Culture of ancient India. Achievements of culture of ancient India

The culture of ancient and medieval India is one of the most interesting topics for those who want to learn something truly unusual and exotic. The fact is that the traditions of this country are so different from everything that can be seen in the world, that at first they do not even believe that all this happened on our planet. However, then, when it comes to the realization that these people lived and continue to live with us on the same Earth, the question arises: “But how much do we know about humanity?”

Let's try to figure out what was the culture of ancient India. Briefly, but we will try to reveal this topic in as much detail as possible.

History of the country

The culture of ancient India is divided into two stages: Harappa and Indo-Aryan.

On the first of these, our knowledge today is very scarce. So, scientists can only say that the first civilization, which was located on the territory of the Indian subcontinent and Pakistan, was incredibly developed for its time.The locals had running water, carefully planned cities and possessed written language. And all this for 2000 years BC!

Unfortunately, these ancient ancestors of the Hindus did not leave us with full literary sources. We have an idea of ​​the art of harapps only thanks to miniature sculptures that are made with incredible detail and precision. Unfortunately, there are not many of them left. Today, to find such a sculpture for an archaeologist means a huge success. The Harapp civilization itself disappeared without a trace for reasons unknown to us.

culture of ancient india

Most likely, it was destroyed because of the rapidly changing climate at that time. Also, the disappearance of the Harapps could have led to the actions of the bloodthirsty tribes of nomads, united by the common name "Aryans". By the way, they quickly settled on the Indian subcontinent and began to set a new cultural tone on it.

Everything that we know about the Aryans has reached our days in the form of the Vedas written by them. It is one of the oldest literary sources in the world. And although the history of ancient India in it becomes more religious shade, this book remains for us the only opportunity to look into the past.

In those days, a single state of India did not exist.For the first time all the city-kingdoms, which were located on the territory of the peninsula in the first millennium BC. e., teamed up to fight Alexander the Great. By the way, precisely because of the repulse of the attacks of this powerful army, the culture of Ancient India remained so distinctive. After all, she was never given an “injection” of antiquity, which the Persian peoples received in full.

Later, the peninsula was repeatedly divided by various invaders and narcissistic kings. It was the reluctance of the Indians to become one superpower and became the main weakness during the expansion of the British Empire.

Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of Gandhi and his supporters, we now have one integral Indian state on the map.

Caste system

Life in ancient India was a real test of the humility of the spirit. The fact is that the very Aryan Vedas created a unique rule for the social distribution of goods and rights within a culture. This system is called caste. In total, there are four groups in this division - as they are called Indians, varnas.

The priests belong to the first and most respected group. For the Hindu, they were not only a connection with the gods, but also healers, wisest men, whose opinion was worth listening to.

The warriors became second in importance (only the professional, numerous class, not the militia).

The third group consisted of ordinary people - a variety of artisans, merchants and peasants. All of them were free and could manage their destiny as they please (within the framework of their varna, of course). It was the most numerous, the main culture of ancient india

The fourth group included slaves and prisoners of war who were in every ancient state. They, of course, really and for people were not considered - they were lower beings, forever doomed to work and suffering.

Over time, the caste system developed and overgrown with new subspecies, but they all appeared within one of the four varn. Features of the culture of ancient Indiaappeared thanks to the philosophy that explained this division: it was believed that every person born on earth had his own role and had no right to change it, since the gods had prepared for him a similar fate. It was not easy to cross from Varna to Varna, especially when it comes to climbing up the social ladder. Although even the fall is not always had to fear: a rare ruler after the conquest of the land changed people, making the priests slaves.This was seen as a challenge to the gods and an attempt to destroy the fragile world order, which was supported by a clearly deferred system.


Religion and culture of ancient India are intertwined with each other in such a way that it is practically impossible to consider them separately. After all, the entire lifestyle and culture of the inhabitants of the peninsula rests on faith.

India’s most common religion is Hinduism. The foundations of this faith were laid down in the Vedas, and it was thanks to her that the caste system was established. Its necessity was explained by the constant action of the “wheel of rebirth of souls”, or “sansara”. It was believed that what kind of varna a person falls into when he is born next depends on the karma he has acquired during his life - bad or good.

It is noteworthy that in the Western tradition the theory of karma is interpreted incorrectly from the point of view of Hinduism, because it works exclusively in the caste system, and is not based on the concept of "good" and "evil." The fact that for a slave virtue (for example, submission) will be a plus for him during rebirth can be an absolute minus for the king. That is, karma depends, first of all, on how conscientiously a person performed his role in society.

So many paradoxes have no culture of ancient civilizations.India, together with its religion, confidently ranks first on this list, because in its religion there is at the same time monotheism, polytheism and totemism. That sounds crazy to a European person. But the followers of Hinduism calmly explain this: there is one, the supreme god Vishnu, he is omniscient and omnipotent. It is located outside of samsara, and it falls into it in various forms, which are the other gods, or, as they are called, avatars. But this is not all, because specifically on the earth, into our material human world, the Supreme God descends through the avatars in the form of animals: monkeys, cows, cobras.

That is, to whom the adherent of religion would not worship, in any case he serves Vishnu. This explains why the history of the culture of ancient India has almost no religious conflicts. The same Buddha, which will be discussed further, was perceived in Hinduism as a regular avatar of Vishnu.


The history of ancient India also tells us about the emergence of one of the three world religions - Buddhism. In fact, the origins of this belief must also be sought in Hinduism, since the main idea of ​​the “wheel of rebirth” came from there.

Another question: how Buddhists presented it in their faith. In the first millennium BC. er in India, a new idea arose of seeking salvation from the cycle of endless rebirths and dependence on karma. In the country, ascetics and hermits began to appear in huge numbers, searching for the truth in all possible ways.

culture of ancient india briefly

Among them stood Siddhartha Gautama - the prince of a small Indian state, who, having lived most of his life in luxury, escaped from the palace to ascertain the nature of human suffering. After 7 years of wandering, the details of which are known to us from legends, he found enlightenment.

Along with its discovery, the culture of ancient India has changed. A brief retelling of the world view through the prism of Buddhism can be this: a person, by definition, is doomed to suffer, being in the endless wheel of samsara. However, salvation is possible. It is called “Nirvana” and is the state of rest of the human soul, a rejection of all passions. It is in the gradual abandonment of emotions and desires that lies the secret of salvation. When a person reaches the state of Nirvana, he becomes enlightened, that is, the Buddha. They can be anyone, and for this it is not necessary to be born as some kind of superman or a king.This religion assures us that everyone can be saved, regardless of the caste system, you just need to want and make an effort.

Also, Buddhism teaches a person the philosophy of the “middle way”: in no way you can go to extremes, you should always look for something in the center. As a rule, this is the true answer to the question. In general, to call all this “religion” in the traditional sense of the word is very difficult. It is rather a philosophical trend with its own monasteries and a strong tradition.

Buddhism is absolutely not engaged in the nature of the issue of a higher being - it is simply not in this religion. But if a person wants to believe in the Almighty, the door to a Buddhist temple is still open for him: Buddha’s philosophy does not officially accept or reject God's presence in the world, leaving it to everyone’s personal consideration.

Scientific knowledge

It should be noted that Ancient India is characterized not only by its distinctive culture, but also by developed science. So, this country from time immemorial was famous for its mathematics and astronomy.

Local astrologers still at the beginning of I century AD. er argued that the Earth is a ball, rotating both around its axis and around the Sun.And the very figures that we have called Arabic actually came to us through Persia from India, where they came up with it. In addition, the scientists of this country were the first to introduce the concept of zero, absolute emptiness, in mathematics. Before them, no one thought of this - for why consider what is not.

In their science, Hindus first of all developed absolutely practical knowledge related to the calendar calculation of time, surgical operations and the creation of medicines. However, further necessary, for example, in the same anatomy, they never went deep. And everything comes from the fact that each Hindu had the goal of knowing the world through philosophy, which was assigned to a separate category.

In contrast to the same China, the state of ancient Indiaalmost no known inventors. The science here is significantly different from what is meant by this term in the rest of the world. First of all, the science of the ancient Hindus was a knowledge of the nature and soul of man, and not, for example, physics and arithmetic. The same zero appeared solely in the context of the search for mental equilibrium.


The artistic culture of ancient India from the point of view of literature is based primarily on various sacral texts.

The first and most important is the already mentioned “Vedas”. The story tells about the struggle of the Aryans for survival in the peninsula. "Vedas" are divided into four equal parts: the sacrificial formulas, magic spells, songs and religious hymns. This book is the oldest literary source of India, but in writing it appeared much later. At least, the representatives of the priestly Varna knew the texts by heart much earlier than they appeared on paper.

Also, the art of the pen in the ancient state was represented by various epic works, the most famous of which are the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, a poem about the journey of the two avatars of Vishnu. However, most of the text in these works is far from the main plot lines and is a retelling of myths and legends, as well as various Old Indian parables.

In general, the literature of this state in ancient times was mainly built solely on the parable form or fables. Due to this, she combined moral moral teachings and a certain religious meaning.

In addition, Indian literature was rich in various religious treatises, although the word "religion" in our understanding does not apply to the religions of the ancient inhabitants of the peninsula.In these works, the basics of the Buddhist and Hindu worldviews were analyzed and analyzed.

Fine art and architecture

The artistic culture of ancient India is inextricably linked with architecture and visual art. And the thing is, above all, in the impossibility for us to find out exactly how the most ancient peoples of the peninsula lived. Their paintings, sculptures and buildings were mostly made on a wooden base, and therefore simply did not survive the test of time in several millennia.history of ancient India

For our view, Indian architecture is revealed only from the first millennium AD. Oe., when Buddhists began to use stone to create stupas. These are sacral objects in which, according to beliefs, the material parts of the Buddha are stored - for example, his hair. Across India, there are quite a few such structures, and they create our basic impression of Indian architecture. For the locals, they are the same as for the Orthodox - the temple.

The tradition of sculpture has also come down to us, starting from that time, excluding the small sculptures of the Harappan era mentioned earlier.In fact, the whole world knows the giant statues of Buddha near the temples and images of the prophet, carved in the rocks. In addition, among the Indians, statuettes of various incarnations of Vishnu, which they place in their homes and altars, are of great honor. However, the descendants of the Aryans do not have a clear concept of sculpture as an art devoid of religious orientation.

achievements of the culture of ancient India

The art of ancient India came to us thanks to the caves-monasteries. Locals have never used canvas and paper for painting, choosing for this stone walls. Therefore, to go to the gallery of ancient Indian drawing will not work, but in order to see the work of artists, you will have to travel all over the country. And, again, the subject matter of everyday life in this kind of creativity was hardly reflected: its basis was the parable stories from Buddhist and Hindu mythology.


The independent achievements of the culture of ancient India in matters of theater are far less than those of, for example, Japanese ideas. This is mainly due to the fact that the primitive playing of scenes of the relationship of gods and myths did not leave the view of local residents.As a result, they never had a serious and multi-layered drama, which is famous for its European tradition.

culture and art of ancient india

The basis of the Indian performance is a spectacle, music and choreography. Many speeches are absolutely plastic and have no text. The main thing for theater in Indian culture is entertainment and instructive (from the point of view of their philosophy) morality.

A vivid example of this type of presentation is the well-known shadow theater, which made it possible to show all the mystique of the nature of the gods without manifesting special decorative delights. This is actually the Indian version of ideas - the minimum number of means of expression, which are created exclusively for conveying one thought and transmitting philosophy.

Indian music originated in the same context as the theater, and is inextricably linked with it. It is difficult to say whether there is some kind of independent direction - basically all these ethnic melodies and melodies were simply an addition to the performances and were not perceived by Hindus as a separate art.

The influence of Indian culture

For many centuries, India itself “cooked” in the pot of its culture and was supplemented only by the influence of the peoples who lived in the neighborhood. However, in the XX century, the Europeans discovered the identity of the customs of this country.

Now a huge number of Western people are involved in the study of the subject "the culture of ancient India." They use its philosophical and esoteric achievements, they are addicted to Buddhism and its various branches.

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The system of providing one's body and spirit with the correct loads, called yoga, has now gone far beyond the limits of the hermit's halo. Now this practice has become a global treasure. Yoga schools are open in almost every civilized country in the world.

Also, many people whose spirit is preoccupied with the search for truth find solace due to the religious achievements of the culture of India. Those “Vedas”, as the oldest religious text in the world, for many become a real discovery, since it seems that through it one can see the true essence of the divine principle.

It is clear that the culture of India has changed a lot, and not all Western nations understand it correctly. The same karma, as already mentioned, in its original world simply cannot exist in theory unless the caste system of society is used.


Many today are interested in the history and culture of the Ancient East.India also occupies a special place in this topic. In the culture of this country there are many traditions and practices that can be misunderstood by us. However, it is necessary to know that all this did not originate from a good life: the paradoxical lump called “the culture and art of ancient India” was dictated to the Hindus by their very life and the need to somehow explain the difficulties of existence.

Now Indian culture is rapidly modernizing, changing to Western style. The caste system in civilized big cities has disappeared. However, it still remains unique and necessary for the study of those people who want to expand their horizons. Especially, it is recommended to study it for those who are trying to find at least some point of support and peace in the world, and the methods proposed by the Western tradition do not help.

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