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IDC: India Golden Period (200BCE-500CE) Introduction

Bijoy Misra

India Golden Period (200BCE-500CE) Introduction

The period from 200BCE to 500CE was the most opulent and prosperous in India’s history.  Through there were occasional incursions from the northwest, the country at large was quiet and peaceful.  There was religious harmony and major religions operated as equals in the country.  Professional guilds existed and artisan schools produced motivated workers who took Indian art to new heights.  Pottery, jewelry, textiles silk and spices were exported and there was rich commercial trade between India, Persia Middle East and Far East.

Large educational centers in India attracted students from countries as far as Greece. Intellectual atmosphere was strong with healthy debates and analytic discussions.  Takhashila was the largest educational institution in the world (Figure 1). Buddhist pilgrims were coming from China and were instrumental in recording massive Indian texts in different scripts.  Cave dwellings and meditation centers for the monks were built. Beautiful frescoes and art work at Ajanta and Ellora caves were produced (Figure 2).  Stone carvings, monuments and inscriptions signify the engineering excellence.  Medicinal treatment using herbs and nature cure was standardized. The techniques were exported widely.

          Figure 1.  Ruins of Takshashila University (500BCE-400CE)

             Figure 2.  A Fresco from Ajanta caves (100CE to 600CE)

Massive literary works were produced that included epics, dramas, story books and religious scriptures.  Scholarly philosophical analysis led to theories of mind, speech, melody and music.  Texts in dance, drama and music were standardized. Texts on geometry and mathematics were produced.  Astronomical observations were sharpened with accurate predictions of celestial phenomena.  The observation of the westward rotation of the earth was reported.    Heliocentric theory of the cosmos replaced the earth-centered calculations.  Decimal representation was formulated and was instituted.

Analytic religious literature developed through the traditional Vedic systems and the newly developed Buddhist and Jaina systems.  Speculations on the theories of life dealt with rebirth, liberation, punishment and atonement.  Scholars in different parts of the country offered detailed explanations and helped to solidify their religious base.  Though there was no state religion, the royalty supported scholars with official stipends and pensions.   Large scale religious festivals were held and served as occasions of social gathering, artistic exploration and trade.

There was extensive use of iron in construction, tool making, carpentry and stone carving.  Rock-cut temples exhibit the skills and diligence of the artisans.  Large boats carried goods in profitable marine trade.  Indian culture did extend out to the Far East and gradual settlements occurred in the far-away lands.  Cultural homogeneity developed from Persia to Cambodia and from Kashmir to Sri Lanka, forming the extended domain of Indian culture. A twenty-three feet tall solid iron pillar in Delhi exhibits the engineering excellence of the period. 

                                 Figure 3.  Iron Pillar in Delhi (400CE)


1.  The Wonder that was India – A.L.Basham, 1954
2.  History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century – Upinder Singh, 2009
3.  Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization, Volume 1,Will Durrant,  1935.


Dr. Bijoy Misra serves as the President of India Discovery Center and compiles the project on "Evolution of Indian Culture: Pre-history to 1947AD"

More information and updates on the project are available at  https://www.facebook.com/Evolution-of-Indian-Culture-An-IDC-Project-107749391111922

More information on India Discovery Center is available at     https://www.indiadiscoverycenter.org


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