Vedic expansion – history of India

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Ganges river - wider and slower than the Indus

Ganges river – wider and slower than the Indus

After the Vedic people moved into the Ganges valley about 800 BC, they were further from West Asia and Central Asia and had less contact with their relatives there. They mixed more with the Indian people. Indian gods mixed with the Indo-European gods and became Hinduism. The  Mahabharata, first told about this time, tells the story of how the Vedic people took over the Ganges.

But still the Vedic people did not control all of India. In South India a bunch of kings stayed independent. They did not have to do what the Vedic people wanted. Stories of fights between the Vedic people and the southerners make up the Ramayana.

Persian archers

Iranian archers

In the 500s BC,  the Iranians under their kings Cyrus and Darius conquered part of north-western India (modern Pakistan). The Iranians were also Indo-Europeans, but they had left their homeland later and settled in modern Iran. The Iranians never really controlled India very well – they made the Indians pay tribute in gold to Iran, but the Iranians couldn’t really tell them what to do.

Meanwhile, the Vedic people continued to rule north-eastern India. Seeing how the Iranians formed a big empire, the Vedic people also began to put together bigger empires. As the Mahabharata says, this was a time “where big fishes ate little fishes.” with the big empires starting, big religions also began to form. Animal sacrifice began to seem old-fashioned. In the 400s BC, this was where Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, lived and started the faith of BuddhismJainism took off about this time too.

Learn by Doing – act out a scene from the Ramayana
Alexander the Great in India
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Bibliography and further reading about the Vedic Expansion in India:

Early India : From the Origins to AD 1300, by Romila Thapar (University of California Press 2004). For adults, and a little dry.

There’s also a good article on this, with some recent citations, on Wikipedia.

Vedic architecture
Alexander the Great
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By |2018-04-23T15:14:47+00:00July 20th, 2017|History, India|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Vedic expansion – history of India. Study Guides, July 20, 2017. Web. December 13, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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