Chapter 6 - India and Southeast Asia 1500BCE-600CE Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Chapter 6 - India and Southeast Asia 1500BCE-600CE Deck (17)


Seasonal winds in the Indian Ocean caused by the differences in temperature between the rapidly heating and cooling landmasses of Africa and Asia and the slowly changing ocean waters. These strong and predictable winds have long been ridden across the open sea by sailors, and the large amounts of rainfall that they deposit on parts of India, Southeast Asia, and China allow for the cultivation of several crops a year.



Early Indian sacred “knowledge”—the literal meaning of the term—long preserved and communicated orally by Brahmin priests and eventually written down. These religious texts, including the thousand poetic hymns to various deities contained in the Rig Veda, are our main source of information about the Vedic period (ca. 1500–500 B.C.E.).


Varna/ Jati

Two categories of social identity of great importance in Indian history. Varna are the four major social divisions: the Brahmin priest class, the Kshatriya warrior/administrator class, the Vaishya merchant/farmer class, and the Shudra laborer class. Within the system of varna are many jati, regional groups of people who have a common occupational sphere and who marry, eat, and generally interact with other members of their group.



In Indian tradition, the residue of deeds performed in past and present lives that adheres to a “spirit” and determines what form it will assume in its next life cycle. The doctrines of karma and reincarnation were used by the elite in ancient India to encourage people to accept their social position and do their duty.



The Hindu concept of the spirit’s “liberation” from the endless cycle of rebirths. There are various avenues—such as physical discipline, meditation, and acts of devotion to the gods—by which the spirit can distance itself from desire for the things of this world and be merged with the divine force that animates the universe.



An Indian prince named Siddhartha Gautama, who renounced his wealth and social position. After becoming “enlightened” (the meaning of Buddha), he enunciated the principles of Buddhism. This doctrine evolved and spread throughout India and to Southeast, East, and Central Asia.


Mahayana Buddhism

“Great Vehicle” branch of Buddhism followed in China, Japan, and Central Asia. The focus is on reverence for Buddha and for Bodhisattva, enlightened persons who have postponed nirvana to help others attain enlightenment.


Theravada Buddhism

“Way of the Elders” branch of Buddhism and much of Southeast Asia. Theravada remains close to the original principles set forth by the Buddha; it downplays the importance of gods and emphasizes austerity and the individual’s search for enlightenment.



A general term for a wide variety of beliefs and ritual practices that have developed in the Indian subcontinent since antiquity. Hinduism has roots in ancient Vedic, Buddhist, and south Indian religious concepts and practices. It spread along the trade routes to Southeast Asia.


Mauryan Empire

The first state to unify most of the Indian subcontinent. It was founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 324 B.C.E. and survived until 184 B.C.E. From its capital at Pataliputra in the Ganges Valley it grew wealthy from taxes on agriculture, iron mining, and control of trade routes.



Third ruler of the Mauryan Empire in India (r. 273–232 B.C.E.). He converted broadcast his precepts on inscribed stones and pillars, the earliest surviving Indian writing.



A vast epic chronicling the events leading up to a cataclysmic battle between related kinship groups in early India. It includes the Bhagavad-Gita.



The most important work of Indian sacred literature, a dialogue between the great warrior Arjuna and the god Krishna on duty and the fate of the spirit.


Tamil kingdoms

The kingdoms of southern India, inhabited primarily by speakers of Dravidian languages, which developed in partial isolation, and somewhat differently, from the Arya north. They produced epics, poetry, and performance arts. Elements of Tamil religious beliefs were merged into the Hindu synthesis.


Gupta Empire

A powerful Indian state based, like its Mauryan predecessor, on a capital at Pataliputra in the Ganges Valley. It controlled most of the Indian subcontinent through a combination of military force and its prestige as a center of sophisticated culture.



Historians’ term for a state that acquires prestige and power by developing attractive cultural forms and staging elaborate public ceremonies (as well as redistributing valuable resources) to attract and bind subjects to the center. Examples include the Gupta Empire in India and Srivijaya in Southeast Asia.



An early complex society in Southeast Asia between the first and sixth centuries C.E. It was centered in the rich rice-growing region of southern Vietnam, and it controlled the passage of trade across the Malaysian isthmus.