Gem In The Lotus: The Seeding Of Indian Civilisation
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
, 2004 - History
- 484 pages
This book describes early Indian civilisation, and the foundations of cultural and religious traditions that are still alive today. It begins with the Indus Valley Civilisation (2500-1500 BC), in modern Pakistan, first excavated only in the 1920s and still being uncovered today. The end of this civilisation coincides with the arrival in north India of Aryans, who laid the foundations of Indian religion, centered on sacrificial objects. Great importance was accorded to the brahmans', priests who presided over the sacrifices. We know about Aryan India, whose centre of gravity shifted from the Punjab to the Ganges valley, from the great Vedic texts and the two great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.The Vedic tradition, and the cults of Shiva and Vishnu, gradually transformed into classical Hinduism and an all-embracing structure of thought slowly emerged, a world view in which all things are linked in a huge web of being. The 6th century BC saw two reactions against traditional religion. One was Jainism, which believed in non-injury to all living things. The other was Buddhism, which would become a potent force in world history. The book ends with the remarkable Mauryan Empire, which in the 3rd century BC united a vast area of the Indian subcontinent, a unity that would be unmatched for the next 2,000 years.