Traditions and Encounters, AP Edition (Bentley), 5th Edition

Chapter 4: Early Societies in South Asia


An agricultural economy and its accompanying neolithic communities emerged on the Indian subcontinent some time after 7000 B.C.E. Eventually some of the neolithic villages further evolved into urban societies. The earliest such society was Dravidian and was known as the Harappan society. It flourished along the Indus River valley in the third millennium B.C.E. Coinciding with the decline of the Harappan society, large numbers of Indo-European migrants moved into India from central Asia beginning around 1900 B.C.E. These peoples, known as Aryans, brought with them cultural traditions sharply different from the earlier societies. After a period of turmoil, the Aryan and Dravidian cultures merged to generate a distinctive Indian society characterized by the following:

  • Regional states with kingship ( rajas ) as the most common form of government
  • The caste system, a complex social class system that served as a vehicle for imparting a powerful sense of group identity, as a stabilizing influence in Indian society and as a foundation for the religious belief system
  • A distinctive set of religious beliefs encompassing the doctrines of samsara and karma along with the notion of a universal soul, or Brahman
  • A rich literary religious tradition based on centuries of oral transmission that included such classics as the Vedas and the Upanishads
Traditions & Encounters, 5e
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