Legacy in Science and Civilization

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 

Religious and Philosophical Landscape of Ancient India

Major Religions:

  • Brahmanism (Hinduism): Dominant religion influencing art, literature, and society.
  • Buddhism: Spread to East Asia and Central Asia, later declined in India.
  • Jainism: Continued in India, contributing to art and literature.
  • Christianity: Limited presence in ancient India.

The Varna System:

  • State and religion enforced social hierarchy.
  • Divine origin attributed to varna functions (priests, warriors, peasants, laborers).
  • Punishments for violating varna roles.
  • Varnas and Jatis (castes) became hereditary.
  • Initially aided societal and economic growth.
  • Bhagavad Gita emphasized fulfilling one’s dharma.

Philosophical Systems:

  • Materialistic View:
    • Samkhya system (Kapila, 580 BC): Soul’s liberation through knowledge.
    • No belief in god, creation attributed to nature.
    • Logic and debate fostered this school.
    • Charvaka (6th century BC) and Lokayata philosophy.
  • Idealist View:
    • Upanishads: World as an illusion, seeking real knowledge.
    • Appeal to Western thinkers due to modern challenges.
    • Influence on German philosopher Schopenhauer.

Achievements of Ancient India

Crafts and Technology:

  • Harappan Civilization (Bronze Age):
    • Extensive use of fired bricks.
    • Advanced town planning.
  • Textile Dyeing:Development of vibrant and lasting colors.
  • Steel Production:Began in 200 BC, exported as “wootz.”


  • Arthashastra by Kautilya:Offered strategies for complex administration.
  • Emperor Ashoka:Championed peace and non-aggression.

Science and Mathematics:

  • Sanskrit Grammar:Systematized by Panini (5th century BC) in “Ashtadhyayi.”
  • Mathematics:
    • Decimal system.
    • Concept of zero (2nd century BC).
    • Place value system (Arabic numerals originated from India).
  • Astronomy:
    • Aryabhata (476-500 AD): Introduced trigonometry concepts.
    • Varahamihira (6th century AD): Proposed Earth’s rotation and moon’s revolution.
    • “Suryasiddhanta”: Renowned astronomical text.
  • Medicine:
    • Ayurveda: Traditional medical system.
    • Sushruta (2nd century AD): Surgical procedures documented in “Sushrutasamhita.”
    • Charaka (2nd century AD): “Charakasamhita” – an encyclopedia of medicine.


  • Knowledge of Indian rivers, mountains, pilgrimage sites, and regions documented in epics and Puranas.

Artistic and Literary Legacy of Ancient India

Art and Architecture:

  • Harappan Era:Skilled masonry and craftsmanship.
  • Mauryan Empire:
    • Polished pillars with animal statues (lion capital adopted as India’s national emblem).
  • Ajanta Caves (2nd BC – 7th AD):Birthplace of Asian art, featuring cave temples and paintings.
  • Gandhara Art (Afghanistan/Central Asia):Fusion of Indian, Central Asian, and Hellenistic styles.
  • South Indian Temples:Influenced temple architecture in Southeast Asia.

Education and Literature:

  • Harappan Writing System (mid-3rd millennium BC):Undeciphered script.
  • Nalanda University:Major center for higher education, attracting students from across Asia.
  • Rig Veda:Earliest Indo-Aryan literary work, offering insights into Aryan culture.
  • Gupta Period:Flourishing of literature, including Kalidasa’s renowned play “Abhijanashakuntalam.”

Strengths and Weaknesses:

  • Strengths:Impressive achievements in art, science, and civilization.
  • Weaknesses:Persistence of the caste system based on Brahmanical ideology.
  • Social Stratification:Subordination of Shudras, untouchables, and women.
  • Limited Impact of Universal Ideals:Ideals of world as a family (“vasudhaiva kutumbakam”) not widely adopted.

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