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Indo-Pak History

Aga Khan
Aga Khan, real name Hasan Ali Shah (1800-1881), believed to be a descendant of the
Prophet Muhammad. Aga Khan was governor of the province of Kermān, Iran, until
1840, when he fled to India after an unsuccessful attempt to seize power in Iran. He
helped the British government in India in its attempts to control frontier tribes. Aga Khan
became leader of the Ismailis in India, Pakistan, Africa, and Syria.
Aga Khan II
Aga Khan II, real name Ali Shah (1831-1885), who served as leader of the Ismaili sect.
He was its leader for four years after the death of his father, Aga Khan. His reign
emphasized close ties with the British government in India.
Aga Khan IV
Aga Khan IV, real name Karim Al ), born in Geneva, and educated in Hussaini Shah
(1936- Harvard University. He was the Switzerland and at grandson of Aga Khan III,
who nominated him, rather than a son, to head the Ismaili sect, in the conviction that the
Aga Khan should be ?a young man brought up in the midst of the new age.?
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), king of Macedonia, conqueror of the Persian Empire,
and one of the greatest military geniuses of all times.
Alexander, born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia, was the son of Philip II, king
of Macedonia, and of Olympias, a princess of Epirus. Aristotle was Alexander's tutor; he
gave Alexander a thorough training in rhetoric and literature and stimulated his interest in
science, medicine, and philosophy. In the summer of 336 BC Philip was assassinated, and
Alexander ascended to the Macedonian throne. Alexander disposed quickly of all
conspirators and domestic enemies by ordering their execution. Then he descended on
Thessaly (Thessalia) Before the end of the summer of 336 BC he had reestablished his
position in Greece and was elected by a congress of states at Corinth. In 335 BC as
general of the Greeks in a campaign against the Persians, originally planned by his father,
he carried out a successful campaign against the defecting Thracians, penetrating to the
Danube River. On his return he crushed in a single week the threatening Illyrians and
then hastened to Thebes, which had revolted. He took the city by storm and razed it,
sparing only the temples of the gods and the house of the Greek lyric poet Pindar, and
selling the surviving inhabitants, about 8000 in number, into slavery. Alexander's
promptness in crushing the revolt of Thebes brought the other Greek states into instant
and abject submission.
Alexander began his war against Persia in the spring of 334 BC by crossing the
Hellespont (modern Dardanelles) with an army of 35,000 Macedonian and Greek troops;
his chief officers, all Macedonians, included Antigonus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. At the
river Granicus, near the ancient city of Troy, he attacked an army of Persians and Greek
mercenaries totaling 40,000 men. His forces defeated the enemy and, according to
tradition, lost only 110 men; after this battle all the states of Asia Minor submitted to him.
In passing through Phrygia he is said to have cut with his sword the Gordian knot.
Continuing to advance southward, Alexander encountered the main Persian army,
commanded by King Darius III, at Issus, in northeastern Syria. The size of Darius's army
is unknown; the ancient tradition that it contained 500,000 men is now considered a
fantastic exaggeration. The Battle of Issus, in 333, ended in a great victory for Alexander.
Cut off from his base, Darius fled northward, abandoning his mother, wife, and children
to Alexander, who treated them with the respect due to royalty. Tyre, a strongly fortified
seaport, offered obstinate resistance, but Alexander took it by storm in 332 after a siege
of seven months. Alexander captured Gaza next and then passed on into Egypt, where he
was greeted as a deliverer. By these successes he secured control of the entire eastern
Mediterranean coastline. Later in 332 he founded, at the mouth of the Nile River, the city
of Alexandria, which later became the literary, scientific, and commercial center of the
Greek world. Cyrene, the capital of the ancient North African kingdom of Cyrenaica,
submitted to Alexander soon afterward, extending his dominion to Carthaginian territory.
In the spring of 331 Alexander made a pilgrimage to the great temple and oracle of
Amon-Ra, Egyptian god of the sun, whom the Greeks identified with Zeus. The earlier
Egyptian pharaohs were believed to be sons of Amon-Ra; and Alexander, the new ruler
of Egypt, wanted the god to acknowledge him as his son. The pilgrimage apparently was
successful, and it may have confirmed in him a belief in his own divine origin. Turning
northward again, he reorganized his forces at Tyre and started for Babylon with an army
of 40,000 infantry and 7000 cavalry. Crossing the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers, he met
Darius at the head of an army of unknown size, which, according to the exaggerated
accounts of antiquity, was said to number a million men; this army he completely
defeated in the Battle of Gaugamela, on October 1, 331 BC. Darius fled as he had done at
Issus and was later slain by one of his own satraps. Babylon surrendered after
Gaugamela, and the city of Sūsa with its enormous treasures was soon conquered. Then,
in midwinter, Alexander forced his way to Persepolis, the Persian capital. After
plundering the royal treasuries and taking other rich booty, he burned the city during a
drunken binge and thus completed the destruction of the ancient Persian Empire. His
domain now extended along and beyond the southern shores of the Caspian Sea,
including modern Afghanistan and Baluchistan, and northward into Bactria and
Sogdiana, the modern Western Turkistan, also known as Central Asia. It had taken
Alexander only three years, from the spring of 330 BC to the spring of 327 BC, to master
this vast area.
In order to complete his conquest of the remnants of the Persian Empire, which had once
included part of western India, Alexander crossed the Indus River in 326 BC, and
invaded the Punjab as far as the river Hyphasis (modern Beās); at this point the
Macedonians rebelled and refused to go farther. He then constructed a fleet and passed
down the Indus, reaching its mouth in September 325 BC. The fleet then sailed to the
Persian Gulf. With his army, he returned overland across the desert to Media. Shortages
of food and water caused severe losses and hardship among his troops. Alexander spent
about a year organizing his dominions and completing a survey of the Persian Gulf in
preparation for further conquests. He arrived in Babylon in the spring of 323 BC. In June
he contracted a fever and died. He left his empire, in his own words, ?to the strongest?;
this ambiguous testament resulted in dire conflicts for half a century.
Alexander was one of the greatest generals of all time, noted for his brilliance as a
tactician and troop leader and for the rapidity with which he could traverse great expanses
of territory. He was usually brave and generous, but could be cruel and ruthless when
politics demanded. The theory has been advanced that he was actually an alcoholic
having, for example, killed his friend Clitus in a drunken fury. He later regretted this act
deeply. As a statesman and ruler he had grandiose plans; according to many modern
historians he cherished a scheme for uniting the East and the West in a world empire, a
new and enlightened ?world brotherhood of all men.? He trained thousands of Persian
youths in Macedonian tactics and enrolled them in his army. He himself adopted Persian
manners and married Eastern wives, namely, Roxana (died about 311 BC), daughter of
Oxyartes of Sogdiana, and Barsine (or Stateira; died about 323 BC), the elder daughter of
Darius; and he encouraged and bribed his officers to take Persian wives. Shortly before
he died, Alexander ordered the Greek cities to worship him as a god. Although he
probably gave the order for political reasons, he was, in his own view and that of his
contemporaries, of divine birth. The order was largely nullified by his death shortly after
he issued it.
To bind his conquests together, Alexander founded a number of cities, most of them
named Alexandria, along his line of march; these cities were well located, well paved,
and provided with good water supplies. Greek veterans from his army settled in them;
young men, traders, merchants, and scholars were attracted to them; Greek culture was
introduced; and the Greek language became widely known. Thus, Alexander vastly
extended the influence of Greek civilization and prepared the way for the kingdoms of
the Hellenistic period and the conquests of the Roman Empire.
Andhra Dynasty
Andhra Dynasty also called Satavahana (230? BC-AD 230), Indian ruling house
originating in what is now the state of Andhra Pradesh. The dynasty may have begun as a
family of high officials of the Mauryan Empire, gradually becoming independent as the
empire declined. From the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD, the Andhras ruled
over much of southern and central India, conquering the Sungas of Magadha in 27 BC
and vying with the Sakas for control of the Deccan.
The greatest ruler of the dynasty was probably Satakarni I (1st century AD), who
extended his kingdom over the northwestern Deccan, establishing his capital at modern
Paithan in Mahārāshtra State. Although subsequently forced out of the area by the Sakas,
the Andhras surged back in the 2nd century AD under Gautamiputra Satakarni (?-AD
128?), a great champion of Hinduism. The last great king of the dynasty was Yajna Sri
Satakarni (late-2nd century), who once more asserted Andhra authority over the Sakas.
The dynasty declined during the 3rd century, when the kingdom broke up into smaller

Arya Samaj
Arya Samaj (Sanskrit, ?Assembly of the Ancient Nobles?), Hindu religious sect founded
in 1875 by Swami Dayananda Sarasvati. An attempt to reform Hinduism by synthesizing
ancient Eastern ideas (the Vedas) with modern Western ideas (natural sciences), it argued
that the Vedas, the earliest Hindu scriptures, were the only revelation from God and that
they were the basis of all science. All Hindus were exhorted to return to the Vedas and to
preach them throughout the world. The actual text of the Rig-Veda, one of the four
collections of the Vedas, was reinterpreted loosely, to explain many anachronisms (such
as steam engines) and incorporate much post-Vedic thought. After the founder's death in
1883, the Arya Samaj split into two sections, one with headquarters at Lahore, the other
at Haridwār.
Aryan Race
Aryan Race, name for the white race used by white supremacists, who claim the
superiority of certain whites to other people. In Nazi Germany, the term was narrowed to
refer to certain ?pure? Germans. In linguistics, it is sometimes used to refer to people
who speak any of the Indo-European family of languages.
For information on:

concept of the Aryan race used to justify persecution and conquest, see Adolf Hitler:
Mein Kampf; Adolf Hitler: Hitler's Racial Policies
Nazi persecution of Jews as non-Aryans, see Anti-Semitism: Organized Anti-Semitism as
a Political Tool; Genocide: Types of Genocide; Holocaust: Pre-World War II Persecution
of German Jews
writers who promoted the idea of Aryan superiority, see Joseph Gobineau; Houston
Stewart Chamberlain
Badrinath, village in northern India, in Uttaranchal state. Badrinath is one of the most
sacred Hindu centers of pilgrimage in India. It lies in the Himalayas, close to the peak of
Badrinath, at an altitude of 3,137 m (10,291 ft), and is cut off by snow from November to
March. Badrinath Temple is a shrine to the Hindu god Vishnu, who did penance in
Badrinath. Nearby are the hot springs of Tapt Kund (believed to be warmed by Agni, the
god of fire), where many pilgrims bathe. Badrinath is almost uninhabited in winter and
crowded with pilgrims in summer. Population (1991) 978.

Bhil, tribal people of west-central India, found mostly in the hills of Rājasthān, Gujarāt,
and Mahārāshtra. They subsist on wild grains, fruits, roots, and insects and practice
primitive agriculture. Religious practices have been influenced by Hinduism; however,
belief in witchcraft predominates. Their dialects, unlike the Dravidian tongues more
common among Indian tribal peoples, are related to Gujarati and other Indo-European
Black Hole of Calcutta
Black Hole of Calcutta, small airless dungeon, measuring about 4.6 ? 5.5 m (about 15 ?
18 ft), in the old Fort William of the English East India Company in Calcutta (now
Kolkata). According to a contemporary British account, after the fort fell to the nawab of
Bengal, Siraj-ud-Dawlah (circa 1732-57), on June 20, 1756, the 146 British prisoners
taken by his forces were herded into the cell and locked up overnight; in the morning
only 23 were alive. As related, the incident aroused outrage among the British, who used
it as an excuse for harsh retaliation. Later study has indicated that only 64 prisoners were
kept in the hole, of whom 21 survived. Some Indians have doubted that the incident took
place at all.
Brahman (class)
Brahman (class), also spelled Brahmin, name of the sacerdotal, or highest, class (varna)
in the system of Hinduism. Brahm?n is the masculine form of the neuter noun Br?hman,
cosmic revelation. This revelation is the responsibility of the Brahman priest and, by
extension, of the entire priestly class (see Brahman). According to the Rig-Veda, the task
of the Brahman is to relate knowledge (vidya). The primary activities of this priestly elite
are the study and teaching of the Veda and the performance of religious celebrations.
According to the Laws of Manu, this class issued from the mouth of the god Brahma at
the moment of creation. To the orthodox Hindu, the person of a Brahman is sacred;
Brahmans are the chief of all created beings, and other mortals enjoy life through them.
The four stages in the ideal life of a Brahman are those of student, householder, forest-
dweller, and renouncer.
Buddha (563?-483?BC), Indian philosopher and the founder of Buddhism, born in
Lumbini, Nepal. He was the son of the head of the Sakya warrior caste, with the private
name of Siddhartha; in later life he was known also as Sakyamuni (Sage of the Sakyas).
The name Gautama Buddha is a combination of the family name Gautama and the
appellation Buddha, meaning ?Enlightened One.?
All the surviving accounts of Buddha's life were written many years after his death by
idealizing followers rather than by objective historians. Consequently, it is difficult to
separate facts from the great mass of myth and legend in which they are embedded. From
the available evidence, Buddha apparently showed an early inclination to meditation and
reflection, displeasing his father, who wanted him to be a warrior and ruler rather than a
religious philosopher. Yielding to his father's wishes, he married at an early age and
participated in the worldly life of the court. Buddha found his carefree, self-indulgent
existence dull, and after a while he left home and began wandering in search of
enlightenment. One day in 533, according to tradition, he encountered an aged man, a
sick man, and a corpse, and he suddenly and deeply realized that suffering is the common
lot of humankind. He then came upon a mendicant monk, calm and serene, whereupon he
determined to adopt his way of life and forsake family, wealth, and power in the quest for
truth. This decision, known in Buddhism as the Great Renunciation, is celebrated by
Buddhists as a turning point in history. Gautama was then 29 years old, according to
Wandering as a mendicant over northern India, Buddha first investigated Hinduism. He
took instruction from some famous Brahman teachers, but he found the Hindu caste
system repellent and Hindu asceticism futile. He continued his search, attracting but later
losing five followers. About 528, while sitting under a bo tree near Gaya, in what is now
Buddh Gaya in the state of Bihār, he experienced the Great Enlightenment, which
revealed the way of salvation from suffering. Shortly afterward he preached his first
sermon in the Deer Park near Benares (now Vārānasi). This sermon, the text of which is
preserved, contains the gist of Buddhism. Many scholars regard it as comparable, in its
tone of moral elevation and historical importance, to Jesus Christ's Sermon on the
The five disciples rejoined Buddha at Benares. Accompanied by them, he traveled
through the valley of the Ganges River, teaching his doctrines, gathering followers, and
establishing monastic communities that admitted anyone regardless of caste. He returned
briefly to his native town and converted his father, his wife, and other members of his
family to his beliefs. After 45 years of missionary activity Buddha died in Kusinagara,
Nepal, as a result of eating contaminated pork. He was about 80 years old.
Buddha was one of the greatest human beings, a man of noble character, penetrating
vision, warm compassion, and profound thought. Not only did he establish a great new
religion, but his revolt against Hindu hedonism, asceticism, extreme spiritualism, and the
caste system deeply influenced Hinduism itself. His rejection of metaphysical speculation
and his logical thinking introduced an important scientific strain heretofore lacking in
Oriental thought. Buddha's teachings have influenced the lives of millions of people for
nearly 2500 years.

Buddhism, a major world religion, founded in northeastern India and based on the
teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as the Buddha, or Enlightened One. See
Originating as a monastic movement within the dominant Brahman tradition of the day,
Buddhism quickly developed in a distinctive direction. The Buddha not only rejected
significant aspects of Hindu philosophy, but also challenged the authority of the
priesthood, denied the validity of the Vedic scriptures, and rejected the sacrificial cult
based on them. Moreover, he opened his movement to members of all castes, denying
that a person?s spiritual worth is a matter of birth. See Hinduism.
Buddhism today is divided into two major branches known to their respective followers
as Theravada, the Way of the Elders, and Mahayana, the Great Vehicle. Followers of
Mahayana refer to Theravada using the derogatory term Hinayana, the Lesser Vehicle.
Buddhism has been significant not only in India but also in Sri Lanka, Thailand,
Cambodia, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and Laos, where Theravada has been
dominant; Mahayana has had its greatest impact in China, Japan, Taiwan, Tibet, Nepal,
Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as in India. The number of Buddhists worldwide
has been estimated at between 150 and 300 million. The reasons for such a range are
twofold: Throughout much of Asia religious affiliation has tended to be nonexclusive;
and it is especially difficult to estimate the continuing influence of Buddhism in
Communist countries such as China.
As did most major faiths, Buddhism developed over many years.
No complete biography of the Buddha was compiled until centuries after his death; only
fragmentary accounts of his life are found in the earliest sources. Western scholars,
however, generally agree on 563 BC as the year of his birth.
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was born in Lumbini near the present Indian-Nepal
border, the son of the ruler of a petty kingdom. According to legend, at his birth sages
recognized in him the marks of a great man with the potential to become either a sage or
the ruler of an empire. The young prince was raised in sheltered luxury, until at the age of
29 he realized how empty his life to this point had been. Renouncing earthly attachments,
he embarked on a quest for peace and enlightenment, seeking release from the cycle of
rebirths. For the next few years he practiced Yoga and adopted a life of radical
Eventually he gave up this approach as fruitless and instead adopted a middle path
between the life of indulgence and that of self-denial. Sitting under a bo tree, he
meditated, rising through a series of higher states of consciousness until he attained the
enlightenment for which he had been searching. Once having known this ultimate
religious truth, the Buddha underwent a period of intense inner struggle. He began to
preach, wandering from place to place, gathering a body of disciples, and organizing
them into a monastic community known as the sangha. In this way he spent the rest of his
Buddha?s Teachings
The Buddha was an oral teacher; he left no written body of thought. His beliefs were
codified by later followers.
The four Noble Truths
At the core of the Buddha?s enlightenment was the realization of the Four Noble Truths:
(1) Life is suffering. This is more than a mere recognition of the presence of suffering in
existence. It is a statement that, in its very nature, human existence is essentially painful
from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Even death brings no relief, for the
Buddha accepted the Hindu idea of life as cyclical, with death leading to further rebirth.
(2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving,
attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance. (3) Suffering can be ended by
overcoming ignorance and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the
Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right
action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These
eight are usually divided into three categories that form the cornerstone of Buddhist faith:
morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration.
Buddhism analyzes human existence as made up of five aggregates or ?bundles?
(skandhas): the material body, feelings, perceptions, predispositions or karmic
tendencies, and consciousness. A person is only a temporary combination of these
aggregates, which are subject to continual change. No one remains the same for any two
consecutive moments. Buddhists deny that the aggregates individually or in combination
may be considered a permanent, independently existing self or soul (atman). Indeed, they
regard it as a mistake to conceive of any lasting unity behind the elements that constitute
an individual. The Buddha held that belief in such a self results in egoism, craving, and
hence in suffering. Thus he taught the doctrine of anatman, or the denial of a permanent
soul. He felt that all existence is characterized by the three marks of anatman (no soul),
anitya (impermanence), and dukkha (suffering). The doctrine of anatman made it
necessary for the Buddha to reinterpret the Indian idea of repeated rebirth in the cycle of
phenomenal existence known as samsara. To this end he taught the doctrine of
pratityasamutpada, or dependent origination. This 12-linked chain of causation shows
how ignorance in a previous life creates the tendency for a combination of aggregates to
develop. These in turn cause the mind and senses to operate. Sensations result, which
lead to craving and a clinging to existence. This condition triggers the process of
becoming once again, producing a renewed cycle of birth, old age, and death. Through
this causal chain a connection is made between one life and the next. What is posited is a
stream of renewed existences, rather than a permanent being that moves from life to life?
in effect a belief in rebirth without transmigration.
Closely related to this belief is the doctrine of karma. Karma consists of a person?s acts
and their ethical consequences. Human actions lead to rebirth, wherein good deeds are
inevitably rewarded and evil deeds punished. Thus, neither undeserved pleasure nor
unwarranted suffering exists in the world, but rather a universal justice. The karmic
process operates through a kind of natural moral law rather than through a system of
divine judgment. One?s karma determines such matters as one?s species, beauty,
intelligence, longevity, wealth, and social status. According to the Buddha, karma of
varying types can lead to rebirth as a human, an animal, a hungry ghost, a denizen of hell,
or even one of the Hindu gods.
Although never actually denying the existence of the gods, Buddhism denies them any
special role. Their lives in heaven are long and pleasurable, but they are in the same
predicament as other creatures, being subject eventually to death and further rebirth in
lower states of existence. They are not creators of the universe or in control of human
destiny, and Buddhism denies the value of prayer and sacrifice to them. Of the possible
modes of rebirth, human existence is preferable, because the deities are so engrossed in
their own pleasures that they lose sight of the need for salvation. Enlightenment is
possible only for humans.
The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from the round of phenomenal existence
with its inherent suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain nirvana, an enlightened state
in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched. Not to be
confused with total annihilation, nirvana is a state of consciousness beyond definition.
After attaining nirvana, the enlightened individual may continue to live, burning off any
remaining karma until a state of final nirvana (parinirvana) is attained at the moment of
In theory, the goal of nirvana is attainable by anyone, although it is a realistic goal only
for members of the monastic community. In Theravada Buddhism an individual who has
achieved enlightenment by following the Eightfold Path is known as an arhat, or worthy
one, a type of solitary saint.
For those unable to pursue the ultimate goal, the proximate goal of better rebirth through
improved karma is an option. This lesser goal is generally pursued by lay Buddhists in
the hope that it will eventually lead to a life in which they are capable of pursuing final
enlightenment as members of the sangha.
The ethic that leads to nirvana is detached and inner-oriented. It involves cultivating four
virtuous attitudes, known as the Palaces of Brahma: loving-kindness, compassion,
sympathetic joy, and equanimity. The ethic that leads to better rebirth, however, is
centered on fulfilling one?s duties to society. It involves acts of charity, especially
support of the sangha, as well as observance of the five precepts that constitute the basic
moral code of Buddhism. The precepts prohibit killing, stealing, harmful language,
sexual misbehavior, and the use of intoxicants. By observing these precepts, the three
roots of evil?lust, hatred, and delusion?may be overcome.
Early Developments
Shortly before his death, the Buddha refused his disciples? request to appoint a successor,
telling his followers to work out their own salvation with diligence. At that time Buddhist
teachings existed only in oral traditions, and it soon became apparent that a new basis for
maintaining the community?s unity and purity was needed. Thus, the monastic order met
periodically to reach agreement on matters of doctrine and practice. Four such meetings
have been focused on in the traditions as major councils.
Major Councils
The first council was held at Rajagrha (present-day Rajgir) immediately after the
Buddha?s death. Presided over by a monk named Mahakasyapa, its purpose was to recite
and agree on the Buddha?s actual teachings and on proper monastic discipline.
About a century later, a second great council is said to have met at Vaishāli. Its purpose
was to deal with ten questionable monastic practices?the use of money, the drinking of
palm wine, and other irregularities?of monks from the Vajjian Confederacy; the council
declared these practices unlawful. Some scholars trace the origins of the first major split
in Buddhism to this event, holding that the accounts of the council refer to the schism
between the Mahasanghikas, or Great Assembly, and the stricter Sthaviras, or Elders.
More likely, however, the split between these two groups became formalized at another
meeting held some 37 years later as a result of the continued growth of tensions within
the sangha over disciplinary issues, the role of the laity, and the nature of the arhat.
In time, further subdivisions within these groups resulted in 18 schools that differed on
philosophical matters, religious questions, and points of discipline. Of these 18 traditional
sects, only Theravada survives.
The third council at Pātaliputra (present-day Patna) was called by King Ashoka in the 3rd
century BC. Convened by the monk Moggaliputta Tissa, it was held in order to purify the
sangha of the large number of false monks and heretics who had joined the order because
of its royal patronage. This council refuted the offending viewpoints and expelled those
who held them. In the process, the compilation of the Buddhist scriptures (Tipitaka) was
supposedly completed, with the addition of a body of subtle philosophy (abhidharma) to
the doctrine (dharma) and monastic discipline (vinaya) that had been recited at the first
council. Another result of the third council was the dispatch of missionaries to various
A fourth council, under the patronage of King Kanishka, was held about AD 100 at
Jālandhar or in Kashmīr. Both branches of Buddhism may have participated in this
council, which aimed at creating peace among the various sects, but Theravada Buddhists
refuse to recognize its authenticity.

Buddhist Literature
For several centuries after the death of the Buddha, the scriptural traditions recited at the
councils were transmitted orally. These were finally committed to writing about the 1st
century BC. Some early schools used Sanskrit for their scriptural language. Although
individual texts are extant, no complete canon has survived in Sanskrit. In contrast, the
full canon of the Theravadins survives in Pali, which was apparently a popular dialect
derived from Sanskrit.
The Buddhist canon is known in Pali as the Tipitaka (Tripitaka in Sanskrit), meaning
"Three Baskets," because it consists of three collections of writings: the Sutta Pitaka
(Sutra Pitaka in Sanskrit), a collection of discourses; the Vinaya Pitaka, the code of
monastic discipline; and the Abhidharma Pitaka, which contains philosophical,
psychological, and doctrinal discussions and classifications.
The Sutta Pitaka is primarily composed of dialogues between the Buddha and other
people. It consists of five groups of texts: Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses),
Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Medium-Length Discourses), Samyutta Nikaya
(Collection of Grouped Discourses), Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses on
Numbered Topics), and Khuddaka Nikaya (Collection of Miscellaneous Texts). In the
fifth group, the Jatakas, comprising stories of former lives of the Buddha, and the
Dhammapada (Religious Sentences), a summary of the Buddha?s teachings on mental
discipline and morality, are especially popular.
The Vinaya Pitaka consists of more than 225 rules governing the conduct of Buddhist
monks and nuns. Each is accompanied by a story explaining the original reason for the
rule. The rules are arranged according to the seriousness of the offense resulting from
their violation.
The Abhidharma Pitaka consists of seven separate works. They include detailed
classifications of psychological phenomena, metaphysical analysis, and a thesaurus of
technical vocabulary. Although technically authoritative, the texts in this collection have
little influence on the lay Buddhist. The complete canon, much expanded, also exists in
Tibetan and Chinese versions.
Two noncanonical texts that have great authority within Theravada Buddhism are the
Milindapanha (Questions of King Milinda) and the Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification).
The Milindapanha dates from about the 2nd century AD. It is in the form of a dialogue
dealing with a series of fundamental problems in Buddhist thought. The Visuddhimagga
is the masterpiece of the most famous of Buddhist commentators, Buddhaghosa
(flourished early 5th century AD). It is a large compendium summarizing Buddhist
thought and meditative practice.
Theravada Buddhists have traditionally considered the Tipitaka to be the remembered
words of Siddhartha Gautama. Mahayana Buddhists have not limited their scriptures to
the teachings of this historical figure, however, nor has Mahayana ever bound itself to a
closed canon of sacred writings. Various scriptures have thus been authoritative for
different branches of Mahayana at various periods of history. Among the more important
Mahayana scriptures are the following: the Saddharmapundarika Sutra (Lotus of the
Good Law Sutra, popularly known as the Lotus Sutra), the Vimalakirti Sutra, the
Avatamsaka Sutra (Garland Sutra), and the Lankavatara Sutra (The Buddha?s Descent to
Sri Lanka Sutra), as well as a group of writings known as the Prajnaparamita (Perfection
of Wisdom).
Conflict and new groupings
As Buddhism developed in its early years, conflicting interpretations of the master?s
teachings appeared, resulting in the traditional 18 schools of Buddhist thought. As a
group, these schools eventually came to be considered too conservative and literal
minded in their attachment to the master?s message. Among them, Theravada was
charged with being too individualistic and insufficiently concerned with the needs of the
laity. Such dissatisfaction led a liberal wing of the sangha to begin to break away from
the rest of the monks at the second council in 383 BC.
While the more conservative monks continued to honor the Buddha as a perfectly
enlightened human teacher, the liberal Mahasanghikas developed a new concept. They
considered the Buddha an eternal, omnipresent, transcendental being. They speculated
that the human Buddha was but an apparition of the transcendental Buddha that was
created for the benefit of humankind. In this understanding of the Buddha nature,
Mahasanghika thought is something of a prototype of Mahayana.
The origins of Mahayana are particularly obscure. Even the names of its founders are
unknown, and scholars disagree about whether it originated in southern or in
northwestern India. Its formative years were between the 2nd century BC and the 1st
century AD.
Speculation about the eternal Buddha continued well after the beginning of the Christian
era and culminated in the Mahayana doctrine of his threefold nature, or triple ?body?
(trikaya). These aspects are the body of essence, the body of communal bliss, and the
body of transformation. The body of essence represents the ultimate nature of the
Buddha. Beyond form, it is the unchanging absolute and is spoken of as consciousness or
the void. This essential Buddha nature manifests itself, taking on heavenly form as the
body of communal bliss. In this form the Buddha sits in godlike splendor, preaching in
the heavens. Lastly, the Buddha nature appears on earth in human form to convert
humankind. Such an appearance is known as a body of transformation. The Buddha has
taken on such an appearance countless times. Mahayana considers the historical Buddha,
Siddhartha Gautama, only one example of the body of transformation.
The new Mahayana concept of the Buddha made possible concepts of divine grace and
ongoing revelation that are lacking in Theravada. Belief in the Buddha?s heavenly
manifestations led to the development of a significant devotional strand in Mahayana.
Some scholars have therefore described the early development of Mahayana in terms of
the ?Hinduization? of Buddhism.
Another important new concept in Mahayana is that of the bodhisattva or enlightenment
being, as the ideal toward which the good Buddhist should aspire. A bodhisattva is an
individual who has attained perfect enlightenment but delays entry into final nirvana in
order to make possible the salvation of all other sentient beings. The bodhisattva transfers
merit built up over many lifetimes to less fortunate creatures. The key attributes of this
social saint are compassion and loving-kindness. For this reason Mahayana considers the
bodhisattva superior to the arhats who represent the ideal of Theravada. Certain
bodhisattvas, such as Maitreya, who represents the Buddha?s loving-kindness, and
Avalokitesvara or Guanyin, who represents his compassion, have become the focus of
popular devotional worship in Mahayana.
By the 7th century AD a new form of Buddhism known as Tantrism (see Tantra) had
developed through the blend of Mahayana with popular folk belief and magic in northern
India. Similar to Hindu Tantrism, which arose about the same time, Buddhist Tantrism
differs from Mahayana in its strong emphasis on sacramental action. Also known as
Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle, Tantrism is an esoteric tradition. Its initiation
ceremonies involve entry into a mandala, a mystic circle or symbolic map of the spiritual
universe. Also important in Tantrism is the use of mudras, or ritual gestures, and mantras,
or sacred syllables, which are repeatedly chanted and used as a focus for meditation.
Vajrayana became the dominant form of Buddhism in Tibet and was also transmitted
through China to Japan, where it continues to be practiced by the Shingon sect.
From India Outward
Buddhism spread rapidly throughout the land of its birth. Missionaries dispatched by
King Ashoka introduced the religion to southern India and to the northwest part of the
subcontinent. According to inscriptions from the Ashokan period, missionaries were sent
to countries along the Mediterranean, although without success.
Asian Expansion
King Ashoka?s son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitta are credited with the conversion
of Sri Lanka. From the beginning of its history there, Theravada was the state religion of
Sri Lanka.
According to tradition, Theravada was carried to Myanmar from Sri Lanka during the
reign of Ashoka, but no firm evidence of its presence there appears until the 5th century
AD. From Myanmar, Theravada spread to the area of modern Thailand in the 6th century.
It was adopted by the Thai people when they finally entered the region from southwestern
China between the 12th and 14th centuries. With the rise of the Thai Kingdom, it was
adopted as the state religion. Theravada was adopted by the royal house in Laos during
the 14th century.
Both Mahayana and Hinduism had begun to influence Cambodia by the end of the 2nd
century AD. After the 14th century, however, under Thai influence, Theravada gradually
replaced the older establishment as the primary religion in Cambodia.
About the beginning of the Christian era, Buddhism was carried to Central Asia. From
there it entered China along the trade routes by the early 1st century AD. Although
opposed by the Confucian orthodoxy and subject to periods of persecution in 446, 574-
77, and 845, Buddhism was able to take root, influencing Chinese culture and, in turn,
adapting itself to Chinese ways. The major influence of Chinese Buddhism ended with
the great persecution of 845, although the meditative Zen, or Ch?an (from Sanskrit
dhyana,?meditation?), sect and the devotional Pure Land sect continued to be important.
From China, Buddhism continued its spread. Confucian authorities discouraged its
expansion into Vietnam, but Mahayana?s influence there was beginning to be felt as early
as AD 189. According to traditional sources, Buddhism first arrived in Korea from China
in AD 372. From this date Korea was gradually converted through Chinese influence
over a period of centuries.
Buddhism was carried into Japan from Korea. It was known to the Japanese earlier, but
the official date for its introduction is usually given as AD 552. It was proclaimed the
state religion of Japan in 594 by Prince Shōtoku.
Buddhism was first introduced into Tibet through the influence of foreign wives of the
king, beginning in the 7th century AD. By the middle of the next century, it had become a
significant force in Tibetan culture. A key figure in the development of Tibetan
Buddhism was the Indian monk Padmasambhava, who arrived in Tibet in 747. His main
interest was the spread of Tantric Buddhism, which became the primary form of
Buddhism in Tibet. Indian and Chinese Buddhists vied for influence, and the Chinese
were finally defeated and expelled from Tibet near the end of the 8th century.
Some seven centuries later Tibetan Buddhists had adopted the idea that the abbots of its
great monasteries were reincarnations of famous bodhisattvas. Thereafter, the chief of
these abbots became known as the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet as a
theocracy from the middle of the 17th century until the seizure of Tibet by China in 1950.
See Tibetan Buddhism.
New Sects
Several important new sects of Buddhism developed in China and flourished there and in
Japan, as well as elsewhere in East Asia. Among these, Ch?an, or Zen, and Pure Land, or
Amidism, were most important.
Zen advocated the practice of meditation as the way to a sudden, intuitive realization of
one?s inner Buddha nature. Founded by the Indian monk Bodhidharma, who arrived in
China in 520, Zen emphasizes practice and personal enlightenment rather than doctrine or
the study of scripture.See Zen.
Instead of meditation, Pure Land stresses faith and devotion to the Buddha Amitabha, or
Buddha of Infinite Light, as a means to rebirth in an eternal paradise known as the Pure
Land. Rebirth in this Western Paradise is thought to depend on the power and grace of
Amitabha, rather than to be a reward for human piety. Devotees show their devotion to
Amitabha with countless repetitions of the phrase ?Homage to the Buddha Amitabha.?
Nonetheless, a single sincere recitation of these words may be sufficient to guarantee
entry into the Pure Land.
A distinctively Japanese sect of Mahayana is Nichiren Buddhism, which is named after
its 13th-century founder. Nichiren believed that the Lotus Sutra contains the essence of
Buddhist teaching. Its contents can be epitomized by the formula ?Homage to the Lotus
Sutra,? and simply by repeating this formula the devotee may gain enlightenment.
Institutions and practices
Differences occur in the religious obligations and observances both within and between
the sangha and the laity.

Monastic Life
From the first, the most devoted followers of the Buddha were organized into the
monastic sangha. Its members were identified by their shaved heads and robes made of
unsewn orange cloth. The early Buddhist monks, or bhikkus, wandered from place to
place, settling down in communities only during the rainy season when travel was
difficult. Each of the settled communities that developed later was independent and
democratically organized. Monastic life was governed by the rules of the Vinaya Sutra,
one of the three canonical collections of scripture. Fortnightly, a formal assembly of
monks, the uposatha, was held in each community. Central to this observance was the
formal recitation of the Vinaya rules and the public confession of all violations. The
sangha included an order for nuns as well as for monks, a unique feature among Indian
monastic orders. Theravadan monks and nuns were celibate and obtained their food in the
form of alms on a daily round of the homes of lay devotees. The Zen school came to
disregard the rule that members of the sangha should live on alms. Part of the discipline
of this sect required its members to work in the fields to earn their own food. In Japan the
popular Shin school, a branch of Pure Land, allows its priests to marry and raise families.
Among the traditional functions of the Buddhist monks are the performance of funerals
and memorial services in honor of the dead. Major elements of such services include the
chanting of scripture and transfer of merit for the benefit of the deceased.
Lay Worship
Lay worship in Buddhism is primarily individual rather than congregational. Since
earliest times a common expression of faith for laity and members of the sangha alike has
been taking the Three Refuges, that is, reciting the formula ?I take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the dharma. I take refuge in the sangha.? Although technically the
Buddha is not worshiped in Theravada, veneration is shown through the stupa cult. A
stupa is a domelike sacred structure containing a relic. Devotees walk around the dome in
a clockwise direction, carrying flowers and incense as a sign of reverence. The relic of
the Buddha?s tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka, is the focus of an especially popular festival on
the Buddha?s birthday. The Buddha?s birthday is celebrated in every Buddhist country.
In Theravada this celebration is known as Vaisakha, after the month in which the Buddha
was born. Popular in Theravada lands is a ceremony known as pirit, or protection, in
which readings from a collection of protective charms from the Pali canon are conducted
to exorcise evil spirits, cure illness, bless new buildings, and achieve other benefits.
In Mahayana countries ritual is more important than in Theravada. Images of the buddhas
and bodhisattvas on temple altars and in the homes of devotees serve as a focus for
worship. Prayer and chanting are common acts of devotion, as are offerings of fruit,
flowers, and incense. One of the most popular festivals in China and Japan is the
Ullambana Festival, in which offerings are made to the spirits of the dead and to hungry
ghosts. It is held that during this celebration the gates to the other world are open so that
departed spirits can return to earth for a brief time.
Buddhism Today
One of the lasting strengths of Buddhism has been its ability to adapt to changing
conditions and to a variety of cultures. It is philosophically opposed to materialism,
whether of the Western or the Marxist-Communist variety. Buddhism does not recognize
a conflict between itself and modern science. On the contrary, it holds that the Buddha
applied the experimental approach to questions of ultimate truth.
In Thailand and Myanmar, Buddhism remains strong. Reacting to charges of being
socially unconcerned, its monks have become involved in various social welfare projects.
Although Buddhism in India largely died out between the 8th and 12th centuries AD,
resurgence on a small scale was sparked by the conversion of 3.5 million former
members of the untouchable caste, under the leadership of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar,
beginning in 1956. A similar renewal of Buddhism in Sri Lanka dates from the 19th
Under the Communist republics in Asia, Buddhism has faced a more difficult time. In
China, for example, it continues to exist, although under strict government regulation and
supervision. Many monasteries and temples have been converted to schools, dispensaries,
and other public use. Monks and nuns have been required to undertake employment in
addition to their religious functions. In Tibet, the Chinese, after their takeover and the
escape of the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist officials into India in 1959, attempted to
undercut Buddhist influence.
Only in Japan since World War II have truly new Buddhist movements arisen. Notable
among these is Sōka Gakkai, the Value Creation Society, a lay movement associated with
Nichiren Buddhism. It is noted for its effective organization, aggressive conversion
techniques, and use of mass media, as well as for its nationalism. It promises material
benefit and worldly happiness to its believers. Since 1956 it has been involved in
Japanese politics, running candidates for office under the banner of its Kōmeitō, or Clean
Government Party.
Growing interest in Asian culture and spiritual values in the West has led to the
development of a number of societies devoted to the study and practice of Buddhism. Zen
has grown in the United States to encompass more than a dozen meditation centers and a
number of actual monasteries. Interest in Vajrayana has also increased.
As its influence in the West slowly grows, Buddhism is once again beginning to undergo
a process of acculturation to its new environment. Although its influence in the U.S. is
still small, apart from immigrant Japanese and Chinese communities, it seems that new,
distinctively American forms of Buddhism may eventually develop.

Caste System
Caste (social), rigid social system in which a social hierarchy is maintained generation
after generation and allows little mobility out of the position to which a person is born.
The term is often applied to the hierarchical hereditary divisions established among the
Hindus on the Indian subcontinent (see India: The People of India). The word caste was
first used by 16th-century Portuguese traders; it is derived from the Portuguese casta,
denoting family strain, breed, or race. The Sanskrit word is jati. The Sanskrit term varna
denotes a group of jati, or the system of caste.
The traditional caste system of India developed more than 3000 years ago when Aryan-
speaking nomadic groups migrated from the north to India about 1500 BC. The Aryan
priests, according to the ancient sacred literature of India, divided society into a basic
caste system. Sometime between 200 BC and AD100, the Manu Smriti, or Law of Manu,
was written. In it the Aryan priest-lawmakers created the four great hereditary divisions
of society still surviving today, placing their own priestly class at the head of this caste
system with the title of earthly gods, or Brahmans. Next in order of rank were the
warriors, the Kshatriyas. Then came the Vaisyas, the farmers and merchants. The fourth
of the original castes was the Sudras, the laborers, born to be servants to the other three
castes, especially the Brahman. Far lower than the Sudras?in fact, entirely outside the
social order and limited to doing the most menial and unappealing tasks?were those
people of no caste, formerly known as Untouchables. (In the 1930s Indian nationalist
leader Mohandas Gandhi applied the term Harijans, or "children of God," to this group.)
The Untouchables were the Dravidians, the aboriginal inhabitants of India, to whose
ranks from time to time were added the pariahs, or outcasts, people expelled for religious
or social sins from the classes into which they had been born. Thus created by the priests,
the caste system was made a part of Hindu religious law, rendered secure by the claim of
divine revelation.
The characteristics of an Indian caste include rigid, hereditary membership in the caste
into which one is born; the practice of marrying only members of the same caste (see
endogamy); restrictions on the choice of occupation and on personal contact with
members of other castes; and the acceptance by each individual of a fixed place in
society. The caste system has been perpetuated by the Hindu ideas of samsara
(reincarnation) and karma (quality of action). According to these religious beliefs, all
people are reincarnated on earth, at which time they have a chance to be born into
another, higher caste, but only if they have been obedient to the rules of their caste in
their previous life on earth. In this way karma has discouraged people from attempting to
rise to a higher caste or to cross caste lines for social relations of any kind.
The four original castes have been subdivided again and again over many centuries, until
today it is impossible to tell their exact number. Estimates range from 2000 to 3000
different castes established by Brahmanical law throughout India, each region having its
own distinct groups defined by craft and fixed by custom.
The complexities of the system have constituted a serious obstacle to civil progress in
India. The trend today is toward the dissolution of the artificial barriers between the
castes. The stringency of the caste system of the Hindus was broken down greatly during
the period of British rule in India. The obligation of the son to follow the calling of his
father is no longer binding; men of low castes have risen to high ranks and positions of
power; and excommunication, or the loss of caste, is not as serious as it may once have
been. In addition, the caste system was from time to time burst from within by
ecclesiastical schisms, most notably the rise of Buddhism, itself a reaction from, and
protest against, the intolerable bondage of the caste system.
In recent years considerable strides toward eradicating unjust social and economic
aspects of the caste system as practiced in India have been made through educational and
reform movements. The great leader in this endeavor was Mohandas Gandhi. The drafted
constitution of India, which was published a few days after the assassination of Gandhi in
January 1948, stated in a special clause under the heading ?human rights?: ?
Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden.? Despite official
attempts to improve the status of members of the lowest caste, many of whom now prefer
to be referred to as Dalits (Hindi for "oppressed people"), discrimination and exploitation
is still common.
Cholas, Tamil-speaking people of south India, founders of a dynasty that dominated the
area from the 10th to the 13th century. The Chola Kingdom, in what is now Tamil Nādu
State, probably existed as early as the 1st century AD, but its prominence dates from the
mid-9th century, when it began conquering neighboring territories. Rajendra I (reigned
1016-1044), the greatest of the Chola kings, ruled Tamil Nādu, Kerala, Karnātaka, and
Sri Lanka. He campaigned as far north as the Ganges River and sent naval expeditions to
Burma (now known as Myanmar) and the Malay Peninsula. Kulottunga I (reigned 1070-
1122) united the Chola domains with those of the Eastern Chalukyas in Andhra Pradesh,
forming the Chalukya-Chola dynasty. It declined after 1200, finally dying out in 1279.
See Chalukyas.

Clive, Robert
Clive, Robert (1725-1774), British governor of Bengal, who was one of the founders of
British rule in India.
Clive was born on September 29, 1725, near Market Drayton, England. In 1743 he
accepted the position of writer, the lowest rank of clerical employee in the East India
Company, and assumed his duties in the city of Madras (now Chennai) in 1744. The
same year war broke out between France and Great Britain, and Madras was captured by
the French. Clive eventually escaped and accepted a commission in the British army in
1747 as an ensign. Displaying conspicuous military ability, Clive thus began a
distinguished career as one of the great British Empire builders. In 1751, with a small
force of about 500 British and Indian soldiers, Clive, then a captain, captured Arcot, a
French stronghold 105 km (65 mi) west of Madras, compelling the French to give up
their siege of the British-held town of Trichinopoly (now Tiruchirappalli). The French
and their Indian allies, numbering 10,000, then laid siege to Clive's forces in Arcot. After
an 11-week defense in the citadel of the town, Clive and his small band defeated the
French. These and later victories broke French power in southern India and gave the
British a stronghold in that region. In 1753 Clive returned to England, where he was
welcomed as a hero. In 1756 he was in India again, as governor of Fort Saint David. In
June of that year, the Indian leader Siraj-ud-Dawlah, who was the nawab of Bengal,
captured Calcutta (now Kolkata) from the British. In January of the following year, Clive
recaptured Calcutta, meeting little resistance from the nawab; they made peace the
following month. By this time, war had again broken out between the French and the
British, and Clive captured Chandernagore, the principal French settlement in India. The
French out of the way, Clive promptly broke the peace with the nawab and on June 23,
1757, with less than 3000 troops and with the help of a traitor within the enemy ranks,
defeated Siraj-ud-Dawlah and his army of 50,000 at Plassey; this victory permanently
embedded British power in India.
Clive returned to England in 1760 and bought a seat in Parliament. He was elevated to
the Irish peerage in 1762 and knighted in 1764. The following year he returned to India
as governor and commander in chief of Bengal. He ended the disorder and corruption that
had developed while he was away, restored discipline to the armed forces, and reformed
the civil service. He also obtained from the Mughal emperor of India decrees giving the
English East India Company control over Bengal and other key regions in India, thus
establishing the empire of British India.
Ill health forced Clive to resign his office. On his return to England in 1767, the enemies
he had made in India and England accused him of having used his offices in India for
personal enrichment and caused Parliament to impeach him. He defended himself
brilliantly, but although Parliament acquitted him of the charges in 1773, the acquittal
was so qualified as to make him feel disgraced. This feeling, continued illness, and
addiction to opium at length resulted in his suicide on November 22, 1774.
East India Company
East India Company, any of a number of commercial enterprises formed in western
Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries to further trade with the East Indies. The
companies, which had varying degrees of governmental support, grew out of the
associations of merchant adventurers who voyaged to the East Indies following the
discovery in 1497 of the Cape of Good Hope route by Portuguese navigator Vasco da
Gama. The most important of the companies were given charters by their respective
governments, authorizing them to acquire territory wherever they could and to exercise in
the acquired territory various functions of government, including legislation, the issuance
of currency, the negotiation of treaties, the waging of war, and the administration of
justice. The most notable companies were the following.
Danish East India Company Chartered in 1729 by King Frederick IV of Denmark after
unsuccessful attempts by Denmark to gain a share of the East India trade in 1616 and
1634, it enjoyed great prosperity in India until the advance of British power there in the
late 18th century. As a consequence of the destruction of Danish naval power in the war
between Britain and Denmark in 1801, the power of the Danish company was broken. Its
principal Indian possessions, Tranquebar in Tamil Nādu and Serampore in Bengal, were
purchased by Britain in 1845.
Dutch East India Company
Incorporated from a number of smaller companies by the States General of the
Netherlands in 1602, its monopoly extended from the Cape of Good Hope eastward to the
Strait of Magellan, with sovereign rights in whatever territory it might acquire. In 1619
Jan Pieterszoon Coen, regarded as the founder of the Dutch colonial empire in the East
Indies, established the city of Batavia in Java (now Jakarta, Indonesia) as the
headquarters of the company. From Batavia, Dutch influence and activity spread
throughout the Malay Archipelago and to China, Japan, India, Iran, and the Cape of Good
Hope. During the course of the 60-year war between Spain and the Netherlands (1605-
1665), the Dutch company despoiled Portugal, which was united with Spain from 1580 to
1640, of all its East Indian possessions. It supplanted the Portuguese in most of present-
day Indonesia and in the Malay Peninsula, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the Malabar Coast of
India, and Japan. During this period it was also successful in driving English rivals from
the Malay Archipelago and the Moluccas. In 1632 the Dutch killed the English factors, or
agents, in Amboina, capital of the Dutch Moluccas; for this act the English government
later exacted compensation. In 1652 the company established the first European
settlement in South Africa on the Cape of Good Hope. At the peak of its power, in 1669,
the Dutch company had 40 warships, 150 merchant ships, and 10,000 soldiers.
Between 1602 and 1696 the annual dividends that the company paid were never less than
12 percent and sometimes as high as 63 percent. The charter of the company was
renewed every 20 years, in return for financial concessions to the Dutch government. In
the 18th century, internal disorders, the growth of British and French power, and the
consequences of a harsh policy toward the native inhabitants caused the decline of the
Dutch company. It was unable to pay a dividend after 1724 and survived only by exacting
levies from native populations. It was powerless to resist a British attack on its
possessions in 1780, and in 1795 it was doomed by the ouster of the States General at
home by the French-controlled Batavian Republic. In 1798 the republic took over the
possessions and debts of the company.

English East India Company

The most important of the various East India companies, this company was a major force
in the history of India for more than 200 years. The original charter was granted by
Queen Elizabeth I on December 31, 1600, under the title of ?The Governor and Company
of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies.? The company was granted a
monopoly of trade in the East Indies, with the formal restriction that it might not contest
the prior trading rights of ?any Christian prince.? The company was managed by a
governor and 24 directors chosen from its stockholders.
In early voyages the company penetrated as far as Japan, and in 1610 and 1611 its first
factories, or trading posts, were established in India in the provinces of Madras and
Bombay. Under a perpetual charter granted in 1609 by King James I, the company began
to compete with the Dutch trading monopoly in the Malay Archipelago, but after the
massacre of Amboina the company conceded to the Dutch the area that became known as
the Netherlands East Indies. Its armed merchantmen, however, continued sea warfare
with Dutch, French, and Portuguese competitors.
In 1650 and 1655 the company absorbed rival companies that had been incorporated
under the Commonwealth and Protectorate by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. In 1657
Cromwell ordered it reorganized as the sole joint-stock company with rights to the Indian
trade. During the reign of Charles II the company acquired sovereign rights in addition to
its trading privileges. In 1689, with the establishment of administrative districts called
presidencies in the Indian provinces of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, the company began
its long rule in India. It was continually harassed by traders who were not members of the
company and were not licensed by the Crown to trade. In 1698, under a parliamentary
ruling in favor of free trade, these private newcomers were able to set up a new company,
called the New Company or English Company. The East India Company, however,
bought control of this new company, and in 1702 an act of Parliament amalgamated the
two as ?The United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies.? The
charter was renewed several times in the 18th century, each time with financial
concessions to the Crown.
The victories of Robert Clive, a company official, over the French at Arcot in 1751 and at
Plassey in 1757 made the company the dominant power in India. All formidable
European rivalry vanished with the defeat of the French at Pondicherry in 1761. In 1773
the British government established a governor-generalship in India, thereby greatly
decreasing administrative control by the company; however, its governor of Bengal,
Warren Hastings, became the first governor-general of India. In 1784 the India Act
created a department of the British government to exercise political, military, and
financial control over the Indian affairs of the company, and during the next half century
British control was extended over most of the subcontinent.
In 1813 the company's monopoly of the Indian trade was abolished, and in 1833 it lost its
China trade monopoly. Its annual dividends of 10.5 percent were made a fixed charge on
Indian revenues. The company continued its administrative functions until the Sepoy
Rebellion (1857-1859). In 1858, by the Act for the Better Government of India, the
Crown assumed all governmental responsibilities held by the company, and its 24,000-
man military force was incorporated into the British army. The company was dissolved
on January 1, 1874, when the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act came into
French East India Company
Established in 1664 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, finance minister of King Louis XIV, the
company founded its first trading post at Surat in Bombay in 1675. The following year it
set up its principal Indian base at Pondicherry, on the Coromandel Coast. The company
prospered and extended its operations to China and Iran. In 1719 the company was
reorganized with the American and African French colonial companies as the Compagnie
des Indes. This company, headed by Scottish financier John Law, suffered severely with
the collapse of the Mississippi Scheme. In 1730 it lost its slave trade with Africa, in 1731
its general trade with Louisiana, and in 1736 its coffee trade with the Americas. The
company prospered in India, however, under governors Beno?t Dumas, from 1735 to
1741, and Joseph Fran?ois Dupleix, from 1742 to 1754. Dupleix directed the
unsuccessful French struggles against the British control of India. The capture of Arcot in
1751 by the British under Robert Clive limited French control to southern India, where it
remained supreme until 1761, when the British captured Pondicherry. The operations of
the company were finally suspended by royal decree in 1769, and in the following year it
turned over its capital of more than 500 million livres to the Crown. In 1785 a new
company received commercial privileges, but this company was abolished in 1794 during
the time of the French Revolution.

Ganges, most important river of the Indian subcontinent. The Ganges flows 2,510 km
(1,560 mi) from the Himalayas of north central India southeast through Bangladesh and
into the Bay of Bengal. Named for the Hindu goddess Ganga, the river draws from a
basin of 1 million sq km (400,000 sq mi), one of the world?s most fertile and densely
populated regions.
The Ganges is formed by the junction of two headstreams, the Bhagirathi and the
Alaknanda, in the Himalayas of India?s Uttaranchal state. The commonly acknowledged
source of the Ganges is the Bhagirathi, which originates in an ice cave at an elevation of
4,000 m (13,000 ft) and is the smaller of the two headstreams. The Alaknanda rises below
the peak Nanda Devi (7,817 m/25,646 ft) near the Tibetan border. Fed by melting snow
and ice from glaciers such as Gangotri and from peaks such as Nanda Devi and Kāmet
(7,756 m/25,446 ft), the two streams flow southward through the Middle Himalayas
toward their point of convergence.
After traveling more than 200 km (125 mi), the Ganges reaches the city of Haridwār
(altitude 310 m/1,020 ft), where it breaks through the low Siwālik Range and begins its
generally southeasterly flow across the Gangetic Plain. At Haridwār a dam diverts water
to the Upper Ganges Canal. Between Haridwār and Allahābād, a distance of nearly 800
km (500 mi), the river follows a winding course made unnavigable by shoals and rapids.
At Allahābād, the Ganges is joined by the Yamuna River from the southwest, then flows
east past the cities of Mirzāpur, Vārānasi, Patna, and Bhāgalpur near the Bangladesh
border. In this portion of the river, the Ganges also receives the Son River from the south
and the Gumti, Ghāghra, Gandak, and Kosi rivers from the north.
Past Bhāgalpur, the river skirts the Rājmahal Hills on the border of Bangladesh. Here,
bending south, lies the head of the Ganges delta, roughly 900 km (560 mi) downstream
from Allahābād and about 450 km (280 mi) short of the Bay of Bengal. Near Pākaur,
India, the river branches. The subsidiary branch, the Bhagirathi, winds south to form the
Hugli River (Hooghly), the westernmost branch of the delta as well as its principal
channel of navigation. Oceangoing vessels may navigate the Hugli from its mouth on the
Bay of Bengal to the port city of Kolkata, about 130 km (80 mi) upstream. Since the mid-
1970s India has diverted water into the silted Hugli, aiding transportation to Kolkata but
creating disputes over water rights with Bangladesh.
The main branch of the Ganges continues through Bangladesh, where for part of its
course it is called the Padma River. The river gives rise to several distributaries that form
a vast network of waterways and one of the world?s largest, most fertile deltas. The main
course of the river continues south and is joined by the Brahmaputra and then by the
Meghna River (the name by which it is known thereafter) before entering the Bay of
Bengal. At the bay the Meghna estuary measures 30 km (20 mi) wide. The river?s
average annual discharge of water is surpassed only by those of the Amazon and Congo
rivers. Because the discharge includes large deposits of sediment, the delta continues to
expand into the bay.
The Ganges basin is India?s most extensive, most agriculturally productive, and most
densely populated region. In Asia, only the Huabei Pingyuan (North China Plain) is as
densely settled. In the western part of the Gangetic Plain, the river provides irrigation
water for an extensive canal system whose main arteries are the Upper Ganges Canal and
the Lower Ganges Canal. Chief crops of the plain include rice, sugarcane, lentils, oil
seeds, potatoes, and wheat. Almost all of the plain has been cleared of its former
grasslands and forests to make way for crops.
Typically, the banks of the Ganges are lined with swamps and lakes. In these areas as
well as in the fertile delta, crops such as rice, legumes, chilies, mustard, sesame,
sugarcane, and jute are cultivated. Only a stretch of the southwestern delta, covered with
mangrove trees, is left uncultivated. The mangroves are ideal habitat for several species
of crocodile.
Because the Ganges is fed by snow-capped peaks, it remains a sizable body of water
throughout the year and can be used for extensive irrigation even during the hot, dry
season of April through June. During the summer monsoon season, heavy rains can cause
destructive floods, especially in the delta area.
Hindus, who constitute the vast majority of India's population, consider the Ganges a
sacred river: Ganga (or Ganges) is the daughter of the mountain god, Himavan or
Himalaya. In Hindu ideology, bathing in the river is said to wash away one?s sins, and
river water is used extensively in rituals. It is auspicious to drink from the Ganges in the
hour before death, and many Hindus ask to be cremated along the Ganges and to have
their ashes placed in the river.
Hindu pilgrims travel to the holy cities of Vārānasi, where religious ceremonies are often
performed; Haridwār, revered because it is the place where the Ganges leaves the
Himalayas; and Allahābād, where the mythical Saraswati River is believed to enter the
Ganges. Every 12 years a month-long Purna Kumbha (Full Urn) festival is held in
Haridwār and Allahābād in which millions of people come to bathe in the Ganges.
Pilgrims also travel to sacred locations near the river?s headwaters, including a shrine
beneath Gangotri glacier.
Since the 1950s, population and industry along the Ganges and Hugli rivers have grown
dramatically and both municipal and industrial wastewater and sewage have been
discharged in large quantities into the rivers. In addition, because of the religious
significance of the Ganges, Hindus often cremate their dead on the river?s banks and
throw the remains and burnt charcoal into the river. This practice is especially common at
Vārānasi. All of these factors have so polluted the river that drinking and bathing in its
water have become dangerous.
In 1986 the Indian government launched the Ganga Action Plan, a program to reduce
pollution of the river in 40 cities in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihār, and West Bengal.
Under the plan, sewage is intercepted and water is diverted for treatment. Several electric
crematoria have also been built, and parts of the riverfront have been redeveloped. A
decade after the plan?s introduction, the level of pollution had been reduced to some

. Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan (1167?-1227), Mongol conqueror and founder of the Mongol Empire,
which spanned the continent of Asia by the time of his death. Originally named Temujin,
he was born on the banks of the Onon River, near the present-day border between
northern Mongolia and southeastern Russia. Native folklore is the only source for details
about his ancestry, birth, and early life, and thus the facts are intermingled with purely
legendary material. His line of descent is traced back, through many generations, to the
mythical union of a gray wolf and a white doe. The newborn infant is said to have held in
his hand a large clot of blood, thus presaging the future career of the world conqueror.
Genghis Khan's father, Yesugei, was a local chieftain and nephew of the former khan
(ruler) of the Mongol tribe. The Mongols had long played the leading role in eastern
Mongolia but had lost their supremacy and sunk into comparative insignificance after
their defeat in 1161 by a rival tribe, the Tatar, in alliance with the Jin (Chin) rulers of
North China. (The name Tatar, or Tartar, was later used by Europeans to refer to the
Mongol invaders of Europe in general.) Yesugei named his son Temujin after a Tatar
chieftain whom he had taken prisoner at the time of the child's birth. When Temujin was
nine years old his father took him on a journey into the extreme east of Mongolia to find
him a bride among his mother's people, the Konkirat. Temujin was betrothed to ten-year
old Borte, daughter of the chieftain, and left, according to custom, to be brought up in the
tent of his future father-in-law. Yesugei was traveling home when he fell in with a party
of Tatars who invited him to share in their feast. However, they then recognized their old
enemy and poisoned his food. Yesugei survived only long enough to reach his own
encampment and send one of his men to fetch Temujin home again to succeed him as
After his death, Yesugei's wife and young children were deserted by his followers under
the influence of the Taichi'ut, a clan whose leaders aspired to take the dead chieftain's
place. The widow attempted to rally the tribe to her but was unsuccessful. Soon the
family was left to fend for itself. When Temujin had grown into a young man, his
encampment was attacked by the Taichi'ut. He escaped into the forest but was finally
captured. The Taichi'ut spared his life but kept him as a prisoner with a wooden collar
around his neck. One night, when the group was feasting on the banks of the Onon,
Temujin eluded his captors and hid, almost completely submerged in the river. He was
detected by a member of the party, who, however, befriended him and persuaded the
Taichi'ut to hold up the search for their prisoner until daylight. In the meantime, Temujin
made his way to the tent of his benefactor, who concealed him from a search party and
then provided him with the means of escape.
Shortly afterward, Temujin visited the Konkirat to claim his bride, Borte. As a dowry, he
was given a black sable coat, which was to prove the foundation of his fortune. He
decided to present it to Toghril, later known as Ong-Khan, the powerful ruler of the
Kereit, a tribe in central Mongolia. Toghril, who had been an ally of Temujin's father,
took the young man under his protection and promised his support, which Temujin was
soon to need. The Merkit, a tribe in the north, raided his encampment and carried off his
wife. Temujin appealed for help to Toghril and to Jamuka, a young Mongol chieftain, and
together the three were able to defeat the Merkit and rescue Borte. For a time, Jamuka
and Temujin remained firm friends, setting up camp and herding their animals side by
side, but then they became estranged. This break mirrored the larger political landscape
of the time, in which loyalties and alliances shifted constantly. It was at this juncture that
the Mongol leaders declared themselves for Temujin and acclaimed him as their ruler
with the title of Chingiz-Khan (Genghis Khan), which translates roughly as "universal
From then on he began to play a major role in the intertribal wars, but still as the prot?g?
of Toghril rather than his equal. In 1198 the two rulers took part, as allies of the Jin, in a
successful campaign against the Tatar. Toghril was rewarded for his share in the victory
with the Chinese title of wang ("prince"), and thereafter he was known as Ong-Khan
("Ong" is a corruption of wang). They remained allies and on several occasions between
1200 and 1202 defeated a coalition of tribes headed by Genghis Khan's former friend
Jamuka. In 1202 Genghis Khan conducted a final campaign against the Tatar, which
resulted in the total extermination of that people. His relations with Ong-Khan had been
steadily deteriorating, however, and in 1203 they fought. After an indecisive battle
Genghis Khan withdrew into the extreme northeast of Mongolia, then, recovering his
strength, returned to the attack and inflicted an overwhelming defeat on his adversary
later that year.
Genghis Khan was now master of eastern and central Mongolia. In 1206, with the death
of his old rival, Jamuka, he was at last in undisputed possession of Mongolia. In the
spring of 1206, at an assembly of the Mongol princes held near the sources of the Onon,
he was proclaimed Great Khan. The powerful ruler proceeded to organize the military
forces of his empire.
Genghis Khan was now in a position to embark upon foreign conquests. Hostilities with
China commenced in the spring of 1211, and by the end of that year the Mongols had
overrun northern China. By the beginning of 1214 all China north of the Huang He
(Yellow River) was in the Mongols? hands, and they were closing in on the Jin capital at
Beijing. Peace was purchased by the Chinese emperor at the price of an immense dowry
for a Jin princess as Genghis Khan's bride, and the invaders began to withdraw
northward. However, fighting broke out again almost at once. Beijing was besieged and
sacked in the summer of 1215.
Although the war was not yet over?indeed the conquest of North China was not
completed till 1234?Genghis Khan now decided to relinquish personal command of
operations, and in the spring of 1216 returned to Mongolia in order to give his attention
to events in Central Asia. Genghis Khan?s western territory abutted the state of
Khwarizm, a vast but poorly organized empire, ruled by Sultan Muhammad, covering the
present-day countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, as well as
Afghanistan and most of Iran. War between the two empires became inevitable when
Genghis Khan's ambassadors were murdered at Otrar on the Syr Darya River. Setting out
from Mongolia in the spring of 1219, Genghis Khan passed the summer of that year on
the Irtysh River and by autumn had arrived before Otrar. He left a force to besiege and
ultimately capture the town and, continuing west at the head of the main army, attacked
Bukhoro (Bukhara) in February 1220. The city, deserted by its garrison, surrendered after
only a few days' siege. The Mongols then advanced on Samarqand, which likewise
offered little resistance and was captured the same year. Genghis Khan dispatched his
two best generals in pursuit of Sultan Muhammad, who had fled to the west. The sultan
finally sought refuge on an island in the Caspian Sea but was found and killed there. The
generals, continuing their westward sweep, crossed Caucasia and defeated an army of
Russians and Kipchak Turks in the Crimea before turning back to rejoin Genghis in
Central Asia. In the autumn of 1220, Genghis Khan captured Termiz on the Oxus River
(present-day Amu Darya) and in the early part of the winter was active in the upper
reaches of that river in what is today Tajikistan. At the beginning of 1221 he crossed the
Oxus into northern Afghanistan and captured the ancient city of Balkh. Soon after the fall
of Samarqand he had dispatched his elder sons north into Khwarizm to lay siege to
Muhammad's capital. He now sent his youngest son into eastern Persia to sack and
destroy the great and populous cities of Merv (now Mary, Turkmenistan) and Nishapur
(now Neyshābūr, Iran).
In the meantime, Sultan Jalal al-Din, the son of Sultan Muhammad, had made his way
into central Afghanistan and inflicted a defeat on a Mongol force at Parvan, north of
Kābul. Genghis Khan, rejoined by his sons, advanced south in the autumn of 1221 and
defeated this new adversary on the banks of the Indus River. With Jalal al-Din's defeat
the campaign in the west was virtually brought to its conclusion, and Genghis Khan
proceeded by easy stages on the long journey back to Mongolia. In the autumn of 1226
he was again at war, with the Chinese Tangut tribal confederation, but he did not live to
witness the successful outcome of this, his last campaign. He died in August 1227, in his
summer quarters in the district of Qingshui south of the Liupan Shan (Liupan Mountains)
in Gansu, China.
Genghis Khan had many wives and concubines, but it was Borte, his first and chief wife,
who gave birth to his four most famous sons: Jochi, Jagatai, ?g?dei, and Tolui. Jochi?s
son Batu founded the Golden Horde, a powerful Mongol state in Russia and Eastern
Europe. Jagatai gave his name to a state that he founded in Central Asia. ?g?dei was
designated by Genghis Khan to succeed him, and he ruled Mongolia and northern China.
Tolui was the father of Mangu Khan, ruler of the unified Mongol Empire from 1251 to
1259; Kublai Khan, who founded the Yuan dynasty in China; and Hulagu, who founded
the il-Khanid dynasty of Persia.
Genghis Khan knew no language but Mongolian, and it has been said that to the end of
his days he remained at heart a robber chieftain. No mere bandit, however, could have
conceived or undertaken the great campaigns against China and Western Asia, and in
fact, though he spoke no foreign language, Genghis Khan was not without knowledge of
the civilized nations beyond the borders of Mongolia. Already at the beginning of his
career he counted among his followers certain Muslim merchants from Central Asia, and
later he could rely also upon the counsel of Chinese advisers.
It was, however, mainly on native foundations that his empire was built. The legal code
which he instituted, known as the Great Yasa, was based upon Mongol customary law.
The instrument of his victories, the superbly efficient Mongol army, seems to have owed
nothing to foreign models. It was developed and perfected in intertribal wars before it
was turned, with irresistible effect, against the nations of Asia and Eastern Europe. It is,
in fact, as a military genius that Genghis Khan lives in history.
As such he was the equal of Alexander the Great or Napoleon I, and neither of the latter
two achieved such vast or such enduring conquests. Genghis? son ruled over an empire
that stretched from Ukraine to Korea. His grandsons founded dynasties in China, Persia,
and Russia, and his descendants ruled in Central Asia for centuries.

Gond, aboriginal tribe of Dravidian origin, inhabiting the hill country of India, in Madhya
Pradesh State. The Gond, who call themselves Koitur (?highlander?), number several
million; the tribe is the largest stock of the Dravidian people in India. The subgroup
Rajgond, who claim Rajput ancestry, generally follow the Hindu religion, but most of the
Gond practice an animistic religion.
Gurkhas, Nepalese mercenaries known for their bravery and fighting skills. Gurkha
soldiers come from several different ethnic backgrounds within Nepal and have a military
tradition dating from the 16th century. Their fame spread throughout the world after they
fought the British army in the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814-1816) over Nepal?s southward
and Britain?s northward expansion in India. Although the British defeated Nepal, they
were so impressed by the Gurkha fighters that they enticed them to enter the British (and
subsequently, Indian) army. The Gurkhas, known for carrying razor-sharp curved knives
called kukris, have fought in nearly all of the world?s major wars and have earned
Britain?s highest service awards, including the Victoria Cross. Since India?s
independence in 1947, Gurkha soldiers have served in the British army, the Indian army,
the Nepalese army, and United Nations peacekeeping forces. Gurkhas hold a high status
in their home country of Nepal and, through their salaries and other awards, contribute
significantly to Nepal?s economy. The increasing use of technology in warfare, however,
is decreasing the need for fighters such as the Gurkhas. Both Britain and India reduced
their recruitment of Gurkha soldiers in the 1990s.

Haidar Ali
Haidar Ali (1722-1782), Muslim ruler of Mysore, who figured prominently in the fight
against British encroachment in India during the 18th century. A soldier of fortune, he
deposed the previous raja in 1761, soon extended his dominions over most of south India,
and defeated the British Bombay Army in 1768. Eleven years later he allied himself with
the nizam of Hyderābād and the Marathas against the British, again fighting them
successfully until they managed to split the alliance. Haidar was then defeated at the
Battle of Porto Novo (1781). He fought on, aided by his son and successor, Tipu Sahib,
but died before the war was concluded.
HinduismHinduism, religion that originated in India and is still practiced by most of its
inhabitants, as well as by those whose families have migrated from India to other parts of
the world (chiefly East Africa, South Africa, Southeast Asia, the East Indies, and
England). The word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit word sindhu (?river??more
specifically, the Indus); the Persians in the 5th century BC called the Hindus by that
name, identifying them as the people of the land of the Indus. The Hindus define their
community as ?those who believe in the Vedas? (see Veda) or ?those who follow the way
(dharma) of the four classes (varnas) and stages of life (ashramas).?
Hinduism is a major world religion, not merely by virtue of its many followers (estimated
at more than 700 million) but also because of its profound influence on many other
religions during its long, unbroken history, which dates from about 1500 BC. The
corresponding influence of these various religions on Hinduism (it has an extraordinary
tendency to absorb foreign elements) has greatly contributed to the religion?s syncretism?
the wide variety of beliefs and practices that it encompasses. Moreover, the geographic,
rather than ideological, basis of the religion (the fact that it comprises whatever all the
people of India have believed and done) has given Hinduism the character of a social and
doctrinal system that extends to every aspect of human life.
Fundamental Principles
The canon of Hinduism is basically defined by what people do rather than what they
think. Consequently, far more uniformity of behavior than of belief is found among
Hindus, although very few practices or beliefs are shared by all. A few usages are
observed by almost all Hindus: reverence for Brahmans and cows; abstention from meat
(especially beef); and marriage within the caste (jati), in the hope of producing male
heirs. Most Hindus chant the gayatri hymn to the sun at dawn, but little agreement exists
as to what other prayers should be chanted. Most Hindus worship Shiva, Vishnu, or the
Goddess (Devi), but they also worship hundreds of additional minor deities peculiar to a
particular village or even to a particular family. Although Hindus believe and do many
apparently contradictory things?contradictory not merely from one Hindu to the next, but
also within the daily religious life of a single Hindu?each individual perceives an orderly
pattern that gives form and meaning to his or her own life. No doctrinal or ecclesiastical
hierarchy exists in Hinduism, but the intricate hierarchy of the social system (which is
inseparable from the religion) gives each person a sense of place within the whole.
The ultimate canonical authority for all Hindus is the Vedas. The oldest of the four Vedas
is the Rig-Veda, which was composed in an ancient form of the Sanskrit language in
northwest India. This text, probably composed between about 1500 and 1000 BC and
consisting of 1028 hymns to a pantheon of gods, has been memorized syllable by syllable
and preserved orally to the present day. The Rig-Veda was supplemented by two other
Vedas, the Yajur-Veda (the textbook for sacrifice) and the Sama-Veda (the hymnal). A
fourth book, the Atharva-Veda (a collection of magic spells), was probably added about
900 BC. At this time, too, the Brahmanas?lengthy Sanskrit texts expounding priestly
ritual and the myths behind it?were composed. Between the 8th century BC and the 5th
century BC, the Upanishads were composed; these are mystical-philosophical
meditations on the meaning of existence and the nature of the universe.
The Vedas, including the Brahmanas and the Upanishads, are regarded as revealed canon
(shruti,?what has been heard [from the gods]?), and no syllable can be changed. The
actual content of this canon, however, is unknown to most Hindus. The practical
compendium of Hinduism is contained in the Smriti, or ?what is remembered,? which is
also orally preserved. No prohibition is made against improvising variations on,
rewording, or challenging the Smriti. The Smriti includes the two great Sanskrit epics, the
Mahabharata and the Ramayana; the many Sanskrit Puranas, including 18 great Puranas
and several dozen more subordinate Puranas; and the many Dharmashastras and
Dharmasutras (textbooks on sacred law), of which the one attributed to the sage Manu is
the most frequently cited.
The two epics are built around central narratives. The Mahabharata tells of the war
between the Pandava brothers, led by their cousin Krishna, and their cousins the
Kauravas. The Ramayana tells of the journey of Rama to recover his wife Sita after she is
stolen by the demon Ravana. But these stories are embedded in a rich corpus of other
tales and discourses on philosophy, law, geography, political science, and astronomy, so
that the Mahabharata (about 200,000 lines long) constitutes a kind of encyclopedia or
even a literature, and the Ramayana (more than 50,000 lines long) is comparable.
Although it is therefore impossible to fix their dates, the main bodies of the Mahabharata
and the Ramayana were probably composed between 400 BC and AD 400. Both,
however, continued to grow even after they were translated into the vernacular languages
of India (such as Tamil and Hindi) in the succeeding centuries.
The Puranas were composed after the epics, and several of them develop themes found in
the epics (for instance, the Bhagavata-Purana describes the childhood of Krishna, a topic
not elaborated in the Mahabharata). The Puranas also include subsidiary myths, hymns of
praise, philosophies, iconography, and rituals. Most of the Puranas are predominantly
sectarian in nature; the great Puranas (and some subordinate Puranas) are dedicated to the
worship of Shiva or Vishnu or the Goddess, and several subordinate Puranas are devoted
to Ganesha or Skanda or the sun. In addition, they all contain a great deal of nonsectarian
material, probably of earlier origin, such as the ?five marks,? or topics (panchalakshana),
of the Puranas: the creation of the universe, the destruction and re-creation of the
universe, the dynasties of the solar and lunar gods, the genealogy of the gods and holy
sages, and the ages of the founding fathers of humankind (the Manus).
Hindu Philosophy
His rich literature is a complex cosmology. Hindus believe that the universe is a great,
enclosed sphere, a cosmic egg, within which are numerous concentric heavens, hells,
oceans, and continents, with India at the center. They believe that time is both
degenerative?going from the golden age, or Krita Yuga, through two intermediate periods
of decreasing goodness, to the present age, or Kali Yuga?and cyclic: At the end of each
Kali Yuga, the universe is destroyed by fire and flood, and a new golden age begins.
Human life, too, is cyclic: After death, the soul leaves the body and is reborn in the body
of another person, animal, vegetable, or mineral. This condition of endless entanglement
in activity and rebirth is called samsara (see Transmigration). The precise quality of the
new birth is determined by the accumulated merit and demerit that result from all the
actions, or karma, that the soul has committed in its past life or lives. All Hindus believe
that karma accrues in this way; they also believe, however, that it can be counteracted by
expiations and rituals, by ?working out? through punishment or reward, and by achieving
release (moksha) from the entire process of samsara through the renunciation of all
worldly desires.
Hindus may thus be divided into two groups: those who seek the sacred and profane
rewards of this world (health, wealth, children, and a good rebirth), and those who seek
release from the world. The principles of the first way of life were drawn from the Vedas
and are represented today in temple Hinduism and in the religion of Brahmans and the
caste system. The second way, which is prescribed in the Upanishads, is represented not
only in the cults of renunciation (sannyasa) but also in the ideological ideals of most
The worldly aspect of Hinduism originally had three Vedas, three classes of society
(varnas), three stages of life (ashramas), and three ?goals of a man? (purusharthas), the
goals or needs of women being seldom discussed in the ancient texts. To the first three
Vedas was added the Atharva-Veda. The first three classes (Brahman, or priestly;
Kshatriya, or warrior; and Vaisya, or general populace) were derived from the tripartite
division of ancient Indo-European society, traces of which can be detected in certain
social and religious institutions of ancient Greece and Rome. To the three classes were
added the Shudras, or servants, after the Indo-Aryans settled into the Punjab and began to
move down into the Ganges Valley. The three original ashramas were the chaste student
(brahmachari), the householder (grihastha), and the forest-dweller (vanaprastha). They
were said to owe three debts: study of the Vedas (owed to the sages); a son (to the
ancestors); and sacrifice (to the gods). The three goals were artha (material success),
dharma (righteous social behavior), and kama (sensual pleasures). Shortly after the
composition of the first Upanishads, during the rise of Buddhism (6th century BC), a
fourth ashrama and a corresponding fourth goal were added: the renouncer (sannyasi),
whose goal is release (moksha) from the other stages, goals, and debts.
Each of these two ways of being Hindu developed its own complementary metaphysical
and social systems. The caste system and its supporting philosophy of svadharma (?one?s
own dharma?) developed within the worldly way. Svadharma comprises the beliefs that
each person is born to perform a specific job, marry a specific person, eat certain food,
and beget children to do likewise and that it is better to fulfill one?s own dharma than that
of anyone else (even if one?s own is low or reprehensible, such as that of the Harijan
caste, the Untouchables, whose mere presence was once considered polluting to other
castes). The primary goal of the worldly Hindu is to produce and raise a son who will
make offerings to the ancestors (the shraddha ceremony). The second, renunciatory way
of Hinduism, on the other hand, is based on the Upanishadic philosophy of the unity of
the individual soul, or atman, with Brahman, the universal world soul, or godhead. The
full realization of this is believed to be sufficient to release the worshiper from rebirth; in
this view, nothing could be more detrimental to salvation than the birth of a child. Many
of the goals and ideals of renunciatory Hinduism have been incorporated into worldly
Hinduism, particularly the eternal dharma (sanatana dharma), an absolute and general
ethical code that purports to transcend and embrace all subsidiary, relative, specific
dharmas. The most important tenet of sanatana dharma for all Hindus is ahimsa, the
absence of a desire to injure, which is used to justify vegetarianism (although it does not
preclude physical violence toward animals or humans, or blood sacrifices in temples).
In addition to sanatana dharma, numerous attempts have been made to reconcile the two
Hinduisms. The Bhagavad-Gita describes three paths to religious realization. To the path
of works, or karma (here designating sacrificial and ritual acts), and the path of
knowledge, or jnana (the Upanishadic meditation on the godhead), was added a
mediating third path, the passionate devotion to God, or bhakti, a religious ideal that
came to combine and transcend the other two paths. Bhakti in a general form can be
traced in the epics and even in some of the Upanishads, but its fullest statement appears
only after the Bhagavad-Gita. It gained momentum from the vernacular poems and songs
to local deities, particularly those of the Alvars, Nayanars, and Virashaivas of southern
India and the Bengali worshipers of Krishna (see below).
In this way Hindus have been able to reconcile their Vedantic monism (see Vedanta) with
their Vedic polytheism: All the individual Hindu gods (who are said to be saguna,?with
attributes?) are subsumed under the godhead (nirguna,?without attributes?), from which
they all emanate. Therefore, most Hindus are devoted (through bhakti) to gods whom
they worship in rituals (through karma) and whom they understand (through jnana) as
aspects of ultimate reality, the material reflection of which is all an illusion (maya)
wrought by God in a spirit of play (lila).
Although all Hindus acknowledge the existence and importance of a number of gods and
demigods, most individual worshipers are primarily devoted to a single god or goddess,
of whom Shiva, Vishnu, and the Goddess are the most popular.
Shiva embodies the apparently contradictory aspects of a god of ascetics and a god of the
phallus. He is the deity of renouncers, particularly of the many Shaiva sects that imitate
him: Kapalikas, who carry skulls to reenact the myth in which Shiva beheaded his father,
the incestuous Brahma, and was condemned to carry the skull until he found release in
Benares; Pashupatas, worshipers of Shiva Pashupati, ?Lord of Beasts?; and Aghoris, ?to
whom nothing is horrible,? yogis who eat ordure or flesh in order to demonstrate their
complete indifference to pleasure or pain. Shiva is also the deity whose phallus (linga) is
the central shrine of all Shaiva temples and the personal shrine of all Shaiva
householders; his priapism is said to have resulted in his castration and the subsequent
worship of his severed member. In addition, Shiva is said to have appeared on earth in
various human, animal, and vegetable forms, establishing his many local shrines.
To his worshipers, Vishnu is all-pervasive and supreme; he is the god from whose navel a
lotus sprang, giving birth to the creator (Brahma). Vishnu created the universe by
separating heaven and earth, and he rescued it on a number of subsequent occasions. He
is also worshiped in the form of a number of ?descents??avatars (see Avatar), or, roughly,
incarnations. Several of these are animals that recur in iconography: the fish, the tortoise,
and the boar. Others are the dwarf (Vamana, who became a giant in order to trick the
demon Bali out of the entire universe); the man-lion (Narasimha, who disemboweled the
demon Hiranyakashipu); the Buddha (who became incarnate in order to teach a false
doctrine to the pious demons); Rama-with-an-Axe (Parashurama, who beheaded his
unchaste mother and destroyed the entire class of Kshatriyas to avenge his father); and
Kalki (the rider on the white horse, who will come to destroy the universe at the end of
the age of Kali). Most popular by far are Rama (hero of the Ramayana) and Krishna (hero
of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata-Purana), both of whom are said to be avatars of
Vishnu, although they were originally human heroes.
Along with these two great male gods, several goddesses are the object of primary
devotion. They are sometimes said to be various aspects of the Goddess, Devi. In some
myths Devi is the prime mover, who commands the male gods to do the work of creation
and destruction. As Durga, the Unapproachable, she kills the buffalo demon Mahisha in a
great battle; as Kali, the Black, she dances in a mad frenzy on the corpses of those she has
slain and eaten, adorned with the still-dripping skulls and severed hands of her victims.
The Goddess is also worshiped by the Shaktas, devotees of Shakti, the female power.
This sect arose in the medieval period along with the Tantrists, whose esoteric
ceremonies involved a black mass in which such forbidden substances as meat, fish, and
wine were eaten and forbidden sexual acts were performed ritually. In many Tantric cults
the Goddess is identified as Krishna?s consort Radha.
More peaceful manifestations of the Goddess are seen in wives of the great gods:
Lakshmi, the meek, docile wife of Vishnu and a fertility goddess in her own right; and
Parvati, the wife of Shiva and the daughter of the Himalayas. The great river goddess
Ganga (the Ganges), also worshiped alone, is said to be a wife of Shiva; a goddess of
music and literature, Sarasvati, associated with the Saraswati River, is the wife of
Brahma. Many of the local goddesses of India?Manasha, the goddess of snakes, in
Bengal, and Minakshi in Madurai?are married to Hindu gods, while others, such as
Shitala, goddess of smallpox, are worshiped alone. These unmarried goddesses are feared
for their untamed powers and angry, unpredictable outbursts.
Many minor gods are assimilated into the central pantheon by being identified with the
great gods or with their children and friends. Hanuman, the monkey god, appears in the
Ramayana as the cunning assistant of Rama in the siege of Lanka. Skanda, the general of
the army of the gods, is the son of Shiva and Parvati, as is Ganesha, the elephant-headed
god of scribes and merchants, the remover of obstacles, and the object of worship at the
beginning of any important enterprise.

The great and lesser Hindu gods are worshiped in a number of concentric circles of
public and private devotion. Because of the social basis of Hinduism, the most
fundamental ceremonies for every Hindu are those that involve the rites of passage
(samskaras). These begin with birth and the first time the child eats solid food (rice).
Later rites include the first haircutting (for a young boy) and the purification after the first
menstruation (for a girl); marriage; and the blessings upon a pregnancy, to produce a
male child and to ensure a successful delivery and the child?s survival of the first six
dangerous days after birth (the concern of Shashti, goddess of Six). Last are the funeral
ceremonies (cremation and, if possible, the sprinkling of ashes in a holy river such as the
Ganges) and the yearly offerings to dead ancestors. The most notable of the latter is the
pinda, a ball of rice and sesame seeds given by the eldest male child so that the ghost of
his father may pass from limbo into rebirth. In daily ritual, a Hindu (generally the wife,
who is thought to have more power to intercede with the gods) makes offerings (puja) of
fruit or flowers before a small shrine in the house. She also makes offerings to local
snakes or trees or obscure spirits (benevolent and malevolent) dwelling in her own garden
or at crossroads or other magical places in the village.
Many villages, and all sizable towns, have temples where priests perform ceremonies
throughout the day: sunrise prayers and noises to awaken the god within the holy of
holies (the garbagriha, or ?womb-house?); bathing, clothing, and fanning the god; feeding
the god and distributing the remains of the food (prasada) to worshipers. The temple is
also a cultural center where songs are sung, holy texts read aloud (in Sanskrit and
vernaculars), and sunset rituals performed; devout laity may be present at most of these
ceremonies. In many temples, particularly those sacred to goddesses (such as the Kalighat
temple to Kali, in Kolkata), goats are sacrificed on special occasions. The sacrifice is
often carried out by a special low-caste priest outside the bounds of the temple itself.
Thousands of simple local temples exist; each may be nothing more than a small stone
box enclosing a formless effigy swathed in cloth, or a slightly more imposing edifice with
a small tank in which to bathe. In addition, India has many temples of great size as well
as complex temple cities, some hewn out of caves (such as Elephanta and Ellora), some
formed of great monolithic slabs (such as those at Mahabalipuram), and some built of
imported and elaborately carved stone slabs (such as the temples at Khajurāho,
Bhubaneshwar, Madurai, and Kanjeevaram). On special days, usually once a year, the
image of the god is taken from its central shrine and paraded around the temple complex
on a magnificently carved wooden chariot (ratha).
Many holy places or shrines (tirthas, literally ?fords?), such as Rishikesh in the
Himalayas or Benares on the Ganges, are the objects of pilgrimages from all over India;
others are essentially local shrines. Certain shrines are most frequently visited at special
yearly festivals. For example, Prayagā, where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers join at
Allahābād, is always sacred, but it is crowded with pilgrims during the Kumbha Mela
festival each January and overwhelmed by the millions who come to the special
ceremony held every 12 years. In Bengal, the goddess Durga?s visit to her family and
return to her husband Shiva are celebrated every year at Durgapuja, when images of the
goddess are created out of papier-m?ch?, worshiped for ten days, and then cast into the
Ganges in a dramatic midnight ceremony ringing with drums and glowing with candles.
Some festivals are celebrated throughout India: Diwali, the festival of lights in early
winter; and Holi, the spring carnival, when members of all castes mingle and let down
their hair, sprinkling one another with cascades of red powder and liquid, symbolic of the
blood that was probably used in past centuries.
The basic beliefs and practices of Hinduism cannot be understood outside their historical
context. Although the early texts and events are impossible to date with precision, the
general chronological development is clear.
About 2000 BC, a highly developed civilization flourished in the Indus Valley, around
the sites of Harappā and Mohenjo-Daro. By about 1500 BC, when the Indo-Aryan tribes
invaded India, this civilization was in a serious decline. It is therefore impossible to
know, on present evidence, whether or not the two civilizations had any significant
contact. Many elements of Hinduism that were not present in Vedic civilization (such as
worship of the phallus and of goddesses, bathing in temple tanks, and the postures of
yoga) may have been derived from the Indus civilization, however. See Indus Valley
By about 1500 BC, the Indo-Aryans had settled in the Punjab, bringing with them their
predominantly male Indo-European pantheon of gods and a simple warrior ethic that was
vigorous and worldly, yet also profoundly religious. Gods of the Vedic pantheon survive
in later Hinduism, but no longer as objects of worship: Indra, king of the gods and god of
the storm and of fertility; Agni, god of fire; and Soma, god of the sacred, intoxicating
Soma plant and the drink made from it. By 900 BC the use of iron allowed the Indo-
Aryans to move down into the lush Ganges Valley, where they developed a far more
elaborate civilization and social system. By the 6th century BC, Buddhism had begun to
make its mark on India and what was to be more than a millennium of fruitful interaction
with Hinduism.
From about 200 BC to AD 500 India was invaded by many northern powers, of which the
Shakas (Scythians) and Kushānas had the greatest impact. This was a time of great flux,
growth, syncretism, and definition for Hinduism and is the period in which the epics, the
Dharmashastras, and the Dharmasutras took final form. Under the Gupta Empire (320-
550?), when most of northern India was under a single power, classical Hinduism found
its most consistent expression: the sacred laws were codified, the great temples began to
be built, and myths and rituals were preserved in the Puranas.
In the post-Gupta period, a less rigid and more eclectic form of Hinduism emerged, with
more dissident sects and vernacular movements. At this time, too, the great devotional
movements arose. Many of the sects that emerged during the period from 800 to 1800 are
still active in India today.
Most of the bhakti movements are said to have been founded by saints?the gurus by
whom the tradition has been handed down in unbroken lineage, from guru to disciple
(chela). This lineage, in addition to a written canon, is the basis for the authority of the
bhakti sect. Other traditions are based on the teachings of such philosophers as Shankara
and Ramanuja. Shankara was the exponent of pure monism, or nondualism (Advaita
Vedanta), and of the doctrine that all that appears to be real is merely illusion. Ramanuja
espoused the philosophy of qualified nondualism (Vishishta-Advaita), an attempt to
reconcile belief in a godhead without attributes (nirguna) with devotion to a god with
attributes (saguna), and to solve the paradox of loving a god with whom one is identical.
The philosophies of Shankara and Ramanuja were developed in the context of the six
great classical philosophies (darshanas) of India: the Karma Mimamsa (?action
investigation?); the Vedanta (?end of the Vedas?), in which tradition the work of
Shankara and Ramanuja should be placed; the Sankhya system, which describes the
opposition between an inert male spiritual principle (purusha) and an active female
principle of matter or nature (prakriti), subdivided into the three qualities (gunas) of
goodness (sattva), passion (rajas), and darkness (tamas); the Yoga system; and the highly
metaphysical systems of Vaisheshika (a kind of atomic realism) and Nyaya (logic, but of
an extremely theistic nature).
Parallel with these complex Sanskrit philosophical investigations, vernacular songs were
composed, transmitted orally, and preserved locally throughout India. They were
composed during the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries in Tamil and Kannada by the Alvars,
Nayanars, and Virashaivas and during the 15th century by the Rājasthāni poet Mira Bai,
in the Braj dialect. In the 16th century in Bengal, Chaitanya founded a sect of erotic
mysticism, celebrating the union of Krishna and Radha in a Tantric theology heavily
influenced by Tantric Buddhism. Chaitanya believed that both Krishna and Radha were
incarnate within him, and he believed that the village of Vrindaban, where Krishna grew
up, had become manifest once again in Bengal. The school of the Gosvamins, who were
disciples of Chaitanya, developed an elegant theology of aesthetic participation in the
ritual enactment of Krishna?s life.
These ritual dramas also developed around the village of Vrindaban itself during the 16th
century, and they were celebrated by Hindi poets. The first great Hindi mystic poet was
Kabir, who was said to be the child of a Muslim and was strongly influenced by Islam,
particularly by Sufism. His poems challenge the canonical dogmas of both Hinduism and
Islam, praising Rama and promising salvation by the chanting of the holy name of Rama.
He was followed by Tulsidas, who wrote a beloved Hindi version of the Ramayana. A
contemporary of Tulsidas was Surdas, whose poems on Krishna?s life in Vrindaban
formed the basis of the ras lilas, local dramatizations of myths of the childhood of
Krishna, which still play an important part in the worship of Krishna in northern India.
In the 19th century, important reforms took place under the auspices of Ramakrishna,
Vivekananda, and the sects of the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj. These movements
attempted to reconcile traditional Hinduism with the social reforms and political ideals of
the day. So, too, the nationalist leaders Sri Aurobindo Ghose and Mohandas Gandhi
attempted to draw from Hinduism those elements that would best serve their political and
social aims. Gandhi, for example, used his own brand of ahimsa, transformed into passive
resistance, to obtain reforms for the Untouchables and to remove the British from India.
Similarly, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar revived the myth of the Brahmans who fell from
their caste and the tradition that Buddhism and Hinduism were once one, in order to
enable Untouchables to gain self-respect by ?reconverting? to Buddhism.
In more recent times, numerous self-proclaimed Indian religious teachers have migrated
to Europe and the United States, where they have inspired large followings. Some, such
as the Hare Krishna sect founded by Bhaktivedanta, claim to base themselves on classical
Hindu practices. In India, Hinduism thrives despite numerous reforms and shortcuts
necessitated by the gradual modernization and urbanization of Indian life. The myths
endure in the Hindi cinema, and the rituals survive not only in the temples but also in the
rites of passage. Thus, Hinduism, which sustained India through centuries of foreign
occupation and internal disruption, continues to serve a vital function by giving
passionate meaning and supportive form to the lives of Hindus today.

Indo-Iranian Languages
Indo-Iranian Languages, group of related languages spoken by more than 450 million
people in a region extending from eastern Turkey to Bangladesh and including most of
India. The Indo-Iranian languages form a subfamily of the Indo-European languages.
The Indo-Iranian languages are generally divided into an Iranian branch and an Indo-
Aryan, or Indic, branch. Major Iranian languages include ancient Avestan and Old
Persian, various medieval languages (see Persian Language), and modern Persian, Pashto
or Afghan, Kurdish (see Kurds), and Baluchi (see Baluchistan). Also of Iranian stock are
the languages of the ancient Scythians and Sarmatians and a modern remnant, Ossetic
(see Ossetians), spoken in the Caucasus. The Indo-Aryan branch includes the ancient
Sanskrit language; medieval languages called Prakrits; and modern languages such as
Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, and other languages of India (see Indian Languages),
Nepali (official in Nepal), and Sinhalese (official in Sri Lanka). Considered to be an
Indo-Aryan subgroup or a third Indo-Iranian branch are the Dardic languages, which
include Kashmiri and Romani (Gypsy).
Early Sanskrit literature is the oldest of any Indo-European literature except Hittite.
Sanskrit and Avestan resemble each other closely and are considered to reflect extremely
faithfully the consonantal system and elaborate inflections of the Proto-Indo-European
language. The modern Indo-Aryan and Iranian branches have tended to simplify the
ancient consonantal system and to replace inflections with word combinations. The Indo-
Aryan languages were also influenced by the sounds and grammar of the non-Indo-
European Dravidian language family.
Indus, river of Asia, formed in western Tibet (an autonomous region of China) by the
confluence of the glacial streams from the Himalayas. It flows from Tibet northwest
across the Indian-controlled portion of Jammu and Kashmīr, passing between the western
extremity of the Himalayas and the northern extremity of the Hindu Kush mountain
range; it then courses generally south through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea, covering a
distance of 2,900 km (1,800 mi). The major tributaries of the Indus are the Sutlej, Rāvi,
and Chenāb.
The Indus enters the Pakistani province of Punjab 1304 km (810 mi) from its source, and,
at a point 77 km (48 mi) farther, it becomes navigable as a result of its junction with the
Kābul River from Afghanistan. Entering Sind province of Pakistan, it flows under the
Ayub and Lansdowne bridges at Sukkur and the Hyderābād-Kotri Bridge before
branching into the generally infertile delta that covers an area of about 7770 sq km (3000
sq mi) and extends for some 201 km (125 mi) along the Arabian Sea. The Indus has some
importance as an artery of traffic and in addition provides irrigation for many millions of
acres of the naturally arid lands of Sind Province. Historically, the Indus River valley is
important as the cradle of the ancient Indus civilization, which, with Mesopotamia and
Egypt, was one of the earliest civilizations (see Indus Valley Civilization).

Kushāna Dynasty
Kushāna Dynasty (1st century BC-230? AD), rulers of an ancient empire stretching from
Central Asia to northern India. The dynasty emerged from the Yue-chi, a seminomadic
people of northwestern China. The Yue-chi overran the area from modern Kyrgyzstan to
Pakistan by about 125 BC, but they were not united under a single ruler. Between 27 and
2 BC, one of the Yue-chi kings, Kadphises, brought them together into a single
confederation and established a ruling dynasty. In the 1st century AD, the Kushānas
(named for the Hindu Kush mountains) took over Kashmīr and most of northwestern
India. They reached their greatest strength under Kanishka, who ruled in the late 1st
century. Kanishka commanded the Central Asian territories as well as northern India.
There, the Kushānas extended as far south as Gujarāt in the west, the Narmada River in
central India, and Bihār in the east. Kanishka?s armies also campaigned in Bengal to the
east and Parthia to the west.
The Kushānas pacified the Central Asia trade routes, enabling many commercial and
cultural contacts. Cities flourished, and the Silk Road linking Rome to China thrived.
Buddhism migrated from India to China along the trade routes, and the Kushāna kings
exchanged ambassadors with the emperors of Rome. An influential school of art
blossomed at Mathura, a Kushāna capital, while the art of Gandhara blended Indian and
Greco-Roman styles. Kanishka was a great patron of Buddhism, and some of his
monuments remain. After his death the Indian part of the empire lasted for about 70 years
before disintegrating into several principalities, some of which survived for another
century or more. The surviving Central Asian empire lasted until about 230, when the
Sassanids overwhelmed it.
Maratha Confederacy
Maratha Confederacy, Hindu state that dominated much of India in the mid-18th century.
The Maratha Kingdom, founded in Mahārāshtra by Shivaji in the mid-17th century, was
temporarily subdued by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the 1680s. After Aurangzeb's
death in 1707, however, Maratha power revived under a succession of peshwas (prime
ministers) who extended the influence of the Marathas as far south as Mysore and
Tanjore (Thanjāvūr) and north to Delhi, Āgra, and Rohilkhand (Bareilly), establishing a
virtual protectorate of the weakened Mughal Empire.
In 1758 Maratha confederal forces occupied Lahore (now in Pakistan), alarming the
Muslims of northern India. The latter sought help from Ahmad Shah of Afghanistan, who
led an expedition against the Marathas, defeating them at Pānīpat, north of Delhi, in
1761. The defeat split the Maratha confederacy into five independent states?those of the
Holkar, Sindhia, Bhonsle, Gaekwar, and Peshwa. These states, which frequently fought
among themselves, lost their independence in three successive conflicts with the British?
the Maratha Wars?1775-1782, 1803-1805, and 1817-1818. Maratha dynasties survived
under British control in Gwalior (the Sindhia), Indore (the Holkar), and Vadodara (the
Gaekwar) until India became independent in 1947.

Mahabharata (Sanskrit, The Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty), longer of the two great
epic poems of ancient India; the other is the Ramayana. Although both are basically
secular works, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are ritually recited and are thought to
confer religious merit on their hearers.
The central theme of the Mahabharata is the contest between two noble families, the
Pandavas and their blood relatives the Kauravas, for possession of a kingdom in northern
India. The most important segment of the poem is the Bhagavad-Gita, a dialogue between
Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the god Vishnu, and the Pandava hero Arjuna on the
meaning of life. It has influenced devout Hindu believers for centuries. The Mahabharata
was composed beginning about 400 BC and received numerous additions until about AD
400. It is divided into 18 books containing altogether about 200,000 lines of verse
interspersed with short prose passages. The Harivansha, one of several late appendixes to
the poem, discusses at length the life and genealogy of Krishna.
Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire, realm ruled by the great Mongol khans in the 13th and 14th centuries;
uniting almost all of western and eastern Asia, it was one of the largest land empires in
The original homeland of the Mongols, situated in the eastern zone of the Asian steppe,
was bounded by the Da Hinggan Ling (Greater Khingan Range) on the east, the Altay
and Tian Shan mountains on the west, the Shilka River and the mountain ranges by Lake
Baikal on the north, and the southern extent of the Gobi Desert on the south. Today this
region comprises approximately the Inner Mongolia (Nei Mongol) Autonomous Region
of China, Mongolia, and the southern fringes of Siberia. Consisting for the most part of
fertile prairies and wooded mountains in the north, the Gobi Desert in the central zone,
and vast grasslands in the south, the entire region lies about 1000 m (about 3000 ft) above
sea level. With the exception of the northernmost extremities, it is extremely arid.
In this environment Mongolian-speaking tribes developed a pastoral economy based on
the sheep and the horse, the latter supplemented by the camel in the most arid regions.
Certain commodities, such as grain, textiles, tea, and metals, were obtained through trade
with the adjacent agricultural civilization of China. Other than tending the flocks, hunting
was the foremost occupation. The way of life was nomadic and social organization tribal.
Tribal warfare was endemic, and individuals of great personal prowess moved easily to
positions of leadership. The political-military hierarchy of the tribe was bound together
by personal bonds of mutual protection and loyalty extending downward from the
chieftain, to subordinate chiefs, to individual warriors.


The first flowering of the Mongol Empire occurred in the 13th century. At a convocation
of tribes in 1206, the powerful conqueror Temujin, then master of almost all of Mongolia,
was proclaimed universal ruler with the title Genghis Khan, or Great Khan. The city of
Karakorum was designated his capital. Genghis's army, although not particularly large for
its day, was distinguished by its superb horsemanship and expert archery, the discipline
and control of its aristocratic leaders, and the khan's own brilliant military strategy and
tactics. The neighboring Chinese Empire and the Central Asian states, both militarily
weak and fragmented, inevitably surrendered, as did the decaying Arab-Turkish society
of the Middle East, to the Mongol hordes racing over Asia. It was thus a foregone
conclusion that the empire Genghis subsequently welded together should achieve a
degree of centralization and power unprecedented among the earlier domains of Mongol-
speaking tribes. Genghis presided by virtue of self-asserted divine right, acknowledging
as his only superior authority, the Great Yasa, an imperial code that he drew up and that
remained the permanent basis for Mongol rule. Genghis's vast empire stretched from the
China Sea to the Dnieper River and from the Persian Gulf virtually all the way to the
Arctic Ocean.
After the death of Genghis, his empire in accordance with tribal custom was divided
among the sons of his primary wife and their heirs. The khanate of East Asia was ruled
directly by the third son, ?g?dei, who succeeded Genghis as the great khan. The khanate
included Outer Mongolia, Manchuria, Korea, much territory in China, Tibet, and the
northern fringes of Indochina.
Although ?g?dei was in turn succeeded by his son and his grandson, the next great leader
of the khanate was his nephew, Mangu Khan. Together with his brother Kublai Khan,
Mangu Khan succeeded in conquering nearly all of China.
In 1279 Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis, defeated the Southern Song dynasty,
bringing the remainder of China under his control. Kublai transferred the capital to
Beijing, which he called Khanbalik. There he ruled as emperor of the Chinese Yuan (Y?
an) dynasty as well as great khan of the Mongols. Rather than attempting to amalgamate
the sedentary agricultural society into tribal units, he successfully followed the
bureaucratic system through which Chinese dynasties since the Tang (T?ang) had ruled.
The Mongols carefully guarded, however, their cultural identity and ruling-class
prerogatives; Chinese talent was systematically excluded from positions of authority, and
discriminatory social and legal codes were followed.
The Mongol emperors following Kublai succumbed to the decadent life of the Chinese
court and became intrigued with the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. When disaster
struck with flooding of the Huang He (Yellow River) and severe famine in northern
China during the middle decades of the 14th century, the Mongol leadership was unable
to meet the administrative challenge. In 1368, while the Mongols' Asian empire was torn
by internal dissension, the great khans in China were replaced by the Ming, a native
Upon the division of the Mongol Empire at Genghis's death in 1227, the region of
Turkistan was ruled by Jagatai, his second son, and subsequently by Jagatai's successor.
This khanate, known as the Jagatai khanate, extended from what is today the Xinjiang
Uygur Autonomous Region of China westward south of Lake Balqash to the area
southeast of the Aral Sea and was bordered on the south by Tibet and the Kashmīr region
of India and Pakistan. The western reaches were inhabited largely by sedentary Muslims,
but the remainder of the populace were nomadic Mongols. A strategic central
communications zone of the Mongols' Asian empire, it became the focus of political
rivalry among the descendants of Genghis, and it required the constant attention of
Kublai Khan to keep it under control.
In the 14th century the authority of the Jagatai khans over their Muslim subjects
diminished sharply. After 1370 the western portion of the khanate became part of the
empire of Turkic conqueror Tamerlane. The khans' rule was thereafter confined to the
eastern region of the original khanate.
By 1231 Mongol armies had overrun Iran, Mesopotamia, Armenia, and Georgia. In 1258
Baghdād, the seat of the Abbasid caliphate, was captured. The Iranian khanate was
established by Hulagu, grandson of Genghis and brother to Mangu and Kublai. Hulagu
ruled over the areas that today comprise Iran, eastern Iraq, western Afghanistan, and
Turkmenistan. Hulagu?s successors, who were known as il-khans, eventually accepted
the faith of Islam. Under the Ghazan Khan, who succeeded in 1295, the ruling house
became independent of the great Mongol khan. New systems of taxation were introduced;
the armed forces were reformed and communications reorganized. Iranian culture was
promoted, although new Mongol elements were infused in both art and architecture.
Along with Mongolian, the Turkish, Persian, and Arabic languages were employed. The
administration of the later il-khans, however, was poor, and when the khan Abu Said died
without a male heir in 1395, the khanate broke up into small states ruled mainly by
While ?g?dei and his successors were completing their conquest of eastern Asia, Batu
Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, surged westward toward Europe. In 1237 his armies,
known as the Tatars (who comprised a considerable portion of Batu's forces and came to
dominate the empire he established), sacked most of the cities in the Vladimir-Suzdal?
region and Kyiv in 1240, continuing westward into Poland, Bohemia, Hungary, and the
Danube River valley. Batu established the Golden Horde, also known as the Khanate of
Kipchak. By 1241 his armies had reached the coast of the Adriatic Sea, poised for the
invasion of western Europe. Disunited and ill-prepared to resist the Golden Horde,
Europe was spared only by the death of the Great Khan ?g?dei in 1241. Batu then
withdrew his forces to southern Russia in order to participate in the selection of a
The Golden Horde ruled the area that is now southern Russia until the late 15th century.
The Tatars imposed a bureaucratic system and methods of tax collection that showed the
influence of the Chinese methods adopted by their east Asian kinfolk. In the late 14th
century, the Russians seemed on the verge of overthrowing the Golden Horde. The
victory of the grand prince of Muscovy (Moscow), Dmitry Donskoy, over the Mongols in
1380 marked the turning point of Mongol power. In 1395 Tamerlane began the conquest
of the Golden Horde, which after his death broke into four independent khanates:
Astrakhan?, Kazan?, Crimea, and Sibir, thereby removing a major obstacle to the rise of
the Muscovite principality. In 1480, by refusing to continue to pay tribute to the Horde,
Ivan III Vasilyevich, grand prince of Muscovy, ended Mongol domination of southern
The Mongol Empire had done much to bind eastern and western Asia together. A system
of mounted couriers, somewhat like a pony-express network, was established through the
grasslands and deserts of Central Asia, linking the capital of the great khan in China with
the far-flung outposts of the empire. The Central Asian trade routes were made more
secure than they had ever been previously. Consequently the traffic by traders and
missionaries back and forth over these routes increased notably, and China became
known in the West chiefly through the accounts of one of these travelers, the Venetian
merchant Marco Polo. Although improved communications helped the Mongols maintain
their vast and diverse empire, common lineage also played an important role. The great
khan was always selected by a convocation of the nobles of the whole empire, and, in
general, all four khanates shared in the plunder of each.
Nevertheless, good communication and kinship ties proved inadequate to counteract the
centrifugal forces that tore at the empire. Religious differences appeared early; the
Mongol rulers in western Asia tended to accept Islam, while those in China were
converted to Buddhism or Lamaism. In political life, the Mongols in China followed the
sociopolitical teachings of Confucianism, stressing the universality of the ruler's
authority; those in western Asia became absorbed in the confused politics and warfare of
eastern Europe and the Middle East. China, Russia, and Iran each had its own language,
culture, and system of rule, and each tended to influence its Mongol overlords. Perhaps
most significant was the fact that each of these areas was the home of a sedentary
agricultural civilization. In each location the imposition of Mongol rule seems to have led
to a revival of local bureaucratic regimes more concerned with domestic problems and
therefore less susceptible to Mongol domination.

Pandya Dynasty
Pandya Dynasty (around 200s BC-AD 1378), longtime rulers of southernmost India in an
area now occupied by Tamil Nādu State. Little is known about the origins of the dynasty.
Its capital was at Madurai, and the Pandyas participated in an international trade system
linking India with the Roman world and China. By the 3rd century AD, the Pandya
kingdom and other kingdoms of southern India were dominated by India?s northern
kingdoms. Inscriptions dating to the 7th century indicate a Pandya resurgence. At the
same time, the nearby Pallava dynasty was enjoying a period of growth, and the two
dynasties competed with each other.
In the 10th century the nearby Cholas defeated the Pandyas and incorporated Madurai
into their vast empire, using both Chola and Pandya viceroys to rule the area. By the late
12th century, the Pandya kings were allied with forces from Sri Lanka in a guerrilla
struggle against the Cholas and in civil wars for the throne in Madurai. Maravarman
Sundara Pandya I (ruled 1216-1244) reunited the Pandya kingdom and conquered the
entire Chola realm, beginning a period of Pandya dominance in southern India. During
this time, the dynasty was a great patron of religious institutions, especially the great
Hindu temple in Madurai dedicated to the gods Shiva and Minakshi.
In the 1310s and 1320s the Delhi Sultanate launched campaigns that disrupted the Pandya
kingdom. Muslim Turks eventually took Madurai and ruled until 1378, when the
Vijayanagar kingdom supplanted them.

Puri, sometimes called Jagannāth, town, eastern India, in Orissa State, on the Bay of
Bengal. It is a seaport, resort, and market center. Its industries include handicrafts, fish
curing, and rice milling. In the town is a 12th-century temple erected in honor of the
Hindu god Vishnu, under his aspect as Juggernaut. Puri is the site of an annual festival
attended by thousands of Hindu pilgrims in honor of Vishnu. Population (1991) 125,199.
Ramayana (Sanskrit, ?Way of Rama?), shorter of the two great Sanskrit epics of ancient
India, the other being the Mahabharata. Rich in its descriptions and poetic language, it
consists of seven books and 24,000 couplets and has been translated into many
languages. It was probably begun in the 3rd century BC, with the beginning and possibly
the ending added later. The Ramayana tells of the birth and education of Rama, a prince
and the seventh incarnation of the god Vishnu, and recounts his winning of the hand of
Sita in marriage. Displaced as rightful heir to his father's throne, Rama goes into exile,
accompanied by Sita and by his brother Lakshmana. Sita is carried off by the demon king
Ravana. With the aid of the monkey general Hanuman and an army of monkeys and
bears, Rama, after a long search, slays Ravana and rescues Sita. Rama regains his throne
and rules wisely. In the probable addition, Sita is accused in rumors of adultery during
her captivity. Although innocent, she bears Rama's twin sons in exile, sheltered by the
hermit Valmiki, said to be the author of the poem. After many years Rama and Sita are
Although basically a secular work, the Ramayana incorporates much of the sacred Vedic
material (see Veda). Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, and Hanuman are widely revered as ideal
embodiments of princely heroism, wifely and brotherly devotion, and loyal service,
respectively. Reciting the Ramayana is considered a religious act, and scenes from the
epic are dramatized throughout India and Southeast Asia. Known widely through
translations and recensions (the best-known version being that of the 16th-century Hindu
poet Tulsidas), the Ramayana exerted enormous influence on later Indian literature.

Sepoy Rebellion
Sepoy Rebellion (1857-1859), also known as the Indian War of Independence, uprising
against British rule in India begun by Indian troops (sipahi or sepoys) in the employ of
the English East India Company. The rebellion was the first concerted attempt by the
people of South Asia to overthrow the British Indian Empire.
By the 1850s the English East India Company had established control over present-day
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and Sri Lanka. By
conquest or diplomacy, the company had overrun numerous autonomous Indian
kingdoms during the previous two decades. It had also reduced the emperor of the
moribund Mughal Empire, a vast empire that had ruled the subcontinent for more than
300 years, to a pensioner in his palace in Delhi. A small elite of British civilian officials
and an army of 160,000 men, only 24,000 of them British, controlled the vast division of
British India known as the Bengal Presidency. This area stretched from Burma in the east
to Afghanistan in the west and included huge territories in central India.
The Indian troops employed by the English East India Company felt that British rule
often failed to respect their traditions of religion and caste. The sepoys? discontent came
to a head in late 1856, when rumors began circulating that the cartridges for the newly-
issued Lee-Enfield rifles were greased with the fat of cows, which are sacred to Hindus,
and pigs, which Muslims believe are unclean. If this rumor were true, any Hindu or
Muslim soldier would be ritually polluted when he bit off the end of a cartridge, as was
necessary before loading the rifle. There were several isolated cases of soldiers in the
Bengal army refusing to use these cartridges, but the issue exploded in Meerut, a military
town northeast of Delhi in the Ganges River valley. There, 85 men of the 3rd light
cavalry refused to use the cartridges on April 23, 1857. They were convicted of mutiny,
sentenced to prison terms, publicly fettered, and stripped of their military insignia.
In response to this harsh treatment of their fellow soldiers, members of the 11th and 20th
infantry regiments revolted on the evening of May 10. They freed their comrades along
with hundreds of civilian prisoners, and the rampaging mob slaughtered 40 British
officers and civilians in Meerut. The sepoys then marched to Delhi, where other Indian
regiments joined the mutiny. They massacred dozens of British there, and reinstated the
82-year-old Mughal emperor, Muhammad Bahadur Shah. The news of these events
triggered mutinies throughout the Bengal army, rapidly igniting a general anti-British
revolution in north and central India. Among those joining the sepoys in the uprising
were Indian princes and their followers, whose territories had been annexed by the
English East India Company, and people whose ways of life and sources of income had
been disrupted by British trade, missionary activities, or social reforms.
Unprepared for and paralyzed by the mutiny at first, the British eventually rallied. To
control the uprising in the Ganges valley, British commanders disarmed the sepoys in the
nearby province of Punjab and assembled a small army that marched on Delhi, occupying
a position outside of the city. The British command in Calcutta (now Kolkata) was able to
contain the rebellion in the east while retaining control of the Ganges River and
communications lines as far upriver as Allahābād. In central India, a British army of
several thousand engaged in dozens of battles with forces led by several local princes and
Rani (Queen) Lakshmibai of Jhānsi. The rani was fighting against annexation of her
kingdom by the company after the death of her husband, the last ruler of Jhānsi.
In the central part of the Ganges River valley, the recently-annexed state of Oudh became
the focal point for rebellion. On May 30, rebel forces besieged Europeans along with
loyal Indians at the British Residency, the official residence of British administrators in
the capital, Lucknow. A few days later the British garrison at Cawnpore (now Kānpur)
also came under attack, enduring a siege that lasted until June 27. On that day, the
survivors were attacked while evacuating to boats on the Ganges River under an
agreement of safe passage negotiated with the rebel leader, Nana Sahib. Most of the
British soldiers were killed. The women, children, and wounded who lived through this
disaster were later murdered in prison. These events provided a rallying cry for British
forces and a rationale for widespread atrocities committed against Indian combatants and
noncombatants alike.
After many inconclusive battles fought before the walls of Delhi, the reinforced British
army attacked the city on September 15 and overran it after five days of ferocious
fighting. A relief force reached the Lucknow residency on September 25 but became
pinned there until late November, when a second relief force broke the siege and
evacuated the survivors. The British returned to Oudh in February 1858 with an army of
more than 30,000 men, including troops lent by the kingdom of Nepal. The city of
Lucknow fell on March 23 and the rebel forces in north India scattered. The fort at Jhānsi
fell in April, and the rani was later killed in battle.
For the next year British forces engaged in running fights with ever-smaller rebel forces,
finally capturing their most skillful opponent, Nana Sahib's general Tantia Topi. With his
execution in April 1859, the revolt ended.
The war had far-reaching consequences for India. The British government officially
abolished the Mughal Empire and exiled Muhammad Bahadur Shah to Burma. The
British crown also ended the administration of the English East India Company,
assuming direct rule of India in 1858. Military policies altered dramatically. New recruits
were sought primarily in Punjab and Nepal, where troops had remained loyal during the
rebellion, and emphasis was placed on a doctrine stressing the hierarchy, prestige, and
authority of the British officer corps. Thereafter the British administration displayed a
pronounced distrust of its Indian subjects and a reluctance to share power or strategic
technologies, an attitude that damaged relations with an emerging nationalist movement
later in the century.
Shakas or Sakas, Iranian nomads who ruled parts of India and southwestern Asia in the
1st century BC. The name is associated with various ancient Scythian kingdoms.
For information on:

group of tribes that Shakas are sometimes associated with, see Scythians
control of Bactria (now part of Afghanistan) by the Shakas, see Bactria
relations of Shakas with India, see Andhra Dynasty; Hinduism: Classical Hindu
Civilization; India: The Maurya Dynasty; Gandhara

Shiva (Sanskrit for ?auspicious one?), also called Siva, Hindu god who personifies both
the destructive and the procreative forces of the universe. As the destroyer, he is
represented wearing a necklace of skulls and surrounded by demons. His reproductive
aspect is symbolized by the lingam, a phallic emblem. Shiva is also the god of asceticism
and of art, especially dancing. He rides on the bull Nandi, and his consort is the mother
goddess Uma, or Kali. Some Hindus worship Shiva as the supreme deity and consider
him a benevolent god of salvation as well as a god of destruction.
Sunga Dynasty
Sunga Dynasty (185?-75? BC), rulers of the Kingdom of Magadha in northeastern India.
The dynasty began after the last Mauryan king of Magadha, Brihadratha, was murdered
by his general Pushyamitra. Pushyamitra then ruled the kingdom from his capital,
Pātaliputra (modern Patna), controlling the Ganges River basin and central India to the
Narmada River. He countered invasions of Greek armies from the northwest and ruled
until the middle of the 2nd century BC. His successor, Agnimitra, kept the core of the
empire together during his rule, which lasted about a decade, but later Sunga rulers
allowed subordinate lords to issue their own coinage and function as independent kings.
Increasingly pressured by rivals, the Sungas survived more than half a century longer
before the last Sunga king was murdered, allegedly by his minister.

Tipu Sahib
Tipu Sahib (1749-1799), Muslim ruler of Mysore, the son and successor of Haidar Ali.
He fought in his father's campaigns against the British and after Haidar's death in 1782
continued his war to a successful conclusion. A peace made in 1784, however, was only
temporary; five years later war broke out again. The nizam of Hyderābād and the
Marathas sided with the British, and despite valorous defense Tipu was overcome by the
odds; he was forced to give up half his dominions and pay heavy indemnities. Not
reconciled, he began to look for new allies, but the British preempted him and in a
tripartite alliance with the nizam and the Marathas marched on his capital, Seringapatam,
in 1799. Tipu fell defending the city. His name sometimes appears as Tipu Sultan.
Upanishads, Hindu esoteric and mystical writings grouped in the Aranyakas, which are
part of the Veda. The philosophical concepts contained in the Upanishads served as the
basis of one of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy, Vedanta. Some 150
Upanishads exist (108, according to the traditionally accepted number). Most are written
in prose with interspersed poetry, but some are entirely in verse. Their lengths vary: The
shortest can fit on 1 printed page, while the longest is more than 50 pages. They are
believed to have been composed between the 8th century BC and the 5th century BC.
The underlying concern of the Upanishads is the nature of Brahman, the universal soul;
and the fundamental doctrine expounded is the identity of atman, or the innermost soul of
each individual, with Brahman. Formulations of this doctrinal truth are stressed
throughout the Upanishadic writings. Other topics include the nature and purpose of
existence, various ways of meditation and worship, eschatology, salvation, and the theory
of the transmigration of souls.
Vārānasi (formerly Benares or Banaras), city, northern India, in Uttar Pradesh State, on
the northern bank of the Ganges River. It lies in a fertile region in which sugarcane and
grains are produced. The city is also an important commercial center. Silk brocade, gold
and silver thread, filigree work, and brass articles are manufactured.
The city has few buildings built before the late 16th century, but its site was occupied in
ancient times by the kingdom of Kashi; to devout Hindus the city has always existed. It is
to them the holiest of cities; Hindu pilgrims come to Vārānasi from all parts of the world.
Records of such pilgrimages date from the 7th century. Large throngs gather along the
banks of the sacred Ganges River, where terraced landings, or ghats, lead down to the
water. Hindus believe that immersion in the Ganges water cleanses them of sins and that
death on its banks leads to salvation. The level portions of the ghats are used for funeral
From Rāmnagar, across the river, the city of Vārānasi gives an impression of splendor
that is dissipated on closer view. The narrow streets wind circuitously between painted
and carved buildings, many of them with overhanging galleries. Among the more than
1500 temples, the best known are the mosque of Aurangzeb; the observatory of Raja Jai
Singh and the Durga Temple, both built in the 17th century; and the holiest of all temples,
the Bisheshwar, or Golden Temple. Vārānasi is also a center of learning, especially for
the study of Sanskrit, centered at Banaras College (1791) and maintained by the
government. Banaras Hindu University (1916) was the first denominational university in
India under private control; it is now nonsectarian. Varanasaya-Sanskrit University was
founded in 1958. Population (1991) 929,270.
Veda (Sanskrit, ?knowledge?), the most ancient sacred literature of Hinduism, or
individual books belonging to that literature. This body of ancient literature consists
primarily of four collections of hymns, detached poetical portions, and ceremonial
formulas. The collections are called the Rig-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, and
the Atharva-Veda. They are known also as the Samhitas (roughly ?collection?).
The four Vedas were composed in Vedic, an early form of Sanskrit. The oldest portions
are believed by scholars to have originated largely with the Aryan invaders of India some
time between 1500 and 1000 BC; however, the Vedas in their present form are believed
to date only from the close of the 3rd century BC. Before the writing down of the present
texts, sages called rishis transmitted the Vedic matter orally, changing and elaborating it
in the process. Large masses of material probably taken from the original Aryan milieu or
from the Dravidian culture of India were preserved, however, and are distinguishable in
the texts.
The first three Samhitas are primarily ritual handbooks that were used in the Vedic period
by three classes of priests who officiated at ceremonial sacrifices. The Rig-Veda contains
more than 1000 hymns (Sanskrit rig), composed in various poetic meters and arranged in
ten books. It was used by the hotri, or reciters, who invoked the gods by reading its
hymns aloud. The Sama-Veda contains verse portions taken mainly from the Rig-Veda. It
was used by the udgatri, or chanters, who sang its hymns, or melodies (Sanskrit sama).
The Yajur-Veda, which now consists of two recensions, both of them partly in prose and
partly in verse and both containing roughly the same material (although differently
arranged), contains sacrificial formulas (Sanskrit yaja,?sacrifices?). It was used by the
adhvaryu, priests who recited appropriate formulas from the Yajur-Veda while actually
performing the sacrificial actions.
The fourth Veda, the Atharva-Veda (in part attributed by tradition to a rishi named
Atharvan), consists almost exclusively of a wide variety of hymns, magical incantations,
and magical spells. Largely for personal, domestic use, it was not originally accepted as
authoritative because of the deviant nature of its contents. Scholars believe that it dates
from a later time and that it may have been derived mainly from the remnant of the
indigenous pre-Aryan culture. Eventually it was acknowledged as one of the Vedas,
especially after its adoption as a ritual handbook by the Brahmans, the fourth and highest
class of priests officiating at the sacrifices.
Strictly speaking, the Vedas include the Brahmanas and the mantras. The former are
prose commentaries attached to each of the four Vedas and are concerned principally
with the details and the interpretation of the sacrificial liturgy. The latter are the poetic
stanzas of the four Vedas, mantra being the term used specifically for the four verse
collections. The mantras are regarded by some scholars as the oldest part of the Vedas.
Supplementary to the Brahmanas are later esoteric works known as forest treatises, the
Aranyakas from Sanskrit aranya,?forest.? The Aranyakas were expounded and written by
Brahman sages in forests because it was felt that a proper understanding of them could be
achieved only in seclusion. The final portions of the Aranyakas are called Upanishads.
Profound metaphysical and speculative works closely linked with the Brahmanas, they
emphasize knowledge and meditation and are the first Hindu attempts at a systematic
treatment of speculative thought. Vedanta and most other Indian philosophical systems
developed from the Upanishads.
The latest products of the Vedic period are the sutras (Sanskrit sutra, literally ?thread,?
roughly, ?string of rules?). Collections of aphorisms elaborating and dissertating on the
Vedic sacrifices, domestic ceremonies (such as marriage and funeral rituals), and
religious and secular law, the sutras are significant for their influence on the development
of Hindu law. As works of authority, they are not as highly regarded as the Vedas,
Brahmanas, and Upanishads. The latter, especially the Vedas, are revered as apaurusheya
(Sanskrit, ?not of human origin?).

Vishnu or Chu Ta, major god of Hinduism and Indian mythology, popularly regarded as
the preserver of the universe. In the ancient body of literature called the Veda, the sacred
literature of the Aryan invaders, Vishnu ranks with the numerous lesser gods and is
usually associated with the major Vedic god Indra in battles against demonic forces. In
the epics and Puranas?writings belonging to subsequent periods in the development of
Hinduism?Vishnu (especially in his incarnations) becomes prominent. Some Puranic
literature refers to him as the eternal, all-pervading spirit and associates him with the
primeval waters believed to have been omnipresent before the creation of the world. So
regarded, Vishnu is depicted frequently in human form, sleeping on the great serpent
Shesha and floating on the waters.
The concept of Vishnu as preserver is comparatively late. It is based chiefly on two
beliefs: humans may attain salvation by faithfully following predetermined paths of duty,
and good and evil powers (gods and demons) contend for dominion over the world.
Occasionally, the balance of power is upset in favor of evil, and then Vishnu is believed
to descend to earth in a mortal form (his avatar) to save humankind or the world. Ten
such avatars (descents or incarnations) are commonly recognized, of which Rama and
Krishna are the most important. Nine descents are thought to have already occurred; the
tenth and last is yet to come. Scholars believe that Vishnu's role as preserver (or
redeemer) arose from the characteristic practice of assimilating local legendary heroes
and gods into the Hindu pantheon by attributing their deeds to one of the major Hindu
Vishnu is depicted as dark blue or black (his avatars appear in other colors). Normally, he
is depicted with four arms: One hand holds a lotus; a second holds a conch; a third holds
a discus (which always returns by itself after being thrown); and the fourth carries a
mace. The petals of the lotus are believed to symbolize the unfolding of creation; the
conch is said to symbolize that from which all existence originates; and the discus and the
mace reputedly were obtained by Vishnu as rewards for defeating the god Indra. Vishnu
is said to possess also a special sword called Nadaka and a special bow called Sarnga. His
wife is Lakshmi (also known as Shri), goddess of beauty and fortune. He rides a huge
creature, half bird and half man, called Gandara. His home is in a heaven called
Vaikuntha (where the Ganges River is believed to flow from its source at Vishnu's feet).