Indus Valley Civilisation to Pataliputra

Hawker College, Semester 2, 2013

Greetings all, welcome to this unit on ancient India - the first time this subject area has been taught at Hawker College as a full unit. You may want to make contact in staffroom 74, by emailmail at or by phone on 6205 7774.

Here is the A unit outline and the T unit outline and the first assessment task, an essay with the due date extended to Tuesday of Week 7.

Assessment 1: Essay requirements
Please use this Teachit proforma to plan and write your essay . Remember to have an argument in response to the question, consider other arguments different to your own, have an introduction, conclusion and linked paragraphs, and an annotated bibliography (with brief comments about the texts used). Footnotes and bibliography should be in Chicago style

Here are the essay questions; the essay due date was extended for one week until 5 September.

Assessment 2: In-class document study on Asoka: Tuesday 17 September (Week 9)

Weeks 1-4
For a brief overview of Indian History, please see this information from the Asia Society. Please take time to explore this material on the Indus Valley civilisation from the British Museum.

Week 5
This week, we will start to consider the life and times of the Buddha. Please start by looking at this text. What information can be derived? Please also look at a Buddhist version of the Buddha's life. What sort of evidence would help supplement this account, which is based on texts about the Buddha?
Begin with pages 1-23: what messages does this text give?

Week 6
On Monday, we will consider the relationship between 'facts' and 'interpretation'. Please read the handout, an excerpt of E.H. Carr's What is History? Please also consider this material via a Cambridge University site.

Week 7
This week, we will start to look at the Mauryan Empire. Please check this timeline, and click the link for relevant information. Please also look at the introduction about Asoka's life, and then begin to look at his edicts carved on rock. Questions: 1) what are some key features of Asoka's life? 2) What are some key elements of the first two rock edicts?

Week 8
We will continue learning about Asoka and explore his rock edicts in some detail. Question: What is the significance of Edict 13? Please also explore this website relating to Michael Wood's series on India. Questions: 1) Where on the map did the Buddha live, and where was Asoka's capital? 2) What is the significance of the Battle of Kalinga? 3) How did Asoka's adoption of dhamma (the Buddha's teachings, righteousness) influence the nature of his rule?

Week 9
A focus for this week is the in-class document study on Asoka. We also considered the 'four ends of mankind' according to Hindu thinking: dharma, artha, kama and moksa. Please make sure you can remember what each of these important terms means: duty, law, right behaviour; material gain; love; and release, liberation.

Week 10
We will continue this week looking at an important issue under the Mauryan Empire: the ideas on administration shown by the Arthasastra of Kautilya. Question: What is your impression of the scope of the Arthasastra, as shown in the range of topics covered?

Week 11
This week, we learned about the Gupta dynasty, and about a famous Sanskrit/Prakit play (polished language/ordinary language), Sakuntala by Kalidasa.

Week 12
Please see this link for some excellent information about Sakuntala and its context: what do you think about the sound clips? Please also sample the text of the play, looking in particular at characterisation, structure and themes. Question: (1) Does the play contain any deeper messages? (2) What might it have been like to have seen and heard this play?

We will also move on to look at one of the most important an Indian epics, the Mahabharata. Let's look first at this summary and this synopsis. Question: (1) What is the story about? Please see this animated version and this version for TV. Question: (1) What are some of the social practices depicted in this story? (2) What are some important themes or messages?

We also borrowed and began to read the Bhagavad Gita (which forms part of the Mahabharata); by Monday Week 13 we should have read Chapter 1. Question: (1) What is the significance of the discussion between Arjuna and Sanjaya on the battlefield?

Week 13
Please start by reading these comments about the significance and context of the Bhagavad Gita. Question: (1) What are the key points in this piece?

We will also look at the other great epic story of ancient India, the Ramayana. Questions: (1) Who are the key characters in this story? (2) What is the message about Dharma (law, righteousness) from this extract? Here also is a version with pictures.

For another aspect of ancient Indian religious philosophy, please let's consider some excerpts from the Upanisads. Here is a comprehensive document with excerpts; please scroll down to the section of Upanisads. Question: What are some key philosophical aspects from the Upanishads?