohammedan Art. That it arose on

Indian soil is explained by history. The Moglus came originally from

Central Asia, their name being a variant of the world УMongolФ. They were

Moslems, and they conquered India.

The founder of the Mogul Empire was one of the remarkable men of all

time. In martial ardor and ability to command, Baber may have been a

typical princeling of Iartary, but he was also a man of culture, the author

of perhaps best political memoirs ever written by a reigning monarch. In

December of 1525 he led his army into India. The battle took place on April

12, 1526, and proved to be one of the decisive conflicts of world history

for Baber won the victory, that gave him a permanent foothold in the land

that was to be ruled by this descendants.

Baber did not finish the work of integrating an imperial domain. But

the Moguls were lucky in the next representative of their dynasty Akbar,

known to history as Akbar The Great. He introduced a new system of

government, bringing ale the land under his direct authority naming his own

viceroys, setting up a comprehensive tax levy, keeping the provincial

military forces in the pay of the central treasury to prevent local

rebellious before they could get started.

At his death (1605) he left behind an empire so closely knit and

organized that it could continue in much the same form for another century.

By patronizing artists and architects he forwarded the development of

style and skill to the point where under his grand son, the miracle of the

Taj Mahal became possible. Akbar was succeeded by his son Sahangir, the

potentate to whom the title of УThe Great MogulФ was first applied. The

imagination of the west was inflamed, by stories of the beauty, power,

luxury and oriental splendour of the Mogul Empire. Merchants, travellers,

ambassadors, missionaries Ц all helped to fill in the picture of the Great

Mogul and his kingdom.

Iahangir died in 1627 and the throne passed to his son, Shah Jehan.

Under his popular rule the Mogul Empire reached its height. His reign was

remembered for its order, security and justice. In 1612 he had married

Argumand Banu a cousin, and their wedded bliss until her death in 1631

constitutes one of the great love stories of the world. It was not dimmed

by the fact that Shah Jehan, in Moslem fashion, had a harem of other wives.

She was his favourite, the one he called Mumtaz Mahal, or Ornament of the

PalaceФ. A powerful influence with him, she was largely responsible for his

orthodox Mohammedanism, for she held strictly to the tenets of Islam Mumtaz

Mahal bore her husband fourteen children, the last of which caused her

death on June 17, 1631.

Shah Ielah reacted to the tragedy as did Artemisia on the death

Mausolus. He was so inconsolable that it was feared he would die of grief.

In fact he never recovered from the shock, although he did rouse himself

because he wanted to venerate the memory of his wife, with a suitable

monument. The greatest thing he did during the rest of his reign was to

build the Taj Mahal. As a site he chose a high bank of the Yumna River, one

of the holy rives of Hundustan, where it bends around at Agra. He summoned

the finest architects and craftsmen from all over his empire and had them

submit plans for the proposed buildings. The Portuquese Iesuists in Agra

reported that the man who won was a Venetian Geronimo Verroneo, and that

this Westerner actually erected the Taj. But that story has been rejected

by some later scholars on the grounds that the building shows no European

influence. Other accounts name a Turk or a Persian.

The basic material used was wite marble, with the wall and gates of

red sandstone, a colour scheme, that has the remarkable effect of showing

different tints at different times of the day. The building stands on a 186-

foot square with the angles cut to form on octagon. Beneath it is a raised

marble platform, extending all around and marked by delicate minarets at

each corner. Above swells the great dome, about two thirds of a sphere,

surmounted by a crescent and flanked by smaller domes, each of the walls is

cut by arches of a similar but not at all mono fonous pattern, rather, they

contribute to the unity of the whole, Light enters through marble screens.

There is an old saying that УThe Moguls built like titans and finished

like jewelersФ. The Taj Mahal proves the truth of the remark. Looked from a

distance, its appearance is indeed dreamlike, with a grare and balance that

make us wonder how human beings ever achieved so miraculous a result from

marble and sandstone.

After Shah Jehan the Mogul Empire had no place to go except downward.

This great ruler lived to see the first bitter fruits of failure, for his

sons rebelled against him, and the one who came out on top, Aurangzeb,

deposed him and threw him into prison.

Then Aurangzeb moved the capital of the Mogul Empire from Agra to

Delhi. For seven years Shah Jehan remained in a cell in the fort at Agra,

protesting against the unfilial behaviour of the new emperor, and spending

much of his time gazing across at the Taj Mahal where the symbol of his

best days lay Buried. Shah Iahan died in 1658 and finally left prison to

lie by the side of Mumtaz Mahal in her glorious tomb. Aurangzeb maintained

his throne for fifty years, the last Mogul of any consequence. On his death

in 1767 fierce fighting among his sons broke out. Final ruin came in 1739

when the powerful king of Persia, Nadir Shah, invaded Hundustan. From then

on the Mogul Empire of Akbar, Yahangir, and Shah Jehan, was but a memory,

but it had left behind a colorful page of history climaxed by the enduring

monument that attracts and charms visitors to this day that wonder the

modern world, the Taj Mahal.

But India is famous not only for this monument of art Ц It has other

wonderful masterpieces of architecture.

Art of India

Indian civilization was one of the oldest and most original in the

East. Her contribution to world culture was great. In the ancient times,

India was famed for her wonderful miracles, vast natural resources and

craft works.

In the 3rd century b.c. almost the whole Hindostan peninsula and some

neighbouring countries, were united into one gigantic empire under the

powerful king, Ashoch (273).

Only stone edifies in that period have survived till nowadays: temples

and cells, stone-shrines. Shrines were erected of brick and stone in the

form of hemisphere, surrounding by the fence with 4 gates in it.

Stone statues served as adornments of architecture and more often were

created in the form of scenic relief. Motions, gestures and poses of the

people on the relief are extremely expressive and graceful. That was under

the influence of the dance art, widely spread and popular in India.

Religious architecture of the Ashoch period is represented by cave

complexes and temples. Such temples were usually carved in the picturesque

and secluded places out of the solid rock massif. Excavations in the North

Ц West India brought the discovery of the wonderful statues created in the

1st century a.d.. These were mainly the statues of Buddha. Influence of

the Greco-Roman art was great here.

Figures of Buddha resemble much statues of the Roman emperors and some

of the Greek gods. They were made by Greek masters who lived in Indian and

adopted Indian religions. Later on the Indian apprentices of Greek masters

started sculpting Buddha according to the notion of the Indian people:

sitting with his legs crossed. Period of the blossoming Indian culture

dates back to the 4th Ц6th centuries a.d. Remarkable specimen of the

ancient Indian painting have survived in Buddhist temples and monasteries

in Adjanta. Walls, ceilings, pillars in these temples are painted with the

scenes from Buddhist legends and are decorated with statues and carving.

Murals in Adjanta are the visual encyclopaedia of life of the ancient

Indian people.


The Indian civilization was one of the oldest and most original in the

last. Its contribution to the culture of human kind is immense. At a very

early stage, ancient India maintained close cultural contacts with many

countries of the ancient Orient and with the Greco-Roman World.

Ancient traditions are highly viable in India and it is therefore not

surprising that many achievements of the ancient Indian civilization long

outlived the epoch of antiquity becoming an important component of the

countryТs modern culture and of world civilizations.


1. УA Crown of EaglesФ by Anne Covell.

2. УThe IndiansФ by Blecker Sonia

3. УAcross the CenturiesФ by S. Armento. G.B. Nash

4. УThe story of Ancient TimesФ by Meclure C.H.

5. УPeople and Nations World HistoryФ by Mazour Anatol

6. УLands and PeoplesФ by Bulliet Richard W.

7. УInvestigations ManТs WorldФ by Hanna Paul

8. СThe West IndiesФ by Harman Carter

9. УSoutheast AsiaФ by Karnow Stanley

10. УPeopleФ by Frederick King

11. УWorld History AtlasФ

12. УAtlas of World and EnvironmentalФ by Middleton Nick

13. УWorld HistoryФ by David A. Fisher

14. УHindu Manners, Customs and CeremoniesФ by Abbe Dubois

15. Encyclopedia УIndiaФ

16. УThe New and Wander Book of Explorations and DiscoveriesФ by D.


17. New English Ц Russian Dictionary (1999 Moscow)

18. Oxford Russian Ц English, English Ц Russian (Oxford)

19. English Ц Romanian, Romanian Ц English Dictionary by Andre Bantash


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