Thursday, March 09, 2006

Questions on India / Short Essay

What was the role of the vedic texts in creating/enforcing the caste system? Refer to the excerpt from the Bhagavad-gita on p. 234.
The Vedic texts provide rewards and punishments which encourage conforming to the caste system. For example, the Kshatriyas had a duty and obligation to fight “righteous battles”. It reasons that even if one should live or a die in battle they shouldn’t worry because if they win, they have Earth as their reward, and if they lose they will not be shamed from desertion of their duties and they will “obtain heaven”.

India is seen as a hub for trade. With what routes does the trade of India connect?
Indian trade routes run from the bottom of the Himalayas to Bactria. They split off into eastern and western roads that link the Persian Empire with the east. They also established shipping routes that link the tip of the Indian subcontinent and the island of Ceylon. Shipping routes also reach into Burma, and Modern day China.

What motivated Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism?
Legends speculate that Ashoka was “dazzled […] with supernatural powers.” However, the combination of a guilty conscience from brutal war he waged against the Kalingans and Buddhism’s potential for uniting his nation were probably the more likely reasons for his conversion.

Against what were the religions of Buddhism and Jainism reacting? What does this tell us about society at that time?
They were reacting to the spiritual monopoly the Brahmins possessed. This also indicates that they were hungering for deeper and more meaningful spirituality as the religious rituals of the Brahmins became mechanical and lost meaning.

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