|Creating a New Society and Culture: The Aryans and Hinduism
The sub-continent of India is a region of rich diversity and tradition. The people living there have created a unique blend of cultures and ideas that have shaped the society. India is a blend of different people: there are different races, ethnic groups and tribes. Many of these groups migrated to India after the last Ice Age ended. As the people migrated, they spread their religion, and lifestyle. They also began to add parts of other cultures to their society. As the people settled in, the physical geography of India created unique cultural regions. People living in rivers deltas, valleys or on the plains all developed their own unique elements of culture. These cultures became united though roughly 4,000 years ago by a group known as the Aryans. The story of how they united India is a great example of how humans can blend geography and culture to create a community.
The Aryans were not the first great society to live in India. Before the Aryans arrived, a group of people who lived in northern India began farming the fertile areas of the Indus River Valley. The Indus Valley Civilization developed into one of the world’s first advanced civilizations and was at its peak in the year 3,500 B.C.E. Two major cities served as the centers for the Indus Valley Civilization, Harappa and Mohenjo Daro. Each was populated by over 200,000 people and had advanced elements of culture such as writing, advanced shelter, tools, and irrigation for watering their crops. These cities grew into major culture centers. Many of the people developed new types of jobs: farmer, master builder, and religious leader. The cities that were developed had many advanced features like tall stone buildings, water systems to bring water from the rivers to the crops (this is called irrigation).
Around 1,500 B.C.E. the Aryans began to migrate east, out of Europe. They followed the river valleys into India and moved into a fertile region, the Indus River valley. By this time, the Indus Valley Civilization had begun to collapse. There were too many people and not enough organization to bring all of the people together. The Aryans were able to quickly win a war against the Indus Valley Civilization. The Aryans took over and began to develop their own civilization. This civilization would be known first as the Videc, and later, the Hindu civilization. Unlike many other conquerors, when the Aryans won the war, they did not decide to destroy the old culture. Instead, they began to bring in elements of the existing cultures. This process is a unique type of cultural diffusion called assimilation.
Many of the cultures that already existed in India had religions, languages and customs/traditions that were very important to them. Instead of trying to replace these elements of culture, the Hindu civilization began to use the existing elements of culture and slowly replaced certain parts of these cultures only when they had to. This meant that many people did not have to change their daily lives and India was a peaceful place. As the government of the Hindu civilization continued to move south, deeper into India, they used stories, religious idols (like gods) and customs to bring people together.
The most important element of culture that the Hindu civilization spread was their religion. The Hindu religion used many gods and traditions to unite people. It taught people that they had an energy inside of them that came back to Earth when they died and that treating one another with kindness would help clean the energy and make it ready to join the universe. This religion created peace. When the priests came across new religions or gods, they figured out ways to incorporate, or bring in, the existing religion. This way, people did not need to change their lives and they were willing to join the Hindu civilization without war. To help teach the religion, the Hindu people created books and stories in a new language. This language was called Sanskrit and was learned by people all over India. The religion and the traditions inside of the religion organized people’s lives and created unity in every city.
The Aryan migration into India is an excellent example of how a society can use the elements of culture to create a community. By combining many different cultures and linking the society of the lucky factors of geography, the Aryans could build the Hindu civilization. The end result was a civilization that has lasted, in some shape or form, all the way until today. The civilization has been around for so long because it does not always try and replace the cultures it comes into contact with. By figuring out ways to assimilate new elements of culture, there is always a sense of community in the Hindu civilization.